History of the Order


From its foundation, continuation, to the present.

The Fall of Jerusalem

See the new history book, “Templar Succession: Establishing Continuity 1307-Present” by the Grand Historian.

Beginnings

In 1095 when Pope Urban II issued the call for the First Crusade, the Western Christian World saw this as a defensive action.  Since the early 8th century, Europe had been under ceaseless attacks from Islamic forces beginning with the Iberian Peninsula.  Not only was most of Christian Spain conquered, but Islamic armies penetrated into the heart of France, only to be halted by Charles Martel in 732. Still, Islamic forces continued to threaten Europe, occupying Sicily, most of Southern Italy, and even besieging Rome in 846 and sacking St. Peter’s Basilica. Yet the First Crusade was not directed at Islam itself, but against the Seljuk Turks, who in their conquest of Palestine replaced the previous Arab tolerance of Christian pilgrims with intolerance and violence.  By the end of July 1099, the First Crusade had achieved its objective of restoring the Holy Places to Christian control.

It was one thing to conquer; now the challenge was to rule. Immediately two problems confronted the newly created Kingdom of Jerusalem, being one of the worst examples of feudal fragmentation. The vassals of the King of Jerusalem were carving out their own feudal estates and becoming more powerful than their feudal lord. They were even engaging in conflict among themselves, often hindering efforts to counter any renewed threat from Islam. The second problem was the lack of a reliable fighting force to defend the conquest. Once the Crusade was finished, most of the surviving crusaders, having fulfilled their vows, returned home. The Knights Templar would provide the solution by becoming the first international standing army.

Hughes de Payens, first Grandmaster
Hugues de Payens

The opportunity came in 1118-19, when an idealistic band of knights led by Hugues de Payens offered their services to protect pilgrims en route to the Holy Places. Organizing themselves into a religious community, vows were made to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, provided them with quarters in what had been the al-Aqsa Mosque, thought to be part of Solomon’s Temple. They became known as the Poor Knights of Christ of the Temple of Solomon, or simply the Knights of the Temple. Perhaps it was the King, who saw in these Poor Knights of Christ, the opportunity to create a fighting force. This was reinforced when the counts of Anjou and Champaigne joined the Order.

Now events moved to Europe. If this humble group of knights was to become an effective military force, papal recognition, autonomy, and an economic foundation had to be acquired. Hugues de Payens himself went to Europe on a mission to gain support and recruit new members. More importantly, the support of the outstanding church leader of the period was enlisted, Bernard, the Cistercian abbot of Clairvaux. In 1128-29 a Council was held at Troyes in Champaigne in which The Order of the Temple was recognized and provided with a Rule, drafted under Bernard’s guidance. Pope Honorius II approved the recognition, with Hugues de Payens becoming the first Master of the Temple.

It was Bernard de Clairvaux, who grasped the historical significance, when he wrote in Delaude novae militae (In Praise of a New Knighthood) that a new type of Order had been created, consisting of laymen who blended the knightly and monastic life. These soldier-monks would fight to protect Christian interests. While Hugues de Payens had been the leader with a mission and a vision, an individual possessed of administrative talent was needed. That was Robert de Craon, who became Master of the Temple c 1136.

By the time of the death of Grand Master de Craon in 1149, a series of popes had granted privileges that made the Templars an autonomous corporate body, answerable only to the papacy. Papal and royal exemptions allowed the Templars to become economically independent, financing their overseas military endeavors in great part from European donations of land and money. In the process, the Templars fashioned the first European-wide system of international banking. Their convents, particularly in London and Paris, became “clearing-houses” for the deposit, disbursement and transfer of funds. The system’s reliability for efficiency and honesty attracted church leaders and kings to entrust their funds and valuables to Templar security.

Ponferrada Castle
Ponferrada Castle built by the Templars in the 12th Century (Castilla y Léon, Spain)

Their independence allowed the Templars to create an effective fighting force, a naval fleet, and a defensive system of fortresses in Palestine/Syria. Within the Iberian Peninsula, Templars supported the Reconquista, led by the Spanish and Portuguese kings. At the height of their power in the 13th century, the Order had around 7,000 members, including knights, sergeants-at-arms, non-military-sergeants, brothers, and priests. Their network consisted of some 870 castles, preceptories and convents spread throughout most of Christian Europe, Palestine and Syria. They inspired both the Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights to adopt military roles. The Templars served as a model for new military orders established by the rulers within the Iberian Peninsula, such as Calatrava in Castile and Santiago in Leon.

Church of St. George, Ethiopia
Church of Saint George (Lalibela, Ethiopia)

In 1146, Pope Eugenius III granted the Templars the privilege of wearing the Red Cross or Cross Pateé on their mantles as a symbol of their willingness to shed their blood. Noted for their bravery, determination and discipline, much of the burden for the defense of the Crusader States fell upon them. Described as “lions in battle,” thousands of Templars gave their lives as they won everlasting glory in such battles as Cresson, Hattin, La Forbie and Mansurah. It is claimed that the future King Lalibela of Ethiopia met with the Knights Templar in Jerusalem in 1185 and they returned with him to Roha where they constructed the legendary rock hewn Churches. Despite their efforts, Jerusalem was lost to Saladin in 1187. The Templars established themselves at Acre, following the limited success of the Third Crusade.  

Acre, capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and headquarters of the Templars, was the most powerfully defended city in Outremer. According to the Templar of Tyre, writing circa 1309 presumably about the last days of Tyre in Templar hands, “The Temple was the strongest place of the city, largely situated along the seashore, like a castle. At its entrance it had a high and strong tower, the wall of which was twenty-eight feet thick. On each side of the tower was a smaller tower, and on each of these was a gilded lion passant, as large as an ox…On the other side, near the street of the Pisans, there was another tower, and near this tower on the Street of St Anne, was a large and noble palace, which was the Master’s…There was another ancient tower on the seashore, which Saladin had built one hundred years before, in which the Temple kept its treasure, and it was so close to the sea that the waves washed against it. Within the Temple area there were other beautiful and noble houses, which I will not describe here.” After the loss of Acre in 1291, the Templars, evacuated their last castles in Palestine/Syria, except for Ruad Island (Arwad) which fell in 1302. The Order then retreated to the island of Cyprus.

Ruad Castle
Knights Templar Castle on Ruad Island – last stronghold in Holy Land fell 1302

Interestingly, two Templars had survived the fall of Acre. In about 1340, they were discovered, married with families and serving a Sultan in Palestine. They were repatriated, provided with pensions, and received with great honor by the papal court.

Who was to blame? 1300-

Who was responsible for the loss of the Crusader States? The Templars may have shared in the blame, due to ineffectual leadership and involvement in politics. But there were more important reasons, such as the failure to establish an effective political order in Palestine and the tendency of the great lords to become embroiled in political intrigue instead of defending the Kingdom against the common enemy. The arrival of new crusaders insisting upon pursuing the Holy War often upset the balance of power that had been achieved between the Christians and Muslims, thus encouraging a strong Islamic reaction. The problem of leadership was never solved. Even the kings made poor leaders of the Crusades, since their political distrust followed them to Palestine and they, too, had to return to their home kingdoms.

The idealism and moral inspiration of the First Crusade became tarnished and corrupted by greed for political power and wealth. Finally, there was the Islamic reaction that found effective leaders, such as Saladin, to lead the counter-attack to the European presence in the Middle East. In short, the odds were not only against the survival of the Crusader States but against the Templars as an enduring fighting force in the Middle East.

By the late 13th century, questions were being raised about the effectiveness of the military orders with proposals being made to unify them. The fall of Acre made the issue more pressing. While both the Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights found new roles for themselves, the Templars lacked economic resources that were essential for any renewal of their military prowess due to the loss of lands in Palestine and Syria, the decline from patrons of gifts of land and money, the curtailing of their exemptions, and the impact of inflation. Recruitment became more difficult as the Templars became an aging Order. Moreover, the appearance of possessing great wealth became the kiss of death.  Rulers, motivated by greed and jealousy, took advantage of the Templars’ loss of credibility and respect. Already in the early 14th century, English kings had violated the temple of the Templars in London.

Philippe the Fair
King Philippe IV of France

Ultimately the fate of the Templars would be decided within France. Philip IV, King of France, made the move to challenge the continued existence of the Templars. Taking advantage of rumors of Templar corruption (no doubt exaggerated) and of a weak and compliant Pope, in 1307, Philip IV ordered the arrest of all Templars in France, including the Master of the Temple, Jacques de Molay. Pope Clement V ordered an investigation into the charges leveled against the Templars. 
Under immense political pressure, the Pope ordered the arrest of all Templars within Christian Europe and the seizure of their property.

Knights of Christ Ship

Little is known about what became of the Templar’s fleet of ships. There is record of 18 Templar ships being in port at La Rochelle, France on October 12, 1307 (the day before Friday the 13th). But the next day, the fleet had vanished.

In an attempt to resolve the Templar issue, Clement V convoked the Council of Vienne in 1312. The lack of credible incriminating evidence led the majority of the council fathers to conclude that the charges lacked merit. Then the Pope on his own authority issued the Bull, Vox in excelso, dissolving the Order. Templars were to be pensioned off and their property turned over to the Hospitallers.

The final act came on March 18, 1314, when Philip IV ordered the execution by fire of Jacques de Molay and Geoffroy de Charnay as relapsed heretics. Finding courage at the end, they both vigorously denied the charges against the Order. In 1312, after the Council of Vienne, and under extreme pressure from King Philip IV, Pope Clement V issued an edict claiming to dissolve the Order. But since the Order had existed eleven years before Papal recognition (founded in 1118, recognized by the Pope in 1129  at the Council of Troyes), the Pope only had the power to remove his ecclesiastical recognition.

Many kings and nobles, who had been supporting the Knights up until that time, finally acquiesced and dissolved the orders in their fiefs in accordance with the Papal command. Most were not as brutal as the French. In England, many Knights were arrested and tried, but not found guilty. Much of the Templar property outside of France was transferred by the Pope to the Knights Hospitaller, and many surviving Templars were also accepted into the Hospitallers.

In Croatia, Augustin Kazotic, Bishop of Zagreb 1303-1322, continued to provide refuge for the Templars at their seat of Nova Ves during his reign.

In the Iberian Peninsula, where the king of Aragon was against giving the heritage of the Templars to Hospitallers (as commanded by Clement V), the Order of Montesa took Templar assets. The order continued to exist in Portugal, simply changing its name to the Order of Christ. This group was believed to have contributed to the first naval discoveries of the Portuguese. For example, Prince
Henry the Navigator led the Portuguese order for twenty years until the time of his death.

Even with the absorption of Templars into other Orders, there are still questions as to what became of all of the tens of thousands of Templars across Europe. There had been 15,000 “Templar Houses”, and an entire fleet of ships. Even in France where hundreds of Templars had been rounded up and arrested, this was only a small percentage of the estimated 3,000 Templars in the entire country. Also, the extensive archive of the Templars, with detailed records of all of their business holdings and financial transactions, was never found.  By papal bull it was to have been transferred to the Hospitallers, whose library was destroyed in the 16th century by Turkish invaders.

Some scholars believe that a number of Templars fled into the Swiss Alps. There are records of Swiss villagers around that time suddenly becoming very skilled military tacticians. An attack was led by Leopold I of Austria, who was attempting to take control of the St. Gotthard Pass with a force of 5,000 knights. His force was ambushed and destroyed by a group of about 1,500 Swiss peasants. Up until that point, the Swiss really had no military experience, but after that battle, the Swiss became renowned as seasoned fighters.  Some folk tales from the period describe how there were “armed white knights” who came to help them in their battles. This may have been where the underground Templar “Brotherhood” ended up, in the Cantons (provinces) of Switzerland. It would explain why the Swiss flag is a Templar symbol on a red background. And it would explain why the Swiss suddenly took over where the Templars had left of as the bankers of Europe. Templar influence seems to be reflected in the coats of arms used by the Swiss Cantons and even in the naming of some Swiss locations like the Town of Sion.

In Scotland, after Templars played a significant role in the Scottish victory at Bannockburn on June 24, 1314, Robert the Bruce joined the Templars and Hospitallers into a new Order of the Temple and of St. John. There is evidence to support such a merger of the Scottish Templars with the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. Templar properties in Scotland continued to be administered separately until Sir James Sandilands resigned as Preceptor and surrendered the property of the Order in exchange for receiving it as the hereditary barony of Torpichen 24 January 1563. The knights are said to have then elected David Seton to succeed him and left en masse for Germany where Seton died in 1581 at Regensburg. This appears to have marked the extinction of the Order in Scotland. It is important to note, however, that in the early 14th century Grand Master Jean Marc Larmenius denounced the brethren then in Scotland as schismatic.

The Charter of Transmission

Several years prior to their suppression, the Templars and Hospitallers were operating in a joint venture in Armenia in 1300. These operations included the combined forces of both orders, as well as the administration of both Grand Masters, Jacques de Molay and Fulk de Villeret. Returning home from the campaign with them was one Jean Marc, “the Armenian”, or l’Arménien, known thereafter as “Larmenius.”

Beginning in 1305, Pope Clement V began petitioning both Orders for a merger, an idea to which neither Grand Master was agreeable. This did not dissuade the Pope, however, and in 1306 he called for a meeting of both leaders to negotiate. The discussions concluded in a stalemate in 1307, just months before the arrest of the Templars. On September 14th, 1307, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the order to arrest the Templars in one month was secretly distributed to the agents of King Philip IV. This plan was executed on Oct. 13, 1307.

In 1312, the properties and assets of the Templars officially began to be transferred to the Hospitallers by decree of the Pope. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Templars were absorbed into the Hospitallers, many unwillingly. Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake in March of 1314.

In the aftermath, Jean Marc Larmenius would have himself found shelter within those Hospitaller Knights of St. John with his Templar brethren, striving to maintain a distinct identity within them.

In 1324, Larmenius commissioned a Charter of Transmission to record the passing of the Grand Mastership to the more able hands of his associate, brother Theobald, due to age and weariness.

Larmenius Charter of Transmission
1324 Charter of Transmission

The Charter is written in a code or cypher that is devised from a Templar Cross pattee embedded within a Hospitaller Maltese Cross. The central image on the Charter is the same, a Templar Cross embedded within the Hospitaller Cross, a symbol of the actual state of the Order at the time.

Within its text, Larmenius demonstrates his resentment for the Hospitaller usurpation of their goods, and gives direction for how they ought to remain distinct from them while embedded, saying “I declare … the brethren of Saint John of Jerusalem, upon whom may God have mercy, as spoilators of the domains of our soldiery and are now and hereafter to be considered beyond the pale of the Temple. I have therefore established signs, unknown to our false brethren, and not to be known by them, to be orally communicated to our fellow soldiers…”

The Larmenius Charter of Transmission does indicate that at the time of the Suppression, some number of knights fled to Scotland to escape persecution. This is the line that certain Freemasons have claimed for their Templar descent. However, this lineage was met with stern disapproval by Larmenius, as they remained outside of the recognized continuation. For this reason, Larmenius labels them “deserters” and “accursed” for taking flight at the Order’s darkest hour. While there may be some anecdotal evidence of Templar survival in Scotland by this group, these statements make it clear that any continuity by them originating in Scotland is outside the legal succession.

After leaving the burden of the Grand Mastership, Jean Marc Larmenius retired to administer the Temple House, the former jewel and center of Templar power in France, now in Hospitaller control. A firsthand document of Hospitaller administration states the Temple House was administered by “Jehan Marc, Mayor of the land, Justice and Lord of the Hospital of Paris, who was once of the Temple.”

For more info on the Charter of Larmenius, go here.

In 1326, two years after the Charter was written, Pope John XXII, exiled in Avignon in what is now France, issued “Concilium Avenionense” (Decree XXXVII, Columns 763-4, vol. 25), forbidding certain so called “Brotherhoods” from meeting that swear unwavering oaths to their Master, have Priors, use secret signs, and wear their distinct uniforms,. It is thought this is a direct response to the Larmenius continuation, which was in competition for the Templar heritage with the Order of Christ, which Pope John XXII himself instituted just seven years before.

More info on the Avignon Decree of 1326 here.

Knights of the Cross

The Templars remained within the Hospitallers, embedded yet distinct, until 1478 when the Grand Master according to the Charter, Archbishop of Reims, Robert de Lenoncourt took the bold step to petition the Vatican for recognition. This was declined, however it had a secondary effect of informing the Pope of the Templars’ continued existence. Unwilling to openly admit wrongdoing in the charges of the Templars, the archives state that Robert de Lenoncourt “received a new Rule,” representing a significant restructuring of the Order.

In 1515, a very aged Archbishop Robert de Lenoncourt, former Templar Grand Master, crowned François I, King of France. Almost immediately upon his ascension to the throne, François I petitioned Pope Leo X to recognize the Order of the Knights of the Cross, (Chevaliers de la Croix). Leo X responded in 1516, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the day the command to arrest the Templars was given, with a Papal Bull granting the recognition for the Order, citing the King’s desire for such a brotherhood from an early age. The Bull also encourages the King to seek as many who are willing to “undertake the recovering and preserving the righteousness of this beneficial Brotherhood.” He further adds to “stand by and in that salubrious sign as Constantine Caesar did”, invoking the vision of “In Hoc Signo Vinces,” which was a rallying cry for the Templars in Portugal since 1139. The Larmenius Charter states at the same time, in 1516, Admiral of France, Philippe Chabot, the childhood friend and constant companion of King François I, became Grand Master of the Templars.

The Knights of the Cross, as an Order, do not exist in the pages of history, nor in books of chivalry, in the National Archives of France, or even in the Vatican Archives. They seem to simply be a name re-branding the Templars so they may begin to exist in a more public fashion. From that time on, throughout the 1500s and 1600s, we begin to see the Knights of the Temple represented publicly in minutes of town meetings, court cases, even minutes of the Knights themselves.

Furthermore, the Grand Priors of the Hospitaller Order of St. John in France routinely bore a second designation as “Commander of the Temple” or even, “Commander of the Order of the Temple.” The Grand Masters according to the Charter are maintained at the highest levels of French military command and nobility, including Constables, Marshals, and Admirals of France.

In 1681, a Marshal of France, Jacques Henri de Durfort, Duke of Duras was Grand Master of the Order during the reign of King Louis XIV. The signatures on the Charter of Transmission have been officially authenticated back to this time. The Templars included the Grand Dauphin, heir to the throne, a prince of the blood, and several other members of the highest nobility. Derogatorily called “The Little Resurrection of the Templars” (Le Petit Resurrection des Templiers”, they were dispersed by the King, who likely believed a group whose Grand Master was the leader of the Armies of France, and whose close supporters were those who would replace him, were a coup in the making.

It appears an attempt by the Order of the Temple in France to reestablish the Scottish line took place in the Jacobite era beginning with the claim that John Graham, Viscount Dundee, was created Master of Scotland and died wearing the Grand Cross in 1689.

In France the Order continued to expand in secret. In the early 19th century members had access to the Archives of the Order which included a manuscript with information about investitures including Samuel Bochard admitted 16 July 1663, François Salignac de la Mothe Fénelon, Archbishop of Cambrai, admitted 17 Oct 1693, and Jean Baptiste Massillon, Bishop of Clermont, admitted 14 Feb 1703.

For information on the secret antique archive of the Order of the Temple, go here.

Philippe II, Duke of Orléans and future Regent of France became Grand Master of the Templars after the death of the Duke of Duras and held a General Convent at Versailles in 1705. The Statutes of the Order were reformed and prepared for further public involvement.

1698 Patriarchal Cross, Cross of Lorraine

It is claimed that the iconic red Cross Patee of the Knights Templar was not permitted in France in this period leading to a reintroduction of the Patriarchal Cross. This may explain the curious illustration of a metal Patriarchal Cross suspended by a ring depicted in a reference work on Religious and Military Orders published in 1698 at the top of the section covering the Knights Templar. Interestingly, the author, Jean Hermant, was a religious historian and contemporary of Abbé Calmet, the French Theologian recorded as having been entrusted with the Cross worn by Viscount Dundee as Master of the Temple in Scotland in 1689.

The Duke of Orléans is said to have dispatched two envoys to the Order of Christ in Portugal seeking fraternal recognition. However, King John V of Portugal made inquiry through his Ambassador in Paris, Dom Luiz da Cunha, who after consulting with the Duke of Elbouef sent an unfavorable report. The exact nature was not reported, but the King ordered the arrest of the Templars. One is said to have escaped and made his way to Gibraltar. The other was exiled to Angola in Africa where he died.

A second attempt to reestablish the Order in Scotland appears to have taken place in 1715 under the Earl of Mar, but also failed when the Earl fled back to France. Both Graham and the Earl of Mar had significant ties back to France which was the font of the Templars under Jacques Henri de Durfort, Duke of Duras, and Philippe II, Duke of Orléans. Evidence suggests that the Templarism of Graham and the Earl of Mar was received in the Scottish Jacobite exile in the French Court.

The archives of the Order report that in 1722 knight Joseph Pascal advocated that the Order become known to the public, but the Grand Master was concerned about the potential response from Cardinal de Fleury, who also later repudiated the claims of Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsay concerning Freemasonry.

Andrew Michael Ramsay
Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsay

Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsay was introduced to the French Order of the Temple between 1710-1713 through François Salignac de la Mothe Fénelon, Archbishop of Cambrai, who it is recorded had been admitted to the Order in 1693. Chevalier Ramsay is famed for the introduction of Templarism into Freemasonry in 1737.

Ramsay was a tutor of Prince Charles Edward Stuart and provided the strongest link between the Order and the Jacobite community in France. Several Jacobites are reported to have been knights of the Order in Paris in the period 1741-1745. While at Holyrood in Scotland in September 1745, Prince Charles was admitted to the Order and the Earl of Mar stepped down as Master in Scotland to allow the election of Prince Charles in his stead.

With the failure of the 1745 rising, the survivors returned to France and once more the Order in Scotland came to a temporary end.

For more info on the Origins of Masonic Templarism in the French Ordre du Temple, go here.

Leipzig Investiture
VII Province Investiture in Leipzig 1775
Musée de la franc-maçonnerie

A German nobleman, Carl Gotthelf von Hunde, Freiherr von Hund und Alten Grotkau, was admitted to the Order of the Temple in Paris in 1743 through his Masonic acquaintances in the Jacobite community there including the Earl of Kilmarnock. The secrecy of membership in the Order and the nature of Freemasonry as a secret society assured that persons entrusted with membership in one organization might subsequently be invited to membership in the other. In addition to being admitted to membership in the Order of the Temple, von Hund was further authorized to establish the VII Province of the Order in Prussia, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. He established several Masonic Lodges and created the Rite of Strict Observance for them to use as a means to recruit for his VII Province.

Initial expansion was successful, but due to the secrecy of the Order von Hund was uncertain as to who was actually in charge and even where they were. He seems to have assumed that Prince Charles was Grand Master and that the Officers of the Order were in Scotland. As questions arose, von Hund realized he lost contact with his Jacobite friends and tried unsuccessfully to connect with the Order in Scotland.

Without contact he apparently assumed he was the last active officer. He subsequently overstepped his authority and created additional provinces for the Order and even approved of the election of a new Grand Master to oversee them. Those acts were invalid as he had no authority beyond his own VII Province.

Von Hund died in 1776 and within his VII Province he was validly succeeded by the Duke of Sudermania, who would become the future King Charles XIII of Sweden. The Duke, in turn, expanded into the Russian Empire. Alexander Murusi, Prince of Wallachia, brother of the Hospodar, resident in Austria circa 1780-1790 offered to recruit 50,000 men in Wallachia for the reconquest of the former possessions of the Order.

1779 Diploma of the Duke of Sudermania
1779 Diploma issued by the Duke of Sudermania appointing Prince Gabriel Gagarin in Russia.

Unfortunately, the Duke of Sudermania resigned in 1781. Before a successor was elected, a convent was called in 1782 in Wilhemsbad by the invalidly created Grand Master and the other Provinces during which it was decided that there was no significant Templar connection in Freemasonry and all such claims were renounced. At this point any current valid Templars in the VII Province apparently followed this Masonic body.

It is possible some continued in the Russian Empire for a few more years. An engraving exists of a Knights Templar magistry in a Ukrainian town dated to the end of the 18th century which portrays a group of knights in uniforms consistent with those described in the 1705 Statutes.

Ukrainian Templars, 1700s.

The archives of the Order also report that King Frederick II of Prussia was admitted 26 Oct 1738 at Reinsberg. During the 18th century several Grand Masters were chosen from the House of Bourbon. Under the Grand Mastership of Louis François de Bourbon, Prince of Conti and Grand Prior of France for the Hospitaller Knights of St. John, beginning in 1741 the Order appears to have enjoyed a period of great expansion.

In addition to the admission of Jacobites and the establishment of the VII Province under Marschall von Bieberstein and von Hund, it also appears the Order spread to Italy at this time. It is asserted that correspondence of the noble house of Ventura documents that Count Francesco Ventura from Parma, representative of King Charles VII of Naples to Paris and Venice 1737-1748 was admitted to the Order of the Temple by the Prince of Conti and authorized to establish a Commandery in Italy. This was eventually accomplished by his son. The archives document further admissions including Charles Pinot Duclos and Jean Jacques Barthelemy on 7 Apr 1745.

Prince of Conti, 47th Grandmaster

Influential members were to be admitted throughout the 18th century including the Abbé Jean Baptiste Louis Clouet in 1787 and the future Ambassador to the USA, Pierre Auguste Adet, in 1790.

Alexandre Charles Emmanuel d’Uzes de Crussol de Florensac of the Knights of Malta was also Bailiff of Temple House in Paris 1776-1788. The Order continued in secret through the French Revolution when the Grand Master Louis Hercule Timoleon de Cossé Brissac, Duke of Brissac, entrusted the documents and regency of the Order into the hands of Claude-Mathieu Radix de Chevillon, Seigneur de Chevillon et de La Ferté-Loupière, as Vicar. It was fortuitous as the Duke was murdered in the September Massacres of 1792, his killer witnessing the red Templar Cross on his chest beneath his clothing.

In 1804, Radix de Chevillon was himself aging and in bad health and passed the Order’s regency yet again to several surviving members. It is at this time that Dr. Bernard Raymond Fabre-Palaprat became involved and was later that year elected Grand Master.

For more info about this transfer of power, go here.

Bernard Raymond Fabre-Palaprat
Dr. Bernard Raymond Fabre-Palaprat

Under the leadership of Dr. Bernard Raymond Fabre-Palaprat, the Order began to flourish again, especially with the patronage of Napoleon Bonaparte. Fabre-Palaprat was a product of the Age of Enlightenment, and saw Templarism as an expression of help, decency, dedication and chivalrous behavior. He had a remarkable talent for communicating the romantic ideals of knighthood to other people and, as a result, many prominent citizens including regnant royals such as Dom Pedro, Emperor of Brazil and Portugal, and heads of State such as Simon Bolivar, became members and the Order grew rapidly in numbers. Pierre Romain Clouet, Canon of Notre Dame, was Grand Vicar of the Order as well.

To facilitate recruitment from among Freemasons, Fabre-Palaprat, Alexandre Charles Emmanuel d’Uzes de Crussol de Florensac, former Bailiff of the Temple House in Paris, and others founded the Masonic Lodge called the “Knights of the Cross” (note the reuse of this public name) in 1805, acting much like the Strict Observance Rite Lodges of the previous century as a proving ground where certain masons could be vetted for membership in the Order. The Order spread geographically throughout the world admitting local knights such as Joachim Piron, born in Hyderabad in India 7 March 1794, who was admitted 10 January 1826.

Napoleon I
Emperor Napoleon

Napoleon Bonaparte approved of this “restoration”, even allowing a grand ceremony in Paris, honoring de Molay and all other Templar martyrs. Napoleon, upon becoming Emperor, created a new nobility. Perhaps he saw these new Templars as serving as a counter-balance to the Masonic lodges, whom he distrusted due to their political radicalism.

By 1808, through successful recruitment the Order had established active Priories and Commanderies throughout most of the Grand Empire, including Italy and Switzerland. This promising beginning was quickly dashed by Fabre-Palaprat when he revised the Statutes of 1705 to justify assuming absolute power, a schism erupted that lasted until 1814.

The Primate of the Order of the Temple, Jacques Auguste Vié de Césarini, was also a Conventual Commander (as well as Chaplain and Prior) of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem (Knights of Malta). Abbé Henri Jean-Baptiste Grégoire stated in 1814 that the Knights of Malta made some advances to unite with the Order of the Temple at this time, but they were unsuccessful.

When unity was finally restored, the Order once again prospered. When constitutional monarchy was established in France, the Order supported the restored Bourbon King, Louis XVIII, and the king in return is said to have granted the Templars recognition.

In 1826 the Order sent a troop to fight against the Ottoman Empire for Greek Independence under Sir Richard Church of Ireland.

When King Charles X attempted to restore royal absolutism in France, the Templars supported the revolt of 1830 and the return of constitutional monarchy. Once again Fabre-Palaprat became the source of contention. Earlier he had formed the Johannite Church of the Primitive Christians. When, in 1833, he attempted to impose his Johannite beliefs upon the Templars, the result was once more schism. One faction retained its chivalric traditions and obedience to the Catholic Church. The death of Fabre-Palaprat in 1838 provided another opportunity for unity. This attempt failed when the French Palaprien Templars refused to accept the choice of Sir William Sidney-Smith, the British Grand Prior, as Grand Master, citing the fact that he was an Anglican. Therefore Sidney-Smith opted only to act as Regent and sought to bring reconciliation once again. This was accomplished by Sidney-Smith’s successor, Jean-Marie Raoul.

Knights Cross 1843
Knight’s Cross 1843

In 1840, Jean-Marie Raoul became Regent and negotiated the full healing of the schism and ushered in a new age of Christian ecumenism within the Order. An offer to the King of Sweden was made to become the next Grand Master but he is said to have declined because of his age. From 1845 to 1848 the Prince of Chimay negotiated with the Vatican for recognition which ended when the Pope insisted on complete submission and adherence to Roman Catholicism. In 1848, the revolution triggered new laws against societies and the Magistral Council ceased activity and temporarily transferred to Belgium. In 1850 Dr. Narcisse Rene de Valleray succeeded as Regent and tried anew unsuccessfully to seek recognition from the Vatican.

A bright period for the Order of the Temple occurred in 1853, when, by royal decree, Emperor Napoleon III permitted the Ordre du Temple (“Palaprien,” those that followed in the line of Palaprat) the right to wear its insignia and decorations within France.

The Magistral Council appointed Count Szapary to negotiate with King George V of Hanover to accept the Grand Mastership in May of 1857. This was accomplished and the King was proclaimed Grand Master of the Order of the Temple on 23 July 1857. The treasury of the Order was inventoried with the intention that it be transferred to the Court of Hanover. Records suggest it was accepted by Count Szapary in 1857 for transport. Unfortunately, no activity is known until 1865 when the Grand Priory of Belgium split into the Roman Catholic Priory of St. John d’Hiver and the secular Priory of the Trinity of the Tower, which is said to have adopted the Strict Observance Freemasonry of Baron von Hund. In 1866, the King of Hanover was forced into exile by Prussia.

Dr. Angel Gabriel Maxime Vernois became Regent in precisely that same year. Due to his inactivity, in 1868 the Grand Prior of Belgium, Prosper Beechman, was recognized as Guardian of the International Order. The Franco-Prussian War further divided the Grand Priories and the centrally organized Palaprien Templars soon faded from existence, except that several of their former priories continued to function autonomously. By April of 1871, it is said the Lieutenants General of the Order had deceased and Regent Vernois is said to have resigned and deposited the treasury in the French Archives against the wishes of the membership. That inventory would match that made nine years earlier save three seals. Presumably the treasury had been returned when the former King reached Paris, or, perhaps it had never been properly transferred.

In Belgium, Felix Champion de Villeneuve became Guardian of the Temple.

Josephin Peladan

Upon the death of Felix Champion de Villeneuve, the administration passed to Josephin Peladan as Regent in 1892, with hopes that his fame might invigorate the languishing Templars. At this time, the first diploma was issued using the name (OSMTJ), Ordre Souverain et Militaire du Temple de Jérusalem, translated: “Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem.” Unfortunately, Peladan was pre-occupied in the development of his own Order, L’Ordre de la Rose+Croix du Temple et du Graal. Without any improvement in the Order’s condition after two years of inattention from Peladan, two of his associates, Nicolas Brossel and Francis Vergey, offered to take the reins of the Order under the administration of the KVMRIS lodge of esoteric studies, forming in Belgium the International Secretariat of the Templars in 1894.

For more info about the continuity between the Ordre du Temple and the OSMTJ, go here.

The years of the Regents (Caretakers), 1930-

The Templar reorganization in the 20th century owed its existence to developments within the Grand Priory of Belgium, which had been founded under Dr. Fabre-Palaprat. Factional disputes between Catholic and Masonic members, along with European political developments, resulted in its being inactive for several years. The Belgian Priory of St. John d’Hiver had disappeared by about 1890 but the Priory of the Trinity of the Tower survived until 1930 when the Prior, Emile Briffaut, proposed its dissolution against the wishes of the membership. 

In 1932, the International Secretariat of Templars in KVMRIS released the Sovereign and Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (OSMTJ) fully under its own weight and officially registered the Grand Priory of Belgium. Members of the Belgian Grand Priory restored an international association of Templar Grand Priories and a Magisterial Council was formed with Theodore Covias as Regent. Just one year later, Emile Clement Joseph Isaac Vandenberg became Regent and Guardian of the Order.

Emile Isaac Vandenberg
Emile Isaac (Vandenberg)

Isaac, who later took on his wife’s last name, “Vandenberg,” to hide his Jewish ancestry from the Nazis, was a key figure at this time.  As Regent of this Belgian Grand Priory, he devoted much of his energy to revitalizing Templar Priories across Europe, including France, Italy, Portugal and Switzerland.  Such a promising development was cut short by the Second World War.

In 1942, after the start of World War II Belgium was under German occupation. Vandenberg, concerned about the suppression of the Order, sent the Order’s Archives to the Grand Prior of Portugal, Antonio de Sousa Fontes, for safekeeping. In doing so, he also officially transferred the authority and Grand Mastership of the Order into his hands. Rumors of Vandenberg asking for these papers back and Fontes refusing are false, as evidenced in the following link.

For more info on this transfer of power, go here.

On 11 April 1943, after significant bombings on Martsel, Vanderberg died when his car left the road and plunged into a river called “Veste van Berchem,” near Antwerp. Sadly, it is supposed that the “car accident” that killed Emile Isaac was orchestrated by the Nazis who wanted this high-profile Jewish Templar dead. Vandenberg was buried at Mechelen.

After the death of Antonio de Sousa Fontes in 1960, his son, Fernando de Sousa Fontes became Regent of the Order based on a concept in Portuguese law of inheritable titles. This caused some degree of consternation and some dissented, but most ultimately accepted the direction of the Order.

Fernando de Sousa Fontes
Fernando de Sousa Fontes

The American Grand Priory was born out of the Autonomous Grand Priory of Switzerland in 1962. De Sousa Fontes recognized the American Grand Priory, and two years later, Peter II, former King of Yugoslavia became the Royal Patron of the American Grand Priory.

In 1969, Regent de Sousa Fontes issued a Magistral Edict convoking a Convent General that would first meet in Paris in September of 1970. At that historic Convent General, participants democratically elected General Antoine “Daniel” (originally Andrzej) Zdrojewski (the Grand Prior of Europe and of France) to be the next Grand Master. However, Fontes was unwilling to abide by the results and quickly “expelled” Zdrojewski. After five months without reconciliation, Zdrojewski expelled Fontes for not abiding by the laws of succession. Fontes’ group changed their official name and language to Latin in 1971, becoming Ordo Supremus Templi Militaris Hierosolymitani (OSMTH). Zdrojewski retained the original French name of OSMTJ.

For more info on the 1970 Election, go here.

Antoine Zdrojewski, Grandmaster starting in 1970
General Antoine ‘Daniel’ Zdrojewski

In late 1973, Grand Master Zdrojewski carried out a reorganization of the OSMTJ and a reform of the Statutes.  He approved the Grand Priories re-asserting the independence of the International Federation of Autonomous Grand Priories of the OSMTJ (Each member Grand Priory was recognized as autonomous).  The Swiss Grand Priory accepted these reformed statutes in 1973 while the Belgian and United States Grand Priories accepted them in 1975.

One of the OSMTJ’s most important leaders at this time was the Grand Prior of Switzerland, Alfred Zappelli. Zappelli moved to Geneva where he was a Banker and Financial Consultant. During these years, Grand Prior Alfred Zappelli stepped up to hold the OSMTJ together.

Alfred Zappelli
Alfred Zappelli

Zappelli recruited and introduced Philip A. Guarino to Grand Master Zdrojewski who appointed Philip the Grand Prior of the United States on February 15th, 1973. Zappelli went on to found several other Grand Priories including  one in Italy under Pasquale Gugliotta, who was named Grand Bailiff of Italy on June 16, 1976. Alfred continued giving lectures about the Knights Templar and recruiting  for the OSMTJ all over the world. Despite his important position, Zappelli was a humble man and the Grand Priory he established still exists today.

Georges Lamirand, Grandmaster.
Georges Lamirand

General Antoine Zdrojewski remained Grand Master until his death in 1989. In 1986, he issued a Charter of Transmission that gave authority to Georges Lamirand, the Grand Seneschal, and nominated him as his successor. Lamirand, former Mayor of Bourbole and the Director of the Billancourt Renault factory, had been serving as the Grand Prior of France. As Zdrojewski had wished, Georges Lamirand succeeded Zdrojewski as Regent of the order, and then he went on to be elected Grand Master. When Georges Lamirand’s age began to interfere with his administration of the Order, he set up a Council of Regency to provide for the succession, led by Nicolas Haimovici Hastier as President. This Council was charged with the authority to hold elections after the demise of Grand Master Lamirand, who died on February 5th, 1994.

Nicolas Haimovici Hastier and Ronald Mangum
Dr. Nicolas Haimovici Hastier and BG Ronald Mangum.

In the next few years following the death of the Grand Master, the Order was administered by the Magistral Council with Michel Vanderstock, Grand Chancellor, and Nicolas Haimovici Hastier, Grand Commander and Guardian of the Faith, President of the Council of Regency. However, tension began to build between the two men over certain administrative decisions. Haimovici accused Vanderstock of making decisions and signing decrees without the approval of the Magistral Council, while the decrees stated they were. Additionally, Vanderstock was accused of withholding documents from those entitled to them, and lastly, Vanderstock attempted to initiate an election for Grand Master on his own authority, as he was not on the Council of Regency. These infractions caused the Magistral Council to act upon these abuses and expel Michel Vanderstock from the Order, forbidding him from the usage of the name or symbols of the OSMTJ. Vanderstock spent the next several years building his own “OSMTJ” brand, despite his censure, and had himself elected Grand Master of his own Order in 2004.

For more info on the succession of Hastier and Vanderstock, go here.

Nicolas Haimovici Hastier, by virtue of his position of President of the Council of Regency eventually took on the role of acting Regent to administer the Order in the absence of a Grand Master. This continued until 2020, when the plurality of the Grand Priors invoked Article IX of the Statutes to call for an election for Grand Master.

Ronald Mangum, Grandmaster of the OSMTJ
BG Ronald St. Mangum, PhD, JD,
Grand Master of the OSMTJ

On January 2, 2020, H.E. BG Ronald S. Mangum, PhD, JD, Deputy Regent, Grand Prior of Austria, was elected Grand Master of the OSMTJ by a clear majority of the Grand Priors.

On October 2, 2021, the Feast Day of St. Thomas of Hereford, Templar Saint, in the presence of the Knights of the Order at the International Convent held at Castle Otttis in St. Augustine, FL, Grand Master Mangum ceremonially signed a copy of the Larmenius Charter, fulfilling the heritage of his Templar forebears for the first time in nearly 200 years.

Grand Master Mangum was a retired U.S. Army General but had bought a home in Austria where he served as the Grand Prior of Austria and part of the Magisterial Council prior to the election. General Mangum is an exceptionally accomplished and long-time Templar legend. First joining the Templars in 1995, General Mangum has been a Templar leader for 21 years and brings the incredible breadth and width of his experience to bear for the OSMTJ on an International level.  He has served in many of the highest Templar Positions over the years, the Deputy Grand Commander of OSMTH.org, a Grand Prior in Austria for that same order, a Grand Preceptor in the nation of Georgia (he practically created the Grand Priory of Georgia), Deputy Regent of the OSMTJ, and many other roles. 

As a practicing Attorney, Mangum was admitted to practice before the Supreme Courts of Illinois (1968) and Wisconsin (1985), the United States Tax Court, the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the United States District Courts and the Federal Trial Bar.[3] Mangum practiced law in Chicago for over 30 years, founding the firm of Mangum, Smietanka & Johnson, L.L.C.

As a General, Mangum retired from the United States Army in November 2004 after 35 years of enlisted and officer service. His last command consisted of three elements: Commanding General, Special Operations Command Korea; Commanding General, United Nations Special Operations Component; and Deputy Commanding General, Combined Unconventional Warfare Task Force. He served in Korea from September 2000 to August 2003. As a Professor, Mangum served as a full Professor of National Security Studies from 2005 to 2011 at American Military University.