In January 1120 the Knights Templar were formed to protect Christian pilgrims in their journey from Jaffa to the Holy Land. This order had humble beginnings, with just nine knights including Godfrey de Saint-Omer and André de Montbard. They relied on donations and had few financial resources. Their emblem was two knights riding on a single horse, to emphasise their poverty.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a French abbot who founded of the Cistercian Order of monks was a nephew of André de Montbard. He was a great advocate for the Templars and wrote on their behalf in his letter “In Praise of the New Knighthood.” In 1129, at the Council of Troyes, he led a group of leading churchmen who officially approved and endorsed the order on behalf of the church. With this formal blessing, the Templars became a favoured charity throughout Christendom. Suddenly, they received money, land and businesses and gradually became a wealthy organisation. Sons from noble families were eager to help and joined in with the fight in the Holy Land.
In 1139 Pope Innocent II exempted the order from local laws. This ruling allowed the Templars to pass freely through all borders, they were not required to pay taxes and exempt from all authority, except that of the pope. Templar knights, wore distinctive white mantles with a red cross, were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades. 90% of the order’s members, though, were non-combatant and managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom.
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