The Knights Templar, or Templars, were a military and religious order founded in Jerusalem during the Crusades.
The founders were Hugh de Payns and Geoffrey de Saint-Omer, French knights who in 1118 established a religious community on the ancient site of the Temple of Solomon (hence Templars) which was dedicated to protecting pilgrims in the Holy Land.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, head of the Cistercian order of monks, drew up the order's rules, but in 1128 Pope Honorious II officially recognized the templars as a separate order, conferring on them an unprecedented degree of autonomy: they were responsible only to the pope and not to secular rulers, were exempt from local taxes and judicial authority, and were solely responsible for clerical appointments.
The Templars were divided into knights, chaplains, sergeants, and craftsmen, organized under a Grand Master and general council. Wearing a white cloak with a red eight-pointed cross on the left shoulder, they attracted many nobles and soon became an expert military force, which bravery in the field was unquestionable, and also a powerful and wealthy order, with branches throughout Europe.
The Templars seal showed two knights on one horse, the story being that the first Master was so poor that he had to share a horse with one of his followers, but after the fall of the Acre in 1291, when the crusading forces were driven from Palestine, the Templars' main activity became money-lending, and their enormous land-holdings and financial strength aroused great hostility and jealousy among rulers and clergy alike. It was rumored that they had abandoned Christianity, that they worshipped a demon called Baphomet, and indulged in a variety of perverted orgiastic and cannibalistic rituals.
In 1307 Philip IV of France, in debt to the order, charged the Templars with heresy and immorality. They were arrested and put on trial, and confessions were extracted by torture. Similar attacks were mounted against the order in Spain and England, and Pope Clement V, after initially opposing the trials, suppressed the Knights Templar by papal bull at the Council of Vienne in 1312. When the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and other leaders of the Templars retracted their forced confessions and declared their innocence and the innocence of the order, Philip had them burned at the stake at Paris in 1314. The Templars' holdings were dispersed, some going to the Knights Hospitalers and some to secular rulers, although Philip received none.
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