The Rules of the Templars

T he Rule of the Order were commissioned from St Bernhard of Clairvaux by the Council of Troyes in 1128, thus indicating the special status the new military Order enjoyed in the eyes of the Church. The official seal of the Knights Templars is described as "two knights astride one horse, symbolizing brotherhood and the oath of poverty taken by members of the twelfth-century Christian military order".

T he official slogan, or service mark, of the Order was taken from the Psalm 113. It translates to "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name glory".

Templar Service Mark

T he revered St Bernhard, founder of the Cistercian Order, drew up the Rule based on those of the Cistercians, instilling in them a strong monastic trait. He was very disappointed in the worldly knight of the period, scorning them for their vanity, and he welcomed the new, austere, spiritual knights with vigour, as can be seen from these two excerpts from his tract written in the early 1130's called In Praise of the New Chivalry:

"You bedeck your horses with silk, you overlay your armour with flowing overcoats. Your lances are painted; so are your shields and your saddles. You stud your bridles and stirrups with gold, silver and precious stones. And with all that pomp, moved by a shameful fury and impudent stupidity, you go to battle. Are these the emblems appropriate to a knight, or are they rather ornaments suitable for a woman? Do you really think that the enemy's sword respects gold, saves precious stones and does not penetrate silken garments? I learned from experience that a fighter needs three things: he should be a brave knight, alert, careful to protect himself; he should be swift; and he should be always ready to strike. But you, on the contrary, you let your hair grow long like women, so that it obstructs your sight; you hamper your movements because of the long, floating tunics; you bury your delicate and tender hands in over-ample sleeves, which float around you."

O n the other hand, then, is the knight of Christ:

"First of all, there is discipline and unqualified obedience. Everybody comes and goes according to the will of the commander. Everybody wears the dresses given to him, and no one goes about searching for food or garments according to his whims. In food and vestments, one is content with the most necessary, avoiding anything superfluous. They live in a community, soberly and in joy, without wife and children. And to reach evangelical perfection, they live in the same house, in the same manner, without calling anything their own, solicitous to preserve the unity of spirit in the bonds of peace. Impudent words, senseless occupations, inmoderate laughter, whispering or even suppressed giggling are unknown. They have a horror of chess and dice; they hate hunting; they don't even enjoy the flight of the falcon. They despise mimes, jugglers, story-tellers, dirty songs, performances of buffoons - all these they regard as vanities and inane follies. They cut their hair short because they know that it is shameful for a man to wear it long. Never overdressed, they bathe rarely and are dirty and hirsute, tanned by the coat of mail and the sun."

[Scribe's note: The knights were not supposed to take off their lambskin underwear ever. I just had to say that.]

W ith such thinking behind the Order, it soon became famous for its rigid discipline, which made it the elite troops of the Crusader armies. Originally there were only two classes of brothers, namely knights and servants, but in the 1100's a new class, that of brother priests, was introduced. Servants were of two classes: fratres servienti, who were employed in manual labor, and fratres servienti armigeri, who were fighting men. A fourth group, sergeants, followed a little later. All brothers were to be of age, and therefore this Order had no oblates as did most other Catholic Orders. The knights wore a white mantle emblazoned with only the red cross, as did the Armigeri. Other brothers dressed in ordinary black or brown clothes. Common to all were the full renouncement of worldly possessions, which passed on to the Order; disdain for all unnecessary accessories; poverty and chastity; unflinching obedience to the commander of each Preceptory, who in turn owed allegiance to the Grand Master; and finally, especially for the knights, the promise to uphold the honor of the Order and rather die in battle than turn away from danger. Their stated purpose was "not to seek glory but victory", and they saw killing infidels "not as homicide, but as malicide". Married men were allowed affiliation with the Order, but they were not received into it. Wives were given an allowance after their husbands died, but they were not permitted to stay on Templar property after becoming widows.

T he Armigeri and sergeants were noncombatant personnel in normal times. The Rule stated that the Armigeri would not fight unless the situation explicitly required him to. When Templar knights lined up for battle, one ecuyer stood before the knight to carry his lance, and another led a spare horse behind the knight. When battle ensued, the spare horses were lead to a safe place in the rear and put under the control of another officer, the confannonier, and the lance-bearer also left the field for the melee to have more room and not to be kicked about by galloping knights.

T he Rule of the Order initially contained 72 articles, but in the 1140's they were amended i.e. with elaborate systems for selecting officials of the Order. For more information on the organization of the Order, please turn to The Structure of the Order in the Bailey.

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