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Catholic Dictionary




The first and most powerful of the military orders founded in 1118 for the defense of Jerusalem. Ten years later, they were approved by the Church and placed under the Pope's immediate jurisdiction. They followed the Benedictine Rule, taking the usual three vows and an additional crusader's vow. As dauntless fighters and fervent religious, they drew many to their ranks. Many died as martyrs. Difficulties with the clergy and internal dissensions caused King Philip the Fair of France to organize a crusade against them. Pope Clement V's approval for this crusade was then dishonestly secured. The Knights were tried for heresy and sacrilege, and their grand master was burned alive by order of Philip. In 1312 the Pope decreed the dissolution of the order but without condemning its members. It was mainly the greed of Philip IV that brought on the suppression of the Templars.