The Knights Templars, also called Templars, were the elite warriors of the crusaders. This military order was founded in the middle ages and existed for approximately for two centuries.
Following the First Crusade in 1099, Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem and its holy sites was highly popular. However, the route to the Holy Land was unsafe and traitorous. Pilgrims were often brutalized and slaughtered by bandits or wild animals. An immediate change in policy had to be taken. That’s when the Knights Templar came into the picture.
The organization was founded in 1119, when Hugues de Payens, a knight of Champagne reached a settlement with the Patriarch of Jerusalem, King Baldwin II. Both sides had agreed to establish a military order that will defend pilgrims on their route to the Holy Land. King Baldwin gave his approval and asserted the headquarters would be located in the royal palace on the Temple Mount in Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Temple Mount is considered the place where The Temple of Solomon once stood and therefore the crusaders decided to call themselves by the name ”Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon”. The Templars vowed to be humble and modest, to live poorly and maintain total obedience. They followed the Augustinian rule and secured the pilgrim route in order to defend the pilgrims lives. Only few were willing to endure such strong vows. The Knights Templar lived modestly as their existence was depended on donations and their mission was of higher decree and in the name of the Christian faith. Even their emblem, two knights that ride the same horse, reflect their notion of poverty much like that found in other Catholic orders such as the Franciscans order of Friars.
At first, the Templars included nine knights, among them Godfrey de Saint-Omer and Andre de Montbard but their numbers grew continuously.The main factor to there superb growth was their powerful supporter, Saint Bernard of Clarivaux. Bernard was a nephew of one of the Knights Templar as well as a renowned church figure. Due to his enthusiastic support and writings on their behalf, the Knights Templar popularity increased tremendously. The Knights Templar were acclaimed throughout Europe and within Christian orderes and received financial aid and support which yielded great wealth.
In 1139 Pope Innocent II declared the Knights Templar immune to local laws. The Knights Templar were now under papal authority. As a result, the Templars could now spread to different locations and their number climbed to 20,000 members. With their number increased, the Knights Templar participated in crucial battles and gained a formidable reputation.
In the mid 12th century, after Jerusalem was conquered by Saladin, the Muslim ruler, the Knights Templar had to relocate their headquarters to Acre but this was only temporary. In 1291 the Muslim recaptured Acre as well and the Knights Templar lost their stronghold in the Holy Land.
In 1304, rumors of irreligious actions of the Knights Templar reached King Philip IV of France who ordered the arrest and torture of every Templar Knight living in France. In 1312, pope Clemet V himself ordered every Templar to be arrested. Many of them were executed or jailed. In 1314, Jacques de Molay, the last Templar was killed and that marks the end of the legendary order of the Knights Templar.