Knights Templar. --- Pauvres Chevaliers du Temple.
(Poor Knights of the Temple).


Temple chapel seemed as if it were intended to be hidden. It is in a sunken valley south of the capital Edinburgh. Seemingly cut off from the rest of the county it is quiet and secluded.

The church is now in ruin and is recognised as such by its unique stones and a Templar cross that rests high on a derelict wall. Somehow in the morning light the cross is silhouetted against the sky producing a faint hint of the past. Reminding us of knights resplendent in armour protected by a holy cross, high on a brave mare, projecting valour and adventure.

The Knights TemplarThe Knights Templar were founded in 1119 AD by Hughes de Payen, a member of nobility from Champagne who presented himself, and a number of friends, before the throne of Baudoin the third king of Jerusalem. The Knights Templar were a religious order of chastity founded to protect Christians on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The Temple of Solomon was high on the list of biblical note deserving particular protection and gave the name of the armed monks.

In 1128 Pope Honorius II granted the Templar monks the white coat denoting purity and in 1147 Pope Eugenius III consented in the eight pointed cross a emblem of personal sacrifice.    

The Holy Land had been captured by the Crusaders, but was subject to constant attack by Islamic forces. In those circumstances the secret order saw prospects of power in the retention of Jerusalem and its holy relics. Their beliefs ranged from Jesus surviving the cross and escaping to Europe and of finding the Holy Grail.

With access to Jerusalem’s treasures they inevitable became rich and gained admittance to Palaces all over the Europe. Any item belonging to the Biblical City or Saint was seen a guarantee of life after death to the purchaser and eternity in holy company.

Needless to say in short time the Knights Templar were of international importance. In time they became haughty holding themselves above Kings and Queens answerable only to the Pope.

Insignia of the Knights TemplarIslamic power grew and eventually expelled the Knights from Jerusalem in 1187. It then became imperative for Christians to regain the upper hand. The siege of Acre and affects lasted from 1189 to 1191. The battle to the east of the city of Acre in 1191 began with the Templar’s on Saladin’s right wing. Later the Templar’s suffered badly and Gerard de Ridefort , Grand Master of the Templars, was killed. Despite being outnumbered the Crusaders managed to repulse Saladin.

In the Battle of Arsuf an ancient city and fortress in Israel, Richard the Lionheart defeated Saladin in September of 1191. The Knights Templar under Robert do Sable were ordered to assist in the opening battle which proved a victory for the Crusaders. Saladin lost his hitherto reputation of infallibility in the field but the Crusades also began to lose their prevailing attraction.

Engraving shows Knights templar being burnedThe fall of Acre a city in the Western Galilee district of northern Israel in 1291 sounded the first death knoll of future successful Crusades. During the enormous battle it was recorded with a little exaggeration, the Sultan's army six hundred thousand armed, divided into three companies; so one hundred thousand continually besieged the city, and when they were weary another hundred thousand took their place before the same, two hundred thousand stood before the gates of the city ready for battle. The gates were never closed, nor was there an hour of the day without some hard fight being fought against the Saracens by the Templars or other brethren dwelling therein. But the numbers of the Saracens grew so fast that after one hundred thousand of them had been slain two hundred thousand came back.

Papal efforts to rekindle the Crusade spirit met with little response and after some time in Tripoli the Knights Templar moved to the Latin Kingdom of  Cyprus. There the Kings made dreamy half hearted plans of recapturing the Holy Land which were never fulfilled. The Grand Master Guilluame de Villaret selected the island of Rhodes as the next destination which was fulfilled by Fulkes de Villaret after two years of campaigns in 1309. The surrender the gave the Templars control of the near islands and the sea trade enabling them to build the Knights Castle at Rhodes.

However, in 1312 much of the gains were handed over to the Hospitallers.   

Painting of a Templar KnightKing Phillipe of France was jealous of the opulence and power of the Knights. They had called themselves The Poor Knights of Christ while holding the power of European banker. Aided by manipulative Papal greed it was ordered the Knights of Templar were heretical and therefore excommunicated.

They had never been without  a critic, Cardinal Harmeric, a man close to the Pope Honarius II, wrote to Bernard saying "It is not fitting that noisy and troublesome frogs should come out of their marshes to trouble the Holy See and the cardinals."

The arrests began in 1307 across Europe accompanied by cruel executions.

Robert de Bruce of Scotland had also been excommunicated from the Rome Church and ignored the Pope's order offered safety to the Knights. A number the Templars were said to have fought at Bannockburn along with the Templar Sinclair’s who had already establish themselves in Scotland. It may be the Templars lead the cavalry charge that send the English foe on the run,.

During the reign of David 1st in 1221 the Templars had based themselves in Kincardineshire under Walter Bisset. Sir William St Clair (Sinclair) began work on the Chapel at Rosslyn in 1446 which he personally controlled. The stone used was first compared to wooden form templates to ensure accuracy and designs from other countries were freely applied. With the cost and design it took nearly forty years to build. Rosslyn is situated a few miles south of the capital and has inside its walls the  tombstone of  Sir William St Clair. Sir Clair was killed in 1330 while taking the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce to Jerusalem. Robert the Bruce had died in 1329 of leprosy and in the Celtic fashion his heart was removed.

He had asked for his heart to be carried into battle against the infidel. Two of the Knights Templar were the sons of Henry St Clair antecedent of the Rosslyn Chapel builder. At the Battle of Teba in Spain in 1330 they were both killed fighting the Moors while on the way  to Jerusalem. Sir James Douglas the man who carried the heart of Bruce was also killed after he threw it into the ranks of the Moors shouting, “ there go thou valiant heart as thou were want to lead us“. He was accompanied by Sir Robert Logan and Sir Walter Logan, the clan Logan bear a man’s heart in their coat of arms.

Sir William Keith brought the heart back to Scotland as they were unable to bury the heart in the Holy Sepulchre. The Knights Templar became clergy to various parishes including Rosslyn Chapel and property dealers changing their warrior ways.

Or, became feudal land lords or superiors and those still keen to take the field joined The Knights Hospitaller. There are envisaged modern links with the Knights Templar that try to follow their peaceful examples. Still, if the best of traditions are carried on to help others good luck to all. It may interest the reader the first known keeper of the Turin Shroud had links to the Knights Templar. The Templar’s had the worlds biggest fleet in the 13th century and were credited for flying the skull and cross bones.

When the Holy Land fell to the Muslims in 1291 a Templar Knight named Tibald Gaudin is said to have carried off the famous Templar treasure did include the Holy Grail.

Vatican documents discovered in March of 2002  shed some light on the Templars and links with Pope Clement V. It was claimed he denounced them in 1308. The documents were supposed to have been destroyed by Napoleon when his men looted the Vatican. A document known as the “Chinon Parchment”, indicated the pope sent emissaries to France when Phillipe the Fair had them imprisoned to conduct secret trials. The Templar’s were exonerated. But the findings were not be popular and many of the Kings of Europe carried on the persecutions in spite. Clement V was apparently easily influenced and this spelled the end for the Templars.

This Scotland of ours has many a legend and true tales that overlap and spill into our blood. In this little valley at Temple those Knights Templar lived and left a legacy of intrigue and mystery beyond the pointed cross that silhouettes at the saltire Blue sky.      

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