Templar wealth: personal austerity, liturgical richness

Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux had noted in his letter "In praise of the new knighthood" that the Templars led an austere lifestyle and that their clothing and armour was undecorated, in contrast to secular knights' flamboyant appearance. (...) Overall the Templars appear to have stuck with this image of austerity. Nothing should be wasted on themselves; all possible money should be saved for the help of the Holy Land. The exception to this was in their attitude to divine worship.

The Templars and their patrons noted the fine decoration of their chapels, their valuable plate, and the good service offered by their priests. The inventories taken after the Templars' arrests in 1307 and 1308 reveal that many of their chapels were filled with beautiful fabrics and objects: priestly vestments, altar frontals, coloured banners, gold and silver plate, candlesticks and lamps, lovely reliquaries, images and statues of the saints, crosses and crucifixes, and liturgical books. Some of the chapels were used by the Templars alone, some also acted as parish churches, while yet others were attached to Templar houses where no Templars lived and so primarily operated to serve the parish community or patronal families.

ln the Templars' chapels in the Crown of Aragon (for example) the holy relics included crosses contain-
ing (allegedly) fragments of Christ's cross, cloth from Christ's tunic, and relics from a wide range of saints. The Templars owned many relics of the True Cross, as well as having the cross on their habit, demonstrating their great devotion to Christ's Cross. 

The chapel inventories of 1307-8 also mention images of Christ, the apostles, and other saints, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary: beautifully decorated diptychs, Mary holding Christ in her arms, crosses with Mary alongside, images of Mary alone, and images of Mary over the altar. The Templars had an image of the Blessed Virgin and the Christ child at their church of Santa María la Blanca at Villalcázar de Sirga in Palencia, Castile, that was reported to perform miracles. 

This blog quotes under the rules of Fair Use a slightly abbreviated portion of pages 34 and 35 of The Knights Templar by Helen J. Nicholson |( 2021, Arc Humanities Press, Leeds, UK). Illustration: An enamelled silver reliquary of the True Cross from Constantinople, c. 800, Unknown author, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Public Domain, source Wikipedia

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