I’m the Chancellor of the OSMTHU, editor of these pages.
For a long time I have been researching the net to bring you the latest about Templar news, research, debates and activities from a wide range of sources. I have had great encouragement from most of our readers and a few interesting suggestions have been taken on board and will be incorporated in the Templar Globe in the future.
It has been my wish since the beginning to help our readers access information about the Order – past and present – that is not readily available in a systematic way from other sources. I always thought that the readers should benefit from the fact that I was born in Portugal and that – as many of you know – in my country we hold some of the most interesting and unexplored Templar sources, stories, traditions, documents, sites and treasures that have been left from ancient times and sometimes defy our understanding.
After you have dwelled a bit into the Templar legacy, it is clear that, while France was the political, financial centre of the historical Templar Order, Portugal became, alongside Scotland and provinces of Spain, their refuge and harbour of retreat. The sea power that the Templars were in 1307 – then vanishing from sight – reappeared in the visionary work of Prince Henry the Navigator, head of the Order of Christ, a few decades later.
However, there are many details that are not available to the researcher because only Portuguese historians, publishing in Portuguese, have written about them, and although many of these are extremely significant and provide explanations to many of the questions remaining about the Order of the Temple, there is no trace of them in most of the reference books about the subject.
With this series of postings generally titled Templar Chronicles, I want to take our readers in a few voyages around Portugal, to sites of great interest and portions of history that are – except for locals – partially unknown. We had a poet called Fernando Pessoa who said that we are born in Portugal either with a mission or as a punishment. The mission is closely tied with the Templars. The punishment is to fail the mission.
First let me present Portugal during the XII century (edited from wikipedia articles for convenience):
Portugal is a European nation whose origins go back to the Early Middle Ages. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it ascended to the status of a world power during Europe’s “Age of Discovery” as it built up a vast empire including possessions in South America, Africa, and Asia.
At the end of the 11th century, after having taken part in the conquest of Jerusalem alongside Geofrey de Bullion, the Burgundian knight Henry became count of Portugal, a small territory in the west, under the kingdom of Leon. Henry wanted it to become independent, but died without achieving his aims. His son, Afonso Henriques, took control of the county. In 1126, before the Council of Troyes or Saint Bernard’s proclamation, the Templars are granted the first possessions in Portugal.
On June 24, 1128, Afonso Henriques, Count of Portugal, fearing that the pending marriage of his widow mother with a nobleman from Leon would pose a threat to his ambitions, fought and defeated his mother, Countess Teresa, and her lover, Fernão Peres de Trava, in battle – thereby establishing himself as sole leader and Prince of Portugal. His claim wasn’t recognized by neighboring nations or the Pope for a long time. However Afonso Henriques forged close alliances with military Orders – the strongest of which the recently formed Templars -, pushing southward conquering territory to the Moors, during the Reconquista. At a certain stage, the Templars were granted 2/3 of all conquered land. They built a defensive line of castles along the Tagus river – which included Tomar and Almourol – that was strategic and crucial for the Kings success.
Afonso Henriques proclaimed himself king of Portugal on July 25, 1139, after the Battle of Ourique where he defeated 5 Moorish rulers after the legendary vision of Christ crucified assured him victory despite numeric disadvantage. He was recognized as such in 1143 by Alfonso VII, king of Leon and Castile, and in 1179 by Pope Alexander III.
The independence of Portugal as a Kingdom and rise of his first – and for many reasons – legendary King Afonso Henriques, parallels the growth of the Templar Order in Europe. It’s not the same project, but one is the visible fruits of the other. If the Templars wouldn’t have been established in 1118, it’s very likely that there had never been a Portugal in 1128. If Bernard of Clairvaux wouldn’t have moved his personal influence near the Pope on behalf of Portugal (as he did on behalf of the Templars), Prince Afonso would have been excommunicated by the Pope. Indeed there is a letter from Bernard to Afonso in which he acknowledges that influence, written when, after the conquest of Santarém (1147), King Afonso donates the surrounding lands to the Cistercian Order, where they will establish the magnificent Alcobaça Monastery, that we will visit in the second of our chronicles.
Count Henrique, King Alfonso’s father, was a cousin of Bernard. And Bernard was, according to many accounts, a cousin of Hugh de Payens. The influence of both Bernard and the Templars in the upbringing of young Alfonso Henriques, tutored by Egas Moniz, one of the noblest families of the county, a mysterious character himself, is incontrovertible.
Most of the chronicles I will be illustrating with a few photos will reflect places, events and stories that took place between 1118 and 1314 or the transition between the end of the historical Order, the creation of the Order of Christ (1319) and up until the Discoveries age (that we will conclude in 1500 with the discovery of Brazil by Pedro Alvarez Cabral).
See you soon!
Images (from the top): Count Henrique of Burgundy, King Afonso Henriques (foto LM) and Egas Moniz.