Diet of the Knights Templar: key to health and a long life

It is striking to note that many Templars lived a long life. Hugues de Payens, one of the founding fathers, died at the age of 66. Jacques the Molay, the last Grand Master, and Geoffrey de Charney, preceptor of Normandy, were executed at the age of 67 and 63, respectively. Official documents of the Vatican suggest that many of the Templars lived longer compared to other people of the Middle Ages, whose life expectancy was in average 25 to 40 years. At the time this exceptional longevity was attributed to a divine gift. However, the strict observance of specific lifestyle habits conferring beneficial effects, may explain the reasons for their greater life expectancy.

In the Templar Rule special regulations were designed to improve hygiene, such as washing hands before eating or praying. Brothers in charge of manual tasks outside the house were exempted from food preparation or serving. The refectory was kept very clean and tablecloths were available.

The Knights Templar's Latin Rule contained some clauses which strictly influenced diet and nutrition. For example meat was usually eaten three days a week only and in limited quantities because habitual eating of meat was known to cause "a hateful corruption of the body". On Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, two or three dishes of vegetables or other foods were considered sufficient.

The Templars preferred to import animals and seeds directly from Europe, avoiding food from foreign countries. Hunting was forbidden but the Templars appreciated seafood, even acquired by fish farming. Cheese, olive oil and fresh fruit, vegetables and pulses, such as lentiles and beans, were commonly consumed.

This diet differed considerably from the diet common in the middle ages, which was very rich in grilled meat, fat and calories, but with little variety. It caused diseases related to an excess of meat consumption, such as gout. Obesity was quite common among the elite, as was diabetes mellitus and probably also high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.

Finally, Templars used to drink low-to-moderate amounts of wine during meals, and used to mix wine with water or Aloe pulp. This plant is endowed with antiseptic, bactericidal and fungicide actions.

This diet and lifestyle habits may explain the relatively long life and good health of many a Knights Templar.

Adapted from The diet of Templar Knights: Their secret to longevity? by Francesco Franceschi; illustration source

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