by Scott Higginbotham
In addition to being enigmatic, the Knights Templar embodied some fascinating dichotomies. Certainly, our modern filters perceive this military order as backward and oftentimes strange, if not downright stifling. For who but the most robust of mind and spirit could tolerate the persistent and constant sense of being watched? Indeed, part of the Rule states that a knight should never eat alone - to ensure the other members can keep an eye on one another. Our Brother Fulke mustn’t be running off after supper to steal a kiss from that lass with the pretty eyes, now.
It is difficult to understand what drew some of Christendom’s best and finest knights to this Order; however, some just simply could not make the cut without a healthy amount of humbling. They may have had prowess on the tourney circuit or could have had a pedigree that proved that the blood of kings coursed through their veins, but the Order was looking for a certain man to fill their ranks. “Many illustrious knights of the best families in Europe aspired to the habit and the vows, but however exalted their rank, they were not received within the bosom of the fraternity until they had proved themselves by their conduct worthy of such a fellowship.”1
Because the Rule and allegiance solely to the Pope governed their lives, the Knights Templar could make and enforce their own code of conduct and, it was indeed steep. This was a fraternity in the truest sense, and it was decidedly not an Order where privilege opened barred doors.
Consider the treatment of a noble from the Order’s founder, “Thus, when Hugh d’Amboise, who had harassed and oppressed the people of Marmontier by unjust exactions, and had refused to submit to the judicial decision of the Count of Anjou, desired to enter the order, Hugh de Payens refused to admit him to the vows, until he had humbled himself, renounced his pretensions, and given perfect satisfaction to those whom he had injured. The candidates, moreover, previous to their admission, were required to make reparation and satisfaction for all damage done by them at any time to churches, and to public or private property.”2
Thus, an aspirant could be given a second chance if amends were truly made, and it is clear that joining the Order was not a disciplinary measure for recalcitrant children or miscreants as a type of last resort. Though the boundless rules are reminiscent of penance and punishment, for every rule there was an underlying reason. One had to be of a certain character to be considered, and the image of some errant knight joining the Order and thus continuing to ravage and rampage just wasn’t a possibility.
There were rules aplenty and perhaps the reason why they were so detailed and seemed to be similarly worded is because they had been broken in so many unique and various ways - each aspect of a knight's life was governed, likely owing to our Brother Fulke's creativity when it comes to sinful behavior. Ever notice how may laws are on the rolls nowadays?
In later years women did enter the Order and were afforded certain duties and functions, so it was not solely comprised of men; they did not take monastic vows as seen with the knights, but it is interesting to note that they were referred to as sisters in some texts.
So, whether you are male or female, you just might be a Knight Templar (or affiliated) if you can nod in the affirmative to these questions.
1. You are poor, but are expected to give to the poor. “Although the reward of poverty, which is the kingdom of heaven, be doubtless due unto the poor, yet we command you to give daily unto the almoner the tenth of your bread for distribution, a thing which the Christian religion assuredly recommends as regards the poor.”3
2. The pinnacle of knighthood is a phrase that describes you…but you can’t be flashy with it. “We will not that gold or silver, which is the mark of private wealth, should ever be seen on your bridles, breastplates, or spurs, nor should it be permitted to any brother to buy such. If, indeed, such like furniture shall have been charitably bestowed upon you, the gold and silver must be so coloured, that its splendour and beauty may not impart to the wearer an appearance of arrogance beyond his fellows.”4
3. You have no family, yet have thousands of brothers. And no, you cannot kiss your mother goodbye once you have joined. “Lastly. We hold it dangerous to all religion to gaze too much on the countenance of women; and therefore no brother shall presume to kiss neither widow, nor virgin, nor mother, nor sister, nor aunt, nor any other woman. Let the knighthood of Christ shun feminine kisses, through which men have very often been drawn into danger, so that each, with a pure conscience and secure life, may be able to walk everlastingly in the sight of God.”5
4. If you sleep less than you’d like, your wages are meager, and you perform meaningless tasks on a daily basis, but are thankful that you don’t have to provide baths for or wash our Brother Fulke's undergarments…then you might be a female attached to the Knights Templar. “Templars wore sheepskin drawers that were never to be removed. (The Rule ordered that Templars should never bathe…”6
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1Addison, Charles G. (2012-01-17). The History of the Knights Templars, the Temple Church, and the Temple (p. 14). Kindle Edition. 2Addison, Charles G. (2012-01-17). The History of the Knights Templars, the Temple Church, and the Temple (p. 14). Kindle Edition. 3Addison, Charles G. (2012-01-17). The History of the Knights Templars, the Temple Church, and the Temple (p. 8). Kindle Edition. 4Addison, Charles G. (2012-01-17). The History of the Knights Templars, the Temple Church, and the Temple (p. 10). Kindle Edition. 5Addison, Charles G. (2012-01-17). The History of the Knights Templars, the Temple Church, and the Temple (p. 13). Kindle Edition. 6Temple of Mysteries (2010-12-01). The Knights Templar (Kindle Locations 625-626). Temple of Mysteries. Kindle Edition. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Scott Higginbotham is the author of "A Soul’s Ransom", a novel set in the fourteenth century where William de Courtenay’s mettle is tested, weighed, and refined, and "For a Thousand Generations," where Edward Leaver navigates a world where his purpose is defined with an eye to the future. His new release, "A Matter of Honor" is a direct sequel to "For a Thousand Generations"