When Godfroi died in 1100, his brother, Baudouin, became the Defender of the Holy Sepulchre as well as the virtual King of Jerusalem. Subsequently, Hugues de Payen, a nobleman from Champagne, unsolicited, presented himself with eight comrades at the palace of Baudouin I, where the king of Jerusalem received them most cordially (as did the patriarch of Jerusalem — the religious leader of the new kingdom and special emissary of the Pope). Hugues proposed to form the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon (to become known as the Templar’s).
Baudouin I, “who owed his throne to Sion”, was “obliged” to negotiate the constitution of the new Templar order. In 1117, when Baudouin was known to have been a sick man and whose death was imminent, may have on his deathbed, compelled by illness, by the Ordre de Sion, or both, to grant the Templar’s some official status. The Knights Templar were undoubtedly active prior to that time, and to possibly have acted in an ex official capacity as the military or administrative arm of the Ordre de Sion in the fortified abbey. In any event, the Knights Templar were officially recognized in 1118.
The nine knights of the Knights Templar returned to Europe in 1127, receiving a triumphal welcome, orchestrated in large part by Saint Bernard. In January 1128, a Church council convened at Troyes — at the court of the count of Champagne, Hugues de Payen’s liege lord — where Bernard was again the guiding spirit. Here the Templars were officially recognized and incorporated as a religious-military order. Hugues was made the grand master. He and his subordinates were to be warrior-monks, soldier-mystics, combining the austere discipline of the cloister with a martial zeal tantamount to fanaticism — a “militia of Christ” as they were called at the time.
The Templars were sworn to poverty, chastity and obedience. They were obliged to cut their hair, but forbidden to cut their beards (in a time when most men were clean shaven). They wore white habits and white mantles (which no other order could wear), and by 1146, had adopted the famous splayed red cross — the cross pattee (the same as worn by the ancient Benjamites). With this device emblazoned on their mantles, they accompanied King Louis VII of France on the Second Crusade. It was then that they established their reputation for martial zeal coupled with an almost insane foolhardiness and fierce arrogance.
During the next hundred years the Templar’s became a major power with international influence. Pope Innocent II, a former protege of Saint Bernard, issued a papal bull in 1139, which stated that the Templar’s owed no allegiance to any secular or ecclesiastical power other than the Pope himself. In this way, the Templar’s were rendered totally independent of all kings, princes, and prelates, and from all interference from both political and religious authorities. They became, in effect, a law unto themselves. At the same time, Europe’s younger sons of noble families flocked to enroll in the order’s ranks and vast donations — in money, goods, and land — were made from every quarter of Christendom. Eventually, the Templar’s became so wealthy that they could lend vast sums of money to destitute monarchs and became the international bankers for thrones in Europe and certain Muslim potentates in the Middle East.
In 1185 King Baudouin IV of Jerusalem died. In the subsequent dynastic squabbling, Rerard de Ridefort, grand master of the Temple of Sion, betrayed an oath made to the dead monarch and thereby brought the European community in Palestine to the brink of civil war. Ridefort’s cavalier attitude toward the Muslim Saracens precipitated the rupture of a long-standing truce, and provoked a new cycle of hostilities. In July 1187, he led his knights and the rest of the Christian army into a disastrous battle. The Christian forces were virtually annihilated, and two months later, Jerusalem was again in Saracen hands.
Meanwhile, back in Europe, the Templar’s had become increasingly wealthy, powerful, complacent — not to mention arrogant, brutal and corrupt. Through their Islamic and Judaic contacts, they had become a clearinghouse for new ideas and knowledge. In the process, they developed a sophistication far in advance of their time in such diverse fields as military architecture and engineering, weapons, map making, road building, shipping (they owned their own seaports, shipyards and fleets — both commercial and military), and medicine. In the latter, they maintained their own hospitals, understood something of hygiene and antibiotics, and regarded epilepsy not as demonic possession but as a controllable disease.
The “treason” of Ridefort and the loss of Jerusalem appears to have precipitated a disastrous rift between the Ordre de Sion and the Templar’s. In 1188 a formal separation supposedly occurred between the two institutions. The Ordre de Sion, which had created the Knights Templar, now washed its hands of its celebrated proteges. The parent officially disowned the child. This rupture is believed to have been commemorated by a ritualized “cutting of the elm” at Gisors.
At the same time, the Ordre de Sion is said to have changed its name to the Prieure de Sion (a name which it has allegedly retained to the present), and adopted as a kind of subtitle, the name “Ormus”. The latter name apparently derives from two sources. In Zoroastrian thought and in Gnostic texts, Ormus is synonymous with the principle of light. Ormus was also the name of an Egyptian sage and mystic, a Gnostic “adept” of Alexandria (Egypt), and who in A.D. 46 was converted to a form of Christianity.
From this conversion a new sect or order is said to have been born, which fused the tenets of early Christianity with the teachings of other, even older mystery schools. Inasmuch as Alexandria in the first century after Christ was a veritable hotbed of mystical activity, a crucible in which Judaic, Mithraic, Zoroastrian, Pythagorean, Hermetic, and neo-Platonic doctrines suffused the air and combined with innumerable others, where teachers of every conceivable kind abounded, it is quite likely that the name Ormus implies that the Prieure de Sion was adopting a view involving the principle of light.
The Rosicrucians, or so-called Rose Croix, is said to have evolved from this origin in 1188. Note that the Rose Croix is just another way of identifying the Templars with the splayed cross on their chests.
Meanwhile the Prieure de Sion’s “child” was having a major crisis of its own. By 1291, all of the Holy Land was under Muslim control. Inasmuch as the Templar’s prime reason for existence had been in conquering infidel lands and defending the Holy Land, this constituted something of a problem.
Fortunately, the Templars had early on developed a close connection with the Cathars of southern France. In fact, Bertrand de Blanchefort, fourth grand master of the order, came from a Cathar family. The Templars, therefore, sought refuge in the area of southern France known as the Languedoc. Of course, this area was Guillem de Gellone’s old stomping ground. In effect, the Templars’ new home base was the same area that figured so prominently in the Merovingian bloodline, and ultimately in Godfroi’s bid to become King of Jerusalem and thereby re-establish the House of David as rulers of the Hold Land.
HRH Daniel of Riordan