Upon its capture by Christian armies in 1099 AD, Jerusalem saw a large influx of Europeans traveling to the Holy Land. Such travel also increased crimes, with robberies and murder happening at startling rates for the unsuspecting pilgrims traversing through Muslim-held territories. By the 1100s, deaths and crimes were stacking up; a solution had to be created so faithful Christians could continue towards a safe pilgrimage. In 1118, Hugues de Payens, a French knight, and eight of his relatives created the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon. This military grouping would later, and more succinctly, be called the Knights Templar. With support from Baldwin II, ruler of Jerusalem, the sacred order would be headquartered on the city’s Temple Mount.
Despite initial criticisms from various religious communities, the Knights received the Catholic Church’s full support 21 years after the order’s inception, and particularly vocalized support from an illustrious French abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux. In ten years time after the Church’s official support of the Knight’s Templar, a papal bull was issued declaring the Knights tax exempt, capable of establishing their own oratories, and accountable to no one except for the Pope himself. The issuance of such a document established the Knights Templar position as a prominent figurehead in religious matters.
While the Knights original job was to protect European Christian’s passage from Europe to the Holy Land, their job duties expanded as their prestige grew. They became exemplary and brave warriors defending Christian territories from Muslim siege. They built multiple castles, strongholds, and a fleet of ships designed to protect the seas from any attack they may present itself. Their religious fervor was unmatched, and their particular dedication to the Virgin Mary influenced the Catholic Church for centuries to come.
Despite their success during the crusades, the Knight’s Templar faced a reckoning, both losing their foothold in Muslim territories and subsequently respect in European countries. By 1303, the French King Philip IV vowed to destroy any remaining order of the Knight’s Templar, though his proclamation was likely less about reputable ideologies, but rather about the significant debt the Knights had accrued for the king. Even more extreme than denunciation, were the arrests and executions facing many of the order’s members. Accusations of devil worship, homosexuality, and blasphemy were just a few of the crimes the Knights faced penalties for. By doing so, King Philip IV and the pope seized and acquired the bulk of the Knights’ wealth.
Despite their dramatic rise and fall in European monarchies, the Knights Templar have continued to establish a foothold not only in culture, but of mythic proportion as well. The Knights involvement during the crusades granted them great access to holy lands with many precious and spiritual treasures. Perhaps most mythical and sacred was the Holy Grail, a chalice Christ drank from at the Last Supper. Despite the fascination of such an artifact and the exciting stories of how the Knights acquired such a precious item, no such artifact has ever been found. For centuries, archaeologists, religious fanatics, and treasure hunters have all searched for the Holy Grail, but to no avail. Where, if such a cup does exist, could it possibly be? Is it possible that a mysterious cave in England, man made and created centuries ago, is the map to finding the legendary Holy Grail? As many theories have emerged, was the Holy Grail an inanimate object, or was it symbolic for something much more precious? With an odd mix of Christian and pagan imagery etched on its stone walls, the Royston Cave’s bizarre origins have left historians baffled since its rediscovery in 1742.