Monks Essay

This essay has a total of 2430 words and 28 pages.


The Knights Templar, a military order

of monks answerable only to the Pope himself, were

founded in 1118. Their primary responsibility, at least

initially, was to provide protection to Christians making

pilgrimages to the Holy Land. They rose in power, both

religious and secular, to become one of the richest and

most powerful entities in Christendom. By the time of their

disbandment in 1307, this highly secretive organization

controlled vastwealth, a fleet of merchant ships, and castles

and estates spanning the entire Mediterranean area. When

the crusaders captured Jerusalem from the Muslims in

1099, the Church encouraged all faithful Christians to visit

that holy city in order to affirm their faith. The area,

however, was still subject to sporadic attacks from various

non-Christian factions. A small group of knights, led by

Hughde Payens, vowed to protect the pilgrims. The group

was grantedquasi-official status by King Baldwin II of

Jerusalem, who allowed themquarters in a wing of the royal

palace near the Temple of Solomon. It isfrom this initial

posting that the order derived its name. They took

thestandard vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and

were bound to the rulesof the Augustinian order.

[Upton-Ward 1] The order languished in near-anonimity

for several years, despite generouscontributions from

various European personages. In 1126, Count Hugh

ofChampagne, having donated his estates to Bernard of

Clairvaux for use in building a monestary for the Cistercian

order, arrived in Jerusalem to jointhe Templars. This action

indirectly obligated Bernard to support the newly chosen

advocacy of his benefactor. He wrote to the count, "If, for

God's work, you have changed yourself from count to

knight and from rich to poor,I congratulate you." [Howarth

49] In the year 1126, King Baldwin found two reasons for

wanting officialrecognition of the order. First, he had,

perhaps prematurely, bestowed uponHugh de Payens the

title of Master of the Temple. Second, the king had

theopportunity to launch an attack on the city of Damascus,

but he needed moreknights. Papal recognition would allow

open recruiting in Europe for theorder. King Baldwin sent a

letter to Bernard of Clairvaux, the order'sprimary patron,

later known as Saint Bernard, asking him to petition the

Pope for official recognition of the order. [Howarth 50-51]

The King'sletter was hand-carried to Bernard by two loyal

and trusted knights, Andrewde Montbard, maternally

related to Bernard, and Gondemare. Upon theirarrival at

Clairvaux, the two knights presented Bernard with

Baldwin'sletter, which came right to the point.

[Upton-Ward 3] "The brothers Templar,whom God has

raised up for the defence of our province and to whom he

hasaccorded special protection, desire to receive apostolic

approval and alsotheir own Rule of life ... Since we know

well the weight of yourintercession with God and also with

His Vicar and with the other princes ofEurope, we give into

your care this two-fold mission, whose success will bevery

welcome to us. Let the constitution of the Templars be such

as issuitable for men who live in the clash and tumult of

war, and yet of a kind which will be acceptable to the

Christian princes, of whom they have beenthe valuable

auxiliaries. So far as in you lies and if God pleases, striveto

bring this matter to a speedy and successful issue." [qtd. in

Howarth 50-51] Bernard realized at once the genius of the

proposal to combine religiousand military endeavors.

Through such organizations, the borders ofChristendom

could be extended and fortified. He immediately granted

hisapproval of the plan and pledged his full support. He

petitioned PopeHonorius II for a special council to

consider the matter, and he notifiedHugh of his actions.

[Howarth 51] The Council of Troyes convened on January

13, 1128, a bitterly cold SaintHilary's Day, for the primary

purpose of considering the request of theKnights Templar.

Despite the delays of written communications, Hugh

dePayens, accompanied by several brother knights, arrived

from the Holy Landin time to attend the meetings of the

Council. [Howarth 51] William of Tyre wrote an account

of the events: "Nine years after thefounding of this order,

the knights were still in secular garb. They woresuch

garments as the people, for salvation of their souls,

bestowed uponthem. During this ninth year, a council was

held at Troyes in France. Therewere present the

archbishops of Rheims and Sens, with their suffragans;

thebishop of Albano, the Pope's legate; the abbotts of

Citeaux, Clairvaux,Potigny; and many others. At this

council, by order of Pope Honorious and ofStephen,

patriarch of Jerusalem, a rule was drawn up for this order

and ahabit of white assigned them." [qtd. in

Burman/Templars 27] Although referred to in William's

account by the generic title Abbott of Clairvaux, Bernard,

in actuality controlled the proceedings of the council.There

was little doubt Bernard's request would be met with

approval; he waswell known for his successes in reforming

monastic life. He was held in theutmost respect by religious

and lay leaders alike; in many circles he wasreferred to as

the second pope. In fact, many of the popes were supplied

bythe mendicant orders. [Robinson 66-67] At a time when

monks were more highly regarded than priests, and

consideredcloser to God because of their ascetic life-styles,

Benard said, "The peoplecannot look up to the priests,

because the people are better than priests."[Robinson 67]

Bernard's offer to personally assist in the formulation of the

Rules of theorder was gratefully accepted by all. Bernard

based his Rule of the Templarson that of his own Cistercian

order, which was itself based on the olderBenedictine Rule.

[Robinson 67] The Rule of the Templars was a strict and

complex system of 686 writtenlaws, meant to cover every

possible aspect of daily life. As an example,Rule 25, On

Bowls and Drinking Vessels, states: Because of the

shortage ofbowls, the brothers will eat in pairs, so that one

may study the other moreclosely, and so that neither

austerity nor secret abstinence is introducedinto the

communal meal. And it seems just to us that each brother

shouldhave the same ration of wine in his cup. [qtd. in

Upton-Ward 26] In 1139, Pope Innocent II issued a Bull,

titled Omne Datum Optimum,declaring that the Knights

Templar were under the direct and sole control ofthe Pope.

This freed the Knights to operate throughout Christendom

and theLevant unencumbered by local ecclesiastical and

secular rulers. Thisunprecedented autonomy was due, in no

small part, to the personal petitionsof the new Grand

Master, Robert the Burgundian. While Hugh had been an

excellent warrior, Robert was an ideal administrator who

understoodpolitics. [Howarth 80] The Order was

authorized to have chaplain brothers, who were authorized

tohear the confessions of their fellow brothers, and thereby

absolve them oftheir sins. There were, however, five

specific crimes for which granting ofabsolution was

reserved by the Pope. These were: "the killing of a

Christianman or woman,; violently attacking another

brother; attacking a member ofanother order or a priest;

renouncing holy orders in order to be received asa brother;

and entering the order by simony." [Upton-Ward 5] It was

also during the mastership of Robert that the Rules were

translatedfrom Latin into French. Church documents were

normally in Latin only, butsince most of the Knights were

soldiers rather than educated clerics, theywere unable to

read Latin. In 1147, the Knights were authorized to wear

ared cross upon their white mantles, despite rule 18, which

forbade anydecorations on their clothing. [Upton-Ward

12] As the Knights Templar gained political and economic

strength, they foundthemselves involved in many aspects of

secular life. They established thefirst truly international

banking service; travelers not wanting to travelwith large

sums could deposit their monies at any Temple and collect

a likeamount at their destination. [Burman/Templars 85]

The Templars were the primary bankers for the Holy See.

Since the order was a papal creation whichwas

administered directly by the Pope himself, their significance

as papalbankers is understandable. Less obvious is the

Templars' function as royalbankers for several of Europe's

royal houses. The two greatest Templesoutside the Levant

were located in Paris and London. These two

Templesoffered a full range of financial services to the royal

houses, includingcollecting taxes, controlling debts and

administering pension funds.[Burman/Templars 87-88] The

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