Europe’s Warrior Monks
“Sensei! The Shaolin Monks are in town!”
“Aw man,” said one of the other students, “they’re awesome!”
“They’re certainly incredible athletes,” said Sensei.
“Athletes? They’re true warrior monks!”
“They certainly were in the past, now they’re great athletes and showmen, not so much war for them nowadays eh? Like all the worlds warrior monks, they’ve had their days of helping to change governments.
“Hang on….. Like all the worlds warrior monks? What do you mean by that?”
“Well, you don’t think they were the only warrior monks do you?”
“You obviously haven’t read your own culture’s history, have you never heard of the Knights Templar?”
Sensei looked around, “does anyone here know about the Knights Templar?”
“Are they something to do with freemasonry?
“Did no one study history?” Sensei looked genuinely shocked. “Okay, gather round, sit down.
The Knights Templar were the monastic warriors of the crusades, they took part in many of the western ‘mysteries’ – you’ve seen the pictures or movies with the knights wearing the white mantle and red cross?”
“Like in ‘Robin Hood’ when King Richard returns from the crusades? He and the knights with him were all dressed that way.”
“Exactly! Richard supposedly disguised himself as a Knight Templar to escape and evade capture. The Templars played such a huge part in forming society as we know it today. They were the ‘elite special forces’ of Christianity. They were reputed to have found and guarded the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant and the Bleeding Lance.”
“Can you tell us about them sensei?”
“They were formed in 1119 with nine knights stationed at Solomon’s Temple on Solomon’s mount in the Holy Land to protect the Holy Sites and pilgrims from the coast to Jerusalem against the growing Muslim presence. It was during the first years here that these original nine knights were supposed have excavated the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail and the Bleeding Lance. Of course this is supposition, the stuff of legend and has made for many a romance, hundreds of books and many films, anyone see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?”
“Oh yeah… right!”
“Well that was all about finding the Ark of the Covenant. The monks owned nothing. They lived a very frugal and simple life dedicated to Christ. Everything they had was given to the Order. They weren’t allowed to shave their beards, wore no ornamentation, no luxury foods and no women. They were fierce martial warriors who had no fear of death because they believed that in the sight of the Lord they were seen as martyrs. Whereas other knights of the age were seen hunting, feasting and jousting, the Knights Templar were fasting, training and praying. They were seen as ‘lions in war and lambs in the house’. Not so different from the original shaolin priests eh?
In 1129 at the Council of Troyes, the Knights Templar Order, with St Bernard as the key advocate, received official papal recognition. Prominent nobles from all over Europe flocked to join the Order giving it lands, goods, money and support. King Henry the First here in England welcomed them with open arms.
The Knights became diplomats and trusted advisors to kings and Popes, the Master of the Knights Templar in England was advisor to King John and at his side when he signed the Magna Carta. From the time of Pope Alexander III a Templar attended to the Pope in his chambers and appeared at papal chamberlains. They guarded treasuries, were judges, marshals and held many trusted posts in many countries. They became seafaring experts and property developers, they owned churches, farms, mills, villages, monasteries and ports, all given to help the Knights in their crusades.
They formed the prototypes of our modern banking system, including concepts such as traveller cheques and credit notes, so that people could travel without having to carry all their money with them. Templar houses protected treaties, charters, wills, precious objects and money. They became agricultural experts because they owned so much land and some Templars became ‘farmer monks’ as opposed to ‘warrior’. They needed to transport their money and goods so they became sea farers owning many ships and ports.”
“So they became like a very powerful international company?
“Exactly! With their own very powerful ‘warrior monk’ army. They were deeply ensconced in every part of Europe and much of the Middle East, they reputedly held the sacred objects of Christianity, they had the ear of the Pope and most monarchs, they held the treasures and lands of many countries. Yet individually, they held nothing and lived a very spartan lifestyle.
“So what happened to them?”
“On Friday the 13th 1307, with such huge spoils and treasures available from prosecution (one of the reasons that Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day), King Phillip IV of France in collusion with Pope Clement V arrested every Templar in France, some 2,000 of them for heresy. They basically tortured false confessions, burnt many at the stake and bullied all of Europe into following suit. Here in England Edward II didn’t believe the charges as most of his trusted aides were templars, but when he received instructions from the Pope, telling him that his soul was in jeopardy, he turned against them and once they were sufficiently weakened, the Templars fell.”
“So they got too big and powerful?”
“Yes, they became a threat and after they lost the battle of the port city of Acre in 1291, they lost the Holy Lands their original reason for existing, this gave Phillip the excuse he needed.”
“Reminds me of the burning of the Shaolin Monastery.”
“There are many similarities; the point is that we have our own martial heritage including warrior monks that became far more powerful than the Shaolin. We have our own romance, mystery and magic that surrounds them, people like the freemasons love to link their heritage to them. By all means research the Shaolin, but also look to and research your own heritage.”