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The Mysterious History of the Knights Templar

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, April 17, 2024 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2316
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Materials for this program

Seal of the Templars, 1894

In the aftermath of the First Crusade, a quasi-religious military order of knights emerged as a new era of exchange between Europe and the Holy Land expanded in a complex environment of conflict and commerce.

The Knights Templar, more formally known as the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ of Solomon’s Temple, soon became one of the most powerful and wealthy orders of knights—a circumstance that contributed to both its mystique and its downfall as a target of King Philip IV of France.

Because of the Templar network across Europe and unprecedented commercial influence, the wealthy order soon took on a mantle of secrecy that followed it into the pages of history long after the order was suppressed in the early 14th century. When the last Grand Master Jacques de Molay and other Templar leaders were burned at the stake in 1314, the order ceased to exist. Or did it? Experts disagree, as vestiges of Templar influence are still apparent even today.

Historian Cheryl White examines the extraordinary beginnings, context, and ultimate end of the Knights Templar as part of a complex tapestry of changing life in Europe in the era of the Crusades. Can chivalry be more powerful than a king? Can an order of knights keep secrets from the Church? Was the Templars’ accumulated wealth from their early banking system seized and hidden from history? Is there treasure still waiting to be found in the recently discovered intricate underground tunnel systems of Templar fortifications?

White explores fact and legend about the role of the Knights Templar in history and turns a critical eye on its lasting impact as part of the great age of chivalry. The Middle Ages provide a rich backdrop for understanding the formation of the order and ultimately, its suppression and resulting mystery. The trial of the Templars, in a document known as Processus Contra Templarios, represents a fascinating find from the Vatican Secret Archives and reveals much about the true ending of the order in 1314. White seeks to parse fiction from the factual historical narrative about one of history’s most intriguing mysteries.

White is a professor of history at Louisiana State University at Shreveport where she teaches medieval and early-modern European history.

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