Wikipedia:Today's featured article/October 13, 2007

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Seal of the Knights Templar

The Knights Templar were among the most famous of the Christian military orders. The organization existed for approximately two centuries in the Middle Ages. It was created in the aftermath of the First Crusade of 1096, to ensure the safety of the large numbers of European pilgrims who flowed toward Jerusalem after its conquest. Officially endorsed by the church in 1129, the Order became a favored charity across Europe. It grew rapidly in membership and power. Templar knights, easily recognizable in their white mantle with a distinct red cross, made some of the best equipped, trained, and disciplined fighting units of the Crusades. Non-warrior members of the Order managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom, innovating many financial techniques that were an early form of banking, and building numerous fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land. The Templars' success was tied closely to the success of the Crusades. When the Holy Land was lost and the Templars suffered crushing defeats, support for the Order's existence faded. Rumors about the Templars' secret initiation ceremony created mistrust, and King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Order, began pressuring Pope Clement V to take action. On Friday, October 13 1307, King Philip had many of the Order's members, including the Grand Master Jacques de Molay, arrested, tortured into "confessions", and burned at the stake. In 1312, Pope Clement, under continuing pressure from King Philip, forcibly disbanded the entire Order. (more...)

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