Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Knights Templar : The Hidden Side

If the end of the Knights Templar was fraught with baffling enigmas, the foundation and early history of the Order seemed to us to be even more so. We were already plagued by a number of inconsistencies and improbabilities. Nine knights, nine “poor’ knights, appeared as if from nowhere and among all the other crusaders swarming about the Holy Land promptly had the king’s quarters turned over to them! Nine “poor’ knights without admit ting any new recruits to their ranks presumed, all by themselves, to defend the highways of Palestine. And there was no record at all of them actually doing any thing, not even from Fulk de Chartres, the king’s official chronicler, who must surely have known about Map 5Jerusalem the Temple and the Area of Mount Sion in the Mid-Twelfth Century them! How, we wondered, could their activities, their move into the royal premises, for instance, have escaped Fulk’s notice? It would seem incredible, yet the chronicler says nothing. No one says anything, in fact, until Guillaume de Tyre, a good half century later. What could we conclude from this? That the knights were not engaged in the laudable public service ascribed to them? That they were perhaps involved instead in some more clandestine activity, of which not even the official chronicler was aware? Or that the chronicler himself was muzzled? The latter would seem to be the most likely explanation. For the knights were soon joined by two most illustrious noblemen, noblemen whose presence could not have gone unnoticed.
According to Guillaume de Tyre, the Order of the Temple was established in 1118, originally numbered nine knights and admitted no new recruits for nine years. It is clearly on record, however, that the count of Anjou -father of Geoffrey Plantagenet joined the Order in 1120, only two years after its supposed foundation. And in 1124 the count of Champagne, one of the wealthiest lords in Europe, did likewise. If Guillaume de Tyre is correct, there should have been no new members until 1127; but by 1126 the Templars had in fact admitted four new members to their ranks.” Is Guillaume wrong, then, in saying that no new members were admitted for nine years? Or is he perhaps correct in that assertion, but wrong in the date he attributes to the Order’s foundation? If the count of Anjou became a Templar in 1120, and if the Order admitted no new members for nine years after its foundation, its foundation would date not from 1118, but at the latest, from 1111 or 1112.

Indeed there is very persuasive evidence for this conclusion. In 1114 the count of Champagne was preparing for a journey to the Holy Land. Shortly before his departure, he received a letter from the bishop of Chartres. At one point, the bishop wrote, “We have heard that .. . before leaving for Jerusalem you made a vow to join “la mi lice du Christ”, that you wish to enrol in this evangelical soldiery. ‘3 “La mi lice du Christ’ was the name by which the Templars were originally known, and the name by which Saint Bernard alludes to them. In the context of the bishop’s letter the appellation cannot possibly refer to any other institution. It cannot mean, for example, that the count of Champagne simply decided to become a crusader, because the bishop goes on to speak of a vow of chastity which his decision has entailed. Such a vow would hardly have been required of an ordinary crusader. From the bishop of Chartres’s letter, then, it is clear that the Templars already existed, or had at least been planned, as early as 1114, four years before the date generally accepted; and that as early as 1114, the count of Champagne was already intending to join their ranks -which he eventually did a decade later. One historian who noted this letter drew the rather curious conclusion that the bishop cannot have meant what he said.” He could not have meant to refer to the Templars, the historian in question argues, because the Templars were not founded until four years later in 1118. Or perhaps the bishop did not know the year of Our Lord in which he was writing? But the bishop died in 1115. How, in 1114, could he ‘mistakenly’ refer to something which did not yet exist? There is only one possible, and very obvious, answer to the question that it is not the bishop who is wrong, but Guillaume de Tyre, as well as all subsequent historians who insist on regarding Guillaume as the unimpeachable voice of authority.

In itself an earlier foundation date for the Order of the Temple need not necessarily be suspicious. But there are other circumstances and singular coincidences which decidedly are. At least three of the nine founding knights, including Hugues de Payen, seem to have come from adjacent regions, to have had family ties, to have known each other previously and to have been vassals of the same lord. This lord was the count of Champagne, to whom the bishop of Chartres addressed his letter in 1114 and who became a Templar in 1124, pledging obedience to his own vassal! In 1115 the count of Champagne donated the land on which Saint Bernard, patron of the Templars, built the famous Abbey of Clairvaux; and one of the nine founding knights, Andre de Montbard, was Saint Bernard’s uncle.

In Troyes, moreover, the court of the count of Champagne, an influential school of Cabalistic and esoteric studies had flourished since 1070.”2 At the Council of Troyes in 1128 the Templars were officially incorporated. For the next two centuries Troyes remained a strategic centre for the Order; and even today there is a wooded expanse adjacent to the city called the Foret du Temple. And it was from Troyes, court of the count of Champagne, that one of the earliest Grail romances issued quite possibly the earliest, composed by Chretien de Troyes.

Amid this welter of data, we could begin to see a tenuous web of connections a pattern that seemed more than mere coincidence. If such a pattern did exist, it would certainly support our suspicion that the Templars were involved in some clandestine activity. Nevertheless, we could only speculate as to what that activity might have been. One basis for our speculation was the specific site of the knights’ domicile the wing of the royal palace, the Temple Mount, so inexplicably conferred upon them. In A.D. 70 the Temple which then stood there was sacked by Roman legions Under Titus. Its treasure was plundered and brought to Rome, then plundered again and perhaps brought to the Pyrenees. But what if there were something else in the Temple as well something even more important than the treasure pillaged by the Romans? It is certainly possible that the Temple’s priests, confronted by an advancing phalanx of centurions, would have left to the looters the booty they expected to find. And if there were something else, it might well be concealed somewhere near by. Beneath the Temple, for instance.

Among the Dead Sea Scrolls found at QumrAan, there is one now known as the “Copper Scroll’. This scroll, deciphered at Manchester University in 1955-6, makes explicit references to great quantities of bullion, sacred vessels, additional unspecified material and ‘treasure’ of an indeterminate kind. It cites twenty-four different hoards buried beneath the Temple itself .

In the mid-twelfth century a pilgrim to the Holy Land, one Johann von Wurzburg, wrote of a visit to the so-called “Stables of Solomon’. These stables, situated directly beneath the Temple itself, are still visible. They were large enough, Johann reported, to hold two thousand horses; and it was in these stables that the Templars quartered their mounts. According to at least one other historian, the Templars were using these stables for their horses as early as 1124, when they still supposedly numbered only nine. It would thus seem likely that the fledgling Order, almost immediately after its inception, undertook excavations beneath the Temple. Such excavations might well imply that the knights were actively looking for something. It might even imply that they were deliberately sent to the Holy Land, with the express commission of finding something. If this supposition is valid, it would explain a number of anomalies -their installation in the royal palace, for example, and the silence of the chronicler. But if they were sent to Palestine, who sent them?

In 1104 the count of Champagne had met in conclave with certain high-ranking nobles, at least one of whom had just returned from Jerusalem.” Among those present at this conclave were representatives of certain families r. Brienne, Joinville and Chaumont who, we later discovered, figured significantly in our story. Also present was the liege lord of Andre de Montbard, Andre being one of the co-founders of the Temple and Saint Bernard’s uncle.

Shortly after the conclave, the count of Champagne departed for the Holy Land himself and remained there for four years, returning in 1108.35 In 1114 he made a second journey to Palestine, intending to join the mi lice du Christ’, then changing his mind and returning to Europe a year later. On his return, he immediately donated a tract of land to the Cistercian Order, whose pre-eminent spokesman was Saint Bernard. On this tract of land Saint Bernard built the Abbey of Clairvaux, where he established his own residence and then consolidated the Cistercian Order.

Prior to 1112 the Cistercians were dangerously close to bankruptcy. Then, under Saint Bernard’s guidance, they underwent a dazzling change of fortune. Within the next few years half a dozen abbeys were established. By 1153 there were more than three hundred, of which Saint Bernard himself personally founded sixty-nine. This extraordinary growth directly parallels that of the Order of the Temple, which was expanding in the same way during the same years. And, as we have said, one of the co founders of the Order of the Temple was Saint Bernard’s uncle, Andre de Montbard.

It is worth reviewing this complicated sequence of events. In 1104 the count of Champagne departed for the Holy Land after meeting with certain nobles, one of whom was connected with Andre de Montbard. In 1112 Andre de Montbard’s nephew, Saint Bernard, joined the Cistercian Order. In 1114 the count of Champagne departed on a second journey to the Holy Land, intending to join the Order of the Temple which was co-founded by his own vassal together with Andre de Montbard, and which, as the bishop of Chartres’s letter attests, was already in existence or in process of being established. In 1115 the count of Champagne returned to Europe, having been gone for less than a year, and donated land for the Abbey of Clairvaux whose abbot was Andre de Montbard’s nephew. In the years that followed both the Cistercians and the Templars both Saint Bernard’s order and Andre de Montbard’s became immensely wealthy and enjoyed phases of phenomenal growth.

As we pondered this sequence of events, we became increasingly convinced that there was some pattern underlying and governing such an intricate web. It certainly did not appear to be random, nor wholly coincidental. On the contrary we seemed to be dealing with the vestiges of some complex and ambitious overall design, the full details of which had been lost to history. In order to reconstruct these details, we developed a tentative hypothesis a “scenario’, so to speak, which might accommodate the known facts.

We supposed that something was discovered in the Holy Land, either by accident or design something of immense import, which aroused the interest of some of Europe’s most influential noblemen. We further supposed that this discovery involved, directly or indirectly, a great deal of potential wealth as well, perhaps, as something else, something that had to be kept secret, something which could only be divulged to a small number of high-ranking lords. Finally, we supposed that this discovery was reported and discussed at the conclave of 1104.

Immediately thereafter the count of Champagne departed for the Holy Land himself, perhaps to verify personally what he had heard, perhaps to implement some course of action the foundation, for example, of what subsequently became the Order of the Temple. In 1114, if not before, the Templars were established with the count of Champagne playing some crucial role, perhaps acting as guiding spirit and sponsor. By 1115 vmoney was already flowing back to Europe and into the coffers of the Cistercians, who, under Saint Bernard and from their new position of strength, endorsed and imparted credibility to the fledgling Order of the Temple.

Under Bernard the Cistercians attained a spiritual ascendancy in Europe. Under Hugues de Payen and Andre de Montbard, the Templars attained a military and administrative ascendancy in the Holy Land which quickly spread back to Europe. Behind the growth of both orders loomed the shadowy presence of uncle and nephew, as well as the wealth, influence and patronage of the count of Champagne. These three individuals constitute a vital link. They are like markers breaking the surface of history, indicating the dim configurations of some elaborate, concealed design.

If such a design actually existed, it cannot, of course, be ascribed to these three men alone. On the contrary, it must have entailed a great deal of co-operation from certain other people and a great deal of meticulous organisation. Organisation is perhaps the key word; for if our hypothesis was correct, it would presuppose a degree of organisation amounting to an order in itself a third and secret order behind the known and documented Orders of the Cistercians and the Temple. Evidence for the existence for such a third order was not long in arriving.

In the meantime, we devoted our attention to the hypothetical “discovery’ in the Holy Land the speculative basis on which we had established our “scenario’. What might have been found there? To what might the Templars, along with Saint Bernard and the count of Champagne, have been privy? At the end of their history the Templars kept inviolate the secret of their treasure’s whereabouts and nature. Not even documents survived. If the treasure in question were simply financial bullion, for example it would not have been necessary to destroy or conceal all records, all rules, all archives. The implication is that the Templars had something else in their custody, something so precious that not even torture would wring an intimation of it from their lips. Wealth alone could not have prompted such absolute and unanimous secrecy. Whatever it was had to do with other matters, like the Order’s attitude towards Jesus.

On October 13th, 1307, all Templars throughout France were arrested By Philippe le Bel’s seneschals. But that statement is not quite true. The Templars of at least one preceptory slipped unscathed through the king’s net the preceptory of Bezu, adjacent to Rennes-leChateau. How and why did they escape? To answer that question, we were compelled to investigate the Order’s activities in the vicinity of Bezu. Those activities proved to have been fairly extensive. Indeed, there were some half dozen preceptories and other holdings in the area, which covered some twenty square miles.

In 1153 a nobleman of the region a nobleman with Cathar sympathies became fourth Grand Master of the Order of the Temple. His name was Bertrand de Blanchefort, and his ancestral home was situated on a mountain peak a few miles away from both Bezu and Rennes-leChateau. Bertrand de Blanchefort, who presided over the Order from 1153 until 1170, was probably the most significant of all Templar Grand Masters. Before his regime the Order’s hierarchy and administrative structure were, at best, nebulous. It was Bertrand who transformed the Knights Templar into the superbly efficient, well-organised and magnificently disciplined hierarchical institution they then became. It was Bertrand who launched their involvement in high-level diplomacy and international politics. It was Bertrand who created for them a major sphere of interest in Europe, and particularly in France. And according to the evidence that survives, Bertrand’s mentor some historians even list him as the Grand Master immediately preceding Bertrand was Andre de Montbard.

Within a few years of the Templars’ incorporation, Bertrand had not only joined their ranks, but also conferred on them lands in the environs of Rennes-leChateau and Bezu. And in 1156, under Bertrand’s regime as GrandMaster, the Order is said to have imported to the area a contingent Of German-speaking miners. These workers were supposedly subjected to a rigid, virtually military discipline. They were forbidden to fraternise in any way with the local population and were kept strictly segregated from the surrounding community. A special judicial body, ‘la Judicature des Allemands’, was even created to deal with legal technicalities pertaining to them. And their alleged task was to work the gold mines on the slopes of the mountain at Blanchefort gold mines which had been utterly exhausted by the Romans
nearly a thousand years before.

During the seventeenth century engineers were commissioned to investigate the mineralogical prospects of the area and draw up detailed reports. In the course of his report one of them, Cesar d’Arcons, discussed the ruins he had found, remains of the German workers’ activity. On the basis of his research, he declared that the German workers did not seem to have been engaged in mining.3’ In what, then, were they engaged? Cesar d’Arcons was unsure smelting perhaps, melting something down, constructing something out of metal, perhaps even excavating a subterranean crypt of some sort and creating a species of depository.

Whatever the answer to this enigma, there had been a Templar presence in the vicinity of Rennes-leChateau since at least the mid-twelfth century. By 1285 there was a major preceptory a few miles from Bezu, at Campagnesur-Aude. Yet near the end of the thirteenth century, Pierre de Voisins, lord of Bezu and Rennes-leChateau, invited a separate detachment of Templars to the area, a special detachment from the Aragonese province Of Roussillon.38 This fresh detachment established itself on the summit of the mountain of Bezu, erecting a lookout post and a chapel. Ostensibly, the Roussillon Templars had been invited to Bezu to maintain the security of the region and protect the pilgrim route which ran through thevalley to Santiago de  Compastela in Spain. But it is unclear why these extra knights should have been required. In the first place they cannot have been very numerous not enough to make a significant difference. In the second place there were already Templars in the neighbourhood. Finally, Pierre de Voisins had troops of his own, who, together with the Templars already there, could guarantee the safety of the environs. Why, then, did the Russillon Templars come to Bezu? According to local tradition, they came to spy. And to exploit or bury or guard a treasure of some sort.

Whatever their mysterious mission, they obviously enjoyed some kind of special immunity. Alone of all Templars in France, they were left unmolested by Philippe le Bel’s seneschals on October 13th, 1307. On that fateful day the commander of the Templar contingent at Bezu was a Seigneur de Goth .39 And before taking the name of Pope Clement V, the archbishop of Bordeaux King Philippe’s vacillating pawn was Bertrand de Goth. Moreover, the new pontiff’s mother was Ida de Blanchefort, of the same family as Bertrand de Blanchefort. Was the pope then privy to some secret entrusted to the custody of his family a secret which remained in the Blanchefort family until the eighteenth century, when the Abbe Antoine Bigou, cure of Rennes-leChateau and confessor to Marie de Blanchefort, composed the parchments found by Sauniere? If this were the case, the pope might well have extended some sort of immunity to his relative commanding the Templars at Bezu.

The history of the Templars near Rennes-leChateau was clearly as fraught with perplexing enigmas as the history of the Order in general. Indeed, there were a number of factors the role of Bertrand de Blanchefort, for example which seemed to constitute a discernible link between the general and the more localised enigmas. In the meantime, however, we were confronted with a daunting array of coincidences coincidences too numerous to be truly coincidental. Were we in fact dealing with a calculated pattern? If so, the obvious question was who devised it, for patterns of such intricacy do not devise themselves. All the evidence available to us pointed to meticulous planning and careful organisation so much so that increasingly we suspected there must be a specific group of individuals, perhaps comprising an order of some sort, working assiduously behind the scenes. We did not have to seek confirmation for the existence of such an order. The confirmation thrust itself upon us.

Source: The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail.