Relatively little is known about the founding of the Knights Templar. It is established that in 1118 nine French knights gave the Patriarch of Jerusalem a vow of chastity, poverty and obedience. They pledged to do everything in their power to protect the roads and pilgrims in Palestine from robbers and Muslims. The head of this community, combining public service with severe military discipline, a monastic lifestyle with knightly rights, selfless love for one’s neighbor with military prowess, was the noble knight Hugo de Payne. Since the goals of the new community were in the interests of the Franks in the East, they received support from both spiritual and secular authorities. King Baldwin II of Jerusalem gave these knight-monks a part of his palace, which, according to legend, adjoined the temple of King Solomon. From that time on, they began to be called “the poor soldiers of Christ, the defenders of the Jerusalem temple” or simply “Templars”. At the request of Baldwin II, Bernard of Clairvaux also supported the Templars. He participated in the development of the charter of the Order, which was approved at the Council of Troyes in 1128. Hugo de Payne was recognized as a Grand Master. The charter of the Order was based on the rules of St. Augustine, the statute of the ancient canons of the Holy Sepulcher, as well as the charter of the Cistercians. A distinctive mark of the Templars was a white linen cloak with an eight-pointed bright red cross on the left shoulder (it symbolized martyrdom) and a white linen belt – a symbol of heartfelt purity. No decorations on clothing and weapons were allowed. The Templar had to avoid worldly pleasures and entertainment. In peacetime, the knight had to stay in his cell, share a simple common meal and be content with a hard bed. The Templar had to be ready at any time to give his life for the holy faith and his companions.
By the beginning of the 14th century, the French king Philip the Fourth Handsome decided to cleanse France of the Templars, who behaved independently and arrogantly towards the monarch on whose land they settled. In addition, Philip was well aware of the wealth of the Templars. In the early morning of October 13, 1307, all members of the Order were arrested, and their real estate was confiscated. Royal ordinances, telling about the crimes of the Templars, tried to justify in the eyes of the amazed people the brutal violence and drown out the outraged voices that resounded throughout the country. The king, fearing public exposure, immediately sentenced them to death. The sentence was carried out the next day. The leaders of the Order were incinerated in a slow fire. In the face of death, they turned with prayer to the Mother of God, who was considered the patroness of the Templar Order.
Specific trait of symbology
It is not easy to understand the symbolism of the Templars: the historical thread that goes into the early Christian centuries is ghostly. Few sources shed light on the emergence of both the community itself and the distinctive signs. For a long time, stories about the Templars closely intersect with the history of the grail. The symbols of the power of the officials of the order were the purse for charity and the bulla (seal). There are known about twenty types of order seals. One of them – the magister’s seal – depicts two knights galloping on one horse with spears at the ready. This plot can be interpreted from different points of view.
According to one of the theories, the two Templars on the same horse depicted on the seal are not a symbol of an oath of poverty, but rather a designation of duality or conflict that existed in the order. They were poor in oath, but rich in faith. They were engaged in self-knowledge, but were well versed in worldly matters. They were monks on one side, but warriors on the other. The Templars’ motto sounded noble: “Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam” – “Not for us, Lord, not for us, but all for the glory of Your name”.
General Meaning of symbology
Since Templars are an order of a religious type, the first symbol on which we should stop is the cross. Crosses for Templars could be different shapes and different colors, but the most popular was the eight-pointed bright red cross (Templar cross). The rest of the symbols in most cases are also associated with Christianity: Jesus, the Mother of God, seals with saints, symbols of the Holy Grail, animals – the embodiment of purity and divinity.