William of Tyre:
The Foundation of the Order of Knights Templar
In this same year, certain noble men of knightly rank, religious
men, devoted to God and fearing him, bound themselves to Christ's
service in the hands of the Lord Patriarch. They promised to live
in perpetuity as regular canons, without possessions, under vows
of chastity and obedience. Their foremost leaders were the venerable
Hugh of Payens and Geoffrey of St. Omer. Since they had no church
nor any fixed abode, the king, gave them for a time a dwelling
place in the south wing of the palace, near the Lord's Temple.
The canons of the Lord's Temple gave them, under certain conditions,
a square near the palace which the canons possessed. This the
knights used as a drill field. The Lord King and his noblemen
and also the Lord Patriarch and the prelates of the church gave
them benefices from their domains, some for a limited time and
some in perpetuity. These were to provide the knights with food
and clothing. Their primary duty, one which was enjoined upon
them by the Lord Patriarch and the other bishops for the remission
of sins, was that of protecting the roads and routes against the
attacks of robbers and brigands. This they did especially in order
to safeguard pilgrims.
For nine years after their founding, the knights wore secular
clothing. They used such garments as the people, for their soul's
salvation, gave them. In their ninth year there was held in France,
at Troyes, a council at which the Lord Archbishops of Reims and
Sens and their suffragans were present, as well as the Bishop
of Albano, who was the legate of the apostolic see, and the Abbots
of Citeaux, Clairvaux, Pontigny, with many others. This council,
by command of the Lord Pope Honorius and the Lord Stephen, Patriarch
of Jerusalem, established a rule for the knights and assigned
them a white habit.
Although the knights now had been established for nine years,
there were still only nine of them. From this time onward their
numbers began to grow and their possessions began to multiply.
Later, in Pope Eugene's time, it is said that both the knights
and their humbler servants, called sergeants, began to affix crosses
made of red cloth to their mantles, so as to distinguish themselves
from others. They have now grown so great that there are in this
Order today [William was writing c. 1170-74] about 300 knights
who wear white mantles, in addition to the brothers, who are almost
countless. They are said to have immense possessions both here
and overseas, so that there is now not a province in the Christian
world which has not bestowed upon the aforesaid brothers a portion
of its goods. It is said today that their wealth is equal to the
treasures of kings. Because they have a headquarters in the royal
palace next to the Temple of the Lord, as we have said before,
they are called the Brothers of the Militia of the Temple. Although
they maintained their establishment honorably for a long time
and fulfilled their vocation with sufficient prudence, later,
because of the neglect of humility (which is known as the guardian
of all virtues and which, since it sits in the lowest place, cannot
fall), they with drew from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, by whom
their Order was founded and from whom they received their first
benefices and to whom they denied the obedience which their predecessors
rendered. They have also taken away tithes and first fruits from
God's churches, have disturbed their possessions, and have made
themselves exceedingly troublesome.
William of Tyre, Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum,
XII, 7, Patrologia Latina 201, 526-27, Translated by James
Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee,
WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 70-73
Copyright note: Professor Brundage informed the Medieval
Sourcebook that copyright was not renewed on this work. Moreover
he gave permission for use of his translations.
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© Paul Halsall December 1997