Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Knights Templar Organizational Structure - Scott Higginbotham

Red Cross Pattée Image by Scott Higginbotham

Like any well-oiled modern military machine, the Knights Templar had a hierarchy comprised of members that served various functions. For every soldier that enters the field of battle there are support personnel that manage finances, coordinate shipments of material and troops, and then there are those that perform clerical duties.

Alas, not every member could wear the white mantle with the red cross and spur his destrier to glory nor wield a sword and lance in the thick of battle.  Some had to manage the organization, cook, or tend to the horses and their diverse needs. The lowliest grooms had to muck out stalls for certain!

At the top rung of this hierarchy was the Grand Master – a title which evokes those comical images of older men wearing strange hats with tassels. However, the Grand Master was a lofty position that came with great responsibility. One had to have risen through the ranks and proven himself in battle to be elected into this position. “The Grand Master in Jerusalem was in overall, autocratic charge. He was elected by a 'college' made up of 13 senior knights, representing (it is said) Jesus and his disciples.”1 The preceding quote underscores how important they believed this position was, owing to the mystical references to Jesus and the twelve disciples effectively choosing the person to fill this role.

Photo by Scott Higginbotham

The knights who wore the white mantle emblazoned with the red cross comprised about 10% of the fighting force while the rest of the members had non-military functions or duties that were less than glorious.

The ranks of this order are as follows: Knights - free men of noble birth - who wore the white mantle and red Templar cross. 

Sergeants (a rank invented by the Templars): free men of lower class who acted as men-at-arms and sentries. The sergeants wore a black or brown mantle emblazoned with the red cross.

Cleric and chaplains: the priests of the Order, who also acted as scribes and record-keepers.2

Of these general ranks there were certain titles and positions of authority that were held. Temples and preceptories scattered across Europe and the Holy Land had their own unique organizational structures that fulfilled the localized needs. There were marshals, regional commanders, provincial masters, seneschals, but space does not allow for more detailed discussion.

Photo by Scott Higginbotham

But imagine a medieval estate with its army of people ensuring smooth management and then you get an idea of the variety of faces and functions that populate the organization.  An army requires cooks, blacksmiths, grooms, armorers, priests, surgeons, and so on - the list quickly becomes endless.  Additionally, the order built fortresses and preceptories around Europe, which required craftsman to build and maintain.

Moreover, how could these men of European extraction survive and prosper they way they did without knowledge of the land, language, and customs? For this reason they employed Turcopoles, who were savvy in language and were highly aggressive warriors. “Perhaps surprisingly, the majority of the Templar army was actually made up of warriors of Arab extraction, often of mixed Arab and European blood - Turcopoles, who were familiar with the Saracens ways of warfare. For this reason the Order employed many Arab interpreters.”3

Owing to their far-reaching military and organizational structure and the fact that the Knights Templar rendered allegiance solely to the pope, they effectively were a country operating within and without borders.  The idea of this group operating as a "fifth column" does not seem so far-fetched, thus making them ripe for all manner of speculation concerning their true mission. So are the conspiracies and the games and books they spawned true? 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.


Temple of Mysteries (2010-12-01). The Knights Templar (Kindle Locations 599-600). Temple of Mysteries. Kindle Edition.1
Temple of Mysteries (2010-12-01). The Knights Templar (Kindle Locations 601-606). Temple of Mysteries. Kindle Edition.2
Temple of Mysteries (2010-12-01). The Knights Templar (Kindle Locations 607-609). Temple of Mysteries. Kindle Edition.3


  1. I never really gave thought to the fact that there were those in the Order who would by necessity not be the typical knight wearing the white with red cross. Its a nice reminder that an army relies on its support unit as much as its soldiers.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Sophia. They were definitely a multinational entity working within a country's borders, but without borders. They had a far reach and dabbled in banking, codes, commerce, and of course warfare.

  3. Thanks for posting this--succinct and intersting information. I have been trying to find out if there is a particular layout to a Templars temple, especially the one (former) temple in Avignon. Are there resources you can suggest about what one would find there? Thanks!


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