Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hugh de Payens' mysterious mission

As we saw in the presentation, the Order of the Temple was officially founded in the Holy Land in 1118. However, we will actually see that the official recognition of the Order in 1118 is merely an extension to a "mission" or "inquiry" started nearly 10 years earlier...

It has been demonstrated and accepted by all historians that Hugh de Payens made at least two trips to the East following the first Crusade, in 1104-1105 and in 1114-1115, accompanied on each occasion by Count Hugh of Champagne.
Let us turn our attention to the Count of Champagne. He was one of the kingdom's main feudalists, some 4 to 5 times richer than the King of France! Highly influenced by a certain religious form of mysticism, his links with Etienne Harding, the Abbot of Citeaux who reformed Benedictine thought to form the Cistercian movement, were close to say the least. The links were so close that Etienne Harding invited a monk from the Abbey of Chaise-Dieu, a specialist in Hebraic texts, to Citeaux in 1115 - coinciding just days after the Count of Champagne's return from the East! That very year, that same Count of Champagne took a young monk (Bernard) from Citeaux under his wing by offering him some land in the areas under his control in Clairvaux. From then on, the Abbey of Clairvaux and the thought of the future Saint Bernard were to reign throughout the Christian world during the 12th century...

In 1118, the Order of the Temple's "nine" founders included a certain André de Montbard, who was none other than Bernard of Clairvaux's uncle. It is worth mentioning that the Council took place in Troyes, the birthplace of Hugh de Payens and the Count of Champagne, who joined the Knights Templar in 1126 to follow the orders of a former vassal after forsaking his wife, children, wealth and power... Although it has not been proven that Bernard of Clairvaux actually managed the council, he nevertheless had a great influence on the drafting of the order's rule by introducing the concept of the warrior monk, in the strict tradition of his thought, urging the nobility to forego its private wars and serve the faith.

The chronology can be summarized as follows:
1104-1105: Hugh de Payens and the Count of Champagne go on a pilgrimage to the East
1105-1114: It is not known whether Hugh de Payens returns at the same time as the Count of Champagne, but we know that he is definitely back in France in 1110 due to a charter that he signed personally. In 1109, Etienne Harding is appointed Abbot of Citeaux. His links with the Count of Champagne are close.
1114-1115: The two Hughs travel back to the East. We know that Hugh de Payens remains there. The Abbot of Citeaux starts studying Hebraic texts. The Count of Champagne takes Bernard under his wing and gives him the land of Clairvaux.
1118: Bernard's uncle is with Hugh de Payens when Jerusalem's patriarch grants them the Temple of Solomon for their quarters in 1118.
1118-1126: Gray area - all we know is that the Knights Templar are digging beneath the Temple of Solomon by the former stables. There is nothing to prove or disprove any comings and goings between Jerusalem and Champagne. The Knights Templar do not appear to be credited with any feat of arms during this period.
1126: The powerful Count of Champagne forsakes his wife and children, and gives up his fortune and powers to join the Knights Templar, under the command of Hugh de Payens, his former vassal.
1127: Hugh de Payens and five knights of the Temple return to Champagne, and the Council of Troyes is held to officialize the Order of the Temple and grant it complete independence from the secular clergy and the temporal sovereigns, under the leadership of Etienne Harding and Bernard of Clairvaux.
Things are a bit clearer. The origins surrounding the creation of the Order of the Temple were more or less a family affair and everything revolves around the County of Champagne and the Cistercian movement: the main founders and their intellectual guides originated from the Count of Champagne, and their other companions came from the house of the Princes of Flanders, crusaders and pilgrims right from the outset.

All that remains is the motive, the aim, the goal... The fact that the names of Bernard of Clairvaux and Etienne Harding always crop up when talking about the founders of the order sheds some light on the religious and even mystical foundation of the order's origins. But let us not be fooled - from a technical point of view, nine knights could not protect the pilgrimage routes against the constant presence of the enemy. In addition, the order did not recruit any knights for 10 years, even though the Count of Champagne's fortune was more than ample to have hired some muscle. One of the richest princes in the Kingdom of France does not give up his riches and family to police the pilgrimage routes and follow the orders of a vassal, even for the deepest faith. There has to be something else.
They set off in search of something in the East. Something that was essential for Bernard's and Etienne's religion. Something that could only be found in the Holy Places. Something so secret that only the Pope had a hold over the order. Something so fabulous that only the blood ties of the founders could protect it... Everything can be explained as follows: the "reconnaissance" journeys in 1104 and 1114, the study of the Hebraic texts in 1115 in Citeaux, the excavations beneath the Temple of Solomon from 1118, etc. In 1126, they found what they were looking for: the Count of Champagne gave up all he owned to join them. In 1127, the secret had to be kept safe: the Council of Troyes made the Knights Templar untouchable and turned them into an army to defend the Holy Places.

So what were they looking for... and what did they find? The Holy Grail? The architectural secrets to increase the influence of Gothic art from the 12th century? The Ark of the Covenant? Some esoteric knowledge relating to Islam? Documents on Jesus Christ? No one knows for sure... but one thing is certain - the Order of the Temple was not founded as part of the simplistic aim to protect pilgrims traveling the routes, but in response to a long thought-out process, even a mystical quest that might have been financed by the Cistercian monks, Etienne (Stephen) Harding and Bernard of Clairvaux.

1 comment:

LionHeart said...

God bless you Highlander

What is your interpretation for a Knight of Christ's responsibilities in this our generation?