Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Today on the Christian History Almanac podcast, we tell the story of the end of the Knights Templar.

It is the 22nd of March 2023 Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at, I’m Dan van Voorhis.


It was on this, the 22nd of March in 1312, that Pope Clement V officially suppressed the Order of the Knight’s Templar with the Papal Bull: Vox in Excelso. With this bull came the end of one of the more curious, contentious, and mysterious religious orders in the church's history.

 So, first- their name: they are colloquially called the Knights Templar but their full name was the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon- a religious order of Knights. Yes- this is fusing two different vocations into one: knights, warriors and monks, contemplative Christians. They would become wildly popular, and wildly rich, and this would ultimately be their downfall and the genesis of centuries of myths and some general silliness which came to a fever pitch with the Davinci Code book and movie in the early part of this century.

So, who were these men? They came out of the First Crusade in 1095, and the development of Crusader states in the Levant in their wake. With a Christian presence in the Holy Land, there was now a call for pilgrimages to the places where Jesus lived. But making it to the Holy Land could be dangerous- Christian pilgrims were regularly attacked whilst traveling to the Middle East, which led to the creation of an order of transnational Knights to protect them. It was Baldwin, the king of Jerusalem, who gave them space in the palace near where it was believed the temple of Solomon once stood.

While some were cautious about making this group of Knights a religious order, the famous theologian Bernard of Clairvaux supported the idea and wrote “In Praise of the New Knighthood’ in 1136, this led them to become an official order by Papal decree in 1139.

They became famous for protecting Christians in the Holy Land and became a favorite order to give money and land to. The order’s supposed chivalric activity made them popular to join- and with a rush of potential Knights, the order could selectively accept those from wealthy families. Secondly, they set up medieval banking institutions wherein you could deposit your wealth in the safety of Western Europe with the Knights there to withdraw your riches once you got to the Holy Land- thus keeping your money safe. At the same time, you traveled and were vulnerable to robbery.

The order itself followed a model of the Benedictine rule, but instead of prayer and contemplation, they spent their time training and protecting pilgrims and the Holy Land. 

They would become so wealthy that they began to lend money to European monarchs- this would ultimately be their downfall. They had lent a considerable sum to the French King Philip IV, who had borrowed money for his wars against the English. With the fall of Acre in 1291, the Holy Lands were now conquered by Muslims, and the Knights were kicked out. Seeing their vulnerability, Philip arrested all Templars in France (where the order began). From here, they were tortured into confessing many crimes, from idol worship, satanic practices, personal impropriety, and heresy. Philip used these confessions to prod the Pope to officially condemn the Order with his bull issued on this day in 1312, and he then didn’t have to repay what he borrowed. It should be noted that other monarchs desired their donated lands back and, with the end of the Crusades, sought an end to the Order.

So how did this order become associated with myths and rumors about hidden riches, having the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, etc.? As a meteoric body that went from massively popular to extinct led to some of this- their association with the temple of Solomon, their considerable holdings of property and wealth, and their daring escapades made them popular subjects of stories and rumors that would funnel down through the centuries and would also be picked up by the Freemasons whose secrecy has also lead to whispers and fantasies and ultimately that silly book (which, if you enjoyed- great! But it’s not at all historical). Today we remember the official end of the Knights of Solomons’ Temple on this the 22nd of March in 1312.


The last word for today comes from the daily lectionary from Matthew 9:

27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

“Yes, Lord,” they replied.

29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” 31 But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.

32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”


This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 21st of March 2023, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by an honorary member of the Order of the Knights of Nee, Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man who knows that order is only appeased with the sacrifice of a shrubbery. I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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