Linking the Knights Templar to Freemasonry

KT LogoAs many of you are undoubtedly aware, there are several small-crafttheories regarding a possible physical relationship between Freemasonry and the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, commonly known as the Knights Templar.

 

Many modern scholars vehemently refuse to examine objectively the prospect of any connection between the two Orders, however, there is a significant handful of learned scholars whose hearts and imaginations have been stirred by the possibility and who keep tripping over little hints of evidence which keep the theories alive.

 

The purpose of this Blog is to acquaint you with a theory that could suggest a potential Link between Freemasonry and the ancient Knights Templar.  This Link is represented by the St Clair (Modern: Sinclair) family of Scotland and a small unfinished Collegiate  chapel, constructed and lying in a tiny hamlet just south of Edinburgh, named Rosslyn.

After the Dissolution

When Pope Clement V and King Philip of France affected the successful dissolution of the Templars on 13th October 1307ce, many knights escaped and some managed to take refuge in the highlands of Scotland. The Scots were currently embroiled in a struggle for sovereignty and against their neighbours, England.

robert-de-bruce

 

Their emerging leader, Robert De Bruce, was then under an order of excommunication issued by the Pope and was at war with Edward II of England and his allies.

Consequently, having nothing to loose, De Bruce gave his approval for the outlawed Templars to be sheltered and merged into the Knights Hospitallier or to take refuge in the Highlands of Scotland, thus enabling them to live out their lives.

 

Seven years later, in 1314ce, Sir Henry St. Clair, who was allegedly a member of the Knight Templar, and his two sons, William and Henry, took part in the famous Battle of Bannockburn where the Scots were able to preserve an independent Scotland for the King, Robert the Bruce.

 

An exciting and romantic legend links the Templars to the battle of Bannockburn. The legend tells us that Scots were outnumbered three to one and were struggling desperately against the forces of Edward II, losing men and ground rapidly, when there appeared on the horizon a well-equipped and obviously highly professional band of knights in full armor and mounted on heavy horses. the knights, although superbly equipped and obviously experienced in military battle tactics, bore no markings on their shields and carried no battle standards flying their colours.

 

These mysterious soldiers joined the battle on the side of King Robert the Bruce and quickly turned the tide in favour of the Scots who won the battle and freedom for Scotland. The knights then rode off over the horizon without making known their identities or from whence they came.

 

Many scholars believe these mysterious knights to be a contingent of the refugee and internationally outlawed Knights Templar that the King had permitted to take refuge in the highlands. Were they returning the favor while pledging loyalty to Scotland and King Robert the Bruce?  There is a Masonic degree based on this story.

 

Many sources tell us that years later, Sir Henry St. Clair was appointed the Hereditary Grand Master of all the Masonic guilds of Scotland by royal charter (the King of Scotland remains the Sovereign Grand master).

 

This Hereditary Grand mastership was to abide with the Sinclair family until 1736ce, when Sir Henry’s heir, Sir William St. Clair of Rosslyn resigned his stewardship of the Scottish Masons to affect the creation of the Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland. A body to which he was immediately elected the Grand Master.

Rosslyn Chapel

rosslyn_chapelIn 1440ce a mere 133 years (just two generations) after the suppression of the Templars by King Philip and Pope Clement, the Earl of Orkney, a descendant of Sir William St. Clair designed and began the project of building a church in the family seat of Rosslyn. His intention was to build a great sanctuary to the glory of God and the Templar tradition. It was to be constructed in the form of a cross with a lady Chapel and a high tower in the centre.

 

He imported the best stonemasons available, as well as tradesmen from the other guilds as necessary. The Master masons were paid a sum of 40 pounds per annum and the lesser skilled masons were paid 10 pounds. Simultaneously, he built the small hamlet of Rosslin to support and house his craftsmen during the project and see to their every need. The great sanctuary’s construction was never completed.

 

Through the centuries, St Clair’s unfinished sanctuary survived several invading armies and the brutalities of the Reformation as well as Scotland’s civil war of the mid-seventeenth century. It’s said that during this period, the armies of Oliver Cromwell occupied the areas in and around Edinburgh, including Rosslyn. Indicative of the disdain for which the Puritan church and Cromwell held divergent theological beliefs, after razing nearby Rosslyn castle, Cromwell stabled his invading troops horses and livestock in the chapel at Rosslyn.

 

There is a legend that says Cromwell recognizing the exoteric religious and Masonic symbolism and himself being a Brother, the unit’s commander was careful to preserve and protect the chapel and its artifacts during his troops occupation. Other religious structures and their icons did not fare as well during this turbulent time.

 

The Dirge of Rosabell is described in prose as our Brother Sir Walter Scott spoke of the ancient Barons of Rosslyn who were buried in the crypt of the chapel. His famous poem, The Lay of the Last Minstrel speaks of the ghosts and spirits of the honoured knights laid to rest in the ancient Gothic chapel’s crypt.

 

In 1787ce, our esteemed Brother Robert Burns, the recognized Poet laureate of Scotland and Masonry visited the chapel with a friend and artist, Alexander Nasmyth and implored him to paint his portrait while at Rosslyn.

Conclusion

The chapel that remains today, many scholars say, is probably one of the most remarkable examples of Gothic architecture in Scotland, not because of its design when viewed primarily from and architectural point of view, but because of the profusion of overt and esoteric design and symbolism shown in such abundance everywhere within the chapel.

 

When first viewed Rosslyn Chapel has an almost haunting quality exhibited not only in its Gothic spires and flying buttresses, but the chapel’s spiritual and ghostly esoteric qualities are manifested in the profuse and intricate carvings and hieroglyphics evidenced on the interior’s every square inch of masonry surface.

 

In this small cathedral, it’s a short and misty road from the present to the past. It’s a place where you enter into a world of “intellectual oblivion” expressed in design and stone by our spiritual Brothers of a different time. It is impossible, in this environment to deny that the genesis of our Order is shrouded in esoteria and rooted in the cryptic origins of contemplative man.

 

The ornate carvings and depictions in stone are almost overwhelming to everyone who views the chapel. But the abundant, half-hidden Templar and Masonic symbolism is profound and easily identified by the Initiated. There abounds hundreds of references to Christian parables, Biblical characters, the ancient Knights Templar, Freemasonry, and commentary on the religious-political climate of that time in our long past.

 

The chapel is a perfect exemplification of our sacred geometry and incorporates many easily recognized Masonic and Templar symbols in its architectural designs. The Apprentice Pillar with its attendant carvings, the Master’s Pillar, the hidden and much speculated upon contents of the subterranean crypt, the proliferation of Templar splayed and floriated crosses, obvious reference to the Masonic degrees, transparent references to Templarism, and so much more, can be found everywhere. There is a lintel at the east end of the south aisle bearing a familiar inscription in Latin which translates:

 

“Wine is strong, a King is stronger, women are even stronger, but Truth conquers all”

 

There is such a profusion of intricate carvings incorporated into the design and construction of every minute detail, that you can easily lose yourself for hours while just wandering.

 

To the best of my knowledge, Rosslyn Chapel represents the only place where such an obvious and overtly profuse collection of Masonic and Templar esoterica and symbolism is displayed together in a structure predating the traditional origins of the Craft.

 

Additionally, the founder and builder was documented as an heir to the heritage of the Knights of the temple as well as a Knight Templar himself. The dating of the construction of the chapel as well as its proximity to other known Templar and Masonic sites of pilgrimage leads me to the conclusion that Rosslyn Chapel is of significant importance to Masons and Knights Templar and may well be the common factor linking the respective orders.

The History of the Knights Templar

KT LogoThe Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (Latin: Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici), popularly known as the Knights Templar, was one of the most famous of the Christian military orders. It existed for about two centuries in the Middle Ages, created in the aftermath of the First Crusade of 1096 to ensure the safety of the large numbers of European Pilgrims who flowed toward Jerusalem after its conquest.

 

The Templars were an unusual order in that they were both monks and soldiers, making them in effect some of the earliest “warrior monks” in the Western world. Members of the Order played a key part in many battles of the Crusades, and the Order’s infrastructure innovated many financial techniques that could be considered the foundation of modern banking. The Order grew in membership and power throughout Europe, until it ran afoul of King Philip IV of France (Philip the Fair), who caused members in France to be tortured into confessions and burned at the stake. Under influence from King Philip, Pope Clement V then forcibly disbanded the order on Friday 13 October, 1307.

 

Organization 

 

The High Templars were organized as a monastic order, following a rule created for them by their patron, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a member of the Cistercian Order. Each country had a Master of the Order for the Templars in that region, and all of them were subject to the Grand Master, appointed for life, who oversaw both the Order’s military efforts in the East, and their financial holdings in the West.

 

There were four divisions of brothers in the Templars:

 

  1. the knights, equipped as heavy cavalry (wore a white habit with red cross);
  2. the sergeants (serjens), equipped as light cavalry and drawn from a lower social class than the knights (wore a brown mantle);
  3. the serving brothers — the rural brothers (frères casaliers), who administered the property of the Order, and the frères de métiers, who performed menial tasks and trades;
  4. the chaplains, who were ordained priests and saw to the spiritual needs of the Order.

 

With the high demand for knights, there were also knights who signed up to the Order for a set period of time before returning to secular life, as well as the Fratres conjugati, who were married brothers. Both of these wore a black or brown mantle with a red cross to delineate them from the celibate lifetime members, and were not considered to be of the same status as the celibate brothers. It also appears that the serving brothers (frères casaliers and frères de métiers) were not separate from the sergeants, but rather that a sergeant who was a skilled tradesman or was unable to fight due to age or infirmity would perform these other functions. The majority of the Templars, including the knights and the Grand Masters, were both uneducated and illiterate (as were most knights of the day), having come not from the upper nobility but from more obscure families.

 

At any time, each knight had some ten people in support positions. Some brothers were devoted solely to banking (typically those with an education), as the Order was often trusted with the safekeeping of precious goods by participants in the Crusades; but the primary mission of the Knights Templar was warfare.

 

The Templars used their wealth to construct numerous fortifications throughout the Holy Land and were probably one of the best trained and disciplined fighting units of their day. They were also famous and easily recognized, with a white surcoat with distinct red cross emblazoned above the heart or on the chest, as seen in many portrayals of crusading knights.

 

Initiation into the Order was a profound commitment, and involved a secret ceremony. Few details of the rituals were known at the time, fueling the suspicions of medieval inquisitors, but initiates, at least in the early days of the Order, had to be of noble birth, of legitimate heritage, and had to be willing to sign over all of their wealth and goods to the Order. Further, joining the Order required vows of poverty, chastity, piety, and obedience. For the warriors of the Order, there was a cardinal rule of never surrendering. This fearless uncompromising nature of the Templars, along with excellent training and heavy armament, made them a feared and elite fighting force in medieval times.

 

History 

  

The order was founded around 1118 by French knights Hughes de Payens, a veteran of the First Crusade, and Geoffrey de St. Omer for the protection of pilgrims on the road from Jaffa and Jerusalem. At first, the order had only nine knights as members and relied on gifts and cast-offs. As a result, they were originally known as the Poor Knights of Christ. King Baldwin II of Jerusalem gave them a headquarters on the Temple Mount, above what was believed to be the ruins of the Temple of Solomon. It was from this location that the Order took its name of Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon.

 

The Order grew rapidly because of support from key church leaders such as Bernard de Clairvaux, and was exempt from all authority except that of the Pope. Because of this official sanction, the order received massive donations of money, land, and noble-born sons from families across Europe, who were encouraged to donate support as their way of assisting with the fight in the Holy Land. Templar Knights also fought alongside King Louis VII of France, King Richard I of England, and in battles in Spain and Portugal.

 

Though the primary mission of the Order was a military one, only a small percentage of its members were actually at the front lines, while many others were involved in developing a financial infrastructure to support the warrior branch. The Order also innovated ways of generating letters of credit for pilgrims who were journeying to the Holy Land, which involved pilgrims depositing their valuables with the Order before setting off on the journey. This may have been the first form of checking put into use. From this mixture of donations and shrewd business dealing during the 12th and 13th centuries the Order acquired large tracts of land both in Europe and the Middle East, built churches and castles, bought farms and vineyards, was involved in manufacturing, import and export, had its own fleet of ships, and for a time even owned the entire island of Cyprus.

 

After Jerusalem was lost to Saladin in 1187, the Crusades gradually wound down and European support for the Order began to falter. In the early 1300s, King Philip IV of France (also known as “Philip the Fair”) was in desperate need of money to continue his war with the English. He began by approaching the Templars’ Grand Master, Jacques De Molay, asking him to respond to allegations of malpractice. De Molay rejected the allegations out of hand. On Friday, October 13, 1307 (a date possibly linked to the origin of the Friday the 13th legend), Philip had all French Templars simultaneously arrested, charged with numerous heresies, and tortured by French authorities nominally under the Inquisition until they allegedly confessed. This action released Philip from his obligation to repay huge loans from the Templars and justified his looting of Templar treasuries. In 1312 due to public opinion and scandal, and under pressure from King Philip (who had been responsible for maneuvering Pope Clement V into the Vatican), Clement officially disbanded the Order at the Council of Vienne. Even though all their lands were supposed to be turned over to the Hospitallers, Philip retained a great deal of the Templar assets in France. Some other European leaders followed suit in an effort to reduce the amount of Church-owned lands and property. In 1314 three Templar leaders, including Grand Master Jacques De Molay, Hugh De Perault and Godfrey De Goneville were burned alive at the stake by French authorities after publicly renouncing any guilt.

 

Remaining Templars around Europe, having been arrested and tried under the Papal investigation (with virtually none convicted), were either absorbed into other military orders such as the Order of Christ and the Knights Hospitaller or contemplative Benedictine or Augustinian orders; returned to the secular life with pension; and in some cases possibly fled to other territories outside of Papal control such as England and excommunicated Scotland. But questions still remain as to what happened to the few hundreds of Templars across Europe, or to the fleet of Templar ships which, according to various works of fiction and nonfiction (including the alternative history work Holy Blood, Holy Grail) vanished from La Rochelle on October 13, 1307. Also, the extensive archive of the Templars, with detailed records of all of their business holdings and financial transactions, was never found, though it is unknown whether it was destroyed, or moved to another location, or ever existed in the first place.

 

In modern times, it is the Roman Catholic Church’s position that the persecution was unjust; that there was nothing inherently wrong with the Order or its Rule; and that the Pope at the time was severely pressured into suppressing them by the magnitude of the public scandal and the dominating influence of King Philip IV. In 2002, a copy of the Chinon Parchment was discovered by Dr. Frale in the Vatican Secret Archives. The parchment gave direct documented evidence and a new perspective on the Knights Templar and overturned some of the centuries-old myths and misconceptions that have grown around the Order.

 

Grand Masters

 

Starting with founder Hughes de Payens in 1118, the Order’s highest office was that of Grand Master, a position which was held for life, though considering the warrior nature of the Order, this could be a very short period of time. The Grand Master oversaw all of the operations of the Order, including both the military operations in the Holy Land and eastern Europe, and the financial and business dealings in the Order’s infrastructure of Western Europe. Grand Masters could also be active military commanders, though this was not always a wise choice, as seen by the fate of the defeated Grand Master Gérard de Ridefort, who ended up beheaded by Saladin in 1189 at the Siege of Acre. The last Grand Master was Jacques DeMolay.

 

Legends

 

The Knights Templar have become surrounded by legends concerning secrets and mysteries handed down to the select from ancient times. Most of these legends are connected with the long occupation by the order of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and speculation about what relics the Templars may have found there, such as the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, or fragments of the True Cross from the Crucifixion. And still more stories were started by fictional embellishments upon the Templar history, such as a treasure long hidden by the Templars. This idea has been used in two recent Hollywood movies, The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure. In the Indiana Jones film The Last Crusade, there was a rather more fantastical view of the history of the Templar. The idea has also been used in the graphic novel Rex Mundi (Dark Horse Comics) by Arvid Nelson, in novels by Steve Berry, The Templar Legacy, Raymond Khoury, The Last Templar, Jack Whyte, Knights of the Black and White, and even in a Donald Duck comic story by Don Rosa.

Other legends have grown around the suspected associations of the Templars. Many organizations claim traditions from the original Order especially in relation to anonymous charity and good deeds. Some of these organizations which claim (spuriously) to be associated with the Templars are still active within communities across the globe supporting humanistic causes such as hospitals and medical treatment centers for the less fortunate. Additionally, while not claiming any direct descent from Templar Jacques de Molay, the Order of DeMolay, a youth fraternity associated with the Freemasons, cite de Molay’s loyalty to his fellow Templars in the face of execution as a bedrock moral imperative.

The dissolution of the Templar order is well documented, and its remaining members after the destruction of the order in 1314 were absorbed into the Knights of the Hospital of Saint John, which continued as a minor military entity throughout the middle ages. However, the story of the Templars’ persecution has proved a tempting source for many organizations to use to enhance their own dignity, history, and mystery. There are a variety of claims to descendance from around the western world, none of whom are able to produce any evidence, or plausible theory explaining their descent.

Another legend originates around Switzerland, and associates the Knights Templar with the founding of the Swiss country.

 

Sources

 

Malcolm Barber, The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple. Cambridge University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-521-42041-5

Peter Partner, The Knights Templar and their Myth. Destiny Books; Reissue edition (1990). ISBN 0-89281-273-7

Frale, Barbara (2004). “The Chinon chart — Papal absolution to the last Templar, Master Jacques de Molay”. Journal of Medieval History 30 (2): 109–134. DOI:10.1016/j.jmedhist.2004.03.004.

The History Channel, Decoding the Past: The Templar Code documentary, 2005

George Smart, The Knights Templar: Chronology, Authorhouse, 2005. ISBN 1-4184-9889-0

Sean Martin, The Knights Templar: The History & Myths of the Legendary Military Order, 2005. ISBN 1-56025-645-1

Dr. Karen Ralls, The Templars and the Grail, Quest Books, 2003. ISBN 0-8356-0807-7

Alan Butler, Stephen Dafoe, The Warriors and the Bankers: A History of the Knights Templar from 1307 to the present, Templar Books, 1998. ISBN 0-9683567-2-9

Malcolm Barber, “Who Were the Knights Templar?”. Slate Magazine, 20 April 2006.

Brighton, Simon (2006-06-15). In Search of the Knights Templar: A Guide to the Sites in Britain (Hardback), London, England: Orion Publishing Group. ISBN 0-297-84433-4.

J M Upton-Ward, The Rule of the Templars: The French Text of the Rule of the Order of the Knights Templar. The Boydell Press, 1992. ISBN 0-85115-315-1

The Norwegian Order of Freemasons

NorOrdThe Norwegian Order of Freemasons is a detached independent body of men from all walks of life and from all parts of the country. They meet regularly initially to work on their personal development. These meetings which are based on Christian Faith are conducted with dignity and bound in tradition.
 
The ideas behind and the aim of Freemasonry is to influence the process of ennoblement and personal improvement by promoting humility, tolerance and compassion. Those qualities which the members master in the lodge should be practised in their daily lives.

These human qualities can of course be attained and practised by others who are not Freemasons, but the Order of Freemasons is an organisation where this thought has taken a practical form which enables its members to develop it through ancient rituals, and with dignity.

The Norwegian Order of Freemasons does not engage itself in national or international political issues, nor does it engage itself in religious or social disputes.

The members show loyalty to the authority and laws of the country. They show respect for the Order itself and the aims of Freemasonry.
 

A Short History

Present day Freemasonry grew forth in Scotland and England in the 1600´s as an ethical and philosophical system based on the art of building, its symbolism and history. The Order, in its original form, was consecrated in 1717 when four Masonic lodges in London amalgamated to form what was to become the first Grand Lodge.

The system was quickly adopted and became predominant in continental Europe. The first Norwegian lodge was founded on the June 24th 1749 on Bygdoey, a peninsular on the Oslo Fjord.
 

What is a Lodge

It is the name given to the assembly room or building where the Masonic brothers meet. A lodge meeting, as a rule, includes a solemn ceremony where new brothers are received into their respective degrees. These admissions are conducted within a framework of solemnity with opening and closing ceremonies, with music and rituals rich in tradition. The lodge evening closes with a simple meal in an air of informality among the brothers.

The foundation for our Masonic system is the first three degrees, which are called St John’s, Craft or Blue Masonry where brothers receive the titles appropriate to their degree –

I. Entered Apprentice (EA)
II. Fellow Craft (FC)
III. Master Mason (MM)

as in accordance with the art of building.

This is followed by St. Andrew’s Masonry, which works within the IV, V and VI degrees.

The final section is the Chapter or Chivalric Masonry for brothers of the VII – X degree.

A few brothers with special responsibility within the Order may receive titles like Knight and Commander of the Red Cross XI degree.

Besides Norway’s approximately 80 lodges there are numerous Lodges of Instruction which work within the same framework as the lodges, but are not allowed to initiate new members.

 

How does one become a member

To become a member of the Norwegian Order of Freemasons, which has today approximately 18,000 members, one must be sponsored by two members of the Order, one of whom must have obtained the degree of Master Mason. Those seeking admission must profess to the Christian faith, have reached the age of 24 and known to have stability in his daily life.
Those interested in membership must take contact with a Freemason he knows personally and who is willing to recommend him as a member. This application for membership should be a completely free decision; no one should be persuaded to become a member. It is the case of a strong personal relationship.

 
Not Secret, but Closed

The Norwegian Order of Freemasons is not a secret order. It operates openly. The list of members is available for anyone, likewise the Laws of the Norwegian Order of Freemasons, which can be read by anyone. It is evident from this that the Masonic system worked to have its basis in the Christian faith.

It is in point of fact a Christian Order, but within this framework no demands are made for adherence to special dogmas or creeds.

The Masonic learning system is closed to outsiders. Freemasonry is a school lasting a lifetime where a Mason has to work through the degrees.

The content of each degree is held closed until the Freemason himself has had the opportunity to take a standpoint on questions and challenges, which are attached to each new degree.

 

International cooperation

The Norwegian Order of Freemasons is an independent, national order, unbound and under no obligation to any foreign order unlike the other Nordic orders. There is however good co-operation between the lodges in the North and many other lands all over the world.

Each country’s Freemasons organisation is an independent Masonic society. There is no international organisation. Today there are about six million Freemasons throughout the world.
 

A Humanitarian Order

To show compassion and fellowship is an obligation for each human being, but a Freemason is especially bound and must be most vigilant in this area.

Regular collections are arranged to support and help our fellow mortals who might be in need of a helping hand. Annually a cause or institution is chosen for the Orders’ Common Gift, and a united collection is taken on its behalf.

The Norwegian Order of Freemasons is represented with Lodges and Brother societies in most towns and many other denser populated areas of Norway.