By Jochen G. Schenk
Journal of Medieval History, Vol. 34 (2008)
Introduction: Over time, Templar commanderies, like most religious houses, gathered a following of lay men and women who, for spiritual or purely practical reasons, and very often for both, exposed themselves to Templar life without fully participating in it. These hangers- on were different from the Templar familiares, who as un-free serfs were bound to the Order by law, since their bonds with the Order were voluntarily created and subject to individual negotiations. In every religious order these voluntarily and individually negotiated bonds were necessarily diverse and often resulted in complex forms of association that are difficult to categorize. In the Temple, however, three types of lay associates seem to have dominated the genre: the confrater, the donatus and the miles ad terminum.
Apart from simply making endowments to the Order for which they would be commemorated, laymen could profess themselves fully to the Order if they were of free birth, unmarried (or separated with ecclesiastical approval) and free of debt. Alternatively, they, and women too, could enter the confraternity of a Templar house, in which case they became part of the prayer community of the Order. The wording of an act of donation gives information about the donor’s commitment to the Order and about the kind of association he or she hoped to obtain. Simple donations of property could secure the brothers’ prayers; the donation of one’s body (usually in combination with material concessions) was a request for later burial with the Templars.