Having some years ago, during a pilgrimage to the Holy City of Jerusalem, gained admission to the courts of the ancient Temple of the Knights Templars, which still exists on Mount Moriah in a perfect state of preservation as a Mussulman Mosque, and having visited many of the ruined fortresses and castles of the ancient order of the Temple, whose shattered walls are still to be seen at intervals in Palestine and in Syria, from Gaza to Antioch, and from the mountains of the Dead Sea to the shores of the Mediterranean, I naturally became greatly interested in the history of the order, and in the numerous remains and memorials of the Knights Templars still to be met with in various stages of decay and ruin in almost every part of Europe.
The recent restoration of the Temple Church at London, the most beautiful and the best preserved of all the ancient ecclesiastical edifices of the western provinces of the Temple, first suggested to me the idea of writing a short historical account of the varied fortunes of that great religious and military fraternity of knights and monks by whom it was erected, and of their dark and terrible end.
Born during the first fervour of the Crusaders, the Templars were flattered and aggrandized as long as their great military power and religious fanaticism could be made available for the support of the Eastern church and the retention of the Holy Land; but when the crescent had ultimately triumphed over the cross, and the religious and military enthusiasm of Christendom had died away, they encountered the basest ingratitude in return for the services they had rendered to the Christian faith, and were plundered, persecuted, and condemned to a cruel death by those who ought in justice to have been their defenders and supporters.
The memory of these holy warriors is embalmed in all our recollections of the wars of the cross; they were the bulwarks of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem during the short period of its existence, and were the last band of Europe’s host that contended for the possession of Palestine. To the vows of the monk and the austere life of the convent, they added the discipline of the camp, and the stern duties of the military life, joining “the fine vocation of the sword and lance” with the holy zeal and body-bending toil of a poor brotherhood. The vulgar notion that they were as wicked as they were fearless and brave, has not yet been entirely exploded; but it is hoped that the copious account of the proceedings against the order in this country given in the ensuing volume, will dispel many unfounded prejudices still entertained against the fraternity, and excite emotions of admiration for their constancy and courage, and of pity for their unmerited and cruel fate.