The Knights Templar
"The knight of Christ, I say, may strike down with confidence and die yet more confidently, for he serves Christ when he strikes down, and serves himself when he falls."The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon a.k.a. The Order of the Temple a.k.a. The Knights Templar were a Christian religious order founded during The Crusades. Originally established to protect pilgrims on their way to the recently-conquered Holy Land, it soon became a major banking institution of unprecedented power, and so well-respected that even Muslims entrusted their money to them. Originally, the banking aspect was secondary (pilgrims to the Holy Land needed some place safe to store their possessions while they were away), but it soon became the Templar's primary purpose. However, after the Holy Land was taken back from the Europeans, the order's original purpose was lost. The end came when they incurred the envy of King Philip IV of France, who had seen the amount of money and land the Templars ownednote when the order was sheltering him from his enemies — money and land that the king now wanted for himselfnote . He started a campaign of defamation against the order, accusing the knights of all of sorts of heretical acts, from sodomy to worshipping cats to selling the Holy Land to the Saracens. Finally Pope Clement V (considered by most a French puppet, whose election Philip had engineered after the death of the previous pontiff, Philip's bitter enemy, Boniface VIII) had the order illegally disbanded and hundreds of Templars tried and burned at the stake. Outside of France, however, most of the Templars were adjudged innocent and were taken under the wing of their old rivals, the Hospitallers, while others managed to find sanctuary in the Iberian Peninsula by forming or joining new orders such as the Order of Christ in Portugal and the Orders of Montesa and Santiago in Aragon and Castile. The Knights Templar were skilled, pious, and occasionally highly-educated elite fighters, cavalry, and bankers. The order was, all-in-all, a fairly normal (if vastly successful until its demise) religious warrior class born from the upper crust of medieval society. Ironically enough, they only embodied the Knight Templar trope in their early days; within a few decades after their beginnings they had transformed, in the eyes of their more zealous contemporaries, into a notoriously tolerant organization that cultivated diplomatic contacts with the Muslim world; worked with Arab architects (which influenced the Gothic architecture seen everywhere in Europe), merchants, and even theologians; and disapproved of slaughtering enemies if they agreed to surrender. All of these points were used against them during the trials against them staged by Philip IV. The persistence of rumors that the Templars were somehow corrupt despite most evidence to the contrary means the Order is, to this day, an example of heroes with really bad publicity. The fact that the order ceased to exist effectively overnight, and that they're associated with a huge treasure trove, has since given rise to countless Ancient Conspiracy theories, but anything more is best left to, say, The Other Wiki. The fact that many of the Order's members in France were arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and then burned at the stake on Friday 13th (October 13, 1307, to be precise), is often erroneously cited as the origin of the belief that Thirteen Is Unlucky. Pope Clement V only officially disbanded the Order in 1312. Recent Speculative Fiction tends to feature Templars In Name Only, with the term "Templar" slapped onto any militant religious order without any connection to the historical Templars. The in-universe origin of the term in such cases is often conspicuously vague, since in Real Life, "Templar" literally means "of the Temple"—and not just any temple, the Temple. Only one temple in the canon shared by Judaism and Christianity is referred with a "the": the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem (as well as its Spiritual Successor built on the same spot). Fictional Templars, however, seem to have no problem existing even if no building of comparable cultural importance exists in their world. Trope Namer of Knight Templar, Knight Templar Parent, and Knight Templar Big Brother. Compare equally famous Military Orders The Teutonic Knights and The Knights Hospitallers. See also The Illuminati. Given that those on the receiving end of the Knights Templar's missions seldom like it, they are also a fairly frequent target of Take Thats, including Religion Rant Songs. They seem often to be pitted against The Hashshashin, even though in real life they had more of an Enemy Mine situation when they both fought the Sunni Turkish lords such as Saladin.
— St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Liber ad milites Templi de laude novć militić (In Praise of the New Knighthood)
Tropes associated with the Templars:
- Ancient Conspiracy: Any Conspiracy Kitchen Sink worth its salt will involve the Templars one way or another.
- Badass Beard: Such a huge number of their Grandmasters sported these that one has to wonder if it was a tradition. Their rules did forbid them to shave, wash and change their underwear, amongst other things.
- Badass Bookworm: Warfare is Our Business. And vice versa. These guys invented dual accounting, credit cards, holding companies, corporations, insurance, and travel agencies. And they're responsible for modern banking. And of course, befitting any medieval religious order, every Templar could read and write in Latin.
- Celibate Hero: The knights took a vow of chastity, meaning the good ones would have been this.
- Church Militant: And one of the most iconic representatives of this trope.
- Dying Curse: A very popular apocryphal story of Jacques de Molay, the last Grandmaster of the Templars. While being burnt on the stake, Jacques de Molay cursed the King and Pope Clement V that they would be dead within a year. And moreover, the French Royal Family would be cursed to the 13th generation of their blood. This story is apocryphal needless to say and it only came out after Pope Clement V and Philip le Bel died a year later.note
- During The French Revolution, royalists (who were essentially the inventors of Conspiracy Theory) made claims that the Revolution was orchestrated by The Illuminati and the Freemasons (some of whom did consider Molay as a martyr of injustice) to enact the curse of Molay. Problems with this theory is that Louis XVI was the 15th generation of Philip's blood. There were also tall claims that during the execution, someone jumped on the scaffold and cried out, "Jacques de Molay, tu es vengé!" which any serious investigation of the Trial and Execution would regard as supremely unlikely. They also claim that the Jacobin Club was a hommage to Molay rather than the convent name which became its nickname.
- Hiding Behind Religion: Historically, the main accusation against the Templars was that they had at some point stopped being pious and used the Templar cross as a front for all kinds of forbidden private lives. They were accused of being sodomites, homosexuals, crypto-Muslims, atheists and neo-pagans. Of course all of this was made up during the trial and can't really be taken seriously but it did a great deal to add to the Conspiracy legend.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: They really weren't as bad as their typical portrayals in popular culture suggest. The Other Wiki has some more information, but their bad reputation stems from two places; First, the abrupt disappearance of such an important political and military order in Europe led to endless conspiracy theories. Second, they invented trade based not on barter but credit, and thereby birthed the Byzantine labyrinth of economics. So everyone who ever lost their shirt thanks to a crooked banker had a good reason to visualize a Maltese cross on said banker's lapel.
- Kill The Creditor: King Philip le Bel had initiated a campaign for financial reform during his reign. But like many medieval Kings, he was perenially strapped for cash. He was also deeply indebted to the Knights Templar and the Knights Templars were a prominent banking institution. As a result, there are no more Knights Templars.
- Knight in Shining Armor or Tin Tyrant: Sometimes both in the same work.
- Knight Templar: Despite being the Trope Namer, they mostly avert this trope, and they suffer massively from Historical Villain Upgrade. Although most Templars were probably ruthless and fanatical, so was nearly everybody else during the Middle Ages (by our standards), and as the order grew wealthier, they became less and less involved with fighting. So why are the Templars singled out? Blame it on the conspiracy theories!
- Leitmotif: The Templars were fond of a chant (that predates them by five centuries, but they popularized it) called Da Pacem Domine, which was often used as a theme song of sorts for them.
- Loophole Abuse: So how does a medieval monastic order, forbidden by a Vow of Poverty from acquiring worldly wealth, end up becoming the richest single organization in Medieval Europe, and creating the modern concepts of banking and credit? Because technically none of the wealth the Templars had in their possession was their own; their patrons just gave it to them for safekeeping, and they could technically take it back any time they wanted. But until that time, they might as well use that money toward improving their organization. There's a difference between owning something and just holding onto it for a friend, you see...or so they managed to convince the Vatican.
- Mega Corp.: A medieval version, as they grew from a crusading order into an order of bankers and merchants.
- Motive Decay: A rare positive example. They started off as the Trope Namer of the Knight Templar but eventually evolved beyond that into a kind of large scale and tolerant corporation. This was also the reason why they ended up being purged. King Philip IV was able to invent a host of false accusations that raised doubts about the Order's purpose as a Christian organization now that the Crusades were over. Historians stated that if the Order had disbanded and made themselves into a banking collective, they might have escaped being purged.
- Mystery Cult: The accusations against the Templars during The Purge, as per The Mole Esquieu de Floyrac was that the Templars started worshipping a deity called "Baphomet", a red-skinned hermaophrodite with a Goat's Head and the initiation rites involved spitting on Christ and homosexual orgies. When the Occult developed in Europe in the 19th and 20th Century, Baphomet found new life, especially in the rites of Aleister Crowley.
- Historians have speculated whether there was any basis in reality concerning "Baphomet". One theory argues that it was a misinterpretation of Templar trials to preserve faith in "Heathen" lands, a simulation of real-and-imagined apostasy and how to fake it. Another theory suggests that as a result of trade and contact with the Arab world, some parts of the Templars began exchanging ideas with Islamic scholars note and became syncretized. Which naturally was blown out of proportion during The Purge.
- The Order: One of the Trope Codifiers.
- The Purge: Victims of a famous real-life, the raid on the Temple Fortress led to mass arrests, tortures, executions by burning on the stake and seizures of property and incomes.
- Supervillain Lair: Well how much they can be considered villains is up in the air, but the Templars had several Fortresses across France, England and Scotland. The Temple was the name of the Fortress in Paris, and their final home before The Purge. During The French Revolution, The Temple was the Prison for the French Royal Family and after the execution of the King Louis XVI, it became a shrine for royalists and Napoleon Bonaparte (who only allowed shrines to himself) ordered its destruction in 1808.
- Warrior Monk: As noted, they were founded with the function of protecting pilgrims and as in other orders new members took monastic vows.
Works featuring or referencing historical Templars (or their successors):
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- In Neil Gaiman's Marvel 1602, much of the early plot involves various characters chasing after the secret treasure of the Templars, which is being carried by their last survivor across Europe. It turns out to be Thor's hammer.
- The World Bank in the Carl Barks & Don Rosa continuity of Donald Duck is a front of the Templars. One epic arc focused on Scrooge's quest for their hidden treasure which was hidden under his family castle. Scrooge himself is a Templar descendant.
- The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas from Batman comics was originally a branch of the Templars but split up with them and thus survived their disbandment.
- Witchblade villains Kenneth Irons, Gerald Irons and Sir Renaud de Gaudin were members of The Knights Templar.
- The Spanish Tombs Of The Blind Dead film series featured undead Templars as the villains/monsters. These built on the sudden disappearance of the Templars, with a premise that the Templars performed a ritual that gave them eternal life. The result is effectively skeleton zombies on horseback. Stay far away.
- The guardians of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade styled themselves "the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword," but are also mentioned as originally being Templars.
- Brian de Bois-Guilbert (George Sanders) in the 1952 film version of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe
- Kingdom of Heaven gives the Knights Templar some historical Hospitallier holdings. And they're the closest thing the film has to actual villains....
- In National Treasure the Templars found the treasure in Jerusalem and survived their dissolution in the form of the Freemasons, who smuggled it to America.
- The Maltese Falcon contains an example of the Hollywood History—the Malta-based order was The Knights Hospitallers (a.k.a. the Knights of Malta), and the Knights Templar were disbanded in 1312. The original book got it right, on the other hand. Introductory text appearing after the film's opening credits reads:
In 1539 the Knight Templars of Malta, paid tribute to Charles V of Spain, by sending him a Golden Falcon encrusted from beak to claw with rarest jewels...
- The Accursed Kings begins with the historical disbanding of the Knights Templar and execution of their Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, by the King of France.
- The Baphomet by French avant-gardist Pierre Klossowski is a visionary recreation of The Purge of the Templars and their afterlife in the European occult.
- In The Da Vinci Code, after Jerusalem was conquered, the Templars discovered documents proving that not only has Jesus really existed, but also married Mary Magdalene and had a child with her. After the crucifixion, Mary fled with their child to France, starting the Merovingian royal line (a.k.a. the Holy Grail), which exists to this day despite Vatican's efforts. Using this knowledge, the Templars have pressured the Church into giving them unprecedented power, which backfired on them, eventually, but the survivors reformed as "the Priory of Sion".
- In the Conspiracy Theory invented by the main characters of Foucaults Pendulum, Templars have discovered a way to harvest the tremendous energies of the telluric currents but were destroyed before they could actually use their discovery. The rest of the conspiracy theory is their convoluted plan to reform and Take Over the World six centuries later.
- Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Albert de Malvoisin, Grand Master Lucas de Beaumanoir, et al. in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe; and Grand Master Giles Amaury in his The Talisman.
- Jan Guillou's The Templar Knight (book two of his Crusades trilogy) follows the adventures of a Swedish nobleman as a Knight Templar in the Holy Lands.
- A group of modern-day Templars feature in Steve Alten's The Loch, having made a (metaphorical, though they apparently believed it to be real) deal with the devil to protect an artifact of symbolic importance to Scotland. And by "devil" I mean "giant deep-sea eels that come into the loch via tunnel from the sea" (otherwise known as the Loch Ness Monster). Played with in that they turn out to be good guys.
- Sir Baldwin Furnshill, one of the detectives in Michael Jecks' "Medieval Murder" mysteries, is an ex-Knight Templar.
- In M. R. James's "Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" the hapless Parkins finds a haunted whistle on the site of a ruined Templar preceptory.
- In Wolfram von Eschenbach's 13th century romance Parzival, the Knights of the Holy Grail are described as "templeizen" or Templars.
- Throughout the Requiem series of books by Robyn Young, which follows the fall of the Templars, we see the fall of Acre and the attempts of the Templar Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and Pope Clement V to get another crusade going. They never do.
- In the Gemma Doyle Trilogy, Kartik tells Gemma that some of the Knights Templar were members of the Rakshana.
- In The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss, the Amyr seem clearly set up as a fantasy counterpart to the Knights Templar, complete with conspiracy theories surrounding their dissolution.
- A Knights Templar soldier appears in Robert Reed's short story, The Hoplite. The man, who was Resurrected for a Job, commands a squad of not very friendly soldiers - a SS officer, an Aztec warrior, a Greek hoplite, etc - who are used to subjugate rebellious territories on Earth and raid the colonies of Alpha Centauri.
- The Children of the Light in The Wheel of Time are a pretty clear Expy of the historical Knights Templar, right down to them getting better later in the series when Galad becomes Lord Captain Commander.
- In The 39 Clues, the Knight Templar was a part of the Thomas branch.
- The Templars are central to the plot of The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury.
Live Action TV
- Brian de Bois-Guilbert (Sam Neill), Lucas de Beaumanoir (Philip Locke), et al. in the 1982 TV version, and Brian de Bois-Guilbert (Ciarán Hinds), Malvoisin (Jack Klaff), Lucas de Beaumanoir (Christopher Lee), et al. in the the 1997 TV version of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe; and Grand Master Giles Amaury (Donald Burton) in the 1980 TV version of his The Talisman.
- Relic Hunter had a Templar knights episode, of course.
- In the episode "Seven Poor Knights from Acre" of Robin of Sherwood a band of Templars thrashes Robin and his outlaws in a fight and abducts Much. When Friar Tuck refers to them as "Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon" Will Scarlet replies, "Poor? I'd hate to see the good ones!"
- The Brotherhood of the Black Diamond in Warehouse 13 is a secretive sect descended from the Knights Templar.
- America Unearthed: Invokes the Knights Templar frequently based on the conspiracy theories of Scott Wolter, who ironically arguably fits the trope of Knight Templar.
- In the GURPS Fantasy setting, the Templars existed as an order on the world of Yrth; a world populated by fantasy creatures and humans accidentally transported from the era of The Crusades on Earth. The Templars were rumored to be the only humans to have deliberately transported themselves there by magic.
- In Corvus Belli's tabletop war-game Infinity, the Pan Oceanian Knightly Orders include a re-founded version of the Templars.
- Along with the Hospitallers, The Knights Templar are one of the knightly orders battling the demonic minions of The Unholy on the living planet of Wormwood in Rifts.
- The Black Templars chapter of Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000 borrow a lot of their imagery and general theme from the Knights Templar.
- Nathan the Wise, a drama on religious tolerance by enlightenment poet Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, features a young Knight Templar as one of its main characters. In the play's multi-religion ensemble, he is the representative of Christianity.
- Assassin's Creed posits that the Templars themselves are part of an ancient society that has existed throughout human history (according to the Templars' old texts, Cain (yes, that Cain) was the founder of their order), and that the Knights Templar themselves were just the open military incarnation of them during the Middle Ages, operating in preparation for a takeover of the Holy Land. The public destruction of the order was actually a cover to let the Templars become secret once more, where they proceeded to gain enormous power in the shadows in Europe and elsewhere. The modern Templars are a collection of extremely powerful and highly advanced corporations. All history is actually fabricated by the Templars, and the Templars included, but were far from limited to, such famous historical figures as Pope Alexander VI, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison.
- Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars.
- Crusader Kings and its sequel feature them (albeit not as playable factions) alongside their fellow crusading orders once the Catholics get the Crusades up and running.
- Deus Ex features a mission in a cathedral that was owned by the Templars and their descendants. A member of the Illuminati sends you there, in order to gain his favor, with orders to secure the gold inside that was originally seized by the Nazis in World War II and is now being held by members of Majestic 12.
- Deus Ex: Invisible War features them as bigot extremists, opposing body modification by any means necessary.
- Post Mortem saw MacPherson tracking down the "Head of Baphomet," which the Templars were accused of worshiping by The Pope (among other things).
- Medieval: Total War and Medieval II: Total War feature the Knights Templar as a special guild that can be established in certain cities, giving you access to the Knights Templar themselves — very, very powerful cavalry units which are almost unparalleled in combat. The only catches on the battlefield are their Leeroy Jenkins tendencies, their tradeoff in armour for defence skill, and the fact that France and Spain can produce heavy knights of the same or better quality. For factions who were lacking in cavalry, though (take England), they form the most powerful units in the cavalry wings.
- Sadly, in the vanilla game at least there was no reason whatsoever to allow the Templars into your cities besides the Rule of Cool: if you could hire them (as opposed to being stuck with Knights of Santiago or Teutonic Knights), that means you also satisfied the conditions for hiring Hospitallers who have the exact same stats and costs, but also provide a public health bonus via their guild buildings. Most mods corrected that by adding an income bonus to the Templar guilds (to represent the banking and money-lending they did IRL)... which turns Hospitallers into the completely naff choice.
- In the Crusades expansion campaign, the Kingdom of Jerusalem has a significant number of its troops supplied by the Templars - knights, archers, and spearmen among them.
- The MMORPG The Secret World has the Templars as a playable faction. However, in its universe, the historical Knights Templar were nothing but a temporary front for the real Templars that the player can join.
- Team Plasma of Pokémon Black and White are not explicitly based on Templars, but they are a fanatical extremist group who dress in knight-like outfits and have an emblem that heavily resembles the Chi Rho.
- Knights of Honor features the Templars as one of the best swordsman units, and available only to Catholic nations. Unfortunately, they don't have their own faction.
- Immortal Souls projects the Templars into a present day world as a ridiculously technologically-advanced order (essentially, white and red official-cross-symbol-adorned Power Armor and Energy Weapons, and other advanced gadgetry, in an otherwise normally-teched setting) of borderline-Mad Scientist Church Militants fighting in a Secret War against the "shadow world" of demons and monsters. It's implied even their current leader has no real clue how they got from then to now, since one plotline involves him procuring an artifact that will reveal his ancestor's memories and the history of his order. Doesn't work, unfortunately for him, since the artifact in question turns out to have been booby-trapped.
- In Azrael's Tear, during the Crusades a group of 12 of the Templars was sent to bear the Holy Grail out of Jerusalem to Scotland and protect it there. Some of them survive thanks to the Grail's life-sustaining effects, and the protagonist interacts with them through the course of the story.
- Civilization V does not have Templars. It does, however, feature the "Chivalry" tech which is very easy to associate with them. It ties in with a lot of economic techs, and unlocks Knights.
- The website Vampiric Studies claims that the Knights Templar were vampire hunters.
- In 2008, a Spanish group claiming descent from the historical Templars sued the Vatican, seeking restoration of the order's reputation as well as recognition, but not restitution of the alleged billions of dollars in assets that the Church seized upon the order's dissolution.
- The World War II Adventurer Archaeologist, warrior (he was too independent in his style to be called a "soldier"), spy, nobleman, and general Badass László Ede Almásy de Zsadány et Törökszentmiklós apparently was involved in an arcane cult that claimed descent from The Knights Templar. He worked for the Hungarians, which qualifies him as a Worthy Opponent of the Allies.
- Also in 2008, it was founded, in Brazil, a church named "Igreja Templária" (Templary Church), claiming to be knights.
- Some Freemasons claim descent from the Knights Templar. In the York Rite branch of Freemasonry, the highest-degree members become part of the Knights Templar. Freemasons of the Scottish Rite and other branches may also become Knights Templar by invitation only, but the Knights Templar are the only Freemason group that is Christians-only rather than simply requiring a belief in any concept of God. Whatever direct links might exist between Freemasonry and the original Knights Templar, if they exist, have apparently been lost to history.
- The Norwegian far-right-wing terrorist Anders Breivik claimed to be just one of a new order of Knights Templar planning to wipe out all of Europe's Muslims and left-wingers, although this has been officially dismissed as fantasy.
- In a rather chilling example, the remnants of one of Mexico's most notorious drug cartels, La Familia Michoacana, reformed into...well...Los Caballeros Templarios. Noted for preserving La Familia's Family Values Villain stance (members aren't supposed to use the drugs they traffic, and they are also supposed to "fight for social justice," etc.) and for the 2013-14 vigilante uprising against them when the government security forces proved ineffective.
- The Temple area in the City of London is indirectly named for the Knights: their "house" and church (Temple Church, still standing) in London were located there beginning in the 12th century.
Knights Templar found in Constructed Worlds:
- The Dragon Age series features the "Templar Order", an organization of Mage Killers, which, while formally associated with the Chantry, actually predates its establishment. The origin of their name is never revealed, since temples are referred only as "chantries" in the Andrastian religion.
- Path of Exile has a member of Knights Templar as one of the player characters (dubbed "The Templar"). Again, the origin of their name is not elaborated upon.
- Starcraft: The Protoss warrior caste are called the Templars.
- David Eddings had a series (Elenium and Tamuli) with an order of knights based loosely on the historical Knights Templar.
- The Discworld fanwork "The Da Quirm Code Revealed" (it was by Trevor Truran, creator of Thud, and delivered as a lecture at a Discworld convention, which arguably gives it a thin veneer of canonicity) features the Knights Tippler, who eventually became the Priority of Shawn. Or possibly it was all made up by the authors of The Unholy Brood and the Holey Gruel.