(Reuters) - A medieval Christian military order spawning myths and whispers of clandestine power that fuel best-sellers, the Knights Templar have captivated imaginations ever since they emerged from obscurity in the 1100s.
With the publication of a reproduction of the minutes of trials against the Templars (5,900 euros a copy), the Vatican will let scholars examine some of the accusations of heresy and sexual misconduct that spurred their downfall.
Seven hundred years ago almost to the day since they were arrested, fact and fiction are hard to distinguish on the topic. But following are some tips for modern worldly travelers on the KT trail:
-- JERUSALEM: The Templars took their name from the Temple Mount and their headquarters were in a building that now makes up part of the Al Aqsa Mosque. Baldwin II, the Crusader king of Jerusalem, gave them the headquarters in 1123, which led to them taking the name.
-- BERLIN: Tempelhof, the site of the Berlin airport of the same name which became famous during the 1948 airlift, started out as a commandry -- a district controlled by a member of the order, with a headquarters for members -- of the Knights Templar. A village called Tempelhof developed around it and is now part of the city of Berlin.
* SKILLS TO DEVELOP:
-- Swordsmanship. Originally founded to protect Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, the order assumed greater military duties during the 12th century.
-- Crusading drive. Following the success of the First Crusade 1095-99, a number of Crusader states were established in the Holy Land -- but they lacked military strength to maintain more than a tenuous hold over their territories.
-- Community spirit. Most Crusaders had tried to return safely home after fulfilling their vows but many Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem were attacked by Muslim raiders. Around 1119, some knights led by Hugh de Payns vowed to protect the pilgrims and form a religious community for that purpose.
* OATHS TO SWEAR:
-- The Knights Templar swore oaths of poverty, chastity and obedience and renounced the world, just like the Cistercians and other monks. (However the Templars eventually acquired great wealth and owned properties scattered throughout western Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Holy Land.)
* DATES TO AVOID:
-- It was only when Philip IV ordered the arrest on October 13, 1307, of every Templar in France and sequestered all their property there, that most people became aware of the extent of the alleged crimes of the order. Some speculate that this is one reason why Friday 13th came to be known as unlucky.
* HOW TO JOIN?
-- We haven't tried it but this looks like an option: www.osmth.org/.
Sources: Reuters/www.Britannica.com/Berlin’s official website.
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