In 1115, two Burgundian Knights, Huges des Paynes and Godfroi de St. Omer, with a single horse between them, founded “The Order of the Poor Knights of Christ,” dedicated to protection of pilgrims in the Holy Land. King Baldwin II of Jerusalem granted them space in a building on the site of Solomon’s Temple, from which came their name—Knights of the Temple of Solomon or Templars for short.
By 1124, their ranks had grown, and the community became an official order of soldier-monks under the strict rules of the Cistercian Order. The military vows of defending Jerusalem to the death and refusal to give quarter to Muslims were enthusiastically observed. The core of the order were the knights who wore a small red Latin cross on white cloaks. Sergeants and chaplains made up the supporting ranks. They inspired fear among the Muslims who respected their willingness to die fighting.
The order was lavished with gifts of property and money and soon established communities in Europe. The Templars became the pre-eminent bankers of their day, serving not only their own, but much of Europe’s commercial needs, due to the financial system invented for the transfer funds between priories.
King Philip of France, jealous of the power and wary of the secrecy of the order, arrested, tortured and executed most of the order’s members in his country in 1307. Their assets were acquired by the French and English monarchs, and by 1312, the Templars were officially suppressed by the pope.
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