Ruler of the Order The hierarchy of the order in th Knights Templar became more structured after 1128 when new recruits began flooding in and was constantly ammended throughout its history. At the very top was the Grand Master, he had overall control and his power meant he and the last word on all issues. He was only answerable to one man, the Pope. Directly underneath him was his right hand man, the Seneschal, a deputy who helped and advised the Grand Master. The Grand Master and Senschal presided over 10 provinces, namely Jerusalem, Antioch, Tripoli in the Holy Land and France, England, Anjou, Apulia, Portugal, Hungary and Poitou in Europe. Theses provinces were governed by a Grand Prior or Grand Preceptor and a Commander who had control over the houses or Preceptories that made them up. In turn these houses were ruled by a Preceptor who was in charge of the knights and servants that lived within these buildings. In the 13th century a new title was included in this hierarchy- The Visitor of the Order. This was an incredibly powerful position, second only to the Grand Master. This office was created for the Master of the Provinces in Europe.Visitor of the Order
Deputy and advisor
Grand Preceptors and Commanders
In charge of the 10 provinces
Preceptors / Bailies
In charge of the preceptories / houses Knights
Noblemen and warriors
Servientes Armigeri / Sergeants
When the order initially started out there were only a few members so the ranks were very simple.
As time passed and the order grew the rank system grew also. The brother Knights were recruited from nobility, they would wear the white mantle emblazoned with the red cross.
Underneath them would be the servants made up of the Sergeants and Amigeri Servienti Armigeri who were used as sentries and support troops and the Amigeri Servienti who undertook such tasks as grooms, stewards and other manual labour.
These servants would be recruited from the 'working class' and would wear a dark brown or black mantle, again with the red cross, reflecting their lack of purity.
Another later addition was the Cleric or Brother Priests who attended to the Knights spiritual needs.
The Clerics were the only literate members of the order (the Knights and servants had no time for such things) they took care of record keeping and communicaton and were able to speak many languages and write in complex codes.
They were therefore instrumental in setting up the Orders money lending enterprise.
The Brother priests wore the Templar cross on a green mantle.
The following lists of ranks (in descending order) was taken from the last surviving version of the Templar Rule which has 686 articles, compared to the original 72 articles from 1128.
Grand Master Seneschal Commander of the Kingdom of Jerusalem Commander of the City of Jerusalem Commander of Tripoli and Antioch Drapier Commander of Houses Commander of Knights Knights Brothers and the Sergeants of the Convent Turcopolier Under Marshal (Sergeant) Standard bearer (Sergeant) Sergeant Brothers Commanders of Houses Rural Brothers Sick and elderly BrothersThe total number of members of the order has been estimated to have reached around 20,000, but only 2,000 of these would have been knights.
Having taken vows of chastity, poverty and selfless dedication the monastic existance of the Templars was structured with rigid discipline and routine.
Every aspect of their lives was decided by the various regulations established by Cistercian principles.
The Templars wore their hair short and were required to grow beards. They wore a simple habit of either white (for a Knight, to symbolize pureness) or brown (for lesser brothers) and in 1146 Pope Eugenius decreed they should wear a red cross (the Cross Patee) on their left breast.
A cord was worn around the waist to remind them of their vow of chastity.
Being woken early each morning they would dress in silence and make their way to the Chapel or church to attend the compulsory service which involved reciting 28 Pater Nosters (14 of which were to represent the hours in the day and the other fourteen were for the Blessed Mary). Expeditions left less time for prayer but if possible the 28 prayer session would have been repeated a further 4 times during the day.
The first meal of the day would be at midday when all the brothers would gather in a communal hall. there would be an initial 60 Pater Nosters said and then the Preceptor would sit folowed by the knights and then the others.
Meals held a practical purpose - to maintain the strength of the Knights - they were never considered social occasions with Knights, servants and priests segregated on different tables without verbal communication.
It is said that a series of signs were used to avoid conversation. Eating alone was a form of punishment.
Once the meal was over it was time for more prayer. There would be business to attend to such as horses (each Templar being allowed to own 3). If there was an expedition then the routine would include the preparation of equipment for battle. Certainly free time was not to be used in vain. Pursuits such as hunting and hawking were forbidden.
Contact with the outside community was minimal. Brothers were not to become Godfathers or venture into a home were a woman was in her confinement.
Contact with women was scarce as Nuns were not a part of the order and female servants were not allowed unless a Knight was in desperate need of care and no other alternative was available. Kissing any woman on the mouth was also a taboo.
Under the French sanctions and principles Knights were required to always wear their habits unless they were ill, infact they were not allowed to eat or drink without it. They participated in 40 days of fasting with one lent prior to Christmas the other preceeding Easter. This would be rigidly complied with unless food was needed for strength at battle or the Grand Master chose not to fast.
Punishments were also strict, if a Knight disobeyed orders, fought another Templar or Christian or gave charity to a lay person of the house a Templar could lose his habit and the associated priveleges. Abuse of priveleges, theft, heresy, killing a Christian or revealing his chapter meant expulsion from the order. Although there were occasions when Christian deaths were unavoidable. For the first time in Christian history the discipline of military life was combined with the dedication of monastic life to create formidable warriors.
During their existence the order of the Knights Templar were feared and respected on the battlefield.
They earned a reputation for being ferocious warriors and were renowned for standing their ground and maintaining their formation during battle.
The Templars rule stated that breaking rank was worthy of losing ones habit. They were to ask for no quarter and were expected to fight to the death and were only allowed to retreat if they were outnumbered by more than three to one.
Templars were also forbidden to ransom themselves if captured by the enemy (a rule their most infamous Grand Master Gerard De Ridefort evidently thought could be bent when he bought his freedom from Saladin in 1187).
The threat the Templars posed to their enemies is illustrated well after the Crusaders lost the battle at the Horns Of Hattin in 1187.
Saladin, who was known for his clemency towards his prisoners made a point of executing all of the captured Templars - except for their Grand Master.
Armor, tactics and daily life
The folowing section descibes the Templars array of armour protection:
The Templar in battle wore a mail shirt underneath his white habit, with additional armoured padding on the shoulders and feet.
On his head he wore a chain-mail helmet with an additional solid metal helm on top of that.
On his legs he wore sheepskin britches which he was required to keep on at all times (In the heat of the Jerusalem sun that must have guaranteed chastity) they later wore chain- mail as added protection to the legs.
For defence he carried a rounded kite shaped shield emblazoned with the Beausant (or with the red cross.)
The folowing section descibes the Templars armoury:
A Templars main weapon was a large straight double sided sword (a completely different design to the Turkish blade which was a slightly curved, flexible scimitar).
His secondary weapon was a Turkish mace, principally a stick with a heavy spiked ball on the end.
He also carried a long dagger about his belt and also two smaller knives.
There were two different designs that Templars used for their battle standard, the Beausant, one consisted simply of two vertical blocks one white one black, the other depicted the Templar cross on a chequered black and white background:
Tthe black section symbolized the sin and evil of the ordinary world that the Knights had left to join the order. The white section was symbolic of the transition of darkness into light, sin into purity.
Their battle cry was "Vive Dieu, Saint Amour" which means "God lives, Saint love"
A favoured mehod of fighting the enemy used by the Knights Templar was to fight on horseback (the word knight means 'soldier on horseback').
They rode little fighting stallions, selected for power, weight and a broad flat back that could easily support a knight wearing full mail armour.
They used deep saddles with long stirrups so the rider could be wedged firmly into place with their lances braced under their arms.
Upon attacking the enemy the Templars charged as one unit, riding in formation and expecting to demolish him by sheer power.
This method was extremly effective against foot soldiers.
Each Knight on horseback had a sergeant in front of him carrying his lance and one behind leading a spare horse, when battle ensued they both retreated to a safe distance.
Maintaining a permanent fighting force in the Holy Land was an extremely expensive task.
In the latter half of the 12th Century a single knight needed about 300 hectares (750 acres) to equip and maintain himself as a mounted warrior. By about 1260 he could not manage on less than 1500 hectares.
Horses, a pre-requisite for a knight, were extremely expensive at around œ7. This price tripled between 1140 and 1180 and and doubled again by 1220.
Good equipment was also costly - by the mid 13th Century a helm cost between 16 and 32 shillings, chainmail cost around 120 shillings. Add this together with the cost of sword and shield the initial outlay was something like 200 shillings - easily a years income.
To support this kind of expenditure the Knights Templar built up and maintained an extensive network of houses, called preceptories, in the West. Without these preceptories the Order would have been quickly wiped out or, as the Order of Montjoie was in 1196, taken over with their first major defeat.
The preceptories provided enough resources for the deployment of around 300 knights in the Kingdom of Jerusalem plus the building, maintaining and garrisoning of major strongholds such as 'Atlit, Tortosa and Safad.
The land governed by the preceptories was donated to the Templars by rulers wishing to join the Order, and after receiving their Holy Rule in 1128 the number of new recriuts sky rocketed.
When Templar properties are plotted on a map patterns appear that suggest that, within certain limits, the Order attempted to create a structure. Preceptories seem to cover all the major land routes and access to major ports. Routes from England to France along the Rhone and Saone vallies to the provencial coast, across the Alps to Venice, central Italy and Rome and the Angevin kingdom are well covered.
The Order maintained preceptories in all major ports along the Atlantic coast and Channel in Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Nantes and Dover.
To start with, a large proportion of Templar holdings were based in France, but by the mid 13th Century properties in Italy and Spain increased considerabley, especially once the Apulian and Sicilian ports were established.
The extent to which the Order was involved in land management can be seen in the survey the English Templars carried out during the years between 1185 and 1190. Using information collected through local juries they made a detailed record of the extent and value of their properties throughout England.
This extensive survey seems to have been prompted by the growing threat of Saladins forces in the Holy Land calling for a greater need of a more accurate and detailed knowledge of Templar holdings.
Estates were controlled by the preceptory where the Templars and their associates residing as a community.
In many cases smaller Templar houses seemed to be grouped around the largest preceptory in the vicinity. The main preceptory would be manned between 10 to 20 brothers whereas the smaller houses would be home to between 2 to 3 Templars each.
A typical preceptory was enclosed by a wall surrounded by a ditch. The enclosure contained a keep, stables, living quarters, stores and a chapel.
Many Templar churches were circular in construction based upon the layout of the Temple in the Holy City of Jerusalem.
The main preceptory was headed by a Commander and a Chaplain, other personnel included Almoners, who were in charge of administration and distribution of alms; a Marshal, in charge of requisitions, buildings and stables and a Steward, in charge of the keys. Other positions, depending on the economic interests of the preceptory included money lender and vendor of wines.
Many Templar preceptories bought and maintained vineyards, orchards, olive groves, pasture lands, and mills as a source of income. Others became dedicated money-lending facilities, setting up the worlds first banking system. Templar houses were also used for the protection of important documents such as treaties, charters and wills.
Crusaders or pilgrims making the long journey to the Holy Land could store funds or precious objects in the Templar vaults knowing they would be absolutely safe. Many who set out for the Holy Land made out wills, the Templars kept them in safe keeping and, if so being, would act as executors of its provisions.
By the beginning of the 14th Century the Knights Templar had built up and was maintaining a highly organized network of preceptories all across Europe.
It was the wealth and power of their network that brought it to the attention of the scheming King of France, Philip IV, who plotted the downfall of the Templars in order to sieze their funds.
More to Come
Still under constuction.
More info, still under construction
Explanations of ranks will go here.