to the Knights Templar series
- This page is about a Masonic organization. For the medieval Knights Templar, see Knights Templar. See also Knights Templar and popular culture.
HistoryThe earliest documented link between Freemasonry and the Crusades is the 1737 oration of the Chevalier Ramsay. This claimed that European Freemasonry came about from an interaction between crusader masons and the Knights Hospitaller. This is repeated in the earliest known "Moderns" ritual, the Berne manuscript, written in French between 1740 and 1744.
In 1751 Baron Karl Gotthelf von Hund und Altengrotkau began the Order of Strict Observance, which ritual he claimed to have received from the reconstituted Templar Order in 1743 in Paris. He also claimed to have met two of the "unknown superiors" who directed all of masonry, one of whom was Prince Charles Edward Stuart. The order went into decline when he failed to produce any evidence to support his claims, and was wound up shortly after his death.
In 1779 the High Knights Templar of Ireland Lodge, Kilwinning, obtained a charter from Lodge Mother Kilwinning in Scotland. This lodge now began to grant dispensations to other lodges to confer the Knights Templar Degree. Some time around 1790 the Early Grand Encampment of Ireland was formed, which began to warrant Templar Lodges, and evolved into the Supreme Grand Encampment in 1836. The Early Grand Encampment chartered several Scottish "encampments" one of which, having been chartered in 1805 as the "Edinburgh Encampment No. 31", then became the"Grand Assembly of Knights Templar in Edinburgh". who then sought a charter from the Duke of Kent, Grand Master of the Order in England. It seems that the Templar degree had filtered into the lodges of the Antients from Ireland about 1780, and was recorded at York about the same time.
AdministrationKnights Templar can exist either as part of the York Rite or as an independent organization. Though the York Rite and the independent versions share many similarities there are key differences which are described below.
Knights Templar as a part of the York RiteA Knights Templar commandery is traditionally the final body that a member joins in the York Rite after the chapter of Royal Arch Masons and a council of Royal & Select Masters. Some jurisdictions, however, allow members to skip over membership in a council. A local Knights Templar commandery operates under a state-level Grand Commandery, however American commanderies also operate under The Grand Encampment of the United States. This is unique among American Masonic bodies, as most report to the state level alone.
While a chapter bestows the Royal Arch degrees, and a council bestows the Cryptic degrees, a Knights Templar commandery bestows three orders and one passing order onto its members. This is opposed to the standard degree system found elsewhere in Freemasonry, and they are the only ones not to deal with the Hiramic Legend. The York Rite orders are:
- The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross
- The Passing Order of St. Paul, (or Mediterranean Pass)
- The Order of the Knights of Malta (or simply Order of Malta)
- The Order of the Temple
Knights Templar as an Independent BodyMaster Masons, and Royal Arch Masons, and to sign a declaration that they profess the Doctrine of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. In some Australian States, the requirement of being a Royal Arch Mason no longer applies.
Local bodies of Knights Templar are known as Preceptories; local bodies of Knights of St Paul are known as Chapters; local bodies of Knights of Malta are known as Priories; all operate under a Grand or Great Priory, often with an intermediate level of Provincial Priories. Although some jurisdictions maintain a separate Great Priory of the Temple and Great Priory of Malta (as, for example, in England), the Grand Master and other officers of both Great Priories hold simultaneous equal office in both bodies. Three degrees are administered in this system:
- The Degree of Knight Templar (Order of the Temple)
- The Degree of Knight of St. Paul (incorporating the Mediterranean Pass)
- The Degree of Knight of Malta (Order of Malta)
The Degrees or Orders
The Degree of Knight of the Temple (Order of the Temple)The original medieval Order of Knights Templar was established after the First Crusade, and existed from approximately 1118 to 1312. There is no known historical evidence to link the medieval Knights Templar and Masonic Templarism, nor do the Masonic Knights Templar organizations claim any such direct link to the original medieval Templar organization. Though it has been said that its affiliation with Masonry is based on texts that indicate persecuted Templars found refuge within the safety of Freemasonry, the order itself states that "there is no proof of direct connection between the ancient order and the modern order known today as the Knights Templar." The official motto of the Knights Templar is In Hoc Signo Vinces, the rendition in Latin of the Greek phrase "εν τούτῳ νίκα", en toutōi nika, meaning "in this [sign] you will conquer".
The Knight Templar degree is associated with elaborate regalia (costume) the precise detail of which varies between nations. The ritual draws upon the traditions of medieval Knights Templar, using them to impart moral instruction consistent with the biblical teachings of the Christian tradition.
The Degree of Knight of Malta (Order of Malta)
The ceremony for conferring the degree (which is always worked in full) contains a mixture of masonic tradition, historical accounts of the Order of St John, moral teaching, and the communication of modes of recognition between members. A series of banners is employed in the ceremony, each representing one of the great battles of the historic medieval Order of St John, whose story is the basis of the moral teachings of the degree.
The Degree of Knight of St Paul (Order of St Paul)
This degree is close to being a true 'side degree', in that a small group (usually three) of members of the degree take the candidate "to one side" (i.e. apart on his own) and simply communicate the secrets of the degree to him, without actually working the ceremonial ritual of the degree. The only respect in which the degree fails to meet the definition of a true 'side degree' is that a Chapter of the Order is formally opened and closed by the presiding officer, on either side of the secrets being communicated.
The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross (Order of the Red Cross)Unique to the York Rite, the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross continues or reverts to the period of the Royal Arch Degree when the Israelites were returning from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. Zerubbabel, their leader prevails upon King Darius to restore the Holy Vessels to the new Temple. They had been carried away by the Babylonian armies when the first Temple was destroyed. In presenting his plea before the King, the companion gives a powerful testimony to the almighty force of Truth.
The ritual places the candidate in the role of Zerubbabel and follows him through his journey to King Darius and his role in the Immemorial Discussion, as found in the apocryphal book, 1 Esdras. The purpose is to bridge the gap between Royal Arch Masonry, and the Chivalric Orders as well the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross teaches the lessons of the triumph of truth.
This Order is often considered a compressed version of the Order of Knight Masons.
It should not be confused with the Masonic Order known as the Red Cross of Constantine.
Templar traditionsanti-Masons insist that certain Masonic rites or degrees originally had direct Templar influence.
- American Masonic youth organizations such as the Order of DeMolay for young men are named after the last Grand Master Templar Jacques de Molay who was executed in the final suppression of the Templar order in the early 14th century.
- The Knight of Rose-Croix Degree in the "Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite", and honorary Orders like the Royal Order of Scotland are interpreted as evidence of a historical Templar-Masonic connection, though there is no factual basis for this belief.
- Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh has been suggested to be strong link between the Knights Templar and Freemasons due to reliefs combining Templar and Freemason symbolism. Rosslyn Chapel was indeed founded by William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness.
- Legends in certain degrees pertain to the involvement of Knights Under the command of Sir John De Bermingham, First and Last Earl of Louth aiding the excommunicated 14th Century Scottish King Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn; however this is based on 18th century romance and is not supported by any evidence. This story is the basis for the degrees in the Royal Order of Scotland an invitational Masonic honorary organization.
- Templar connections have also been suggested through the Earls of Rosslyn (St. Clair, or Sinclair) a family with well documented connections with Scottish Freemasonry, one being a Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
- Many other old and new organizations are called "Knights Templar". However, organizations like the Order of the Solar Temple, Militi Templi Scotia, or the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem are in no way related to Masonic Knights Templar, and share no relationship in either history, hierarchy, nor ritual.