ORIGINS OF THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR
There are many historical accounts of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Jesus Christ, or Knights of the Temple, more commonly referred to as Knights Templar. They were formed as a result of the Crusades doing battle with the Moslems and the capture of Jerusalem around 1099. Jerusalem fell and the Holy City belonged to the Crusaders and all Christendom rejoiced. Most libraries and bookstores have many volumes on the Crusades and the Knights Templar and these writings are easily understood. The Internet today has an almost endless amount of information on Knights Templar and those interested can become well informed of the different versions relating to their history.
Men, women and children pressed forward on their pilgrimage to the sacred city only to find that although Jerusalem was in Christian hands, the Moslems still controlled Palestine.
The highways and byways leading to Jerusalem were unprotected. The ferocity of the Moslems seemed to increase with the fall of the city, and mutilated bodies and bleached bones of pilgrims soon became a common site along the roadways. To add to the vulnerability of the pilgrims, thousands of the Crusaders, their primary objective accomplished, returned to their own lands leaving the countryside to the Moslems uncontested.
This was the circumstance that set the stage for Templary. A small band of Crusaders remaining after the conquest recognized the plight of the pilgrims and bound themselves in a holy Brotherhood in arms, entering into a solemn agreement to aid one another in clearing the highways, and in protecting the pilgrims through the passes and defiles of the mountains to the Holy City
In short, the Knights Templar were laymen who protected and defended Christians traveling to Jerusalem. These men took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and were renowned for their fierceness and courage in battle.
In 1118 A.D., nineteen years after the successful Crusade, these Poor Fellow Soldiers of Jesus Christ, as they termed themselves, were officially recognized and sanctioned and were given for their headquarters, a building on Mount Moriah, the site of the former Temple of King Solomon. Consequently, they became known as the Knights of the Temple, or Knights Templar.
This was the era of chivalric ascendancy. Much as outstanding athletes receive the hero worship and admiration of the public today, so did those Knights of old capture the hearts and the wealth of the public of their period. Their fame spread like wildfire. Rulers hastened to be identified with Knights Templar and to present gold and property to the Order.
It is a matter of history that the warriors who fought for Christianity as Knights Templar had their vicissitudes with more downs than ups on the battlefield through the centuries. However, their wealth and their prestige remained undiminished. on the contrary their treasury became too large to escape the notice of some financially embarrassed rulers, especially Philip the Fair, King of France.
Philip the Fair with Pope Clement (who Philip pretty well influenced) arranged for Convocation of the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques DeMolay, and his officers at Paris. The Convocation was held, but Grand Master DeMolay and his officers never left, at least not with their lives. In 1314 Jacques DeMolay was burned at the stake for alleged heresy and dozens of other accusations; all Knight Templar wealth was seized and Templary “moved underground.”
Some have written that after the death of Grand Master DeMolay there was an unbroken succession of the Grand Masters and a constant Templar organization without a lapse. This is difficult to believe and it is even more difficult to read the many treatises written to support or disprove the theory.
To simplify the story without attempting to elaborate or quote various researchers, all we know is that when Templary emerged in the early 1700’s it was a part of Freemasonry. THERE IS NO PROOF OF DIRECT CONNECTION BETWEEN THE ANCIENT ORDER AND THE MODERN ORDER KNOWN TO DAY AS THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR.
The Order of Knights Templar Today
The Order of Knights Templar today exists as the top ranking Masonic organization in the York Rite of Freemasonry. The Order today requires membership in a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons and in some jurisdictions, membership in a Council of Royal and Select Masters.
The Knights Templar is a Christian-oriented fraternal organization based on the ancient organization that was founded in the 11th century. Today, the Knights Templar display their courage and goodwill in different ways than the ancient Templars. Members of the Order today organize fund-raising activities such as breakfasts, dinners, dances and flea markets for the support of Masonic-related youth groups, in addition to raising millions of dollars for charitable purposes.
The Templar Membership Today
Currently, Templar membership consists of people from all walks of life, including doctors, lawyers, clergy, businessmen and entertainment personalities, all of whom profess a belief in the Christian Religion.
The Masonic Connection
All Knights Templar are members of the world’s oldest fraternal organization known as “The Ancient Free and Accepted Masons” or more commonly known as “Masons”. However, not all masons are Templars. Templary is a part of the Masonic structure known as the “York Rite of Freemasonry”. A description of the Degrees and Orders is presented:
Knights Templar: The Chivalric Orders
The Chivalric Orders are a set of three Orders culminating in the grade of Knight Templar, and controlled by that body. This body is markedly different from its foreign counterparts, in that it exhibits a paramilitary structure and outlook on Masonry, being the only branch of Masonry in the world that is a uniformed body. Its requirement that its members be professed Christians has led to calls of condemnation from other Masonic bodies and organizations both inside and outside the United States, claiming that the body is more of a Christian organization rather than a Masonic body. These have had little effect on the body, however, as many of the organizations criticizing the body have similar degrees among themselves. The American body is also arranged different from its nearest relatives in England. The American body includes the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, which is not conferred in any other organization, though it has very close cousins in the Irish and American Order of Knight Masons and in the English Allied Masonic Degrees grade of the Red Cross of Babylon. Also, in the United States, the Order of Malta is conferred on members before being eligible to receive the Order of the Temple, whereas in England, the Order of Malta is an honorary grade bestowed on Knights Templar. In the United States, all business is transacted in the Order of the Temple, the other bodies only being opened for the conferral of the Orders. In England, the Order of Malta meets and operates as a separate body in addition to the Order of the Temple.
Order of the Red Cross
Here we again revert to the period of the Royal Arch Degree, when the Jews were returning from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. One of their number prevails upon the King to restore to the new Temple the Holy Vessels carried away by the Babylonian armies when the first Temple was destroyed. In presenting his plea before Darius the King, a powerful testimony to the almighty force of Truth was offered, and a new Order founded, which is a fitting foundation stone for the Orders that follow.
This Order emphasizes the lesson of truth. Elements of this Order were practiced in Ancient Lodges before the final form of the Master Mason Degree came into use. It is still practiced in the full ceremonial form by the Knight Masons of Ireland and the Knight Masons of the United States, and as the Red Cross of Babylon in the English Order of the Allied Masonic Degrees.
Order of Knight of Malta and the Mediterranean Pass
Shifting to the time of the Crusades, admission to the Mediterranean Pass is sought, that a safe pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulcher might be undertaken, this is a very sublime and sacred Order, which culminates in the enrollment of the candidate as a Knight of Malta.
This Order emphasizes the lesson of faith. This Order requires the Mason to profess and practice the Christian faith. The pass degree of the Mediterranean Pass, or Knight of St. Paul prepares the candidate for the Order by introducing the lesson and example of the unfearing and faithful martyr of Christianity. The Order is centered on allegorical elements of the Knights of Malta, inheritors of the medieval Knights Hospitaller.
Order of the Temple
No Degree or Order in Freemasonry is more solemn, more impressive or more soul-searching than the Order of the Temple. It becomes a fitting climax to the labors of the humble penitent, who has faithfully performed the symbolic seven years of preparation for the consummation of his endeavors, his knighting as a Christian Warrior. Knights Templar were so named because of their close association with the site of the Temple, during the number of years that they occupied and held Jerusalem. The Ancient Order of the Temple has been dispersed, and the warlike spirit of the Order has passed away, but there remains a spirit of refined and moral Chivalry, which prompts its members to be ever ready to defend the weak, the innocent, the helpless, and the oppressed, and thus warrant the title of true Knight Templar.
The Order of the Temple has been called the most beautiful of all the Orders and Degrees of Freemasonry. No Freemason, who is a believer in the Christian religion, should be satisfied until he has received this, the capstone on the York Rite.
This Order emphasizes the lessons of self-sacrifice and reverence. It is meant to rekindle the spirit of the medieval Knights Templar devotion and self-sacrifice to Christianity. The history of the Masonic Order is long and convoluted, with the Order’s ritual differing between that conferred in England and in the United States. That practiced in the United States has a slight militant zeal to the lesson of Christianity, whereas the English ritual is more allegorical. However, the American ritual is most impressive, and more emphasis is placed on the solemnity and reverence associated with the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ. The presiding body is a Commandery, and the presiding officer is a Commander (titled Eminent).
Knight Templar Magazine
The official publication of the Grand Encampment is the monthly Knight Templar Magazine. it is mailed to every Templar under the jurisdiction of the Grand Encampment and contains new gathered from all over the Templar world including historical items. The Grand Master of the Grand Encampment provides a monthly message.
Each Grand Commandery has an official Editor whose duty it is to supply two pages of material for the Knight Templar Magazine Supplement for his state.
The Order of Knights Templar is no substitute for church activity and interest. Templary claims to be the handmaiden of the Christian Church and encourages its members to be supportive and active in the Church of his choice.
Easter is a hallowed day in the Templar calendar. Marking as it does the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Easter represents the summit of all hopes of our Christian Faith. The Grand Encampment especially encourages every Sir Knight to attend the church of his choice on that great day in celebrating the great victory of Christ over death.
The official Easter Sunrise Service sponsored by the Grand Encampment is held each year on the steps of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA. The public is most welcome. The starting time is 7:00 a.m. when the Sir Knights in full Templar uniform march up the hill to the strains of “Onward Christian Soldiers”. Services have been added in Kansas City and California
Every Commandery is encouraged to hold a Public Christmas Observance in December. This is a joyous occasion to celebrate the birth of the Savior of Mankind. This service may be held on any day of the week and need not be at the time of meeting of the Commandery.
Support of Young Men and Young Ladies
The Knights Templar also provide financial support, advisors and scholarships to Masonic-related Youth Organizations such as Order of Rainbow, Job’s Daughters, and Order of DeMolay.
Knights Templar Funeral Service
It is the duty of the members of a Commandery to assist in the Christian burial of fallen Templars when requested, or to conduct some memorial service otherwise, which might be in funeral parlors, or in the Asylum at the next stated Conclave as a minimum memorial.