Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon

Rebecca Kidnapped by the Templar, Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert - Eugene Delacroix

Ever since their inception in the year of our Lord 1119, it has been generally accepted among most of Western Civilization that the Knights Templar are cool. Something about the idea of cross bearing, secret keeping warrior monks has caught on to the public imagination for some reason. Writers love them, usually either to provide some sort of 'conservative christian' secret society, or use them as a vehicle to peddle whatever heresies they had thought up at the moment (see Da Vinci Code).

The Knights Templar were a monastic order founded by a French Knight, Hugues de Payens as way of protecting pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. It was founded on the Temple Mount, above what the Knights believed to be the Temple of Solomon which gave their order mystique right from the beginning. The Order had many functions, it's main goal was to work as a police force, but they also worked as elite military units, and some of the first bankers in the western world. Pilgrims would often leave their valuables in the hands of the Templars, and received a slip of paper indicating the value of their deposit. This improved the safety for Pilgrims an increased the order in wealth. In this way the Templars soon became the world's first multinational corporation.

As the Templar became wealthier they began to clash with powerful nobility of Europe, several of which owed them money. This came to a head when Phillip the IV of France who owed them a substantial deal came up with the brilliant idea that he wouldn't have to pay them back if be burned the whole order as heretics. After getting a few to confess to idolatry and other heresies under torture, and using the Pope who at the time was merely a puppet for the French Monarch, he managed to dissolve the Order. However their legacy has survived.

So interesting story, how does this apply to writing? Well ever since their sudden disappearance these Knights have made more then a few appearances in writing and other media. A few examples would be Ivanhoe, the Da Vinci Code, and more recently Assassin's Creed. For a long time the Knights had a tendency to be represented in fiction as a dangerous group of heretics, or perhaps (in fiction such as the Da Vinci Code) a group of people who knew what the real story of Christianity was. This story was always historically suspect since the Knights confessed only under torture, but their orthodoxy was confirmed when a document was found written by the Pope absolving them from all charges of heresy.

Which is where my rant comes through, if you are going to write about the Knight's Templar, please, please do not use them to prove your obscure theological point. Also please remember (and this is the one everyone seems to forget) that the Templar were a religious and Christian order. A lot of people seem to forget that. The Templars are a fascinating order however, and make great stock for writing. I've yet to see them done from a Christian perspective though, which is something I would really like to see done someday.


  1. Stephen Lawhead (a Christian writer) depicted them in his Celtic Crusades series. They were mostly the antagonists since their order had been slowly corrupted, but weren't so much heretics, as much as they were over-zealous for the holy artifacts that the protagonists were trying to get for themselves... Overall, I didn't think them to be too vilely painted since it was mostly that they had a depraved leader who more-or-less propogandized his followers. Either way, I enjoyed his depiction of them, if not completely historically accurate.

  2. I, for one, would love to see you contribute to the lack of Christian Knights Templar fiction. ;)