Knights Templar Legends
The secrecy around the powerful medieval Order of the Knights Templar, and the speed with which they disappeared over the space of a few years, has led to Knights Templar legends. These range from rumors about their association with the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant, to questions about their association with the Freemasons, to searches for a lost treasure. Speculation about the Templars has increased because of references to them in bestselling books such as The Da Vinci Code and films such as Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and National Treasure.
The first headquarters of the Knights Templar, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Crusaders called it the Temple of Solomon and it was from this location that the Knights took their name of Templar.
Legends surround the location of the Templars' first headquarters on the Temple Mount, which had been assigned to them by King Baldwin II of Jerusalem. They were in operation there for 75 years.
The Temple Mount is sacred ground to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and is the location of the ruins of Solomon's Temple, and the ancient resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. Pseudo-historical books such as The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail theorise that the Templars could have discovered documents hidden in the ruins of the Temple, possibly "proving" that Jesus survived the Crucifixion or possibly "proving" Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had children by her. Indeed, the supposition that the Templars must have found something under the Temple Mount lies at the heart of most Templar legends and pseudo-historical theories, also popularised by French author Louis Charpentier. There is no physical or documentary evidence, however, to support such a supposition. It is true that they are documented as having carried a piece of the True Cross into some battles, but this was likely a portion of a timber that was discovered during the 4th century by Saint Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine.
Other legends of modern invention say that the Holy Grail, or Sangreal, was found by the Order and taken to Scotland during the suppression of the order in 1307, and that it remains buried beneath Rosslyn Chapel. Other more recent discoveries say the Holy Grail was taken to Northern Spain, and protected by the Knights Templar there.
Some sources claim that the Templars discovered secrets of the Masons, builders of Solomon's Temple, Zerubbabel's Temple, and Herod's Temple at the Temple Mount, along with knowledge that the Ark had been moved to Ethiopia before the destruction of the first temple. Allusion to this is made in engravings on the Cathedral at Chartres, the construction of which was greatly influenced by Bernard of Clairvaux, the Order's patron. Further links to both the search by the order for the Ark and to its discovery of ancient secrets of building are supposedly suggested by the existence of the monolithic Church of Saint George in Lalibela, Ethiopia, which stands to this day but whose construction is incorrectly attributed to the Knights Templar.
Some scholars, such as Hugh J. Schonfield, and fringe researchers argue that the Knights Templar may have found the Copper Scroll treasure of the Qumran Essenes in the tunnels beneath the Temple Mount. They suggest that this might explain one of the charges of heresy which were later brought against the knights by the Medieval Inquisition.
Deaths of the Order's Enemies
The last Grand Master of the Templar Order, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake in 1314, by order of King Philip IV of France, who had also pressured Pope Clement V to disband the Order. Legend has it that de Molay issued his dying curse against the King and Pope Clement V, saying that he would meet them before God before the year was out. Pope Clement died only a month later, and King Philip died later that year in a hunting accident. Malcolm Barber has researched this legend and concluded that it originates from La Chronique métrique attribuée à Geffroi de Paris (ed. A. Divèrres, Strasbourg, 1956, pages 5711-5742). Geoffrey of Paris was "apparently an eye-witness, who describes Molay as showing no sign of fear and, significantly, as telling those present that God would avenge their deaths".
Albert Pike claimed the Knight Kadosh, the 30th degree within the Ancient Accepted and Scottish Rite, commonly known as a 'Vengeance degree', involved the trampling on the Papal tiara and the royal crown, destined to wreak a just vengeance on the high criminals for the murder of de Molay. The figure of Hiram Abiff representing Jacques de Molay, with the three assassins representing Philip IV of France, Pope Clement V and Squin de Florian. Malcolm Barber has cited a masonic legend that resembles Pike's claims, in Louis Claude Cadet de Gassicourt Le Tombeau de Jacques Molai (Paris, 1796, first edition).
Many believed that the dynasty had been cursed. A series of 20th century novels called Les Rois Maudits (The Accursed Kings) by Maurice Druon expanded on this story.
"Jacques de Molay, thou art avenged!"
A frequent recurring legend relates how when Louis XVI was guillotined, an anonymous French Freemason rushed from the crowd, dipped his hand in the king's blood (or grabbed the head and held it) and yelled, "Jacques de Molay, thou art avenged!" This story first appeared in The Illuminatus! Trilogy, a work of science fiction, in 1975.
Friday the 13th
Many modern stories claim that when King Philip IV had many Templars simultaneously arrested on October 13, 1307, that started the legend of the unlucky Friday the 13th. However, closer examination shows that though the number 13 was indeed considered historically unlucky, the actual association of Friday and 13 seems to be an invention from the early 20th century.
Claims of Descent and Revival
Some historians and authors have tried to draw a link from Freemasonry and its many branches to the Templars. This alleged link remains a point of debate. Degrees in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite such as the Knight of Saint Andrew, the Knight of Rose-Croix, and the 32nd Degree in Consistory make reference to a "Masonic Knights Templar" connection, but this is usually dismissed as being ceremonial and not historical fact.
John J. Robinson argues for the Templar-Masonic connection in his book Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry, in which he alleges that some French Templars fled to Scotland after the suppression of the Order, fearing persecution from both Church and state. He claims they sought refuge with a lodge of Scottish stonemasons within which they began to teach the virtues of chivalry and obedience, using the builders tools as a metaphor; and eventually they began taking in "speculative masons" (men of other professions) in order to ensure the continuation of the Order. According to Robinson, the Order existed in secret in this form until the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1717. An example of Templar-Masonic transitory symbolism can supposedly be found in Rosslyn Chapel owned by the first Earls of Rosslyn, a family with well documented ties to Scottish Freemasonry, however Rosslyn Chapel itself dates from at least 100 years after the suppression of the Templars.
The case is also made in Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh's book The Temple and the Lodge.
However, historians Mark Oxbrow, Ian Robertson, Karen Ralls and Louise Yeoman have each made it clear that the Sinclair family had no connection with the Medieval Knights Templar. The Sinclairs' testimony against the Knights at their 1309 trial is not consistent with any alleged support or membership. In The Templars and the Grail Karen Ralls states that among some 50 who testified against the Templars were Henry and William Sinclair.
The Order of the Solar Temple is one infamous example of a "neo-Templar" group, founded in 1984, that claimed descent from the original Knights Templar; there are several other self-styled orders that also claim to be descended from, or revivals of, the Templar Order. One such organization is the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (SMOTJ), an ecumenical Christian society based on the traditions of the medieval Knights Templar and principles of chivalry. However, the order is not a genuine order of chivalry, having neither official state recognition nor a head of state as sovereign. SMOTJ was created in 1804 and is dedicated to the preservation of the holy sites in and around Jerusalem, charitable works, and antiquarian research. In 2001, the most prominent faction of the SMOTJ was recognized by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization.
Some people point out a few assumed similarities between Knights Templar and Switzerland. This is mainly because of the similar flags, the Knights, a square cross flared at the ends, and the modern Flag of Switzerland, a square cross, without flared ends. In addition, the Swiss, like the Templars, are known for their banking practices.
Ultimately, throughout history and to this day, various organizations have tried to claim links to the original Templar order. To date, none of these claims is historically verifiable nor widely accepted in academia.
There are various legends concerning a treasure that some Templars managed to hide from King Philip and that was later lost. One particular story concerns Rennes le Chateau, where a treasure was supposedly found in the 19th century; one speculative source for that treasure was the long-lost treasure of the Templars.
According to a legend, the Knights Templar hid and buried the great treasure in Vrana, Zadar County, because Ramón from Serò near Granja del Pairs in Noguera (comarca) in Catalonia in Spain gave a generous gift to the Knights Templar into the hands of their Grand Master Arnold of Torroja. This Ramón was the son of Romana the daughter of Benesmiro de Siponto who was the justitiarius of Monte Sant'Angelo and who was sent by Pope Alexander III as a notifier to Šibenik.
Knights Templar in Scotland
During the late 13th, early 14th century, England, under King Edward I, was at war with Scotland. In 1314 his son, Edward II, engaged the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn. According to Victorian legend, the Scots won the battle largely due to the intervention of the Knights Templar on the side of their King Robert the Bruce In reality, none of the contemporary or near contemporary accounts of the battle at Bannockburn mention the Knights Templar at all, and the excommunicated King Robert the Bruce had very good reason to have nothing to do with the Templars, since he was desperate to keep on the right side of the Pope and of the King of France. It is also worth noting that two members of the Knights Templar had fought for Edward I at the battle of Falkirk in 1297. Militarily he managed very well without them from 1307–1314 and from 1314–1328 and the story could only be seen as a sop to English pride - the 'real' reason for their loss isn't because they were fighting against the Scots but against an elite force of knights. This legend is the basis for degrees in the invitational Masonic Order known as the Royal Order of Scotland.
Discoverers of the New World
A popular thread of conspiracy theory originating with Holy Blood, Holy Grail has it that the Templars used a fleet of 18 ships at La Rochelle to escape arrest in France. The fleet allegedly left laden with knights and treasures just before the issue of the warrant for the arrest of the Order in October 1307. This, in turn, was based on a single item of testimony from serving brother Jean de Châlon, who says he had "heard people talking that [Gerard de Villiers had] put to sea with 18 galleys, and the brother Hugues de Chalon fled with the whole treasury of the brother Hugues de Pairaud." However, aside from being the sole source for this statement, the transcript indicates that it is hearsay, and this serving brother seems to be prone to making some of the wildest and most damning of claims about the Order, which have led some to doubt his credibility
In Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the knights that allegedly boarded these ships then escaped to Scotland, but in some versions the Templars are even claimed to have fled to the New World by following old Viking routes, making one of the pre-Columbian voyages to America. Once there, this version of the conspiracy theory has it that they buried a treasure in Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada (a story taken up in the 2004 movie National Treasure starring Nicolas Cage). However, many historians have questioned the plausibility of this scenario. For example, historian Helen Nicholson has argued that:
The Templers did have ships to carry personnel, pilgrims and supplies across the Mediterranean between the West and East and back, but if the Hospital after 1312 is any guide they did not have more than four galleys (warships) and few other ships, and if they needed more they hired them. They certainly could not spare ships to indulge in world exploration ... [T]he records of the port of La Rochelle show that the Templars were exporting wine by ship. This was not a fleet in any modern sense: again, those would have been transport vessels rather than warships, and the Templars probably hired them as they needed them, rather than buying their own. ... The ships would have been very small by modern standards, too shallow in draught and sailing too low in the water to be able to withstand the heavy waves and winds of the open Atlantic, and suited for use only in the relatively shallow waters of the continental shelf. What was more, they could not carry enough water to be at sea for long periods
In Portugal, the Knights Templar did not disband, but simply changed their name to Knights of Christ. In 1492, this group is alleged to have provided the navigators for Christopher Columbus' journey, and the Order's cross was featured prominently on the sails of his ships, however there is no actual evidence to support this.
Legendary associations with other Orders
Further speculation revolves around the Templar's association with other Orders. This matter is additionally confused because some Orders, such as the Freemasons, started adopting Templar symbols and traditions in the 18th century. (See: Knights Templar (Freemasonry)) Another modern (but much smaller) order that claims Templar ancestry is the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem.
Conspiracy theorists claim that the Knights Templar stored secret knowledge, linking them to myriad other subjects: the Rosicrucians, the Cathars, the Priory of Sion, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, the Hermetics, the Ebionites, the Rex Deus, lost relics or gospels of James the Just, Mary Magdalene or Jesus (such as a "Judas Testament"), King Solomon, Moses, and, ultimately, Hiram Abif and the mysteries of ancient Egypt. This, in turn, has contributed to the Knights Templar having several influences on popular culture.
Skull and Crossbones
A Masonic legend speaks of three Templars searching the site of Jacques de Molay's burning and finding only his skull and femurs. These they took with them and allegedly were used as the impetus to create the first Jolly Roger flag of Piracy, so that they would never forget. This same symbol is used today by the Yale Skull and Bones society.
A painting discovered in 1945 by Mrs Molly Drew in the roof of an outhouse of a cottage in Templecombe, England, has been the subject of various speculations. It has been on display in St Mary's Church in the village since 1956 (the only Templar-related site to have survived there), and has been carbon-dated to 1280 AD. Some people believe that it is a Templar-commissioned image of either Jesus Christ or the decapitated head of John the Baptist, although it is without a Halo. The painting is best known as possibly being a copy of the image on the Turin Shroud, and therefore evidence of the Turin Shroud being in the possession of the Knights Templar during its "hidden years".
Many locations claim various links with the Templars with varying degrees of reliability. The following is a list of some of the places that have been associated with the Knights Templar, either in fiction or legend, but which have not yet been proven to have a factual association.
Well of Souls in Jerusalem
Oak Island, Nova Scotia (fabled western outpost)
Acadia (modern day Nova Scotia) is a derivative of Arcadia, the mythical utopian and idyllic vision of Renaissance mythology. The Acadian people of Nova Scotia and the Cajun people of Louisiana are rumored to be descendents of former Knights Templar.
Church at Laon in France
Round Church of Lanleff in Brittany, France
The castle of Barberà in Spain
The castle of Ponferrada, a village in León, Spain
Region of Maestrazgo, in Spain.
Church of Saint Germain, La Châtre, France
Chapel Chwarszczany in Poland
Bannockburn, site of the Battle of Bannockburn in Scotland
Rosslyn Chapel and Orphir Church in Scotland
Royston Cave, under the cross roads formed by the Icknield Way and Ermine Street
Hertford, England the Guardian
Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge, England Round Church
St Sepulchre's in Northampton, England
La chapelle saint-Georges d'Ydes in France
Church of San Jacopo in Campo Corbolini, in Florence Italy
Castello di Carbonana ano 900,Gubbio, Italy
Castle of Almourol, Portugal
Temple, Midlothian, Scotland
Temple Bruer, Lincolnshire
Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York City