Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Two Tales of the Templars

Many know the story of the founding of the Knights Templar in the early 12th century, but is this the only story?  There exist others who show a different story than the common story.  The most common story of the Templars comes to us from the writings of William, Archbishop of Tyre. Another tale comes from Michael the Syrian, Patriarch of Antioch.  There is a third account given by Walter Map, the Archdeacon of Oxford, but his accounts are disregarded by most historians as he preferred historical fiction to fact.

William tells us that for the first 9-years of the Templar existence they could not raise no more than 9 knights. Michael on the other hand tells us that Hugh De Payen founded this Order with 30 Knights with him. Michael writes:
Now  this man, whose name was Hough de Payen, accepted this advice; the thirty knights who accompanied him joined him.  The king gave them the house of Solomon for their residence, and some villages for their maintenance.  The Patriarch also gave them some villages of the Church.
Stephen Dafoe in the January 2009 edition of the Knights Templar magazine stated that although Michael's accounts receive less attention from the historical community, this story seems much more plausible than the account given by William. Due to the lack of existing records, we may never know the exact number of founding Templars.

Why the inconsistencies and vague establishment?  Well, neither of these men were alive when the Templars started, and one can also look at the bias of William as it is said that he held no love for the Templar Order.

William was born in Jerusalem around 1130. After completing his education in Europe, he returned to the Middle East where he wrote many books, one particularly is a 23-volume history of the Middle East since the time of the conquest of Jerusalem by Umar. Although he never finished it by the time of his death (c. late 1180's).  This book centered around the First Crusade and all the political events that took place in the Kingdom.  He himself was a contender for Patriarch of Jerusalem and had a natural hatred for the hindrance of ecclesiastical authority and thus held no positive opinion of the Templars, and their independence. The reason given to historians siding with William in his account is he said to have been very thorough in collecting information and sifting through sources, as well as interviewing first-hand witnesses.

Michael is believed to have been born around 1126 in the town of Miletene, today known as Malatya (located in SE Turkey). Early on he entered into the service of a local Jacobite monastery and eventually became an archimandrite (an overseer of the monastery, second only to the Bishop). Because of his devotion and zeal, he was eventually elected as Patriarch. He is known for composing the largest chronicle of medieval times, which was written in Syriac. Michael's work is placed behind Williams as it is said he didn't have very accurate information outside of his own personal experiences.

Will we ever find out?


1. Dafoe, S. (2008). The Compasses and the Cross: A History of the Masonic Knights Templar. England: Lewis Masonic.

2. Dafoe, S. (2009, January). Were There Really Only Nine? Knights Templar magazine, p. 11.

3. Haag, M. (2009). The Templars: The History and the Myth: From Solomon's Temple to the Freemasons. HarperCollins.

4. Lomas, R. (2009). Turning the Templar Key: The Secret Legacy of the Knights Templar and the Origins of Freemasonry. Fair Winds.

5. Michael the Syrian. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

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