Monday, July 26, 2010
History of Knights Templar and Freemasonry
Knights Templar History
As many of you are undoubtedly aware, there are several theories regarding a possible physical relationship between Freemasonry and the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, commonly known as the Knights Templar.
The Knights Templar were based in or near the original site of the Temple of Solomon and widely spread throughout France in the early 12th century. At this time, being religious knights and reporting only to the Church, gave them exemption from many laws and enabled them to receive much land and property throughout the country enabling a network of wealth to be created.
Their purpose was to guard and escort those on roads from Europe to Jerusalem that were often patrolled by thieves looking to prey on unaware travelers to the holy city. This gave rise to a need for protection by the travelers and it is thought that fees were generated by the knights in exchange for the protection offered. This became an exercise which gave rise to the first form of banking whereby a patron would be able to leave funds with a knights templar preceptory in one city and receive a promisary note which could be exchanged in another city in order to eliminate the risk of having to travel cross country with large sums of money.
The Knights Templar in France
The Migration of the Knights Templar
In the late 12th century the Christian following was removed from the holy city and the Knights Templar were no longer needed and thus returned to France where King Philip governed with the Knights still answerable only to the papal authority.
The King of France had been king since the age of 17 and had inherited much debt from his predecessors. This meant that loans were made from the Jews, the Church and the Knights Templar in order to maintain the country. This inevitably led to poor repayment by the monarchy and caused drastic swings in the economy leading to riots and a call for the removal of King Philip. The Knights templar allowed the king to seek refuge within their preceptory for a few days and it is believed that during this time King Philip forged a plot to arrest The Jews on June 24th 1307 and the Knights templar on Friday 13th October 1307 in order to retain their wealth, property and remove all debts that were owed to them by the monarchy, explaining why Friday 13th is deemed unlucky by some people. Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, and 60 of his senior knights were arrested in Paris. It is believed that some of the Knights Templar avoided this arrest tactic and made their way to some of their ships in anchor and sailed from Europe to eventually land in Scotland.
The Knights Templar and Robert the Bruce
The Knights Templar in Scotland
Arriving in Scotland it seems was a choice by the Knights Templar due to the fact that Robert the Bruce had been excommunicated by the church and papal authority did not apply in Scotland. This meant that the Knights Templar had sanctuary from the reaches of the pope in Scotland.
Robert the Bruce was at war with England and was pleased to have the expertise of such battle qualified knights in his army and it is believed that the Knights Templar were integral in the defeat of the English at the battle of Bannockburn. Robert the Bruce is often credited with forming the Freemasons as a means to hide the fact that there were Knights Templar present in his army.
An exciting and romantic legend links the Templars to the battle of Bannockburn. The legend tells us that Scots were outnumbered three to one and were struggling desperately against the forces of Edward II, losing men and ground rapidly, when there appeared on the horizon a well equipped and obviously highly professional band of knights in full armor and mounted on heavy horses. The knights, although superbly equipped and obviously experienced in military battle tactics, bore no markings on their shields and carried no battle standards flying their colors. These mysterious soldiers joined the battle on the side of King Robert the Bruce and quickly turned the tide in favor of the Scots who won the battle and freedom for Scotland. The knights then rode off over the horizon without making known their identities or from whence they came.
Many scholars believe these mysterious knights to be a contingent of the refugee and internationally outlawed Knights Templar that the King had permitted to take refuge in the highlands. Many feel that the Knights Templar were returning the favor while pledging loyalty to Scotland and King Robert the Bruce? (There is a Masonic degree based on this story.)
Many sources tell us that years later, Sir Henry St. Clair was appointed the Hereditary Grand Master of all the Masonic guilds of Scotland by royal charter (the King of Scotland remains the Sovereign Grand master).
Because Robert the Bruce wanted to return Scotland to a state recognized under Christendom, he had informed the church that no Knights Templar existed in Scotland. The Knights Templar were then able to continue as they had previously, but now under the name of Freemasonry.
In 1440ce a mere 133 years (just two generations) after the suppression of the Templars by King Philip and Pope Clement, the Earl of Orkney, a descendant of Sir William St. Clair designed and began the project of building a church in the family seat of Rosslyn. His intention was to build a great sanctuary to the glory of God and the Templar tradition. It was to be constructed in the form of a cross with a lady Chapel and a high tower in the center.
He imported the best stonemasons available, as well as tradesmen from the other guilds as necessary. The Master masons were paid a sum of 40 pounds per annum and the lesser skilled masons were paid 10 pounds. Simultaneously, he built the small hamlet of Rosslin to support and house his craftsmen during the project and see to their every need. The great sanctuary’s construction was never completed.
Through the centuries, St Clair’s unfinished sanctuary survived several invading armies and the brutalities of the Reformation as well as Scotland’s civil war of the mid-seventeenth century. It’s said that during this period, the armies of Oliver Cromwell occupied the areas in and around Edinburgh, including Rosslyn. Indicative of the disdain for which the Puritan church and Cromwell held divergent theological beliefs, after razing nearby Rosslyn castle, Cromwell stabled his invading troops horses and livestock in the chapel at Rosslyn.
There is a legend that says Cromwell recognizing the exoteric religious and Masonic symbolism and himself being a Brother, the unit’s commander was careful to preserve and protect the chapel and its artifacts during his troops occupation. Other religious structures and their icons did not fare as well during this turbulent time.
The Dirge of Rosabell is described in prose as our Brother Sir Walter Scott spoke of the ancient Barons of Rosslyn who were buried in the crypt of the chapel. His famous poem, The Lay of the Last Minstrel speaks of the ghosts and spirits of the honored knights laid to rest in the ancient Gothic chapel’s crypt.
In 1787ce, our esteemed Brother Robert Burns, the recognized Poet laureate of Scotland and Masonry visited the chapel with a friend and artist, Alexander Nasmyth and implored him to paint his portrait while at Rosslyn.
The chapel that remains today, many scholars say, is probably one of the most remarkable examples of Gothic architecture in Scotland, not because of its design when viewed primarily from and architectural point of view, but because of the profusion of overt and esoteric design and symbolism shown in such abundance everywhere within the chapel.
When first viewed Rosslyn Chapel has an almost haunting quality exhibited not only in its Gothic spires and flying buttresses, but the chapel’s spiritual and ghostly esoteric qualities are manifested in the profuse and intricate carvings and hieroglyphics evidenced on the interior’s every square inch of masonry surface.
In this small cathedral, it’s a short and misty road from the present to the past. It’s a place where you enter into a world of “intellectual oblivion” expressed in design and stone by our spiritual Brothers of a different time. It is impossible, in this environment to deny that the genesis of our Order is shrouded in esoteria and rooted in the cryptic origins of contemplative man.
The ornate carvings and depictions in stone are almost overwhelming to everyone who views the chapel. But the abundant, half-hidden Templar and Masonic symbolism is profound and easily identified by the Initiated. There abounds hundreds of references to Christian parables, Biblical characters, the ancient Knights Templar, Freemasonry, and commentary on the religious-political climate of that time in our long past.
The chapel is a perfect exemplification of our sacred geometry and incorporates many easily recognized Masonic and Templar symbols in its architectural designs. The Apprentice Pillar with its attendant carvings, the Master’s Pillar, the hidden and much speculated upon contents of the subterranean crypt, the proliferation of Templar splayed and floriated crosses, obvious reference to the Masonic degrees, transparent references to Templarism, and so much more, can be found everywhere. There is a lintel at the east end of the south aisle bearing a familiar inscription in Latin which translates:
“Wine is strong, a King is stronger, women are even stronger, but Truth conquers all”
There is such a profusion of intricate carvings incorporated into the design and construction of every minute detail, that you can easily lose yourself for hours while just wandering.
To the best of my knowledge, Rosslyn Chapel represents the only place where such an obvious and overtly profuse collection of Masonic and Templar esoterica and symbolism is displayed together in a structure predating the traditional origins of the Craft.
Additionally, the founder and builder was documented as an heir to the heritage of the Knights of the temple as well as a Knight Templar himself. The dating of the construction of the chapel as well as its proximity to other known Templar and Masonic sites of pilgrimage leads me to the conclusion that Rosslyn Chapel is of significant importance to Masons and Knights Templar and may well be the common factor linking the respective orders.
Freemasonry and the steps to Knights Templar
There are various avenues which can be followed in Freemasonry. The three most popular avenues being the Royal Arch, Rosicrucian (Rose Croix) or Knights Templar degrees.
There are four world wide accepted degrees which must be completed by a new person deciding to enter freemasonry which shall we say are the basis of understanding to Freemasonry. The other avenues are all different in their teachings and handle different aspects of Freemasonry.
There are many opinions and schools of thought on the dates that speculative Freemasonry came into existence with the most common being 1717.
The Knights Templar were said to have obtained secrets throughout their travels from the ancient mysteries in Alchemy, Magic and Building Techniques scattered through history by the likes of the Greek, Roman and Egyptian civilizations.