Origin of the Knights Templar
The organization that came to be known as the Knights Templar began about 23 years after the First Crusade when Christian warriors from Europe seized Jerusalem. Many European Christians wanted to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but the journey was long and dangerous, as travelers were often robbed by bandits. A French knight named Hugues de Payens obtained approval from the pope to form an organization that would protect pilgrims who were traveling to and from the Holy Land. The pope granted him permission, and a small cohort of nine warrior monks, led by de Payens, began their mission by traveling to Jerusalem.
Once in Jerusalem, they made the Temple Mount their headquarters. The Temple Mount refers to the place on which King Solomon built his legendary temple to Yahweh, which housed the Ark of the Covenant and the presence of God. The temple was pillaged in the sixth century BCE, then rebuilt by King Herod in the first century. It was ruined in 70 AD. Many people believe that before it was destroyed in the sixth century BCE, King Solomon’s treasure was hidden somewhere inside. Before the second destruction, even more treasures, particularly from the life of Jesus Christ, may have been buried. Rumors spread that the Knights Templar were at the Temple Mount because they intended to recover the lost treasures.
The Knights Templar went all but completely off the radar for a few years after they first arrived in Jerusalem. They weren’t protecting pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, as their original charter had stated. Many people believe that they were digging for treasure, particularly in the underground stables that housed the horses of King Solomon. Nobody knows for sure if they found any treasure, or if there are people who do know, they have been quiet about it for centuries.
One prevailing belief is that the Knights Templar found holy relics that enabled them to become particularly powerful. When they went back to Europe, 10 years after the order was first founded, they became very wealthy very quickly. Noblemen gave them large tracts of land, and the pope even issued a papal bull that said that the warrior monks were accountable only to the Vatican. They could not be prosecuted by any state institutions. Speculation over how they gained so much wealth and prestige so quickly, going from obscurity to notoriety virtually overnight, has led to numerous theories, particularly about their alleged treasure.
Not everyone was pleased with the prestige of the Knights Templar. On Friday the 13th of 1307, King Philip of France rounded up all of its members. He tortured and executed many of them, but quite a few probably escaped. Some Templar ships that were docked off the coast of France disappeared the night before the roundup. One particularly prominent belief is that members of the Knights Templar carried off their wealth on these ships. Nobody knows exactly where the treasure went. There are plenty of theories, though, yet none of them have been proven.