The Knights TemplarsbyAnabel Soto-Cardentey


I will research the downfall of the Knights Templar. How did they go from being a powerful, wealthy group to extinction?

My research took me to Europe in the time of the Knights Templars during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Templars began as a simple group of knights who offered thier services as protectors of Christians pilgrims going to the Holy Land to visit the shrines important to their religion. King Baldwin II gave them room in the Royal Palace on the Temple Mount. This is how they came to be known as the Knights Templars. By their own rule the knights were not allowed to own anything personally but the order as a whole could. Many gifts were made to the Templars such as land and other valuables. While the Templars started from humble beginnings, they soon were the wealthiest Crusading order.
Many causes have been shown to explain the sudden downfall of the Knights Templars from the positon of power, popular dislike due to jealousy of their extensive privileges and immunities, their pride, and the secrecy of their ceremonies (Perkins, 209). It was also said that their military strength was a threat even to the crown (Perkins, 209).
Early in the time of the order, the popes set out to make the Templars independent of every influence but their own. The amount of ecclesiastical privileges given to them cause much friction between the Templars and the bishops. The Templars were exempt from ecclesiastical taxation but were given rights to collect offerings. The clergy was required to encourage Christians to contribute to the support of the Templars. Indulgences and other devices were used to increase the offerings in Temple churches, and pious bequests also added to their revenues (Perkins, 210). The clergy, aggrevated by the Templars exemptions came up with other ways to extort heavy procurations and various other payments. However the clergy was constantly met with papal letters requiring them to cease their actions.
The Templars were allowed to build churches and the revenue from these churches went to their treasury. They also had the right to bury outsiders in their churches. The prelates accused them of greatly abusing this privilege by receiving the ezcommunicate and providing them divine services or ecclesiastical burial, scorning the interdict, and even giving aid to heretics (Perkins, 211). The Templars had the right to admit clerks who were independent of the bishops. At first they were not allowed to hear confession and grant absolution. After 1237 they were given the power of absolution. The Rule of the Temple in its latest form provided that, if a brother chaplain were at hand, no brother night confess to an outside priest without special permission (Perkins, 211). This exclusiveness and the secrecy surrounding the order drew the distrust and the dislike of priests and monks. The Templars were protected by this hostility by their exemption from excommunication and the privilege that their houses and churches might not be laid under interdict (Perkins, 211).
In England, the the early times of the Templars, King Stephen, the Empress Matilda, and various nobility donated considerable property to the Templars. Henry II added extensive estates, and granted a number of special privileges (Perkins, 213). Many kings including Richard I and King John, issued important charters granting the Templars extensice privilages. The privileges included exemption from taxation; freedom from exactions of money and supplies under pretext of scutage, forest laws, or the royal need; freedom from toll and passage dues; freedom from attendingthe local courts, and the power to hold courts of their own and receive profits; the right to take the amercements of their tenants, waifs and strays; and the right to receive various other allowances in the form of lesser privileges and of money (Perkins, 213). When these privileges were taken into account with the papal grants, the Order seemed to be independent of the king.
The pride of the Templars may have been a potent cause of the popular dislike (Perkins, 226). The pride of the Templars was a common subject of talk among the people in thirteenth century Europe. Innocent III wrote that their unbridled pride had led them to abuse the anormous privileges with which they have been endowed (Perkins, 226). In the medieval world, the combination of the Templars pride with the privileges and prestige they enjoyed, was probably galling to many laymen was well as the ecclesiastics. The large number of members admitted to the Order as serving brothers was viwed as obnoxious by laymen who lacked a sense of honor.
The secrecy of the proceedings of the Templars also lent to their unpopularity. Their secrecy was a source of distrust and suspicion. The rule itself provided the heaviest penalty known, that of expulsion, incase any participant in chapter revealed what was done (Perkins, 227). Most Templars were not aware of the secrecy or understood the secrecy of the rites of the Order.
On October 13, 1307, Philip IV of France, also know as Philip the Fair, had all the Templars in France arrested as heretics and put to torture to secure immediate confessions (Perkins, 432). Edward II did the same in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Unlike Philip the Fair, Edward II did not employ torture to extort confessions from the Templars. Despite extensive examinations no wrong doings were confessed. The Templars maintained their innocence and that of their Order. On January 29, 1310 a second examination was begun, in which a series of new and cunningly devised questions was used with no btter results (Perkins, 435). In early March solitary confinement was ordered and the prisoners were questioned a third time but still no confessions. On August 6, 1310 a letter was written to Edward II reproaching him for not allowing the use of torture and hindering the work of the inquisition against heresy (Perkins, 439). The inquisitors, afraid that they were not going to get better evidence collected stories from numerous sources. They used this material to bolster up what little the prisoners had given them. The evidence was almost entirely hearsy (Perkins, 440). In 1312 the Templars were officially dissolved by Pope Clement V at the Coucil of Vienne.
In my opinion, the power and wealth of the Templars is what lead to their downfall. They were given to many privileges making them easily disliked by the common people. The wealth they had emmassed made them targets for jealousy. Their pride was a source of contension with laymen. Finally their secret rituals caused distrust. The things that were normal for the Templars were the very things that caused the downfall and the dissolution of the Order of the Knights Templars.

Reference articles:
Perkins, Clarence. "The Knights Templars in the British Isles." The English Historical Review (1910): 209-230
Perkins, Clarence. "The Trials of the Knights Templars in England." The English Historical Review (1909): 432-447
Perkins, Clarence. "The Wealth of the Knights Templars in England and the Disposition of it after their Disolution." The American Historical Review (1910): 252-263
Ferris, Eleanor. "Relations of Knights Templars to English Crown." The American Historical Review (1902): 1-17

Analysis from The Trials of the Knights Templars in England:
Focus - The question of the guilt of the Knights Templar has called forth protracted discussion in which the evidence obtained at the trials in France has been carefully scrutinised. Outside France there were fewer Templars, the evidence against them often failed to substantiate the charges.

Important dates
The arrests
October 13, 1307
Philip IV of France had all the Templars of France arrested as heretics and put to torture to secure innediate confessions

January 9 and 11, 1308
In England Edward II's orders for the arrest of the Templars was executed. Torture was not implimented. The Templars were shown great lienancy.

February 3, 1308
In Ireland Edward II's orders for the arrest of the Templars was executed. Torture was not implimented. The Templars were shown great lienancy.
Change in procedure
November 28, 1308
Orders were issued to seize manors and arrest all Templars found in Bailiwicks and for the prisoners to be guarded more securely.

August 12, 1308
The above was believed to have occured because of papal influence when Clement V issued several bulls regulating the procedure to be followed in regard to the Templars. Bishops were directed to secure evidence from the members of the order regarding various heresies.

October 20 to November 18, 1308
Papal inquisitors and the bishop of London questioned 43 brethren in the Tower, all upheld the innocence of the order.

December 1309
Bishops of Can terbury supported the inquisitors and petitioned the king for power to proceed against the Templars according to ecclesiastical law. The king gave the desired orders.
Second examination
January 29, 1310
Second examination began with a new set of cunning questions but with no better success. The Templars still maintained their innocence.

February 8, 1310
Writs were sent out ordering jailers to obey the prelated and inquisitors to help them with the Templars according to ecclesiastical law. William de Dien appointed as overseer of work and torture.
Early March and early April
Solitary confinement ordered and prisoners questioned again. The results remained the same.

April 27 to May 4, 1310
Results more definite. Some Templars were confessing about powers granted to their chaplains and other such order matters. Still they had very little evidence against the accused.

June 16, 1310
Document addressed to the archbishop of Canterbury, telling of efforts and lack of success. The inquisitors protested that in England direct procedure ought to be used according to the canons, as was done in France. Eight ways of dealing with the Templars was proposed.

August 6 and December 23, 1301
Celment wrote to Edward II reproaching him for not allowing the use of torture and hindeering the work of the inquisition against heresy. During this time, with no further eveidence, the inquisitors started collecting stories from numerous sources. These were used to bolster the little evidence they had against the Templars. Complaints of obstruction caused Edward II to order the Templars imprisoned separately in fetters and be tortured.
June 1311
Stephen de Stapelbrigge arrested and admitted that he was a member of the order. He confessed to receptions into the order. Thomas Tocci de Thoroldeby also arrested and confessed to order heresy.

July 1300
John de Stoke, chaplain confessed that he had denied Christ under compulsion. Fifty-nine of the order abjured the errors of which they were accused and from which they could not clear themselves.
Conclusion: I think that the only thing the inquisitors were able to prove was that the Templars had failed to keep pace with orthodox theological opinion regarding confession and absolution. While the evidence did not prove that all the Templars were compltely innocent of the misdeeds with which they were charged, the guilt of the Templars was not proved.

Analysis from The Kinghts Templar in the British Isles:
Focus - Many causes have been brought forward to explain the sudden downfall of the Knights Templars from their position of great honour and power, notably the hatred of the regular and secular clergy and popular dislike due to jealousy of their extensive privileges and immunities, to their pride and avarice, and to the secrecy of their ceremonies.

The beginning
Order of the Temple received its first rule 1128
Membership rapidly increased and branches were rapidly endowed with extensive lands and privileges

Popes involvement
Early on they took the Templars into favor and spared no pains to make them independent of every influence but their own. The Templars were exempt from taxation and were given rights for the collection of offerings.

Alexander IV
Indulgence that they should not be bound to contribute to any tallages, collections, or taxations either in money or in kind for any purpose, and that any sentence of excommunication or interdict to the contrary was null and void unless made by some papal order specifically mentioning that indulgence.

Templars were allowed to build churches and acquire churches, the revenue went to their treasury.

They had the right to bury even outsiders in their churches, and the prelates accused them of abusing this power by receiving the excommunicate and providing them divine services or ecclesiastical burial, scorning the interdict, and even giving services to heretics.

The Templars were protected from the bishops' hostilatiy by their exemption from excommunication and the privilege that their houses and churches might not be laid under interdict.
Conclusion: It can be said that the downfall of the Knights Templar came about because of various factors. The hatred of the clergy; the dislike of individuals or small classes because of their pride, their agression, or their sharpness in business; the self-interest of those who might hope for a share of the spoils; and the suspision and distrust aroused by their secrecy.

Really good! This is a topic of interest for me as well. I really like the set up and the addition of the time line. You also listed your references in the middle of the page which was different. I would only suggest that your conclusion was a little longer and more detailed, maybe replace some of the above information.