The Knights Templar were organized shortly after the First Crusade in 1119. Eight knights banded together to form the “Knights of the Temple of King Solomon” and protected the city of Jerusalem and all it stood for. Officially sanctioned by the church in 1129, the “warrior monks” of the Western world went on to become one of the richest organizations in the world at the time. However, their riches and power ultimately led to persecution on the pretext of eradicating homosexuality (among other crimes) in the XIV century.
Bernard of Clairvaux was an avid supporter of the Knights Templar, known for their strength and courage on the battlefield, and said of them:
A Templar Knight is truly a fearless knight and secure on every side, for his soul is protected by the armor or faith, just as his body is protected by the armor of steel. He is thus doubly-armed and need fear neither demons nor men.
The men initiated into the organization were strong, ethical, dedicated and loyal. They were warriors, bankers, negotiators, clergymen and great administrators. Through the fundraising for their cause, they acquired large tracts of land, money, shares of businesses, horses and labor from serfs. The organization grew to include chapters in England, Scotland, France, Portugal and Spain. By the XIV century, there were over 15,500 knights in their ranks.
Rumors about homosexual activities surrounded the Knights Templar from the beginning. It was documented that their initiation ceremony included acts of kissing and fondling of private parts among the men – something that only an escort was supposed to provide.
Despite the rumors, the Knights became even more powerful when the bill Omne Datum Optimum was issued by Pope Innocent II. The declaration ruled that the Knights owed no taxes, could cross from country-to-country with no restrictions and answered to nobody (becoming a completely sovereign organization).
They lived by the rules of “never retreat” and fought alongside the likes of king Louis VII of France and king Richard I of England.
However, their power ceased to protect them when king Philip the Fair decided to kill 2 birds with one stone: to annul his debts to the Templars and to claim all their wealth. On October 13, 1307 the king issued warrants for all-out arrests of the Knights Templar. Hundreds of French Templars were tortured into admitting they were guilty of heresy and the “obscene kiss.” One hundred three knights acknowledged their participation in the “obscene kiss”, which was part of the initiation process for the Knights Templar and considered homosexual in nature. All of these knights were put to death and burned at the stake, if they did not die from the injuries incurred from their torture at the hands of the Inquisitors first.
The ironic part of these arrests was that Philip, himself, was known to be gay. His court was full of male escorts, who he cavorted with regularly. His open patronizing of escorts was well known among the members of the church and the Inquisitors, who were hired to torture and kill thousands in order to steal their wealth. Despite his involvement with escorts and commonly known affection for sodomy, king Philip the Fair never suffered from selective justice.
The Knights Templar empire fell with these arrests and the impending charges that followed. The charges involving homosexuality included:
- Stripping of the man to be initiated and kissing on the navel, posterior and mouth (the “obscene kiss”)
- Telling young neophytes that unnatural lust was perfectly acceptable and indulged in commonly
Though the Knights were a group of powerful, smart and creative men, they lost their innovative business empire to aggressive greed dressed in garments of homophobia and heresy suppression.