Templars by the Numbers
Historical accounts tell that in 1307 when the king of France went after the Order of the Temple, there were approximately 15,000 Templars. Of these, about 3,000 were knights, 1,000 squires, and 3,000 sergeants. The rest were priests, masons, smiths, medical personnel, lawyers, financiers, clerks, cooks, farmers, and assorted other occupations. During the time the Templars were in the Holy Land, there were also “Associates,” noblemen who served for some time in the Templars as punishment for a crime and did not take vows, but had to live like monks nevertheless. They underwent training and joined in fighting if deemed able, not as knights but in a lesser capacity. Most likely, there was a special place in the ranks for them.
The numbers in the Templar Order didn’t vary significantly in the last two decades prior to 1307 that they were in existence. The number of commanderies (geographic groupings of castles, forts, farms, and other possessions) were reduced with the loss of the Holy Land, but these men were absorbed into commanderies in Europe. This was the usual process when combat personnel became too old, infirm, or disabled, they were sent to a commanderie in Europe to work in one of the many farms, mills, or if literate, act as a clerk. If unable to work, they were allowed to lead a life of quiet contemplation. It was an egalitarian system, in as much that sergeants were given similar consideration as knights, took similar vows and were well respected.
Templars’ lives were austere and simple. When the French king ordered his men to find valuables in Templar castles in 1307, they were disappointed to discover that the monks actually lived in poverty. All the talk of a dissolute and luxurious life had been a fable.
Knights came from the middle and lower nobility, and sergeants from the merchant and working class.
Pages became squires and squires became knights. Grooms became sergeants. All took monastic vows, but not until a person became a sergeant or a knight was he eligible to take the appropriate permanent vows of dedication to serving Christ and loyalty to the Order. Grooms, pages and squires did not take permanent vows, and many in fact left the Order voluntarily, or by failing to make the grade.
Sergeants were there to support and assist their assigned knight, but also functioned as trainers of the squires to make them into knights.. So for a year or two, the proud knights took orders from lowly sergeants, who were the molders and shapers of the mightiest force of its time, the holders of the skills and abilities that made a Knight Templar.
The Language the Templars Spoke
Templars spoke the Lingua Franca (the language of the Franks) what later became French. Sergeants spoke a mixture of Lingua Franca and other languages, a mixture that varied from country to country and region to region. Knights spoke a higher form of this language, closer to what was known as Provencal, the language of the court in England. Hardly anyone in any court spoke the local language. If you wanted to get ahead in that medieval world, be it as a guilds man, a merchant, a Templar, or a nobleman, you spoke the Lingua Franca.
The Templars in Europe
The commanderies in Europe had mostly non-combat personnel. There were a few combat Templars to provide protection, but mostly the farmers, millers, bankers, lawyers, diplomats, and clerks worked to keep the farms and financial institutions going. In so doing, the Templars amassed substantial assets. They received many gifted lands and other properties, but their financial empire was all of their own doing. They started out by issuing letters of credit to traveling merchants, who could purchase a letter in their name to be redeemed only by them at their destination. This effectively thwarted robbers. The Templars also loaned money to the kings of England and France and other noblemen. By 1307, European finances could not function without the Templar bankers.
The Templars In The Holy Land
The First Crusade saw the virtual conquest of the Holy Land by the Christian armies, who established a number of kingdoms and counties, including Jerusalem. They held it for a scant century before the Muslims, first the Egyptians but lately the Turks who had taken over the Egyptian army, started taking back much of the territory. In the last decade in the Holy Land, the Templars and all Christian armies had been reduced to five coastal cities including Acre and Beirut, and a few isolated castles, including Pilgrim. Acre fell to the Turks on May 28, 1291 a turning point in Templar history for it signaled the beginning of the end of European presence in the Holy Land. Pilgrim Castle, which sat a scant few miles away waited for the fatal blow for months. But on August 14th, before the Turks arrived, everyone in the castle left.