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.

On Sisters

70. The company of women is a dangerous thing, for by it the old devil has led many from the straight path to Paradise. Henceforth, let not ladies be admitted as sisters into the house of the Temple; that is why, very dear brothers, henceforth it is not fitting to follow this custom, that the flower of chastity is always maintained among you.

Let Them Not Have Familiarity with Women

71. We believe it to be a dangerous thing for any religious to look too much upon the face of woman. For this reason none of you may presume to kiss a woman, be it widow, young girl, mother, sister, aunt or any other; and henceforth the Knighthood of Jesus Christ should avoid at all costs the embraces of women, by which men have perished many times, so that they may remain eternally before the face of God with a pure conscience and sure life.

Nevertheless, bonds of varying kinds were in fact established between women and military orders during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. These links were of diverse kinds, and obviously in many instances brought no close involvement in the life and work of a convent. Many women simply entered into bonds of confraternity with a military order. In return for gifts their names were included in the prayers said in its chapels. In that way they were regarded as participants in the good works it performed. Some, especially widows, were placed under the protection of a military order Others were given material aid. In some cases this was provided only in times of hardship. In 1196 for example the Templars of the Catalan house of Gardeny promised to Nina of Talladeil that they would give assistance if she became poverly stricken. More commonly, however, orders provided regular allowances of food or money. Some women received maintenance, either occasionally or regularly, inside a convent. In 1176 the Aragonese provincial master of the Temple promised food to Dominic of Batizo and his wife Mary. As the couple lived in Pertusa., it is clear that they were merely being granted a right of hospitality which was to be exercised whenever they wished.

Templar sources provide a number of examples of women who associated themselves with the order and adopted a form of religious life. The Templar rule itself indicates that some had been admitted before 1129. It does not give precise information about their status, but the wording suggests that the bond was not just one of confraternity.’After 1129 some wornen who wished to withdraw from the world still turned to the Temple even though the rule forbade any further admissions of sisters. Finally, a memorandum written by the Templar Commander of Payns, Ponzard de Gizy, mentions thc admission of sisters who promised poverty, chastity and obedience. Thus, despite the prohibition in their early rue, the Templars accepted women who renounced their goods and took the normal monastic vows. This practice was apparently not occasioned by any decree issued by the central authorities of the Temple.

The French translation of the Templars’ Rule, datable to c. 1140, repeated the earlier Latin version which implied that the prohibition on the association of married couples was scrupulously observed, but the text was vague and there is no detailed information as to how far it was implemented. At the same time evidence shows that a simple consoror or donata could become a fully-professed soror. Proof is lacking so far that the sisters did take up arms, as did their brothers Knight Templar.
Source rule, text. and illustration.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Women were also hired to do work in the commanderies, acting as servants, milkmaids etc. and hence interacted on a daily basis with the knight brothers. Given that each commandery in the west averaged to reside two templars, (sargent or knight), one might argue that there were more women than templars in their commanderies. There is even a report of a female commander of a templar house in Rourell and even a house of templar nuns in Mühlen, Worms. All this from Helen Nicholsons The everyday life of the templars.
Also- thank you for this resource! Great work.