Everyone seems to enjoy a good mystery or the chance to be in the know about some important secret. I have always been fascinated by the legends of the Templar knights, and there is more than an ample supply of secrets and things left unexplained in their colourful past.
The Templars were originally a small group of knights who swore to protect religious pilgrims and the holy sites of Jerusalem. By an official papal edict they were recognized by the Catholic Church at the Council of Troyes in 1129.
At their formation, the first knights were given the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Holy Mount in Jerusalem and they chose their name from this as The Order of the Temple. This ancient site was built over the stables of King Solomon, and it was here that the mysterious undertakings of the Templars were to originate.
For the first 11 years of their existence, there is no record of any actual Templar engagements or deeds of battle recorded; no pilgrims were saved, no infidels driven from the holy places, not even records of any patrols or forays into the country.
Rumours began to circulate that the knights had discovered some hidden treasures or relics in the subterranean passages under the holy mount as they were excavating and erecting their headquarters.
Whatever the secret was, the power and popularity of the order suddenly increased exponentially. With pious oaths of chastity, strict Christian beliefs and a mandatory oath of poverty requiring release of all worldly possessions to the Templar Order it would seem an unlikely place to attract newcomers.
Still, unexplainably, some of the wealthiest lords, barons and knights of well-bred families rushed into the service of the Church.
The wealth and prestige of the Knights Templar grew from this, and the Order became the most powerful financial force and banking institution in Europe. By their official sanction from the Pope, they were immune from national taxes or even local laws. As their strength grew, the rumours followed that they had in their possession some secret that was so important to the Church that they were beyond even the control of the Pope himself.
Interestingly, the most famous Templar seal has a mysterious link to horses and its true meaning remains open to controversy to this day. The official legal seal that was used to authenticate all Templar documents shows two knights riding a single horse. The earliest versions were simply two symbolized riders while later elaborations show the knights wearing armour with lances and shields.
Some say the single horse was a sign of the poverty of the Order, but the fact was most Knights were given three horses; one for battle, one for everyday riding and one to transport luggage and armour. Some historians claim the twin knights represent the duality of their fraternity; they were poor by their vows, yet rich beyond comprehension in assets; they were religious monks yet fierce warriors; somewhat introspective yet well versed in worldly matters.
It is possible to make a case that the symbolism is from the Gospel of Mathew, where in the following passage Christ says: “Wherever two or more of you are gathered in my name, there I am, in the midst of them.” Is the seal meant to show a Templar knight riding with Christ?
The Great Seal of the Templars shows a dome on its reverse side. Some claim this is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Rome while others claim it represents the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
If the latter, do the mysteries of the Templars go back to those first unrecorded days in an ancient horse stable which lay beneath one of the most important religious sites in history? Is that the origin of their secret?
That would be a story.
By Scott Rowe, former chairman of the board at Georgian Downs.