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The Da Vinci Code: Sorting Fact From Fiction (3)

THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR

As we have noted previously, the idea of secrets and conspiracy are intriguing to the minds of all readers. The popularity of the television The X-Files a few years back shows that sprinkling mystery, hidden agendas, and government cover-up are a recipe for success. The Da Vinci Code, assuming that people know nothing about history, paint many hidden agendas and secrets to various historical people and groups, bringing excitement to the readers and they contemplate the possibility that a great secret has been revealed to them. The Knights Templar, due to the mystery of their sudden death, are subjected to such fanciful charges. Consider this excerpt from the Da Vinci Code:

“Sophie already looked troubled. ‘You’re saying the Knights Templar were founded by the Priory of Sion to retrieve a collection of secret documents? I thought the Templars were created to protect the Holy Land.’

‘A common misconception. The idea of protection of pilgrims was the guise under which the Templars ran their mission. Their true goal in the Holy Land was to retrieve the documents from beneath the ruins of the temple.’ (158).

The novel goes on to make a juicy connection:

“They took the treasure from the temple and traveled to Europe, where their influence seemed to solidify overnight. Nobody was certain whether the Knights had blackmailed the Vatican or whether the Church simply tried to buy the Knights’ silence, but Pope Innocent II immediately issued an unprecedented papal bull that afforded the Knights Templar limitless power and declared them ‘a law until themselves’ –an autonomous army independent of all interference from kings and prelates, both religious and political….

“Working in concert with France’s King Philippe IV, the Pope devised an ingeniously planned sting operation to quash the Templars and seize their treasure, thus taking control of the secrets held over the Vatican. In a military maneuver worthy ofthe CIA, Pope Clement issued secret sealed orders to be opened simultaneously by his soldiers all across Europe on Friday, October 13 of 1307” (159).

We noted in the last article that the Priory of Sion has been investigated to be a complete hoax and a fabrication from the mind of Pierre Plantard, who attempted to make himself the rightful heir as king of France through planted, forged documents. The Da Vinci Code declares that the Knights Templar were founded by the Priory of Sion (see above). Based upon this inaccuracy alone, we can throw out the other charges made about the Knights Templar as false.

But let us look to history and see who the Knights Templar really were. Below is an excerpt from an online encyclopedia:

“The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, popularly known as the Knights Templar, was one of the most famous of the Christian military orders. It existed for about two centuries in the Middle Ages, created in the aftermath of the First Crusade of 1096 to ensure the safety of the large numbers of European pilgrims who flowed towards Jerusalem after its conquest.

The Templars were an unusual order in that they were both monks and soldiers, making them in effect some of the earliest “warrior monks” in the Western world. Members of the Order played a key part in many battles of the Crusades, and the Order’s infrastructure innovated many financial techniques that could be considered the foundation of modern banking. The Order grew in membership and power throughout Europe, until it ran afoul of a French King and was suddenly and forcibly disbanded in the early 1300s.

The order was founded around 1119 by French nobleman Hughes de Payens, a veteran of the First Crusade. He gathered eight of his knight relatives, their stated mission to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land. King Baldwin II of Jerusalem gave them a headquarters on the Temple Mount, above what was believed to be the ruins of the Temple of Solomon. It was from this location that the Order took its name of Templar.

The Order grew rapidly because of support from key church leaders such as Saint Bernard de Clairvaux, and was exempt from all authority except that of the Pope. Because of this official sanction, the order received massive donations of money, land, and noble-born sons from families across Europe, who were encouraged to donate support as their way of assisting with the fight in the Holy Land. Templar Knights also fought alongside King Louis VII of France, King Richard I of England, and in battles in Spain and Portugal.

After Jerusalem was lost to Saladin in the late 1100s, the Crusades gradually wound down, and European support for the Order began to falter. In the early 1300s, a financial dispute with King Philip IV of France (also known as “Philip the Fair”) contributed to the official disbandment of the Order. On Friday, October 13, 1307 (a date possibly linked with the origin of the Friday the 13th legend), Philip had hundreds of French Templars simultaneously arrested, charged with over 100 crimes, and tortured by Inquisitors until they “confessed”. In 1312, under pressure from King Philip, Pope Clement V officially disbanded the Order at the Council of Vienne, and in 1314 the remaining Templar leaders in France were executed, some by being burned at the stake.” (Wikipedia.com)

The Da Vinci Code performs a masterful stroke by taking many historical facts and blending in conjecture and wishful thinking to make it seem as if the book is truly a historical novel. But the book made some key distortions about the Knights Templar. (1) Pope Clement did not order the execution of the Knights, but King Philip IV of France did. The link is made to the Pope to present the charge the Pope had been blackmailed by these “secrets.” There is no history to support the Code’s charge. (2) The Da Vinci Code declares that the Knights were “a law unto themselves” and were not subject to any power, political or religious. However, the Knights were under the power of the Pope. By trying to paint the Knights as without law, we can more easily swallow that their true purpose was to dig under the Temple Mount rather than helping Christian pilgrims along the dangerous route from Europe to Jerusalem. There is no historical data to suggest the Knights were involved in anything more than helping pilgrims financially and physically in Jerusalem.

Why should you care about these things? Who cares if The Da Vinci Code stretches the truth about the Knights Templar? The reason we need to be aware of this should be apparent: if Dan Brown is willing to stretch and manipulate history to purport a conspiracy concerning the Knights Templar, there is no reason to think he did not do the same with Jesus, the Bible, and the formation of the church. If we can show others that Dan Brown lied about things we do not care about (e.g. the Priory of Sion and the Knights Templar), then we can make a better case for ourselves about our defense about the things that do matter, the charges against Christianity. Through this, we can show that we are not simply defending “the party line” or our beliefs regardless of what information is revealed. Rather, we simply are seeking the truth and are able to show that Dan Brown “massaged” history to make his thriller.