Dan Brown in his best-selling book, Da Vinci Code, creates a fictional thriller, which incorporates sensational and legendary subjects such as the Knights Templar. Although fiction, the Knights Templar did exist. However, through the centuries, the story of the Knights have been told and re-told so many times it’s difficult if not impossible to separate fact from fiction. Consequently, many books have been written since Da Vinci Code, which explore this fact vs. fiction debate. Though my individual studies of world history I have pieced together what I believe to be some interesting facts about the Knights Templar, who they were, what they did, and what happened to them.
At the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was part of the Roman Empire. Jews had a hope the God would send a savior or Messiah, which would restore their freedom and independence from Roman rule. Jesus claimed he was the Jewish Messiah and taught that the religion of Judaism was now irrelevant. Jesus referred to the writings of Moses, the great Jewish prophet, who taught that at some future time, “the Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” Jesus taught that he was the fulfillment of this prophecy and that all Jews should now listen and follow his teaching. Threatened by this Christian movement, Jewish leaders killed Jesus in hopes to preserve what political power they had left. However, instead of fading away, this new Christian religion only gained momentum. Followers of Jesus began extensive missionary campaigns and Christianity spread like wild fire throughout the Roman Empire.
Roman Emperor Titus, fearful of the continual Jewish revolts and the new Christian movement spreading across the Empire, laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed the temple in 70 BC. Nevertheless, Christianity continued to spread until in 313, Constantine issues the Edict of Milan, which fully legalizes Christianity in the Empire. In 325, the first ecumenical Council of Nicaea was held and the major doctrines of Catholicism were established.
Jerusalem, in 324, became part of the Byzantine Empire after the Roman Empire was divided. Later, Persians, Arab Muslim and Turks conquer Jerusalem in 614, 638 and 1077 respectively. Muslims and Christians, in general, did not have much respect for each other’s holy places. When Jerusalem is in Christian control, Muslim holy places are destroyed and cathedrals are built. When Jerusalem is in Muslim control, Christian churches are destroyed and mosques built.
Sometime during or just after the First Crusades in 1096, a new Catholic order is established to protect Christian pilgrims who wished to visit the Holy Land and protect Christian holy sites. This Order was known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon or the Knights Templar. The Templars also had another secret mission. They were to scour Jerusalem for Christian artifacts and other relics. The Templars most impressive undertaking was the excavation at the western wall. Today, the deep shaft and tunnel dug by the Templars, which then extends under the Muslim Dome on the Rock where Solomon’s Temple was thought to have resided still exists. It is rumored that the Templars discovered the great Temple Treasure, which may have included Christian artifacts such as the Holy Grail, Ark of the Covenant, Shroud of Turin, and True Cross. In any event, the Templars shipped thousands upon thousands of Christian artifacts back to Europe where they formed one of the most lucrative markets in Europe.
Pilgrimages in those days were big church business. Lavish Christian cathedrals were constructed all over Europe, not only to provide a sanctuary for local Christians to worship, but also to attract visitor from other areas of the Empire. Those visitors contributed to the local economy and made direct contributions to the cathedral. But the key to attracting pilgrims to your cathedral was the quality of Christian relics or artifacts, which the cathedral owned and displayed. A relic is an object, especially a piece of the body or a personal item of someone of religious significance, carefully preserved with an air of veneration as a tangible memorial. Christian pilgrims believed relics were imbued with supernatural powers. Pilgrims were known to travel thousands of miles to pray at a cathedral that displayed St. Paul’s toenail clippings.
(Prominent early Christian who where considered Saints were believed by many Christians to be able to mediate or intercede between man and God. Christians felt they could better elicit heavenly blessings of health, forgiveness, and salvation by praying to God via a Saint. Praying at a cathedral, which possessed the remains of an individual who had achieved Sainthood, was considered more powerful).
The Templar Order grew in membership and power throughout Europe, After Jerusalem was lost to Saladin in the late 1100s, the Crusades gradually wound down and European support for the Order began to falter. In the early 1300s, King Philip IV of France (also known as "Philip the Fair") was in desperate need of money to continue his war with the English. Phillip had taken huge loans from the national bank (run by knights templars), which he could not repay. So, in 1312 , King Philip (who had been responsible for maneuvering Pope Clement V into the Vatican), pressured Pope Clement to denounce the order. Clement V officially disbanded the Order at the 15th Ecumenical Council of Vienne, despite the Council's wish to sustain the Order. Philip had all French Templars simultaneously arrested, charged with numerous heresies, and tortured under the Inquisition until they "confessed" or were burned alive. This action released Phillip from his obligation to repay huge loans from the Templars and justified his looting of Templar treasuries.
There is more to this story. In spite of his close relationship with Pope Clement V, Philip IV was very unpopular to some because of the long war with England. Certain French citizens, who included many Templars, plotted against Phillip to remove him from power and end the Capetian Dynasty. But how do you overthrow the King that has the favor of the Pope? They had to come up with a way to show divine favor for their candidate. So, the Grail legend was born. As Brown points out in “the Code”, the Holy Grail wasn’t a cup at all. The treasure that the Knights Templar had discovered under the temple mount was thousands of years of Jewish Genealogy. Jewish tradition required that they prove their relationship to Abraham. These pedigrees were stored in a library at Solomon’s Temple and were discovered by the Knights Templar. The Templars used that genealogy to support the story that Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, that Mary bore a child by him, and that divine bloodline flows through the Merovingian Dynasty. This dynasty had ruled France from the fifth to the eighth century before the Capetian and Carolingian Dynasties. The Templar’s claimed they discovered and moved the remains of Mary Magdalene to France after the crusades as well as identified and protected the identity of the descendants of Jesus Christ, which had intermarried with the Merovingian line. Therefore, by rejecting King Phillip, and restoring the Merovingian Dynasty to power, France would be reestablishing the “Sangria” or Holy Bloodline as Rulers of France. The Templars, who controlled the national banking system, were a formidable political threat to King Phillip.
The Templars also practiced very peculiar rituals. Templars claimed they had learned the secret rites and rituals, which had been performed in Solomon’s Temple. The Templars learned these rituals from descendants of the architects and builders of Herod’s Temple. These rites, which involved making vows of piety, obedience, and secrecy, were associated with unusual clothing, symbols, and passwords. Templars believed that these rites were necessary to gain Eternal Life. These practices together with the claims about Jesus’s marriage to Mary Magdalene were enough for Phillip to pressure Pope Clement V to renounce the Order. This renouncement allowed Phillip to round up the Templars (en mass) and burn them as heretics. On Friday the thirteenth of October 1307, Jaques de Molay, Grand Master of the Templars, and sixty of his senior knights were arrested in Paris, tortured and burned in a slow fire.
Despite Phillip’s persecution, many Templars escaped to Scotland, which was outside Papal control. They were believed to have taken the Templar fleet filled with Christian artifacts and treasure with them. In Great Britian, the Knights Templar built the Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland and the Temple chapel in London, to continue their ritual worship. Both chapels are known for being patterned after Solomon’s Temple.
Modern Freemasons continue the rituals of Knight’s Templars today. The highest degrees of both the York and Scottish Rite, bestow upon their members the title of Templar Knight. Catholic and Protestant churches are quick to discount the Mason’s and the Masonic rituals as having cult, pagan, gnosis, Marxist, Babylonian, mystical, or satanic origins. However, I think this reaction is due to ignorance with regard to the Temple worship. Almost all of the Founding Fathers were Masons as well as nearly a third of US Presidents. The Bible talks a lot about the Temple in both the Old and New Testaments, and Temple worship is an important aspect of Jewish and Christian worship.
Many Catholic and Protestants claim that Temple worship was part of the Law of Moses, which was fulfilled by Christ. However, the New Testament records Christ purifying the temple on two occasions and early Christians continuing to visit the Temple after Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. In fact the Bible prophesies that the temple will be rebuild and temple worship will continue. Isaiah says, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us ago up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”
So, it seems that temple worship and temple ritual are completely in harmony with Christian doctrine. Throughout the ages, the Templars, Rosicrucian, Freemasons, and Scottish and York Rite have added and subtracted much from the ritual so that current practices are not a pure reflection of the original. However, there is much truth preserved in their organizations. If we are living in the Last Days, as many Christians believe, then we should expect the restoration of pure temple knowledge and ritual as prophesied in the Bible.