Historiography of the Knights Templar - fact and fiction

 "The historiography of the Knights Templar is long, complex, and generously laced with fiction and legend. It overlaps with the historiographies of The Masonic Temple, the myths of the Grail, and the legends surrounding somewhat more concrete relics, such as the Shroud of Turin, and the splinter of the True Cross, which was captured by (and disappeared under) Saladin. How to distinguish between fact and fiction?

Several contemporary writers at the time of the Templar Trials (1307-1314, TN), and later in the 14th century, mentioned the Templars. Those sources that were not French tended to be sympathetic. Italian writers like Dante (1265–1321) and Bocaccio ((1313-1375) portrayed them in an especially good light. Dante scholars believe that Dante was attacking Philip the Fair, more than supporting the Templars, in his reference to the Trial, when he placed Philip in Hell. Dante resented Philip for invading northern Italy, and used the Trial as a symbol of his rapacious appetite for power.

Historiographically speaking, the Templars dropped out of sight for the next few hundred years after their fall. Those Templars who had survived the Trial experienced a variety of fates. Some (in Cyprus, Germany and Italy) were absorbed into the Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights. Many others (mostly in
France) were scattered to various monasteries in ones and twos. In Spain, some were absorbed into the various secular military chivalric orders which had sprung up in imitation of the religious military orders. Others went over to the Muslims. Finally, in Portugal, the Templars and Hospitallers were merged into one secular group of knights, who still referred to themselves as Templars in the 16th century. Through this process of assimilation, the Templars were mostly forgotten for the next three centuries.

A good rule of thumb for the serious Templar historian is to view with great skepticism any document which claims to chronicle the survival of the Templars following the burning of their last Grand Master in 1314. Most of these documents date from the late 17th century onward. They purport to be written records of oral traditions dating back to the 14th century but have more to say about the rise of the Freemasons and Romanticism than they do about the medieval Templars."

This blog quotes, with minor additions, from pages 69-70 of Stiles, Paula Regina, "BETWEEN TWO FAITHS: THE ARABIZATION OF THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR DURING THE CRUSADES" (1999). Open Access Master's Theses. Paper 1805, with some minor additions from Wikipedia. The illustration shows a detail of a miniature of the burning of the Grand Master of the Templars and another Templar. Note the shape of the island, representing the Île des Javiaux in the Seine, where the executions took place. From the Chroniques de France ou de St Denis, BL Royal MS 20 C vii f. 48r, source Wikipedia,  Public Domain.

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