Godfrey de Bouillon and the origin of the Templars.

                       ©  2002 - Sandy Hamblett

    Barber and Bate were correct when they highlighted the difference between the beginnings of the Templars and their demise. They wrote that there is a great contrast between the obscurity of Templar origins and the massive publicity given to their shocking demise.’  

Why should there be such a vast difference in the ‘beginnings’ of the Templars and in their end regarding historical documentation? 

     Some historians think that when Hugh de Payns and Godfrey de Saint-Omer approached Baldwin I they barely had ideas about the Order they wanted to inaugurate. They wanted to create a military group that would help protect pilgrims when they came to visit Jerusalem. The Knights Templar, as they became known, were to also protect the Holy Sepulchre of Christ in Jerusalem, as well as the visiting and travelling Christian pilgrims.

     Are we to believe that Hugh and his eight other companions spontaneously decided to carry out this venture? When and how did they arrive at this decision? Why did they take up this risky undertaking? 

Barber and Bate noted again that for contemporaries their activities were not noteworthy’

     Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem, agreed to the request they made for headquarters and granted them the Al Aqsa Mosque as their residence. One might wonder, in light of the above, why a King of Jerusalem would agree to the request of nine obscure Knights and give them such illustrious headquarters and accommodation? The simple answer is that he would not. The knights wer enot as obscure as all that and in fact had very close connections with Godfrey de Bouillon. 

The Templar origin as a whole is completely shrouded in mystery. Hugh de Payen is known as a ‘minor’ noble from Champagne. I have suggested in previous articles that the Knights Templar had their origins some twenty years before Hugh and his Knights ever approached Baldwin I. These same ideas have been expressed in many ways, most notably through the suggestion that behind the Knights Templar was a ‘secret society’. This perhaps is not as far fetched as it seems. The aims and activities of the early knights probably attest to some sort of cohesive organisation which directed those activities. There was not anything ‘sinister’ in this ‘secret society’ (which in our modern times equates a ‘secret society’ with all kinds of conspiracies).

     Guillaume de Tyre tells us that the Templars were formed by nine French knights in 1118. Others report that the Knights Templar were founded in 1118 or 1119. The most common assertions are based on two famous accounts; one by William of Tyre, the other by Jacques de Vitry. But neither were eyewitnesses to the accounts they described, indeed they were not even contemporaneous. William’s writes:

In this same year, [1118] certain noble men of  knightly rank, religious men, devoted to God and fearing him, bound themselves to Christ's service in the hands of the Lord Patriarch. They promised to live in perpetuity as regular canons, without possessions, under vows of chastity and obedience. Their foremost leaders were the venerable Hugh of Payens and Geoffrey of St. Omer. Since they had no church nor any fixed abode, the king, gave them for a time a dwelling place in the south wing of the palace, near the Lord's Temple. The canons of the Lord's Temple gave them, under certain conditions, a square near the palace which the canons possessed‘.

This account concurs with Jacques de Vitry. The date of around 1119 for a creation seems to be accepted by most scholars. Malcolm Barber suggested that a particularly horrifying attack on a group of pilgrims during  Easter 1119 may have been the impetus behind the founding of such an Order - an Order which stated that its aims included protecting pilgrims.

It is possible that the idea for the Knight Templars came much earlier than 1119. It would be logical as one would not expect the Order to announce itself on the public scene with no planning or forethought. Evidence for this can be seen in the close relationship of Hugh de Payens and his secular overlord, Hugh, Count of Champagne. One historian has suggested that the foundation of the Templar Order was decided upon in around 1113 and the assertion is based on the testimony of Bishop Ivo of Chartres in a letter to the Count of Champagne, where he pleads with the Count not to enrol in the militia ChristiThis was because he was still married. As the Bishop had already heard about the Count wishing to join the Order, Bulst-Thiele concluded that this was ‘probably the Order of the Temple without a name’.

   The Count was one of the greatest landowners in France and one of the most powerful lords of the twelfth century. His lineage is very interesting. Barber thinks that Hugh de Payens ‘took the cross’ after the death of his wife in the company of Count Hugh of Champagne. Hugh was born in a town on land owned by the Count and all the sites associated with the early Knight Templars in France were on land owned by this Count. The Counts role, therefore, in Templar history is elusive and could suggest an earlier date for the Templar creation.

    It seems reasonable to suppose that the Knight Templars can further be traced back to the time of the First Crusade, with decisions being taken at this time, but with the official foundation actually taking place in 1118.

    The fairly damning evidence that Lincoln et al offer regarding the date of the Templars’ creation and the policy of those early Templars in admitting new members convinces me that Guillaume was wrong in his date of 1118. The actual date of Templar creation is more likely to have been around 1111.  The Count of Anjou joined the order and which is on record as 1120. If the Order was created, and admitted no new members for nine years after its date of creation, then the admission of the Count in 1120, means that the Templars were created in at least 1111 which is pretty close to the evidence presented by Bishop Ivo's letter to the same Count. 

An earlier date for the creation of the Templars has been given in 1135 - 1140, by Simon, a monk of St. Bertin of Sith who dated this to c. 1099, just after the Crusades. This Simon of St. Bertin implies that the Knight Templar originated earlier, before the death of Godfrey of Bouillon in 1100: "While he [Godfrey] was reigning magnificently, some had decided not to return to the shadows of the world after suffering such dangers for God's sake. On the advice of the princes of God's army they vowed themselves to God's Temple under this rule: they would renounce the world, give up personal goods, free themselves to pursue purity, and lead a communal life wearing a poor habit, only using arms to defend the land against the attacks of the insurgent pagans when necessity demanded." In fact, Simon is saying that the Order was created on the 'advice of the Princes of God's Army'. 

The Princes' Crusade, as it became called had as its members the high nobility led by notable Western European princes: southern French forces under Raymond of Toulouse and Adhemar of Le Puy; men from Upper and Lower Lorraine led by Godfrey of Bouillon and his brother Baldwin of Boulogne; Italo-Norman forces led by Bohemond of Taranto and his nephew Tancred; as well as various contingents consisting of northern French and Flemish forces under Robert II of Normandy, Stephen of Blois, Hugh of Vermandois, and Count Robert of Flanders.

            Another witness is a bishop of Havellburg called Anselm, who wrote in 1145, and suggested the same date of around 1099. 

     As well as the more well known accounts of the Templar origins given by the likes of Guillaume de Tyre, there is an obscure account given by an individual known to posterity as Bernard the Treasurer. Bernard was a monk of Corbie and his account appears to have been copied from an earlier account tentatively identified as that of Ernoul. Ernoul was a servant of Balian d’Ibelin in 1187. Ernoul himself was not a living witness of the events he described but he does seem to have relied on a much earlier source for these events.  Regarding these accounts it has been noted that they do not at all correspond with Guillaume de Tyre. Indeed, this unknown source seems to have been very early. This is taken from internal evidence where events described do not mention events associated with the Temple after about 1120.

    We therefore have re-occurring but garbled dates and names in relation to the formation of the Templars & the order behind them. We have 1099, 1111 & 1118. The common denominator in this confusion always appears to be Godfrey de Bouillon.  Was Godfrey responsible for setting up an order after he conquered the Holy Land and reclaimed the Holy Sepulchre from the Infidel? Was he linked at all in any way to Hugh de Payens? 

There does appear to be a ‘real’ order  -  the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.  And research here might be more fruitful into the origins of the Templars. Godfrey ‘gathered’ around him 12 Knights - and these Knights were to protect the religious chapter of Canons who were serving at the Sepulchre of Christ when Godfrey and his army arrived. Most commentators are prepared to accept that Godfrey set up the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. All agree that there was a religious order of Canons of the Holy Sepulchre under the Rule of Saint Augustine who were to be protected by the new Knights formed by Godfrey de Bouillon. The Canons are never at any time said to be military. These Canons do appear to have been involved in one way or another with the military orders, and also with individuals trying to protect pilgrims and the Holy Sepulchre. For example a knight called Paganus managed to obtain a hall from these Canons of the Temple of the Lord so that he could recruit more men from among visiting knights. These Canons at the Temple and the Holy Sepulchre are said to have worked together. Was Paganus really Hugh de Payns?

    If Godfrey set his Order up in 1099 it makes sense that it was an ‘Order of the Holy Sepulchre’ - for this is what the Crusades were all about. Wasn’t the whole point to rescue Christ's’ Tomb from the Infidels? These Knights therefore protected the Christian presence at the Sepulchre for 20 years and then in 1122 Pope Callistus issued a Bull. This made them into a ‘lay religious community’ who were to guard the Sepulchre and the city of Jerusalem. This allowed me to deduce that the order had been set up c. 1102 - pretty close to the given date of 1099. Once Godfrey had liberated the Holy Sepulchre he set up residence on Mount Sion and within the walls of the Tower of David.

   Other recent research has suggested that the origins of the Temple can be found in the associations the knights formed with the canons of the Holy Sepulchre and that in 1120 they had received permission to form a separate group. Some other researchers have made a direct link between Godfrey de Bouillon, his clerics and canons and the Holy Sepulchre. Further, these ‘milites’ (ie men that fought on horses) were associated with the Holy Sepulchre. It seems these people may have been known as ‘milites christi’ or ‘milites sancti sepulchri’. It is posited that’s some ‘westerners’ (Godfrey’s retinue?) broke away from the Holy Sepulchre to form a military order. Bernard the Treasurer has no hesitation in identifying these persons as the earliest Templars. Bernard even refers to these Knights as wearing the Red Cross insignia - that of the Holy Sepulchre.

     It is my contention that Godfrey de Bouillon, once he had liberated the Holy Sepulchre, installed his Knights as well as canons into the Holy Sepulchre (this is a matter of historical record) as a military presence. Twenty years later out of this group came the Knights Templar. This appears to gain support when we realise that Bernard the Treasurer's account of the formation of the Templars did not ascribe any initiative on the part of Hughes de Payns. He also did not refer to the alleged reason the Templars were formed - that is, the protection of pilgrims. 

    It is Bernard who emphasis’s the Templars and their connection with the Holy Sepulchre. This of course includes the fact that the Templars’ liturgy was that of the Holy Sepulchre, that the ‘french rule’ (dating to 1140) stated that it was ‘l’ordinaire del Sepulchre’, and that the peculiar way the Templars built their churches were very often polygonal, inspired no doubt by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

    An 18th century theologian suggested that the Templars eventually became able to appoint their own priests and that they did this with the permission of the Pope. The theologian, Starck asserted that these ‘priests’ were the ‘inner order’ of the Knights Templar, and that they were ‘directly descended from the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre’  It is interesting that an 18th century theologian should have the same information that modern historians are just now coming to realise and identify! 

     Did the knights that accompanied Godfrey on Crusade become one and the same knights who he gathered around him at the Holy Sepulchre? Did the priests who came with Godfrey become later installed in the Holy Sepulchre to constitute the real ‘inner order’ and founders of the Knights Templar?  The connections between these people with Godfrey happen to be by blood ties, and here, we might see that Godfrey as the elected ‘Ruler of Jerusalem’, and also, in all but name, the King of Jerusalem because he was of the so called sacred line of the Merovingians, or at least someone who could trace his descent back to Charlamagne? This really counted for something among his soldiery.  

    These founding & early Templars were obedient to, and probably worked with Godfrey. Godfrey is known to have made his base at the Tower of David on Mount Sion. Godfrey built an abbey here and then fortified the existing structures. You may feel that all these ideas regarding secrecy around Godfrey and his setting up of an Order may be in the realms of fantasy. If I may just close this short article by referring you to a contemporary historian Albert of Aachen. On several occasions he described a group called the domus Godefridi, clientele Godefridior domus ducis. As one commentator suggested ‘this term may have referred to Godfrey’s immediate retinue rather than the entirety of the Frankish forces’. The members of this group appear to have constituted the key personnel through which Godfrey’s rule functioned. They were also instrumental in the accession of his brother Baldwin I. The domus Godefridi appear to have been obscure in origin. Albert of Aachen does, however, name and give information on the composition of some of this group. The group included higher clergy men. There were important Lotharingian men in this group and appear to be members related to Godfrey. Or if they were not blood relatives, they were close to Godfrey and came from the domains that Godfrey held back in Lotharingia (the old name for Lorraine).

     I suggest that the canons and Knights instituted by Godfrey later became the Knights Templar. Knowledge was probably held within the nobility and family members. When Bernard of Clairvaux championed the sanction and rule of the Templars - he already had family members from Champagne/Burgundy and the territories of Godfrey’s birthplace in the ranks of the Templars. Is it possible that the founders of the Templars are allied to these early Crusaders by family associations and knowledge handed down? They may have appeared as the founders, but in actual fact were just carrying on plans from twenty years before, begun by Godfrey de Bouillon.

     When Godfrey of Bouillon went on and became a leader of an army of the First Crusade, he liberated the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and then he needed to create a fighting force of men at arms to protect this newly one site. This fighting force, I believe, later became known as the Knight Templars. I believe Godfrey played a central role in the vision of these early Templars and that he achieved his aims via the knights he brought with him on Crusade. As Murray has recently pointed out it was the ties that Godfrey had with his knights and others, whom he went on Crusade with, that were ‘important in the Crusade and the early years of the kingdom’. It is precisely out of these early years in Jerusalem that the Templars appeared. 

In the Primitive Rule of the early Knights it is stated that each knight will be expected to:  ‘ … renounce  your own wills …. Serving the sovereign king with horses and arms, for the salvation of your souls… strive everywhere with pure desire to hear matins and entire service according to canonical law and the customs of the regular masters of the Holy City of Jerusalem

     Upton-Ward elaborates, telling us that the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre referred to above, had been given a rule and habit by Godfrey of Bouillon when he founded the community for the guarding of Christ’s Tomb. It is interesting to see the Primitive Rule associated with Godfrey of Bouillon. He is said to have been descended from Charlamagne, and to his army,  this meant more than anything else, and distinguished their leader from all the other princes on Crusade. To be born of royal blood signified a great deal at a time when kings could be seen as divine. It was Godfrey of Bouillon who was the first to enter the Holy City of Jerusalem when the Crusaders defeated their Saracen enemies. Two days later after the Conquest the princes and their chief lieutenants met in council to discuss the future administration of the city. The most pressing matter was: Who would be King of Jerusalem?  

Runciman reports: the leaders of the Crusade met at the Templum Domini & (they were) ordered that each man in the army would choose & ask God whosoever he wished … to govern the city. We have no information about the precise composition of the electoral college, although it is generally accepted that it was drawn from the Princes and leading clerics…’

Historians have stressed that it was the make up of the soldiery which led the First Crusade that was the ‘decisive’ factor in determining the early Jerusalem nobility. Jean Richard has suggested that the knights of the first two monarchs originated largely from the Duchy of Lotharingia & Boulogne. Prawer also made a similar point. He said that the  ‘majority of knights were of the House of  Bouillon’. The army was asked to vote and it follows that the vast majority of soldiery and knights on Crusade that came from the Bouillon - Boulogne camp determined who would be the first king of Jerusalem. They voted for Godfrey of Bouillon. As is well known, Godfrey refused the title of King, accepting the title ‘Advocate of the Holy Sepulchre’.

On several occasions Albert of Aachen (the official biographer of Godfrey of Bouillon) refers to a group known as the domus Godefridi, clientale Godefridi or domus ducis.  One commentator has observed that ‘this term may have referred to Godfreys immediate retinue’ as we noted aboveThe  group constituted members who were the ‘key personnel’ through which Godfrey ruled.  Prawer calls this group an ‘anonymous group of knights’  although on several occasions Albert of Aachen does name them. Looking at documents of the time it is clear that Godfrey had a group of trusted advisors: Baldwin of Boulogne, Cono of Montaigu, Rainald of Toul, Peter of Dampiere, Warner of Grez, Godfrey of Esche and Baldwin of Bourcq. 

Murray concluded: 

The most significant ties within the core group seem to have been derived from kinship... Each member was related in some way to Godfrey and Baldwin... a fact repeatedly reflected in the descriptions... by... Albert of Aachen’.

I think there is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that the earliest Templars originated in some way in plans created by Godfrey de Bouillon and his retinue of close kinship family and knights. His brother Baldwin I must have had some input and under the kingship of their cousin, Baldwin of Bourcq these knights were given the Al Aqsa Mosque as their residence.

As a closing point it is pertinent to note who became the first 'patron' [a person that supports an organization, especially by giving money:a person chosen, named, or honoured as a special guardian, protector, or supporter] of the Knights. According to The Cartulary of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem in England - the first Patron of the Knights Templar was indeed Eustace III, brother of Godfrey de Bouillon. Eustace died some time in 1125.

It seems obvious that the first protector and patron would be from the family who created the order in the first place.