The Templars: a brief history

Helen J Nicholson, a specialist in the history of the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitalier, shares a brief history of the medieval order of military monks

The burning of Templars, from ‘De casibus virorum illustrium’ by Giovanni Boccaccio. Found in the collection of the British Library. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the June 2009 issue of BBC History Magazine

The Order of the Temple was a religious-military institution founded by a group of warriors in Jerusalem in the decades following the First Crusade of 1097–99. The group first received royal and church approval in 1120, and papal authorisation in January 1129. They protected Christian pilgrims on the roads to the pilgrimage sites around Jerusalem and also helped to defend the territories that the First Crusade had conquered. As members of a religious order, they made three vows: to obey their superior officer, to avoid sexual activity and to have no personal property. They were called ‘Templars’ after their headquarters in Jerusalem, the Aqsa mosque, which westerners believed was King Solomon’s temple.

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