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History

The   Order   was   founded   in   about   1118   to   protect   the   pilgrim   routes   and   Christian   communities   in   the   Holy   Land.      This was   known   as   Outremer   –   the   kingdom   “beyond   the   sea”.      Under   their   first   Grand   Master,   Hugues   de   Payens,   the   Order’s members   were   originally   known   as   the   Poor   Knights   of   Christ   and   took   monastic   vows   of   poverty,   chastity   and obedience.      Recognising   their   valuable   role   as   champions   and   defenders   of   Christendom,   King   Baldwin   II   of   Jerusalem granted   them   for   their   headquarters,   the   buildings   which   were   then   known   as   the   Temple   of   Solomon,   on   Temple   Mount in the heart of Jerusalem – and as an obvious result they soon became known as the Order of the Temple of Jerusalem. These   Templars   were   men   of   war   and   of   prayer   –   “Warrior   Monks”   –   and   such   was   their   fame   that   Abbot   Bernard   of Clairvaux,   founder   of   the   Cistercian   Order   and   one   of   the   foremost   Christian   scholars   of   his   age,   wrote   a   book   in   support of   the   Templars,   entitled   In   Praise   of   the   New   Knighthood.      An   extract   from   this   book   can   be   found   via   the   menu   on   the page   entitled   Saint   Bernard   of   Clairvaux.   Bernard   also   gave   the   Templars   their   new   Rule   under   which   they   were   to   lead their   lives   and   advance   the   Christian   cause.      Each   Templar   was   to   be   loyal   to   the   Order   –   and   the   courage,   discipline   and military   achievements   of   these   warrior   monks,   each   wearing   a   distinctive   white   mantle   with   a   red   cross,   earned   them   the respect   and   admiration   of   all   Christendom.      By   the   middle   of   the   twelfth   century   the   Order   had   become   a   major   force both in the Holy Land and Europe, and was answerable only to the Pope.
For two hundred years this religious-military Order fought for Christianity wherever it was threatened – establishing fortress strongholds and winning many battles.  Invariably the Templars were in the vanguard of the Crusader armies, and the Order’s supporters and admirers, included none other than King Richard I of England, “the Lionheart”.  But whilst they were formidable warriors, the Templars were as much respected for their zeal and dedication to God as for their bravery or military prowess. By the fourteenth century – whilst members of the Order still lived modestly, according to the strict Rule given to them by St Bernard of Clairvaux – the Order itself had become immensely powerful and rich.  Its influence extended not merely to religious or military affairs but to finance and commerce too.  It was the Order’s wealth and power that attracted the envy of others, and in 1307 the French king, Philip the Fair, had all the Templars in France rounded up, accused of heresy and imprisoned.  Many were tortured to force them to make false confessions.  These arrests were made in the early hours of the morning on Friday 13th October – hence, the 'unlucky' “Friday the Thirteenth”.  The confessions of heresy, though obtained through torture, led the Pope, Clement V, under further pressure from King Philip, to disband the Order in 1312.
St. Bernard of Clairveaux 1090-1153
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