The Order of the Knights Templar traced their lineage back to the First Crusade. The history and fascination about who they were and their military prowess, wealth, and ultimate demise have been a never-ending source legend in both books and film.

After the initial Crusade to take the city of Jerusalem back from the Muslims in 1099, this caused many religious pilgrims from Europe to visit the Holy Land and the religious sites set down in the Bible. But to get thru to Jerusalem, these Europeans had to cross thru Muslim-held lands and many of them were robbed and murdered.

A French knight, Hugues de Payens created an order that consisted of himself and eight other knights which became known as the Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici – the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon. This eventually became shortened to the Knights Templar. These knights were related to Payens either by blood or marriage and their mission was to protect the pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land.

They approached King Baldwin II in Jerusalem and he allowed them to set up their headquarters in Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock became a Christian Church and the al Aqsa Mosque located atop of what was believed to be Solomon’s Temple, is where the Templars were located.

Order Gains Power, Prestige: Early in their existence, the Templars were criticized, especially about the practice of their carrying of swords which was taboo at the time for religious men. But thanks to the influential Bernard of Clairvaux who wrote an essay on the Order, the men of the Templar became the first warrior monks of the western world. He wrote: “[A Templar Knight] is truly a fearless knight, and secure on every side, for his soul is protected by the armor of faith, just as his body is protected by the armor of steel. He is thus doubly-armed, and need fear neither demons nor men.”

The order received a formal endorsement by the Catholic Church in 1129 and in 1139, their status was bolstered even further when Pope Innocent II issued a Papal Bull that allowed the Knights Templar special rights. Among them, the Templars were exempt from paying taxes, permitted to build their own oratories, and answered to no one save the Pope himself.

Members swore an oath of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Templars didn’t drink, gamble or swear. They were devout Christians who spent much of their time in prayer. They adopted a simple white tunic that was adorned by a red cross which became their signature hallmark.