Who Were the Knights Templar?

The Knights Templar were a powerful military order of Catholic warriors active during the Middle Ages. The Order was founded in 1119 and was officially disbanded as a fighting unit in 1312. The Knights Templar are widely considered to have been among the most powerful military orders of the Middle Ages.

At the time of their founding, the Knights Templar were tasked with protecting Christian pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land, and as the order grew in power and influence, they became involved in many other aspects of medieval life such as banking, finance, trade, and of course the Crusades. 

Warrior Bankers

The Templars were some of the earliest bankers, allowing people to deposit money they could collect at a later date. They also offered loans to pilgrims, with interest, to help them pay for their travels. This was revolutionary at the time, as interest was prohibited by the Church. The Templars also created the first system of cheques and letters of credit, allowing people to transfer money without having to carry it around with them.

Church of Knights Templar
This mountain village is steeped in history. It was the front line, a frontier in the power struggles between France and Spain. The English were also here.Templar Church is in the village of Luz-Saint-Sauveur in the French Pyrenees. It is well known for being associated with the Knights Templar.

The Templars also created a system of banking that was far more secure than anything that had come before. They established a network of castles and monasteries throughout Europe, each of which was used as a secure place to store wealth. These castles were guarded by the Templars and could only be accessed with their permission.

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The Templars were also known for their charitable works, as they provided food and clothing to the needy and helped to build churches throughout Europe. They also doled out funding for hospitals, schools, and universities.

Today, the legacy of the Templars lives on in the banking system which they helped create.


The Knights Templar provided pilgrims with protection from bandits and robbers who roamed the roads. They also gave food, shelter, and medical care to those who needed it in addition to having a fleet of ships that they used to transport pilgrims safely across the Mediterranean Sea to ports in the Holy Land.

Knights Hospitallers
In the 12th century the Knights Hospitallers, the brethren of St. John of Jerusalem arrived and established themselves here, the name ‘Fratrum’ is Latin for ‘brothers’ – brethren, of the Knights Hospitaller of St John.

The Knights Templar also built a network of castles and fortifications along the pilgrimage routes to Jerusalem. These castles were used as bases for them to patrol the area and protect pilgrims from any danger. They also built a hospital in Jerusalem to care for the sick and the injured.

The knights provided a sense of security and safety for pilgrims making the journey to Jerusalem. They gave the pilgrims the strength and courage to make the long and dangerous journey to the Holy Land.

Templar Castles

Knights Templars
The Siege of Acre. It was a bloody affair. (Painted by Dominique Papety)

Here are some of the castles built by the Templars. Some of these castles still exist today and can be visited.

1.Château De Chinon, France: Located in the region of the Loire Valley in France, the Château De Chinon is a medieval fortress and former stronghold of the Knights Templar. Built in the late 12th century, it was the headquarters of the Order of the Temple in the region, and played an important role in the defence of the city. The castle is open to the public and visitors can explore its towers, courtyards and ramparts.

  1. Castle Of Los Vélez, Spain: Located in the Andalusian town of Los Vélez, this castle was built in the 13th century by the Knights Templar. The castle is known for its impressive defensive walls and towers, which are still standing today. Inside the castle, visitors can explore the old Templar chapel and other areas.
  2. Almourol Castle, Portugal: This castle is located on the island of Almourol in the Tagus River, Portugal. Constructed in the 12th century, it was used as a stronghold of the Order of the Knights Templar
  1. Château De La Roche-Guyon, France: Located in the town of La Roche-Guyon, this castle was built in the 12th century by the Knights Templar. The castle is known for its impressive round tower, which is the oldest part of the castle. Visitors can also explore its towers, ramparts and courtyards, and learn about the history of the Knights Templar in the region.
  2. Castle Of Saint-Gilles, France: Located in the town of Saint-Gilles, this castle was built in the 11th century by the Knights Templar. The castle is renowned for its impressive defensive walls and towers, which are still standing today. Inside the castle, visitors can explore the old Templar chapel.
  3. Tomar Castle, Portugal: This castle was built in the 12th century by the Knights Templar and is in the town of Tomar. It was used as a fortress and headquarters of the Order.
  4. Castle Of La Garde-Freinet, France: Located in the town of La Garde-Freinet, this castle was built in the 12th century by the Knights Templar. is well regarded for its impressive defensive walls and towers, which are still standing today. 

Military Order

The Templar held a prominent place in the medieval world. They were a highly respected and powerful religious and military order that was known for their courage, discipline and loyalty. The knights were lauded for their skill in battle, and their commitment to their religious beliefs.

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The Knights were organised into a hierarchy of ranks, each with its own responsibilities and duties. The highest rank was that of Grand Master, who was responsible for the overall direction and management of the order. Under the Grand Master were a number of regional commanders, known as Grand Priors, who were responsible for the cohesion of the order’s activities in specific regions.

One of the things that made the Knights Templar an elite military force was The Rule.

The Crusader States.
The Crusader States in 1135 showing The Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Rule

The Templar Rule was the set of laws and regulations that governed the daily life of the medieval military order known as the Knights Templar. As their power and influence grew, so too did their need for a set of governing laws that would ensure the order’s survival.

The Templar Rule was composed of 71 articles written by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a leader in the Cistercian order. The articles outlined the duties, responsibilities, and privileges of the Templars, as well as punishments for any misconduct or violations of the order’s laws. According to the Rule, the Templars were required to obey the command of their Master and to always follow the commands given by their superiors. They were also expected to remain loyal to the Church and to never reveal the secrets of the order.

The Templar Rule also defined the daily routines and activities of the order. It laid down the rules for prayer and Mass, outlined the times for meals and rest, and detailed the manner and order of the Templars’ daily chores. Additionally, the Rule guided the Templars’ military activities, including their training, tactics, and combat strategies.

The Templar Rule was strictly enforced, and any violations of the order’s laws were punishable by expulsion. Although the Templars were a religious order, they were also a military organization, and the Rule was designed to ensure the order’s discipline and efficiency.

Notable Templars

While Templars were seen to be doing God’s work and not out looking for the limelight, there are some notable Templars, some of which we explore below:

Godfrey of Bouillon (c. 1060-1100) was a French knight, leader of the First Crusade, and the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. He refused to be crowned King of Jerusalem, instead taking the title of Advocate of the Holy Sepulchre. He was a major figure in the establishment of the Knights Templar.Hugh de Payens (c. 1070-1136) was a French knight, one of the founding members of the Knights Templar. He was the first Grand Master of the Order and served as its leader from 1136 until his death in 1136.

Godfrey of Bouillon
A romantic 19th century print of Godfrey of Bouillon on the First Crusade

Battles Fought

Battle of Montgisard (1177): This battle was fought between the forces of the Ayyubid Sultan Saladin and the Knights Templar and their allies. The Templar forces, led by King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, were outnumbered but ultimately emerged triumphant.

Siege of Acre (1189-1191): This three-year siege, fought between the forces of King Richard I of England, the Knights Templar, and their allies against the forces of Saladin, was a major victory for the Crusader forces. The Templar forces played a crucial role in the siege and were praised for their bravery and skill.

Battle of Arsuf (1191): This battle was fought by Richard I of England and the Knights Templar against Saladin’s forces. After a day of fierce fighting, Richard’s forces emerged victorious and secured a major port city for the crusader cause.

Battle of La Forbie (1244): This battle was fought between the forces of the Ayyubids and the Knights Templar and their allies. Despite being outnumbered, Templar forces were victorious and gained control of the port city of Acre, a major stronghold of the Crusader cause.

Battle of Cresson
A painting of of the Battle of Hattin in 1187. This lead to the Third Crusade. (Sebastian Mamerot)

Other Organisations

The Knights Templar did not have the monopoly on military religious orders. Here are 4 other organisations that operated more or less at the same time and did similar things as the Templars:

  1. Hospitaller Knights of St. John: The Hospitaller Knights of St. John, or the Knights of Malta, were a Christian military order that was founded in 1119 to provide care for sick and injured pilgrims in the Holy Land. The order provided safe passage to the Holy Land for pilgrims and fought in the Crusades.
  2. The Teutonic Knights: The Teutonic Knights were a German medieval military order established in 1190. They were formed to protect pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land and also fought in the Crusades.
  3. The Hospitallers of Saint Lazarus: The Hospitallers of Saint Lazarus were a Christian military order founded in 1098. They provided assistance to pilgrims and fought in the Crusades.
  4. The Order of Saint George: The Order of Saint George was a Christian military order that was founded in 1202. They provided assistance to pilgrims and fought in the Crusades.


The Order was dissolved in 1312, when Pope Clement V issued a Papal Bull ordering the dissolution of the Knights Templar. This was because  the Order had become corrupt and had become involved in numerous illegal activities.

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The legacy of the Knights Templar lives on to this day. They are remembered as the epitome of courage, faith and loyalty. The Order’s influence is still seen in the modern world, with many organisations, companies and clubs using the Knights Templar emblem as part of their crest or logo.