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The Knights Templar

 By David Hatcher Childress


The Knights Templar have been associated with all sorts of incredible activities including: having the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, a secret fleet that sailed the oceans, and an awe-inspiring self-confidence and courage that made their enemies shudder in fear.


Despite their fearsome, battle-hardened reputation, the Knights Templar were learned men, dedicated to protecting travellers and pilgrims of all religions, not just Christians. They were great statesmen, politically adept, economic traders, and they were apparently allied with the great sailor-fraternity that had created a worldwide trading empire in Phoenician times.


Despite a great deal of negative propaganda against the Templars at the time of their suppression, they are still known today as the preservers of knowledge and sacred objects. While the origins of the Knights Templar are said to go back to the building of King Solomon’s Temple by Phoenician masons from Tyre, or even the Great Pyramid and Atlantis, we trace their modern history from the Crusades period of the Middle Ages.


The Knights Templar began when a group of nine "French" knights came to Jerusalem in the year 1118 A.D. These knights petitioned the king of Jerusalem to allow them to live in the ancient Temple of Solomon, then partly a mosque and partly in ruins.


In his book The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral the French architect Louis Charpentier claims that the Knights Templar built Chartres as a repository for ancient wisdom. This repository is equal to Stonehenge, the Temple of Solomon or the Great Pyramid of Egypt. He further claims that special knowledge about the Temple in Jerusalem was gained by the founding group of nine knights who lived at Solomon’s Temple starting in 1118 A.D. In that year it is historically recorded that nine "French" knights presented themselves to a Christian King Baldwin II of Jerusalem, and explained that they planned to form themselves into a company with a plan for protecting pilgrims from robbers and murderers along the public highways leading to the holy city. King Baldwin II had been a prisoner of the Saracens and knew of their infighting. Factions such as the Assassins were active in Moslem politics.


They also asked to be housed within a wing of the palace, a wing that happened to be adjacent to the Dome of the Rock mosque, which was built on the site of Solomon’s Temple.


The king granted their request and the Order of the Knights of Solomon’s Temple or Knights Templar was born. Ten years later the nine knights presented themselves to the Pope, who gave his official approval to the Knights Templar. Although only nine mysterious knights existed, a tenth joined them, who was the Count of Champagne, an important French noble.


In fact, none of the "poor" knights was apparently poor, nor were they all French. Several came from important French and Flemish families. Of the ten original knights, four have not been identified, although their names are known. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that the Knights of the Temple of Solomon were formed to protect the pilgrims to Jerusalem because such an order of knights already existed. They were the Knights Hospitallers or Knights of St. John, later to become the Knights of Malta.


It is important not to confuse the Knights Templar with the Knights of Malta, as many readers, and some historians, do. The Knights Templar are quite different from the other crusaders and were sometimes said to fight in combat against each other, even in the "Holy Land."


The Knights Hospitallers, which still exist today as the Knights of Malta, were forced to leave Malta by Napoleon, who stopped at the island on his way to Egypt. Today the Knights of Malta reside in Italy, still have their own "sovereign country" and are said to be a secret society for the Vatican.


Charles Addison, a London Lawyer, who wrote in his 1842 book The History of the Knights Templar mentions in the first few pages how it was commonly believed the Templars were at odds with the Vatican and their military arm, the Knights Hospitallers. Addison denies the rumors, but admits such rumors existed.


Charpentier likens the original band of Knights Templar to commandos who raided the ancient Temple of Solomon in order to uncover its engineering secrets and possible lost treasure such as the Ark of the Covenant, possibly hidden deep in a strange cavern system beneath the temple.


With the help of the brilliant French Abbot Bernard de Clairvaux, the nine knights, directed by the Count of Champagne, created the Knights Templar. With the money that they accumulated, a cathedral at Chartres was built. Later, other cathedrals were built around Europe and the legends of the "Master Stonemasons" became common.


Incorporated into Chartres Cathedral are beautiful stained-glass windows, many of the colors difficult or impossible to duplicate today. Hidden within the cathedral are various ancient "cubits" of measure, plus such esoteric devices as the famous Chartres Maze and other visual tools such as sacred geometry, for personal transformation - a sort of personal alchemy of the soul. Included in the image was the quest for the Holy Grail.


When a nobleman would join their ranks, he would surrender his castle and property to the Knights who would use revenues generated from the property to purchase weapons, war-horses, armor and other military supplies. The ranks of the Knights Templar grew rapidly. Other noblemen and kings who were not members often gave them gifts of money and land. King Steven of England contributed his valuable English manor of Cressing in Essex. He also made arrangements for high-ranking members of the Knights to visit nobles of England and Scotland.


Pope Eugenius decreed that the Knights Templar and only the Knights Templar would wear a special red cross with blunt wedge-shaped arms called the cross patee on the left breasts of their white robes, so that they could be quickly recognized at any time by Christians and by other Templars on the field of battle. The white robes with red crosses became their required dress. The warrior-knights fought bravely in the Middle East, and were highly respected by their Moslem counterparts for their strategy and bravery.

In 1129 the Templar Grand Master, Hugh de Payens, led a company of 300 knights, recruited from the noblest houses of Europe, to accompany a huge train of pilgrims to Jerusalem. During this time the Templars formed part of a contingent which, allied with the Assassins of Persia, tried to take the important city of Damascus.


According to Arkon Daraul in his book A History of Secret Societies, the followers of Hasan Ibn Sabah, leader of the Assassins, were definitely in contact with the Templars and apparently the Assassins were prepared to become "Christians" should their goals be met, which they were not. At one point, a payment of 3000 gold pieces from the Syrian branch of the Assassins was made to the Templar order, apparently as some form of tribute. The exact association between the Templars and the Assassins has remained a mystery.


The Templars, it must be said on this regard, were not noted for political assassinations, as were the Assassins. Rather, the Templars fell victim to political intrigue and were either publicly executed or assassinated as was Henry Sinclair, Grand Master of the Templars, in 1401, when the Templar Fleet returned from North America.


Many Templars were of Palestinian birth, spoke perfect Arabic, and were familiar with every religious sect, cult, and magical doctrine, including the Assassins. For instance, the Grand Master Philip of Nablus (1167 A.D.) was a Syrian. The Assassins, it might be mentioned, eventually became what is known today as the Ismaili sect of Islam. Their head is the Aga Khan, and their followers reside largely in Pakistan and India, today. The Aga Khan, a hereditary leadership descended from Mohammed, maintains residences in both London and Bombay. The father of today’s Aga Khan was married to Hollywood actress Rita Hayworth.


By 1133, King Alfonso of Aragon and Navarre (northern Spain) had fought the invading Moors in 29 battles, and willed his kingdom to the Templars. However, the Templars were prevented from claiming the kingdom because of the Moorish victory over Spain.


Meanwhile, there was a parallel religious order, the Knights of St. John, founded at Amalfi, Italy, in the 11th century. They went to Jerusalem to protect and minister to the Christian pilgrims but soon extended their mission to tending to the sick and poor all over the Holy Land.


By Eric Opsahl

The Teutonic Order (usually, hospitale sancte Marie Theutonicorum Jerosolimitanum - the Hospital of St. Mary of the Germans of Jerusalem or the order of the German houses, in the sources) was one of the three major knightly or military orders that originated and evolved during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Templars and Hospitallers are the other major orders.

The military orders were "true orders" of the Roman church governed by regulations similar to those governing monks, generally variants of the Benedictine or Augustinian Rules. For most purposes, they were technically answerable only to the pope. They did have some feudal responsibilities to lay and other clerical entities as dictated by circumstances of place and time. Large numbers of knights became monks but often were found in military fortifications rather than monasteries. The members of most orders took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Origins of the Teutonic Order

According to tradition, early in the twelfth century a wealthy German couple built a hospital in Jerusalem at their own expense to care for poor and sick pilgrims who spoke German. The hospital and an accompanying chapel were dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This story is similar to the traditions of the origin of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem founded by Amalfitans. The German hospital apparently was affiliated with the Hospital of St. John, at least, in the observance of the rule of St. Augustine. After Saladin's conquest of Jerusalem in 1187, there are no more records of the German hospital there. There was no indication that the German hospital ever had a military mission.

During the siege of Acre during the Third Crusade (probably 1190), Germans from Lübeck and Bremen established a field hospital for German soldiers reportedly using ships' sails as cover from the elements. Duke Frederick of Swabia placed his chaplain Conrad in charge of the hospital and soon transformed the organization into a religious order responsible to the local Latin bishop. Although some scholars question its authenticity, Pope Clement III (1187- -1191) apparently approved the Order on February 6, 1191. The Order was taken under Pope Celestine III's (1191-1198) protection on December 21, 1196, with the name of the "Hospital of St. Mary of the Germans in Jerusalem." The name is possibly the only connection with the earlier German hospital although some argue a more direct relationship with the earlier hospital.

A ceremony purportedly held on March 5, 1198, altered the Order's raison d'etre. The patriarch of Jerusalem, the king of Jerusalem, the head of the crusading army, and the masters of the Templars and the Hospital of St. John attended the celebration establishing the Teutonic Knights as a military order. A bull by Pope Innocent III (1198--1216) dated February 19, 1199, confirmed the event and specified the Order would care for the sick according to the rule of the Hospitallers. It would conduct its other business by following the Templar rule and would wear the Temple's distinctive white cloak. Its black cross would differentiate the Teutonic Order from the Temple.

Internal Structure

During the first twenty years of its existence, the institutional structure of the Order developed and stabilized. The Teutonic Order followed the lead of the Templars and Hospitallers by creating a system of provinces. Unlike monastic orders composed of independent abbeys, the Teutonic Knights had a hierarchical chain of command with commanderies (house, Kommende) at the lowest level. Provinces or bailiwicks (Ballei, Komturei) were parts of "countries" that composed the Order as a whole. Its first independent rule was adopted in 1264.

The officials governing the Teutonic Order at the various levels were commander (Komtur, preceptor) at the local level, province commander (Landkomtur), national commander (Landmeister), and grand master (Hochmeister, magister). The highest leadership positions (including grand master, grand commander [Grosskomtur], marshal [Ordensmarschall], draper or quartermaster [Trapier], hospitaller [Spittler], and treasurer [Tressler]) were elected by the general chapter.

Membership of this mostly German-speaking order was composed of various, distinct classes: knights, priests, and other brothers (lay brothers, sisters, and "familiars"). There was a large number of people who supported the professed members of the Order, ranging from auxiliary knights to slaves. The highest ranking were secular knights, serving for free. Turcopoles (Greek for "son of Turk") were originally probably lightly-armed, half-breed cavalry whose name applied to Turkish mercenaries employed in the Byzantine army, later the term was adopted by the military orders. There were attendants called squires (Knechte), and sergeants-at-arms. Footsoldiers were usually coerced from the local peasantry. Sister-aids (Helfschwestern) were employed as domestics as were Helfbrüder; they took religious vows. Married and single lay domestics also were employed by the Order. Artisans and laborers (e.g., gardeners, carpenters, masons) worked for charity or wages. Many serfs and slaves were owned by the Order.

Rapid Expansion

From the outset, the possessions and wealth of the Teutonic Order grew astoundingly fast and its numbers skyrocketed, especially under Grand Master Hermann von Salza (c. 1210--1239). Von Salza was successful in gaining many favors for the Order because he was a confidante to both the German emperor Frederick II (1211--1250) and the popes. His immediate successors also did well. Between 1215 and 1300, one or more commanderies were founded each year, usually through gifts.

The Teutonic Order was invited into Greece (1209), Hungary (1211), and Prussia (1226) by secular rulers to perform military duties on their behalf. In the Peloponnesus the Frankish Prince of Achaia provided fiefs near Kalamata for the Teutonic Knights in return for military service; there are traces of the Order's continuous service there until 1500. The Hungarian King Andrew II (1205--1235) expelled the Order in 1225 when it became strong and may have threatened his rule. The conquest of Prussia began in 1230 (after the Order's Grand Master was named prince of the Holy Roman Empire) and lasted until 1283.

In addition to the Holy Land and these other "theaters of war," the order's members could be found elsewhere in the Mediterranean and western Europe: Armenia, Cyprus, Sicily, Apulia, Lombardy, Spain, France, Alsace, Austria, Bohemia, the Lowlands, Germany, and Livonia. Only in the frontier areas (the Holy Land, Armenia, Greece, Hungary, Prussia, Spain, and Livonia) was military service required of members.

By 1221 the German Order was given the same privileges as the Templars and Hospitallers by Pope Honorius III (1216--1227). Both senior orders fought the autonomy of the Teutonic Order until about 1240. The German Order may not have quite equaled in wealth and possessions the other two military orders which were more than 80 years older, but it became the only other order to rival them in international influence and activity.

The Baltic

After the crusaders were defeated at Acre in 1291, the Teutonic Order moved its headquarters to Venice, a long-time ally. In 1309, the Order moved again, this time to Marienburg in Prussia. Here the Order had subdued the pagan inhabitants and established a theocratic form of government.

The position of the knights in the Baltic region had been strengthened in 1237 when a knightly order in Livonia, the Brothers of the Sword (Schwertbrüder), joined the Teutonic Order. The history of the German knights in Prussia and Livonia is one of almost perpetual revolts, uprisings, raids, conquests, victories, and defeats. Many secular knights from western Europe (e.g., Chaucer's knight in the Canterbury Tales) would go to the Baltic to help the Order in "crusading activities" for a season or more. The Grand Master's prizes and feasting for especially heroic knights became legendary and reminds one of various aspects of King Arthur's knights of the Round Table.

During the fourteenth century, dozens of towns and about 2000 villages were created in Prussia by the Order. The Order was successful in trade. For example, as a Hanseatic League participant, it provided western Europe with some of its cheapest grain.

The nations of Poland and Lithuania, perennial enemies of the Order, became stronger and stronger in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. In 1410 at Tannenberg, the Order was crushed in a battle against a coalition led by these powers. The result was a bankrupting of the Order and significant reduction in its military and political capabilities. In 1467, the whole of western Prussia was ceded to Poland and the eastern part acknowledged the suzerainty of the king of Poland.

1525 to 1797

Martin Luther's (1483-1546) Reformation affected the Teutonic Order significantly. In 1525, Grand Master Albrecht von Brandenburg converted to the Lutheran faith. He then was enfoeffed by the Polish king as Duke of Prussia. As a medieval, crusading entity, the German Order essentially ended at this time.

In 1526, the Teutonic Order master of the German lands became the "Administrator of the Grandmastery in Prussia and Master in German and Romance Countries." Mergentheim became the main seat of the Order.

There was a great deal of confusion in Germany in the aftermath of the Reformation, its resulting wars, and the political changes. The bailiwicks of Saxony, Messe, and Th(ringia became Protestant until Napoleonic times. The office of Landkomtur alternated among Lutheran, Reformed, and Catholic leaders in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The bailiwick of Utrecht was Calvinist until modern times. A new rule was adopted in 1606 in an attempt to accommodate the changes in the Order.

In European affairs, from time to time, the Order still participated militarily. Some 1000 troops were raised to help the Austrians against the Turks. After 1696, there was a regiment of the "Grand and German Master." But the numbers and wealth of the Order dwindled. Little other military activity is recorded.

The French Revolution and After

As the anticlerical French government expanded its political control in the 1790's, the Order lost its commanderies in Belgium and those west of the Rhine (1797). Many east of the Rhine were lost in 1805. In 1809, Napoleon dissolved the Order in all countries under his dominion, leaving only the properties in the Austrian Empire.

Even in Austria, the Order had to exist secretly for a number of years until 1839 when Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I reconstituted the Order as the Order of the Teutonic Knights (Deutscher Ritterorden). The mission fulfilled by the Order was mainly the caring for wounded soldiers.

In 1866, the "Honorable Knights of the Teutonic Order" was founded. Knights were required to provide annual contributions for hospitals. The Marianer des Deutschen Ordens, for women, was created in 1871.

In 1914, some 1,500 sponsors from the Austrian nobility supported the care giving efforts of the Order. During World War I, the Order took care of about 3,000 wounded soldiers in their facilities.

In 1923, masters of the Order were allowed to come from among the clerics rather than the "knighthood" for the first time. Under National Socialist rule, the Order was dissolved in Austria in 1938 and Czechoslovakia in 1939. The leaders of the Third Reich abused the history of the Teutonic Order. After World War II, the Order began anew in Germany. Its possessions in Austria were returned. In Italy, the Order had changed little. A great deal of support for the care taking and missionary Order has been found in Germany, Austria, Italy, Belgium, and even in North and Central America. The Order's headquarters, treasury, and archives are now located in Vienna, Austria.

As the years went by the Knights of St. John (Knights Hospitallers) became increasingly militant and, generally speaking, fought along-side the more mystical Knights Templar and the Germanic order of the Teutonic Knights of St. Mary.


With the fall of Jerusalem in 1309, the Knights of St. John retreated first to Cyprus and then to Rhodes. As the main base for the crusaders in their struggle against the Ottoman Empire, Rhodes was a fortress, a prison, and a supply base for the ships and armies on their way to Palestine and Asia Minor.


When the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet Fatih failed to clarify the succession question of the newly powerful Ottoman Empire, in 1481, a battle between his two sons at Bursa resulted and Cem was defeated by his brother Beyazit. Cem fled to Egypt but was denied asylum by the Marmelukes who controlled that country for the Ottomans.


Cem took the irreversible step of fleeing to Rhodes where he appealed to the archenemies of the Ottomans, the Knights Hospitallers, or Knights of St. John. With his brother now in the hands of the crusader army, Beyazit knew he was in trouble and the Ottoman Empire had to respond quickly.


Beyazit shrewdly contacted the Knights of St. John and negotiated a contract to pay 45,000 ducats of gold annually - a huge sum at the time - in return for the imprisonment of his brother on Rhodes and later in the English Tower at the castle in Bodrum, on the Turkish mainland.


The Knights eventually handed their valuable prisoner over to the Vatican, where Cem was made an interesting offer: to lead a crusader army to recapture Istanbul (Constantinopel).


To stop this final threat from his wayward brother Beyazit spared no expense paying to the Vatican 120,000 gold ducats and a number of sacred relics from Jerusalem including the famous Spear of Destiny. This was also known as the Lance of Longinus and was reportedly the Spearhead of the Roman centurion Longinus that was used to pierce the side of Jesus while on the cross. Another artifact offered was the sponge of the last refreshment. This was the vinegar-like sponge used to wet Jesus’ lips while on the cross


According to the legend of the lance, "Whosoever possesses this Holy Lance and understands the powers it serves, holds in his hand the destiny of the world for good or evil." Adolf Hitler believed in this power and removed the lance from the Vienna museum when the Nazis took over Austria.


With this hefty payment, the Pope abandoned Cem and the plans for him to lead an army against Istanbul. Cem died alone at the Terracina prison in 1495. Rumor had it that he was eventually poisoned. Today Cem is but a footnote in history, a victim of the diplomatic maneuvers that brought the Spear of Destiny to the West


The Knights stayed on Rhodes for 213 years, transforming the city into a mighty fortress with 12-meter thick walls. They withstood two Muslim offenses in 1444 and 1480, but in 1522 the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent staged a massive attack with 200,000 troops.


A mere 600 Knights with 1,000 mercenaries and 6,000 Rhodians eventually surrendered after a long siege. In 1529 Charles V, grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, offered Malta to the Knights of St. John as their permanent base and they began to build fortifications around the Grand Harbor. In 1565 the Ottoman fleet arrived at Malta and immediately attacked the fortifications.


With 181 ships carrying a complement of over 30,000 men, the fleet bombarded the fortress with over 7,000 rounds of ammunition every day for over a month and finally took St. Elmo. But the Turkish marines had suffered many casualties and could not take the other heavily defended forts that were around the bay and inside the island. News of reinforcements coming from Sicily caused the Turks to retreat from the island and the Great Siege was over.


The Knights of St. John changed their name to the Knights of Malta and were said to be fanatically loyal to the Vatican, and the Pope apparently used them as his personal crusaders and soldiers. Other Orders such as the Knights Templar and the Teutonic Knights were far more independent, and if anything, were trying their best to subvert the church that was centered on Rome. In fact it was sometimes said that the Knights Templar and the Knights of St. John (later to be known as the Knights of Malta) sometimes fought in combat against each other. The Knights Templar were sworn to fight the Vatican while the Knights of Malta became the Pope’s private army.


The Knights then turned to the Russian Tsar Paul I who offered to found an Orthodox League of the Knights of St. James. This deal with the Russian Tsar particularly enraged Napoleon.


Napoleon sailed to Malta and made anchor just outside the Grand Harbor in June of 1798. When he was refused entry by the Knights of St. John, he began to bombard the fortress. After two days of shelling the French landed and gave the knights four days to leave, thus ending their 268-year presence on the island.


The Pope restored the office of the Grand Master in 1879 and the Knights of St. John still exist today. They are known as the Knights of Malta, though they no longer reside in Malta at all, but have offices in various cities in Europe. Even though they have no actual territory, they are still recognized as a separate state by 40 or more countries around the world, similar to the recognition of the Vatican.


Critics of the Knights of St. John/Malta claim that they are a right-wing Catholic organization that worked in Eastern Europe to suppress non-Catholic ethnic groups.  Wehrmacht General Reinhard Gehlen received the highest honor given by the Knights of Malta shortly after World War II for "services rendered." Gehlen has been credited with helping many former Nazi and SS officers into new positions with the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) and later the Central Intelligence Agency.


The Sea Empire of the Knights Templar


During the 180 years of Crusades, the Templar wealth grew into a huge fortune. They owned over nine thousand manors and castles across Europe, all of which were tax-free. Each property was farmed and produced revenues that were used to support the largest banking system in Europe. The Templar wealth and power caused suspicion and jealousy among some members of the European nobility. Slanderous rumors were spread of secret rituals and devil worship.


King Philip IV of France was responsible for many of these rumors. Philip IV had taken refuge from an angry mob in Paris at the Templar headquarters there. The Templars had moved their main headquarters from Jerusalem to Paris after the Crusaders’ defeat in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Ottoman Navy had taken over most of the Mediterranean and were busy besieging the Knights Hospitallers on Malta.


The Templars gave Philip IV refuge from the mob, but it is said that the King saw the magnificence of the Templar treasure and wanted it for himself. His nation was bankrupt, he was a weak king who was unpopular with the people, and he knew that the Templars were more powerful and wealthy then he was.

King Philip IV went to Rome in 1305 and convinced Pope Clement V that the Knights Templar were not the holy defenders of the faith but were seeking to destroy it. The Pope ordered King Philip to arrest all the Knights in France and begin an inquisition. When the Kings men went to the Templar castles they found many of them abandoned and the large naval force that had been anchored at the Templar base in La Rochelle was gone. Those that were arrested were tried and found guilty of sins against God. Jaques de Molay, the last grand master of the Knights Templar, was burned at the stake in Paris in 1314.


A contemporary English poem asked the question that many ask today, where did all the Templars and their great wealth go? The brethren, the Masters of the Temple, Who were well-stocked and ample, With gold and silver and riches, Where are they? How have they done? They had such power once that none dared take from them, none was so bold; Forever they bought and never sold...


This question has plagued historians and treasure hunters for centuries. For hundreds of years there have been rumors that the Knights Templar were not only the defenders of the faith, but were also the guardians of the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail is said to be the most holy of religious artifacts.


Different versions of the legend exist, with the two most prominent stating that the Holy Grail is the cup or chalice used by Christ at the Last Supper or a piece of the cross that he was crucified on. The chalice version of the Holy Grail has Saint Joseph of Arimathea bringing to England the cup used at the Last Supper which had been used to collect the blood that flowed from Christ’s wounds.


A Welsh version of the Grail story says Saint Joseph of Arimathea brought the Grail to England with the word of Christ, and left the holy relic at Glastonbury; there it reached King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. The Grail is said to have taken many forms and King Arthur saw it in its fifth and final form while receiving Communion with hermits, a bleeding lance, which was also known as the Lance of Longinus, which was discovered by the Crusaders at Antioch. This last version would put the Templars and the lance in the Middle East at the same time. Before leaving the legend of the Holy Grail stop and think of the religious significance such a relic would have.


The mysterious Knights Templar had an extensive sea network and may have inherited some of the maps and other secrets of the Phoenicians. When the Templars were outlawed and arrested in 1307 by King Philip IV of France, the huge Templar fleet at La Rochelle, France, vanished and many Knights Templar sought refuge in lands outside of France. Portugal was one of the few places where they could find some asylum, and it is likely that the Templar fleet made a stop at Almourol castle before continuing to its final destination.


It should be noted that many Portuguese explorers and royalty were Knights Templar and later Masons. Many believe that the Portuguese Knights Templar were instrumental in Portugal acquiring its transatlantic colony, Brazil.


While Portugal was an important haven for the Knights Templar, their main base of operations, until they were outlawed was southern France and Cataluna, the area of the Cathars and the Merovingian kings. Barcelona, the capitol of Cataluna, was originally a Phoenician port and this area along the border of Spain and France has long thought of itself as Cataluna, a state, people and culture separate from the rest of Spain. The populace speaks their own language, Catalunian, a language that may have originated with ancient Phoenician.


Outside of Barcelona is Montserrat monastery, site of religious pilgrimage for a long time, probably going back even before the Christian era. It is a mountain rising 4,054 feet above the coastal plain which eventually became the site of a celebrated Benedictine monastery. It was at Montserrat that Saint Ignatius of Loyola vowed to dedicate himself to a religious life.


The monastery can be found about halfway up the steep, barren mountain. Only ruins can be found of the 11th-century Benedictine monastery and the new monastery on the site was built in the 19th century.


According to the Columbia Viking Desk Encyclopedia (1968 version), Montserrat was thought in the Middle Ages to have been the site of the castle which contained the Holy Grail. Says the encyclopedia, "The Renaissance church contains a black wooden image of the Virgin, carved, according to tradition, by St. Luke. In the Middle Ages the mountain, also called Monsalvat, was thought to have been the site of the castle of the Holy Grail."


Curiously, Barcelona is the city where Columbus landed upon his return to Europe from the New World. Why did Columbus come all the way to Barcelona when he had left from Cadiz, a port that he had to pass on his way to Barcelona? Perhaps Barcelona was a safer port to land at than Cadiz? It is quite possible that Columbus was a Knight Templar. He always signed his name with a curious triangle and coded letters, something which Knights Templar were known to do. All Jews had been banished from Spain on the very day that Columbus had sailed for the New World. Some historians have claimed that Columbus was actually a Spanish Jew and not an Italian from Genoa as later historians were to claim. If Columbus was a Jew, perhaps Barcelona and the Cataluna area was a safe haven for him and his crew. Also, Barcelona would have been a highly likely city for the secret Grand Master of the Knights Templar to reside in.


One of the most interesting and mysterious of Scottish characters was Prince Henry Sinclair, the last king of the Orkney Islands. Henry Sinclair, like many other nobles of the Middle Ages, held many titles and he was many things. He was king of the Orkney Islands, although they were officially an earldom granted to Prince Henry by the King of Norway. At the same time Prince Henry held other territories as a vassal of the Scottish king. Prince Henry Sinclair was also a Grand Master of the Knights Templar, a veteran of the crusades and, according to some sources, the possessor of the Holy Grail.


In the year 1391 A.D. Prince Henry Sinclair met with the famous explorers and mapmakers Nicolos and Antonio Zeno at Fer Island, which is located between the Orkneys and the Shetlands. The Zeno brothers were well known for their maps of Iceland and the Arctic. Prince Henry would contract them to send an exploratory fleet to the New World.


With the aid of funding from the Knights Templar, who had now been banished by the Pope, Prince Henry gathered a fleet of twelve ships for a voyage to establish a safe haven for the order of Knights and their treasure. The party was led by Prince Henry under the guidance of Antonio Zeno, the mapmaker from Venice.


The fleet left the Orkneys in 1398 and landed in Nova Scotia, wintered there and later explored the eastern seaboard of the United States. It is said that the effigy of one of Henry’s close companions, Sir James Gunn, who died on the expedition is to be found carved upon a rock-face at Westford, Massachusetts.


The party is said to have built a castle and left a portion of their navy in Nova Scotia. As we shall see, the famous Oak Island just off the mainland of Nova Scotia is to become part of the mystery surrounding Prince Henry Sinclair.


Prince Henry and his fleet returned to the Orkneys but shortly afterward Prince Henry was assassinated in Scotland. The year was 1400 and it was another 92 years before Cristobal Colon, known to us as Columbus, was to use his knowledge of Iceland and the Zeno brothers’ maps to make his famous voyage across the Atlantic.


In his book Holy Grail Across the Atlantic, Michael Bradley attempts to show that the ancient treasure from the Temple of Solomon was kept at Montsegur in the French Pyrenees, the Cathar region of France. This mountain fortress was besieged by the forces of Simon de Montfort and the Inquisition on March 16, 1244, but it is believed that the secret treasure escaped.


The treasure probably included both ancient treasure from the Middle East but also gold, silver and jewellery of more modern manufacture. The Knights Templar were well funded in secret by various royalty; after all, the Merovingian kings were of the Holy Blood of Jesus - or so it was claimed.


Bradley asserts that Prince Henry took over as many as 300 colonists to the New World and a literal "Grail Castle" was built in Nova Scotia - the New Scotland.


So strong is the evidence for Prince Henry Sinclair’s voyage across the Atlantic with the Knights Templar that his distant relative Andrew Sinclair wrote a book entitled The Sword and the Grail in which he claimed much the same as Bradley in Holy Grail Across the Atlantic.


The Templars may have also come into the possession of some highly accurate maps made by the Moors and Turks, and in so doing, inherited the secret sea knowledge once guarded so carefully by the Carthaginians and their allies.


Bradley and Sinclair claim that a special Grail Castle was built in an area of central Nova Scotia called "The Cross." This spot could be reached via river from either side of the Nova Scotia peninsula and at the mouths of both rivers was an island called "Oak Island." Curiously, one of these Oak Islands has the famous "Money Pit" which is a man-made shaft hundreds of feet deep with side tunnels.


It is believed that there is a treasure in this pit and millions of dollars have been spent in attempts to reach the submerged bottom of the pit.


It has been traditionally believed that the Oak Island Money Pit was built by pirates to hide a treasure, but Bradley and Sinclair claim that it was built by Sinclair and the Knights Templar. Furthermore, they claim, Canada was settled as a direct result of the Holy Grail being taken there. Sinclair and the Templars were attempting to create the prophesied "New Jerusalem" in the New World.


The Final Stand of the Knights Templar


The lost Templar fleet is discussed in Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh’s book The Temple and the Lodge. They point out that the Templars had a huge fleet at their disposal, a fleet that was stationed out of ports in Mediterranean France and Italy as well as ports in northern France, Flanders and Portugal.


On the whole, the Templar fleet was geared towards operation in the Mediterranean - keeping the Holy Land supplied with men and equipment, and importing commodities from the Middle East into Europe. At the same time, the fleet did operate in the Atlantic. Extensive trade was conducted with the British Isles and, very probably, with the Baltic Hanseatic League. Thus communities subordinate to the Templars (called preceptories in Europe), in England and Ireland, were generally located on the coast or on navigable rivers. The primary Atlantic port for the Templars was La Rochelle, which had good communication with Mediterranean ports. Cloth, for example, could be brought from Britain on Templar ships to La Rochelle, transported overland to a Mediterranean port such as Collioure, then loaded aboard Templar ships again and carried to the Holy Land. By this means, it was possible to avoid the always risky passage through the Straits of Gibraltar, usually controlled by the Saracens.


When the Order was persecuted by Philip IV of France starting in 1307 and culminating in the burning at the stake of Jacques de Molay in 1314, the Knights Templar became an outlawed organization. Philip IV of France persecuted them because of their financial and political power, but to many historians the persecution was part of a continued campaign against early Christian heretics like the Cathars. Indeed, there is a great deal of evidence to show that the Knights Templar and the Cathars were strongly allied.


The Knights Templar were apparently part of a secret movement to restore the Merovingian kings, who had the Holy Blood of Jesus in their veins. The question is, what happened to the Templar fleet after they were outlawed? Traditional history has no answer to this question.

Baigent and Leigh in The Temple and the Lodge claim that the Templar fleet escaped en masse from the various ports in the Mediterranean and northern Europe and left for a mysterious destination where they could find political asylum and safety. This destination was Scotland.


The Mediterranean fleet had to sail through the dangerous Straits of Gibraltar and then probably stopped at various Portuguese ports that were sympathetic to the Templars such as Almourol castle, near the town of Abrantes. The fortress of Almourol was constructed by Gualdim Pais, Master of the Order of the Templars in 1171.


Baigent and Leigh go on to say that the Templar fleet sailed up the west coast of Ireland to the safe ports in Donegal and Ulster, where Templar properties were located and arms smuggling to Argyll was common.


The Templar fleet then landed in Argyll by sailing to the south of the islands of Islay and Jura into the Sound of Jura where the Templars unloaded men and cargo at the Scottish Templar strongholds of Kilmory, Castle Sweet and Kilmartin.


Robert the Bruce controlled portions of Scotland, but not all of it. Significant portions of the northern and southern Highlands were controlled by clans that were allied with England. Robert the Bruce had been excommunicated by the Pope in 1306, one year before the persecution of the Templars began. Essentially, the papal decree that outlawed the Knights Templar was not applicable in Scotland, or at least the parts that Robert the Bruce controlled.


The turning of the tide for Robert the Bruce, Scotland and the Knights Templar was the famous Battle of Bannockburn which took place on June 24, 1324.


While visiting Scotland I drove out of Edinburgh looking for the site of the Battle of Bannockburn. It is known to have taken place within two and a half miles of Stirling Castle.


On June 24 of 1324, Robert the Bruce of Scotland with approximately 6,000 Scots miraculously defeated 20,000 English soldiers. Exactly what took place has never really been recorded. It is believed by some that Bruce did it with the help of a special force of Knights Templar. After all, June 24 was also a special day to the Knights Templar; it was St. John’s Day.


Say Baigent and Leigh: "Most historians concur that the Scottish army was made up almost entirely of foot soldiers armed with pikes, spears and axes. They also concur that only mounted men in the Scottish ranks carried swords, and that Bruce had few such men..."


Suddenly in the midst of the battle, with the English forces engaged in a three-to-one combat against the Scottish soldiers, there was a charge from the rear of the Scottish camp.


A fresh force with banners flying rode forth to do battle with the English. The English ranks took one look at the new force and in sheer terror of the new combatants, they literally fled the field, say Baigent and Leigh in The Temple and the Lodge, ..."after a day of combat which had left both English and Scottish armies exhausted... Panic swept the English ranks. King Edward, together with 500 of his knights, abruptly fled the field. Demoralized, the English foot-soldiers promptly followed suit, and the withdrawal deteriorated quickly into a full-scale rout, the entire English army abandoning their supplies, their baggage, their money, their gold and silver plate, their arms, armour and equipment. But while the chronicles speak of dreadful slaughter, the recorded English losses do not in fact appear to have been very great. Only one earl is reported killed, only 38 barons and knights. The English collapse appears to have been caused not by the ferocity of the Scottish assault, which they were managing to withstand, but simply by fear."


In fact, what probably happened was a charge by the remaining forces of Knights Templar against the English army. These crusade veterans were like the Green Berets or Special Forces of the Middle Ages. All combatants suddenly stopped to witness the charging army of Knights Templar, in full regalia with white banners and red cross insignias flying high above the mounted Grail Knights.


The probable strategy behind the Templars’ charge into battle would have been to ride through the thick of the battle and attempt to reach King Edward and his personal guards. Once engaged with the commanding officers of the English foe, these seasoned war veterans would have easily defeated King Edward’s knights and possibly killed the King himself. As noted, King Edward and his special knights immediately fled upon witnessing the Templar charge.


The 1995 Oscar-winning movie, Braveheart concluded by depicting Robert the Bruce and his charge at Bannockburn.


My friend Lionel Fanthorpe back in Wales had told me that I should visit Rosslyn Chapel while I was near Edinburgh, so I headed south from the Bannockburn battle area. It was just about noon when I arrived at Rosslyn Chapel in the Lothian Hills south of Edinburgh.


I parked the car and walked around the small but ornate chapel. It was a Sunday and there was a church service going on inside, so I looked at some of the graves in the cemetery on the west side of the building. When the service finished, a tall, thin man in a tweed sport coat came out of the chapel and stood in the courtyard for a moment.


"Excuse me," I said to him, "but isn’t Rosslyn Chapel associated with the Knights Templar?"


"Oh, yes indeed," the man said. "This chapel was built by William St. Clair, Grand Master of the Templars."


We stood there for a moment talking about the chapel and the Knights Templar, when he told me he had written several books on Rosslyn, the Knights Templar, the Holy Grail and the Spear of Destiny. "I co-wrote Mark of the Beast with Trevor Ravenscroft," he said, "plus these other books for sale at the chapel gift shop."


"I’ve read The Mark of the Beast," I said. "Are you Tim Wallace-Murphy?"


"Indeed I am," he acknowledged, a bit surprised that I knew who he was and had read one of his books.


"It’s a pleasure to meet you," I said, and we talked a bit about the Battle of Bannockburn, since I had just come from the area of the battle field. "The charge of the Knights Templar at Bannockburn must have been quite a sight," I said. "Were any of the knights killed?"


"No, not a one," he said. "The English fled in total fear of the seasoned warriors. Not even one Knights Templar was killed."


"Well, that’s the kind of statistic I like," I said. Privately, I wondered if this battle was the reciprocal battle to the last stand of the Cathars at Montsegur. At Montsegur everyone had been killed; at Bannockburn the Grail Knights had triumphed and not a man was lost.


Dr. Tim Wallace-Murphy took me into the gift shop where he showed me his other books on Rosslyn Chapel and its history. He also told me the story of Rosslyn, which is connected to the Orkneys and the taking of the Holy Grail to North America.


The builder of Rosslyn Chapel, William St. Clair, was the last Sinclair ‘Jarl’ of Orkney, who lived in the middle of the fifteenth century. Master Earl William, the ‘Jarldom of Orkney’ passed from the family to the Scottish crown as part of the dowry of Margaret of Denmark on to her marriage to King James III of Scotland. William was not only the grandson of Prince Henry and the last Jarl of the Orkneys, he also had the somewhat peculiar title of Knight of the Cockle and the Golden Fleece.


As Dr. Wallace-Murphy points out in his book, The Templar Legacy & the Masonic Inheritance within Rosslyn Chapel, Sir William St. Clair was a member of a secret group that preserved important knowledge concerning the Holy Grail, the Holy Blood of the Merovingian kings, and the destiny of the new continent across the Atlantic. Wallace-Murphy speculates that the Knights of the Cockle and the Golden Fleece was the current Grail Order of which Sinclair was possibly Grand Master.


Clearly, the Knights Templar saw themselves as the inheritors of ancient knowledge that went back to Atlantis. They struggled for hundreds of years against the Vatican and the reign of terror known as the Inquisition. To the Templars, the true church, one that taught mysticism, reincarnation and good works, was being suppressed by a dark power that called itself the one true faith. Oppression of these other faiths was done with the familiar devices of torture, terror and extermination.


Did the Templars seek to rediscover and recreate Atlantis in America? Henry Sinclair of Orkney had risked all to make his voyages across the North Atlantic. Had he taken the Holy Grail and possibly even the Ark of the Covenant to America? Had these sacred relics helped spur on the creation of the United States, a land which Masonic founding fathers like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were to create partially on the Templar ideals of religious freedom?


According to Templar historians like Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, Andrew Sinclair and Tim Wallace-Murphy, the Knights Templar had helped create an independent Scotland, then a "New Scotland" and finally an independent United States.


The Present Day Knights?


What of the Knights Templar today? While Masonry apparently sprang from the Templars, are there other surviving groups?


The "Knights Templar of Aquarius" existed in the 1940s and 50s in England, based in Canfield Gardens, London, and the Island of Jersey. The head of the order was an Englishman named H.C. Randall-Stevens. Randall-Stevens wrote several curious books, including one entitled The Chronicles of Osiris, and another entitled Atlantis to the Latter Days, which was published in 1954. In this rare book Randall-Stevens discusses various topics including Atlantis, the Great Pyramid, King Solomon’s Temple and the Knights Templar.


Recent conspiracy literature has painted a dark portrait of modern day Masons, often putting the blame of an Orwellian nightmare New World Order squarely on the shoulders of a Masonic conspiracy. Murderous renegade Masonic groups like the infamous P-2 organization in Italy have made world headlines. The fact that many influential businessmen are also Masons is also seen as part of the exclusive club of the puppet-masters.


My own opinion is that, while the Masons were a powerful political group 200 years ago, their significance in modern power struggles is probably overrated. Furthermore, their doctrines are highly misunderstood, especially by fundamentalist Christians.


Knights Templar of their day, and the Revolutionary War Masons of their day, were free-thinkers who rebelled against any artificial thought controls or economic controls forced upon them by the controllers. The Knights Templar lost their final battle and escaped en masse to Scotland and possibly the New World. The Revolutionary War Masons of British/Scottish descent and the Rosicrucians of German and Dutch descent succeeded in defeating the British Crown and fending off encroachment from the Vatican (in the form of royal Spain) at the same time.


Power struggles, between religious, racial and political factions have occurred since the beginning of history. History records that the Knights Templar, and later the Masons, stood for philosophical and political freedom. It is difficult to believe that the founding fathers of America, virtually all members of secret societies linked to the Knights Templar, were trying to set up a nation that was meant to be led into a New World Order police state. Rather, they were attempting to set up a nation with special safeguards against such a possibility. The checks and balances, guarantees of freedoms and inalienable rights are part of the plan for a true "Nation Under God" - a utopian society where all citizens live in peace and freedom.


Yet, let us not be fooled. There is Christ and there is the Anti-Christ. There is the Buddha and there is the Anti-Buddha, and there is the Novus Ordo Seclorum, and there is the Anti-Novus Ordo Seclorum. All prophecies remind us that a golden age once existed in the past, and a new golden age is soon to come in the future. What shall we call this new era of light?


According to arcane lore, from many prophets as well as the Templars, earth changes will destroy many lands, including Europe, while new lands will rise in the Atlantic and Pacific. New countries, created by new pioneers, will settle these new lands. These same people will be escaping the devastation happening in their own countries. Perhaps the new golden age is still to come, occurring on a land that is not yet present.


1. Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln, 1982, Johnathan Cape, London (published in the U.K. as The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail).


2. The Messianic Legacy, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln, 1985, Johnathan Cape, London.


3. The Temple and the Lodge, Michael Baigent & Richard Leigh, 1989, Johnathan Cape, London.


4. Emerald Cup - Ark of Gold, Col. Howard Buechner, 1991, Thunderbird Press, Metairie, LA.


5. The Secrets of Rennes-le-Chateau, Lionel & Patricia Fanthorpe, 1991, Bellevue Books, London.


6. The History of the Knights Templars, Charles G. Addison, 1842, London.


7. A History of Secret Societies, Arkon Daraul, 1962, Citadel Press, NY.


8. The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, Louis Charpentier, 1975, Avon Books, New York, 1966, Robert Lafont, Paris.


9. Holy Grail Across the Atlantic, Michael Bradley, 1988, Hounslow Press, Willowdale, Ontario.


10. The Morning of the Magicians, Jacques Bergier & Louis Pauwels, 1960, Stein & Day Publishers, New York.


11. Prince Henry Sinclair, Frederick Pohl, 1974, Clarkson Potter Publishers, New York.


12. The Sword and the Grail, Andrew Sinclair, 1992, Crown, New York.


13. The Templar Legacy & the Masonic Inheritance Within Rosslyn Chapel, Tim Wallace-Murphy, 1993, Friends of Rosslyn, Rosslyn, Scotland.


14. The Glastonbury Legends, R.F. Treharne, 1967, Sphere Books, London.


15. St. Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury, Lionel Smithett Lewis, 1922, James Clark & Co., Cambridge.


16. GENISIS, David Wood, 1986, Tunbridge Wells, U.K.


17. The Templars, Knights of God, Edward Burman, 1986, Destiny Books, Rochester, Vermont.


18. The Druids, Stuart Piggott, 1967, Thames and Hudson, London.


19. Atlantis to the Latter Days, H.C. Randall-Stevens, 1957, The Knights Templar of Aquarius, London.


20. The Search For the Stone of Destiny, Pat Gerber, 1992, Canongate Press, Edinburgh.


This article is extracted from the Introduction to the recently reprinted 1852 book The History of the Knights Templar, by Charles G. Addison.


Knights of the Temple

The Founding of the Order

Founded in 1118ce and destroyed on Friday 13th 1307, the Knights Templar, or Poor Knights of Christ of the Temple of Solomon to quote their full title (1), have contributed to modern society the most inauspicious date in the calendar, so that even those who know nothing of them are influenced indirectly by them through superstition. The purpose of forming the Order was to protect pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land from bandits, muggers and Saracens. Unlike most medieval knights, the Templars took vows of poverty ([supposedly] represented on their seal as two knights sharing one horse), chastity and obedience. They were monks, but they were fearsome warriors as well, and their service won them a glorious reputation as pious Brothers dedicated to the Lord and benevolent to pilgrims. It also won them gifts and donations from wealthy Europeans which other religious orders envied, and it ultimately won them the ultimate gift available to any religious order. Pope Innocent II granted them total freedom from every authority but his own. They were answerable to no monarch, law, bishop or archbishop, and they could collect tithes but didn't have to pay any themselves - basically they were above every law and answerable only to the Pope. It was this freedom which also allowed them their own chaplains, churches and cemeteries (2). And it was this that contributed to their aura of secrecy and enabled them to do whatever they liked behind closed doors.

There are some curiosities about their foundation. When they arrived in Jerusalem in 1119, which at that time was a Christian Kingdom after a successful Crusade, they asked King Baldwin if they could have their headquarters on the Temple Mount (the site of the original Temple of Solomon). The King consented and gave them part of the Al-Asqa Mosque adjacent to the Dome of the Rock, despite the fact that his palace was also there. What is most unusual about this is that at this point there were only nine knights, and they remained only nine in number for the first nine years of their existence(3), and there is no evidence that they protected pilgrims during this period(4). The most striking point about this to my mind is that while these nine French blokes were claiming to protect pilgrims and actually doing very little (apparently) for the first nine years of their order's existence, the Knights Hospitaller were actually doing this job and providing food and accommodation for these pilgrims to a high standard. They never received the same freedoms from the Pope as the Templars, but eventually created their own freedom when they managed to acquire Malta for their own personal use (incidentally, this order was the source of what is now the St John's ambulance brigade). It seems strange that this anomaly was not recorded at the time and that all the Templars' benefactors were so easily duped. (.... or were they?)

After the Templars were recognised by the Pope there was a rapid increase in the amount of donations they received. This often included land, which was then turned to profit. When new members were recruited into the order they turned all of their possessions over to the Temple, and because many knights were nobles many estates were acquired for the order throughout Europe. Where they had territory they often set up a preceptory where the Templars lived out their monastic rule, and they sometimes set up a larger church too (instead of the usual small chapel attached to a preceptory). Temple Church in London is the most famous English Templar church, but they had a church at Garway in Herefordshire and also one in Hereford itself (5) to name the only two known Templar churches in Hereford and Worcester. The outstanding feature of Templar and also Hospitaller churches is their round nave (the nave is the bit people normally sit in to listen to services). This was done to imitate the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem which was a symbol of the Holly Land and where the Templars had their headquarters. A round nave has interesting implications. An ordinary rectangular nave focuses attention on the activities of the priest at the altar or pulpit. If the Templars sat, or stood, in a circle the nature of the service would have "felt" more equal and possibly would have been more in keeping with "Brotherhood" than being lectured at by an elevated preacher. If their activities were a occult as has been suggested then a round nave would have been appropriate in other ways too.

Their property outside of the Holy Land was used for money-making, sending disabled or injured knights to rest, recruiting, training and doing the religious business that has proven so mysterious. All of this was geared towards maintaining a military presence in the Holy Land which included building huge castles and doing battle with Saracens (and occasionally other Crusaders). Donations were received at these places too and often the Templars acted as feudal Lords over large estates which needed to be managed as businesses. It is worth noting that the first windmill ever recorded in England was on a Templar property; it is thought they brought the idea over from the Middle East (see Temple Balsall by Eileen Gooder).

The wealth and power of the Templars was massive. The scale of their buildings in the Holy Land was equally massive. Chastel Pelerin (Castle Pilgrim) had an outer wall 6 metres wide and 16 metres high, and two of its towers were more than 34 metres high. Add to this that it was built on a spit of land in the sea and that it had its own harbour and an impressive picture emerges. This castle was the Templars' most important base in the Kingdom of Jerusalem (6) and was the point from which the last Crusaders left on 14th August 1291 when they were ousted by Muslim forces.(7)

The Fall of the Templars

After the Holy Land was lost and it became clear that it would not be regained, the real power of the Templars became evident because it was not being focused abroad. The owned almost as much land in France as the king did, which rather annoyed him. In England, King John (buried in Worcester, where I live) pawned the crown jewels to them for six years because he was broke.(8) This type of financial power, coupled with a highly disciplined and effective army of warrior-monks on an international level, caused some tinges of jealousy, greed and fear in certain European nobles. Notably King Philip IV of France. (9) This king has the added feeling of humiliation after being rejected when he asked to join the order. He eventually managed to engineer a candidate of his choosing to the position of Pope (Clement V) who then owed the king a favour. Philip plotted the mass arrest of the Templars and tried to get the Pope to add his weight to the proceedings - he was very reluctant but Philip began a public character assassination campaign against him until he crumbled into submission and supported the dissolution of the Templars. On Friday 13th, at dawn, all Templars in France were seized and arrested. Envelopes containing orders were opened simultaneously by French Sheriffs which gave them the element of surprise in the endeavour. (10) The property of the Templars was mostly turned over to the Hospitallers but the great "Treasure of the Templars" managed to evade the dawn strike. It is now known how their rumoured secret source of wealth disappeared and, equally mysteriously, the entire naval fleet of the Templars (which was considerable) disappeared. (11)

The trial, though highly corrupt, revealed the truth behind some of the rumours of heresy in the order which Philip had used to legitimise this attack. In France the Templars were promised leniency if they confessed to charges of heresy, sodomy and obscenity, and promised death if they refused. The full trial did not begin there until April 1310, "and by May 54 men had refused to withdraw their repudiation if initial confessions and were handed over to the secular authorities to be burned at the stake."(12) Templars travelled far and wide over their territories and it is reasonable to assume that many French Templars were abroad at the time of the arrests. Nowhere were they so harshly treated as in France. In Scotland and particularly in Portugal there was no serious effort to suppress the order. In Portugal they became the Knights of Christ and in Scotland they are thought to have fought at the Battle of Bannockburn and to have been the source of certain Masonic traditions.(13) Anyway .... in October 1307 King Philip of France send a letter to Edward II in England (who had only been king for a couple of months and who was Philip's future son-in-law) asking him to arrest the Templars in the same way as he had done. Edward refused. In fact, he sent several letters to other European monarchs asking them to ignore the charges against the Templars, saying that they were inspired by greed and jealousy. Pope Clement V ended up having to tell Edward to begin proceedings against the order. On 20th December Edward wrote a letter to all his Sheriffs, as the French king had dome, and on 9th, 10th and 11th January 1308, the English Templars were placed in safe custody.(14)

On their arrest an inventory of their property was done. In England this showed that many once prosperous Templar manors and preceptories had fallen into serious disrepair. In some instances this could be attributed to the Templars doing a runner. It was several months after the arrests in France that the English were arrested - plenty of time to arrange a "holiday". In many cases, however, the property was dilapidated through old age and some people regard this as evidence of the order's weakness in its latter stages.(15) The loss of the Holy Land and the realisation that another Crusade was not likely would have depleted morale somewhat, and it is not exactly fuel to the fire of enthusiasm in a new recruit. They weren't attracting as many new members and they had nothing to work for because their military activities were over (other than their "securicor" activities as pawnbrokers and bankers). The final battles in the Holy Land left many disabled and injured knights as well as all those who died, so all of this is bound to have placed an enormous strain on the order and helps explain the state of decay on some of their properties.

The Charges and the Trials

On Tuesday, 21 October 1309 the trial began in England. It was held in London with the Bishop of London, two Papal Inquisitors (probably Dominicans of the "Inquisition" fame), the Pope's Chaplain and three public notaries.(16) Internationally there were many different confessions, but here are the principal heresies quoted from John J Robinson's book:

The confessions stated that in their initiations they had been required to bestow the Osculum Infame, or "kiss of shame", on the prior, on his mouth .. or on his navel .. or below his spine. They had been required to spit on the cross. Denying Christ, the Templars had worshipped a head, or a head with three faces, or a head with four feet, or a head with just two feet. It was a metal head, or a wooden head, or a human skull set in a reliquary. (A couple of Templars confessed that the head was named Baphomet). Some confessed that they had also worshipped an idol in the form of a cat, which was red, or grey, or black, or mottled. Sometimes the idol worship required kissing the cat below the tail. Sometimes the cat was greased with the fat from roasted babies. The Templars were forced to eat food which contained the ashes of dead Templars, a form of witchcraft that passed on the courage of the fallen knights. Some said they had to wear a cord next to their skin after the cord had touched the idol. (17)

At the Paris Temple, "a silver head was found with small bones inside, which appeared to have been made to house holy relics".(18) This is one of the few pieces of material evidence to support the Templar association with heads. In England a Templar named Henry de la Wolde confessed to kissing on the mouth at initiations, but to no other parts of the body. And preceptor Simon Streche said that he thought receptions everywhere were the same as in the "chief convent", meaning the Paris Temple where a head was found. A knight named Robert de Hamilton, when asked about the use of idols attached to the girdles that the Templars wore over their vests, said that the use of the girdle was honourable and called it the Girdle of Nazareth, and said ".... it was touched on a certain column" and that they all carry what girdle they wished.(19) An interesting piece of evidence against them was a Franciscan who said that "... about 20 years ago the Grand Preceptor had some relics that he wanted to show the Brothers at Wetherby. At dead of night there was shouting in the chapel, and the Franciscan got up and looked through the keyhole, and saw a great light. The next day he asked a Brother about the night's events and the Brother told him to go on his way and never speak of it for fear of his life".(20) An interesting quote in Crusader Castles, by Hugh Kennedy, is a report by Imad-al-Din of what he thought of the Templar castle of La Feve after it had been conquered in 1187 by Saladin, the Saracen leader. He says, "It was a place where they met and received people, a place where they guarded their horses, a place where the torrents of their men flowed, a meeting place of their brethren, the residence of their devil and the place of their crosses, where their masses assembled and their fire was kindled." (21)

What are we to make of these? The reference to idols attached to girdles probably relates to a sacred cord which the Templars are supposed to have kept next to their flesh. This may have been something adopted into the Templars from the [GNOSTIC] Cathars who lived in the Languedoc region of France. (22) They were "heretics" according to the Pope and the Albigensian Crusade ordered by him and carried out largely by the Teutonic Knights slaughtered most of them. What about Baphomet? The worship of an idol in the shape of a head was one of the most persistent accusations levelled against them. Intelligence gained by royal spies who had infiltrated the order prior to the raids also reported the name Baphomet. (23) In The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, the possible meaning of this name is explored. Early examiners of the issue often thought that Baphomet was a corruption of Muhammad. The authors mentioned above point out that if Baphomet was merely God of Allah, why bother renaming him Baphomet? The name could also be a corruption of abufihamet which means "Father of Understanding" of "Father of Wisdom".(24)If this is the case, the Templars had adopted Sufism into their rituals . Montague Summers suggested,that the name was a combination of two Greek words (baphe and metis) and meant 'absorption into wisdom.'

The Essenes, to avoid persecution and because they were a secret sect, employed the uses of ciphers and codes to hide the identities of important names. One such cipher, known to bible scholars and translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls, is the Atbash Cipher. To use the cipher you swap the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet for the last, second for second to last, third for third to last and so on. This means that Aleph=Tau, Bet=Shin, hence the name Atbash.

Essene knowledge got passed on to the Gnostics, and Gnostics then passed it on to the Cathars. The Knights Templar was at one time enrolling many Cathar nobles as new recruits. It is likely that among the knowledge passed to the Templars from the Cathars, would have been the knowledge of the Essene ciphers, including Atbash.

Hugh Schonfield obviously thought so, since he didn't hesitate in applying the Atbash cipher to what he saw as the "obviously artificial name Baphomet". So Hugh wrote out the name Baphomet in Hebrew, applied the Cipher and revealed the word Sophia! Baphomet was the Greek goddess of wisdom!

The Inquisition had thought that Baphomet was the bearded male head that the Templars prostrated themselves before and which spoke to them and gave them occult powers. Sophia, however, is obviously female and Hugh was not supprised to note that Inquisition records also show that in Templar hands was "a casket surmounted by a great head of gilded silver, most beautiful, and constituting the image of a woman." But what of the male head? This was Adam Kadmon, and the head was denominated in Hebrew as Chokmah, i.e. Wisdom.

Even before the discovery of Baphomet's true name, the feminine side of this deity had begun to manifest. Most modern depictions of Baphomet show him with a goats head, breasts (two, four or even six), wings (angelic or demonic), a phallus (usually a very big one), and hooved legs. So Baphomet had already emerged as androgynous, even before the discovery of his being the blending of Adam Kadmon (essentially a god, although Jews and derivative monotheists wouldn't see it that way) and the Goddess Sophia due to an Inquisition error.

The Templar Head Cult

A good explanation for the Templar head worship covers another bunch of heretics from the East. The Johannite or Mandaean heresy denounced Jesus as a false prophet and acknowledged John the Baptist as the true Messiah. In The Holy Blood ... the authors assert that "In the course of their activities in the Middle East the Templars undoubtedly established contact with Johannite sects ..." (25) John the Baptist was decapitated - hence the worship of a head. In Turin Shroud - In Whose Image ..., where Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince effectively demonstrate that Leonardo da Vinci created the shroud, this link is re-affirmed. The reason the head of the shroud is not quite connected to the unreasonably long body is partly because Leonardo, as Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, wanted to allude to John the Baptist in the image.(26) The Priory of Sion still exists today and is historically linked to the Templars.(27) The Mandaean heresy connection seems to me to be the most likely explanation of the head worship of the Templars.

One of the orders that absorbed the Templars' lands was the Knights Hospitallers, or the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. I am mildly surprised that the order's obvious reverence for St John has not been fully researched in an esoteric light by the very capable authors noted above - especially considering that St John's right hand is one of the relics owned by the order, preserved in the private chapel of the Winter Palace at St Petersburg in Russia.(28) An upward pointing right hand is a characteristic of some of Leonardo's paintings and it is noted in the Turin Shroud - In Whose Image ... as one of the clues which he left relating to the John the Baptist connection with the Priory of Sion (and hence Templars(29)), but the order's ownership of this relic is not mentioned in this otherwise mind-blowing book (I liked it).

Aleister Crowley, the infamous Great Beast, was very into the Templars. He wrote a play about them, (30) he was very familiar with the Templar orders in Freemasonry (as self-styled "Inspector-General" of Masonic rites(31)) and he took the name Baphomet for his position as Grand Master of the Ordo Templi Orientis.(32) He explored the meaning and numerology of the name and says it could mean "baptism of wisdom" (furthering the John the Baptist links) or that it is a corruption of a title meaning "Father Mithras". He says that this latter interpretation shows why the Templars gave that name to their idol. "Baphomet was Father Mithras, the cubical stone which was the corner of the Temple." (relating to the headquarters of the Templars on the site of the original Temple of Solomon).(33)

Other sources connect Baphomet with Cernunnos, the God of the witches, and say that the Templars preserved the deeper aspects of the old ways in their inner rites. Eliphas Levi, who also showed an interest in the Templars, equated Baphomet with the Goat of the Sabbat(34) - incidentally, Crowley believed he was Levi in a former incarnation. There are many lines of enquiry into Baphomet in the field of Magick - too long-winded to detail here.

The Cathar Connection

The supposed attributes of the Templar head are interesting in that they are very similar to the qualities given to Bran's head and to the Holy Grail. That is, making the land fertile, enriching the people and basically being pretty darn groovy. In Parsifal, Wolfram von Eschenbach describes the Grail as a stone. He also describes the guardians of the Grail as Templars and Wolfram himself was a contemporary of the Templars (35) - could this mean that Crowley was right? Some people say that (even though Wolfram called them Templars) the Knights in Parsifal are not necessarily Templars. Primarily because the Templars' sign is a cross pattée, not a turtle dove (as in Parsifal) and because the Knights in Parsifal go forth to quest in a manner now concurrent with what history knows of the Templars. Another point made is that if Wolfram had really wanted to portray the Templars, he undoubtedly could have made a better job of clarifying their identity. (36) Naming them Templars in the story is clear enough, and a dove is sometimes associated with the Cathars (37) who the Templars certainly mixed with and maybe got their "treasure" from, and indeed it was no less than John the Baptist who saw a dove descending as the holy spirit.(38) So these "errors" make sense if Wolfram was trying to hint about a connection between the Templars, Cathars, John the Baptist and the grail (or treasure) which has been successfully shown in The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail anyway. That all this occurs in an Arthurian context, linking it up with older tales like that of Bran's head perhaps, suggests that Wolfram wanted to allude to that too. The similarities between Baphomet and Bran's head/the grail are striking anyway, so to have Wolfram linking these up through the Templars prior to their trial is certainly an interesting coincidence if nothing else. In The Sign and The Seal, Graham Hancock shows how Wolfram could have known all of this. If what the Templars were up to with Baphomet was anything near as weird as the Bran's head stuff, or even the Orphic traditions from Greece, the could our Franciscan friend's "great light"; and the silver head from the Paris Temple be evidence of this?

The Aftermath

Some final interesting points. When Jacques de Molay (the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar before the trial) and Geoffrey de Charnay (the order's treasurer) were burnt at the stake, Jacques is reported to have issued a final curse. “He called his persecutors - Pope Clement and King Philip - to join him and account for themselves before the court of God within the year. Within a month Pope Clement was dead, supposedly from a sudden onslaught of dysentery. By the end of the year Philip was dead as well, from causes which remain obscure to this day.” (39) As evidence that the Templars remained close to certain French hearts in more recent times (probably through Freemasonry) the scene of the execution of King Louis XVI in 1789 (French Revolution) needs a brief review. After the guillotine had fallen and the king's head lay in a basket "... an unknown man is reported to have leaped onto the scaffold. He dipped his hand into the monarch's blood and flung it out over the surrounding throng and cried 'Jacques de Molay, thou art avenged!'" (40)

So many different things have been affected by the Templars that squeezing like their travels to America (!) (41) and their quest for the lost Ark of the Covenant (42) simply was not possible in this comparatively tiny article. Enquiring minds should consult the list of references for this article and do much further reading. Happy Crusading ... or head hunting .. and less of that orifice-kissing!


1. Hancock, Graham - The Sign and The Seal - a quest for the lost Ark of the Covenant, BCA 1992

2. Robinson, John J - Dungeon, Fire and Sword - The Knights Templar in the Crusades, Michael O'Mara Books Ltd, London, 1991

3. Robinson, ibid

4. Hancock, ibid cit

5. 'St Giles Church and Hospital, Hereford'. Hereford and Worcester Sites and Monuments Record no 4409

6. Kennedy, Hugh - Crusader Castles, Cambridge University Press, 1994

7. Robinson, op cit

8. Elliott, Paul - Warrior Cults - A History of Magical, Mystical and Murderous Organisations, Blandford Books, London, 19959. Walker, Charles - Atlas of Secret Europe, Dorset Press, New York, 1990

10. Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln - The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, Corgi Books, London, 1982

11. Hancock, op cit

12. Gooder, Eileen - Temple Balsall - The Warwickshire Preceptory of the Templars and Their Fate, Phillimore and Co Ltd, Chichester, 1995,

13. see Hancock and Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh amongst others

14. Gooder, op cit,
15. Gooder, op cit

16. Gooder, op cit

17. Robinson, op cit

18. Robinson, ibid

19. Robinson, op cit

20. Gooder, ibid

21. Kennedy, op cit

22. Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, op cit

23. Elliott, op cit

24. Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, op cit

25. Baignet, Leigh and Lincoln, ibid. Quoted in Turin Shroud - In Whose Image - The Shocking Truth Unveiled, by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, 1994

26. Pickentt, Lynn and Prince, Clive, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image .... BCA 1994

27. see Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln for more on the Priory

28. Fincham, H W - The Order of the Hospital of St John and its Grand Priory of England, London, second edition 1993

29. Picknett and Prince, op cit

30. Crowley, Aleister - The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, Arkana Books (Penguin), London, 1989 (first published 1979)

31. Crowley - ibid

32. Crowley - ibid

33. Crowley - ibid. See also Crowley's Magical Record of the Beast 666 1972

34. Levi, Eliphas, Transcendental Magic, Rider Books, London 1984 (first published 1896)

35. Hancock, op cit

36. Nicholson, Helen - Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights - Images of the Military Orders 1128 - 1291, Leicester University Press, 1995

37. Walker, op cit

38. Jones, Alison - (The Wordsworth) Dictionary of Saints, Ware, Herts, 1992

39. Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, op cit

40. Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, ibid

41. Sinclair, Andrew - The Sword and The Grail

42. Hancock, op cit