Monday, February 4, 2013

The Hierarchy of the Knights Templars

While today the Masonic Knights Templar doesn't perpetuate the belief of any direct lineage to the medieval Knights Templar we use their name in commemoration of the noble and Christian virtues they practiced. While we do commemorate and celebrate their deeds the American Templars have drifted and varied from the leadership structured established by the Crusaders who followed the Latin Rule of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Today the local level, the Commandery, is governed by a Sir Knight elected annually to serve as the Eminent Commander. To assist him in the government of meetings and in the conferral of the Order of the Temple, there are the following officers: 
Generalissimo: Sits at the right-hand of the Commander, assists the Commander in his duties, and is charged to introduce the Grand Commander and his staff. This term originates from "generale" (Italian for General) and the suffix -issimo, itself from Latin -issimus, meaning "utmost, to the highest grade". 

Captain General: This is a very important officer as he ensures the Commandery is prepared for the reception of the Commander, and essentially executes a majority of all commands whether communicated through the Generalissimo or from the Eminent Commander directly. 

Senior Warden: This officer is similar to the Senior Deacon seen in the Blue Lodge as he is one of the guides for candidates going through the Order of the Temple.

Junior Warden: This officer is also a guide to the candidates and has some similarities to the Senior Deacon, but also has some duties that are similar to that of the Marshall (giving instruction and charges to the candidates prior to initiation). He also assists the Senior Warden during parts of the conferral. 

Prelate: From the Medieval Latin 'prelatus' meaning "clergyman of high rank." Some of the duties of this officer are obvious, but this officer is also charged with administering the vows to candidates striving to become new Sir Knights. 

Treasurer: The duties of this officer apparent and he should always practice those great moral virtues when over-watching the finances of the Commandery. 

Recorder: This administrative officer's duties are just apparent as the Treasurers and much rests on his shoulders who sit in this seat. 

Standard Bearer: As his name implies he is the keeper of the Standard, the banner of the Commandery, and like the Marshall of the Blue Lodge he is the one presents the Nation's flag during the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Sword Bearer: This officer is charged with protecting the Standard Bearer as well as leading the detail to present the flag for the Pledge. 

Warder: Similar to the Junior Deacon of the Blue Lodge, this officer responds to alarms at the door of the Asylum as well as announcing the approach and departure of the Commander, or Grand Commander during his visitations. 

Sentinel: Just as the Tyler guards the doors to the Lodge so too does the Sentinel protect the Asylum from those who are not entitled to be there.
The Commandery reports to the Grand Commandery, which is the state level, and which is presided over by the Right Eminent Grand Commander who is elected annually by the members who compose the Grand Commandery and the delegates from the Commanderies around the jurisdiction. The Grand Commander is assisted by officers similar to that seen at the local level with the addition of "Grand" attached to their title as well as the addition of the position of "Deputy Grand Commander".

In some jurisdictions, there are district representatives that mediate between the Commanderies and Grand Commandery, and who is regarded as the personal representative of the Grand Commander.

The next level in American Templary is known as the Grand Encampment and this body is presided over by the Most Eminent Grand Master. This Sir Knight is elected to serve for 3-years or Triennium. The Grand Master is assisted by a host of officers and advisers. Many of the officers are styled similar to those at the local and Grand level, but instead of a Grand Sentinel, they have a Grand Captain of the Guard. There are also some additions that will be discussed as follows:
Department Commanders: These officers hold the status of Proxy for the Grand Master and hold authority over regions which include Grand Commanderies and local Commanderies not yet under Grand Commanderies. They are appointed and serve at his discretion. 

Aides-de-Camp: These Sir Knights are assigned to assisting certain officers of the Grand Encampment as well as Past Grand Masters. These include the staff of the Knights Templar magazine, office administrators of the Grand Encampment, and Grand Banner Bearer.
This will serve as a basic understanding of the modern Masonic Knights Templar in America and will better help us look at the hierarchy of the medieval Knights Templar. Originally there were only four ranks, but this was due to the fact there were very few members. Once the Order expanded so did the ranking system. As with all things concerning the Templars the Latin Rule laid out how everything would be structured. With the original Templar Order, we will start from the top and move our way down.
Grand Master: Serving as head of the entire international Order the Grand Master exercised supreme authority and only answered to the Pope. The Grand Master was an elected position and the Knight elected would serve for life, although that was not always a long amount of time as many Grand Masters lost their lives in battle which shows that he oversaw military operations as well as the administrative operations. There were some rare exceptions to this as a couple Grand Masters stepped down and retired from the position with the consent of the Pope. The Grand Master was treated with great respect by the monarchies, the Pope, and the members of the Order. His entourage included 4-horses for personal use, a minimum of on cleric, two Knights, a Sergeant, a translator, a cook, a servant, and an administrative clerk.

Beneath the Grand Master there was a host of officers with specific duties, all laid out by the Rule. Some of these included Masters and Commanders of Lands and Provinces who reported directly to the Grand Master.

Seneschal: This officer served as the "right-hand man" of the Grand Master. His chief duties surrounded the oversight of much of the administrative operation, acting as an adviser to the Grand Master, and acted as head of the Order in his absence. Due to his administrative duties the Provincial Masters of Western Europe often reported to him. His duties were extremely important since the Western European lands were essential to the logistics and supplies needed to sustain the troops in the Holy Land. Like the Grand Master, he had his own staff which included knights, sergeants, clerics, and squires; horses; and supplies as an indication of his authority.
Marshal: While the Grand Master ultimately led the troops, when present, and the Seneschal assisted in the logistical and administrative needs of the Order, the Marshal was in charge of anything related to the war effort such as arms, training, horses, and gear. He also served as an adviser to the Grand Master. He also had an entourage assigned to his honored station.

Under-Marshal: As the name implies this officer was directly under the Marshall and assisted in his duties. This officer was in charge of lesser equipment, equipment for the horse (bridles, saddle padding, shoes, etc), and assisted in with logistics from the side of the Marshall. He was also in charge of carrying the 'piebald banner' which was at the head of the procession and helped keep the stragglers together.

Turcopolier:  Militarily this officer was third in line. He was charged with commanding the light cavalry/mercenaries and Sergeants.

Draper: Sometimes referred to as a 'Quartermaster', this officer was in charge of Templar garments, clothing, linens, and all tailoring needs. This was an important job and, according to the Rule, the Draper was superior to all Brethren after the Grand Master and Marshall; he had the authority to chastise all those whose clothing and linens were not in proper order. In his inspections he would also ensure that the grooming of the Knights was according to the Rule. He also had the power to remove items from members who appeared to have more than what was proper or who was acting with unnecessary pride.

Standard Bearer: This officer is similar to the modern officer bearing the same name, but in reality didn't actually carry the banner, but rather led the procession of soldiers that did. This officer came from the Sergeant class and was also known as the 'Confanonier'. He was also in charge of the Squires; paying them, training them, and ensuring they were performing their duties to standard.

Commanders of the Land: These Templar officers are similar to that of the Department Commander or Grand Commander in today's Masonic Templar Order. The 3 provinces or Lands were Jerusalem, Antioch, and Tripoli. The Commander of the Lands of Jerusalem was also the Treasurer of the entire Order and along with the Grand Master acted as a check-and-balance over the property of the Templar Order.

Provincial Masters: Similar to the Commanders of the Land were charged with governing the lands in Western Europe. Like their Eastern counterparts they were to govern the lands which included castles, farms, forts, strongholds, Bailies, and other estates. These Masters also had the duty of managing the revenue of the Order and recruiting new men to the Templar Order.

Bailli: This was a local or regional commander position and would usually be filled by a Knight, but in the absence of any Knights a Sergeant could fill it. He would preside over a "baillie" which would have been a district or division of a Templar Province. Within each Templar baillie were their preceptories.

Masters and Commanders: These officers were in charge of the local Commanderies or Preceptories. Particularly in the Western provinces, if there were no Knights present then this duty fell to a Sergeant.

Castellan: An officer charged with ensuring the protection of a Templar castle.

Casalier: An officer who oversaw the security and protection of a Templar farm or casal.

Admiral: While not renowned for their naval exploits in their early years, the Templars would eventually develop a working naval operation to assist in movement of troops, supplies, and treasures. This becomes increasingly apparent towards the end of the Templar years when their headquarters is moved to Cyprus. The role of Admiral was not necessarily one who was on the ships themselves, but one who controlled a shipyard or port.
Through these officer positions, we've mentioned terms like Knights, Sergeants, and Squires. These were the classes, but there were also servants and the clerics to remember and were arranged as follows:
Knights: The famous class who were known as the backbone of the battlefield; very few battles were fought without the Templars present. To become a Knight one had to be of noble birth and for such reason composed a small number in comparison to the total number of members within the Templar Order. A Knight wore the famous white mantle adorned with a red cross, kept their hair short, and were known for their bears which they were not allowed to shave. Quite often Knights would also be used outside the battlefield in advisory roles which could include sitting as Judge in lower courts.

Sergeants: The next class of Templar did not have to be from noble stock. As a display of their lower status than the Knights, they wore primarily a black mantle with a red cross, but sometimes would wear a brown mantle. This class was the chief support of the Order and as such much more versatile than the Knights as they not only would fight alongside the Knights, but also would be seen notaries, craftsman, blacksmiths, masons, or cooks - it all depended on what the needs of the Order were. They were given one horse, but no squires.
Squires: Squires were the young men who, just like in the movies, were there to assist the knight in any way possible, from polishing his weapons to feeding his horses. The difference for a Templar Squire is that this was often a hired position, especially in the first hundred years of the Order. It was only later that many Squires were there specifically to test themselves and their mettle and to climb to the order of Knight. They wore garb similar to that of the Sergeants.

Lay Servants: This class could run the gamut, from masons brought in to do building or repair work to personal servants to an officer. The hierarchical statutes of the Templar Rule laid out precisely how many of such servants each officer was allowed to have. For a Templar to have too many would be a sin of pride. Due to the number of masons and builders under the command of the Templars they were an institution not only known for their fighting skills, but were known to be capable of building great and expensive structures.

Clerics: One of the most important positions within a Templar Commandery was that of the Chaplain. This man had many important jobs, not ecclesiastical, but also secular in many ways. He was an internal priest for the Order. He had the power to hear confessions and to give absolution for sins; Templars were forbidden to give confession to anyone other than a cleric in the Templar Order without Papal approval. These clerics were not answerable to local clerics or bishops, but only to the Pope.

Confrere: This was an associate member who served for a short period of time and who did not partake in the monastic vows.
As I stated above, the Knights made up a small portion of the entire Order. Quite often there was a 10:1 ratio of non-Knights to Knights in the Templar Order. Accompanying a group of Knights through Europe and the Middle East, there would be chaplains, Sergeants, administrative officers, translators, masons, engineers, carpenters, armorers, blacksmiths, tent makers, rope makers, shepherds, tailors, gardeners, millers, cooks, and servants.


1. A Brief History of the Medieval Knights Templar. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani:

2. Brief on the History of the Medieval Knights Templar. (n.d.). Retrieved from Regular Grand Lodge of England:

3. Bruno, S. T. (2001). Templar Organizational Structure. Retrieved from

4. Dafoe, S. (2006). The Templars Hierarchy. The Working Tools magazine, 30-33. 

5. Grobschmidt, S. (n.d.). Religious Orders. Retrieved from the ORB:

6. Hodapp, C. (n.d.). Organizing the Knights Templar. Retrieved from The Templar Code For Dummies:

7. Ralls, K. (2007). Knights Templar Encyclopedia. Franklin Lakes: Book-mart Press.

No comments:

Post a Comment