The Order of the Knights Templar was founded in 1118 by a French knight named Hugues de Payens. They were a military order of the medieval era whose primary mission was to protect European travelers visiting the Holy Land. For centuries, the collective imagination of the world has been captured by stories about the Templars, and they continue to be the subject of books, movies, television shows, and even video games. Below are 43 crusading facts about the heroic order.

1. Guardians of the Grail

Somewhere in the early 13th century, a German knight and poet named Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote an epic poem called Parzival, which connects the Arthurian knight with the Templars. In the poem, Parzival sets off on a quest to find the Holy Grail which he locates in a castle guarded by the Templars. Whether or not the source von Eschenbach claimed for his poem ever existed is anybody’s guess, but since then, the two stories have become irrevocably entwined.

2. What’s in a Name?

The true name of the Templars was Knights of Christ in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. The name was taken from the stables granted to them by the King of Jerusalem, which were believed to have been the temple of King Solomon. The name was eventually shortened to the Knights Templar, which is definitely a lot more memorable and much easier to say.

3. Getting on Board

When the Templars were founded, some religious leaders weren’t immediately on board, but that changed in 1129 when the French Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux lent his support to the fledgling organization. He wrote a book supporting the Knights called In Praise of the New Knighthood which gave them a serious boost in popularity.

4. Favorite Sons

At the Council of Troyes in 1129, Clairvaux persuaded a group of leading churchmen to officially endorse the Templars on behalf of the church. As soon as they got that, they became favorites of Christian Europe who donated money, land, and even their knighted sons who were eager to help the cause.

5. Circle of Nine

The original members of the Knights Templar were a group of knights recruited by Hugh de Payens and Sir Godfrey de St. Adhemar who didn’t have two pennies to rub together between them. The men then took a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience in front of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, which probably wasn’t that much of a sacrifice considering they were starting out with nothing.

Castle Of The Knights Templar Convent Of Christ Tomar

6. We’ll Write You a Check

Of course, paper checks weren’t invented yet in the days of the Templars, but they did basically invent banking. Traveling through Jerusalem and the surrounding area with your money and valuables wasn’t the safest thing to do, so the Templars came up with a system where Pilgrims and merchants and anyone else who was moving through the area could leave their stuff with the Templars who would give them a credit note.

All they had to do was show the note at any Templar office in the Holy Land, and they’d be given back the value of the items in gold, precious metal or stones.

7. The Assassins Guild

In the uber-popular video game series Assassin’s Creed, the modern-day Templars have evolved into a super corporation, which they use to try and create a perfect world by destroying all free will. Their sworn enemies are the Assassin Order, who fight for humanity and believe that man should always be allowed to choose.

According to historical records, there really was an Assassins guild in Masyaf, which was the location of the headquarters of the Ismaili da’i Rashid ad-Din Sinan, the leader of the Nizari sect of Muslims. The sect is often connected to Shia Islam, and they were a highly skilled unit of fighters who became known as the Hashashin or Assassins—the origin of the word assassinate.

8. Tell-Tale Tunic

The uniform of the Knights Templar was a white cloak adorned with a red cross, and they were only allowed to take it off when they were sleeping. They weren’t allowed to talk or eat without wearing the cloak, and when they rode into battle, they would put the cloak on over their chainmail, and dress the horses in protective white cloths decorated with the red cross. At least you could always pick them out in a crowd!

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