The Order of The Temple

Cross pattée

After the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099 some French knights constituted themselves into an Order for the defence of pilgrims on their way to the Holy Sepulchre. In 1118 King Baldwyn II presented them with a house near the site of the Temple and from this was derived their name. From these simple beginnings the Order developed. It was endowed with lands in various countries and preceptories were established thereon to administer them.

The Order became wealthy and. alas, some of its members lost sight of the noble aims of their predecessors. Enemies charged them with the foulest crimes and King Philip IV of France - with the connivance of Pope Clement V, and with an eye on the riches of the French province - relentlessly persecuted the knights there. The Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay and others were burnt at the stake in 1314 and the entire Order was dissolved by a Papal Bull.

Round churches, characteristic of the Order’s building, survive at the centre of London’s legal profession, known as ‘The Temple’, and at Cambridge and elsewhere. There are echoes of the Order in many villages and hamlets whose names (Temple Guiting for example) reveal a former connection, and in places where their secular buildings can still be seen.

Theories abound, including some put forward in books by modern scholars, that Craft Freemasonry has somehow come down to us from those Knights Templar - more especially in Scotland - who were able to keep together. The books make good reading but do not seem to have overwhelmed the more established concepts of masonic history.