Aristocratic and monastic primacy in the 12th century County of Champagne, France

In his book The Aristocracy in the County of Champagne, 1100-1300, Theodore Evergates sketches the administrative situation in the County of Champagne, France in the 12th century. Champagne is the birth place of the Cistercian monastic Order, and also played an important part in founding of the Knights Templar. A summary.

The Templar's first task: highway police in peace time

After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 the Kingdom of the Franks did not endure a perpetual state of emergency, as the chroniclers and many historians wanted us to believe. Rather, the roughly ninety years leading to Saladin’s decisive victory over the Frankish army at Hattin in 1187, which put an end to the first Frankish kingdom, can be divided into a period of frequent military engagement between Franks and Muslims, a period of relative security, and a period of sustained Muslim offensive, which resulted in the creation of the Frankish frontier. 

Evrard des Barres - Templar Grand Master and Cistercian monk

"Evrard des Barres was the third Grand Master of Knights Templar from 1147-1151. After his career at the Temple he retired to Clairvaux near the end of the life of St. Bernard (died 1153). This again is an illustration of the close relationships that existed between the Knights Templar and the Cistercian Order.

Templars in Sweden?

People who read Jan Guillou's books on Arn Magnusson, the imaginary Swedish Knight Templar, often ask if there really have been Knights Templar as far up north as Sweden. It has of course been speculated that the noble man who appears in the relief on Forshems church, and who inspired Guillou, must have been a Knight Templar. Is there reason to believe this?

The Templars and Nostradamus - myth or truth?

In his book  Nostradamus and the Lost Templar Legacy (2003) Rudy Cambier presents the results of his decade long research and analysis of the verses of Nostradamus' 'prophecies'. He argues that the language of those verses does not belong in the 16th Century, nor in Nostradamus' region of Provence, France. An intriguing alternative vision unfolds.

Cluny Abbey - the islamic link to Christian France

Islamic knowledge contributions to Medieval Europe were numerous, affecting such varied areas as art, architecture, medicine, agriculture, music, language, and technology. From the 11th to 13th centuries, Europe absorbed knowledge from the Islamic civilization. The Benedictin monastery at Cluny played an important part.

Bernard de Clairvaux - 900 years at Citeaux

The ninth centenary of Bernard de Fontaine’s entry into the Abbey of Cîteaux (1112 or 1113?) was celebrated during the Vocations Year 2012-2013. After founding Clairvaux Abbey in 1115 Bernard became better known as Bernard de Clairvaux, the spiritual leader of the Cistercian Order and (after 1127) of the Order of the Knights Templar.

On this occasion Dom Olivier, abbot of present day Cîteaux Abbey, has asked to pass on the following invitation to all the members of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance O.C.S.O.. This request is relayed here in full.
"Our community is going to celebrate the ninth centenary of St Bernard’s entering of Cîteaux (1112 or 1113?). To mark the event, we are setting up a campaign of prayer for vocations, from 20th August 2012 to 20th August 2013. We invite you to join us with this prayer:


Most gracious Father,
in setting up the New Monaster your fathers followed the poor Christ into the desert.
Thus they lived the Gospel
by rediscovering the Rule of Saint Benedict in its purity.

You gave Bernard of Fontaine
the ability to make this new life attractive and appealing to others,
in the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Grant that we today, after their example,
may live our charism deeply
in a spirit of peace, unity, humility,
and above all, in the charity which surpasses all other gifts.
May men and women of our time
be newly called to follow the Gospel in monastic life,
in the service of the Church’s mission,
and in a world forgetful of You.

Remember Lord, Cîteaux,
where Bernard arrived with his companions.
May the brothers there
continue to live in the enthusiastic and generative spirit of the founders.

Remember all who live the Cistercian charism.

Remember all Cistercian communities,
those which are aging and those newly-born,
in all parts of the world, north and south, east and west.

Let them not lose courage in times of trial,
but turn to her whom Bernard called the Star of the Sea.

Holy Father,
from whom we have already received so much,
grant us again your blessing
that our communities may grow in numbers,
but above all in grace and in wisdom,
to your glory,
who are blessed for ever and ever.

sources text and illustration

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Troyes de Champagne - the jewish link to Cistercian and Templar origins

A Hebrew school of great importance, directed by the highest rabbinical authorities and attended by numerous students from various lands, especially Germany and France, flourished at Troyes in the twelfth century. Several synods whose ordinances were adopted in foreign countries assembled at Troyes about 1160. A blog on Jewish roots and Christian sequel and the link to Cistercian and Templar origins.

Templar and Cistercian family ties

Through kindred the Order of the Temple maintained close ties with leaders of society. These relationships were mutually beneficial. What was the situation in the Duchy of Burgundy, the County of Champagne, and the area that is now commonly referred to as Languedoc in southern France?

The Cistercian link to the birth of the Knights Templar 1104-1129

The years 1104 till 1129 are key years of the history of the Knights Templar: the years of origin. What happened in that timespan? And what were the links with that other juvenile Order, the Cistercians?

The Templar workforce

"Whenever Templars appear in books or films, it is always the knights of the Order in their flowing white surcoats, hacking their way through the dust of battle. But to function properly, the Order needed more than squadrons of combat-hardened knights. It required armies of other men to undertake the hundreds of skilled tasks necessary to keep everything running. The Templar workforce.

Women and the Knights Templar

The "Primitive Templar Rule" of the Templars, originating from the Troyes council of January 1129,  is quite clear on the disadvantages of contact with women. Still, women were involved in the Order. Some examples of Rules and practise.

Ordines Militares - Yearbook for the Study of the Military Orders

The journal Ordines Militares Colloquia Torunensia Historica follows a fifteen-volume book series containing papers from international conferences devoted to the history of military orders “Ordines militares. Colloquia Torunensia Historica”, which have been organized in Toruń every two years since 1981. Thanks to the research done by Professor Karol Górski and his students, the Institute of History of Nicolaus Copernicus University (created in 1945) became the most important Polish centre for research on the history of the Teutonic Order and the Teutonic State in Prussia.

The idea to create an international forum of researchers of military orders in Toruń resulted from the cooperation between Polish and German historians established during conferences organized since 1974 under the auspices of UNESCO, and devoted to the role of the Teutonic Order in history textbooks.

The founder of Toruń’s meetings of researchers of military orders and the editor of the first eleven volumes from the series “Ordines militares” was Zenon Hubert Nowak from the Institute of History and Archival Science of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. After his death in 1999 Roman Czaja from NCU and Jürgen Sarnowsky from the University of Hamburg took over the organization of conferences and the edition of the series.

The subject of the first volumes from the series “Ordines militares. Colloquia Torunensia Historica” centred around the history of the Teutonic Order; however in the beginning of the 1990s the thematic scope started to include the history of the Hospitallers, the Knights Templar and orders set up in the Iberian Peninsula.

Both the thematic scope of the conference and the growing number of participants have contributed to the fact that the conferences from the series “Ordines militares” have become one of the most important forums for meetings of researchers of military orders from all over the world. The meetings of young researchers dealing with the history of military orders constitute an important element of Toruń’s conferences organized since 2003.

The growing academic prestige of the series “Ordines Militares. Colloquia Torunensia Historica” led to its being transformed into a yearbook devoted to the history of military orders. In keeping with tradition, each volume includes a definite thematic scope, which refers to the subject of a conference from the “Ordines militares” series. Moreover, articles, polemics, research surveys, source monographs and reviews concerning the history of military orders are published there in English, German and French.

source text and illustration 
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Arn Magnusson - the imaginary Swedish Knight Templar

Arn Magnusson is the main character in the Crusades trilogy written in Swedish by author and journalist Jan Guillou. This fictional Swedish character from the Middle Ages is forced to become a Knight Templar. The series is an account of the life of Arn Magnusson, who becomes a witness as well as a catalyst to many important historical events, both in his homeland of Sweden and in the crusades against the Middle East.

The trilogy, dubbed the Crusades trilogy, consists of the following books:
book 1
book 2
book 3
DVD Blu-Ray


Guillou also wrote a follow-up novel about Birger Jarl, founder of Stockholm, entitled The Heritage of Arn (in Swedish Arven efter Arn) published in 2001. In Guillou's fictional universe, Birger Jarl is the grandson of Arn Magnusson.

The books were reworked to a film released in December 2007: Arn – The Knight Templar (In Swedish: Arn - Tempelriddaren, and its sequel Arn – The Kingdom at Road's End (in Swedish: Arn – Riket vid vägens slut), released August 22, 2008.

While the films are mostly in Swedish and most of the production was made in Sweden, the film is a joint production between the four Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland and Germany. With a total budget of around 210 million Sweidsh Krona (ca. 30 Million US$ for both films, it is the most expensive production in Swedish cinema.

Based on the detailed stories by Guillou, the question may be put forward: did the Knights Templar really live in Sweden? This question will be dealt with in another blog.

It's worth mentioning that there is a decent mini film series based on these books: link.

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A Templar history in graphics

July 2013, a new 480-page graphic novel about the Knights Templar was published by Jordan Mechner. It is called Templar. A review is presented here.

The storyline: Martin is one of a handful of Templar Knights to escape when the king of France and the pope conspire to destroy the noble order. The king aims to frame the Templars for heresy, execute all of them, and make off with their legendary treasure. That's the plan, anyway, but Martin and several other surviving knights mount a counter-campaign to regain the lost treasure of the Knights Templar.

With gorgeous illustrations by LeUyen Pham and Alexander Puvilland and lush coloring from Hilary Sycamore, this 480-page, full-color, hardcover graphic novel by Jordan Mechner is itself a treasure.

On presents a 28-page preview, of which one sample page is presented here.

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Modern Knights Templar in Belgium

Media project made for Knights Templar Priory of Belgium. Designed to provide our Order with a first-contact video brochure for introducing OSMTH to prospective new members.

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The Council of Vienne: royal blackmail for Templar condamnation

"The Council of Vienne (1311-12), the fifteenth Ecumenical Council, is a good example of the Church wrestling with the problem of secular interference and political pressure. King Philip IV of France was in urgent need of cash to continue his war with England and so in 1307 accused the Knights Templar of heresy. Powerplay at work.

The "Association Historique du Temple de Paris"

40 Rue des Blancs Manteaux
75004 Paris
Tél . +33 1 30 70 00 52

In Paris, France an association exists called L'Association Historique du Temple de Paris. This is an independent association under French law that does not receive any subsidies. The objective of the association is:

  • to establish in a general way the historical and heritage of the Temple district in Paris District (3rd Arrondissement) through the history of the Temple and of the life of the Knights Templar
  • Combining efforts to disseminate publications by supporting writers in a joint action towards booksellers, local groups and the general public
  • Organizing events such as exhibitions, lectures, tours, interventions in educational institutions, entertainment etc
  • Establishing a strategy on communication, information and promotion,in partnership with local communities.
  • Contributing to the cultural,historical and tourist development of the area of the Temple.
The work of the Association is undertaken in a totally selfless spirit and for the cultural enrichment of all.

The website of the Association, which appears a bit outdated and undermanaged at the moment (May 2021), holds interesting information on events of all sorts, results of research undertaken at the Temple district as well as research carried out in the subterranean caves below the old town. The most important remains of Paris are to be found below ground, in the cellars of the houses that add up to many thousands. The research project is carried out by Danny Sandron, Director of the Centre André Chastel, in partnership with the Paris Department of History of Architecture and Archaeology, The Heritage Service and Inventory of the Regional Council of Ile de France and the Center of Parisian topography. 

Both illustrations source 

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The first Order of Jerusalem: the Hospitaller Order of St John

Around 1050 the Amalfi merchant family De Pantaleon opened a hospital under the protection of St. John the Baptist in Jerusalem, close to the Holy Sepulchre. That is almost half a century before the first Crusade. An even earlier origin has been proposed. After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, this hospital developed further and the organisation was ultimately recognized as an independent Order by the Pope. 

Beauchassin Templar House, Allier, France

The Allier Department does not house very many present day Templar sites, as can be seen on this map.  However, one of the best preserved Templar houses, as yet usually overlooked, stands near the village of Saint Hilaire. TemplarsNow visited this Templar House, which is a private agricultural property and not to be visited, in the Summer of 2012 and was allowed to take some photograhs.

aerial view of the Temple House at Beauchassin, Allier France. source
view from the northwest (photo TemplarsNow 2012)
driveway seen from the west (photo TemplarsNow 2012)

The "Maison du Temple" of Beauchassin is located at the village of Saint-Hilaire, Département Allier, Arrondissement: Moulins, Canton: Bourbon-l'Archambault, municipality of Saint-Hilaire. Beauchassin is located close to and to the east of the "bourgh" of Saint Hilaire.

The name of the Templar settlement changed as follows: Bois-Chassain, Bost-Chassin or Bourg-Chassain and today Beauchassin. The site still shows traces of the Knights Templar, for instance in the stone tablet in the wall of the House (aerial photo above nr 1).
This tablet earlier was described to show a cross pattée, a type of cross which has arms narrow at the centre, and broader at the perimeter. This cross appears very early in medieval art, and became one of the characteristic signs of the Knights Templar. It is known, however, that  in their early days Knights Templar wore a simple cross, as did all early crusaders. The present day cross at Beauchassin is not clearly a cross pattée as can be seen on the recent photographs below.

cross pattée (?) above the main door of the house in the
southeast facade of the House  (photos TemplarsNow 2012)
cross pattée (?) in detail
Apart from the house the Templar possession included a chapel, agricultural buildings, fields, pastures and forests. The chapel was dedicated to Saint Blaise and Saint John. The chapel measured 15 x 6,5 meters. It was not vaulted as indicated in the drawing below.

Some traces of the chapel still exist in the form of an ornamented doorway, shown on the pictures below. This doorway, set in the northwest facade of the building indicated nr 2 on the aerial photo above, nowadays leads into a agricultural building with a tin roof.

decorated doorway in northwest facade former chapel
detail doorway (both pictures TemplarsNow 2012)
Probably southeast facade view of chapel with doorway
similar to the one shown above but in the opposite wall.
The House can be seen to the left, with the door over
which is the croix pattée also shown above. To the  right
detail drawing of probably same doorway. Dates unknown.
According to the present occupant some years ago a fire destroyed much of the building that once was the Chapel. This building was rebuilt in a simple way with only agricultural use foreseen.

So there is not very much left of the former Templar origin of the site, although this origin is still documented by some striking details. Probably the Knights Hospitaller did take this house when the Temple Order was abolished in the early 14th century. However, only about 1 km to the westnorthwest, on the nearby D1 road, another (former) Hospitaller House is located, now aptly called La Croix Rouge (The Red Cross).

The color photographs were made and copy-righted by TemplarsNow. They may be re-used for non-commercial purposes, but only with full reference to this site and TemplarsNow. The above text is mainly a French-English translation by TemplarsNow of the text in The drawings are from, which mentions as source thereof the municipal archives of Saint-Hilaire. 

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The Temple Order's original aims

In this book The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple Malcolm Barber explores the original aim of the Knights Templar.

"Chronicler William Archbishop of Tyre (died c. 1186) says: 'Under the year 1118, certain noble men of knightly order, devoted to God, pious and God-fearing’, the two most important of whom were Hugh of Payns (in Champagne, France) and Godfrey of Saint-Omer (in Picardy, France), took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience at the hands of Warmund of Picquigny, Patriarch of Jerusalem. They promised to devote themselves to God’s service in the manner of regular canons. In return the King gave them a base in his palace, to the south side of the Temple of the Lord, which was the name given by the Franks to the Dome of the Rock.

 At this time the king was resident in the al-Aqsa mosque at the southern end of the Haram al-Sharif or Temple platform in Jerusalem, for the crusaders believed this to be the site of Solomon’s Temple and therefore an appropriate dwetling for the king. In addition the canons of the Temple of the Lord gave them a square near the al-Aqsa mosque where they could follow the monastic offices. A number of benefices were granted to them by the king and his nobles and the patriarch and other prelates, the income from which was intended to feed and clothe them.

The distinctive feature of this fraternity, however, was the duty ‘enjoined on them by the lord patriarch and the other bishops for the remission of their sins’, which was that ‘they should maintain, as far as they could, the roads and highways against the ambushes of thieves and attackers, especially in regard to the safety of pilgrims’.

Old town Jerusalem, with Temple mount
at the right bottom corner  source,
including explanation of lettre codes
It seems that at first the knights intended simply to adopt a penitential way of life as a kind of lay confraternity, and that later a more active role was suggested to them. Chronicler Michael the Syrian, the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch (died 1199) says that it was the king, a man acutely aware of the deficiencies of the military establishment, who persuaded Hugh of Payns and thirty companions ‘to serve in the knighthood, with those attached to him, rather than becoming a monk, in order to work to save his only soul, and to guard these places against robbers’.

While it seems certain that the Templars influenced the Hospitallers to take on a military role during the 1130s, it is equally likely that initially the Hospital, which Order was established prior to the Templars, provided Hugh of Payns and Godfrey of Saint-Omer with an effective example of what could be done to help pilgrims.

Certainly the creation of a permanent guard for pilgrim travellers must have seemed to both king and patriarch an ideal complement to the activities of the Hospitallers, who provided shelter and medical care for pilgrims and had been formed as an annex to the monastery of Santa Maria Latinain about 1080. After the Frankish conquest in 1099 they quickly gained royal favour, grants of property and, in 1113, papal recognition."

Source The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple Malcolm Barber

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The Templar Order's birthdate pin-pointed on January, 1120

In his book The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple Malcolm Barber (1995) provides a detailed and by now classical reconstruction of the birth of the Templar Order. 

The conclusions reached by Barber still stand, although an earlier date for the start of less formal activities by so-called proto-Templars has been presented recently (2019). This blog freely quotes some key passages from Barber, occasionally adding some details from other sources like Wikipedia.

The Masters of the Temple - a review worth reading

On his website Gordon Napier published an elabroate and apparently well researched review of the Masters of the Knights Templar through the ages. This review was an adapted version of A to Z of the Knights Templar by the same author. This blog quotes in full the introduction to this review with some minor adaptations.

Virtual visit to a Cistercian monastery

As the research of TemplarsNow is progressing, proof of the direct relationship between the Cistercian monastic Order and the Order of the Knights Templar is mounting. It becomes clear that the origin and original aims of the Knights Templar cannot be understood without understanding the Cistercian movement at the time. The start of the Cistercian Order preceded that of the Knights Templar only a few decades, it stood at the same region in north-eastern France and held the same actors form local noble families, with a pivotal role for the court of the Earl of Champagne at Troyes. Therefore, information on the onset of the Cistercian order is regularly added to this site.

In an earlier contribution the basic plan of an 12th century Cistercian monastery was presented. This lay-out was applied in most abbeys. The present new contribution shows a YouTube 3D representation of the same. This allows for a virtual visit to an original Cistercian monastery.

"The Templar Revelation" reviewed by Theresa Welsh

Key quotes from the review by Theresa Welsh of  The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians Of The True Identity Of Christ by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince.

"In this ambitious and controversial work by Picknett and Prince we find much more on the legends of France concerning Mary Magdalene and her possible connection to Jesus and the Christian movement. The authors also delve into the mystery of Rennes le Chateau, the story which originally inspired Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh to do the investigation which led to their astounding theories. Since that time, other books have also questioned the standard story of Christian beginnings, and have even revived the idea that historical Jesus did not exist. The controversy surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls has only added to the confusion about who the early Christians actually were and what they believed (...)

Controversy swirls around the fact that some of the material from the scrolls seems "Christian" but actually predates the Jesus movement. This, like the material in The Templar Revelation, seems to show that the central ideas of Christianity are not new. Other authors have shown that the "suffering savior" theme was present in many pagan religions of the era. Many of us have absorbed and accepted the idea that Christianity is not based on any new ideas. (...)

Picknett and Prince take the idea further and show that the roots of Christianity are in the Egyptian religion, especially the cult of Isis and Osiris. Osiris was killed on Friday and resurrected three days later by the power of his wife Isis, who then conceives their son, Horus. But even more parallels with Jesus can be found in the basic beliefs of the Isis religion, which emphasized repentance and confession. It was not Jesus who originally brought this message to the Jews, but another character who figures prominently in occult circles, John the Baptist. John is seen by the authors as a rival of Jesus who founded a substantial movement that continued to exist even though persecuted by Jews, Christians, and Moslems. John too took his ideas from Egypt, including immersion in water as a purification rite. (...)
While I find much of the material illuminating and believable, the authors ultimately fall short of pulling it all together in the magnificent way of Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh in The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail.
The Templar Revelation adds to the overall picture of the suppression of truth down through the ages, but it does not reveal any Great Truth. It's major contribution to this endless and wonderful debate is the Egyptian origins of Jesus' teachings. I previously assumed that Christianity began as a cult within Judaism, but these authors show that this may be a misperception, one fostered by the Church to hide its true, pagan origins. The original "holy family" was Osiris, Isis and Horus."

Read the whole review at; illustration: Eqyptian madonna: Isis with Horus child (source wikipedia)  

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