Saints or Sinners? The Knights Templar in Medieval Europe

What did medieval contemporaries think of military orders such as the Knights Hospitaller and Teutonic Knights? Helen Nicholson investigates.

Templars being burnt at the stakeIn October 1307, by order of Philip IV of France, all the Knights Templar within the French domains were arrested. The following month, Pope Clement V sent out orders for the arrest of the Templars throughout Europe. The brothers were accused of a variety of crimes, which were said to be long-established in the order. There were, it was claimed, serious abuses in the admission ceremony, where the brothers denied their faith in Christ. The order encouraged homosexual activity between brothers. The brothers worshipped idols. Chapter meetings were held in secret. The brothers did not believe in the mass or other sacraments of the church and did not carry these out properly, defrauding patrons of the order who had given money for masses to be said for their families' souls.

What was more, it was alleged that the Templars did not make charitable gifts or give hospitality as a religious order should. The order encouraged brothers to acquire property fraudulently, and to win profit for the order by any means possible.

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