THE KNIGHTS Templar were a monastic military order formed during the 12th century European crusades to the Holy Land. The Knights Templar became mythologised as guardians of spiritual secrets, such as the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail. Eventually, the wealth the order accumulated put them on a collision course with royalty and Rome.
In 1118 Hugh de Payen and eight companions, under the protection of St Bernard of Clairvaux, visited Jerusalem with a letter of introduction to King Baudoin I of Jerusalem. They announced their intention to found an order of warrior monks whose aim was to protect pilgrims on the road to the Holy Land. The new order took vows of poverty and chastity, and the king granted them quarters within the Temple of Solomon – hence their name Knights of the Temple, or Templar.
Whilst in Jerusalem, in addition to fighting and protecting pilgrims, the knights also excavated under the Temple of Solomon. In the 19th century the Palestine Exploration Fund re-excavated these tunnels and found various Templar items.
Evidence of digging has led to many theories of what they found – the most populist version being that they located the Ark of the Covenant. Champions of this theory point to the pillar at the Templar Cathedral at Chartres, which depicts the Ark in transport. Less prosaic interpretations suggest they found scriptural scrolls, treatises on sacred geometry and details of ancient Judaic-Egyptian wisdom.
De Payen and the knights returned to France in 1127. A year later at the Council of Troyes, the Knights Templar gained legal autonomy, putting them beyond the reach of bishops, kings or emperors and making them responsible to the Pope alone.
They were gifted land by pious aristocrats to finance their rapidly growing order. Their wealth grew as they developed commercial interests in mines, quarries and vineyards. They had a fleet that outshone the largest state. But what the Knights Templar did most was build. The classic round Templar church, founded on octagonal geometry, is still regarded as the most obvious example of their building, but many observers see Templar influence in the vast gothic outpouring that occurred throughout the next hundred years.
They set the gold and silver standard for coin weight, and introduced the “note of hand” – a kind of 12th century credit card. Christians at the time were not allowed to charge interest on money, but the Templars got round this by charging “rent”. The order quickly became the richest bankers in Europe, lending to kings, princes and influential people across Europe.
King Philip IV of France (1268-1314) was one monarch among many who was heavily in debt to the Knights Templar. The death of the Pope gave the King an opportunity to bribe the incoming Catholic leader and initiate enquiries against the order. They were charged with heresy and on a Friday the 13th, in October 1307, Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, and 60 of his senior knights were arrested in Paris. Across Europe thousands of Knights Templar were taken into custody. But when King Philip raided the Templar treasure house he found it empty and the fleet gone from Larochelle.
Anyone found sheltering a Templar was under threat of excommunication. At the time Scotland was already excommunicated for Robert the Bruce’s involvement in the murder of John “Red” Comyn. Since Robert the Bruce could not afford to turn away wealthy and powerful allies in his struggle against Edward I, it is not too fanciful to suppose that Scotland may have welcomed the homeless knights. French Masonic ritual seems to indicate that Scotland was designated as the place of refuge for the Templar treasures. It is certainly a matter of fact that their land in Scotland was never seized but was transferred to the Knights of St John for safekeeping.
Some accounts even hold that the Knights Templar may have fought at Bannockburn. After that they apparently disappeared. Some commentators think that they never truly vanished but went underground. Some think they were quickly assimilated into different orders, such as the freemasonry. They started to re-emerge in the 18th century and today the movement is pan-global.
An international body, Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymilitani, which has an enormous membership in Europe and America, monitors the increasing number of Templar organisations.
The international order tries to focus on the less fanciful of Templar interpretations. For many people, however, the appeal of the Knights Templar will always be the lure of Templar Gold, The Ark of the Covenant, pre-Columbus journeys to America and, of course, the Holy Grail.
Knights Templar in Scotland
1128 – Hugh de Payen, a relative by marriage to the St Clairs of Roslin, travels to Scotland where he stays with his relatives. The Templars are granted land – which becomes their headquarters in Scotland at Ballontrodoch – now Temple.
1203 – The sack of Constantinople. Important relics looted and fall into Templar hands. The Orkney Crusade saw Scottish Templar families, including the Sinclairs, join the crusade.
1307 – 11 October, two days before the arrest of many Templar Knights, it is recorded in French Masonic history that the Templar ships leave at midnight from La Rochelle, probably heading to Scotland.
1311 – Bishop Lamberton of St Andrews gives the Templars his protection.
1314 – Possibility that Knight Templars fought at Bannockburn.
1790 – Alexander Deuchar revives the order in Scotland in an attempt to re-start a new chivalry.
by DIANE MACLEAN
This article: http://heritage.scotsman.com