What Were The Knights Templar Really Hiding? | Unveiled
VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio
Who were the REAL Knights Templar?? Join us... to find out!
In this video, Unveiled takes a closer look at the legendary group of medieval warriors - the Knights Templar! These mythical figures have been lost to history, but conspiracies surrounding them remain... and it's difficult to tell fact from fiction. So, we've got you covered with all you need to know!
What Were the Knights Templar Really Hiding?
Though they all but disappeared over 700 years ago, the Knights Templar have occupied a consistent and strange place in the popular imagination. A source of much intrigue even during their existence, these elite knights were a force to be reckoned with in the Medieval period. But what was it they were really doing?
This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question: what were the Knights Templar really hiding?
Officially, the Knights Templar was formed in the 12th century, essentially as a group of hired muscle to protect Christian pilgrims wanting to visit Jerusalem. This was right after the conclusion of the First Crusade, which ended with Europeans seizing control of Jerusalem following the successful Siege of Jerusalem in 1099. Though the Christians had taken Jerusalem from Muslim powers, the rest of the Holy Land – the region between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan – was still dangerous for pilgrims wanting to travel. So, this group of knights accompanied them, protected them, and set up headquarters on the Temple Mount. A hill in the Old City of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount is one of the holiest places in the world in the Abrahamic religions, said to be the site of Solomon’s Temple before it was destroyed by the Babylonians. Solomon’s Temple is most known as the alleged location of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant, a sacred wooden box coated in gold that was said to contain the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. Due to the location of their headquarters, the knightly bodyguards named themselves the “Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon”, eventually shortening it to just “Knights Templar”.
Initially, they continued to escort pilgrims around the Holy Land, but slowly, the Order of the Knights Templar grew and developed. Its knights remain the defining image of a European “crusader” because of their status as elite soldiers. These soldiers didn’t serve any of the European countries involved in the crusades directly, but did often help out armies, and even in small numbers they could be formidable. But the Templars’ real power didn’t come from these fighting figures, and many members of the Order weren’t soldiers at all… but devout monks. Two decades after their founding in 1119, the Templars were given legitimacy by the Catholic church, when Pope Innocent II declared that they were a military order exclusively overseen by the Church. This enabled people to donate massive amounts of money to them as a charity AND for them to get away without paying any taxes, or tithes.
But this wasn’t a way for Templars at the top to line their pockets, not really. Members were required to follow a lot of rules and sacred oaths, including swearing themselves to poverty – which meant giving up their wealth, property, and other assets to the Order itself. This enabled the structure of the Order to grow beyond any individual. And so, eventually, the Templars lost their military edge and became a financial powerhouse, as people would give them money in exchange for “letters of credit”. Essentially, the Templars were a bank; people would hand over their valuables to a local preceptory, receive a letter of credit, and use it to withdraw an equivalent amount once in the Holy Land. This way, they didn’t risk being robbed and losing all their wealth during their pilgrimage. The newly-shaped organization became rich, and full of noble-born sons, with the financial abilities to back MORE crusades and profit even further.
This system lasted for almost two hundred years. Although Muslim forces under Saladin recaptured Jerusalem in 1187, the Knights Templar were able to relocate their headquarters to the city of Acre. However, in 1291, the Crusaders lost control of Acre too. This ended Europe’s foothold in the Holy Land and marked the end of the last major crusade. So, what happened next?
With the Templars’ original purpose now gone, their massive power began to worry Europe’s royal families. King Philip IV of France in particular was deeply in debt to the order. So in 1307, he pressured Pope Clement to order the arrests of all Templars and the seizure of their wealth. Many Templars, including the Grand Master at the time, Jacques de Molay, were then tortured into confessions, and burned at the stake in typical Medieval fashion. The documents from their trial were kept locked up in the Vatican’s equally mysterious library for 700 years. Only in 2007 were they finally published, and the Templars officially pardoned.
The Templars’ strange rules, loyalty oaths, exemption from laws beyond the papacy, and unprecedented power, all meant that they had few defenders. And so, the Templars more or less disappeared after this point… because if they didn’t, they risked execution. Although the Templars vanished, however, other military orders of powerful knights remained, including the Teutonic Knights and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, both of which still exist in some form today.
Good Templars had to abide by a strict code of conduct, which also survives today through translations, dictating what they could wear, what they could eat, how they could sleep, and who they could communicate with. As it was a religious military order, they were expected to live pious, devout, and chaste lives, following rules even stricter than those set out in the Bible. They weren’t allowed to leave the dinner table, they all had to share bowls because there weren’t enough to go around, they were only rarely allowed to eat meat because of its corrupting influence, they were banned from wearing fur or anything else that might suggest wealth and opulence, and they weren’t allowed to wear pointy shoes because they were associated with pagans. Templars were trained to be totally obedient to the Order, to the point of erasing individuality, which further increased how suspicious people were of them. Templars also weren’t allowed physical contact with women, even close relatives. They were forbidden to talk about intimate moments with women, too.
Although the Knights Templar was disbanded in 1312, many conspiracy theories have argued for their survival under various guises. There is no solid historical evidence to link the Knights Templar and Freemasonry, but that hasn’t stopped speculation that certain Templars escaped persecution and founded Freemason Lodges in Scotland. When discussing the Templars, it’s also not long before the Illuminati is brought up. According to one theory, the Knights Templar became the Illuminati, a cabal that controls major world events. The theory presents an appealing worldview, in which the complex world of conflict and competition that we see around us is reducible to a single, simple explanation. There actually WAS once a real secret society called the Illuminati, which existed in Germany in the 18th century. They actually opposed religious control of public life and abuses of political power. But after roughly a decade, they were outlawed and suffered a steep decline. The conspiracy about them owes its existence to rumors that the Illuminati survived and were behind the French Revolution.
Still, the Knights Templar have influenced other societies. The significantly more modern Temperance Movement styles itself on the Knights Templar, with the word “temperance” coming from “Templar”, all of them advocating chiefly for the prohibition of alcohol. In the US, they were even temporarily successful in the twentieth century.
People who engage with the theory that the Knights Templar are still around today often theorize that they’re hiding many ancient treasures. Due to the location of their headquarters in Solomon’s Temple, the Ark of the Covenant is at the top of the list. Never mind that it went missing over 1,700 years before the Knights Templar was founded. It’s also been alleged that the Templars at some point possessed the Shroud of Turin, the religious relic claimed by some to be the shroud that the body of Christ was wrapped in following his crucifixion. However, many of these ideas trace back only as far as the 1900s, popularized by movies, books, and video games. It’s their mystery that keeps the allure of the Knights Templar alive, and their secrecy that means modern writers can ascribe all sorts of meanings to them.
A paramilitary group and multinational corporation, the Knights Templar built a financial empire that spanned Eurasia, building churches of their own, recruiting members from all over, safeguarding crusaders’ money, turning the tides in wars and conflicts, and becoming powerful enough to rival European monarchies and the Catholic church. Their sudden end at the hands of a French king and violent executions have proven fertile ground for fiction and conspiracy over the years, with rumors that their agents still operate to this day…
And that’s what the Knights Templar were REALLY hiding.