Knights Templar and popular culture

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Templar Cross

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to the Knights Templar series

The original historic Knights Templar were a Christian military order, the Order of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, that existed from the 12th to 14th centuries to provide warriors in the Crusades. These men were famous in the high and late Middle Ages, but the Order was disbanded very suddenly by King Philip IV of France, who took action against the Templars in order to avoid repaying his own financial debts. He accused them of heresy, ordered the arrest of all Templars within his realm, and had many of them burned at the stake. The dramatic and rapid end of the organization led to many stories and legends developing about them over the following centuries. The Order and its members increasingly appear in modern fiction, though most of these references portray the medieval organization inaccurately.

In modern works, the Templars generally are portrayed as villains, misguided zealots, representatives of an evil secret society,[1] or as the keepers of a long-lost treasure. Several modern organizations also claim heritage from the medieval Templars, as a way of enhancing their own image or mystique.

Modern organizations[edit]

The story of the secretive yet powerful medieval Templars, especially their persecution and sudden dissolution, has been a tempting source for many other groups which have used alleged connections with the Templars as a way of enhancing their own image and mystery.[2] There is no clear historical connection between the Knights Templar, which were dismantled in the 14th century, and any of these other organizations, of which the earliest emerged publicly in the 18th century. However, there is often public confusion and many overlook the 400-year gap. It is also worth pointing out that medieval Templars were members of a monastic order and most were required to take vows of celibacy and avoid all contact with women, even members of their own family. Therefore it was not possible, in most cases, for Templars to have any descendants.

Since at least the 18th century Freemasonry has incorporated Templar symbols and rituals in a number of Masonic bodies.[1] One theory of the origins of Freemasonry claims direct descent from the historical Knights Templar through its final fourteenth-century members who took refuge in Scotland, or other countries where the Templar suppression was not enforced. This theory is usually deprecated on grounds of lack of evidence, by both Masonic authorities[3] and historians.[4] However, there are many modern references to the Templars in Freemasonry, such as the Degree of Knight of the Temple, also known as the "Order of the Temple", the final order joined in "The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta" commonly known as the Knights Templar. Freemasonry is traditionally open to men of all faiths, asking only that they have a belief in a supreme being. But membership in the Templar Masonic body (and others) is open only to Freemasons who profess a belief in the Christian religion. The word "United" in this title indicates that more than one historical tradition and more than one actual Order are jointly controlled within this system. The individual Orders 'united' within this system are principally the Knights of the Temple (Knights Templar), the Knights of Malta, the Knights of St Paul, and only within the Masonic York Rite, the Knights of the Red Cross.

Another Templar-related order, the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, is a charitable organization founded in 1804 which has achieved United Nations NGO special status.[5] They are a part of the larger Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani (OSMTH), commonly called Knights Templar International.[6] Some members of the OSMTH claim to be the direct descendants of the original Knights Templar using the Larmenius Charter as proof, however this document is suspected to be a forgery.[7]

Modern depictions and analysis[edit]

Modern scholarly attention to the Knights Templar is often devoted just as much to the conspiracy theories and popular culture depictions of the Templars, as to the actual historical facts of the medieval organization.

At the 2004 Annual Conference of the American Culture Association, their call for papers was specifically about such conspiracy theories relating to the Templars and their association with other legends and mysterious organizations.[1] Literary theorists puzzle over Umberto Eco's use in his novel Foucault's Pendulum, of the Templars as a symbol of postmodernist rewriting of history. Historian Malcolm Barber writes that "Mystic Templars are omnipresent in all good conspiracy theories."[8] On Day to Day, a program on American NPR, host Alex Chadwick discussed "the literary fascination with the Knights Templar."[9] In Poland, the Toruń Museum had an exhibition entitled "The Knights Templar - History and Myth" which offered a description, "Apart from pieces of "high art", the exhibit will grant equal importance to "popular culture" items (literature, film, Internet content) exploring the subject of the Knights Templar."[10] And in 2007, a National Post editorial noted that "the Templars remain a living presence in popular culture. This has happened precisely because the historical record concerning their sudden annihilation in the early-14th century at the hands of Philip IV ("the Fair") of France has been so sparse and ambiguous. Time and revolution have damaged and dispersed the sources, and made the Templars a magnet for speculation and imagination."[11]

Notable examples[edit]

Novels and comics[edit]

A brief list of some works which have featured the Knights Templar:

  • Ivanhoe, an 1820 novel by Sir Walter Scott, has as its villain Sir Brian de Bois-Gilbert, a "Templar Knight."
  • The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids, an 1855 short story by Herman Melville treats the Templars with great irony.
  • Mumbo-Jumbo (1972) has a Templar Knight Hinkle Von Vampton who serves as the main villain in Ishmael Reed's postmodernist satire
  • Les Rois Maudits or The Accursed Kings (1973 et seq) by Maurice Druon depicts the death of the last Grand Master of the Order, and plays with the legend of the curse he laid on the pope, Philip the Fair, and Guillaume de Nogaret.
  • Foucault's Pendulum, a 1988 novel by Umberto Eco, which features the mythos of the Knights Templar as keepers and defenders of the Holy Grail.
  • Swedish author Jan Guillou has written a trilogy about Arn Magnusson (1998 et seq), a fictional Swedish character from the Middle Ages who was forced to become a Knight Templar, went to Jerusalem and after returning to Sweden, was a leading military figure shortly before the time of Birger Jarl.
  • Tim Champlin's 2001 novel Treasure of the Templars, set in the late 19th century, concerns a Templar plot to use a fabulous treasure to finance the recreation of the Holy Roman Empire, as an eccentric American archaeologist races to find the treasure hidden in the American Southwest. In June 2014, Champlin was rumored to be planning a "prequel" that would tell the medieval story of how and why the Templars took their treasure to North America.
  • Katherine Kurtz has written many books with Templar characters and themes, and edited the Crusade of Fire (2002) anthology
  • The Da Vinci Code, bestselling 2003 novel by Dan Brown. This was also adapted into a film version in 2006.
  • The Last Templar (2005), by Raymond Khoury is a Da Vinci Code-style thriller.
  • The Pegasus Secret (2005) by Gregg Loomis alternates between a modern conspiracy thriller and a biography of a (fictional) Templar aide from the turn of the 14th century.
  • The Revenge of the Shadow King (2006), by Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis, relates an alternate history of the Knights Templar, aligning them with an age-old order whose primary role is to defend the world from the powers of darkness. In this book, the Templars still exist and operate today from the shadows of an underground organization.
  • The Templar Legacy (2006) by Steve Berry is a story which revolves around the possibility that the Templar Treasure is close to being discovered, and that it may fall into the wrong hands. In this book, the treasure is closely connected to the question of Christ as the Savior, and Christ's Resurrection. The book also brings into question the contents and significance of the treasure.



  • Knights of the Cross is a concept album about the Templars by German metal band Grave Digger.
  • The Templars (band) a NYC Oi! band is inspired by the Knights Templar. Similarly, their record label, Templecombe Records, is named after a Knights Templar site in Somerset, England.
  • HammerFall, a Swedish Power metal band, refer to themselves as "The Templars of Heavy Metal", making frequent reference to the Templars on many of their albums.



  1. ^ a b c Masons, Templars and the Holy Grail: Historical Conspiracies and Popular Culture
  2. ^ Finlo Rohrer (October 19, 2007). "What are the Knights Templar up to now?". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  3. ^ [Knights Templar FAQ], accessed January 10, 2007.
  4. ^ "Freemasonry Today periodical (Issue January 2002)". Grand Lodge Publications Ltd. Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  5. ^ "List of non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council as at 31 August 2006" (PDF). United Nations Economic and Social Council. 31 August 2006. Retrieved April 1, 2007. 
  6. ^ "Rear Admiral Ret. James J. Carey". Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  7. ^ Hodapp, Christopher; Alice Von Kannon (2007). The Templar Code for Dummies. For Dummies. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-470-12765-0. 
  8. ^ Barber's The New Knighthood (Cambridge U Press, 1995) paraphrased by Elaine Graham-Leigh
  9. ^ Knights Templar Inspires Trio of Best-Selling Books
  10. ^ "THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR - HISTORY AND MYTH" at Toruń, District Museum, October 23 - November 28, 2004
  11. ^ Marni Soupcoff, "The Post editorial board: The truth about the Templars", National Post (October 22, 2007).
  12. ^ Dr. Cathy Schultz, "Making the Crusades Relevant in KINGDOM OF HEAVEN", History in the Movies and Providence Journal (5/6/05).