The early years of the Knights Templar - 1104 - 1120

"The first history of the Brotherhood is known as the time that occurs between the Synod of Nablus (January 16, 1120, TN) until the Council of Troyes (January 13, 1129, TN), where the Order is definitely created, but...what about before?

Before this period that covers from 1104 through 1120...what occurs during this period? This prehistory is the dark era of these knights. How did they support themselves?

As we shall see they had more than ample support, powerful support such as no other group of this sort ever counted on, not even the Deacon of St. John Hospitalier, to take off with such self assured success. They had economic power, they had hosts, they had lawfull cover. Later would come donations that miraculously multiply upon being accepted at Troyes. Their logistics and marketing worked marvelously.

Their provenance was made up of members of royalty and from the different noble houses of the Franks: Burgundians, Normans. etc. made the rest an easy passage of alliance with the highest spheres of the church, perhaps as Mellado says about its early ambition having no measure, perhaps it was not all bucolic and romantic as it has passed on in the annals of its first history.

It is a natural understanding that prior to this time there was already a formation “in testing” since previous  years. How many? Not known, but logic prevails and we must yield and honor the closest hypothesis based on archival documents that were consulted. If my conjectures are correct (and there is no authentic proof to think that they are not possible) we could be talking not of the nine years of its existence until Nablus. If we count 1104 as the year of its conception until 1114 when it is already constituted and is put into practice upon the arrival of the Hugh’s, in that year, until 1120, when its officially recognized at Nablus, some 16 years had transpired that would encompass the novitiate, the temporal acknowledgment; the creation of the Brotherhood or congregation in the aforementioned Synod. It can be stratified in six different periods.
  1. Ideological and embryonic phase from 1104 until 1107, in which the creation of a police force is perceived as necessary. Creative steps are taken that leave Godfrey of Sainte-Omer tasked with its creation.
  2. Formation of the Militia Christi phase, incorpora-ting same with knights related to the conquerors that take Palestine as the new promised land, there whe-re the mister nobody’s can become someone, forcing that social stratification (35). In the long run, the church had served on not few occasions as a means of social climbing.
  3. Phase of activation with the presence of the Hugh’s from 1114 to 1120, where their relationship would be without rules,habits, monastic vows, no depen-dency on military or ecclesiastical authorities, bound only by the particular and personal oath of each of its members. Here we may apply from William of Tyre who wrote “the knights wore secular garb, they wore clothing such as all folk wear...”
  4. Foundation phase, Synod of Nablus (1120, TN) of the congregation or brotherhood, with a proper name, rules, dwellings, monastic vows, uniformity, disciplines, etc.,
  5. Acceptance by the church at Troyes phase (1129, TN). The Creation of the Order.
  6. Definite consolidation of the Order in 1139 by the Omne Datum Optimum Papal Bull.

(...) Thus the date of creation of the embryonic Templars, would be around 1107/1113, (...) From 1114 until 1120 is the recruiting phase. In 1120 the Brotherhood is legalized and in 1129 the Order is created by the Holy See, and is confirmed in 1139."

This blog quotes from an article "The First Templar Knights (Part 2)  -  The origin of the Temple" by Josè Maria Fernandez Nùñe in the December 2015 OSMTJ Spain The Graal Magazine to be downloaded here.  The text and interpunction was slightly improved and clarified. For references see the original text. Illustration King Baldwin meeting Hughees de Payns source

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Carta caritatis: the Cistercian constitution - blue print of the Templar rule

"Carta Caritatis’ (also known as the Charter of Charity) is a Cistercian source that is considered ‘the fundamental constitution of the Cistercian Order.’49 There is much debate amongst historians as to when the charter was actually written.

Many historians, including W. A. Parker Mason, believe the charter was completed by 1117, however, the modern historian, Lekai, argues that such a document would have taken decades longer. The work is generally attributed to Stephen Harding, the third abbot of the Cistercian Order, though modern historians agree that he was probably the author of only a primitive version of the source, and that the ‘Carta Caritatis’ was expanded by later generations, as and when it was appropriate....

At face value, the ‘Carta Caritatis’ is startlingly reminiscent of the Rule of Saint Benedict in its structure. However, while the Rule is a guide to how monks live their lives in the monastery, the charter reads much more like a legal document, not a guide, but an order. Thecharter is considered the Cistercian constitution due to its regulations for an intricate network of Cistercian houses. The formation of a constitution illustrates how quickly and rapidly the Cistercian Order had grown, no matter what part of the twelfth century it was written. The complex organisation and the mention of daughter-houses having daughterhouses of their own is testament to this."

This blog quotes freely from the thesis by Lori Firth, Hull University (2012):  "A Comparison of the Cistercian and Knights Templar Orders, And the Personal Influence of Bernard of Clairvaux", to be found here. Illustration By Jörg Breu the Elder - The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain, Link

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Religious fanaticism in the 12th Century Muslim camp

"The fiery zeal and warlike enthusiasm of the Templars were equalled, if not surpassed, by the stern fanaticism and religious ardour of the followers of Mahomet. “Noureddin fought,” says his oriental biographer, “like the meanest of his soldiers, saying, ‘Alas! it is now a long time that I have been seeking martyrdom without being able to obtain it.’ 

Religious fanaticism in the 12th Century Knights Templar camp

"The Templars style themselves “The Avengers of Jesus Christ,” and the “instruments and ministers of God for the punishment of infidels,” and the Pope and the holy fathers of the church proclaim that it is specially entrusted to them “to blot out from the earth all unbelievers,” and they hold out the joys of paradise as the glorious reward for the dangers and difficulties of the task.

Origin of the Cistercian Order: isolation and poverty

"The self-induced exclusion from the world discussed in the ‘Exordium Parvum’ is perhaps the first instance we see of the ideal of poverty, which became a part of the Order’s mantra.

Burton and Kerr point out that with the ideal of poverty, the author of the text is perhaps trying to conjure a comparison; ‘… embraced that poverty which… at one and the same time evoked the notion of apostolic poverty (making the ‘new monks’ the successors of the apostles as well as the early monks). They also argue that the formation of Cîteaux did not occur in complete isolation at all, and that the location of the founding house as described in the source is a manufactured ideal to reinforce the apostolic imagery and an association with the desert fathers; ‘…the reality of the site of the New Monastery was that it was far from remote but it was integrated into the territorial holdings of Burgundy, not many kilometres from the ducal and ecclesiastical centre of Dijon, and settled enough to have a rural population.’

This is an argument that holds substance, as surely the later recruits that saved and ensured the success of the Order would not have heard of the way of life of the monks if they were so far from society. It seems likely that the founders of the Order sought uncultivated land but within a reasonable distance of the civilised world. Considering the success and riches that the later generations of the Order gained, partly through the cultivation of the isolated lands they were given and other ventures such as sheep-shearing in the desolate lands of Yorkshire, this isolation from the world could be considered as a break away from society to gain land (that their benefactors would not mind bestowing) and to avoid competition from other orders.

However such a view perhaps suggests that the early Cistercians did not hold the values that the Order held with esteem, and were only seeking to gain. It would be wrong to suggest that their search for isolation was borne out of greed, but it is interesting to note that their initial ideal of poverty led the Order to become vastly rich and powerful."

Souce text: thesis by Lori Firth, Hull University (2012): "A Comparison of the Cistercian and Knights Templar Orders, And the Personal Influence of Bernard of Clairvaux", to be found here. References in the source. Illustration

Cistercian monks working an praying source

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Knights Templar and Papal bulls: Milites Templi (1144)

"The second of the papal bulls, ‘Milites templi’ was issued in 1144 by Pope Celestine II. The bull discusses briefly the military aspects of the order; ‘through them that God has freed the eastern church from the filth of the pagans and defeated the enemies of the Christian faith.’ This shows the complete sanction for the military aspects of the order, even the taking of human life, if it means fighting for the Christian realm.

The exemplary military conduct of the Knights Templar documented

"Brother Everard des Barres, the newly-elected Master of the Temple, having collected together all the brethren from the western provinces, in 1147 joined the standard of Louis, the French king, and accompanied the crusaders to Palestine.

The Templar Rule and the Cistercian influence

"The Latin Rule, also known as the Primitive Rule, is one of the earliest sources of the Knights Templar. The Primitive Rule is a result of the discussions that took place at the Council of Troyes, which was under the heavy guidance of Bernard of Clairvaux, the new rising star of the Church. (...) The Council of Troyes took place in January 1129. The original Latin Rule, from the Council of Troyes, was actually written by the council’s scribe, John Michael, though the credit for its contents go to St Bernard; ‘At the very least he must have been a major influence on the framing of the Latin Rule, for it is clear that the later Templars valued their Cistercian links above all’.

The early Cistercians: back to strict observance of the Rule of St Benedict

"The ‘Exordium Parvum’ is a 12th century Cistercian document that includes the early history of Cîteaux, incorporating official letters and documents with narrative. While this source illustrates to us that the monks left Molesme to pursue a more rigorous devotion to the Rule of St Benedict, yet there is contrary evidence within the ‘Exordium Cistercii’ that tells us that the monks left for a new way of life because Molesme placed too much emphasis on materialistic wealth and possessions.

Gregorian reform at the root of Cistercian monasticism

"The Gregorian Reforms (initiated by Pope Gregory VII and the circle he formed in the papal curia, c. 1050–80, dealt with the moral integrity and independence of the clergy, TN). This reform inspired others to seek a monastic life far from the secular world and all its excesses and greed, to a life based around control of desire, and the strict discipline of the rules of the desert fathers.

Many new orders were formed, namely Benedictine and Augustinian. Of these new orders, it was the Cluniacs that dominated in the monastic aspect of the Church (which in the medieval period was much more significant). The Cluniacs sought to follow the Rule of St Benedict, taking vows of obedience and poverty. The importance of the Cluniacs in this innovative period cannot be understated; ‘At the end of the eleventh century, at the height of its magnificence, Cluny was the head of a huge monastic empire containing many hundreds of dependencies and associated houses spread throughout western Europe....

The Cistercian Order finds its origins in the Cluniac monastery. It was from the abbey of Molesme, that Robert of Molesme with other monks, including Stephen Harding, left in search of a monastic life of stricter poverty than had been seen hitherto by the Cluniacs....The Cistercian, though he lived a communal life, had his salvation very much in his own hands than his Cluniac cousin: he was expected to do more to eradicate his own sins than to pray for the forgiveness of others. This illustrates some other differences between the two reformist orders.

The early Cistercians sought an isolated place, rejecting the world, to pursue this vocation.... The history of the Cistercian Order is integral to the history of western monasticism....Indeed, the history of the Cistercian Order is so intertwined with the history of medieval Europe as a whole, that it is hard to identify which influenced the other more."

This blog quotes freely from the thesis by Lori Firth, Hull University (2012):  "A Comparison of the Cistercian and Knights Templar Orders, And the Personal Influence of Bernard of Clairvaux", to be found here. References in this source. Illustration shows Pope Gregory VII source

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Knights Templar and Papal bulls: Omne datum optimum (1139)

"To confirm the Order’s legitimacy in the Roman Catholic Church, three papal bulls (Omne datum optimum, Milites Templi and Militea Dei) were issued between 1139 and 1145.

The origin of the Cistercian Order by its own account: Exordium Parvum

"Exordium Parvum’ is a source written by the Cistercians themselves and appears to be a simple and reliable retelling of the formation of the order, thought to have been written before 1119. W. A. Parker Mason says; ‘the account is so bald and straightforward that it is transparently truthful, its very conciseness being in its favour, while the documents also must be accepted as genuine’. The purpose of this source not only seems to be a basic history of the foundation of the order, but also as a document that legitimises the origins of the Cistercian order.

The Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem - contemporary to the Knights Templar

"The Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem owes its origins to Godfrey de Bouillon of the first Crusade, who gathered around him a group of Knights who were entrusted with the protection of the religious Chapter of Canons at the Holy Sepulchre of Christ in 1100. Godfrey had been elected leader of the victorious Crusaders, but refused the title of King. Instead he took on the title "Advocatus Sancti Sepulchri" - "Defender of the Holy Sepulchre".