The following must be formally categorized as a book review by James Burnes that first appeared in “Foreign Quaterly Review” in 1829. The text is quite old, but it is very much relevant. It is also a great deal more eloquent than anything you will find written about the Knights Templar these days! For the sake of convenience, I added section headers.
Geschichte des Tempelherrenordens, nach dem vorhandenen und mehreren bisher unbenutzten Quellen. Von Wilbelm Ferdinand Wilcke. (History of the Order of the Knights Templars, from accessible as well as several hitherto unexplored sources. By W. F. Wilcke.) 2 Baude, 8vo. Leipzig, 1826-27.
NOTWITHSTANDING the reproach of indolence, frivolity, and attachment to light, in preference to solid, literature, which is so frequently, and not without justice, cast upon the present age, we are inclined to think that there never was any period in which a more active, or inquiring spirit of political philosophy prevailed. But it is to the continent rather than to England that this praise is due; for while there the history of all ages and countries is investigated with diligence, new light cast on the annals of the world, and on the springs of human actions and institutions, in works of magnitude which are continually sending forth — here, except on subjects immediately connected with our own country, few historians venture to exceed the moderate bulk of two or three octavo volumes. What is still worse, if we set aside the copious Universal History, now become rather antiquated, there are several nations and countries of which we may vainly seek for any account in English literature; while in the French and German, those proper rivals of the English, satisfactory information may be readily obtained on almost every subject of historic importance. Unfortunately too, the party spirit which the nature of our political constitution has such a tendency to engender, extends into regions where calmness and impartiality should dwell; and though we can point out some works on our national history, one particularly, distinguished by a spirit of cool and unbiassed philosophical criticism, such cannot be justly called the character of our historic literature. Our histories of Greece are written with similar heat and prejudice: most of our other historical works are tame, spiritless and uncritical.
Yet we think the time is fast approaching, and is almost at hand, when history will engage more attention, and form a more prominent branch of study and literary education in this country, than it has ever done; and we feel disposed to regard the present rather as a period of transition. We cannot long bear to linger far behind our continental neighbours and rivals; political science, of which history is the support and the groundwork, must always be cultivated in a country whose policy embraces the whole known world, more especially now that her government and constitution no longer stand alone, towering over surrounding despotisms ; as similar forms and a congenial spirit are fast pervading other nations. The physical sciences must, from their very nature, always attract a smaller number of votaries than history ; for laws and political regulations will ever retain their just superiority over those sciences which minister chiefly to external wants and conveniences; and as one good law or wise political measure is productive of more real and extensive benefit than numerous physical discoveries and inventions, so the statesman and political philosopher will always, in the public estimation, stand higher than the chemist and the mathematician. Finally, the passion for light literature will give way, and must, we think, soon wear itself out. The Waverley novels, though they have done some mischief in a historical point of view, have been productive of more than countervailing good; they have weaned the public mind from the wretched trash on which it had previously been feeding, and accustomed it to a more robust diet. There is now, we would hope, little fear of its ever returning to what it has rejected; and as the illustrious author of these works cannot be expected to go on for ever ministering to the taste he has created, and the chance is so very slender of writers like himself appearing, nothing, as far as we can perceive, will remain to the reading world, but to have recourse to real history, which, when written as it ought to be, will be found to possess several of the attractions of the romance, with that invaluable one in which the latter is almost necessarily deficient, namely, truth. The monthly miscellanies too, which are now beginning to form a part of our literature, hold out hopes of encouraging the taste for that branch, as historical works will form a prominent portion of their contents; and if the ill-judging parsimony of publishers does not lead them to employ mere literary craftsmen, many of their volumes may be expected to fall little short of romances in interest, while they will at the same time teach lessons of sound political wisdom. In the confident hope that these pleasing anticipations will soon be realized, we beg to add, that our endeavours shall never be wanting to stimulate the taste and the emulation of our countrymen, by frequently laying before them accounts of what is going on in the historic department on the continent. On the present occasion we propose to give some account of the inquiries which have been made into the interesting subject of the history of the Knights Templars, concerning whose origin and suppression no full and satisfactory account will, we apprehend, be found in English literature.
HISTORY OF TEMPLAR RESEARCH
The original sources from which a History of the Order of the Templars must be derived, are to be found in the Gesta Dei per Francos, and other writings of the middle ages during the time of its existence, together with the manuscript records relating to them still preserved. The first modern history of the order, or more properly speaking, of its condemnation, is that of the French advocate Dupuy, published in 1654; and the spirit of inquiry by which lie was actuated will appear by the very commencement of his work, which sets out with his declaration of justifying that act of Philip le Bel and his lawyers; for, says he, ” the lofty and virtuous deeds of our king, Philip le Bel, one of those great kings who have governed our monarchy, and who has executed very- great enterprises, have been wonderfully injured by this common evil (that of being misinterpreted); so that he has been styled impious on account of his generous prosecution of Pope Boniface. and a usurper of the goods of others, and beyond measure avaricious, on account of the matter of the Templars.” Dupuy must accordingly be regarded as the advocate of Philip, rather than the historian of the Templars. At the close of the seventeenth century a history of them, in Latin, by Gurtler, appeared at Amsterdam; in 1735 Ferreira published, at Lisbon, his work on the same subject; finally, a Spanish work by Campomanes, came out in 1774: both that and the Portuguese work contain much valuable matter. The earliest German inquiry is that of Anton, published a few years later than the Spanish work of Campomanes. The English language, as we have already observed, contains no work on this subject.
But besides these historical essays and inquiries, the Templars have furnished matter for various other works. The learned Danish bishop, Muenter, has, from the Vatican MSS. published the Statute-book of the Order, accompanied with valuable notes. Nicolai instituted an inquiry into the secret doctrines and practices imputed to the Templars; several writers attempted to trace a connection between them and the Free-Masons; and as is always the case where Masonry is on the tapis, abundance of ill-employed erudition, wild and fanciful conjectures and awe-inspiring mystery, has been displayed. Moldenhauer published, in 1792, from the original records, the whole of the process against the order in France. The present century has produced the researches of Barillet, and the able defence of the Knights by Raynouard in France; while in the sixth volume of the Mines de I’Orient, Jos. von Hammer has, from hitherto unknown or unemployed sources, endeavoured to establish the horrible charges made against the Knights; and Raynouard, De Sacy, Muenter, Gruber von Grubenfels, and others, have in various journals replied to, and, as we think, amply confuted him.
ASSESMENT OF WILCKE’S BOOK
It is evident that a complete history of the Order of the Knights of the Temple was a desideratum, and also that there was an ample supply of materials for the construction of it at hand. The task has accordingly been undertaken by Mr. Wilcke in the present work, but after a careful perusal of it, we are compelled to say that we consider the desideratum still unsupplied. In Mr. Wilcke we discern the merits and the defects of his countrymen; his industry is indefatigable; not content with secondary authorities, he has everywhere had recourse to the original sources, and neglected no work whence he could hope to derive any assistance; but he has all the tendency to mystery, so prevalent among the German writers, and seems to regard the extremely dubious fact of the order having had a secret doctrine as so certain as scarcely to deem that it stands in need of proof or inquiry; while the most absurd and improbable charges made against the order find with him an easy credence. Further, Mr. Wilcke is, by his own account, but a young man; hence his judgment is weak and his reflections frequently trite and superficial; and though we may commend the ardour which impels to inquiry, and to the communication of its results, we would always dissuade ambitious youth from a too early appearance in the field of history. Young men may excel in poetry, or in mathematics, or the physical sciences, and many have done so; but few are the historical works of value written by men who have not passed the mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, or had more experience of mankind than can be obtained within the precincts of a university.
A SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF THE KNIGHTS TEMPLARS
The Templars, therefore, rather than Mr. Wilcke’s history of them, will form the subject of this article, in which we shall consider the points of importance connected with them from the institution till the suppression of the order, and examine some of the attacks and defences of the various combatants—Mr. Wilcke of course included—who have shivered lances in their attack or defence.
Holy Land at the time of the First Crusade
The natural desire to visit places which have been the scene of memorable actions, or the abode of distinguished personages, had from a very early period drawn pious pilgrims from the east and the west to view those spots which had been hallowed by the presence of the SON OF GOD. The toils and the dangers of the journey were unheeded, when set in comparison with the bliss of pouring forth prayer on Calvary, and bathing in the waves of Jordan, whose waters had consecrated the Saviour to his holy office. After Jerusalem fell under the dominion of the followers of Mohammed, the pious pilgrims of the west received little or no interruption in the performance of their sacred duty; for with all their fanaticism the Arabs were tolerant, and moderate tribute always ensured their protection. But as the Greek and Latin churches differed in point of doctrine, and the Latin pilgrims, when in the Holy City, did not always take sufficient care to avoid offending the prejudices of the Moslems, the Christian inhabitants of Jerusalem were averse to receiving into their houses their western brethren, and stronger reasons prevented their seeking or obtaining the hospitality of the Mohammedans. We accordingly find that, so early as the ninth century, the monk Bernard saw in the valley of Jehoshaphat, near the church of the Holy Virgin, a hospital composed of twelve dwellings, for pilgrims from the west, which possessed corn lands, vineyards, and gardens, and an excellent library, established by the bounty of Charlemagne. In the eleventh century, when the apprehension of the approaching end of the world, and the appearance of Christ to judge mankind, had once more fanned the flame of pious pilgrimage which had been previously dying away, and men were hastening to the land where they expected to meet their Lord and Judge, there was built within the walls of Jerusalem a hospital for the reception of Catholic pilgrims. This hospital stood within a very short distance of the church of the Holy Sepulchre, and, by the favour of the Egyptian khalif, a church, dedicated to the Virgin, and afterwards called St. Maria de Latina,was erected close by it; there an abbot and several monks, who followed the rule of St. Benedict, received and entertained the pilgrims who arrived each year from the west, and furnished such of them as were poor or had been plundered by the roving Bedoweens, with the means of paying the tax exacted by the unbelievers. Decorum not permitting the reception of the female pilgrims, the brethren established without their walls a convent, dedicated to Mary Magdalene, where a pious sisterhood entertained the pilgrims of their own sex. The number of the pilgrims still continuing to increase, the abbot and his monks erected a new hospitium near their church, which they placed under the patronage of St. John, the patriarch of Alexandria, named Eleemon, or the Compassionate. This last hospital had no independent revenues, but derived its income from the bounty of the abbot of the monastery of the Holy Virgin, and the alms of the pious.
When, in 1099, Jerusalem was invested by the Crusaders, the Hospital of St. John was presided by Gerhard, a native of Provence, a man of exemplary piety, and of a spirit of mild and universal benevolence, rarely to be found in that age; for while the city was pressed by the arms of the faithful, who sought for future glory by the extermination of those whom they deemed the enemies of God on earth, not merely the orthodox Catholic, but the schismatic Greek, and even the unbelieving Moslem, shared without distinction the alms of the good director of the hospital of St. John. When the city was taken, the sick and wounded of the Crusaders received all due care and attention from Gerhard and his monks. The general favour they enjoyed with Godfrey and the other pilgrims now emboldened them to separate themselves from the monastery of St. Maria de Latina; and to pursue their labour of love alone and independent, they drew up a rule for themselves, to which they bound themselves to obedience in the presence of the patriarch, and assumed as their distinguishing dress, a black mantle, with a white cross of eight points on the left breast. They still remained obedient to the abbot of St. Maria de Latina, and according to the law of the church, they paid tythes to the patriarch.
This continued while the brotherhood was poor; but riches soon began to flow in upon them. Godfrey, whose very name suggests the ideas of virtue and piety, pure, if not always well directed, struck with their simple and unassuming charity, bestowed on them his domain of Monboire, in Brabant, with all its appurtenances. His brother and successor, Baldwin, gave them a portion of the booty gained from the infidels; several pious princes and nobles followed these examples, and the Hospital of St. John soon saw itself in possession of extensive estates both in Europe and Asia, which were managed by members of the society named Preceptors. Pope Pascal II., in 1113, relieved the Hospitallers from the burden of paying tythes to the patriarch of Jerusalem—confirmed by his bull all donations made and to be made to them—and gave them authority to appoint a successor on the death of Gerhard, without the interference of any other secular or spiritual authority. The society now counted among its members many gallant knights who had come to the Holy Land to fight in the cause of their Saviour; and there, actuated by a spirit more accordant to his, had flung aside their swords and devoted themselves to the attendance on the sick and poor among the brethren of St. John. One of the most distinguished of these was Raymond Dupuy, a knight of Dauphine, who, on the death of the worthy Gerhard, was chosen to succeed him in his office.
It was to Laynez and Acquaviva, not to Ignatius Loyola, that the order of the Jesuits owed its consistency and direction to one mark; it was Raymond, not Gerhard, who, properly speaking, organized the order of the Hospitallers. The founder of a society is rarely aware of its ultimate views and objects. Raymond, a man of vigorous and active mind, established the discipline of his order. His regulations afford a specimen of the manners and modes of thinking of his time; and some of them require to be noticed here, on account of their similarity iwilh those of the Templars shortly to be mentioned. The usual monkish duties of chastity and obedience were strictly enjoined; the brethren, both lay and spiritual, were directed to wear at least a linen or woollen shirt, but no expensive dress of any kind, above all, no furs; when they went to collect alms, they were, for fear of temptation, never to go alone, but always in parties of two or three; they were not, however, to select their companions, but to take such as the director should appoint them; wherever there was a house belonging to their order, they were to turn in thither and nowhere else, and to take whatever was given them, and ask for nothing more; they were also to carry their lights with them, and wherever they passed the night, to set these burning before them, lest the enemy should bring on them some deadly danger. When the brethren were in the church, or in a private house, in the company of women, they were to take good heed to themselves, and avoid temptation; for the same reason, they were never to suffer women to wash their head or feet, or to make their bed. If a brother had fallen into carnal sin, and his offence was secret, a silent penance was deemed sufficient; but if it had been public, and he was fully convicted of it, he was on Sunday, after mass, when the people were gone out of church, to be stript of his clothes, and there, by the director himself, or such of the brethren as he appointed, severely beaten with thongs or rods, and then expelled the order. Any brother possessed of money or valuables, who concealed them from the master, was severely punished, the money which he had secreted was hung about the offender’s neck, and he was scourged by one of the brethren, in the presence of all those belonging to the house; he had then to do penance for forty days, during which time, on Wednesdays and Fridays, he had nothing but bread and water to support him. These regulations were made by Raymond, in the year 1118; a circumstance to be attended to, as some similar rules have been since made a ground of accusation against the Templars.
It is uncertain whether Raymond had any ulterior design of making the order of the Hospitallers a military one, but if such was his intention, he was anticipated. The kingdom of Jerusalem, over which Baldwin II. now ruled, had been in a very extraordinary state from the date of its conquest. It lay between two enemies, the Egyptians on the south, and the Turks on the north ; and these Moslems, though of opposite and hostile sects, agreed in hatred of the Christians, and a desire to take Jerusalem—which was to them also the Holy City—out of the hands of the western infidels; the independent Arabs of the desert were also inimical to the Christians, and as fond of plunder as they have been at all periods of their history. Hence the Holy Land was continually infested by predatory bands, who robbed and plundered all who fell in their way; the pious pilgrim who disembarked at Joppa, or Acre, was fortunate if he reached the ultimate object of his journey in safety, and when he had visited all the consecrated places within its sacred walls, new perils awaited him on his way to bathe in the purifying waters of the Jordan, or to pluck in the gardens of Jericho the palm-branch which he was to suspend in the church on his return. To those who consider the mild, gentle, and peaceful spirit which every page of the Gospel respires, it must appear a matter of surprize how the religion of the middle ages, or rather of the Latin church in those ages, should have been of so martial a character. But man is, in a certain sense, the maker of his own religion ; and whatever form he may adopt, he will make it bend to his original notions. The Gothic and Germanic tribes who overturned the western empire of Rome, and embraced her religion, were an extremely warlike race; such, too, was in a great measure the spirit of the religion which they professed; the sacred books of the Christians contained the Jewish, as well as the Christian Scriptures, and the spirit of the former accorded sufficiently with the martial habits of the converts to win their preference. It was not perceived that the Mosaic was a national religion, and Jehovah represented in it chiefly as a national God, and that to fight in the cause of Jehovah was nearly equivalent to fighting for king and country; the language and ideas of the Old Testament were eagerly adopted, and it was held that no more grateful offering could be made to Him whom the New Testament declares to be Love and the Father of Mercy, than the blood of slaughtered unbelievers. The pilgrims and their historians made it matter of reproach to their more generous and enlightened leaders, when they granted life and safety to the vanquished Moslems, and more than once the religious zeal of the troops violated the promise of the leader. It was thus that, in the seventeenth century, deeds of atrocity were justified by Scripture, and the Jewish portion of the sacred volume threw the Christian part completely into the shade. In both cases, the great majority of men were perfectly sincere in their belief, and were fully persuaded that when they spilled the blood of those whom they regarded as the ungodly, they thereby did good service to God.
In the year 1119, the twentieth of the Christian dominion in Syria, nine pious and valiant knights, the greater part of whom had been the companions of Godfrey of Bouillon, formed them selves into an association, the object of which was to protect and defend pilgrims on their visits to the holy places. These knights, of whom the two chief were Hugo de Payens and Godfrey de St. Omer, vowed, in honour of the sweet mother of God (la doce mere de Dieu), to unite monkhood and knighthood; their pious design met with the warm approbation of the king and the patriarch, and in the hands of the latter they made the three ordinary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; and a fourth, of combatting without ceasing against the heathen, in defence of pilgrims, and of the Holy Land; and bound themselves to live according to the rule of the canons of St. Augustine, at Jerusalem. The king assigned them for their abode a part of his palace, which stood close by where had stood the Temple of the Lord. He and his barons contributed to their support, and the abbot and canons of the Temple assigned them for the keeping of their arms and magazines the street between it and the royal palace, and hence they took the name of the soldiery of the Temple, or Templars. When Fulk, count of Anjou, in the year following the formation of the society, made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the order was even then in such repute that he joined it as a married brother, and on his return home remitted them anuually thirty pounds of silver, to aid them in their pious labours, and his example was followed by several other Christian princes. The Hospitallers soon found themselves obliged to follow the example of the Templars, and to unite with their heretofore humble office of attending the sick pilgrims, the martial one of protecting them against the heathen; and many a gallant knight, who had laid aside his arms on entering their society, with joy resumed the exercise of them in this hallowed warfare. The English historian, Bromton, affirms, but apparently without sufficient authority, that the knights who founded the order of the Templars had been originally members of the Hospital of St.John.
The Tempalars’ Life
During the first nine years after their institution, the Templars lived in poverty and humility, and no new members joined their society, which was eclipsed by that of St. John. Their clothing consisted of such garments as were bestowed on them by the charity of the faithful, and so rigorously were the gifts of pious princes applied by them to their destination—the benefit of pilgrims and of the Holy Land in general—that in consequence of their poverty, Hugo de Payens and Godfrey de St. Omer had but one war-horse between them. When the order had arrived at wealth and splendour, its seal, representing two knights mounted on one charger, commemorated this original poverty of its pious founders—a circumstance which has been even made a ground of accusation against them!
During the reign of Baldwin II. the kingdom was very hard pressed by the Turks of Damascus, Mossul, and the neighbouring states, and the king had been a captive in their hands. On his liberation he sought every means of strengthening his kingdom, and as the Templars had displayed such eminent valour and devotion wherever they had been engaged, he resolved to gain them all the influence and consideration in his power. Accordingly he despatched two of their members as his envoys to the Holy See, to lay before the Pope the state of the Holy Land, and also furnished them with a strong letter of recommendation to the celebrated Bernard of Clairvaux, the nephew of one of the envoys. Bernard approved highly of the object and institution of the order. Hugo de Payens and five other brethren soon arrived in the west, and appeared before the fathers, who were assembled in council at Troyes, to whom Hugo detailed the maxims and the deeds of the Templars. The fathers expressed their approbation of all he said, the order was pronounced good and useful, and some additions, taken from that of the Benedictines, were made to their rule. By the direction of Pope Honorius, the council appointed them a white mantle as their peculiar dress, to which Pope Eugenius some years afterwards added a red cross on the breast—the symbol of martyrdom. Their banner was of the black and white stripe, called, in old French, Bauseant (which word became their war-cry); and bore the pious inscription, Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam. St. Bernard, if he did not himself draw up this rule, had at least a considerable participation in it; throughout his life he cherished the Templars; he rarely wrote a letter to the Holy Land, in which he did not praise them, and recommend them to the favour and protection of the great.
Owing to the influence of Bernard, and the sincere piety and noble qualities of its founders, the order rapidly increased in wealth and consequence. Many knights assumed its habit, and with Hugo de Payens travelled through France and England, to excite the Christians to the sacred war. With Henry I. of England they met the highest consideration. Fulk, of Anjou, re-united himself to Hugo de Payens, and on the invitation of King Baldwin, prepared, though advanced in years, to set out for Palestine, to espouse the daughter of the king, and succeed him on his throne. Gifts in abundance flowed in on the order, large possessions were bestowed on it in all countries of the west, and Hugo de Payens, now its grand master, returned to the Holy Land in the year 1129, at the head of three hundred Knights Templars of the noblest families in Europe, and shared in the disastrous attempt on Damascus.
The question of the Templars’ secret doctrine
The mention of the attempt on Damascus brings us to the consideration of a question of some importance;—had the Templars any secret understanding with the sect of the Ismailites, or Assassins; or did they borrow from them any of their rules and plans? Mr. Von Hammer, whose history of the latter society we have already noticed,* maintains that the Templars were, in a great measure, modelled after them. When describing the Assassins, he says— “As to its external constitution, the state of the Assassins was a mere order, like that of the Knights of St. John, of the Teutonic Knights, or the Templars, the last of whom had some resemblance to the Assassins, not only in the form of grand masters, grand priors, and their religious maxims, but also in their dress, and in the spirit of political tendency and secret doctrine. Clad in white, with the distinguishing sign of a red cross on their mantle, like the Assassins in white garments with red caps or girdles, the Templars had also a secret doctrine, which denied and abjured the sanctity of the cross, as that of the Assassins did the precepts of Islam. The fundamental maxim of the policy of the one and the other, was to make themselves, by the possession of fortresses and castles, masters of the surrounding country; and in this manner, without treasure, and without an army, a state within the state, formidable rivals to princes, to keep the people in subjection.”
To this opinion of Mr. Von Hammer, which he frequently iterates in the course of his work, Mr. Wilcke, if any stress is to be laid on his judgment, in a great measure accedes. As we shall find ourselves obliged to differ from all the opinions of Mr. Von Hammer respecting the Templars, we take this opportunity, once for all, to express our sentiments with respect to that distinguished writer; and these are, that no man has a more sincere regard for truth or the best interests of society; but that he is too precipitate in his judgment, too much under the guidance of imagination, and too easily caught by slight and casual analogies. This last characteristic of Mr. Von Hammer’s mind we have already noticed more than once; it disfigures his History of the Ottoman Empire, the work on which he justly builds his surest hopes of future fame, and we think the present instance is as strong a one as will be found.
It is possible that the Assassins (for it is by no means proved) had a secret doctrine; we shall not at present stop to inquire if the same was the case with the Templars, but only observe how extremely unlikely it was, that, during the first twenty years of the kingdom of Jerusalem, the intimacy should have been so great between the hostile nations, that the chiefs of the society of the Assassins should have communicated their most secret doctrines, (which, according to Mr. Von Hammer’s authorities, were most sedulously concealed from all but a small number of their own order,) to illiterate and externally at least zealous Christian knights, as were the founders of the order of the Templars; for it is to be observed, that Mr. Von Hammer does not say that the secret doctrine was introduced into the order when it had become corrupt, (as Mr. Wilcke with somewhat more probability does,) but asserts that Hugo de Payens and his companions were secret infidels, had an already matured plan of empire, modelled of course on that of Hassan-Sabah, and that all their sanctity, zeal for religion, and piety, were merely assumed as a mask. This is a common mistake in ingenious men, who are for ever ascribing to the founders of empires, religions, and societies that attribute of divinity which sees from the beginning the ultimate end, and forms all its plans and projects with a view to it. It is thus that some would fain persuade us that Mohammed, in his solitary cave at Mecca, saw clearly and distinctly the future triumphs of Islam, and its banners floating at the Pyrenees and the Oxus; that Cromwell, when an obscure individual, already in fancy grasped the sceptre of England; or that Loyola beheld the members of his order guiding the consciences of kings, and governing an empire in Paraguay. All such results are in fact the slow and gradual growth of time; one step leads to another, till the individual or the society looks back with amazement to its feeble commencement. If there is any exception to this general law, it is Hassan-Sabah; but in his case, it is to be remembered that he found the society already existing, and only extended and enlarged its organization. We may argue so far a priori against the supposition of die Templars having had from the commencement a secret doctrine: we shall in the sequel consider the proofs which are advanced of such having been the case. The coincidence of the gradations in the two societies will, on examination, be found to be one of those which take place in all parts of the world, and have their origin in the similar nature of human minds, which, in the same circumstances, almost invariably fall on the same expedients.
But nothing can be less convincing than the proof of intercommunity drawn from similarity of dress. The followers of Hassan-Sabah, like all those sects which opposed the house of Abbas, wore white, in contradistinction to the black banners and habiliments of that race, which had assumed the sable colour for a similar reason, in its contest with the house of Ommeyah. The form and colour of the head-dress and girdle, no one knows better than Mr. Von Hammer, are of great importance in the Mohammedan East, and the reason is obvious why Hassan gave them of red to his Fedavees, t. e. devoted to death. But Hugo de Payens did not, as far as we know, choose the dress of the Templars; the white mantle was given them at the council of Troyes, evidently to distinguish them from the Hospitallers, whose mantle was black; the red cross was added by Pope Eugenius in 1145, and the same reason probably induced its adoption instead of a black one, opposed to the white cross of St. John.
The attempt on Damascus, which we have noticed in a former article, was made in concert with the members of the sect of the Ismailites in that city. Mr. Von Hammer says that King Baldwin seems to have been excited to form this unhallowed league by Hugo de Payens, the first Grand Master of the Templars, who had just then returned from Europe. None of the original historians of the Crusades, however, makes the slightest charge of this kind against Hugo; and the alliance of the Christians with one party of the Moslems against another was too common a circumstance to need to be ascribed to any secret designs of any far-aiming individuals. Alliance with the infidel was no doubt viewed by the more zealous and devout as an abomination, and the storm and defeat sustained at Damascus were regarded as a just judgment on this union with Belial; but in the eyes of the Christians, the Ismailites were not a whit worse than their brother Moslems.
We thus see how slight are the presumptions in favour of any secret intercourse and alliance between the Templars and the Assassins. The only other place where history mentions them in union, is decidedly against any friendly feeling between them. The Assassins had established themselves in the mountains north of Tripolis : the Templars, who had some castles in their neighbourhood, had reduced them to the payment of 3000 besants a year for undisturbed possession of their lands and fortresses. Probably with a view to get rid of this tribute, Sinan, the Dai-el-kebir of Syria, sent, in 1173, an embassy to Amalric II., King of Jerusalem, offering that he and his people would receive baptism, provided the Templars would remit the tribute, and henceforth live with them as brethren. The proposal was joyfully accepted by the king, who declared that he would pay the 3000 besants to the Templars out of his own revenue: the Ismailite envoy was most honourably treated, and was accompanied to the borders of the kingdom by guides and an escort; but hardly had he gone a short way within the Ismailite territory, when the Templars rushed from their ambush, and the ambassador fell by the spear of Walter of Dumesnil. Thus,” says Mr. Von Hammer, ” did the Knights, who had been hitherto held in suspicion as allies of the Ismailites and their secret doctrine, openly as Assassins acknowledge their participation in it; thus did the Order of the Templars, and that of the Assassins, mingle together in the blood of lawless murder.” The plain reason for this deed was the fear of losing the tribute, as the king’s necessities would generally render him unable to pay it; and it is not at all improbable, as Mr. Von H. asserts, that the deed was committed by order of the grand master, Odo de St. Amando, whom all describe as a bold bad man, and who refused to give up the murderer when demanded by the king, alleging that he had imposed penance on him, and would send him to the Holy Father to abide his judgment. Considering, however, the struggle then going on between the temporal and spiritual powers, the answer of Odo was not so insolent as it might appear. The king, however, exerted his authority, had Dumesnil dragged out of the Temple court and thrown into irons at Sidon, but the death of Amalric in the following year gave him his liberty. Odo not long afterwards, with eighty of his knights, fell into the hands of Saladin, in a defeat which tbe Christians sustained near Sidon, the blame of which was laid on him, and died in prison unlamented. “In that battle,” says William of Tyre, ” was taken Odo de St. .Amando, a bad man, proud and arrogant, with the breath of fury in his nostrils, who neither feared God, nor had any respect for man.” It should not be omitted that, in Mr. Von Hammer’s opinion, the 3000 besants a year were paid to the Templars by the Ismailites, not merely for the sake of peace, but as a reward for the service they used to do their cause, such as, for instance, refusing at one time to take part in an expedition against the monarch of Egypt, the natural protector of the Ismailites. We feel confident that every reader will think with us, that the attempt at proving a connection and intercourse between the Templars and the Ismailites is a complete failure.
The Templars were, in fact, the most distinguished of the Christian warriors. By a rule of their order no brother could be redeemed for a higher ransom than a girdle or a knife, or some such trifle; captivity was therefore equivalent to death, and they always fought with Spartan desperation. The Bauseant was always in the thick of the battle; the revenue they enjoyed enabled them to draw to their standard valiant secular knights and stout and hardy footmen. The chivalry of St. John vied with them, it is true, in prowess and valour, but they do not occupy the same space in the history of the Crusades. The Templars having been from the outset solely devoted to arms; the warm interest which St. Bernard, whose influence was so great, took in their welfare; and the circumstance that the fourth King of Jerusalem was a member of their body—all combined to throw a splendour about them which the Knights of St. John could not , but which also gave occasion to their more speedy corruption, and augmented the number of their enemies. Most writers, however, of the twelfth century speak respectfully of the Knights of the Temple, and those unsparing satirists, the Troubadours, never mention them but with honour. The history of the Order, as far as we can recollect, records only one instance of a Templar abjuring his faith, and that was an English Knight, Robert of Saint Albans, who deserted to Saladin, who gave him his sister in marriage on his becoming a Moslem ; and in 1185, the ex-red-cross Knight led a Saracen army to the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, wasting and destroying the country with fire and sword.)
The structure of the Order
By the Bull, Omne datum optimum, granted by Pope Alexander III. in 1162, the Order of the Templars acquired great importance, and from this time forth, it may be regarded as totally independent, acknowledging no authority but that—before which the haughtiest monarchs bowed—of the | supreme pontiff, who protected and favoured them as his champions against all who might dispute his will. It is therefore of importance to look at its constitution, and what were its revenues and possessions.
The Order of the Templars consisted of three distinct classes, not degrees—knights, chaplains, and service-brethren, to which may be added those who were attached to the Order under the name of affiliated, donates, and ablates. The strength and flower of the Order were the Knights; all its dignities and superior offices belonged to them. The candidate for admission among the Knights of the Temple was required to produce proof of his being the lawful issue of a Knight, or of one qualified to receive that distinction ; and he must himself have already received the honour-conferring blow from a Secular Knight, for the Order was Spiritual, and, as members, could not deign to accept honour from a layman. The only exception was in the case of a bishop, who might draw his sword among the brethren of the Temple, without having been a secular Knight. The aspirant must moreover be free from debt, and, on admission, pay a considerable sum into the hands of the society. The most unlimited obedience to the commands of his superiors in the house and in the field of battle ; the total abnegation of all interests but those of the society, (for the Templar could hold no property, could receive no private letter) ; the most unflinching valour, (for so long as a Christian banner waved in the field, the Templar, however severely wounded, must not abandon it),—were the duties of the Knights of the Temple. If he fled, disgrace and punishment awaited him ; if he surrendered, he had to end his life amid the torments inflicted by the enraged Moslems, or to languish in perpetual captivity, for the Order never redeemed its members. Hence, then, the Templar was valiant as the fabled heroes of romance ; hence prodigies of prowess, such as almost surpass belief, so frequently illustrate the name of the soldiers of the Temple. Every motive that could stimulate to deeds of renown combined to actuate the soldier-monk. A Knight, he obeyed the call of honour and emulation ; a Monk, (but the Templar was not, as some erroneously fancy, a Priest), he was, according to the ideas of the times, engaged in the service most acceptable to God.
The mode of reception into the Order corresponded with the dignity and importance of the character of a Knight Templar. Though a noviciate was enjoined by the original canons, in practice it was dispensed with; the candidate was, after all due inquiry had been made, received in a chapter assembled in the chapel of the Order. All strangers, even the relatives of the aspirant, were excluded. The preceptor (usually one of the priors) opened the business with an address to those present, calling on them to declare if they knew of any just cause and impediment to the aspirant, whom the majority had agreed to receive, becoming a member of their body. If all were silent, the candidate was led into an adjacent chamber, whither two or three of the Knights came to him, and setting before him the rigour and strictness of the Order, inquired if he still persisted in his desire to enter it. If he did persist, they inquired if he was married or betrothed; had made a vow in any other Order; if he was of sound body, without any secret infirmity, and free? If his answers proved satisfactory, they left him and returned to the chapter, and the preceptor again asked if any one had anything to say against his being received. If all were silent, he asked if they were willing to admit him. On their assenting, the candidate was led in by the Knights who had questioned him, and who now instructed him in the mode of asking admission. He advanced, kneeling, with folded hands, before the preceptor, and said, “Sir, I am come before God, and before you and the brethren; and I pray and beseech you, for the sake of God and our sweet lady, to receive me into your society and the good works of the order, as one who, all his life long, will be the servant and slave of the order.” The preceptor then questioned him, if he had well considered all the toils and difficulties which awaited him in the order, adjured him on the Holy Evangelists to speak the truth, then put to him the questions already asked by the knights, farther inquiring if he was a knight, the son of a knight and a gentlewoman, and if he was a priest. He then asked if he would promise to God and Mary, our dear lady, obedience, as long as he lived, to the master of the Temple, and the prior who should be set over him; chastity of his body; compliance with the laudable manners and customs of the order then in force: and such as the master and knights might hereafter add; fight for and defend, with all his might, the holy land of Jerusalem ; never quit the order, but with consent of the master and the chapter; never see a Christian unjustly deprived of his inheritance, or be aiding in such deed. The preceptor then said— “In the name, then, of God and of Mary, our dear lady, and in the name of St. Peter of Rome, and of our father the Pope, and in the name of all the brethren of the Temple, we receive you to all the good works of the order, which have been performed from the beginning, and will be performed to the end, you, your father, your mother, and all those of your family whom you let participate therein. So you, in like manner, receive us to all the good works which you have performed and will perform. We assure you of bread and water, the poor clothing of the order, and labour and toil enow.” The preceptor then took the white mantle, with its ruddy cross, placed it about his neck, and bound it fast. The chaplain repeated the one hundred-and-thirty-second psalm, Eccequam bonum, and the prayer of the Holy Spirit, Deus qui corda fidelium, each brother said a Pater, the preceptor kissed the new brother, the chaplain did the same. The Templar then placed himself at the feet of tlie preceptor, and was by him exhorted to peace and charity with his brother Christians; to chastity, obedience, humility, and piety; and thus the ceremony ended. The Templars had at first no clergy in their body; in spiritual matters they were subject to the patriarch of Jerusalem, and attended service in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, or they had priests assigned them by the patriarch or other bishops, who lived in their houses, but were subject to the bishop of the diocese. But the bull, “Omne datum bonum,” which gave them exemption, enabled them to have priests of their own, independent of the prelates. These they generally took out of the regular orders, chiefly the Minorites, and the mode of reception was the same as that of the knights, omitting such questions as did not apply to them. The dress of these was white, consisting of a close-fitting coat, like, that of the Cistercians, with the red cross on the breast; but they could not wear the white mantle, unless they enjoyed the episcopal dignity. They were appointed by the statutes the best clothes of the order. Besides their spiritual duties, they acted as secretaries, being possessed of all the learning of the order, the knights of the Temple, in that point, little transcending their secular brethren. The chaplains sat in the chapter and the refectory next to the master; at table, they were the first helped; in punishment, they were more gently dealt with than the knights.
It is plain that the order, at its origin, could have had no serving brethren. But when it grew in consequence, and acquired lands and houses, the necessity of such a class was found, and those who were neither knights nor priests were admitted into it. They were received nearly in the same manner as the knights, with the necessary modification of the questions put to them; they originally wore the white dress, till, on account of some irregularity, they were assigned a black or brown dress, with the distinguishing red cross. Many of the serving brethren were of wealthy and respectable, though not noble, families. They were divided into two classes, the brother armour-bearers and the brother artizans; the former attended the knights to battle, as squires, or as foot-soldiers and baggage-train; they were on a footing of great intimacy with the knights, ate in the same refectory with them and the clergy, but had one dish less at their table. The brother artizans lived and exercised their trades in the service of the order, on its various estates, and at its various preceptories. Almost every trade found its representative among them; the armourer and the cook were the most distinguished. Such offices of the order as were beneath the dignity of the knights, were exercised by the serving brethren. Thus, the preceptor of the coast of Acre was always one of them, as his place was a sort of commissariat, directed to the shipping and unshipping of men and stores. It has always been, and is, we believe, at the present day, a practice of the Romish Church, for members of the laity to attach themselves to particular religious orders, binding themselves to some of the minor obligations, and enjoying the advantages of its sanctity and power. These persons were called Affiliated. The splendour which soon surrounded the Templars, and their privilege of exemption from the ill effects of interdicts, drew numbers to seek to affiliate themselves with them, and wealthy burghers often paid largely for these advantages; married persons were not obliged to put away their wives, but bound themselves to a cessation of all intercourse, and on their death their whole property, reserving a provision for the widow, came to the order. These brethren did not wear its habit, but were bound on all occasions to further its interests. The Donates and Oblates consisted of persons who gave themselves and their property to the order, of children who were dedicated to it and were to take the rule when of sufficient age, or lastly, persons who vowed to serve the order all their life long without reward. Even princes and nobles were numbered among its Donates, who exchanged their temporal for its spiritual blessings. These different classes constituted the order, but numerous knights and esquires frequently received its pay, and fought under its banner. So large and extensive a society required numerous officers to direct it, and regulate its affairs and operations. At its bead stood the Grand Master, who, like the General of the Jesuits in modern times, was independent of all authority but that of the sovereign pontiff. The residence of the Grand-master was the city of Jerusalem; when that city was lost, he fixed his seat at Antioch, next at Acre, then at the Castle of the Pilgrims between Caiphas and Caesarea, and finally in Cyprus, for his duty required him to be always in the Holy Land. The Grandmaster never resided in Europe. It was necessary that he should be a knight, and his election took place in the following manner: — On the death of a grand-master, a grand-prior was chosen to administer the affairs of the order during the interregnum, and he, in conjunction with the principal members, fixed the day for the election of the new grand-master. When the appointed day arrived, the chapter usually assembled at the chief seat of the order; three or more of the most esteemed knights were then proposed, the Grand-prior collected the votes for each of these, and whoever had the most was nominated to be the electing prior; an assistant was then associated with him in the person of some knight of high estimation. These two remained all night alone in the chapel engaged in prayer. Early next morning the knights again assembled, the mass of the Holy Ghost was sung, and prayer made in the chapel, and then the Grand-prior exhorted the two brethren to perform their office faithfully. These two then left the chapel, and chose two others; these four chose two more, and so on till the number of twelve (that of the Apostles) was completed. The twelve then chose a chaplain to represent our Lord. These thirteen were required to be all honest and generally esteemed men, eight of them knights, four serving brethren, and one priest. Having been sworn by the Grand-prior to act justly and honestly in their office, the thirteen retired, and after invocation of the Holy Spirit, commenced the election. The majority of voices decided; if they could not agree, the prior and one of the knights returned to the chapter to announce their disagreement, and prayer was made for the grace of the Holy Ghost. When the election was made, it was announced to the assembled brethren, and when all had promised obedience to the new Grand-master, the electing prior asked the Grand-prior and some of the most distinguished knights, if they would, if chosen, promise obedience during life to the chapter, and to maintain the manners and usages of the order. On receiving a satisfactory reply, the prior, if the person chosen was present, said to him “In the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, we have chosen, and do choose thee, brother N., to be our master.” Then, turning to the brethren, he said, “Beloved sirs and brethren, give thanks unto God, behold here our master.” The chaplains then recited the Te Deum, the brethren stood up, and led the master before the altar in the chapel, where, with prayer and singing, the election was closed. The power of the Grand-master was considerable, though he was very much controuled by the chapter, without whose consent he could not dispose of any of the higher offices, or undertake any thing of importance. He could not, for instance, take money out of the treasury, without the consent of the prior of Jerusalem; he could neither make war or truce, or alter laws, but with the approbation of the chapter. But the Grand-master had the right of bestowing the small commands, the governments of houses of the order, and of selecting the brethren who should form the chapter, which power was again controuled by there being always assigned him two brethren as assistants, who, with the Seneschal, were to form a part of every chapter. The order was aristocratic rather than monarchic; the Grand-master was like a Doge of Venice, and his real power chiefly depended on his personal qualities; he had, however, many distinctions; the greater part of the executive power was in his hands—in war he was the commander-in-chief; he had, as vicar-general of the Pope, episcopal jurisdiction over the clergy of the order; he ranked with princes, and his establishment corresponded thereto; he had for his service four horses, a chaplain, two secretaries, a faithfully. These two then left the chapel, and chose two others; these four chose two more, and so on till the number of twelve (that of the Apostles) was completed. The twelve then chose a chaplain to represent our Lord. These thirteen were required to be all honest and generally esteemed men, eight of them knights, four serving brethren, and one priest. Having been sworn by the Grand-prior to act justly and honestly in their office, the thirteen retired, and after invocation of the Holy Spirit, commenced the election. The majority of voices decided; if they could not agree, the prior and one of the knights returned to the chapter to announce their disagreement, and prayer was made for the grace of the Holy Ghost. When the election was made, it was announced to the assembled brethren, and when all had promised obedience to the new Grand-master, the electing prior asked the Grand-prior and some of the most distinguished knights, if they would, if chosen, promise obedience during life to the chapter, and to maintain the manners and usages of the order. On receiving a satisfactory reply, the prior, if the person chosen was present, said to him ” In the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, we have chosen, and do choose thee, brother N., to be our master.” Then, turning to the brethren, he said, ” Beloved sirs and brethren, give thanks unto God, behold here our master.” The chaplains then recited the Te Deum, the brethren stood up, and led the master before the altar in the chapel, where, with prayer and singing, the election was closed.
The power of the Grand-master was considerable, though he was very much controuled by the chapter, without whose consent he could not dispose of any of the higher offices, or undertake any. thing of importance. He could not, for instance, take money out of the treasury, without the consent of the prior of Jerusalem; he could neither make war or truce, or alter laws, but with the approbation of the chapter. But the Grand-master had the right of bestowing the small commands, the governments of houses of the order, and of selecting the brethren who should form the chapter, which power was again controuled by there being always assigned him two brethren as assistants, who, with the Seneschal, were to form a part of every chapter. The order was aristocratic rather than monarchic; the Grand-master was like a Doge of Venice, and his real power chiefly depended on his personal qualities; he had, however, many distinctions; the greater part of the executive power was in his hands—in war he was the commander-in-chief; he had, as vicar-general of the Pope, episcopal jurisdiction over the clergy of the order; he ranked with princes, and his establishment corresponded thereto; he had for his service four horses, a chaplain, two secretaries, a squire of noble birth, a farrier, aTurcopole and cook, with footmen, and a Turcoman for a guide, who was usually fastened by a cord to prevent his escape. When the Grand-master died, his funeral was celebrated with great solemnity by torch-light, all the knights attending.
The chief officers of the order at Jerusalem were:
1. the Seneschal, that is the deputy of the Grand-master; he had, like the master, the seal of the order, and had the same retinue with him;
2. the Marshal, who was the general, carried the banner of the order, and regulated every thing relating to war; the horses and equipments of the order were under him; he had four horses, two esquires, a serving brother, and a Turcopole; 3. the Treasurer;
4. the Drapier, who provided and regulated the clothing of the brethren; he had four horses, two esquires, and a servant to pack and unpack his goods;
5. the Turcopoler, who commanded the light cavalry of squires and serving brethren, who were called Turcopoles, the name given by the Greeks to those who were born of a Turk and a Christian, and who were employed as light troops in the imperial service;
6. the Prior of Jerusalem, whose office was, with ten knights, to accompany and protect the pilgrims on their way to the Jordan, and to guard the cross whenever it was brought into the field. All secular knights, who were friends to the order, fought under his banner; he too had four horses, two esquires, a serving brother, a secretary, and a Turcopole.
Each province of the order had a Grand-Prior, who represented in it the Grand-master; each house had its prior or preceptor at its head, who commanded its knights in war, and presided over its chapters in peace. Various offices were filled by serving brethren, such as those of sub-marshal, standard-bearer, farrier, and, as already noticed, prior of Acre. The standard-bearer commanded those esquires who were not brethren of the order; he rode before the standard, which was borne by an esquire, or was carried on a carriage; he was assigned two horses.
To complete this sketch of the order of the Templars, it is necessary to take a view of the extent of their possessions in the East and in the West. These they divided into provinces; those in the East were—
1. Jerusalem, in which were
1) the Temple at Jerusalem;
2) the Castle of the Pilgrims;
3) that of Saphet at the foot of Tabor;
4) their house at Acre;
5) the Castle of Gaza, and eight or more other houses and castles.
2. Tripoli*, in which they had houses at Tortosa, Laodicea. Tyre, Sidon, and Berytus.
3. Antioch, their establishments in which are not known.
4. Cyprus, which became their chief seat after the loss of Acre.
In the West they had:
1. the Province of Portugal, where their chief seat was Tomar;
2. Castile and Leon, in which they had twenty-four preceptories;
3. Aragon, where they had also considerable possessions;
4. France and Auvergne, including Flanders and the Netherlands;
6. Aquilaine or Poitou;
7. Provence. These four provinces (somewhat more than modern France) were the chief seats of the Templars, in which their lands and houses were exceedingly numerous and extensive;
8. England, (including Scotland and Ireland) where they had several houses, as in London, York, Warwick, Lincoln, Bolingbroke, &c. and the Grand-Prior sat in the parliament of the realm;
9. Upper Germany, containing Austria, Bavaria, Swabia, Franconia, Alsatia, Lorraine, and the Rhinelands;
10. Brandenburg, containing Poland, Saxony, Westphalia, Thuringia, &c.;
11. Bohemia and Moravia;
12. Upper and Middle Italy;
13. Apulia and Sicily.
We thus see that, except Scandinavia (for they had some possessions in Hungary) there was not a country in Europe in which the lavish piety of princes and nobles had not bestowed on the Templars a considerable portion of the wealth of the state; for in every province the order had its churches and chapels—the number of which was in the year 1240 as great as 1030 — villages, farm-houses, mills, cornlands, pastures, woods, rights of venison and fisheries. The revenues of the Templars in England in 1185, as given by Dugdale, will afford some idea of their wealth. The entire annual income of the order has been estimated at not less than six millions sterling. Probably from the reasons assigned above, the wealth, the consideration, and the influence of the Templars greatly exceeded those of the Hospitallers, and in these points the Teutonic knights and those of St. Lazarus, the two other similar orders, could far less stand in competition with them. The valour of the Templars, too, though not perhaps at all superior than that of the knights of the other orders, was without reproach and Bauseant was rarely seen to give back in the folly. “The Templars,” says de Vitry, “were always the first in attack, the last in retreat.” But envy or disappointed expectation would occasionally lay the blame of defeat on the treachery of the soldiers of the Temple; even the defeat and capture of St. Louis, in his preposterous invasion of Egypt, is by one writer charged. on them; most assuredly without reason. The only act of the kind, with which they may be perhaps justly charged, is in the case of the Emperor Frederic II.; for when this monarch in his expedition to the Holy Laud was about to pay a secret visit to the Jordan, the Templars wrote to give the sultan information of it, that he might seize him, but that prince sent the letter to Frederic. Yet even in this instance the conduct of the Templars was not wholly without excuse; they were not solitary in their opposition to the emperor, who was then lying under the ban of the Pope, whose firm supporters these knights had ever been; and the Hospitallers are even said to have been parties in writing to the sultan. Frederic, therefore, on his return, did all the injury in his power to the order, by seizing its property in Sicily and Naples; but the heaviest charge he was able to bring against them was, that of admitting infidel sultans and their heirs within their walls, and suffering them there to invoke their false prophet, a charge that implies nothing more than a participation in the spirit of mutual tolerance and courtesy which had grown up from acquaintance between the warlike followers of the hostile religions. But the history of the order, as far as we can recollect, records only one instance of a Templar abjuring his faith, and that was an English knight, Robert of St. Albans, who deserted to Saladin, who gave him his sister in marriage on his becoming a Moslem; aud in 1185, the ex-red-cross knight led a Saracen army to the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, wasting and destroying the country with fire and sword.
Their enormous wealth, their over-weening pride, the disdainful neglect of the rules of their order, their close attachment to the popes and their interests, the excessive exemptions and privileges they enjoyed, their luxury, their sensuality—these were the true causes of the enmity borne to them by the secular clergy and the laity. In 1252 the pious pope-ridden Henry III. of England said, that the prelates and clergy in general, but especially the Templars and Hospitallers, had so many liberties and privileges, that their excessive wealth made them mad with pride; he added, that what had been bestowed imprudently, ought to be prudently resumed, and declared his intention. of revoking the inconsiderate grants of himself and his predecessors. The grand-prior of the Templars replied, ” What sayest thou, my lord the king? Far be it that so discourteous and absurd a word should be uttered by thy mouth. So long as thou observest justice thou mayest be a king, and as soon as thou infringest it, thou will cease to be a king.” A bold expression certainly,but the prior knew his man well, and he would hardly have spoken so to the son of Henry. The anecdote of Richard I. bestowing his daughter Pride in marriage on the Templars is well known; and numerous traits of their haughtiness, avarice, luxury, and other of the current vices may be found in the writers of the thirteenth century; but till the final attack was-made, no worse charge was brought against them, unless such is implied in a bull of Pope Clement IV. in 1265, which is, however, easily capable of a milder interpretation. Mr. Raynouard asserts, too, that the proverbial expression bibere Templariter is used by no writer of the thirteenth century. In this he is preceded by Baluze and Roquefort, who maintain, that, like bibere Papaliter, it only signified to live in abundance and comfort.
Downfall of the Templars
When Acre fell in 1292, the Templars, having lost all their possessions and a great number of their members in the Holy Land, retired with the other Christians to Cyprus. Having probably seen the folly of all hope of recovering the Holy Land, they grew indifferent about it; few members joined them from Europe, and it is not unlikely that they meditated a removal of the chief seat of the order to France; at least the circumstance of the last master carrying so much treasure with him when summoned to Europe by the pope, gives great probability to this conjecture of Mr. Wilcke. The Hospitallers, on the other hand, with more prudence, as events showed, resolved to continue the war against the infidels, and they attacked and conquered Rhodes; while the Teutonic knights transferred the sphere of their pious warfare to Prussia against its heathen inhabitants. Thus, while the Templars were falling under the reproach of being false and worthless knights, their rivals rose in consideration, and there was an active and inveterate enemy ready to take advantage of their ill-repute.Philip the Fair, a tyrannical and rapacious prince, was at that time on the throne of France. His darling object was to set the power of the monarchy above that of the church. In his celebrated controversy with Pope Boniface, the Templars had been, as usual, on the side of the Holy See. Philip, whose animosity pursued Boniface even beyond the grave, wished to be revenged on all who had taken his side; moreover, the immense wealth of the Templars, which he reckoned on making his own if he could destroy them, strongly attracted the king, who had already tasted of the sweets of the spoliation of the Lombards and the Jews; and he probably, also, feared the obstacle to the perfect establishment of despotism which might be offered by a numerous, noble, and wealthy society, such as the Templars formed.Boniface’s successor, Clement V. was the creature of Philip, to whom he owed his dignity, and at his accession had bound himself to the performance of six articles in favour of Philip, one of which was not expressed. It was probably inserted without any definite object, and intended to serve the interest of the French monarch on any occasion which might present itself. It had been the project of Pope Boniface to form the three military orders into one, and he had summoned them to Rome for that purpose, but his death prevented it. Clement wrote, June 6, 1306, to the Grand-masters of the Templars and the Hospitallers, inviting them to come to consult with him about the best mode of supporting the kings of Armenia arid Cyprus. He desired them to come as secretly as possible, and with a very small train, as they would find abundance of their knights this side the sea; and he directed them to provide for the defence of Limisso in Cyprus during their short absence. Fortunately perhaps for himself and his order, the master of the Hospitallers was then engaged in the conquest of Rhodes, but Jacques de Molay, the master of the Templars, immediately prepared to obey the mandate of the pope, and he left Cyprus with a train of 60 knights, and a treasure of 150,000 florins of gold, and a great quantity of silver money, the whole requiring twelve horses to carry it. He proceeded to Paris, where he was received with the greatest honour by the king, and he deposited his treasure in the temple of that city. It is, as we have said, not impossible that it was the intention of Molay to transfer the chief seat of the Order thither, and that he had, therefore, brought with him its treasure and the greater part of the members of the chapter. At all events, he had no suspicion of the king or the pope; and perhaps at that time there was no just ground for suspecting either of them, though the letter of Clement to Philip in August, 1305, proves that the king had already accused the order to the pope of some “almost incredible and impossible matters,” and that the heads of it had challenged inquiry. Shortly afterwards Molay proceeded to Poitiers, as the pope wished to consult with him respecting the recovery of the Holy Land and the union of the orders. On the former subject the opinion of the Grand-master was, that nothing short of a union of all the powers of Christendom would suffice; the latter he objected to on various grounds, one of which was, that they would disagree, inasmuch as the Templars were liberal of their goods, the Hospitallers avaricious, and farther, that the Templars were more esteemed and supported by the laity; he also dwelt on the superior strictness and austerity of the mode of life of his own order. He acknowledged, however, that the new order would be more powerful against the heathen than the two separate ones, and that it could be managed at less expense. The Grand-master was then dismissed by the pope, and he returned to Paris. It is difficult to say how early the project of attacking the Templars entered into the minds of Philip and his obsequious lawyers, or whether he originally aimed at more than mulcting them under the pretext of reformation; and farther, whether the first informers against them were suborned or not. The remaining records leave a considerable degree of obscurity on the whole matter. All we can learn is, that a man named Squin de Flexian, who had been prior of the Templars, and had been put out of the order for heresy and various vices, was lying in prison at Paris or Toulouse, it is uncertain which. In the prison with him was a Florentine named Noffo Dei, “a man,” says Villani, ” full of all iniquity.” These two began to plan how they might extricate themselves from the confinement to which they seemed perpetually doomed. The example of the process against the memory of Pope Boniface showed them that no lie was too gross or absurd not to obtain ready credence, and they fixed on the Templars as the objects of their true or false charges. Squin told the governor of the prison that he had a communication to make to the king, which would be of more value to him than if he had gained a kingdom, but that he would only tell it to the king in person. He was brought to Philip, who promised him his life, and he made his confession, on which the king immediately arrested some of the Templars, who are said to have confirmed the truth of Squin’s assertions. Shortly afterwards, it is said, similar discoveries were made to the pope by his chamberlain, Cardinal Cantilupo, who had been in connexion with the Templars from his eleventh year.
Squin Flexian declared,
1. that every member on admission into the order swore on all occasions to defend its interests right or wrong;
2. that the heads of the order were in secret confederacy with the Saracens, had more of Mohammedan unbelief than of Christian faith, as was proved by the mode of reception into the order, when the novice was made to spit and trample on the crucifix, and blaspheme the faith of Christ;
3. that the superiors were sacrilegious, cruel, and heretical murderers; for if any novice, disgusted with its profligacy, wished to quit the order, they secretly murdered him, and buried him by night; so, also, when women were pregnant by them, they taught them how to produce abortion, or secretly put the infants to death;
4. the Templars were addicted to the error of the Fraticelli, and, like them, despised the authority of the pope and the church;
5. that the superiors were addicted to the practice of an unnatural crime, and if any one opposed it, they were condemned by the master to perpetual imprisonment;
6. that their houses were the abode of every vice and iniquity;
7. that they endeavoured to put the Holy Land in the hands of the Saracens, whom they favoured more than the Christians.
Three other articles of less importance completed this first body of charges. It is remarkable, that we do not find among them those which make such a figure in the subsequent examinations; namely, the devil appearing among them in the shape of a cat; their idolatrous worsliip of an image with one or three heads, or a skull covered with human skin, with carbuncles for eyes, before which they burned the bodies of their dead brethren, and then mingled the ashes with their drink, thereby thinking to gain more courage; and finally their smearing this idol with human fat.
The historians do not precisely state the date of Squin Flexian’s confessions, or whether they were prior to the month of April, 1307, in which month Jacques de Molay, accompanied by the preceptors of Beyond-sea, Poitou, Aquitaine, and France, repaired to the pope at Poitiers, to justify the order from the imputations of corruption every day cast upon it, in which, as he thought, he succeeded, and again returned to Paris. Philip having now all tilings prepared, sent, like his descendant Charles IX. previous to the St. Bartholomew massacre, secret orders to all his governors to arm themselves on the 12th of October, and on the following night, but not sooner on pain of death, to open the king’s letter, and act according to it. On Friday the 13th of October, all the Templars throughout France were simultaneously arrested at break of day. In Paris, on the. following day, the heads of the university assembled in the church of Notre Dame, where in their presence, and several of the royal officers, the chancellor Nogaret accused the knights of their heresies. On the 15th the university met at the Temple, where the Grand-master and some of the heads of the order were examined, and are said to have acknowledged the truth of the charges. The king, who was anxious to carry the people with him, had now the act of accusation drawn up, iu which the knights are designated as ravenous wolves, perjurers, idolaters, and in general as the vilest of men. This act was read to the citizens, assembled in the royal gardens. He also sent to Edward II. of England, inviting him to follow his example, but Edward was reluctant to proceed to any extremities; he wrote on the 30th October, declaring that the charges appeared to him and his barons and prelates, to be incredible, but that he would write to the seneschal of Agers in Guienne, who was nearer to the country where the reports prevailed, to make inquiry. On the 10th December, after inquiry had been made by the seneschal, Edward wrote to the pope, stating, that a horrible rumour was abroad respecting the Templars, who should be severely punished if it was found to be true, but that he could give no credit to it, and prayed the pope to institute an inquiry. He had previously (December 4) written to the kings of Portugal, Castile, .Aragon, and Sicily, stating that a priest (Philip’s envoy) had been lately urging him to suppress the order, accusing it of heresy, but that in consideration of the great merits of the order he had given’ no credit to these insinuations; and he besought these monarchs to pay no attention to the rumours against it. But Clement had put forth a bull (November 22) stating the charges against the’ Templars, and calling on the king of England to imprison them, and take their goods into safe keeping. To this Edward yielded obedience, and on the Wednesday of the Epiphany the English knights were arrested, but the king gave directions that they should be treated with all gentleness. Orders were sent to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, to the same effect, and Edward wrote to the pope to assure him of obedience.
Meantime Philip and his chief agents were not remiss. These were, his confessor, William Imbert, a Dominican, member, therefore, of an order hostile to the Templars, and well versed in inquisitorial arts; William Nogaret, the chancellor, the man who had dared to seize Pope Boniface at Anagni; William Plesian, who had also borne a part in that bold deed, and afterwards swore in the presence of the peers and prelates of France, that Boniface was an atheist and sorcerer, and had a familiar devil; and several others of the same stamp, all likely to prove gentle judges! The unhappy knights had been thrown into cold cheerless dungeons, (for they were arrested, we should remember, at the commencement of winter,) had barely the necessaries of life, were deprived of the habit of their order, and of the rites and comforts of the church; were exposed to every species of torture then in use, (of which our author gives, from Kaynouard, a full description 😉 were shown a real or pretended letter of the Grand-master, in which he confessed several of the charges, and exhorted them to do the same; and finally were promised life and liberty, if they freely acknowledged the guilt of the order. Can we then be surprised that the spirit of many a knight was broken, that the hope of escape from misery, even at the cost of disgrace, was eagerly caught at, and that falsehoods, the most improbable, were acknowledged to be true? At a subsequent period one Templar thus expressed himself before the papal commissioners: — ” I have seen the fifty-four knights conveyed in carts to be committed to the flames, because they would not make the required confessions; I have heard that they were burned; and 1 doubt if I could, like them, have the noble constancy to brave the pile. I believe that if I were threatened with it, I should depose on oath before the commissioners and before all who would ask me, that the enormities imputed to the knights we true; that I should kill God himself if required;” and be implored all present not to let the king’s officers know what he had said, lest they should commit him to the flames. This shows the value to be set on confessions extracted by the rack, or the fear of it, for this last kind are those which were termed voluntary. The papal commission even declared, that terror had deprived several of the witnesses (the imprisoned Templars) of their senses.
It is remarkable that the most improbable charges are those which were most frequently acknowledged, so just is the observation, that men will more readily in such circumstances acknowledge what is false than what is true; for the false they know can be afterwards refuted by its own absurdity, whereas truth is permanent. There is no improbability whatsoever in supposing, that the Templars, in common with all the religious orders, were obnoxious to the charge of unnatural lust, though certainly not as a rule of their society; and it is by no means unlikely, that deism may have prevailed to some extent among their members, owing to their intercourse with the Moslems. Yet no Templar confessed himself guilty of either one or the other, though enough deposed to the worship of the head and the spitting on the cross. How, we may ask, could deism and the grossest idolatry combine? and does not the charge of their having learned the latter from the Saracens carry its own refutation with it ? How many brave knights expired amidst tortures, sooner than confess these absurd falsehoods, as we must term them? how many recanted their first declarations, and sealed with their blood their avowal of the innocence of the order ? Is there not eternal and irreconcilable contradiction between the depositions of the different parties, or of the same parties at different times? Does not terror of the rack visibly pervade every one of the confessions ? How different, too, is the conduct of the accused before the papal commission, where there was some chance of justice and mercy, and before the royal bloodhounds, where there was none! But truth is one, and the order was one—inquiry must then have brought similar enormities to light in other countries, if they existed. From the additions which the archives of the Vatican have enabled Muenter to make to the pieces in Wilkins’s Consilia, our account of the process against the Templars in England is tolerably complete. Of the ‘Templars themselves 228 were examined; the Dominican, Carmelite, Minorite, and Augustinian friars brought abundance of hearsay evidence against them, but nothing of any importance was proved; in Castile and Leon it was the same; in Aragon the knights bravely endured the torture, and maintained their innocence; in Germany all the lay witnesses testified in their favour; in Italy their enemies were more successful, as the influence of the pope was there considerable, yet in Lombardy the bishops acquitted the knights. Charles of Anjou, the cousin of Philip and the foe of the Templars, who had sided with Frederic against him, could not fail, it may be supposed, in getting some evidences of their guilt in Sicily, Naples, and Provence. It is not undeserving of attention, that one of these witnesses, who had been received into the order in Catalonia, (where all who were examined had declared the innocence of the order,) said he had been received there in the usual impious and indecent manner, and mentioned the appearance and the worship of the cat hi the chapter!! Such is the value of rack-extorted testimony ! In fine, in every country out of the sphere of the immediate influence of Clement, Philip, and Charles, the general innocence of the order was acknowledged.
It was unfortunate for the Templars that their chapters were held in secret, and by night, for an opportunity was thereby afforded to their enemies of laying whatever secret enormities they pleased to their charge, to refute which by the production of indifferent witnesses was consequently out of their power. Wherever a society holds its meetings in secret, rumour will accuse it of practices unable to meet the eye of day; and we shall generally find the crimes imputed to secret societies in all ages to have a considerable degree of similarity. We cannot surely be required to give complete credit to the heads of accusation against the Bacchanals, laid before the senate by the consul Posthumius, and on which that venerable body acted without much inquiry; no one will for a moment credit the Thyestian banquets and incestuous indulgences, with which the innocence of the early Christians was defamed, because like the Templars they held their assemblies before the light of day arose; and the zeal and the piety of Irenaeus and Epiphanius should prevent any one from believing, that the early heretics were guilty of the horrid excesses which the orthodox were persuaded polluted their secret assemblies. The vulgar have in general very awful impressions of the dreadful rites of initiation among the Free-Masons, and of the powerful secrets they are possessed of; and were the thirteenth century to return, no one can tell, should its want of corporative wealth not prove its protection, what atrocities might not be proved against that society, and under the gentle solicitation of the rack and thumbscrew, confessions extracted from its innocent members. While the act against witchcraft was in force, how many an unfortunate old woman acknowledged having given suck to a demon, and by his aid caused all the vomiting of pins and other dableries, with which some honest witch-finder and her sagacious neighbours accused her before a prejudiced jury, and alas, perhaps, a Sir Matthew Hale for her judge! Happily for the Society of Jesus, racking and burning were gone somewhat out of fashion when its turn came; all that was necessary in the 18th century being, to get up a charge of king-murder, and one or two other atrocities, to give some pretext for the public odium, for seizing the property of the fathers, and turning them adrift on the wide world. We are no very zealous friends either of corporations or of secret societies; but where history furnishes so many instances of false and interested charges against them, we confess ourselves exceedingly slow to lend faith to any that are not proved by unimpeachable testimony. We must here observe, that the grave offence of the Templars (to which several of them pleaded guilty,) in having the devil in the guise of a cat assisting at their conclaves, had been already charged on the sect of the Cathari; whose name was by some ingeniously derived a catto, though in our opinion it was the contrary, and that cattus came from Cathari; that is, the name gave origin to the fable, which lay ready prepared to be brought against the brotherhood of the Temple. Confessions made on the rack, where even every sigh amid groan was malignantly noted down, are generally allowed to be of little value; but some stress is laid on the circumstance of seventy-two Templars having confessed (June 29 and 30, 1308) in presence of the pope without the appliance of any torture. But these, Mr. Raynouard asserts, had been already subjected to that discipline, and had given way under it. All did not repeat their previous declarations; Jean de Valgellé protested afterwards before the papal commission at Paris, that he had confessed nothing to the pope, and several of them revoked their depositions, and died asserting the innocence of the order. The Grand-master and the priors demanded to be brought before the pope, to defend themselves and the order; they were brought as far as Chinon, within a few miles of his abode, but on some frivolous pretexts were prevented from seeing him; and when what was called their declaration was afterwards read to them, the Grandmaster crossed himself several times with amazement at the falsehoods which had been inserted in it. Throughout the entire process from Oct. 1307, to May, 1312, the most determined design of the king and his ministers to destroy the order meets us at every step; Philip would have blood to justify robbery; several Templars had already expired on the rack, perished from the rigour of their imprisonment, or died by their own hands; but on the 12th May, 1310, fifty-four Templars who had confessed, but afterwards retracted, were by his order committed to the flames in Paris as relapsed heretics. They endured with heroic constancy the most cruel tortures, asserting with their latest breath the innocence of the order, though offered life if they would confess, and implored to do so by their friends and relatives. Similar executions took place in other towns. The pope soon went heart and hand with Philip. In vain did the bishops assembled at Vienne propose to hear those members who came forward as the defenders of the order. A bull of the pope dissolved the order, and transferred its possessions to the knights of St. John, who, however, had to pay such enormous fines to the king and pope before they could enter on them, as almost ruined them; so that if Philip did not succeed to the utmost of his anticipations, he had little reason to complain of his share. The members of the society of the Templars were permitted to enter that of the Hospitallers, a strange indulgence for those who had spitten on the cross and practised unnatural vices! In Portugal the order was not even suppressed; it only changed its appellation, becoming that of Christ.
The Grand-master and the four principal dignitaries of the order still languished in prison. They were brought before a commission, composed of the cardinal of Albano and two other cardinals, the archbishop of Sens, and some prelates; as, according to the proceedings, they had all confessed, they were (March II, 1314,) brought out before the cathedral of Paris to hear their sentence read, which condemned them to perpetual imprisonment. Scarcely had the cardinal of Albano commenced reading, when he was interrupted by the Grand-master and the commander of Normandy, who protested their innocence, and retracted all the confessions they were said to have made. The prelates, in surprise, directed the provost of Paris to keep them safe till the morrow, that they might deliberate respecting them, but Philip, who was at hand, declared them relapsed, and had them burned that very evening. While life and articulation remained they protested their innocence. We give implicit credit to the dying declaration of Cranmer — should we refuse it to that of Jacques de Molay?
Had the Templars a secret doctrine, or not ? We think not. It is chiefly the Germans who accuse them of it, and who, in cases of this nature, are very suspicious evidences. That there might have been a good deal of deism and of secret vice among them, is by no means improbable; but if they had a secret mystery of iniquity, the heads of the order must surely have been versed in it; and yet among the series of Grand-masters given by Mr. Wilcke, the great majority are declared to have been men of piety and virtue. This objection, however, Mr. Wilcke endeavours to elude, by supposing the secret doctrine to have been introduced by the clergy, and confined to themselves and the more intelligent members. Farther, a secret society has usually various degrees in it, and the light or the darkness (whichever it may be) is not let in at once on the eyes of the aspirant; but the Templars had none such—the novice was at once desired to forswear Christianity, and addict himself to idolatry and unnatural crimes. As to the supposed connection between the Templars and the Free-Masons, we regard it as a matter totally devoid of all evidence, and we freely acquit the latter of either secret vice and infidelity, or the possession of valuable secrets. Mr. Von Hammer, resting on some dubious images and symbols which may or may not have belonged to the Templars, makes them out to have been Ophionites; and following Nicolai, instead of understanding Bafomet, the name given to their idol by some of the confessing Templars, and which was invoked by crying Yallah, (O Allah !) to have been (as it undoubtedly is) a corruption of Mahomet, finds in it baphe metous (baptism of wisdom), and a proof of the gnosis held by the society. Mr. Wilcke looks upon them as having held a modified gnosticism, and thinks they were much indebted to the Cabbala ; and in a chapter on what he calls Tempelry, he endeavours to trace it out. None of the secret statutes of the order (if there were any such) have ever come to light. Some witnesses, it is true, mentioned such, but it is really extraordinary, and what must make one doubt strongly of their existence, that, considering the sudden manner in which the Templars were seized, none of their secret rules should hove fallen into the hands of Philip and his lynxes. A candid review of the whole evidence will, we think, lead most persons to reject all ideas of the Templars having been a secret society, with ulterior objects hostile to the interests or states and governments, or of being more vicious than their contemporaries. Their wealth was their crime—the pride and insolence it engendered caused their, downfall.
FINAL ASSESMENT OF WILCKE’S WORK
Mr. Wilcke’s work is divided into four books. The first contains the history of the Order, in which he has taken great pains to trace the succession of grand-masters, the number of whom is very great, there having been 27 in a period of 188 years. This part of his work is too long, and contains too much irrelevant matter, for its institution and suppression compose nearly the whole history of the order. The second book is devoted to the account of its suppression, and in animation and interest, it is far inferior to the volume of Raynouard, who is in the other extreme from Mr. Wilcke, writing too much as an advocate of the Templars. The third book contains a view of the constitution of -the order, and is perhaps the most valuable, but Mr. Wilcke by arrangement has fallen into the fault of reserving to the end, information which should have been communicated from the beginning, as we read of the various offices and divisions of the order long before they are explained to us. The third should in fact have formed a part of the first book. The fourth book, which must be regarded as an appendix, is composed of a variety of important original documents.
Of Mr. Wilcke’s simplicity and want of sound historic judgment the following is a curious instance. Having read in Ivanhoe the splendid scenes at the Preceptory of Templestowe, and unaware of the privileges of a romancer, whose only—and not very strict—restraint is probability, he supposes, though he had met with no such thing in the histories he had consulted, that some grand-master must have performed a visitation to the West, more particularly to England, and as no such name as Lucas de Beaumanoir is to be found in his list, he looks for him, who, among die grand-masters of that period, bore most resemblance to that austere personage, and fixes on Theodat de Bersiac, who presided over the order from, as he conjectures, 1204 to 1210. Having had the precaution to affix a probably, he proceeds to describe the change in the manners of the brethren during the presence of the rigid superior, in terms which at once transport us to Templestowe, and our old acquaintances Malvoisin and his compeers. Indeed in a note he refers to the romance as presenting an excellent picture of the corruption which prevailed among the Templars. For ought we know to the contrary, the picture there given of the excellence of which there can be but one opinion, may be correct; but Mr. Wilcke should learn to distinguish a little better than he does between history and romance, and we trust that when next we meet him, we shall be able to congratulate him on the acquisition of a ripened judgment and more extended views. this arrangement has fallen into the fault of reserving to the end, information which should have been communicated from the beginning, as we read of the various offices and divisions of the order long before they are explained to us. The third should in fact have formed a part of the first book. The fourth book, which must be regarded as an appendix, is composed of a variety of important original documents.
History of the Knights Templar at a glance
Medieval torture methods applied to the Knights Templar
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