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Knights Templar

Order of St John of Jerusalem

The order of warrior monks who were to become one of the most powerful and controversial organisations in European medieval history, were known by a variety of names; the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, la Milice du Christ or, more commonly, the Knights Templar. Detailed accounts of the founding of the order are non-existent. The main source used by historians are the documents written by Guillaume de Tyre some seventy years after the event, and while this is commonly accepted as the true account, alternative versions do exist, some of which are supported by documentation that makes them seem reasonably credible.The Foundation of the OrderAccording to Guillaume de Tyre the Order was founded by a vassal of the Count of Champagne, a certain Hugh de Payen, acting in collaboration with André de Montbard, the uncle of Bernard of Clairvaux.

In 1118, the two knights along with seven companions presented themselves to the younger brother of Godfroi de Bouillon who had accepted the title of King Baudoin I of Jerusalem. They announced to the monarch that it was their intention to found an order of warrior monks so that 'as far as their strength permitted, they should keep the roads and highways safe . . . with a special regard for the protection of pilgrims.' The new order took vows of personal poverty and chastity and swore to hold all their property in common. The king granted them quarters which included the stables of what was believed to be the Temple of Solomon. The Patriarch of Jerusalem granted the new order of knights the right to wear the double barred Cross of Lorraine as their insignia. The original nine knights are generally believed to have been:· Hugh de Payen, a vassal of Hugh de Champagne and a relative by marriage to the St Clairs of Roslin. · André de Montbard, the uncle of Bernard of Clairvaux and another vassal of Hugh de Champagne. · Geoffroi de St Omer, a son of Hugh de St Omer. · Payen de Montdidier, a relative of the ruling family of Flanders. · Achambaud de St-Amand, another relative of the ruling house of Flanders. · Geoffroi Bisol, · Gondemare, · Rosal, · Godfroi. Gondemar and Rosal were Cistercian monks who were now just transferring their allegiance.

Many would simply see this transfer as one that took place between the monastic and the military arm of the same order, for the Cistercians and the Knights Templar were so closely linked by ties of blood, patronage and shared objectives that many Templar scholars believe that they were two arms from the same body. The position of Hugh de Champagne in this whole affair is curious and confusing in the extreme.

There is a letter to him from the Bishop of Chartres dated 1114, congratulating him on his intention to join la Milice du Christ, which is another name for the Knights Templar. He certainly took up a form of lay associate membership of the order in 1124 and thereby created a bizarre anomaly in feudal terms, for by joining the Order and swearing obedience to its Grand Master Hugh de Payen he came under the direct control of a man who in the normal social order of things was his own vassal.

There is a secret Templar archive in the principality of Seborga in northern Italy which has recently been discovered containing documents that demand further study. It is claimed that St Bernard of Clairvaux founded a monastery there in 1113, to protect a 'great secret'. This monastery under the direction of its abbot, Edouard, contained two monks who had joined the order with Bernard, two knights who took the names of Gondemar and Rosal on their profession as monks. One document claims that in February 1117 Bernard came to this monastery released Gondemar and Rosal from their vows and then blessed these two monks and their seven companions, prior to their departure to Jerusalem.

This departure was not immediate and did not take place until November 1118. The seven companions of the two ex-Cistercians are listed as follows: André de Montbard, Count Hugh I de Champagne, Hugh de Payen, Payen de Montdidier, Geoffroi de Sainte-Omer, Archambaud de St Amand and Geoffroi Bisol.

The document records that St Bernard nominated Hugh de Payen as the first grand master of the Poor Militia of Christ and that Hugh de Payen was consecrated in this position by the Abbot Edouard of Seborga. Whether or not Hugh de Champagne was directly involved in the actual founding of the Knights Templar is a decision we will leave to scholars of far greater wisdom than ourselves. Whatever the truth may prove to be, two things are certain. Firstly the count of Champagne was at the very least a prime mover behind the scenes even if he is not to be numbered among the original nine founding knights. Secondly, all those involved in both founding and promoting the Order were linked by a complex web of direct family relationships. The main reason given for the founding of the Order, to protect the pilgrim routes, does not bear any close examination whatsoever for the first ten or twelve years of the Order's existence. It would have been a physical impossibility for nine middle-aged knights to protect the dangerous route from Jaffa to Jerusalem from all the bandits and marauding infidels who believed that the pilgrims who provided such easy pickings, were a gift from God. The recorded actions of the knights make this an even more incredible scenario, for they did not patrol the dangerous roads of the Holy Land to protect the pilgrims, but spent nine years in the dangerous and demanding task of excavating and mining a series of tunnels under their quarters on the Temple Mount. These arduous tasks were completed with the patronage and support of the King of Jerusalem.

The tunnels mined by the Templars were re-excavated in 1867, by Lieutenant Warren of the Royal Engineers. The access tunnel descends vertically downwards for eighty feet through solid rock before radiating in a series of minor tunnels horizontally under the site of the ancient temple itself. Lieutenant Warren failed to find the hidden treasure of the Temple of Jerusalem, but in the tunnels excavated so laboriously by the Templars, they found a spur, remnants of a lance, a small Templar cross and the major part of a Templar sword. These artefacts are now preserved for posterity by the Templar archivist for Scotland, Robert Brydon of Edinburgh. Also in his keeping is a letter from a certain Captain Parker who took part in Warren's excavation under the Temple and several subsequent ones. Parker wrote to Robert's grandfather in 1912 and told of how on one of these expeditions he had discovered a secret room carved in the solid rock beneath the temple site with a passage leading from it to the Mosque of Omar. Parker went on to describe how when he broke through the stonework at the end of the passage and found himself within the confines of the mosque, he had to flee to save himself from a small army of extremely angry and devout Muslims.

Two questions arise from the nature and position of these Templar excavations. What were they seeking? And how did they know precisely where to dig?On the exterior of Chartres Cathedral, by the north door, there is a carving on a pillar, which gives us an indication of the object sought by the burrowing Templars, representing the Ark of the Covenant, but in a rather strange context. The Ark is depicted as being transported on a wheeled vehicle. Legend recounts that the Ark of the Covenant had been secreted deep beneath the Temple in Jerusalem centuries before the fall of the city to the Romans. It had been hidden there to protect it form yet another invading army who had laid the city to waste. Hugh de Payen had been chosen to lead the expedition mounted to locate the Ark and bring it back to Europe.

Persistent legends recount that the Ark was then hidden for a considerable time deep beneath the crypt of Chartres Cathedral. The same legends also claim that the Templars found many other sacred artefacts from the old Jewish temple in the course of their investigations and that a considerable quantity of documentation was also located during the dig. While there has been much speculation as to the exact nature of these documents, a reasonable consensus is emerging that they contained scriptural scrolls, treatises on sacred geometry, and details of certain knowledge, art and science - the hidden wisdom of the ancient initiates of the Judaic/Egyptian tradition.

Until very recently these legends received short shrift from academic historians, but that situation is undergoing considerable change. One modern archeological discovery tends to support the speculative scenario that the Templars knew where to look and precisely what they were seeking.. The Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered at Quamran, tends to confirm not only the objective of the Templar excavations but also, albeit indirectly, gives some credence to the bizarre concept of the transmission of knowledge through the generations that led to the Templar's discoveries in Jerusalem.The Copper Scroll, which was unrolled and deciphered at Manchester University under the guidance of John Allegro, was a list of all the burial sites used to hide the various items both sacred and profane described as the treasure of the Temple of Jerusalem.

Many of these sites have been re-excavated since the discovery of the Copper Scroll, and several of them have disclosed not Temple treasure but evidence of Templar excavation made in the twelfth century.At about the time the excavations were near completion, Count Fulk of Anjou sped with all haste to Jerusalem where he took the oath of allegiance to the new order. He immediately granted the order an annuity of thirty Angevin livres before returning to Anjou. When one considers that the vast majority of knights joining the order stayed within its ranks for their lifetime, this action by Fulk of Anjou is a trifle strange. His apparent freedom of manoeuvre, despite his oath of allegiance to the Order of the Knights Templar can be explained by the fact that Fulk was not only the Count of Anjou and a member of the Templar Orderbut was married to the sister of the King of Jerusalem who died childless, thus Fulk himself later became the King of Jerusalem.

The next notable figure to arrive in Jerusalem was the Count of Champagne who, as we have mentioned earlier, took the oath of membership in 1124. Behind the scenes in Europe Bernard of Clairvaux, who had become a senior advisor to the pope, consolidated his position within the Church. Bernard began to persuade the pope that the new military order which was already active in the Holy Land should be given papal backing and a formal position within the Church. For this they would need a rule, a formal charter stating the aims and objectives of the order, the obligations of its members to it and the rules of membership as well as the establishment of a formal command structure.

The main excavations in Jerusalem were completed in late December of 1127. Hugh de Payen with all the knights of the new order returned to France. The Grand Master Hugh de Payen and his principal co-founder of the order, Andre de Montbard, travelled to England to see the King and, having obtained safe-conduct from him, went directly north across the border to Scotland, where the two knights stayed at Roslin with the St Clairs, who were Hugh's relatives by marriage. The lord of Roslin made an immediate grant of land to the new order which became their headquarters in Scotland. The oldest Templar site in Scotland, once known as Ballontrodoch, is now called Temple after the order.