The Knights Templar

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Origins of the Knights Templar

The Knights Templar were originally guides and guardians for the pilgrims visiting Jerusalem during the rule of the Seljuk Turks. They lived near the Temple of Solomon, and when they were incorporated in 1119, they became the Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon.

Growth of the Templars

The dual secular and religious nature of the Knights Templar made them extremely popular in medieval Europe. Money and land in the form of gifts flowed to the new order from all directions and the power of the Templars spread throughout Europe. The Knights Templar became a powerful, wealthy political force that was answerable only to the Pope. For many years they were admired defenders of the Holy Land, constructing massive fortresses and aiding Crusaders.

Fall of the Knights Templar

By the time the last bastion of Templar power in the Holy Land fell in 1291, the nature of the knights had changed drastically. The now unpopular order had become one of moneylenders and courtiers, and was held to be corrupted by wealth. The fall of Acre in 1291 had deprived the order of many of its best knights, and the Templars withdrew to Europe, where the animosity of indebted kings threatened its stability. Finally, in 1307, King Phillip of France arrested the French Templars and accused them of heresy. Many were burned at the stake. Pope Clement V finished the dying order in 1312 and gave its lands to the Hospitallers, the rival order of the Templars (although in France and England the kings gobbled up the possessions of the Templars.