by Dr. Lori Verderame

The Knights Templar trace their origins to the Christian Crusades of the medieval period, circa 800-1200 AD. By the late 1000s AD, groups of Christian pilgrims from Western Europe made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land following the First Christian Crusade of 1095-99 when Christian fighters captured Jerusalem.

Circa 1118 AD, French knight Hugh de Payns established a military order to protect traveling Christian pilgrims as they visited holy sites and churches throughout Europe. The order, which is now known as the Knights Templar, were once called the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of King Solomon. When I lecture on the Knights Templar and research their activities, many people don’t understand how they got their name. While they were a model for other military orders of the Middle Ages, their living quarters have much to do with how they got their name. The King of Jerusalem, Baldwin II, supplied these knights with living quarters in the royal palace within an area that had once been the Temple of Solomon. Because of their association in residence within the former Temple of Solomon, the Knights Templar got their name.

The order was headed by a grand master based in Jerusalem. The knights lived communally, heard the divine word hourly, served at royal and papal courts, wore white habits with bold red Templar crosses on the front, ate and slept in a common dormitory, built castles, protected towns, defended Christian pilgrims, kept fasts and vigils of the monastic calendar, and showed special veneration for the Virgin Mary. They had their own chaplains and while there were no females in their ranks, women served in the Knights Templar nunnery. Their primary duty was to fight to protect Christian pilgrims and defend Crusader states in the Holy Land.

The Rise of the Knights Templar

In the 1120s, the Knights Templar received donations from monarchs and nobles including titles, estates, land, money, valuable objects, artifacts, etc. They received a new rule at the Council of Troyes which defended the Knights Templar order and sparked its growth. In 1129 AD, the knights received the endorsement of the Catholic church. They established great wealth and the duty of protecting such great historic Christian relics as the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, and they worshiped the Shroud of Turin. These are the objects that may be associated, according to some scholars, with the historic treasure hunt of Oak Island, Nova Scotia.

The Knights Templar had connections and trade relationships the world over. They could transport valuables across land and sea. They secured treasure houses that made them desired bankers and caretakers of valuables and artifacts of all types.

The Fall of the Knights Templar

Following the Crusader defeat by sultan Saladin at the Battle of Hattin, many of the Knights Templar were taken prisoner or executed. The Muslim armies took the last Crusader stronghold– the Fall of Acre–in the Holy Land in 1291 AD and the Knights Templar lost much of its land, wealth, and power as a result.

In France, King Philip IV feared the Knights Templar when they established their headquarters in Paris after Muslim soldiers overtook Jerusalem. He falsely accused knights of crimes and blamed them for the failures of the Crusades. Eventually, King Philip IV convinced fellow Frenchman, Pope Clement V to dissolve the Knights Templar entirely, which he did in 1312.

In October of 1307, King Philip IV ordered the arrest of every Knight Templar in France taking their property and wealth for he feared the knights popularity with subjects, wealth and power. The King preferred another military order, the Hospitallers of Europe, rivals of the Knights Templar. The Hospitallers gained all of Knights Templar property and wealth at the command of King Philip IV, who was short on funds.

By the early 1300s, the Knights Templar order was dissolved, they were forced to give up their wealth, land, and titles, and their grand master was burned at the stake, but the order was still closely associated with defending and protecting some of the most important Christian relics and artifacts–the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, the Shroud of Turin to name a few–in history. These are the artifacts that connect them with the great treasure hunt of Oak Island, Nova Scotia. It is widely held that the Knights Templar were charged with defending the Holy Grail while occupying the Temple Mount. Some historians maintain that the Knights Templar retained some of the most coveted Christian artifacts and their network of partners and supporters could have moved these valuables to other parts of the world. The Knights were also the defenders of Grail castle and would have had access and security over these objects in the 1300s and beforehand.

Knights Templar artifacts on Oak Island

Many historians suggest that the Knights Templar story is associated with the famous treasure hunt on Oak Island, Nova Scotia. It is widely held that the Knights Templar went underground after the events of the early 1300s as some believe that the Knights Templar remain in existence today. Some organizations, like the Freemasons or the Masonic order, have revived Knights Templar traditions and continue to use their symbols in operation and pageantry. Of course, many believe that very valuable artifacts like antique swords and Christian objects of the Knights Templar, like Masonic collectibles, still exist today.

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