Hugues de Payens was born around 1070 in the village of Payns, about 10 km from Troyes, in the Champagne region of eastern France. He was a member of Count Hugh of Champagne’s court. He accompanied Count Hugh on pilgrimages to the Holy Land between 1104 and 1107 and for a second time in 1114. Hugues de Payens remained there after the Count returned to France in 1117. In 1125 his name appears as a witness to a donation, with the title "magister militum Templi" (Master of the Knights of the Temple). He both led and co-founded the Knights Templar with Godfrey of Saint-Omer.
Godfrey was a Flemish knight from Saint-Omer in Northern France. He came to Jerusalem about 1099 with his father William I, Lord of Saint-Omer and his son, Hugh of Fauquembergues. Hugues de Payens and Godfrey were so poor that they only had one horse between the two of them, which led to the image on the seal of the Templars of two men riding a single horse.
The nine founder knights of the Order were either blood relatives or related through marriage. The other knights were Payen de Montdidier, Archambaud de St. Agnan, Andre de Montbard, Geoffrey Bison, Rossal and Gondamer. Count Hugh of Champagne himself joined the Knights Templar on his third visit to the Holy Land in 1125.
As Grand Master, Hugues de Payens led the Order for almost twenty years. He established the Order's foundations as an important and influential military and financial institution. He visited England and Scotland in 1128, raising men and money for the Order. He founded their first House in London and another in Balantrodoch, near Edinburgh. He died of old age in Palestine on 24th May 1136 and his death was commemorated annually.
Along with Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Hugues de Payens created the Latin Rule, the code of behavior for the Order.
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