The Myths that Surround the Knights Templar

From the Lecture Series: Secret Societies

By Richerd Spence Ph.D., University of Idaho

As a secret society, the Knights Templar has been the subject of widespread speculation, even after their dismantlement. Many theories have been formulated about their treasures, religious ideas, and even their traces in far-away countries. But, what’s the truth? Let’s debunk some theories.

Possessions de l'ordre des Templiers en Europe vers 1300.
A map of the possessions of Templars in Europe around the 1300. (Image: Marco Zanoli/CC BY-SA 4.0/Public domain)

The Templars after Disbandment

After the execution of the last grandmaster, Jacques De Molay, it was thought the order was completely dismantled. However, the Templar’s disbanded only in France. A lot of them survived in many other countries including Scotland, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Ireland.

Although they were prosecuted in those countries, most of them managed to survive the trials and were acquitted. Creative measures were taken to protect the Templars in Portugal and Spain. The solution was to rename the order. So, in Portugal, the Order of Christ replaced the Templars and in Aragon, the Templars went by the name of the Order of Montesa.

Learn more about the Knights Templar.

The Rumors about Treasure of Templars

Frères templiers sur le bûcher, manuscrit anonyme, 1384.
The Knight Templars were burned at stake. (Image: Bibliothèque Municipale, Besançon, France. Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY./Public domain)

The treasures that the order allegedly possessed were never discovered. After all, the Templar was very rich and speculations were rife about the nature and location of treasures.

One of these treasures, which even King Philip desperately wanted, was the idol that they supposedly worshiped. It was called Baphomet. One of the accusations for which they were tried was worshiping this idol as an act of heresy. The Baphomet was the center of most of the fantasies surrounding the Templars.

Since no one had seen the statue, there were various descriptions regarding its appearance, material, and functions. Some people claimed it was the head of a cat. Others described it as a bearded man or a woman. It was said to be made of glass, gold, or wood. But the function was clear: it was a guardian, made lands fertile, and most importantly found treasures and guarded them. This is why many people, including King Philip, were after this treasure. 

This is a transcript from the video series Secret Societies. Watch it now, on Wondrium.

This idol has long baffled people. It has been connected to Satanist deities, the face on the Shroud of Turin, mysticism of the Near East, Kabbalistic Sophia, Hallaja (the magical head that Muslim Sufis worship), the Masonic martyr Hiram Abif, the heads of Jesus or Mary, you name it.

Whatever the nature of this idol, it is still a mystery as to where it is and if it actually exists. Another theory holds that it might not be real and it is fabricated to account for the huge wealth that Templars once had.

Rumors about Traces of Templars in other Countries

During the past 700 years, there have been numerous theories that link the Templars to various families in different countries. Although some of them were debunked, they still gave rise to other theories. For example, the Templars have been speculated as having links to Sinclair, a Scottish noble family. This theory seems to have started with Sir William Sinclair, the Crusader. But the evidence shows that he was not a Templar since he testified against the Templars in Scottish courts.

This in turn creates another connection between the Templars and the Rosslyn Chapel. There are several rumors about this chapel. For example it shows the relations between Templars to freemasons. It is also speculated as to the place where Baphomet was hidden, and even a replica of Solomon’s Temple. However, none of these theories have been proven.

Rosslyn Chapel Entrance
The Rosslyn Chapel is claimed to be connected to the Templars. (Image: John J Brown/Shutterstock)

Another legend holds that Templars can be traced in Nova Scotia and New England. It is said that they set foot in North America 100 years before Columbus did. There is an ancient set of underground shafts called the Money Pit near Lunenburg. Some have claimed that the shafts were used as the hiding place for the Templars’ treasure, or the Baphomet’s head. 

In the Old Stone Mill in New England, there are alleged traces of Templars. Also near this place, there are some symbols carved on the stone that have been claimed to be masonic symbols. Another theory is that the inscriptions were made by the Portuguese Order of Christ, which was the Templars’ new name in Portugal.

Speculations about the Successors of Templars

Although the Templars were dismantled, very few of them were killed. This is why many secret societies have claimed to be the successors of the Templars. Freemasons are probably the most famous group claiming to be linked to the Templars.

In 1804, Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat, who used to be a catholic priest claimed that his society called the Ordre du Temple was the direct heir of the Templar. He claimed that De Molay established the order shortly before he was executed.

Most of these theories have been debunked by solid evidence. But there are still many mysterious rumors that cannot be accepted or rejected.

Learn more about Freemasons.

Common Questions about Speculations Surrounding Templars

Q: Are the Templars still around?

According to some speculations about Templars, the Templars were not fully destroyed. Only a few members were executed by the French Crown. Others survived and lived under different names in different countries.

Q: Were all the Templars killed?

Although there are various speculations about the Templars, one this is certain. They were not all killed. Actually, very few of them were killed and most of them survived.

Q: Are Freemasons and Knights Templar the same?

One area that has been the subject of many speculations is the connection of Freemason and Templars. It has been claimed by many Freemasonic circles that they are connected to Templars. But there are no proven connections between the two.

Q: Did the Knights Templar protect the Holy Grail?

Among the many speculations that circulate the Templars, one holds that they protected the Holy Grail. The treasures of Templars, the Baphomet’s head, and the Shroud of Turin are among other relics that are rumored to have been protected by the Templars.

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