What fascinating facts about the Knights Templar do you think you know? Nowadays, when people hear the word “Templar,” they think of those bad guys from the “Assassin’s Creed” video games or that weird secret society from Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” If that’s you, then it’s time to change your perceptions. The Knights Templar were very real, living, breathing people in history. As you’ll soon discover, they started as a rag-tag team and grew into a dominate and powerful force. But, just who were these enigmatic knights really? And what led to their inevitable demise? We’re here to answer those questions and more. So, ready your sword and shield, here are 25 fascinating facts about the Knights Templar that will challenge everything you thought you knew about this mysterious order.
Founded to protect pilgrims
After the conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099 CE, the Middle East saw a sudden influx of Christian pilgrims on their way to visit the Holy Land. Though the city was under some protection, much of the surrounding area was unpoliced, allowing roving bandit gangs to move in and prey on unsuspecting and defenseless pilgrims. This is where the Templars first came into play.
In 1119, some of the knights who had fought in the first Crusade banded together with the blessing of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem to form the order that would later come to be know as the Knights Templar; an order of monastic warriors devoted to protecting the pilgrims of Jerusalem and the surrounding kingdoms known as the “Outremers.”
Not everything was easy for the Templars right away. In fact, for the first 10 years of the order’s existence, the knights struggled greatly with membership and finances. Upon their founding, the order had only nine knights and even fewer horses, thus inspiring one of the most famous symbols of the Templars which depicted two armored knights riding on the back of a single horse. It wasn’t until the order was officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1129 CE that they began building more popularity outside of the Holy Land and would eventually became a powerhouse organization across all of Christendom.
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon
Throughout history, Templars have been referred to everything from simply Templars, to Knights Templar, to the Poor Knights of Christ, and to the Knights of the Order of the Temple. However, their original title is the much more verbose: “Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon.” This full name dates all the way back to the Templars’ founding after the first crusade, and references the vows of poverty taken by knights as well as the order’s connection to the mythical Temple of Solomon.
The Temple of Solomon
The Temple of Solomon was a biblical temple that is thought to have once stood on Temple Mount in the holy city of Jerusalem, which is today the location of the famous Dome of the Rock as well as the Al-Aqsa Mosque. When Jerusalem was captured by the Crusaders during the first Crusade, they renamed Al-Aqsa to Solomon’s Temple. They believed the mosque was built over the ruins of the original temple and later gave the whole place to the newly formed Templars who would name themselves after the temple and use it as a headquarters until the eventual fall of Jerusalem to Muslim forces in 1187 CE.
The Knights Templar were very active during the Crusades. Their superior equipment, training, and tactics meant that they played a key role in turning the tide of a battle on a couple occasions. They often served as protectors and reinforcements for the newly established crusader states in conquered or reconquered lands, helping to protect pilgrims, supply routes, and even rebuild fortifications.
They helped to secure victories in many major conflicts such as the siege of Acre in 1189-1191 CE, the battle of Montgisard in 1177, the conquering of Damietta in 1218-1219. Unfortunately, they also participated in the controversial and brutal sack of Constantinople in 1204. There, the Crusader forces were called on to defend the ancient city from invaders, but instead, they pillaged and destroyed the city themselves.