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The Mysteries of the Knights Templar

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I. A Secret Agenda?

It is not known exactly when the Order of the Temple was founded, or how. Based on later stories and some indirect evidence, one has tried to reconstruct a probably scenario and a time-table. This uncertainty has left the field open for speculation. Much information comes from Guillaume de Tyre (William of Tyre), but he writes several decades after the events he relates. This and some other reasons makes his credibility questionable on certain points. Yet his version is the basis for all orthodox Templar history.

Guillaume wrote that the order consisted of nine knights for the first nine years of its existence, and that no new candidates were accepted during that time. This has been part of Templar lore since, although a few new members were admitted. Obviously he, or his source of information, tries to make something extra of the number nine here, giving it a symbolic meaning. Some sort of hindsight rationalisation. [More about number nine in The Knights Templar & The Circular Number Nine].

Fact is, however, that the Templars were very few during the first years, seemingly deliberately so. Nobody knows why, and here is where speculations of a secret agenda begins. Did they make excavations beneath the Temple Mount? If so, what did they search? A secret treasure? Michel Lamy, in his "Les Templiers. Ces Grand Seigneurs aux Blanc Manteaux" (1997) thinks that Hebrew texts provided information they could use. Keith Laidler, in "The Head of God" (1998) says they sought and found the embalmed head of Christ – later known as Baphomet (see below), and the real treasure of the Cathars. There are many theories, most of them to be considered imaginative fiction rather than history.

II. The Grand Masters

Even if some sources state a list of the Grand Masters of the Temple with an attitude of knowing for certain, it is impossible to compile one without relying on indirect evidence and some guesswork. For a few of the names, their inclusion is questionable; consequently, different lists exist. We will not try to compile a definitive one, it is an impossible task, just give two examples to illustrate the differences.

A modern list of the Grand Masters can look like this:

Hughes de Paynes (Hugh of Payns) 1119-1136

Robert of Craon 1136-1149

Everard des Barres 1149-1152

Bernard de Tremelay 1153

André de Montbard 1154-1156

Bertrand de Blanchefort (Blanquefort) 1156-1169

Philippe de Milly (Philip of Nablus) 1169-1171

Odo de Saint-Amand 1171-1179

Arnaud de Torroge (Arnold of Torroja) 1181-1184

Gerard de Ridefort 1185-1189

Robert of Sablé 1191-1193

Gilbert Erail (or Eral, Horal) 1194-1200

Philippe du Plessiez (Philip of Plessis) 1201-1209

Guillaume de Chartres (William of Chartres) 1210-1219

Pierre de Montaigue (Peter of Montaigu) 1219-1232

Armand de Périgord 1232-1246

Guillaume de Sonnac (William of Sonnac) 1247-1250

Renaud de Vichiers (Reginald of Vichiers) 1250-1256

Thomas Bérard (Beraud) 1256-1273

Guillaume de Beaujeu (William of Beaujeu) 1273-1291

Thibaud Gaudin (Theobald Gaudin) 1291-1292

Jacques de Molay (James of Molay) 1292-1314

(It is interesting that Guillaume de Tyre never mentioned Everard de Barres or André de Montbard as Grand Masters.)

Henri Lobineau, Dossier Secrets (quoted in Holy Blood, Holy Grail, see below) states the first Masters as:

Hughes de Payen 1118-31

Robert de Bourgogne 1131-50

Bernard de Tremblay 1150-53

Bertrand de Blancafort 1153-70

Janfeders Fulcherine 1170-71 (=Geofrroy Foucher)

François Othon de St Armand 1171-79

Théodore de Glaise 1179-84 (=Theodoricus)

François Gérard de Riderfort 1184-88 (or 90)

These Masters would also have been the Masters of another Order, Prieuré de Sion, which would (a very questionable theory) have been separated from the Knights Templar in 1188, and still exists today. Their Grand Masters after the separation from the Knights Templar would have been:

Jean de Gisors, 1188-1220

Marie de Saint-Clair, 1220-1266

Guillaume de Gisors, 1266-1307

Edouard de Bar, 1307-1336

Jeanne de Bar, 1336-1351

Blanche d'Evreux, 1366-1398

Nicolas Flamel, 1398-1418

René d'Anjou, 1418-1480

Iolande de Bar, 1480-1483

Sandro Filipepi, 1483-1510

Leonardo da Vinci, 1510-1519

Connétable de Bourbon, 1519-1527

Ferdinand de Gonzague, 1527-1575

Louis de Nevers, 1575-1595

Robert Fludd, 1595-1637

Johann Valentin Andrea, 1637-1654

Robert Boyle, 1654-1691

Isaac Newton, 1691-1727

Charles Radclyffe, 1727-1746

Charles de Lorraine, 1746-1780

Maximilian de Lorraine, 1780-1801

Charles Nodier, 1801-1844

Victor Hugo, 1844-1885

Claude Debussy, 1885-1918

Jean Cocteau, 1918-1963

Pierre Plantard de Saint-Claire, 1963-1984

After 1984, situation unclear.

According to the authors of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" (see below), the Prieuré would be involved in the preservation of the Merovingian bloodline, which would be descending from Jesus. This is a controversial theory and the history of the Prieuré looks much like something put together to create a history to something that has none. I have not been convinced of the Prieuré's existence.

III. The Curse Of de Molay

Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Temple, was burned at the stake on Ile-des-Javiaux, an isle in the Seine, on 18 March 1314. According to legend, he demanded of King Philip (of France) and the Pope, Clement, his persecutors, that they should answer to God for their actions within a year.

Pope Clement died on 20 April, the same year. Officially by dysentery.

King Philip died on 29 November. The cause is not known.

Charles G. Addison wrote in "Knight Templars" (1842):

"...after the above horrible execution, the pope was attacked by dysentery, and speedily hurried to his grave. The dead body was transported to Carpentras, where the court of Rome then resided; it was placed at night in a church which caught fire, and the mortal remains of the holy pontiff were almost entirely consumed:"

Before the close of the same year, king Philip died of a lingering disease which baffled all the art of his medical attendants, and the condemned criminal, upon the strength of whose information the templars were originally arrested, was hanged for fresh crimes. 'History attests,' says Monsieur Raynouard 'that all those who were foremost in the persecution of the Templars, came to an untimely and miserable dead.'”

One does not need much imagination to think that they were murdered, an appropriate revenge. In legend, however, de Molay's curse established itself and grew to include the whole French Royal House. When Louis XVI was executed on 21 January 1793, a man is said to have splashed the king's blood over the audience, shouting "Jacques de Molay, you are avenged!"

IV. Bloodline And The Grail

Most of you have probably read "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown, or maybe you have seen the movie. That is a fascinating piece of fiction - but remember that it is a novel, nothing more. The theory it exploits, however, is not Dan Brown's. It stems from two books: "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" (1982) and "The Messianic Legacy" (1986) by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. These books contain some questionable assumptions and breakneck conclusions - but they are interesting reading, and on certain points the scenario they describe is not altogether impossible. After all, Mary Magdalene as Jesus's wife fits recorded history as well as the traditional interpretation does. Perhaps even better.

What Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln are presenting is an alternative interpretation of history. What I especially like with this exploration of the possible, is the attitude of the authors. They do not pretend to reveal truth, they do not pretend to prove anything; they know exactly what they are doing: interpreting. Let me quote from the Introduction to the paperback edition of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" (1982):

"The question of 'proof' is ultimately beside the point. Given the scarcity of both documentary and archaeological material, there is very little, if anything, that can be 'proved' about Jesus."

Evidence, in the context of new testament studies cannot 'prove' anything, but it can suggest greater or lesser probabilities, greater or lesser plausibilities."

Their theory cannot be summarised easily, but the base is that the Merovingian bloodline stems from Jesus, who was married to Mary Magdalene. This bloodline would still be alive; and the Templars would have been involved as guardians of the secret and of the descendants. The Prieuré de Sion would still continue that work.

The bloodline would be - they say - the Grail. Sangreal would have been misinterpreted as San Greal, instead of Sang Real (royal blood). It is a very appealing play with words, but not without a major difficulty: it works only in Spanish! The so-called Grail Romances were written in Old French; and the other source of grail lore, Wolfgang von Eschenbach's story "Parzival" was written in German.

If the misinterpretation of sangreal is to be taken as a serious possibility, the grail stories must somehow be connected to Spain, something the authors seem to miss. Yet they find a connection, but fail to see its significance for this detail. They quote Eschenbach's Parzival:

"Kyot, the well-known master, found in Toledo, discarded, set down in heathen writing, the first source of this adventure."

The grail story seems to stem from Toledo, in Moorish Spain, and it can possibly be of Jewish origin - a fact that is essential for the authors' continued reasoning. But what they fail to realise, or choose to ignore, is that here they have the connection to Spain that makes their theory about sangreal a little bit more probable. It proves nothing, of course, but saves the idea from the fatal blow the language problem would otherwise be.

Eschenbach, writing in the 13th century, is the only old source connecting the Templars with the Grail. The next time it happens is in 1818, in a book by Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall. Following the 19th century romantic literature, the 20th century brought the Grail and the Templars into prominent positions in fiction, sometimes connecting them with each other. But then we have reached far from history.

There are many old grail stories, from Chretien de Troyes and on, but since they have no visible connection to the Templars, we choose not to discuss them here and now.

V. Baphomet

Roi Baufumez...

avec aus .xx. paien armé

Qui Dieu ne croient le roi de majesté

Ne sa mere hautisme.

(Aymeri de Narbonne, 12th century)

In English:

King Baphomet...

with twenty pagan warriors

Who don't believe in God, the King of majesty

Nor in his mother most high.

One of the things the Templars were accused of during the trials, was that they worshipped a demon - a skull or a head with more than one face. This was idolatry, and the idol was called Baphomet. It is tempting to believe that to be derived from "Mohammed" or "Mahomet." Indeed. French middle age chansons de geste - stories about heroes - refer to Baufumez, Balfumés, Bafomet, etc., always referring to Muslims. Yet the explanation is not necessarily true. In "Holy Blood, Holy Grail", Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln suggests:

"[…] it might have been a corruption of the Arabic word abufihamet, pronounced in Moorish Spanish as bifuhimat. This means 'Father of Understanding' or ' Father of Wisdom,' and 'father' in Arabic is also taken to imply 'source.'”

Some sort of cult involving a head seems to have taken place. Imagination has linked it to many different things: the severed head of John the Baptist, the head of Christ, and much more... We may never know the meaning of it, but in Paris an actual head was found, a silver-gilded head of a woman. It was labelled CAPUT LVIIIm, and stated to be number 58 of 11000! This can refer to St.Ursula and her eleven thousand virgins, and the head can have been an 'ordinary' relic. Whether it was Baphomet or not is impossible to say.

VI. Testis Svm Agni

The great seal of the Order of the Temple stated. "TESIS SVM AGNI." Agnus is the lamb of God, but the form "agni" here makes interpretation complicated.

The phrase would mean: "I witness the lamb" or "I am witness to the lamb." But to mean that, the form should be "agnus." The word "agni" has - as everything that is unclear – given reason to much speculation, associating the whole motto with a secret interpretation, where "agni" could possibly refer to "agnitio" and mean wisdom. "I witness wisdom." All this is pure speculation. Perhaps someone just did not know his Latin properly. Yet one would think such an error would have been corrected by some learned prelate.

Related articles:

The Knights Templar & The Circular Number Nine

The Order of the Temple - The Knights Templar

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