Friday, March 27, 2009

Templar Tactical: Training For Battle

Guernsey County, Ohio residents are up in arms over a new police and paramilitary training camp that will open this summer 80 miles east of Columbus. Templar Tactical is building a 200 acre facility for training police, military, and private defense companies. It will include multiple shooting ranges, a shooting house, an apartment building with a movable floor plan and breakable windows and doors, a helicopter landing pad, and more. It will not be open to the public.

According to an article in the Columbus Dispatch, Templar Tactical's CEO Bill Janson got the idea for the company while working for a private defense contractor in Iraq.

“The name was selected because of the dual role of the Knights Templar during their time,” Janson said. “First off, they were fierce warriors, which speaks to our military market, and later they assumed the role of protectors, which is indicative of our law-enforcement officers.”

Fighting a war in the MIddle east also comes to mind...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Last Weekend of Dummies Month

Excuse the intrusion of crass economics, but March is officially "Dummies Month," and there are just a couple of days left.

Buy one or two Dummies books on any subject (not just ours) before March 31st, 2009, and get $5 direct from the publisher. In addition, the Wiley folks will also send along another $5 mail-in rebate form for any Dummies book purchased in June, July or August 2009.

Obviously, we like you to take this opportunity to scoop up our books: Freemasons For Dummies, The Templar Code For Dummies, and Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies. But there are more than 1,300 Dummies titles out there, and they are all part of this offer.

You can download a pdf of the rebate form here.

Do it now before the government nationalizes the book business...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New Knights Templar Movie: Ironclad

A new movie is in production about the Knights Templar. Ironclad is being directed by Jonathan English and is based on the very real story of England's Rochester Castle. From the Internet Movie Database listing:

It is the year 1215 and the rebel barons of England have forced their despised King John to put his royal seal to the Magna Carta, a noble, seminal document that upheld the rights of free-men. Yet within months of pledging himself to the great charter, the King reneged on his word and assembled a mercenary army on the south coast of England with the intention of bringing the barons and the country back under his tyrannical rule. Barring his way stood the mighty Rochester castle, a place that would become the symbol of the rebel's momentous struggle for justice and freedom.

The film is rumored to star Megan Fox, Paul Giamatti, Robert Carlyle, Bob Hoskins and Richard Attenborough. It is due in theaters in December 2009.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

George Smart's Knight Templar Timeline Now Online

George Smart, author of the indispensable book, The Knights Templar Chronology: Tracking History's Most Intriguing Monks, has posted a revised 2nd edition of his timeline of Templar history on his website at

The book is available as well for those of us who demand a more tactile relationship with our research material.

695th Anniversary of the Death of Jacques de Molay

March 18th is the 695th Anniversary of death of Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ, the Knights Templar.

He was born in the eastern French village of Molay in 1244 or 45. Almost nothing is known of his early life, but he joined the Templars at the age of 21 in 1265, and served 42 years as a warrior monk.

In 1291, the Holy Land fell back into the hands of the infidel, and would never fully return to Christian rule. The Templars and the Knights Hospitallers fell back to the coastal city of Acre, which was quickly lost. Both orders subsequently went to the island of Cyprus. The Templars remained here, while the Hospitallers later took the island of Rhodes. That too would be lost eventually, and the Hospitallers eventually settled in Malta, where they became known as the knights of Malta. In spite of the modern Masonic orders that unite these two orders of knights, they were bitter rivals for the wealth and favor of Europe and the Church.

Jacques de Molay was elected Grand Master in 1293 at the age of 47. Immediately he set off to England, France, Aragon and Italy to drum up support for a new crusade to the Holy Land, as well as to fend off a growing call for merging the two orders of knights. Politiucally, the Templars were regarded as the men who lost the Holy Land, and monarchies were becoming distrustful of them. France in particular was feeling overrun with returning, aging knights, who still were free from any kind of taxation or even civil laws, by virtue of Papal bulls that held the order above anyone but the Pope.

King Phillip IV of France and his personal henchman Guillaume de Nogaret had been in severe conflict with the then-reigning pope, Boniface VIII. The pope had declared that the king of France had no right to tax Church property, and the king had, obviously, disagreed. De Nogaret kidnapped an important French bishop, and the pope had come out swinging over it. He issued a papal bull proclaiming that kings must be subordinate to the Church, and that popes held ultimate authority over both spiritual and temporal matters on earth. To make sure they got the message, Boniface excommunicated Phillip and de Nogaret. Phillip answered his challenge by sending the brutal, devious and bad-tempered de Nogaret at the head of an army to meet up with Italian allies and capture the pope. Boniface was indeed kidnapped and held for three days. After literally being beaten to a pulp, he was released and died a month later. The French king had proved just who was subordinate to whom, and he didn’t mind a little papal blood on his hands. Pope Boniface’s successor, Pope Benedict XI, lasted only a year in office, poisoned, it was said, by de Nogaret.

But there had been diplomatic difficulties to suffer for killing two popes. Consequently, King Phillip decided it would be easier to just buy one. He began procuring cardinals, pulling strings behind the scenes until the number of French cardinals in the Vatican’s College of Cardinals was equal to the Italian ones. They then obligingly elected his handpicked candidate, Bertrand de Goth, making him Pope Clement V. The city of Rome was in turmoil, and the safety of the Vatican was in question. So, it didn’t take much to convince the new French pope that his life would be in serious danger by living there. Clement obliged by staying in France, having his ceremony of investiture in Lyons. He remained in France, eventually moving the Holy See to the city of Avignon (which was actually owned by the King of Sicily at the time) in 1309, right on Phillip’s back door step, where he built a new papal palace. Catholics often refer to it as the “Babylonian Captivity.” Nowadays it’s usually called the Avignon Papacy or the Great Schism.

Clement had everything Phillip wanted in a pope: he was puny, weak, new in the job, and owed everything to his French king. Now was the time for the boldest move of Phillip’s reign – the arrest of the Knights Templar.

Jacques de Molay left Cyprus to head straight for a meeting with the new Pope, and he had high hopes for success, especially since they were countrymen. He couldn’t at this point have known of the dark forces that were assembling against him behind the scenes. In June of 1307, de Molay rode into Paris at the head of a column of his knights, with a dozen horses laden with gold and silver, to begin the financing the new Crusade. For the next several months, Phillip treated the aging Grand Master with interest and diplomacy, and de Molay believed he and the Order were at a new turning point.

The circumstances of the arrests on October 13th, 1307, and seven years of trials of the Templars are well known to most of us, but we are most concerned with the last Grand Master tonight. By 1314, both the pope and public opinion had abandoned the Knights Templar. The four senior Templar officers in Phillip’s custody had been waiting in prison for seven grim years. All of them were old, the youngest being Geoffroi de Charney, who was almost 60. Jacques de Molay was in his 70s, and had spent four years in solitary confinement.

The four men were finally led onto a platform in front of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral to hear the charges and make their public confessions. The charges were read, and two of the men accepted their fate of perpetual imprisonment and were led away.

But Jacques de Molay, and his trusted follower Geoffroi de Charney, did not follow suit. Weakened with age and imprisonment, de Molay shouted in a voice that startled the assembly that he and the Templars were innocent of all the charges. They were returned to their cells at once, while Phillip called together his council and quickly pronounced sentence, using the insane logic of the Inquisition; if they had recanted their confessions, then they were considered “relapsed heretics,” and the penalty was the stake.

Late that afternoon, de Molay and de Charney were led to the place of execution, which was a tiny isolated island adjacent to the Isle de la Citè, called the Ile-des-Juifs, the “Island of the Jews.” The condemned men could see Notre Dame Cathedral in the east, but the site was not chosen for their view. Rather, it was chosen so that King Phillip could enjoy the entertainment without leaving his palace just across the River Seine.

Each man was stripped down to his shirt and tied to the stake. Jacques de Molay, with unbelievable courage, asked not only that he be turned to face the Cathedral, but that his hands be freed, so that he could die at prayer. His request was granted. The two men were roasted alive by the Inquisitional method that began slowly with hot coals, so that their agony could be prolonged as much as possible. It was dusk on March 19th, 1314.

When the Pont Neuf was built, the Île des Juifs was joined to the rest of the Île de la Cité, and today there are not one but two plaques near the bridge to commemorate this event. According to legend, Jacques de Molay did not go to his God in silence. Instead, he died defiantly shouting his innocence and that of the Templars, calling on King Phillip and Pope Clement to meet him before the throne of God in one year’s time, where they would all be judged together. Creepily enough, both men, relatively young, would be dead within the year. One month after the death of de Molay, Pope Clement V, age 54, died, it was said of cancer. Phillip the Fair, age 46, would die in a hunting accident probably brought on by a stroke. He died on November 29th.

A non-Masonic order of modern Knights Templar claim deMolay appointed a successor to himself secretly, and the order survived the centuries. Masonic Templars make no such claim, but the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem tells the tale that DeMolay’s skull and leg bones were pulled from the ashes and secretly buried with the document of succession, called the Larmenius Charter. Others claim that during the French revolution, as King Louis XVI’s head was chopped off by the guillotine, someone rushed up from the crowd and proclaimed, “Jacques De Molay, Thou art avenged!”

The gruesome death of Jacques de Molay is the last act of the Templar story. At least, the last act of the accepted, scholarly story of the Knights Templar that is told, in names and dates, between the covers of the history books. But in reality, his death is only the beginning. It’s the beginning of the myth of the Knights Templar, which is the maelstrom around which an endless stream of fact blended with speculation swirls, unabated.

(Adapted from The Templar Code For Dummies)

National Geographic's "Secrets of the Knights Templar"

The National Geographic Channel will rerun its program about the Knights Templar in the week before Easter. Secrets of the Knights Templar will air Monday, April 6, 2009, at 9 PM ET/PT, as part of a pre-Easter lineup purporting to explore the "secrets" of Christianity.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Book: "The American Fraternal Sword"

"Are we knights?"
"Do you want to be?"

Remember in National Treasure when young Benjamin Gates finds grandpa's Knight Templar sword in the attic? That scene gets repeated in real life every day in dozens of attics and basements. They can be from the Masonic Knights Templar, the Knights of Pythias, the Catholic Knights of Columbus, the Grand Army of the Republic, or a bumper crop of other fraternal groups who jumped on the drill team bandwagon after the Civil War ended. When the war ended, the military uniform and sword suppliers went looking for new business, and like Harold Hill selling band uniforms in The Music Man, they created a craze for marching and sword drilling in parades. Men returning home from the war sought the camaraderie and the trappings of military life (made far more enjoyable by not having people shooting at them anymore, and knowing they could go home at the end of the day). Thus, the fraternal sword came to be a treasured possession for literally hundreds of thousands of men across the US, from the 1860s up through today (albeit in much smaller numbers these days). Some were plain, some were ornate, but all were the symbol of a modern knighthood, and a tradition of honor and chivalry.

A new book has just been published that will make identifying that long hidden fraternal sword simpler. The American Fraternal Sword: An Illustrated Reference Guide by John D. Hamilton, Joseph Marino and James Kaplan. According to the website, it contains more than 900 color photos, showing almost 600 different swords, arranged by organization, with a directory of manufacturers, organizations and their insignia. Pricey ay $79.99, but absolutely invaluable for collectors, dealers, and your Templar commandery.

John D. Hamilton was the curator at the Scottish Rite's National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts for many years, and he is the author of "Material Culture of the American Freemasons."

Thanks to Mark Tabbert for the heads up on this.