Knights Templar
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Basic Information

Shortly after the First Crusade, a French knight named Hugues de Payens proposed the formation of a new monastic order devoted to the protection of pilgrims. The Christians had seized control of Jerusalem during the crusade, and many pilgrims were now traveling to the Holy Land to visit the city; but the route was dangerous and travellers were frequently victims of bandits. The King of Jerusalem agreed to the request and gave de Payens the captured Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, site of Solomon's Temple, to use as headquarters. Thus was born the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, more commonly known as the Knights Templar

Although the Fellow-Soldiers of Christ started out poor, they didn't remain that way for long. The order was formally recognized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1129 and became a favoured charity. The Pope's blessing also meant that the order was free to cross all borders, was exempt from taxes and subject only to Papal authority. Although many members of the order were indeed warriors justly renowned for their valour, a large part of the organization was devoted to managing the money that came in. Wealthy pilgrims would often deposit money with the Templars and then carry letters of credit issued by the order, making the Templars precursors to the Medieval banking system.

The Kingdom of Jerusalem did not last long, however. The Templars quarrelled with the Knights Hospitaller and the Teutonic Knights, the other two Christian military orders. And the Muslim forces struck back, led by the great Saracen commander Saladin, who regained the city in 1187. For a while the Templars and the other Christian forces maintained toeholds in Acre and a couple other northern cities, but eventually they were driven out of the Holy Land all together.

But although their original purpose no longer existed, the Templar's financial empire still remained; and being exempt from most local laws, they maintained a fair amount of power.

In 1305, Pope Clement V asked King Philip IV of France to investigate certain allegations that had been made against the Templars. It was said that they dabbled in magic and unholy rituals, and that they worshiped the severed head of a demon named Bahomet. The allegations were groundless, but Philip happened to owe a large amount of money to the Templars, which he had borrowed to fund a war with England and saw this as a way to escape his debt. On Friday, October 13, 1307, he arrested Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay and several other members of the order, who were accused of heresy and tortured into making confessions. On the basis of these confessions, Philip pressured Pope Clement into ordering the arrest of all Templars throughout Europe and the seizure of their assets.

Once out of the torturers' hands, de Molay and the others recanted their coerced confessions, but citing the scandal caused by the accusations, Clement officially disbanded the order and gave most of their assets to the Hospitallers. (To the disappointment of Philip, who wanted the Templar riches for himself).

Despite recanting his confession, Jacques de Molay and his associate Geoffrey de Charney, Preceptor of Normandy, were declared guilty of being relapsed heretics and burned at the stake. According to legend, as he was dying, de Molay called from the flames that Clement and Philip would soon meet him before God. Pope Clement died about a month later and within a year King Philip died in a hunting accident.

Outside of France, the Templars were relatively unmolested. Their order was dissolved, but they were permitted to join other orders, like the Hospitallers. The mystique of the warrior-monks, the legends of their fabulous wealth and the rumours of their dark doings survived long after them. Many later secret societies, ranging from the Freemasons to the Illuminati have claimed descent from, or have been connected to, the Knights Templar.

See Also


3. book: Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco —the ultimate Conspiracy novel
4. book: Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott — No conspiracies in this novel, but the villain is a Templar and the order generally comes off as a bunch of arrogant jerks. Also, near the end an fanatical official of the order out to stamp out suspected satanism becomes a major plot point.
5. cRPG: in the cRPG Darklands the Knights, unquestionably turned to evil, serve as a significant mid-state antagonist.

Game and Story Use

  • A Historical or Time Travel campaign set during the Crusades will probably involve the Knights Templar in some way or other.
  • King Philip's purge against the Templars would also make a good background for a campaign.
  • In addition to their wealth, the Templars possessed many sacred relics, any of which might make good MacGuffins. Some legends claim that their location at the site of King Solomon's Temple gave them access to many others.
  • Actually, a quest for the "treasure of the Templars" which ends in a large (stone) head could be … interesting.
    • Subject to the head having actual powers (either being a genuine, functional, prophetic Brazen head or being a demon head with similar powers) it could still be providing advice and direction to whichever conspiracy group happened to inherit it…
  • What if the accusations weren't baseless?
    • In a fantasy campaign, you just can't get much better villains than an order of anti-paladins, worshiping the severed head of a demon, free from law by Papal Decree, and controlling the purse-strings of the whole continent.
      • Of course, you'd need some way around the whole "Detect Alignment" conundrum, or else the Pope never would have been taken in.
        • Perhaps they were originally good-aligned, and turned evil by the death curse of the Demon they slew.
        • Well, Pope Clement V was one of the weaker popes, and pretty much let France dictate his policy. Under his papacy, the papal court was moved to Avignon, beginning the so-called "Babylonian Captivity" of the Church.
          • Or, to put it more simply, You can fool some of the papal some of the time…
        • More generally, you could remove the assumption that the papacy was on the side of good (subject to the sensibilities of your group as always).
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