Hugues de Payns - founder of the Knights Templar

There is no contemporary biography in existence and no later writers cite one that is still extant. Information is therefore extremely scanty and any embellishments often rely on people writing decades or even centuries after De Payns' death. What is the general story?

Praise of the new Knights Templar (1128)

In 1128 Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Andre de Montbard's uncle and abbott of the Cistercian monastery of Clairvaux, published on request of Hughes de Payen a pro-Templar tract entitled
In Praise of the New Knighthood.

In this tract Saint Bernard explains the objective of the new Order of the Knights of the Temple and sets it as an example for "normal knighthood". Some quotes:

On the practice of normal knighthood:
What else is the cause of wars and the root of disputes among you, except unreasonable flashes of anger, the thirst for empty glory, or the hankering after some earthly possessions? It certainly is not safe to kill or to be killed for such causes as these.
On the right of Knights Templar to kill pagans:
If he kills an evildoer, he is not a mankiller, but, if I may so put it, a killer of evil. He is evidently the avenger of Christ towards evildoers and he is rightly considered a defender of Christians.
I do not mean to say that the pagans are to be slaughtered when there is any other way to prevent them from harassing and persecuting the faithful, but only that it now seems better to destroy them than that the rod of sinners be lifted over the lot of the just, and the righteous perhaps put forth their hands unto iniquity.
On their behavior in battle:
Thus in a wonderous and unique manner they appear gentler than lambs, yet fiercer than lions. I do not know if it would be more appropriate to refer to them as monks or as soldiers, unless perhaps it would be better to recognize them as being both. Indeed they lack neither monastic meekness nor military might. What can we say of this, except that this has been done by the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes. These are the picked troops of God, whom he has recruited from the ends of the earth; the valiant men of Israel chosen to guard well and faithfully that tomb which is the bed of the true Solomon, each man sword in hand, and superbly trained to war.
On their settlement at Temple Mount:
Moved therefore by their King's example (Jesus expelling by whip merchants from the temple, as is described in the Gospel; TN), his devoted soldiers consider that it is even more shameful and infinitely more intolerable for a holy place to be polluted by pagans than to be crowded with merchants. Once they have installed themselves in this holy house with their horses and their weapons, cleansed it and the other holy places of every un-Christian stain, and cast out the tyrannical horde, they occupy themselves day and night in both pious exercises and practical work. They are especially careful to honor the temple of God with zealous and sincere reverence, offering by their devout service, not the flesh of animals according to the ancient rites, but true peace offerings of brotherly love, devoted obedience and voluntary poverty. 

source: Copyright (C) 1996, Bernard of Clairvaux, In Praise of the New Knighthood, prologue-chapter five, translated by Conrad Greenia ocso, from Bernard of Clairvaux: Treatises Three, Cistercian Fathers Series, Number Nineteen, © Cistercian Publications, 1977, pages 127-145 (without notes). All rights reserved.

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Knights Templar - the first decade

According to chroniclers of their early years, the Knights Templar were founded in 1118 by Hughes de Payen, a vassal of the Count of Champagne. In 1118 Baldwin I was King of Jerusalem. The older brother of the King, Godfroi de Bouillon, had been one of the leaders of the first Crusade (1096–1099) that had lead to the conquest of Jerusalem from the Muslims in 1099.

The group around Hugo de Payen, all related to each other by either blood or marriage, proposed themselves to King Baldwin I as an order of fighting monks, who would protect the roadways for pious pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem. They were given an entire wing of the royal palace as their headquarters, a wing that had been built upon the foundations of the Temple of Solomon. Thus they received their name: "the Knights of the Temple." The Templars made use of the numerous tunnels known to exist beneath Solomon's Stables on the Temple Mount. This use stands at the origin of many myths on treasure being searched for and found by the Templars at the temple site.

During the first nine years of their existence the Order admitted no new members. Furthermore, there is no evidence from contemporary chroniclers indicating that they engaged in the activities for which they were founded: the protection of pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem. Nevertheless they became famous throughout Europe as the selfless "Militia of Christ."

By 1127, most of the original Knights had returned to Europe. In 1128 Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Andre de Montbard's uncle and abbott of the Cistercian monastery of Clairvaux, published on request of Hughes de Payen a pro-Templar tract entitled In Praise of the New Knighthood. In this tract Saint Bernard stresses the in those days new combination of monkhood and knighthood when he writes: "But when the one sees a man powerfully girding himself with both swords and nobly marking his belt, who would not consider it worthy of all wonder, the more so since it has been hitherto unknown? He is truly a fearless knight and secure on every side, for his soul is protected by the armor of faith just as his body is protected by armor of steel."

At the Saint Bernard-inspired Council of Troyes the same year, the Church officially recognized the Templars as a religious and military order dedicated to the defense of Christendom.

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Birth of the Knights Templar

In order to understand better the position of Knights Templar at the beginning of the second millennium as well as their (potential) meaning today, it is important to have a clear picture of their origin and original intent. This blog will present notes on the first decade of their existence. That is between 1118, their year of origin at Jerusalem, and 1129, their formal endorsement by the Church at the occasion of the Council of Troyes.

Often blogs will initially be based on information from Information from other sources will be added if and when individual blogs are improved.

Chroniclers write that the French knight Hugues de Payens approached King Baldwin II of Jerusalem with eight knights in order to form a group of Knights. Two of them were his brothers but all were his relatives by either blood or marriage. So the founding fathers of Knights Templar were:
* Hugues de Payens
* Godfrey de Saint-Omer
* Payen de Montdidier
* Archambaud de St. Agnan
* Andre de Montbard
* Geoffrey Bison
* Rossal
* Gondamer
* The ninth knight remains unknown, although some have speculated that it was Count Hugh of Champagne

The group proposed the creation of a monastic order for the protection of these pilgrims. Baldwin II of Jerusalem agreed to their request. He allowed them to stay in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which in fact was a converted mosque, the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This spot became the location for their Templar headquarters. These knights became a premier group of religious knights protecting the visitors of Jerusalem.

The Temple Mount was located on the ruins of the Temple of Solomon. Thus the Knights named their order the "Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon".

Religion and extremism

"Like other religions, Islam has its extremist elements. It also has an illustrious history, which includes numerous contributions to the civilization we enjoy today. The terrorist attacks of 9-11 are no more representative of Islam than are those of the Ku Klux Klan of Christianity (the onerous deeds of the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda also come to mind). And just as Osama bin Laden rallied his followers by quoting religious scripture out of context (e.g. “slay the infidels wherever you find them”), so did the Dutch Reformed Church do precisely the same in justifying the practice of apartheid in South Africa. Religion is a double-edged sword that can either cause conflict or abate it. To focus on the former, while ignoring the latter is to deprive one’s self of a critically important asset in countering religious violence. To my way of thinking, the best way to deal with Islam is to make a concerted effort to understand it, first of all, by getting to know a Muslim."

source of the previous quote: ICRD Update September 2011