Topic Tuesday #130 2015/01/06 - "The Knights Templar"
On this day in 1128, Pope Honorius II granted papal sanction to the military order known as the Knights Templar, declaring it to be an army of God.
The organization was founded by Frenchman Hughes de Payens in 1118 to protect Christian pilgrims on their pilgrimage to the holy land during the crusades. For those that are unaware, the crusades were a series of conflicts with the aim of defeating Muslims in Palestine. More on that, next week.
The Templars took their name for the location of their headquarters at Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Early on, it was a small organization owing its ranks to severe restrictions and vows. One typically had to be rich, powerful, and then vow poverty, obedience, and chastity. Slowly their numbers grew, as did the wealth of the organization.
The crusades lasted until the early 14th century, as was ultimately unsuccessful. The Templars wealth was a source of avarice from both mother church and the more secular powers of the day. In 1307, King Philip IV (France) and Pope Clement V combined forces to take down the Knights Templar. Grand Master Jacques de Molay, the head of the Templars, was arrested on charges of heresy, sacrilege, and Satanism. Later he confessed under torture, like many of his compatriots. They were burned at the stake.
The Knights Templar was dissolved by the Pope Clement in 1312 and all of their assets (not claimed by the kings of France and England, were assigned to the Knights Hospitalers. The Templars were banned in France and England (and anywhere the Catholic Church exerted authority) as a matter of course. Some likely fled to other territories, such as excommunicated Scotland or to Switzerland. Templar organisations in Portugal changed their name from Knights Templar to Knights of Christ. At its peak, there may have been as many as 20,000 members of the Knights Templar, about 10% of which were actually knights.
The Catholic Church has admitted that these actions were unjustified and claim Pope Clement was being pressured by secular rulers... Though last I checked, Kings were not secular rulers.