15 Ranks of the Knights Templar

 “Grand Master * Seneschal * Commander of the Kingdom of Jerusalem * Commander of the City of Jerusalem * Commander of Tripoli and Antioch * Drapier * Commander of Houses * Commander of Knights * Knight Brothers * Turcopolier * Under Marshal * Standard Bearer * Sergeant Brothers * Turcopoles * Elderly Brothers

The Knights Templar were a crack force of armed monks, established in 1129 to protect pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem, and then employed to defend the Crusader kingdoms of Outremer. After the fall of Outremer to Turkic and Egyptian forces, the Templars no longer had a function for a medieval Europe without any appetite for crusading, and in 1312 they were suppressed by the Pope, under pressure from the French King Philip IV. His reason was straightforward: the throne was bankrupt and he wanted the Order’s considerable wealth—lands bequeathed to them, priories in all the nations of Christendom and a banking business. Because of the violence and suddenness of their suppression (and the accusations of heresy levied against them) a conspiratorial glamor continued to attach to the name of the Order, in contrast to its rival Hospitaller Knights of Saint John (who had the good sense to take over the island bases of Malta and Rhodes and still to an extent survive as a charitable institution). Indeed, the traditions of the Templars—or, to give them their full name, ‘The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon’—would be enthusiastically mined some 400 years later by the quasi-Templar Freemasonry Lodges established in Europe and North America.

During their heyday, the Templars Grand Master was the absolute ruler over the Order and answered only to the Papacy. The Seneschal acted as both deputy and advisor to the Grand Master. The Commander of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Commander of the City of Jerusalem, and the Commander of Tripoli and Antioch had the same powers as Grand Master within their own jurisdictions. The Drapier was in charge of the Templar garments. The Commander of Houses and the Commander of Knights acted as lieutenants to higher authorities within the Order. The Knight Brothers were the warrior-monks who wore the white tunic and red cross. Each was equipped with three horses and apprentice-like squires. The Turcopolier commanded the brother sergeants in battle. The Under Marshal was in charge of the footmen and the equipment. The Standard Bearer was one of the sergeants and charged with carrying the order’s banner. The Sergeant Brothers were warriors who did not have proof of eight quarterlings of noble blood and thus had but one horse and no squires to assist them. The Turcopoles were local troops who would fight alongside the Templars. Sick and Elderly Brothers were no longer fit for active service but still members of the order.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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