Do The Templars Still Exist?
Oct 25, 2004
Author: Stephen Dafoe
Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar was burned at the stake on March 18, 1314. As he began a slow roast towards his inevitable end, he is rumored to have uttered a curse for his accusers to join him in death within the year. True to this alleged curse, both Pope Clement V and the French Monarch, Philip Le Bel died within twelve months. Pope Clement died within the month and Le Bel in a gruesome hunting accident several months later.
Did Jacques de Molay utter such a threat? Perhaps we shall never know, but what is a fact, is that this was probably the first of many fanciful legends that grew up around this order of fighting monks who defended the Holy Lands and grew rich from it for nearly two centuries.
While the De Molay curse, may have spawned numerous claims of Occult connections, a subject I looked at in depth in my first book, Unholy Worship, it remains to be seen where the legends of Templar continuation came from. There really seems to be two schools of thought on this matter and both schools are diametrically opposed to one another. The first school consists of the academics and pseudo-academics who contend that the Templars were wiped out by Inquisition and Papal orders. The second school, the historical detectives like Baigent and Leigh, claim that they had to go on and still do to this day. In the case of Baigent and Leigh that continuation is under the guise of the Masonic Fraternity as shown in their book, The Temple and the Lodge.
The purpose of this article is not to prove or disprove the existence of Templars in our midst, but rather, to show how these accepted theories of current Templar existence came to be. As visitors to my web site are well aware, one of my favorite quotes comes from Napoleon who said, “What is history, but a fable agreed upon?” This is certainly the case with regard to the views of many modern writers concerning the perpetuation of the Knights Templar. A story repeated, even one that is but a fable, will soon gain credibility and acceptance. If one author comes out and says A, B&C; and this is picked up by another author, who puts it in their new book, then a cycle begins where faulty research is built upon faulty research.
Perhaps one of the most misquoted authors has to be Henry Lincoln, coauthor of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, a book that really started a genre that has seen a huge growth and created, directly or indirectly, many publications including this one. Henry is a pioneer in this field of research and was engaged in it years before teaming up with Baigent and Leigh. Lincoln did a series of documentaries on Rennes Le Chateau for the BBC which were and are well respected and sought after by researchers into those mysteries. Having had the opportunity to meet Henry Lincoln last February and listen to him lecture, I can pass on what I think is one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever heard an author say about their research. He said to an audience gathered at the Sauniere Society Symposium, in Gullane, Scotland; “Don’t believe a word I say.” What he meant by this was, do not take the research of himself or any other author as gospel. Investigate it for yourself. Take the time to do a little digging and confirm the information presented to the satisfaction of your own mind. Having said this and quoted an author who has been an inspiration in my own researches and writing, we will now investigate the lines of Templar continuation, but as Henry Lincoln says, don’t believe a word I say. Check it out for yourself.
The Templars: Down But Not Out
Formed in 1118 and abolished by the Papal Bul, “Vox in Excelso” in 1312, the Knights Templar prospered in Europe as well as the Levant for 194 years. Few organizations since have had the success or longevity of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, or as we know them today, the Templars. Few that is, except for the two principal Neo-Templar orders that grew out of their name, the Freemasons and the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (SMOTJ). These two organizations have in fact earned a unique place in history of being around for a longer period of time than the orders from which they are said to have grown. Both of these organizations, while practicing the principles of Chivalry, Charity and Fraternity, albeit in a modern sense, are quite different in their theological outlooks. The SMOTJ is a Christian order, while the Masonic fraternity, principally comprised of Christians, is open to any one of a monotheistic belief. With regard to the SMOTJ, originally one had to be a Catholic to be a member, but this has changed over the years to include any branch of Christianity. The Freemasons on the other hand, although originally strictly a Christian order, accept men of all faiths so long as they profess a belief in a supreme being. Interestingly enough, this is true with regard to all branches of Freemasonry except the order of the Temple, which is a part of the York Rite branch of the craft and an aspect of Templarism we will look at in detail in due course. Applicants for admission to this order must profess a belief in the doctrine of the Trinity and promise to defend the Christian faith. As both of these orders are quite unique, we will look at each one separately along with the chain of events that connects them to the original order of the Knights Templar.
The Sovereign Military Order Of The Temple Of Jerusalem
The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem is a large organization with Chapters world wide. It is known by many names, but regardless of its regional or national titles, all of the members call themselves Knights Templar. Officially this organization was born in 1804 at the close of the French Revolution. It was rumored at the time that this organization, said to be a resurfacing of the original order, who kept its existence secret for 500 years, actually had the support of Napoleon Bonaparte. Perhaps this is another fanciful tale, but certainly one that seemed to have acceptance at the time. It is rumored that at the unveiling ceremony in Paris, French Troops were in attendance to aid and support the New Templar order.
This new order was brought public by Bernard Raymond Fabre-Palaprat, who claimed to have a document which has created quite a bit of controversy over the years. This document called the “Carta Transmissionis” or Larmenius Charter, was a list of Grand Masters from Jacques de Molay, who allegedly passed the reins of the order in prison to John Mark Larmenius, on through to the present man at the helm, Fabre-Palaprat, who was the first, according to the document, Grand Master since De Molay to be anything other than clandestine. Feeling the time was right, Fabre-Palaprat came forward with the information. Was this document authentic, or was it a forgery created by Palaprat and his associates to add credibility to his Neo-Templar order? When asking a member of the
SMOTJ, the matter is one of mixed opinion. According to the organizations own documents, it would seem that the party line is one of acceptance. In a booklet put out by “The Knight Templar of England and Wales”, entitled Need to Know Booklet, the following information is presented:
“Prior to his martyrdom in 1314 Grand Master Jacques de Molay invested Jean-Marc Larmenius with his powers. Larmenius was unanimously recognized as the new Grand Master following De Molay’s death. He gathered together the dispersed remnants of the Order and in 1324 gave the Order the Charter of Transmission. This Charter is still one of the governing documents of the Present Order.”
Acceptance of this document, although widespread among members of the SMOTJ, does have its detractors including members of the order itself. The main argument against the legitimacy of the Larmenius Charter lies in the writing of the document itself. First of all it is argued that the style of Latin is too modern for a document written in 1324. As odd as this may seem, we must understand that all languages undergo changes over the centuries. For example the Old French that the majority of Templars would have spoken is quite a stretch from the language spoken in the streets of Paris or even the province of Quebec. The second argument, and one I’ll add is of much less significance, is that one of the signatures was that of a Grand Master known to be illiterate. While not a major supporter of the “Carta Transmissionis”, I must come to the defense of the document here, because it was common for even an illiterate person to learn to draw a signature. It is also possible that an assistant signed the name of the Master.
If the Larmenius Charter is an actual historical accounting, the list presents a succession of Masters from De Molay on down to the man who started or continued the Templar cause in France, the home of its birth. The list of alleged Grand Masters of the order of the Temple are as follows:
Alleged List of Grand Masters of the Knights Templar
1313-1324 - John-Marc Larmenius
1324-1340 - Thomas Theobald of Alexandria
1340-1349 - Arnaud de Braque
1349-1357 - Jean de Claremont
1357-1381 - Bertrand du Guesclin
1381-1392 - Bernard Arminiacus
1419-1451 - Jean Arminiacus
1451-1472 - Jean de Croy
1472-1478 - Bernard Imbault
1478-1497 - Robert Leononcourt
1497-1516 - Galeatius de Salazar
1516-1544 - Phillippe Chabot
1544-1574 - Gaspard de Galtiaco Tavanensis
1574-1615 - Henri de Montmorency
1615-1651 - Charles de Valois
1651-1681 - Jacques Ruxellius de Granceio
1681-1705 - Jacques Henri Duc de Duras
1705-1724 - Phillippe, Duc d'Orleans (time when alleged statutes written)
1724-1737 - Louis Augustus Bourbon
1737-1741 - Louis Henri Bourbon Conde
1741-1776 - Louis-Francois Boubon Conti
1776-1792 - Louis-Hercule Timoleon, Duc de Cosse Brissac (executed)
1792-1804 - Claude-Mathieu Radix de Chavillon
1804-1838 - Bernard Raymond Fabre Palaprat (discovered list)
Very little is know about the Masters listed in the Charter, outside the records of the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, but one Master stands out and is worthy of mention in this brief article. Phillippe, Duc d' Orleans who was, according to the list, Master from 1705 to 1724, is in some accountings the first after De Molay to go public with the existence of Templarism. In March of 1705, according to this tradition, the Duke of Orleans was elected by a convention of Templars in Versailles. He was to be the order’s 41st Grand Master. According to the aforementioned booklet put out by the Templars of England and Wales:
“Thus as regent of France and Grand Master of the Temple it provided an official renewal and legitimization of the Order of the Temple as a Secular Military Order Chivalry and also its right to resume the use of “sovereign” in its title.”
This information, being generally accepted as historically accurate has led many of the Charter’s detractors to conclude that is was the Duke de Orleans who fabricated the document and that the SMOTJ can lay claim to an origin dating back to 1705, which would give it a life span to date of 294 years or a century longer than its mentor order the original Knights Templar.
Even if this is not the case and despite its many schisms over the years, that have caused splits to the SMOTJ the order has existed more or less intact and uninterrupted since 1804. The SMOTJ, therefore, being in existence for 195 years, has surpassed the original order, who it endeavors to emulate, by exactly one year.
When Alan Butler and I wrote, “The Warriors and the Bankers” in 1998, we devoted an entire chapter to the Larmenius Charter and the question of the legitimacy of the SMOTJ. We came away with an open mind on the matter, being neither in support of or in a position to discredit the subject. There simply is not enough evidence one way or another to prove or disprove the continuation of the original order down this path. However, if John Mark Larmenius was the true bearer of the Templar Torch, then Pierre de Aumont, whom we will look at later, was most assuredly a fraud.
The Templars and The Lodge?
A common held theory regarding the continuation of the Knights Templar under the guise of the Freemasons has been gaining in popularity. As a Freemason myself, I can state that the theory is not entirely accepted among members of the craft. Many have climbed onboard the Templar origin wagon, while many hold to the old belief that we are descended from the medieval or even biblical stone cutters. Those that follow the Stone Masons theory are generally older Brethren who have a hard time accepting anything new. For those who accept the Templar theory, it is largely held that the Templars fled to Scotland under the guise of stone cutters and established Masonry as a continuation, albeit a covert one of their order.
The Apprentice Pillar from Rosslyn Chapel, “Lodge # 1” of Scottish Freemasonry, built by fugitive Templars.
Photo by Stephen Dafoe.
Before embarking on this discussion, I would like to add an opinion of my own that is shared by my coauthor Alan Butler, regarding the Scottish Templar theory. While it is widely held that the Templar fleet disappeared into the night and set sail for the Scottish coastline, we contend that this is not likely to be the case on the pure basis of the rough North Sea and the type of ships primarily used by the Templars. The bulk of the ships were Mediterranean style Galleys that would not have stood the rough waves of the North Sea. Yes the Templars had other ships used for this purpose such as the Genoese-built ship, “the Falcon”, but according to the transcripts of the Templar trials it was fifty Galleys that escaped. Galleys were best suited for traveling the coastline to places like Portugal where it is known that brother knights were accepted into King Denis’ new order, “the Knights of Christ.” Although it is not the providence of this article, Alan and I have our own view and theory of where many Templars fled to and it is across land to Switzerland where the forest Cantons had united into a union the very same year that the Crusading cause was lost with the fall of Acre in 1291 .
With regard to the Scottish Templars, we think the Mass exodus theory takes away from the fact that there already were Templars in Scotland as there were some Templar Churches and Preceptories in the country. Not only this, it is quite possible that English Templars placing allegiance to their own order above their native land may have fled North in preparation for what would surely come. Still the popular theory is that of Scottish Templarism. The question remains: “Where did this come to be connected with the Masonic Fraternity?”
In their excellent book, The Temple and the Lodge, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh put forth the argument that the fleeing Templars went en masse to Scotland where they evolved into the Freemasons. While this theory is popular among researchers, readers and certainly Freemasons, it is not a new idea of the aforementioned authors. In fact the Masonic historian Albert Mackey and Arthur Edward Waite, the occultist and a Masonic Historian in his own right, were writing about this theory in the 1800's and it was not new then either. If not Baigent and Leigh, Mackey or even Waite, then who do we owe credit for the “Freemasons came from the Templars” theory? The answer to this question is actually two men. Andrew Michael Ramsey and Baron Karl Von Hund, whom we will look at in turn.
The Ramsay Oration of 1737
Andrew Michael Ramsay was born in 1686 and was known throughout his adult life as Chevaliers Ramsay. He was born in Ayres, Scotland, but spent much of his life traveling and living in Italy, Holland and France. An educator and gifted writer, Ramsay is said to have been a supporter of the Stuart cause and even tutored the Stuart Princes. Although it is not known when he first became a Freemason, it is known that he was the Grand Chancellor of the Grand Lodge of Paris and in this capacity was in a position to have his words listened to. The man is best remembered for the oration he gave in 1737 to the Grand Loge Provinciale D’Angleterre in which he created for the Freemasons a lineage connected to the Crusading Knights of Medieval times. Although it is common for researchers and writers to paint that Ramsay’s oration mentions the Knights Templar specifically, this is actually not the case, but was a later addition of the Baron Karl Von Hund, whom we will look at next. In his lecture, Ramsay refuted the earlier claims connecting the Freemasons to the legend of Enoch and the legends of the Temple of Solomon and painted the tale of Masonry originating with the Crusading Knights who wrested Jerusalem from the Turks during the first crusade. According to Ramsay:
“In the time of the Holy Wars in Palestine, many princes, nobles, and citizens associated themselves together and entered into vows to reestablish Christian Temples in the Holy Land, and encourage themselves by an oath to employ their talents and their fortunes in restoring architecture to its primitive condition. They adopted signs and symbolic words, derived from religion, by which they might distinguish themselves from the infidels and might recognize each other in the midst of the Saracens.”
Ramsay additionally claimed that these Crusading Masons allied themselves with the order of St. John or the Hospitallers and this is the reason that many Masonic lodges latterly carried the name of St. John in their titles. His assertions were speculative at best and almost certainly spurious as many Masonic historians would disagree with his assertions about St. John. However, one thing that Ramsay, like Von Hund, whom we will presently focus on, can be accredited for is the addition of the higher degrees to Masonry, especially those orders known as the Chivalric Order.
The Rite of Strict Observance
So as we have seen, if Michael Andrew Ramsay was not entirely responsible for adding the Templar legend to the Craft, who is then? The answer to that question is, Baron Karl Von Hund, the creator of the grades of Masonry known as the Rite of Strict Observance. It is this rite of Masonry that brings us back around the circle to the legend of Pierre D’ Aumont.
In contrast to the Larmenius Charter, it is said that while in prison, Jacques de Molay, passed the Mastership of the order to Pierre D’ Aumont, who according to some traditions was a Marshal of the order and in others he was the Provincial Grand Master of Auvergne. It is unlikely that so important a position would be passed to a mere Marshal and it has been shown in Baigent and Leigh’s book, The Temple and the Lodge, that De Aumont was not the Provincial Grand Master of Auvergne. In either case the legend goes that D’ Aumont fled to Scotland with seven Brother Templars, two Commanders and five knights, disguised as operative stone masons , where they created the degrees of Freemasonry as a covert continuation of the Knights Templar. The tradition goes that they landed on the Island of Mull, but as this island was under the possession of King Edward, it is unlikely, disguised or not that they would have found safe harbor there. Still, the legend contends that D’ Aumont was elected Grand Master of the Templar order on St. Johns day, June 24, 1313. In 1364, D’ Aumont transferred the Templar seat of authority to the city of Aberdeen and it is from this new position that it spread, as Freemasonry throughout Europe.
This theory was the basis of and brought to light by the German Von Hund in 1754 and carved out a pedigree for speculative Masonry that would last to the present time. Von Hund’s Rite of Strict Observance spread throughout Europe including parts of Switzerland and even as far as Russia.
Although Karl Von Hund was a German, his Rite of Strict Observance met with particular acceptance in France where the original Templars had originated at the end of the first crusade. It has been said, and it is more a matter of speculation, than of historical fact that Von Hund was first introduced to the theory and to Templarism in France where he was initiated by an unknown Templar who, Von Hundt truly believed to be the pretender Charles Edward Stewart.
Whether this is the case or merely wishful thinking on the part of Von Hund, it cannot be denied that his Rite of Strict Observance met with the favor of many of Europe’s well to do. It can also not be denied that it is the theories of the Chevalier Michael Ramsay and latterly Von Hund, that thousands of North American men don their Templar mantle, hat and sword and meet in Freemasonic lodges under the guise of Christian Chivalry.
Of course these modern day members of Masonic Templarism are no longer a part of the Rite of Strict Observance, but there is no doubt that the Order of the Temple, the highest of the Chivalric Orders in the York Rite and the Knight Kadosh grade of the Scottish Rite owe a great allegiance to the D’ Aumont legend first put forth in Von Hund’s Rite of Strict Observance.
In all likelihood, it will never be proved or disproved that the modern orders of Templarism sprang from the ashes of the original order over six centuries ago, it has however, been proven that both the SMOTJ and the Templars of the Scottish and York rites of Freemasonry have outlived the original order by some years and that those men and women who call themselves Templars believe themselves to be carrying out the same spirit of Chivalry that began in the Levant in the twelfth century.
To read more essays by Stephen Dafoe, and to purchase Dafoe’s books, or to purchase Templar-related items, visit http://www.templarbooks.com