Knights of the Templar
  by Gaia Reel, Gaia's Light
Posted with Permission

Originally formed to protect "pilgrims in the Holy Land", the Knights of the Templar (also known as the Poor Knights and the Temple of Solomon) are believed to have been created around 1118 c.e.(some accounts have them as early as 1114). Under monastic rule, it is the first time Christian soldier lived like monks. Many famous figures are associated with this order, including Richard the Lion-Hearted (who is believed to have been given an "honorary" membership and often traveled in the company of the Knights, sailed their ships and even escaped from the Holy Land disguised as one), his brother King John (whose advisor was a member and may have influenced him to sign the Magna Carta), Vasco de Gamma and Prince Henry the Navigator. It is said that Christopher Columbus' wife was the daughter of a Grand Master of the Order and some believe that it was Columbus' father-in-law who supplied the maps and diaries for the journey. Many exploration ships of this era sailed under the Templar flag, a red cross.

The Knights were considered to be financial wizards. They procured large amounts of property throughout Europe. They had many ships, castles and preceptories in their stores. They became a strong and powerful institution as well as advisors to rulers. By the 1300's their wealth rivaled only the Papacy itself. Being a religious order, they were exempt from taxation. They exported wool, convened their own courts, ran their own markets and fairs and granted sanctuary to those in need as would any religious order. They could travel free of charge from the many tolls over bridges, roads and rivers and thus moved about the country with great ease.

They became a vast clearinghouse of materials, industry and shaped the economic climate of the times. Modern banking practices can trace its origin back to this industrious group. The Knights lent money and collected interest (despite the canon law forbidding Christians from such a practice) at rates as high as 60%. In contrast, Jewish moneylenders only collected at 17%, which was all that was allowed by law. Templars created the practice of transferring funds without actual physical transport of the money. You could deposit funds at a Templar preceptory in one city, receive a letter of credit that could then be transferred into currency at any other Templar facility. Templars even ran the royal treasury of France. In England, they collected the taxes, tithes, and donations for the royal family. The became mediators over financial matters (dowries, ransoms, pensions etc...). They even maintained long-term trusts for people.

The Knights were governed by a secretive system of laws and codes known only to them. They met their match, however, in King Philippe IV of France. While they made plans for vast expansion, King Philippe, who it is believed held a grudge against the Knights for not making him an "honorary member" much like King Richard was, launched a successful campaign to destroy the order. October 13, 1307, all Templars in France were taken in to custody and their goods confiscated. Having some prior knowledge of what was to come, the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, had ordered that the books and records be burned and the funds be transferred out of France. All were instructed not to surrender any information about the Templar's holdings, rites or rituals.

Many of the ships carrying the Templar's funds were never found. While many escaped France, those who were captured went so without resistance. By March 22, 1312 a Papal decree dissolved the Order. Within the year Jacques de Molay and fellow Preceptor Geoffri de Charnay were put to death by Philippe's order.

Some of those who had escaped lived on to form other orders like the Knights of Christ in Portugal, the Order of Calatreve in Spain, and the Order of St. John in Germany. No one has ever found the vast fortunes that the Templars were to have hidden.

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