A Templar commandery was a busy place, a mixture of a secular farm and/or industrial site and/or business centre, which saw the daily round of religious observance. 


Once a week members of the Temple met in their individual houses in chapter. In traditional monasteries the monks met daily in a specially-built chapter house, but the Templars' houses did not run to such expense and the members would meet in the most suitable building available, such as the chapel. The weekly chapter meeting began and ended with prayers led by the chaplain (if the house had a chaplain), and dealt with house business and the correction of faults, that is, things that had been done which were against the Rule. The chapter discussed and decided punishments; Templar discipline was strict, but errors might be forgiven if there were mitigating circumstances. The chapter meeting was for members of the Order only, and outsiders were not supposed to attend. This was normal practice for religious Orders. It was a reasonable procedure, as the meeting would deal with private business of the house, problems and misdeeds which could cause scandal for the Order if they became known outside the House, and other matters that concerned no one but the Order. As the chapter was effectively a management meeting, there was no reason why outsiders should be admitted or even why they should want to attend. Just as modern-day managers should not discuss the proceedings of management meetings with anyone not at the meeting, those present at a chapter meeting were not to discuss its proceedings with anyone who was not present. The Hospital of St John had a similar ruling, which was apparently introduced after rumours of various misdeeds and scandals in the Order reached the ears of Pope Gregory IX. Religious Orders in general were aware of the need to protect their reputations and tried to prevent outsiders finding out about scandals and problems in their houses, but it was very difficult to prevent rumours.

To judge from the Rule, even associate members of the Order living in the house could not attend weekly chapter meetings. In practice, if they formed a major part of the community it would be odd if they did not attend, but presumably if they did they could not vote.


Not only did the Templars follow monastic tradition in holding chapter meetings, but their whole day was structured around the traditional monastic day, as laid down in the sixth-century Rule of St Benedict. Provided that the house had a chapel where services could be heard, the Brothers were to hear the whole divine office each day ('the hours', so called because they took place at the first, thirds, sixth, and ninth hours), as well as additional services. In the East or in the Iberian Peninsula, if they were out on campaign or in a place where they could not hear the hours, they were to say the Lord's prayer a set number of times instead.

The statutes of the Order laid down the details of the Templars' day, starting with the religious services they had to attend every day, and going on to other regulations regarding everyday life. The tone of the statutes is monastic, with the emphasis on silence, humble obedience - orders were to be carried out with the words de par Dieu, literally 'on God's behalf,' or as it could be rendered in English 'as God wills'. Brothers should speak quietly and politely to each other. 

There was to be no swearing, no gambling, no drunkenness: a Brother who was habitually drunk could be required to leave the Order. 


Brothers were to avoid the company of women; a Brother who was found with a woman could lose his habit, that is, be thrown out of the Order, or would at least be barred from holding responsible office within the Order. Sex of any kind was completely out of the question. Without swearing, gambling, drinking or women, the Templars would have been hardly recognizable as knights, for these were all normal parts of the knightly life. Clearly the strict rules were a shock for some Brothers: during the trial proceedings in France one ex-Brother explained that he had left the Order because 'he was young and could not bear to abstain from women'. Others declared that the Templars could have women whenever they wanted them, despite the Rule. Yet the history of the Order produced no public sexual scandals, unlike other religious Orders. During the trial of the Templars on Cyprus, one of the lay witnesses made a joke implying that the Templars were womanizers, but he was the only lay witness to make such a remark. In fictional literature the Templars were depicted as helping lovers, but this image was based more on Templars' love for God than their love for women. There were no scandals in the Order of the Temple to compare to events in the Dominican friary and nunnery at Zamora, for instance, where the friars apparently regarded the Sisters' house as a source of women for their pleasure. No one wrote stories about the Templars like the French poet Rutebuef's scandalous story about the Franciscan friars, 'Brother Denise', where a friar seduces a young girl by telling her she will save her soul by doing everything he tells her. The Templars were never accused of systematically raping women, as were the Teutonic knights. There were no complaints such as Pope Gregory IX's about the Hospital of St John in the East in 1238, stating that he had heard rumours that the Hospitallers were keeping harlots in their villages. Nor were there any individuals like Brother Ramon d'Ampurias, prior of the Hospital of St John in Catalonia, who was accused in around 1314 of having impeded two of his squires from giving their confessions when they were dying at Rhodes, so that his homosexual relations with them would not become public. He was also accused of raping many ladies and having many illegitimate children. Ramon d'Ampurias was eventually deprived of office after along armed resistance and a papal excommunication. It does appear that the Templars were more chaste than many other religious men. 

Sexual relations with a man would result in automatic expulsion from the Order of the Temple. The only case of sodomy ever recorded within the Order resulted in the imprisonment of two of those involved, while the third escaped and went over to the Muslims. Even during the trial of the Templars, when Brothers were being actively encouraged to confess to the practice of sodomy, very few were prepared to do so. Malcolm Barber has noted that in the depositions made in Paris in October and November 1307 only three Templars out of a total of 138 were named as having been involved in sodomy; Anne Gilmour-Bryson has noted a few Templars who accused others of the practice; an Irish Templar priest stated that a Templar in Ireland had died as a result of practising sodomy. Of all these testimonies, I have identified only three that I would consider as possibly genuine. This is remarkably few for a large international organization, given that contemporaries regarded the traditional monastic Orders such as the Benedictines and Cistercians as being rife with active homosexual practices. 


In short, for the most part the Templars kept their Ruler. Many contemporaries considered them to be pious. It was the practice for dying nobles to 'give' themselves to a religious Order. In their last few days of life they could do penance for their sins and the Order would then be responsible for their burial, receive some or all of their possessions and be honoured with having the tomb of a noble person in the Order's church, ensuring continual financial support from that person's family. Many elderly or dying noble warriors gave themselves to the Order of the Temple, including illustrious knights such as William Marshal, earl of Pembroke (d. 1219). In the East, the leading nobleman John of Ibelin, lord of Beirut, joined the Order in 1236 when he was dying, while Gamier l'Aleman (Werner of Egisheim) joined towards the end of his life in 1233. Many donors gave to the Templars' chapels, so that their priests would say mass for the donor's soul and the souls of their families, or so that a lamp would be kept burning in the Order's chapel, such as the lamp paid for by the confraternity at Metz to burn in front of the Templars' statue of Mary, mother of Jesus, or the lamps that donors paid for to burn in the chapel of St Mary at the Templars' house at Sandford and at Cowley in Oxfordshire, England. Although the Order's commanderies in the West were generally small and unimpressive, their chapels were well equipped. Donors would have made these donations because they believed the Order to be pious and its prayers and service to be pleasing to God.


During the trial of the Order in Cyprus, the non-Templar witnesses agreed that the Templars were devout, never missing mass, hearing the divine services as good Christians should, and taking part in vigils and processions on holy days. During the trial in France, the Brothers presented to the papal commissioners a copy of the prayers which the Brothers said each day: these included prayers to Mary, Star of the Sea (the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus), Christ, St John the Evangelist and St George. The papal commissioners complained about the bad quality of the Latin in these prayers and instructed the notaries to correct it, but the Brothers' piety was not questioned.


The Brothers had a reputation for being steadfast in prayer. The Cistercian monk Caesar of Heisterbach, a contemporary of Jacques de Vitry, and Oliver, schoolmaster of Cologne, recorded an anecdote of a group of Templars who were praying in their chapel when the Muslims launched a surprise attack. The Master ordered them to continue praying, which they did. When they emerged to meet the Muslims, they found that they had already been defeated. It transpired that angels had defeated the enemy while the Templars prayed. There were various other stories of the Templars' piety circulating within the Order, and among those close to the Order. Jacques de Vitry recounted several as examples of pious Brothers of the past, to guide or inspire the Brothers of his own day: the tale of the Brother who fasted so much that he kept falling off his horse; the tale of the Brother who urged his horse 'Morel' (Blackie) to carry him to Heaven through martyrdom in battle against the Muslims; the tale of a Brother who made a miraculous leap on his horse right down a cliff in order to escape Muslim bandits, and lived to tell the tale - although the horse died.


Walter Map, who knew plenty of derogatory stories about the Templars, the Hospitallers, the papacy and the Cistercians, also told some stories that implied the Templars were outstanding Christians. He recorded that one Salius, son of a Muslim emir, had converted to Christianity and joined the Templars. He also told the story of Aimery, a knight who had been on his way to a tournament but had turned aside to hear mass in a chapel of Our Lady (the Blessed Virgin Mary). He missed the tournament, but the Virgin attended in his place and won the prize on his behalf. Aimery was so struck by this miracle that he joined the Order of the Temple.

Aimery's choice of the Order of the Temple made sense in that he was a knight, the miracle involved military activity, and the Blessed Virgin Mary was the patron of the Order of the Temple. Many donation charters to the Order were given 'to God, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Order of the Temple', and many of the Order's houses and churches were dedicated to her, including the house at  Richerenches and the church at Silva in the diocese of Rodez, where many miracles were reported. The standard admission ceremony set out promises to be made 'to God and Our Lady St Mary', and candidates for admission to the Order were told that 'we were established in honour of Our Lady'. An anonymous sympathizer who wrote in defence of the Order during the trial in France stated that the Brothers had 'dedicated themselves to the service of the glorious Virgin'.


Ancient legend, preserved in the Legenda Au-rea of Jacobus de Voragine (1267), connected Mary, mother of Jesus, with, the Temple of Jerusalem and thus indirectly with the Order of the Temple. According to this, Mary was brought up in the Temple in Jerusalem; in one version of the legend not preserved by Voragine, while she was living in the Temple she received prior warning from an angel that in three years time he would return to inform her that she would conceive God's son (the Annunciation). The Templars in the East may have taken up and developed these traditions, as the late twelfth-century epic poem La chanson de Jerusalem; claims that the Annunciation took place in the Temple of Solomon. The Templars, interrogated in the West during the trial of the Order did not know of this legend, but still saw themselves as connected with Jesus' mother, Mary. Giving testimony to the papal commissioners, one Brother Guy Delphini stated that the woollen cord that he wore around his waist, as a sign of chastity had touched the pillar, at Nazareth where the Annunciation had taken place, while Brother Gerald de Marcial, giving evidence at Poitiers, said that his cord had been wound around the door posts of the church of the Blessed Mary at Nazareth; some of the English Brothers claimed the same for their cords. These Brothers certainly thought that their cords were of much greater value because they had been in contact with the place where Mary had stood on that momentous occasion. A pilgrim's guide of the thirteenth century states that there was a stone on which Mary had rested, outside the Templars' fortress of Castle Pilgrim. The Templars also publicized the miracle of the icon of Our Lady of Saidnaia, which exuded milk from its 'breasts': the Templars collected and distributed, the milk.


The Templars' veneration for the Virgin Mary won them respect from other Christians, for Roman Catholics in general venerated her. Mary was also the patroness of the Cistercian Order and the Teutonic Order, many churches were dedicated to her and many miracles were attributed to her intervention. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Roman Catholic devotion to the Virgin and to female saints was increasing dramatically. Modern people who are not Catholics and who are not familiar with Catholic beliefs often find "the medieval veneration for the Virgin and for saints difficult to understand. They cannot distinguish between 'Veneration' and 'worship', and assume that medieval Catholics actually worshipped the Virgin Mary and the saints. Some then take another step of misunderstanding and assume that because they were supposedly  worshipping women they must have been pagans. 

Medieval Catholics would have been very upset and indignant to have been labelled as 'pagans'. They would have retorted that their veneration of the Virgin Mary and the saints was respect, not worship. They did not pray to Mary and the saints asking them to give help from their own power, but expecting them to intercede for them with God, or to act as a conduit for God's power. They also venerated the Virgin Mary and the saints because these people, who had once been ordinary humans living on earth, were an example to them of how humans should live and acted as an inspiration to them in their everyday lives. In the twelfth and-thirteenth centuries religious men and women were concentrating more and more on the importance of humility and of human frailty and sin in comparison with God's power, and also on the importance of Christ's physical body, remembering that Christ had been a physical person living on earth. Traditionally, women were associated with humility, frailty,and physical things, an association - that went back to ancient Greek philosophy. Therefore veneration for female saints and the Virgin increased during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.


The basis of the Order of the Temple was the warrior, but the warrior of the twelfth and thirteenth century was not a good subject for a religious Order. He had a strong sense of self-esteem and cared more about his personal honour and glory than about the success of the community. The example of female saints would be very valuable to him, reminding him of the need to be humble, and to remember human frailty and sin. It is true that he might also find the female saint more interesting than the male saint, but this was true of all religious men of this period and not only the Templars.


Ordinary knights in the secular world were also looking to women as an example of how knights should act. By the late twelfth century, writers of romance literature were depicting noble women educating knights in the function of knighthood and knightly behaviour. Famous examples include Ninianne, the lady of the Lake, educating the young Lancelot, and Perceval's sister educating Galaad, Perceval and Bors in the Queste del Saint Graal. The author of the immensely influential prose romance Perceforest wrote between 1335 and 1344:


Knights and clerics should be like maidens, for the maiden should be straightforward and coy and say little, courteous, chaste and honourable in word and deed, gentle, easy-going and sympathetic towards all good people, fierce, righteous and harsh towards all those who ask them to do what is wrong. And she must also have sufficient beauty and worldly goods, and desire to acquire virtue and to do works which please the Sovereign God. My lords, the knight and the cleric must be like the young girl in all these things, if they wish to come to perfection in whatever they have committed themselves.


The Templars also venerated other female saints, apart from the Virgin Mary. These were saints who had been martyred by pagans after refusing to deny the Christian faith, and therefore were a good example to the Templars. During the Middle Ages, as in modern times, many devout Catholics placed great importance on physical items connected with the saint, left from the time which the saint actually lived on earth.


They believed that the saint was still physically present in these objects that had once been connected with them. These could include clothes, objects that had been used by the saint, or the saint's actual body. Because these were things "left behind by the saint on earth" they were called 'relics', which means 'left behind'.  Christians believed that saints were able to act on earth through their relics. If a saint's relies were well looked after, the saint would be pleased and would help the owners of the relics, so that all would go well for them. But if the relics were not well treated the saint would be angry and would punish the relics' owners.

The Templars took pride in looking after their relics with great care. The Order of the Temple claimed to possess the relics of St Euphemia at Castle Pilgrim. These were stated to be the relics of the illustrious St Euphemia of Chalcedori, martyred in 303, which had been miraculously translated to Palestine from Constantinople - presumably obtained during the sack of Constantinople in 1204, or donated to the Order subsequently by the victors. During the trial of the Order in France, a group of Templars submitted a defence of the Order to the papal commissioners stating that the body of St Euphemia had come to Castle Pilgrim by the grace of God, God had done many miracles through it there, and it would not have lodged itself with the Templars if they were criminals, nor would any of the other relics which were in the possession of the Order. The Teutonic Order had used a similar justification for its acquisition of the head of St Barbara, carried off from the Pomeranians in a raid on the castle of Sartowitz in the 1240s: the saint, it was claimed, had deliberately abandoned her former resting place to be with the Order, witnessing to the Brothers' great spirituality.


It is not clear whether the Order of the Temple claimed to possess the whole body of St Euphemia or simply the head: witnesses differ. Witnesses described the head as being kept in a silver reliquary, which by 1307 was kept in the church of the house of the Temple at Nicosia on Cyprus. After the dissolution of the Order, it passed to the Hospital of St John with the Templars' other possessions, and was recorded in 1395 as being in the conventual church of St John on Rhodes; by the seventeenth century it was on Malta with the other relics of the Hospital. As such, the reliquary would have been among those which were stolen by Napoleon's plundering troops in June 1798 and were blown up with Napoleon's flagship in Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile, 1 August 1798. Yet the real relics of St Euphemia are still in Constantinople, now Istanbul, at the Patriarchal Church of St George. It is not clear what the Templars' relics actually were, but the important point is that the Templars believed that they were genuinely the remains of St Euphemia.

The so-called 'Templars' head' was probably the head of St Euphemia. The Draper of the Order and two knights stated during the trial of the Order on Cyprus that they had never heard of any idols in the Order, but the Order had the head of St Euphemia. Some French Brothers of the Order stated that they had heard that the Order had a head in Cyprus which was possibly the idol that the Order was accused of venerating. Brother Guy Delphini declared proudly to the papal commissioners that the cord he wore around his waist had touched the relics of both St Policarp and St Euphemia — the Order was looking after the relics of St Policarp on behalf of the abbot of the Lord's Temple in Jerusalem, who had entrusted them to the Templars for safe keeping. But St Policarp's relics did not belong to the Order, and no other Templar mentioned them. It was St Euphemia's head that the Order was so proud of possessing. Yet St Euphemia was a young woman, and the Templars were accused in 1307 of venerating a bearded male head. This curious discrepancy between Templar devotion and the charges will be considered in Chapter 8 with the trial of the Order.

Other Brothers during the trial of the Temple in France stated that "there was a head kept in the chapel of the Templars' house in Paris, and thought that perhaps this was the idol in question." Investigation by the papal commissioners, however, revealed this too to be the head of a woman.

Brother William of Arreblay, who had been almoner to King Philip IV of France, testified that he had often seen on the altar in the Temple of Paris a silver head, and the leading officials of the Order adoring it. He had understood that this was the head of one of the 11,000 virgins who had been martyred with St Ursula at Cologne at the beginning of the fourth century, but since his arrest, he had realized that he had been mistaken. He had thought it looked like a woman's head, but now he realized that it had had two faces and a beard — a strange mistake to make! The papal commissioners asked him if he would recognize the head if he saw it, and he assured them that he would; so the relevant officials were instructed to search for this head.

When the head arrived, it fitted the original description perfectly. There was a large silver reliquary containing the skull of a young woman, wrapped and stitched into a white linen cloth covered in a piece of red muslin: the red and white symbolizing martyrdom. To clinch the matter, a small piece of parchment was sewn on to the cloth, on which was written: 'Head no. 58'. This female martyr's head was certified genuine.

After the dissolution of the Order, the Templars' Parisian head seems to have passed to the Hospital of St John. Apparently the Teutonic Order also possessed a head of one of the 11,000 virgins in their commandery of the Holy Trinity in Venice. The cult of St Ursula and her maidens was widespread during the Middle Ages, and it is not surprising that the Templars, like every religious Order, wanted to acquire such relics to demonstrate its piety and holiness.


The Templars also had a devotion to St George. George, like the Templars, had been an active warrior; he had patiently died a horrible martyrdom at the hands of pagans because of his Christian faith. His life was an obvious model for the Templars to follow. St George appears on some seals of the Order; his statue was in the chapel of the Order's castle of Safed, and the Order reportedly believed; that he protected the castle; his image appears in a fresco in the Order's chapel at Cressac (Charente) in France. A few anecdotes regarding the Templars military activity mention St George, as does one of the prayers recorded by the Order during the trial of the Order.


So far, the Templars appear to have been typical examples of pious Catholics of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. They venerated the saints, they attended services in church piously, and they were steadfast in prayer. Yet they were not typical of religious people in monastic Orders, because they were not enclosed and they were not educated in theology. Enclosure meant that all members of the Order lived within a walled religious house, and were not allowed to go out of it except in exceptional circumstances. The Military Orders could not be enclosed, because their members had to go out of their houses to fight; in the same way, the new Orders of canons and later of friars were not enclosed as they also went out to work in the secular world. Jocelin of Brakelond's account of everyday life the Benedictine abbey of Bury St Edmunds  (Suffolk, in England) in the late twelfth century reveals the drawbacks of enclosure, with backbiting, gossip and jealousies, and chapter meetings breaking up in uproar.

In an unenclosed house, where members could come and go, they were less likely to get on one another's nerves and relations were less likely to become strained. Set against the example of Bury, it is easy to, understand why many pious donors of the twelfth century should have preferred to give to the new unenclosed religious' Orders.


The lack of education was more of a drawback. Religious Orders were centres of Christian learning; in fact it was the religious Orders that had kept learning alive from the fifth to the eleventh centuries, when secular schools were scarce and most of the laity could not-read or write. However, the function of the Order of the Temple was to fight in defence of Christendom, and its leaders did not see education as a high priority. The Brothers were mainly drawn from the lesser warrior classes, and could read and write in their own language but not in Latin, the language of education. In fact it appears that education was discouraged in the Order, because it encouraged Brothers to think too much for themselves and argue with their superiors, undermining discipline.


Nevertheless, there were some attempts to educate the Brothers. The English province took the initiative here in producing translations of Latin religious works into Anglo-Norman French, which the Brothers could understand. These translations were made during the second half of the twelfth century, at the same period as the English priory of the Hospital of St John had the Hospitallers' Rule and legends translated into Anglo-Norman French. The Catholic Church had not yet clamped down on translations of religious works (this did not come until 1230) and it was still acceptable for religious works to be translated into the 'common tongue' provided that this was properly authorized. The Old Testament Book of Judges was translated from Latin into French for two leading Brothers of the Temple in England, Richard of Hastings and Osto of St Omer, during the third quarter of the twelfth century. This described how the children of Israel defended the Promised Land, which had been won in "the Book of Joshua." As the Templars role was to defend the Holy Land, which had been, won by the First Crusade, there was an obvious parallel. Such a translation could have been read aloud to the Templars at meals, as the Rule stated.

Other translations into Anglo-Norman French writings were produced by an unknown poet for Brother Henry d'Arcy, commander of Temple Bruer in Lincolnshire in 1161-74: these were a 'Lives of the Fathers', the deeds of early Christians; an account of the future coming of Antichrist; a version of the well-known account of 'St Paul's descent into Hell'; and the 'Life of St Thai's,' the converted prostitute, a popular legend in the Middle Ages. Some of these works had an obvious attraction for the Templars: St Thai's had lived a sinful life before her conversion, just as many secular knights would have done before joining the Order of the Temple - at least according to section of the Rule. The account of Antichrist stressed the importance of holding firm to the faith despite all temptations and persecutions and promised a great reward in Heaven to all who stayed faithful to Christ until the end.

The account of Antichrist was particularly important for the Templars. Some contemporaries interpreted the crusades and the recapture of the holy places in an eschatalogical context. They believed that they were part of the coming of Christ's kingdom. But first Antichrist must be defeated. Antichrist's coming had been foretold by the apostles (1 John 2:18), and his coming would prove that the end of the world was nigh. Some Christian writers identified Mohammad with Antichrist. Therefore the Templars, champions of Christendom against the Muslims, were in the front line of the war against Antichrist and needed to be well informed on the subject.


The writings produced for the Templars give us some idea of their faith: straightforward and simple, without deep theological questioning, like the faith of the secular knights. The Templars themselves wrote very little. The Rule gives the impression that they were devout Catholic Christians. Letters written from the East to the West asking for aid include many expressions of faith, but such letters would normally have been written by an official notary and do not reveal the Templars' own beliefs at first hand. Two Templar poets are known: Ricaut Bonomel, who composed a song lamenting Baibars's victories in 1265 and attacking the pope for diverting crusaders to Sicily; and Oliver, who wrote in around 1270 hoping that King James I of Aragon would come to aid the Holy Land. Ricaut Bonomel's lament that God seems to be supporting the Muslims rather than the Christians may seem overstated to anyone unaware of the situation in the East in 1265, but in the circumstances it was perfectly understandable. Both songs promoted the crusade and encouraged those who heard them to come to the aid of the Holy Land.


Otherwise, there is little evidence of Templar writing. The first version of the Itinerarium Peregrinorum, an account of the Third Crusade, contains material that must have originated from the Templars, but the history itself was not written by a Templar. The historical writer now known as the 'Templar of Tyre' was not a Templar at all: his modern nickname comes from the fact he had been secretary to Master William de Beaujeu. There has been some speculation that the Templars were involved in the development of the legend of the Holy Grail, but careful reading reveals that this could not have been the case. The concept of knighthood in the Grail legends is different from the Templar ideal: the Grail knights act alone, not as part of a community.


The Templar emphasis on the community of Brothers acting together was probably the reason why no individual Templars were recognized by the Catholic Church as saints. Because the whole Order had to work together in Christ's service, the Order would have tried to discourage members from venerating individual Brothers. If individuals were singled out for veneration this would encourage Brothers to 'go it alone' in the search for martyrdom and glory, which would destroy the vital cooperation and discipline on the battlefield. Nevertheless, some Brothers who died fighting bravely against the Muslims were 'written up' as martyrs, and may have been specially remembered within the Order. Two of these are recorded in the first version of the Itinerarium Peregrinorum. At the battle of the Spring of the Cresson on 1 May 1187: A remarkable and memorable event occurred. A certain Templar — a knight by profession, of Touraine by nation, Jacquelin de Maille by name - brought all the enemy assault on himself through his outstanding courage. While the rest of his fellow knights (estimated to number 500) had either been captured or killed, he bore all the force of the battle alone and shone out as a glorious champion for the law of his God. He was surrounded by enemy troops and almost abandoned by human aid, but when he saw so many thousands running towards him from all directions he 'strengthened his resolve and courageously undertook the battle, one man against all.'

His commendable courage won him his enemies' approval. Many were sorry for him and affectionately urged him to surrender, but he ignored their urgings, for he was not afraid to die for Christ. At long last, crushed rather than conquered by spears, stones and lances, he sank to the ground and joyfully passed to heaven with the martyr's crown, triumphant.


It was indeed a gentle death with no place for sorrow, when one man's sword had constructed such a great crown for himself from the crowd laid all around him. Death is sweet when the victor lies encircled by the impious people he has slain with his victorious right hand. And because it so happened that the Warrior had been riding a white horse and had had white armour and weapons, the Muslims, who knew that St George had this appearance in battle, boasted that they had killed the Knight of Shining Armour, the protector of the Christians.

The writer goes on to describe how local people took parts of Brother Jacquelin's body as relics. The whole account is full of references which we would associate with the Templars: death as a glorious service for Christ, death as joy, non-Christians as the enemy, and a reference to "the Christians" protector St George, one of the saints venerated by the Order. It is likely that this account originated with the Templars.

A later account in the same chronicle of a Templar martyrdom was also probably recounted by the Templars. After the defeat of the forces of the Kingdom of Jerusalem at Hattin on 4 July 1187, Saladin had all the Templars beheaded:

A certain Templar named Nicholas had been so successful in persuading the rest to undergo death, willingly that the others struggled to go in front of him and he only just succeeded in obtaining the glory of martyrdom first — which was an honour he very much strove for. Nor was the miraculous power of divine mercy missing. A ray of celestial light shone down clearly on the bodies of the holy martyrs during the three following nights, while they were still lying unburied.

Again, this account stresses the glory of death in Christ's name, and honours the Templar who tries to become a martyr. Self-sacrifice for God's glory may not appeal to many modern people, but it was the ideal which underpinned the knighthood of the Temple.



Away from the battle lines, the Templars lived much like other religious Orders, and played their role as a religious Order in society. The Rule of the Order did not require it to look after the poor and sick, yet the Brothers did give hospitality to travellers. They were responsible for some hospices in the West, and were involved in dispensing charity among outsiders, to both men and women. Two stories were recounted by third parties during the trial proceedings about Templar priests using relics owned by the Order to cure men and women. Like other new religious Orders of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, particularly the Cistercians and Hospital of St John, the Templars had special privileges from the pope to protect them from the demands of bishops and secular lords and enable them to carry out their vocation more effectively. These were granted in a series of papal bulls (papal instructions were called "bulls' after the papal seal or bullum which was attached to the parchment), issued from 1139 onwards. These privileges gave the Templars great freedom in their operations and helped them to attract and keep new members and attract associates and donations. Yet they also caused friction with the bishops. During the eleventh and twelfth century, prompted by the debates in the new universities such as Paris and Bologna, views of spirituality were changing.

Figure 9    Privileges given by the papacy to the Templars

1139: Innocent II: Omne Datum Optimum.

The  Order may keep the booty it captures from the Muslims.

Donations to the Order are confirmed.

The Order's Rule of life under the Master is confirmed.

The Brothers may elect their Master without interference from anyone else.

The customs and observances of the Order cannot be infringed or changed except by the Master and with the consent of the wiser part of the Chapter of Brothers.

The Brothers should not give oaths of loyalty or homage, or any oaths to anyone outside the Order.

No professed Brother may leave the Order to return to the secular world or join another religious Order.

They need not pay tithes (the tenth of produce due to the Church) on the produce of their own lands.

They may receive the right to collect tithes as a gift from laypeople or clergy with the consent of the bishop or clergy concerned.

They may receive respectable clerks and priests who are ordained according to canon law (as far as they can tell) to serve the Order. They have to get the consent of the priests' bishops to do this. But if the bishop refuses, the pope will overrule him.

They can remove these priests if they disturb the peace of the Order or the house or are useless, with the consent of the wiser part of the Chapter.

These priests who stay a year and are approved of by the Brothers may take the profession of the Order, swearing to obey the Master, and remain in the Order. They will have the same support and clothes as the Brothers except for their priestly vestments. They are only, responsible for 'care of souls' as far as the Order requests. They are not to be subject to anyone outside the Order (for example, the bishop).   

The Order can have its clergy ordained by any bishop.   

These clergy are not to preach for money, unless the Master makes arrangements for this.

The pope lays down the procedure for the admittance of priests to the Order. 

The Brothers may build oratories (private chapels) wherever they live, and they can hear divine office there, and those who die as Brothers of the Order can be buried there.    

Wherever the Brothers go, they may have their confessions heard by any Catholic priests, or receive unction or any sacrament.

These papal privileges and protection are extended to cover their household and servants.

1144: Celestine II: Milites Templi 

The pope calls Brothers 'New Maccabees in the time of grace', referring to the warrior priests of the Jewish state in the second century BC.

The pope addresses the archbishops, bishops and other clergy. He describes the Templars defending pilgrims and storming the enemies of the Christians.

He urges the archbishops etc. to command their subjects to make a collection for the Templars. Whoever becomes a member of their confraternity will have one seventh of their penance remitted.

On death, members of the confraternity will have church burial unless they have been excommunicated by name.

When the Brothers come to receive the confraternity collection from a city or village that is under interdict, the churches are to be opened once a year and divine offices celebrated for that purpose only.

1145: Eugenius III: Milites Del

To patriarchs, archbishops, bishops and other clergy. He promises them that he does not wish to damage their rights. 

He has given the Templars permission to take on suitable priests to serve the spiritual needs of the Order. These priests are to be properly ordained and to have their bishop's permission to serve the Order. 

The Brothers may take tithes and burital offerings in places where they have a house. They may build oratories for themselves and bury their Brothers and servants there when they die.

He asks the patriarchs, archbishops,, and bishops to consecrate the Brothers' oratories and bless their cemeteries and permit their priests to work in peace.



Religious men could be regulars, following a religious rule (monks), or seculars, living in the ordinary world (archbishops, bishops and priests). From the time of the late Roman Empire it was believed that monks were the best Christians, and that those who wanted to follow the Christian life to its fullest should leave society and devote themselves to a life of prayer and contemplation. Because monks were the best Christians, they had the right to rule themselves and not to be interfered with by bishops. But from the mid-eleventh century, with the growth of interest in canon law (the law of the Church) these ideas were changing. Now many leading religious thinkers saw the concept of apostolic succession as more important. Christ had made the apostle Simon Peter the head of the Church, and Christ's authority had come down through the ages through Simon Peter and his successors as popes of Rome. The pope ordained the archbishops and archbishops ordained the bishops, while the bishops ordained the priests - so all authority within the Church could be traced back to the pope and thence back to Simon Peter and to Christ. Therefore, all clergy including monks should be under the authority of their bishop. The religious Orders who were exempt from the bishops' authority defied this concept and therefore came under heavy criticism from secular clergy such as William, archbishop of Tyre, John of Salisbury and Walter Map. 


In 1179 at the Third Lateran Council the bishops accused the Templars and Hospitallers of not paying tithes even when they were due to do so; of having church services in towns that were under interdict and visiting churches that were under interdict more often than their privileges allowed, in order to collect more money; of allowing murderers and moneylenders and other lawbreakers to join their confraternity and be buried in Church ground even though Church law forbade it; and of flouting the authority of their bishops. All these criticisms came as a result of the privileges granted by the papacy to enable them to carry out their vocation more efficiently. Quarrels between the Military Orders and the secular clergy continued throughout their history, and even when the Templars were dissolved in 1312 the bishops declared that they would not agree to the Hospitallers receiving the Templars' lands unless the pope first took away their privileges.


Nevertheless, on a day-to-day basis relations between the Templars and their bishops were usually good, and we even find the bishops giving donations to the Templars, ordaining the Templars' priests and staying at Templar houses when on their travels about their dioceses. At a local level in western Christendom the Templars would mostly have been local people who were familiar with the local Church hierarchy and wanted to get on well with them. The close links between the Templars' commanderies in the West and the local bishops is illustrated by the fact that even the liturgies the Templars used in their chapels were the local diocesan liturgy, not a special Templar liturgy imposed from above.


Some Templar churches were built to give a visual link to the East. Like the Hospital of St John and like many ex-crusaders, the Order built some of its churches with circular naves, recalling the circular-naved Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This fashion in ecclesiastical architecture was dying out by the late thirteenth century, when the Templars rebuilt their circular-naved church at Garway, in Herefordshire the Welsh March, with a rectangular nave, while the in Hospitallers did the same with their circular-naved church at Clerkenwell, north of London. Not all the churches were rebuilt and some of the round naves survive until the present day. It has been suggested that the rebuilding reflected the final loss of the Holy Land in 1291; there was no advantage in reminding outsiders that the Orders had failed in their primary purpose of defending the Holy Sepulchre. Yet not all the Templars' and Hospitallers' churches had circular naves; for the most part they were built in the local style, even when the Order built from scratch. Clearly these Orders did not bring in their own architects and masons from outside when they wanted to build, but hired local workers on the spot. As with their liturgy, the Templars' buildings had a close tie to the locality.


How did the Templars' religious faith work itself out in practice? Was the average Templar particularly devout? It is clear that in the East the Templars' vocation was deeply felt and lived out by the Brothers in day-to-day experience. In the West, away from the frontiers of Christendom, the call to martyrdom and to self-sacrifice for Christ was less clearly relevant to everyday living. The trial proceedings indicate that some 'Brothers' were appallingly ignorant about the basics of their religious life. For instance, many did not know that the cord they wore over their undershirt was supposed to symbolize chastity. One thought that it was in case he was captured by the Saracens, when he would give it as his ransom. Yet the majority of Brothers were well aware of its purpose and wore it with pride, and one Brother Humbert du Puy had even heard that a Brother Helias Aymery had fastened the cord so tightly around himself, in his zeal for chastity, that he was very badly hurt by it.


Outsiders viewed the Order as pious, giving it extensive charitable donations. There were no complaints that the Brothers lacked piety. Outsiders Certainly had plenty of opportunity to observe the Brothers' lives. During the trial proceedings in Cyprus, many of the lay witnesses said that they had seen the Brothers in church, showing great devotion during the services, and some had stayed at Templar houses. In 1251 Queen Margaret of France gave birth to a son, the count of Alengon, at the Templars' fortress of Castle Pilgrim, and Renaud de Vichiers, Master of the Temple, stood as godfather for the child despite the prohibition of this practice in the Rule. So Templars' houses were not closed to outsiders, not even to women. Some Brothers kept up contact with their families, as their families provided the cord they had to wear around their waists. Brother Stephen of Troyes, who was interrogated at Poitiers in late June 1308, indicated that he had kept in contact with his mother, as he went to visit her after he left the Order of the Temple. On the way he was arrested by the Order and imprisoned for illegally abandoning the Order, but his mother ransomed him for 200 livres (pounds) on the condition he lived with her from then on.

Before the trial of 1307-12, the Templars were never accused of heresy. Their devotion to St Euphemia underlines this, for Euphemia is regarded as having great power not only against pagans but also against heretics, following her miraculous condemnation of heresy during the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451. The Templars' choice of Euphemia as a patron was very appropriate for a fanatically orthodox Christian religious Order that opposed non-Christians.

There is no evidence that the Templars were ever involved in heretical movements in Europe. Although the Templars held extensive territories in the south of France, where the Cathar heresy was widespread in the twelfth and thirteenth century, the Templars did not support the local nobility during the Albigensian Crusade. A local commentator, Bernard Sicart of Marvejols, criticized them for failing to help their former patrons. In fact the Templars accompanied the crusading army and sometimes lodged crusaders. They did not fight during the Albigensian Crusade, but this is not surprising, as their vocation did not commit them to fighting heretics and their resources were already widely stretched in the East.

The Templars and Hospitallers were both accused of being too willing to make truces with the Muslims and trying to prolong the war in the East in order to collect more money. Matthew Paris, chronicler of St Albans Abbey, repeated these accusations, but in his account of the battle of Mansurah (February 1250) he added the Orders' response. This battle was a terrible defeat, but the Military Orders came out of it with a good reputation because they had advised Count Robert of Artois, commander of the vanguard, against attacking the enemy. Their advice had been ignored, and the battle was lost: clearly this was the count's fault, while the Orders were vindicated. Matthew imagined the argument before the attack, with Count Robert accusing the Military Orders of treachery. 

The Brothers reply:

For what purpose, O noble Count, did we receive the religious

habit? Surely not to overturn the Church of Christ and to lose 

our souls through plotting treachery? Far be it from us, far be 

it from us, no, far be it from every Christian!

This was the obvious answer to any accusation against the Orders' religious devotion. Why should anyone enter a religious Order with the intention of damning their souls to Hell? People entered a religious Order to save their souls in accordance with the teaching of the Christian Church. The Order of the Temple was regarded as a good Order in which to save one's soul and win a place in Heaven. At the start of the fourteenth century, in a new version of the epic Crusade Cycle, a poet described the epic hero Harpin de Bourges's reaction to the death of his wife:

Count Harpin was very upset and troubled and so distressed at the death of his wife, and he hated the world so much, that; he said to himself that he would never have another wife all the days of his life. Harpin the Redoubtable gave himself to the Temple; but this was not the end of his boldness. As long as  he lived he brought grief on the Saracens and Slavs.

Even after the loss of the kingdom of Jerusalem, the composer, of a new version of a well-known epic could still depict the Order of the Temple as the best place for a doughty and pious knight to end his days. 






Keith Hunt