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.

"Chronicler William of Tyre reports that at least the two worldly knights Hugh of Payns (in the Earldom of 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.Subsequently king Baldwin II, who succeeded his cousin Baldwin I at Easter 1118, 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. This sequence of events sets the oldest possible date for the origin of the Order at or probably shortly after Spring 1118. However, most pobably this brotherhood already existed informally for some years as one of the the brotherhoods of the Holy Sepulcher, related to the Knights Hospitaler.

It is possible to be more precise about the date of the formal recognition of the Templars in a wider sense. Among the early grants to the Order was one by Thierry, Count of Flanders, dated 13 September 1128, which states that it was made in the ninth year from the Order’s foundation’, setting this foundation in 1119. As this grant was actually made in the presence of Hugh of Payns, it must be more reliable evidence than the earlier year 1118 given by William of Tyre, whose reputation for faulty chronology is well known and who was writing over half a century later. Nor is William consistent, for he says later in the same passage that the Council of Troyes, at which the Templars received official papal recognition, occurred in their ninth year. Jean Michel, the scribe who wrote down the council’s proceedings, dates his record as the Feast of St Hilary (13 January) 1128, ‘the ninth year from the beginning of the aforesaid militia’, information which, like Count Thierry’s scribe, he must have obtained from Hugh of Payns himself, since he was present at the council. This also sets the foundation in the year 1119 following uncorrected time reckoning of those days.

But Rudolf Hiestand has shown that this date should be corrected to january 1129, in accordance with the contemporary French practice of beginning the year on 25 March. Therefore, the official date of the foundation or at least formal recognition in the Holy Land must fall in January of the year 1120.

It is most likely that the formal occasion for their official acceptance as an Order in the east was at the assembly of prelates and secular leaders held at Nablus in January 1120, which issued a series of decrees on the 23rd of the month. The supposition is reinforced by the fact that the Christian settlers in Outremer ("The Holy Land") were experiencing a period of severe crisis at this time, and the assembly at Nablus had been called in an atmosphere heavy with contrition and penitence. A dramatic letter from the Patriarch Warmund and Gerard, Prior of the Holy Sepulchre, written at about this time, appealed to Diego Gelmirez, Archbishop of Compostella, and his people, to send help in the form of men, money, and food as soon as possible. They were, said Warmund, being attacked on all sides by Saracens from Baghdad, Ascalon, Tyre, and Damascus.

The kingdom had become so unsafe that no one dared to venture outside the walls of Jerusalem without an armed escort, while the Saracens had become so bold that they came up to the gates of the city itself. Considering this the formal recognition at Nablus in January 1120 of a military Order of Knights devoting itself to protecting pilgrims falls in the right time slot and historical context."
Buy The New Knighthood - source of most of the text

Source The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple Malcolm Barber (1995)

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