By Carson Taylor Wheet
Bachelor’s Thesis, University of Arizona, 2009
Abstract: This thesis investigates the Order of the Knights Templar by examining the varied phenomena that led to the formation of the Order in the early twelfth century and its dissolution nearly two hundred years later. Since the demise of the Order has recently received a great deal of attention in both historical scholarship and popular culture, I analyze and critique numerous theories concerning the trial of the Templars and contextualize it by revealing the causes for the Order’s creation. I use an array of primary and secondary sources to explain why each event occurred despite being unpopular with a significant portion of Christian officials. I ultimately contend that most of the aforementioned theories are insufficient to explain the rise and fall of the Order because they fail to grasp the complexity of each event. The Templars’ creation resulted from a lengthy theological justification for a unique form of Christian holy war, papal ambitions, and a palpable ethos of fear and violence within Christendom that was redirected against an external enemy. Their demise stemmed from secular ambitions, relative papal weakness, and a unique blend of social fears, legal standards, and organizational rules that proved extremely deleterious in their trial.
Introduction: Modern scholarship and popular culture have recently taken a significant interest in the demise of the Knights Templar. But an analysis of the Order’s creation is also necessary to contextualize the Templars’ trials as well as the events surrounding the Order’s dissolution. By examining both the creation and demise of the Knights Templar, one can more fully understand the Order and thereby gain the necessary tools to either accept or criticize the numerous theories surrounding one of history’s most mysterious organizations and the source of endless historical debates. The Templars’ unexpected rise to power during the twelfth century was overshadowed by its far more surprising fall at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Both events disrupted the status quo and stunned contemporaries, but each event needs to be understood through an examination of the direct and indirect contributory factors that culminated in each phenomenon. These causal elements must be analyzed with respect to how they related to each other as well as the circumstances of their respective historical settings.