The Poor Fellow Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon or, as they are better known,The Knights Templar - who were they really? Were they saints or sinners?
History has given us a picture of the sword weilding, helmeted knight with the red cross on his white tabard or tunic, weilding the sword in the name of Christianity, but is that all they really were?
Whilst researching the knights for the upcoming book The Demons' Ark, I found myself intrigued by them and drawn into their world which was as complex as it was fated, and read book after book and watched movie after movie. At the end of it the Knights Templar were still a mystery to me, and perhaps that is their magic.
Their footprints have marked their journey through centuries of history and yet their myth and mystery is still as intriguing today as it was in the twelfth century. It is this mystique and generally shadowy past that has become the fodder for many an author and screenwriter. Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe was first published in 1820, a romance surrounding a returning crusader knight to his homeland. The novel became one of the first film adaptations in 1911 and it continued to inspire film producers and screenwriters from then until now. I remember watching the 1958 TV adaptation with Roger Moore and becoming fascinated with these mysterious and chivalrous knights, what young girl wouldn't? Movie after movie was made about them and then suddenly the focus of the story shifts.
Now the focus is not so much on the knights but, on their treasure. They were said to have accumulated vast treasures and wealth and of course wherever there is the glint of gold there are treasure hunters and general baddies. All grist to Hollywood's mill, in the form of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and National Treasure. I'm sure the screenwriters exercised their right to take liberties with history, as do I, but there is always that maggot of doubt. Did they really have that treasure and if so, where is it?
The Templar's origin begins with nine knights, led by Hughes de Payens and eight companions in 1119 in Jerusalem. They took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, their remit to protect pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land from bandits and others with religious agendas of their own. It didn't take long for the nine to become hundreds and although they had taken vows of poveryty, the order itself became vastly wealthy. They were the first bankers, providing certificates, the first travellers cheques, to pilgrims in exchange for their deposits of money, and to allow them to produce the certificates on their journey in exchange for the return of some of their money. Many wealthy benefactors gave them money and valuables to promote their mission. Soon they were lending money to noblemen and kings. And it was this that ultimately led to their demise. King Phillip of France owed them vast sums of money that he couldn't repay and his solution was simple; get rid of the Templars and he got rid of his debt. They were accused of blasphemy and all manner of perversions until at last even the Pope, who had previously championed their cause, to allow their capture and even their murder.
No smoke without fire? Were they saints or sinners? I'm guessing a little of both. But the fact remained, rumours of their vast wealth continued, as did the search for their alleged treasure.
We have historical fact, and clever fition, not forgetting Hollywood's contribution to the legend, to guide us to an opinion of who they were and what they were about, so I thought I'd share some of it with you, and hope it whets your apetite for the book. After all, what is a book without intrigue?