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 first of these bulls, ‘Omne datum optimum’ issued in 1139 by Pope Innocent II allowed the Order many privileges when it came to gaining resources for itself. The bull exempted the Knight Templar from the payment of tithes, which was criticised by many, perhaps due to jealousy. Prior to this the only other order to gain this exemption was the Cistercians. The Templars were also given permission to gain wealth and support for their order’s growth from the plundering in battles.

Although the Templar brothers were not permitted to hold money for themselves (which is another similarity to the Cistercians) the Templars rules seem to be far more lax than the Cistercians when it came to wealth. This brings into question the supposed Templar ideal of poverty that was made apparent in the Latin Rule.

Another feature of this papal bull was that priests were added to the Knights Templar which shows that the Order was growing quickly and that a hierarchical structure was coming into place. Much like the hierarchical structure of the Cistercians in which the Abbot of Cîteaux was the leader, the Master in the Knights Templar was the head of the Order. This makes the document similar again to ‘The Charter of Charity’ in the way that it sets out the Order’s structure.

Perhaps the most important aspect of ‘Omne datum optimum’ was that ‘this effectively made the Order answerable only to the pope, and therefore free from all other ecclesiastical and secular demands.’ This was the fullest approval the Order could hope to achieve from the papacy and as a result the Order gained an independence from local authorities that must have caused discontent with other orders, not dissimilar to
the issues the Cistercians faced with the Cluniacs. Piers Paul Read suggests that this authorisation and sanction for the Knights Templar may not have been borne completely out of the pope feeling passionate about the Templar cause; Read argues that St Bernard’s support of Innocent II during his contested election secured the papal seat for Innocent, and crudely asks ‘Was Omne Datum Optimum Bernard’s reward for his support?’ If this is the case then it shows yet again that the influence of St Bernard and the Cistercians was absolutely pivotal in the growth and popularity of the military order."

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: Pope Innocent II source

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