Knights Templar in Freemasonry

Uncover the Mysteries of the Knights Templar in Freemasonry! Delve into the intriguing world where chivalry and symbolism intertwine. Analysing the Connection Between Freemasonry and the Knights Templar

Before delving into the potential links between Freemasonry and the Knights Templar, it is essential to understand the historical context of both organizations.

Freemasonry is a fraternal organization with roots dating back to the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Its origins are primarily tied to operative stonemasons’ guilds, which evolved into a more symbolic and philosophical organization over time.

The Knights Templar, on the other hand, was a medieval Christian military order established in the early 12th century.

They were initially formed to protect Christian pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land, but later took on a more significant role in the Crusades. The order was widely known for its military prowess and strategic expertise.

Knights Templar Degree: An 18th-century Development

It wasn’t until the 18th century that the first links between Freemasonry and the Knights Templar began to emerge.

The Knights Templar degree, a new Masonic degree incorporating elements of the legendary military order, was introduced at this time.

This degree borrowed themes of chivalry and medieval symbolism from the romanticized image of the Knights Templar, accentuating their history and tactical skills during the Crusades.

Scottish Freemasonry: Building on Templar Themes

In the early 19th century, Scottish Freemasonry further developed the connection between the two organizations by incorporating additional degrees related to the Templars, such as the “Order of the Temple.”

These degrees expanded on the Templar themes and constructed a narrative linking Freemasonry with the medieval military order.

However, it is crucial to remember that these degrees are primarily symbolic and ritualistic, not indicative of a direct historical lineage between Freemasonry and the Knights Templar.

Expanded Analysis: Masonic Orders Related to the Knights Templar

As mentioned earlier, there are several Masonic degrees and orders inspired by the Knights Templar. Here, we’ll explore some important Masonic factions that connect to the Templar’s history, symbolism, and mythology.

York Rite: A Path within Freemasonry

The York Rite is a collection of separate Masonic bodies and associated degrees that trace their origins to medieval operative stonemason guilds of York, England.

The York Rite consists of three primary bodies: the Royal Arch Chapter, the Cryptic Council, and the Knights Templar Commandery. Each body is designed to confer and preserve specific Masonic degrees.

Knights Templar Commandery

The Knights Templar Commandery, the final body within the York Rite, focuses specifically on the chivalric and Christian aspects of Freemasonry. This body confers three degrees:

1. Order of the Red Cross
2. Order of the Knights of Malta
3. Order of the Temple

The Order of the Temple, arguably the most recognizable of the three, is a direct link to the Knights Templar’s legacy.

Aspirants of this degree undergo a highly symbolic initiation ceremony that follows the journey of a Christian knight.

The rituals and teachings within this degree emphasize bravery, piety, humility, and self-discipline, drawing clear parallels to the Knights Templar’s values.

Scottish Rite: A Parallel System of Degrees

The Scottish Rite is another system within Freemasonry comprising 32/33 degrees, each building upon the lessons of the previous degree.

Within the Scottish Rite, a particular interest is placed on historical and philosophical teachings. While not as directly linked to the Knights Templar as the York Rite Commandery, Scottish Rite degrees do contain thematic connections to medieval knighthood and chivalric orders.

The Scottish Rite NMJ

The Scottish Rite SJ

Rose Croix: A Lesson from the Past

The 18th degree of the Scottish Rite, the Rose Croix, is of particular interest regarding the Knights Templar due to its focus on Christian symbolism and connections to medieval knighthood.

The degree’s rituals emphasize themes of resurrection, hope, and renewal, but also include symbolism and lessons related to the ideals of the original Knights Templar.

Rectified Scottish Rite: A Rite Rooted in Templar Mythology

The Rectified Scottish Rite, also known as the Rite of Strict Observance, is a European Christian Masonic Rite that, while less well-known than the York or Scottish Rite, has a unique perspective on templarism.

This rite, devised by the Baron von Hund in the 18th century, operated under the claim that its origins could be traced back to the historical Knights Templar.

Hund’s Rite of Strict Observance incorporated several degrees focused on the Knights Templar history, including rituals and teachings that considered the order’s persecution and eventual dissolution.

However, historical evidence supporting a direct lineage between the Rite of Strict Observance and the original Knights Templar remains speculative and unsubstantiated.

The Rectified Scottish Rite, also known as Order of Knights Beneficent of the Holy City or Knights Benefactor of the Holy City (French: Chevalier bienfaisant de la Cité sainte) is a Christian Masonic rite founded in Lyon (France) in 1778.

Understanding the Role of the Templar-themed Orders

In summary, several Masonic orders, such as the York Rite Commandery, the Scottish Rite, and the Rectified Scottish Rite, connect Freemasonry to the Knights Templar ethos.

These orders employ rich symbolism and rituals inspired by the Templars’ legacy, but it is essential to remember that their primary goal is to convey moral lessons and spiritual teachings to Masonic aspirants.

While a direct, historical connection between these Masonic orders and the original Knights Templar remains speculative, the undeniable shared themes, myths, and values across these organizations continue to be of significant interest to both Masonic scholars and enthusiasts.

Modern Perceptions and Conspiracy Theories: Exploring the Popularization of the Connection

The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail: A Catalyst for Speculation

The 20th century saw an increased fascination with the alleged connection between Freemasonry and the Knights Templar, largely due to the publication of “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln.

This book presented a series of elaborate conspiracy theories and fictional narratives, implying a mysterious continuation of the Templars within Freemasonry.

While the authors’ claims were not supported by credible historical evidence, the book sparked widespread interest in the potential connections between the two organizations and their symbolism.

Holy Blood, Holy Grail: The Secret History of Christ & The Shocking Legacy of the Grail – Buy on Amazon

The Da Vinci Code: A Fictional Narrative Reinforcing the Connection

Dan Brown’s bestselling novel “The Da Vinci Code” further popularized the idea of a link between Freemasonry and the Knights Templar. Similar to “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail,” Brown’s work of fiction offered a captivating storyline based on conspiracy theories and secret societies and depicted a hidden history of the Templars within Freemasonry.

Although this bestseller propelled global discussions on the potential connection, it is vital to emphasize that Brown’s work is purely fictional, and credible historical evidence supporting these claims is scarce.

The Da Vinci Code – Buy on Amazon

Analyzing the Symbolism: Key Elements Connecting Freemasonry and the Knights Templar

 

While historical proof of a direct connection between the two organizations is limited, certain shared symbolism and rituals link Freemasonry with the Knights Templar. The following are key features connecting both groups:

Chivalric and Religious Themes

Both Freemasonry and the Knights Templar organizations carry a strong emphasis on chivalry, religious faith, and brotherhood. The Knights Templar were renowned for their fierce commitment to the protection of Christian pilgrims and principles, whereas Freemasonry encompasses various masonic degrees (such as the Knights Templar degree) relating to religious and chivalric values.

 

Shared Symbols

Various symbols are associated with both the Knights Templar and Freemasonry, such as the square and compasses, the cross, and other geometric shapes. Although the meanings behind these symbols may differ, they serve to connect the organizations at a symbolic level.

 

Rituals and Ceremonies

Freemasonry is well known for its elaborate rituals and ceremonies, many of which also feature in the Templar-related degrees. These rituals include intricate costumes, regalia, and specific rites or tokens, creating an atmospheric link between the two organizations.

Dispelling Myths and Assessing the Connection

While Freemasonry and the Knights Templar share many symbolic and thematic connections, it is crucial to differentiate between these links and the claims made in popular conspiracy theories.

The Templar Masonic Orders are an essential part of the Masonic tradition, drawing inspiration from the Templar history and symbolism to teach moral and philosophical lessons.

The fascination surrounding the connection between Freemasonry and the Knights Templar reflects a cultural preoccupation with secret societies, mystical connections, and hidden history.

However, these supposed connections must be considered with a critical and analytical perspective, carefully distinguishing between historical facts and sensationalized speculation.

In summary, the connection between Freemasonry and the Knights Templar primarily exists in the realm of symbolism and ritual, rather than any factual, historical lineage.

The Knights Templar, Medieval Crusades

The Crusades were a series of military campaigns initiated by Christian Europe in response to the expansion of Islam in the Middle East. The Knights Templar, a medieval Christian military order, played a prominent role in several of these Crusades. Here is a list of the major Crusades involving the Knights Templar, arranged in chronological order:

First Crusade (1096-1099): The First Crusade was launched in response to the appeal by Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos for aid against the Seljuk Turks. The Knights Templar participated in the siege of Nicaea, the Battle of Dorylaeum, the siege of Antioch, and the capture of Jerusalem.

Second Crusade (1147-1149): The Second Crusade aimed to recapture the city of Edessa, which had fallen to the Muslims. While the Knights Templar were involved in the campaign, their role was relatively minor compared to other Crusader forces.

Third Crusade (1189-1192): The Third Crusade was prompted by the Muslim recapture of Jerusalem in 1187. The Knights Templar, along with other Crusader orders, participated in the campaign led by notable figures such as Richard the Lionheart of England, Philip II of France, and Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor.

Fourth Crusade (1202-1204): The Fourth Crusade, initially intended to recapture Jerusalem, took an unexpected turn when the Crusaders ended up sacking the Christian city of Constantinople. The Knights Templar played a significant role in the campaign, but their involvement in the events leading to the fall of Constantinople remains controversial.

Fifth Crusade (1217-1221): The Fifth Crusade aimed to capture Egypt as a means to weaken Muslim power in the region. The Knights Templar participated in the siege of Damietta, but the Crusade ultimately ended in failure.

Sixth Crusade (1228-1229): The Sixth Crusade was unique in that it involved diplomacy rather than outright military confrontation. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II negotiated a peace treaty with the Sultan of Egypt, allowing Christians to regain control of Jerusalem without a battle. The Knights Templar participated in this campaign, which is often referred to as the “Crusade of Frederick II.”

Seventh Crusade (1248-1254): The Seventh Crusade, led by King Louis IX of France, aimed to capture Egypt. The Knights Templar actively participated in the campaign, but it ultimately ended in defeat and Louis IX’s capture at the Battle of Al Mansurah.

The Knights Templar, as a military order, were involved in various military actions and conflicts during their existence. 

Expansion and Defensive Operations:

After the establishment of the Knights Templar in 1119, the order quickly gained prominence and support. They established a network of fortified castles and commanderies throughout the Crusader states, including in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, County of Tripoli, and the Principality of Antioch.

The Templars engaged in defensive operations against Muslim forces, protecting Christian pilgrims and the territories held by the Crusader states. They often participated in skirmishes, raids, and sieges against Muslim armies.

Battle of Montgisard (1177):

The Battle of Montgisard was a significant engagement during the Crusader period. A combined force of Knights Templar, Hospitallers, and other Crusaders, led by Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, successfully defeated a much larger Ayyubid army led by Saladin.

Reconquista in Iberia:

The Templars played a role in the Christian Reconquista in the Iberian Peninsula, where they fought against Muslim forces alongside other Christian kingdoms. They participated in various battles and sieges, including the famous Siege of Almeida in 1170.

Baltic Crusades:

The Knights Templar participated in the Baltic Crusades, a series of campaigns against the pagan tribes in the Baltic region during the 12th and 13th centuries. They joined forces with other Christian military orders and kingdoms to conquer and Christianize the lands of present-day Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Conflict with the Assassins:

The Templars clashed with the Hashashin (Assassins), a secretive Islamic sect. These conflicts primarily took place in the Levant and included battles, sieges, and assassinations. One notable event was the Siege of al-Kahf in 1163, where the Templars successfully defended their fortress against the Assassins.

Internal Struggles and Political Challenges:

The Knights Templar faced internal conflicts and external challenges. They sometimes clashed with other Christian factions, such as the Hospitallers, over power and influence.

In the early 14th century, the Templars faced increasing scrutiny and persecution by the French monarchy and the Catholic Church.

Accusations of heresy and other charges led to the suppression of the order in 1312.

The Knights Templar played significant roles in finance, trade, diplomacy, and infrastructure development during the Crusader period.

 

Here is an outline of their contributions in these areas:

Knights Templar and Finance:

The Templars established a sophisticated financial network across Europe and the Middle East. They developed a system of banking that allowed pilgrims and Crusaders to deposit their wealth in one location and withdraw it in another, reducing the risks associated with long-distance travel.

The Templars issued letters of credit, acting as early bankers, which facilitated secure and efficient financial transactions.

They provided loans to monarchs, nobles, and other individuals, gaining substantial wealth and influence in the process.

Trade:

The Templars engaged in international trade, transporting goods and commodities across different regions. They had their own fleets of ships, which allowed them to participate in maritime trade and establish trading posts in key ports.

The Templars facilitated trade between the Crusader states and Europe, helping to supply goods and resources to the Holy Land.

They also imported valuable goods, such as spices, textiles, and luxury items, which contributed to economic prosperity in the Crusader states.

Knights Templar and Diplomacy

The Knights Templar had strong diplomatic ties with various Christian and Muslim powers. They negotiated treaties, alliances, and truces on behalf of the Crusader states, working to secure political stability and peaceful coexistence.

Templar knights often acted as intermediaries between different factions, assisting in diplomatic efforts and resolving conflicts through negotiation and diplomacy.

 

Knights Templar and Infrastructure Development

The Templars were skilled builders and engineers, involved in the construction of fortifications, castles, and military installations.

They played a crucial role in fortifying key positions, creating a defensive network, and strengthening the Crusader states’ infrastructure.

They developed their own architectural style, incorporating elements of both Western and Eastern influences.

Notable examples of Templar architecture include their headquarters in Jerusalem, known as the Temple Mount, and the famous fortress of Krak des Chevaliers in present-day Syria.

Knights Templar and Agricultural and Economic Development:

The Templars invested in agriculture, establishing farms, vineyards, and other agricultural enterprises. They introduced new farming techniques and technologies, improving productivity and contributing to economic growth in the Crusader states.

Through their extensive landholdings and economic activities, the Templars became major landowners and contributed to the development of feudal systems in the regions where they operated.

Overall, the Knights Templar’s involvement in finance, trade, diplomacy, and infrastructure development helped shape the economic, political, and social landscape of the Crusader states, making them a significant force beyond their military contributions.

The Chinon Parchment & what it has to do with the Knights Templar:

In September 2001, Barbara Frale, an Italian paleographer at the Vatican Secret Archives, made an intriguing historical discovery known as the Chinon Parchment. This significant document sheds light on events dating back to 1308 when Pope Clement V took action to absolve Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, along with the rest of the Templar leadership, from charges brought against them during the Medieval Inquisition.

The Chinon Parchment is specifically dated August 17-20, 1308, and originates from Chinon, France. It was authored by three Cardinals: Bérenger Fredoli, Etienne de Suisy, and Landolfo Brancacci, who held positions in Saints Nereus and Achileus, St. Cyriac in Thermis, and Sant’Angelo in Pescheria, respectively.

An authentic copy of the Chinon Parchment is maintained by the Vatican, referenced as Archivum Arcis Armarium D 218, with the original being labeled as D 217 (another version of the Chinon Parchment was published by Étienne Baluze in 1693). This historically significant document offers valuable insights into the absolution of the Templar leadership during a crucial period in medieval history.

It has long been assumed that the document in question exists. In the bull Faciens misericordiam, issued in August of 1308, Clement V stated that the leaders of the Templars were intended to be brought to Poitiers for questioning by the Pope himself. However, due to some of them being too unwell to travel, three cardinals were dispatched to Chinon to conduct the necessary inquiries on behalf of the Pope.

These appointed envoys were tasked with creating an official record of their investigations. According to the bull, they returned with written confessions and testimonies of the aforementioned Master and Commanders, documented as a legal record by notarial attestation, which they presented to the Pope.

Moreover, a letter exists, allegedly written by the three cardinals to King Philip IV, informing him of the absolution granted to the high-ranking officers of the Knights Templar. This letter was published by Étienne Baluze. The contents of the Chinon Parchment find additional support in the records found in register Avignonese 48 of the Vatican Secret Archives, as published in Processus Contra Templarios.

Article by: Margaret S.

Margaret S. is a retired lecturer and devotes much of her time to theological and philosophical writing.

She was made a Freemason in the International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women - Le Droit Humain.

(Margaret S. is her pen name for all her masonic papers)

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