brief history of the Knight Templars.
According to Guillaume de Tyre the Order was founded by a vassal of the Count of Champagne, a certain Hugh de Payen, acting in collaboration with André de Montbard, the uncle of Bernard of Clairvaux. In 1118, the two knights along with seven companions presented themselves to the younger brother of Godfroi de Bouillon who had accepted the title of King Baudoin I of Jerusalem. They announced to the monarch that it was their intention to found an order of warrior monks so that 'as far as their strength permitted, they should keep the roads and highways safe . . . with a special regard for the protection of pilgrims.' The new order took vows of personal poverty and chastity and swore to hold all their property in common. The king granted them quarters which included the stables of what was believed to be the Temple of Solomon. The Patriarch of Jerusalem granted the new order of knights the right to wear the double barred Cross of Lorraine as their insignia. The original nine knights are generally believed to have been:
Gondemar and Rosal were Cistercian monks who were now just transferring their allegiance. Many would simply see this transfer as one that took place between the monastic and the military arm of the same order, for the Cistercians and the Knights Templar were so closely linked by ties of blood, patronage and shared objectives that many Templar scholars believe that they were two arms from the same body.
The position of Hugh de Champagne in this whole affair is curious and confusing in the extreme. There is a letter to him from the Bishop of Chartres dated 1114, congratulating him on his intention to join la Milice du Christ, which is another name for the Knights Templar. He certainly took up a form of lay associate membership of the order in 1124 and thereby created a bizarre anomaly in feudal terms, for by joining the Order and swearing obedience to its Grand Master Hugh de Payen he came under the direct control of a man who in the normal social order of things was his own vassal. There is a secret Templar archive in the principality of Seborga in northern Italy which has recently been discovered containing documents that demand further study. It is claimed that St Bernard of Clairvaux founded a monastery there in 1113, to protect a 'great secret'. This monastery under the direction of its abbot, Edouard, contained two monks who had joined the order with Bernard, two knights who took the names of Gondemar and Rosal on their profession as monks. One document claims that in February 1117 Bernard came to this monastery released Gondemar and Rosal from their vows and then blessed these two monks and their seven companions, prior to their departure to Jerusalem. This departure was not immediate and did not take place until November 1118. The seven companions of the two ex-Cistercians are listed as follows: André de Montbard, Count Hugh I de Champagne, Hugh de Payen, Payen de Montdidier, Geoffroi de Sainte-Omer, Archambaud de St Amand and Geoffroi Bisol. The document records that St Bernard nominated Hugh de Payen as the first grand master of the Poor Militia of Christ and that Hugh de Payen was consecrated in this position by the Abbot Edouard of Seborga.
Whether or not Hugh de Champagne was directly involved in the actual founding of the Knights Templar is a decision we will leave to scholars of far greater wisdom than ourselves. Whatever the truth may prove to be, two things are certain. Firstly the count of Champagne was at the very least a prime mover behind the scenes even if he is not to be numbered among the original nine founding knights. Secondly, all those involved in both founding and promoting the Order were linked by a complex web of direct family relationships.
The main reason given for the founding of the Order, to protect the pilgrim routes, does not bear any close examination whatsoever for the first ten or twelve years of the Order's existence. It would have been a physical impossibility for nine middle-aged knights to protect the dangerous route from Jaffa to Jerusalem from all the bandits and marauding infidels who believed that the pilgrims who provided such easy pickings, were a gift from God. The recorded actions of the knights make this an even more incredible scenario, for they did not patrol the dangerous roads of the Holy Land to protect the pilgrims, but spent nine years in the dangerous and demanding task of excavating and mining a series of tunnels under their quarters on the Temple Mount. These arduous tasks were completed with the patronage and support of the King of Jerusalem.
The tunnels mined by the Templars were re-excavated in 1867, by Lieutenant Warren of the Royal Engineers. The access tunnel descends vertically downwards for eighty feet through solid rock before radiating in a series of minor tunnels horizontally under the site of the ancient temple itself. Lieutenant Warren failed to find the hidden treasure of the Temple of Jerusalem, but in the tunnels excavated so laboriously by the Templars, they found a spur, remnants of a lance, a small Templar cross and the major part of a Templar sword. These artefacts are now preserved for posterity by the Templar archivist for Scotland, Robert Brydon of Edinburgh. Also in his keeping is a letter from a certain Captain Parker who took part in Warren's excavation under the Temple and several subsequent ones. Parker wrote to Robert's grandfather in 1912 and told of how on one of these expeditions he had discovered a secret room carved in the solid rock beneath the temple site with a passage leading from it to the Mosque of Omar. Parker went on to describe how when he broke through the stonework at the end of the passage and found himself within the confines of the mosque, he had to flee to save himself from a small army of extremely angry and devout Muslims. Two questions arise from the nature and position of these Templar excavations. What were they seeking? And how did they know precisely where to dig?
On the exterior of Chartres Cathedral, by the north door, there is a carving on a pillar, which gives us an indication of the object sought by the burrowing Templars, representing the Ark of the Covenant, but in a rather strange context. The Ark is depicted as being transported on a wheeled vehicle. Legend recounts that the Ark of the Covenant had been secreted deep beneath the Temple in Jerusalem centuries before the fall of the city to the Romans. It had been hidden there to protect it form yet another invading army who had laid the city to waste. Hugh de Payen had been chosen to lead the expedition mounted to locate the Ark and bring it back to Europe. Persistent legends recount that the Ark was then hidden for a considerable time deep beneath the crypt of Chartres Cathedral. The same legends also claim that the Templars found many other sacred artefacts from the old Jewish temple in the course of their investigations and that a considerable quantity of documentation was also located during the dig. While there has been much speculation as to the exact nature of these documents, a reasonable consensus is emerging that they contained scriptural scrolls, treatises on sacred geometry, and details of certain knowledge, art and science - the hidden wisdom of the ancient initiates of the Judaic/Egyptian tradition. Until very recently these legends received short shrift from academic historians, but that situation is undergoing considerable change. One modern archeological discovery tends to support the speculative scenario that the Templars knew where to look and precisely what they were seeking.. The Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered at Quamran, tends to confirm not only the objective of the Templar excavations but also, albeit indirectly, gives some credence to the bizarre concept of the transmission of knowledge through the generations that led to the Templar's discoveries in Jerusalem.
The Copper Scroll, which was unrolled and deciphered at Manchester University under the guidance of John Allegro, was a list of all the burial sites used to hide the various items both sacred and profane described as the treasure of the Temple of Jerusalem. Many of these sites have been re-excavated since the discovery of the Copper Scroll, and several of them have disclosed not Temple treasure but evidence of Templar excavation made in the twelfth century.
At about the time the excavations were near completion, Count Fulk of Anjou sped with all haste to Jerusalem where he took the oath of allegiance to the new order. He immediately granted the order an annuity of thirty Angevin livres before returning to Anjou. When one considers that the vast majority of knights joining the order stayed within its ranks for their lifetime, this action by Fulk of Anjou is a trifle strange. His apparent freedom of manoeuvre, despite his oath of allegiance to the Order of the Knights Templar can be explained by the fact that Fulk was not only the Count of Anjou and a member of the Templar Orderbut was married to the sister of the King of Jerusalem who died childless, thus Fulk himself later became the King of Jerusalem.
The next notable figure to arrive in Jerusalem was the Count of Champagne who, as we have mentioned earlier, took the oath of membership in 1124. Behind the scenes in Europe Bernard of Clairvaux, who had become a senior advisor to the pope, consolidated his position within the Church. Bernard began to persuade the pope that the new military order which was already active in the Holy Land should be given papal backing and a formal position within the Church. For this they would need a rule, a formal charter stating the aims and objectives of the order, the obligations of its members to it and the rules of membership as well as the establishment of a formal command structure.
The main excavations in Jerusalem were completed in late December of 1127. Hugh de Payen with all the knights of the new order returned to France. The Grand Master Hugh de Payen and his principal co-founder of the order, Andre de Montbard, travelled to England to see the King and, having obtained safe-conduct from him, went directly north across the border to Scotland, where the two knights stayed at Roslin with the St Clairs, who were Hugh's relatives by marriage. The lord of Roslin made an immediate grant of land to the new order which became their headquarters in Scotland. The oldest Templar site in Scotland, once known as Ballontrodoch, is now called Temple after the order.
The Templars gained official recognition and were granted their rule in 1128 at the Council of Troyes, which was dominated by the thinking of Bernard of Clairvaux. The new order soon gained an exceptional degree of legal autonomy, which placed its activities completely beyond the reach of bishops, Kings or emperors, making it responsible through its grand master to the pope alone. Before his election the current pope had been a member of the Cistercian Order, and was a close friend of St Bernard, who was his principal advisor. This was not the only example of either nepotism or the 'old pals act' that can be found in the early years of the Templar Order. The grant of land at Ballontrodoch by the St Clairs of Roslin was followed by many similar gifts from other pious members of the aristocracy who also made generous donations of land and finance to the rapidly growing order. Membership grew with incredible speed and the order soon numbered among its ranks representatives from all the leading families in Western Europe. France, Provence, and the Languedoc-Roussillon areas became its major power base.
From the time of their foundation until the fall of Acre, the Templars exerted influence and then great power in the Holy Land. Guarding the pilgrim routes, transporting men, materials and pilgrims from ports in Europe, important though it was, played only a small part in their activities. They built castles in important defensive positions and played a significant role in military and established important bases throughout the Holy Land, to the extent that the Knights Templar became one of the most significant forces within the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Templars soon acquired a well-earned reputation for bravery in battle and never willingly surrendered to the enemy. However, their reputation for generalship and strategic thinking is not rated so highly. Their extensive and costly military activities in Outremer, as Palestine became known, were sustained by the profits from their estates and activities in Western Europe
Material wealth in the early twelfth century was almost invariably based on land and feudal dues. The Knights Templar owned estates of varying size scattered throughout every climatic zone in Europe from Denmark, Scotland and the Orkney Islands in the north, to France, Italy and Spain in the south. Their commercial interests were impressive and varied and their activities included the operation of farms, vineyards, stone quarries and mines. As a result of their two-fold interest in protecting pilgrims on the one hand and maintaining communications with their operative bases in the Holy Land on the other, the Templars operated a well-organised fleet which exceeded that of any state at the time. For military purposes, this included a number of highly maneuverable war galleys fitted with rams and for the purpose of carrying pilgrims, troops, horses and commercial cargoes, they owned a large number of ships which plied the Mediterranean between bases in Italy, France, Spain and the Holy Land. Their main seat of naval power in the Mediterranean was on the Island of Majorca, while their principal port on the Atlantic coast was the highly ified harbour of La Rochelle from where, it is alleged, they conducted trade with Greenland, the British Isles, the North American mainland and Mexico. Within fifty years of their foundation, the Knights Templar had become a commercial force equal in power to many states; within a hundred years they had developed into the medieval pre-cursors of multi-national conglomerates with interests in every form of commercial activity of that time and were far richer than any kingdom in Europe.
The transformative effect of Templar activity upon European culture and commerce was remarkable and yet many modern Church historians still accuse the order of being formed of illiterate knights. The so-called 'illiterates' developed sophisticated and coded means of communication which transcended the linguistic barriers which otherwise would have fragmented and diffused the commercial impact of their activities. Among the principal items of their trading activities were those which we would describe in modern terms as 'technology and ideas'. The Templar communication network was the principal route by which knowledge of astronomy, mathematics, herbal medicine and healing skills made their way from the Holy Land to Europe. Among the technological advances brought back by the warrior knights were mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the telescope and a financial instrument which they acquired from the Sufis of Islam, known as 'the note of hand'.
The Templars were great builders. On their own estates they built and maintained fortified castles and farms, barns, outbuildings and mills as well as dormitory blocks, stables and workshops. Some Templar castles, particularly in southern Europe and the Holy Land, were built on defensive sites which posed incredible difficulties of construction. They were particularly renowned for building strategically situated castles with water gates on coasts and rivers. The classic round Templar church, founded on octagonal geometry and supposedly based on the design of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, became such a distinctive feature of Templar construction that it became almost diagnostic of their activity or involvement. This type of building formed only a small part of their church construction programme, albeit of very special and cabalistic significance. The vast majority of Templar churches, especially those in the southern regions of Europe, are small, undecorated, rectangular structures often with apsidal ends.
According to many scholars, including the ecclesiastical historian Fred Gettings, the Templars were openly involved in the financing and construction of the Gothic cathedrals. The sudden flowering of the Gothic style of architecture, which enabled cathedrals to be built of far greater height with more windows, brought about a new era in church design and art that allowed larger naves and greater spaces, uncluttered by pillars, to be created within church buildings. It is no coincidence that this architectural form, which cannot be explained as an evolutionary development from the Romanesque style that preceded it, arose after the knights returned from their excavations in Jerusalem.
While many of the great cathedrals were heavily influenced by Templar thinking, geometry and design, one above all others is a hymn to their direct involvement and belief, the Cathedral of Chartres. Constructed with almost unbelievable speed, Chartres Cathedral is portrayed by the Church as the product of co-operative effort by the townspeople, financed by the pilgrim trade. This totally fails to explain the massive and immediate input of financial resources that must have been necessary in order to pay for the quarrying and transport of the stone and the enormous expenditure on the vast numbers of stonemasons, sculptors and other craftsmen who would have been employed to complete such a vast and complex edifice at such speed. It is highly doubtful if the proceeds of the pilgrimage to Chartres over the period of its construction would have paid for the creation and installation of the stained-glass windows, much less for the construction and decoration of the entire building. The only source of finance in Europe at that time which could have produced the resources necessary was the Order of the Knights Templar.
In England, craftsmen who work in stone are known as stonemasons. In France they are known collectively as members of the Compannonage who, in the twelfth century, were broadly divided into three groups. These fulfilled separate functions under the umbrella of the same craft: the Children of Father Soubise were responsible for the construction of ecclesiastical buildings in the Romanesque style; the Children of Maitre Jacques were also known as Les Compagnons Passant and one of their primary functions was the art of bridge building. The craftmasons who built the Gothic cathedrals were known as the Children of Solomon, named after King Solomon who, according to the scriptures, commissioned the first temple in Jerusalem. This branch of the Compannonage were instructed in the art of sacred geometry by Cistercian monks and it was the Knights Templar who, acting with the agreement of Bernard of Clairvaux, gave a 'rule' to the Children of Solomon in March 1145, which laid down the conditions required for living and working. The preface to his rule contains words which have been intimately associated with the Knights Templar ever since:
We the Knights of Christ and of the Temple follow the destiny that prepares us to die for Christ. We have the wish to give this rule of living, of work and of honour to the constructors of churches so that Christianity can spread throughout the earth not so that our name should be remembered, Oh Lord, but that Your Name should live. [our emphasis]
It was not only the Order of the Knights Templar who attained immense wealth, property, power and prestige in the years that followed the completion of their excavations in Jerusalem. Under the guiding hand of Bernard of Clairvaux the once struggling order of Cistercian monks expanded at a similar rate. Within Bernard's lifetime the Cistercians established over 300 abbeys throughout Europe, a truly outstanding era of growth that was never even approached, much less exceeded, by any monastic order other than the Templars. The Cistercians became known as the 'apostles of the frontier' due to their habit of refusing donations of land near major centres of population and opting instead to site their new establishments in marginal lands in the mountains and barren reaches of Christian Europe. The Templars on the other hand, sited their possessions within cities, at centres of pilgrimage and sea ports as well as in the countryside, with a special emphasis on estates strategically situated near major trade and pilgrimage routes. In England and Wales they had over 5000 properties and they also owned a considerable number in Scotland, Ireland the Low Countries and the German states; they even had estates in Hungary guarding the overland routes to the Holy Land. Spain, long a centre of devout pilgrimage to the shrine of St James of Compostela, was liberally adorned with Templar strongholds and the order played its part in defending Christian Spain against Moorish incursions.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and similar orders arose and achieved some degree of renown by modelling themselves on the Templars. Two such orders in Spain were the Knights of Calatrava and the Knights of Alcantara. Both orders were founded shortly after the Templars and St. Bernard of Clairvaux is known to have played a part in this. There were many Templar establishments in Italy, which was one of the major embarkation points on the sea routes to the kingdom of Jerusalem, but the most important power base for the Knights Templar in Europe was the present country of France. In the south are the regions of Provence and the Languedoc-Roussillon which, in the Templar era, were separate entities from the kingdom of France. Throughout these southern regions Templar holdings were plentiful, with over thirty per cent of the total estates owned by the Templars throughout Europe situated in the Languedoc-Roussillon alone.
With Templar holdings strategically placed on hilltop positions that commanded panoramic views over the trade routes of Europe, important and transformative change soon took place. Prior to the Templars, Europe was a hegemony of squabbling feudal fiefdoms, counties and kingdoms. Long-distance trade was largely non-existent, except by sea, and all travellers were vulnerable to attack by brigands and extortion by feudal lords who charged a toll for safe passage through their lands. Towns were small and relatively powerless, being subject to the all-pervading will of the Church/State establishment or the arbitrary rule of the seigneur, or lord, of the district. With the advent of the Knights Templar all this was about to dramatically change.
The Templars declared objective of protecting the pilgrimage routes was not restricted to travel within the Holy Land. Not only did they control the routes spreading like a fan northwards from the Mediterranean coast, which were used by the devout in their attempts to reach the birth place of the Saviour, but they also policed all the other pilgrim routes as well. A complex series of communication networks linked every part of Europe to the major international sites of pilgrimage in Jerusalem, Rome and, most important of all in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, St James of Compostela in Spain. These routes alone linked all the major population centres in Europe. In addition to these were all the national sites of pilgrimage, such as Canterbury in England; Chartres, Mont-St-Michel, Rocamadour and the many other sites of veneration of the Black Madonna in France. With Templar protection, travel by pilgrim or trader alike along the major routes of Europe was now possible in comparative safety and freedom from extortion or assault. One other innovation made by the Templars further enhanced the safety of trade and accelerated the change in the balance of power between the feudal lords and the towns. This was the creation of an efficient and sophisticated banking system.
The Templars used their immense wealth with skill and wisdom. Not only did they make substantial strategic investments in land and agricultural pursuits, but they also invested in basic industries which provided the essential ingredients for the massive expansion in building, both lay and ecclesiastical, which began to change the face of Europe. Using their own commercial insights as well as techniques which they adopted from their Muslim opponents in the east, they developed the concept of financial transfer by 'note of hand' into something like its modern equivalent, developed the bankers cheque and the pre-cursor of the credit card. This latter development arose from the financial needs created by the medieval equivalent of the 'package tour industry' - the pilgrimage trade. Whether to Rome, Jerusalem or Compostela, pilgrimage was a long, arduous and expensive enterprise for the pilgrim and a source of immense profit for the Church and innkeepers, ferrymen and others en route. The pilgrim would be wary of carrying large sums of money as he travelled, for fear of robbery, extortion or unforeseen accident. The answer was simple; seek out the master of the local Templar commanderie and deposit sufficient funds with him to cover the estimated cost of the return journey, including travel, accommodation and ancillary costs such as alms and gift-giving to the important ecclesiastical sites en route and at the final destination. In return for the financial deposit, the Templar treasurer would give the traveller a coded chit as a form of receipt and as a means of exchange. At each overnight stop, or where alms or offerings had to be given, the pilgrim would hand his chit to the local Templar representative who would pay any dues outstanding, re-code the chit accordingly and return it to its owner. When the pilgrimage was over and the weary traveller had returned home, he would present the chit to the Templar treasurer who had first issued it. Any balance of credit would be returned in cash, or if the pilgrim had overspent he would be presented with the appropriate bill. The entire pilgrimage trade policed by the Templars, who also acted as the bankers for this form of travel, bears a startling resemblance to the modern package tour industry. The modern equivalent of the Templar chit is, of course, the credit card.
Templar banking practise was not restricted to the pilgrimage trade, they also arranged safe transfer of funds for international and local trade, the Church and the State. In the medieval era it was forbidden for Christians to charge interest on loans and therefore money lending as a profession had been traditionally restricted to the Jews. This did little to enhance the reputation of the Jews as a racial group, which was already jeopardised by the persistent allegation that they were 'Christ killers'. The Knights Templar found a way around this restriction which allowed them to lend considerable sums of money at interest without being subjected to the charge of usury. It was quite permissible to charge rent for the leasing of a house or land, so the Templars used this principle in their money lending and charged 'rent' rather than interest for their services rendered. The rent was payable at the time the loan was granted and was added to the capital sum borrowed. By this euphemism the Templars avoided being brought before the courts on the un-Christian charge of usury. Templar wealth was such that their financial services were not only sought by the merchants and landowners of feudal Europe, but by the princes of the Church and State. They lent to bishops to finance church building programmes; to princes, kings and emperors to finance state works, building programmes, wars and crusades. Within the twin embrace of financial security and safe travel, Europe began to transform itself. Safe and effective trade over longer distances led to the accumulation of capital and the emergence of a newly prosperous merchant class, the urban bourgeoisie. The new-found wealth of the city merchants changed the balance of power still further in favour of the towns and cities. With the peace and tranquillity of the countryside now ensured by the activities of the Knights Templar the feudal lords began to lose the raison d'etre on which their power was based.
The Order of the Knights Templar, despite its relatively short life span, was the major instrument of transformative change in medieval Europe. The Templars brought many blessings of knowledge and technology from their Arab opponents in the Holy Land, that conferred immense benefits on the European population. The Gothic cathedrals that arose from their knowledge of sacred geometry still adorn the European landscape and form a permanent series of 'prayers in stone' that raise their spires skyward in silent supplication. When taken as a whole, rather than studied in isolation, the various activities of the Knights Templar are like a huge mosaic of individual pieces which together form a picture which accurately predicted the future. The order was not merely the medieval pre-cursor of the modern multi-national conglomerate but was in many respects an early embryonic form of the European Union. However, success, wealth and power stimulated jealousy and resentment, especially from those who were heavily in debt to the order.
Philip le Bel (1268-1314), the King of France, was one monarch among many who was heavily in debt to the Order. He also had a further cause for resentment, for when a young man, his application to join it had been refused. During one period of civil unrest in his nearly bankrupt kingdom he sought refuge in the Paris Temple.29 Bedazzled by the vast store of bullion he saw there, he resolved to find a way to make it his own and cancel his enormous debt to the knightly bankers. He soon found an opportunity to destroy the Order.
Plausible reasons for an investigation of any suspect individual or organisation were not hard to find in that age of repression and injustice. The perfect means for dubious enterprise had long been perfected. The dreaded Inquisition had honed its evil arts of torture, secret trial and condemnation during its sixty year novitiate in the campaign against the Cathars. Philip knew that there had been contact between the Templars and Islam and links had also been proved between the Knights and the Cathars Certain knights who had been expelled from the Order were bribed or blackmailed into making accusations of heresy against their former brothers.
The French King prepared his case with secrecy and skill. The death of the pope gave him the opportunity to suborn his successor. On Friday the thirteenth of October 1307, Jaques de Molay Grand Master of the Templars, and sixty of his senior knights were arrested in Paris: simultaneously many thousands of other Templars were arrested throughout the realm of France. A few escaped arrest and once the word got out the remainder simply fled; an episode commemorated by the saying Friday the thirteenth, unlucky for some.
Under the King's orders the Templar high command were tortured for several years. The financially astute monarch had the gall to charge the Order for their upkeep for the entire period of their imprisonment. The final barbaric act of this dreadful charade took place on the Ile des Juifs, on the 14th March 1314. The elderly Grand Master, Jaques de Molay and the Preceptor of Normandy, Geoffroi de Charney, were publicly burnt on a slow fire. Before his death de Molay is on record as prophesying the imminent demise of the king and the pope. Both died within the year. When the King's agents visited the Templar treasury immediately after the first arrests, their great treasure, the very cause and objective of this brutal enterprise, had vanished without trace, as had almost the entire Templar fleet The king had been foiled. French Masonic ritual indicates that Scotland was designated as the place of refuge or safe keeping for the Templar treasures
One of the charges against the Templars was that of idolatry; the veneration or worship of an idol called Baphomet Various translations have been offered for the name Baphomet; Idries Shah author of The Sufis, claims that it is a corruption of the Arabic abufihamet (pronounced bufhimat) which translates as 'Father of Understanding'. Magnus Eliphas Levi the mystical writer of the last century, proposed that it should be spelled in reverse as TEM. OHP. AB. This he then construed as Templi Hominum Pacis Omnium Abbas or 'Father of the Temple of Universal Peace Among Men'.34 Another legend equates Baphomet with the severed head of St. John the Baptist who was venerated by the Knights Templar. The Atbash cipher, an esoteric code used by the Essenes to disguise the meaning of their scriptures, was applied to the name Baphomet by the Dead Sea Scroll scholar Hugh Schonfield. The cipher produced the word Sophia, the spiritual principle of Wisdom which is usually associated with the ancient Greek or early Mesopotamian goddesses. The Templar cult of the Black Madonna, black carvings or icons of the Madonna and Child, supports this concept.
At first glance this cult looks like a variation upon normal Catholic practice of the time. The reality is very different however, especially when we take into account the influence of ancient Egyptian ideas on the Templars In ancient Egyptian symbolism, the colour black indicates wisdom. In the cult of the Black Madonna the Templars were venerating the Mother of Wisdom, the ancient goddess Sophia embodied in the form of the goddess Isis with the Horus child. This pagan concept was disguised as the Christian Madonna and Child.
Reactions to the suppression of the Templars varied from country to country. German knights of the Order either joined the Hospitallers or the Teutonic Knights. One leading Scottish Templar, William St. Clair of Roslin, who was the great-great-grandfather of the founder of Rosslyn Chapel, was killed in Lithuania fighting for the Teutonic Knights. In Portugal the Templars were not suppressed at all, they simply changed their name to the Knights of Christ and carried on under royal patronage.38 Many years later Vasco de Gama the explorer, became a member and Prince Henry the Navigator was a Grand Master of the re-named Order. The Archbishop of Compostela made a vain plea for clemency for the brave knights by writing to the pope begging that the Templars be spared as they were needed for the Reconquista the fight against the Moors to recapture Spain for the Catholic monarchy.
This pressing need for military skills, discipline and dedication to the Christian re-conquest of Spain was fulfilled in a simple way. Ex-Templars were encouraged to join similar military Orders which differed only in that they owed their allegiance to the Spanish crown rather than the pope. One Order, that of St. James of the Swordor the Knights of Santiago, was actually affiliated to the Knights Hospitaller to ensure its survival. They too became immensely powerful and controlled more than 200 commandaries throughout Spain by the end of the fifteenth century. Thus Templar influence continued in mainland Europe. In France and England some Templars joined the Knights Hospitallers, but most simply seemed to vanish.
People condemned for heresy in medieval Europe shared a similar fate to the alleged dissidents condemned in Soviet Russia during the Stalinist era. The victims became 'non-persons', their records were destroyed and all traces of them and their beliefs were completely erased. The only records remaining intact are those of the persecutor, Holy Mother the Church, hardly the most even-handed or dispassionate of sources. Thus getting to grips with the reality that lies behind the romantic myths and legends surrounding the warrior knights is extremely difficult. The French local archives disclose many details of their land dealings while other documents disclosing some of their history do surface from time to time.