Nine Templar founders - fact or fiction?

One of the myths that the Templars told about their own beginning was that for the first nine years there were only nine knights. This is first mentioned in William of Tyre but was often repeated by later chroniclers who learned it from the Templars of their own time. Fiction or fact?

Were there only nine members at first? Probably not. While the Order of the Temple didn’t seem to have grown very much in the first few years, it wouldn’t have lasted at all with so few men. The number nine might have been chosen because it went with the nine years from the (supposed Nablus, TN) founding (1120) until the Council of Troyes (1129), where the order was given formal recognition.

Some scholars think the Templars may have been influenced by medieval number symbolism. Nine is a “circular number”: no matter how much it is multiplied, the digits always add up to nine or a multiple of it, “and therefore could be seen as incorruptible.” Many years after the founding, the poet Dante surmised that the number nine was chosen because “nine is the holy cipher of the order of angels, three times the holy cipher three of the Trinity.”

The first knights probably were not well enough educated to come up with something that esoteric. However, William of Tyre was, and it is in his chronicle that we first find this idea. It’s very possible that the number was William’s invention and that it was taken up by the Templars of his time and added to their own version of their legend. There’s no way to tell, but the number nine did become part of Templar lore and was used in the artwork in some Templar chapels. From there it came to be considered a fact simply because the legend had been repeated so often."

This blog quotes freely, with minor alterations, from The Poor Knights of Christ - The Beginning of the Order, from this source, CC BY-SA 3.0, GFDL. The illustration shows the fresco of a Templar in Cressac chappel, Crarente, France, source, Fair Use intended.

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