The Knights Templar
"The knight of Christ, I say, may strike down with confidence and die yet more confidently, for he serves Christ when he strikes down, and serves himself when he falls."
—St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Liber ad milites Templi de laude novæ militiæ (In Praise of the New Knighthood)
"When they weren't praying or clubbing people in the face with a mallet, the Templars spent most of their time just standing around looking badass."
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon a.k.a. the Order of the Temple a.k.a. simply The Knights Templar were a Christian religious order founded during The Crusades. Originally established to protect pilgrims on their way to the recently conquered Holy Land, it soon became a major banking institution of unprecedented power and so well respected that even the Muslims trusted their money with them. However, after the Holy Land was taken back from Europeans, the order's original purpose was lost.
The end came when they incurred the envy of King Philip IV of France, who had seen the amount of money and lands the Templars had at a time when the order was sheltering him from his enemies -- money and land that the king now wanted for himself. He started a campaign of defamation against the order, accusing the knights of all of sorts of heretical acts, from sodomy to worshiping cats to selling the Holy Land to the Saracens. Finally Pope Clement V (considered by most a French puppet, whose election Philip had engineered after the death of the previous pontiff, Philip's bitter enemy, Boniface VIII) had the order (illegally) disbanded and hundreds of Templars tried and burned. Outside of France, however, most of the Templar knights were adjudged innocent and were taken under the wing of their old rivals, the Hospitallers, while others managed to find sanctuary in the Iberian Peninsula by forming or joining new orders such as the Order of Christ in Portugal and the Orders of Monetessa and Santiago in Aragon and Castile.
The Knights Templar were skilled, pious, and occasionally highly educated elite fighters, cavalry, and bankers. The order was all in all a fairly normal (if vastly successful until its demise) religious warrior class born from the upper crust of medieval society. Ironically enough, they only embodied the Knight Templar trope in their early days; within a few decades after their beginnings they had transformed, in the eyes of their more zealous contemporaries, into a notoriously tolerant organization that cultivated diplomatic contacts with the Muslim world; worked with Arab architects (which influenced the Gothic architecture seen everywhere in Europe), merchants, and even theologians; and disapproved of slaughtering enemies if they agreed to surrender. All of these points were used against them during the trials against them staged by Philip IV.
The fact that the order ceased to exist effectively overnight, and that they're associated with a huge treasure trove, has since given rise to countless Ancient Conspiracy theories, but anything more is best left to, say, The Other Wiki. The fact that the Order was disbanded on Friday 13th (October 13, 1307, to be precise), is often erroneously cited as the origin of the belief that Thirteen Is Unlucky.
Trope Namer of Knight Templar, Knight Templar Parent, and Knight Templar Big Brother. Compare equally famous Military Orders The Teutonic Knights and The Knights Hospitallers. See also The Illuminati. Given that those on the receiving end of the Knights Templar's missions seldom like it, they are also a fairly frequent target of Take Thats, including Religion Rant Songs. They seem often to be pitted against The Hashshashin.
- Ancient Conspiracy: Any Conspiracy Kitchen Sink worth its salt will involve the Templars one way or another.
- Badass Bookworm: Warfare is Our Business. And vice versa. These guys invented dual accounting, credit card, holding company, corporation, insurance and travel agency. And they are responsible of the modern banking. Every Templar could read and write in Latin, of course.
- Church Militant: And one of the most iconic representatives of this trope.
- Knight in Shining Armor or Tin Tyrant: Sometimes both in the same work.
- Knight Templar: Well, duh. Although most Templars were probably ruthless and fanatical, so was nearly everybody else during the Middle Ages (by our standards), and as the order grew wealthier, they became less and less involved with fighting. So why are the Templars singled out? Blame it on the conspiracy theories!
- The Order: One of the Trope Codifiers.
- Warrior Monk: As noted, they were founded with the function of protecting pilgrims and as in other orders new members took monastic vows.
- In Neil Gaiman's 1602, much of the early plot involves various characters chasing after the secret treasure of the Templars, which is being carried by their last survivor across Europe. It turns out to be Thor's hammer.
- The World Bank in the Carl Barks & Don Rosa continuity of Donald Duck is a front of the Templars. One epic arc focused on Scrooge's quest for their hidden treasure which was hidden under his family castle.
- The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas from Batman comics was originally a branch of the Templars but split up with them and thus survived their disbandment.
- The Spanish Blind Dead film series featured undead Templars as the villains/monsters.
- The guardians of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade styled themselves "the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword," but are also mentioned as originally being Templars.
- Brian de Bois-Guilbert (George Sanders) in the 1952 film version of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe
- Kingdom of Heaven.
- In National Treasure the Templars found the treasure in Jerusalem and survived their dissolution in the form of the Freemasons, who smuggled it to America.
- The Accursed Kings begins with the historical disbanding of the Knights Templar and execution of their Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, by the King of France.
- In The Da Vinci Code, after Jerusalem was conquered, the Templars discovered documents proving that not only has Jesus really existed, but also married Mary Magdalene and had a child with her. After the crucifixion, Mary fled with their child to France, starting the Merovingian royal line (a.k.a. the Holy Grail), which exists to this day despite Vatican's efforts. Using this knowledge, the Templars have pressured the Church into giving them unprecedented power, which backfired on them, eventually, but the survovirs reformed as "the Priory of Sion".
- David Eddings had a series (Elenium and Talmun) with an order of knights based loosely on the historical Knights Templar.
- In Foucault's Pendulum, the Templars have discovered a way to harvest the tremendous energies of the telluric currents but were destroyed before they could actually use their discovery. The rest of the Conspiracy Theory is their convoluted plan to reform and Take Over the World six centuries later.
- Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Albert de Malvoisin, Grand Master Lucas de Beaumanoir, et al. in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe; and Grand Master Giles Amaury in his The Talisman.
- Jan Guillou's The Templar Knight (book two of his Crusades trilogy) follows the adventures of a Swedish nobleman as a Knight Templar in the Holy Lands.
- A group of modern-day Templars feature in Steve Alten's The Loch, having made a (metaphorical, though they apparently believed it to be real) deal with the devil to protect an artifact of symbolic importance to Scotland. And by "devil" I mean "giant deep-sea eels that come into the loch via tunnel from the sea" (otherwise known as the Loch Ness Monster). Played with in that they turn out to be good guys.
- Sir Baldwin Furnshill, one of the detectives in Michael Jecks' "Medieval Murder" mysteries, is an ex-Knight Templar.
- In MR James's "Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" the hapless Parkins finds a haunted whistle on the site of a ruined Templar preceptory.
- In Wolfram von Eschenbach's 13th century romance Parzival, the Knights of the Holy Grail are described as "templeizen" or Templars.
- Throughout the Requiem series of books by Robyn Young, which follows the fall of the Templars, we see the fall of Acre and the attempts of the Templar Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and Pope Clement V to get another crusade going. They never do.
- In the Gemma Doyle Trilogy, Kartik tells Gemma that some of the Knights Templar were members of the Rakshana.
- In The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss, the Amyr seem clearly set up as a fantasy counterpart to the Knights Templar, complete with conspiracy theories surrounding their dissolution.
Live Action TV
- Brian de Bois-Guilbert (Sam Neill), Lucas de Beaumanoir (Philip Locke), et al. in the 1982 TV version, and Brian de Bois-Guilbert (Ciarán Hinds), Malvoisin (Jack Klaff), Lucas de Beaumanoir (Christopher Lee), et al. in the the 1997 TV version of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe; and Grand Master Giles Amaury (Donald Burton) in the 1980 TV version of his The Talisman.
- Relic Hunter had a Templar knights episode, of course.
- In the episode "Seven Poor Knights from Acre" of Robin of Sherwood a band of Templars thrashes Robin and his outlaws in a fight and abducts Much. When Friar Tuck refers to them as "Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon" Will Scarlet replies, "Poor? I'd hate to see the good ones!"
- In the GURPS Fantasy setting, the Templars existed as an order on the world of Yrth; a world populated by fantasy creatures and humans accidentally transported from the era of The Crusades on Earth. The Templars were rumored to be the only humans to have deliberately transported themselves there by magic.
- In Corvus Belli's tabletop war-game Infinity, the Pan Oceanian Knightly Orders include a re-founded version of the Templars.
- Along with the Hospitallers, The Knights Templar are one of the knightly orders battling the demonic minions of The Unholy on the living planet of Wormwood in Rifts.
- The Black Templars chapter of Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000 borrow a lot of their imagery and general theme from the Knights Templar.
- Nathan the Wise, a drama on religious tolerance by enlightenment poet Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, features a young Knight Templar as one of its main characters. In the play's multi-religion ensemble, he is the representative of Christianity.
- Assassin's Creed posits that the Templars themselves are part of an ancient society that has existed throughout human history (according to the Templars' old texts, Cain (yes, that Cain) was the founder of their order), and that the Knights Templar themselves were just the open military incarnation of them during the Middle Ages, operating in preparation for a takeover of the Holy Land. The public destruction of the order was actually a cover to let the Templars become secret once more, where they proceeded to gain enormous power in the shadows in Europe and elsewhere. The modern Templars are a collection of extremely powerful and highly advanced corporations. All history is actually fabricated by the Templars, and the Templars included, but were far from limited to, such famous historical figures as Pope Alexander VI, Adolf Hitler, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Tsar Nicholas.
- Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars.
- Crusader Kings.
- Deus Ex features a mission in a cathedral that was owned by the Templars and their descendants. A member of the Illuminati sends you there, in order to gain his favor, with orders to secure the gold inside that was originally seized by the Nazis in World War II and is now being held by members of Majestic 12.
- Deus Ex Invisible War features them as bigot extremists, opposing body modification by any means necessary.
- Post Mortem saw MacPherson tracking down the "Head of Baphomet," which the Templars were accused of worshiping by The Pope (among other things).
- The Medieval games of the Total War series features the Knights Templar as a special guild that can be established in certain cities, giving you access to the Knights Templar themselves -- very, very powerful cavalry units which are almost unparalleled in combat.
- Sadly, in the vanilla game at least there was no reason whatsoever to allow the Templars into your cities besides the Rule of Cool: if you could hire them (as opposed to being stuck with Knights of Santiago or Teutonic Knights), that means you also satisfied the conditions for hiring Hospitallers who have the exact same stats and costs, but also provide a public health bonus via their guild buildings. Most mods corrected that by adding an income bonus to the Templar guilds (to represent the banking and money-lending they did IRL)... which turns Hospitallers into the completely naff choice.
- In the Crusades expansion campaign, the Kingdom of Jerusalem has a significant number of its troops supplied by the Templars - knights, archers, and spearmen among them.
- The upcoming MMORPG The Secret World will have the Templars as a playable faction. However, in its universe, the historical Knights Templar were nothing but a temporary front for the real Templars that the player can join.
- Team Plasma from Pokémon Black and White look a lot like the Knights Templar. Unfortunate Implications ensue.
- Knights of Honor features the Templars as one of the best swordsman units, and available only to Catholic nations. Unfortunately, they don't have their own faction.
- The website Vampiric Studies claims that the Knights Templar were vampire hunters.
- In 2008, a Spanish group claiming descent from the historical Templars sued the Vatican, seeking restoration of the order's reputation as well as recognition, but not restitution of the alleged billions of dollars in assets that the Church seized upon the order's dissolution.
- The World War II Adventurer Archaeologist, warrior (he was too independent in his style to be called a "soldier"), spy, nobleman, and general Badass László Ede Almásy de Zsadány et Törökszentmiklós apparently was involved in an arcane cult that claimed descent from The Knights Templar. He worked for the Hungarians, which qualifies him as a Worthy Opponent of the Allies.
- Also in 2008, it was founded, in Brazil, a church named "Igreja Templária [dead link]" (Templary Church), claiming to be knights.
- One story is told from the Crusader States: During a time of (sort-of) peace, a Muslim was praying openly toward Mecca in the sight of a new Crusader who had come to the Holy Land to kill Muslims -- and who felt a harmless civilian was just as good a target as a warrior. So while he was berating the hapless man, two Templars watching the scene came over, grabbed him, and dragged him off. Then they said to the Muslim, "We're sorry, he's new in town and hasn't learned manners."