In the aftermath of the First Crusade of 1096 AD, a small group of French noblemen led by Hugues de Payens formed a monastic order of knights. Their mission was ostensibly, to make the roads of the holy land safe for Christian pilgrims – but protection of the holy land may have just been a cover story…
Many believe the Knights had actually traveled to the holy land in search of buried treasure!
It’s believed the Templars were in possession of an ancient scroll – a treasure map of sorts, pointing to the fabled treasures of King Solomon. So, it’s no surprise that the knights chose, as their command post, the captured Al Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount – which just happened to be constructed right over the ruins of the second temple of King Solomon.
According to legend, the Templars spent the next nine years excavating beneath the ancient temple, eventually finding a vast network of tunnels – and then Solomon’s treasure.
There’s been much speculation about what the treasure consisted of – The Ark of the Covenant, massive hordes of gold from King Solomon’s Mines, or ancient texts revealing secret knowledge or the Holy Grail have all been suggested.
But there’s no doubt that they found something of enormous value, because upon their return to France in 1118 Pope Innocent II granted the order total freedom from every authority but his own.
With their newfound autonomy the Knights Templar quickly became the most powerful military organization in the medieval world.
The Templars Rise to Power
After the Templars were recognized by the Pope, noblemen flocked to join them. New members were required to turn over all their worldly possessions to the order, so vast estates were acquired throughout Europe. Benefactors such as Alfonso I of Aragon bequeathed his entire kingdom to the Templars.
The swelling ranks of nobles made the Knights vastly rich, and they grew still richer through international trade, banking, and the spoils of war. Their commercial activities rivaled many states and could be compared with multi-national conglomerates of today.
The Templar’s Stronghold in Paris became a key European financial center, its strongrooms reputed to hold a fortune in gold, silver and gems.
But In the end the Templars were victims of their own success…
Success, wealth and power bred envy and resentment, especially from those who were heavily in debt to the order – and there was no one more heavily indebted to the Knights than King Philip IV of France. When the King asked the Templars to forgive his massive debt, they refused. So, King Philip devised one of the most devious schemes in the history of mankind.
By this time the Templars were so strong and powerful that King Philip dared not face them in open battle – instead he drew up a list of trumped up charges against the Order, among them; denying Christ, worshiping the devil and sodomy.
In the early hours of Friday, October 13th, 1307, envelopes containing secret arrest orders were opened simultaneously by hundreds of French Sheriffs throughout the land. The Templar’s Grand Master, Jacques DeMolay, along with hundreds of other prominent Templars, were arrested in the name of the Inquisition and, with blessing of Pope Clement V, charged with heresy.
The day came to be known as Black Friday, and from that day on, Friday the 13th would be considered unlucky.
On March 18th, 1314, seven years after his capture, Jacques de Molay – 22nd and final Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Templar – was burned at the stake, taking the secret of the Templar’s disappearing treasure to the grave.
The Vanishing Treasury
While the goal of defeating the order had succeeded, the real goal of King Philip had failed. Immediately after the arrests, the King’s agents found the Templar treasury had vanished without a trace, as had almost the entire Templar naval fleet.
Confirmation of the disappearance of the treasure was made by John of Chalons, a Templar sergeant, who gave evidence at his own trial. Chalons said that some of the Templars had been tipped off about the arrests and a a group of 24 brave Knights managed to sneak the gold, silver, and jewels out of Paris in three wagons covered over with hay.
The Templars made their way to La Rochelle, a port city on the Atlantic coast of France, where they loaded the treasure aboard Templar ships. Then the Templar fleet simply disappeared, never to be heard from again.
Where did the Templar’s Treasure go?
The destination of the Templar fleet and the treasure it allegedly carried has been debated ever since, but many historians and treasure buffs agree that the most likely destination would have been Scotland.
At the time of the Templar Holocaust, Robert the Bruce controlled most of Scotland. Bruce had been excommunicated by the Pope in 1306, one year before the persecution of the Templars began.
Basically, the papal decree that outlawed the Knights Templar was not applicable in Scotland, or at least the parts of the country that Robert the Bruce controlled. This would have made Scotland a very desirable location for the outlaw fleet.
While there is no concrete historical evidence that the Templars ended up in Scotland, there are some tantalizing clues…
The Battle of Bannockburn
On June 24 of 1314, Robert the Bruce, with approximately 6,000 Scots miraculously defeated 20,000 English soldiers at the Battle of Bannockburn.Exactly what took place has never really been recorded, but It’s believed by some that Bruce won with the help of a special force of Knights Templar.
The Battle of Bannockburn was made famous in the Finale of Mel Gibson’s 1995 Oscar-winning movie, Braveheart. Unfortunately, the Knights Templar weren’t in Mel’s Version.
Throughout Scotland there are carvings and tombstones using early Templar imagery – skull and crossbones, Templar swords, Templar crosses – and Masonic symbols (compass and square).
This has led some historians to believe that modern Freemasonry was originally developed as a way for the surviving Templars in Scotland to preserve their history and to do so in secrecy – as they were hunted men at this time.
The Knights Templar built an extraordinary number of castles, churches, cathedrals and temples all over Europe. These edifices were built in styles previously unknown. Most noticeable were the unusual icons which suggest pagan connections. An excellent example can be found in Rosslyn Chapel in the village of Rosslyn, Scotland.
The chapel was built in 1446, by Sir William St. Clair, more than a century after the formal suppression of the order. Many people have speculated that the ornate carvings in the chapel hold the key to the secret of the Templar’s fabled treasure.Rosslyn Chapel figures prominently in Dan Brown’s Davinci Code, and Holy Blood, Holy Grail.
For more information on the Knights Templar check out http://www.templarhistory.com/