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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages, by Thomas Keightley, [1837], at

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Officers of the Order--The Master--Mode of Election--His Rights and Privileges--Restraints on him--The Seneschal--The Marshal--The Treasurer--The Draper--The Turcopilar--Great-Priors--Commanders--Visitors--Sub-Marsh al--Standard-bearer.

AN order consisting of so many members, and whose wealth and possessions were of such extent, must necessarily have had numerous officers and various ranks and dignities. The elucidation of this branch of their constitution is now to engage our attention.

At the head of the order stood the Master, or, as he was sometimes called, the Great-Master * of the Temple. This personage was always a knight, and had generally held one of the higher dignities of the order. Though, like the Doge of Venice, his power was greatly controlled by the chapter, he enjoyed very great consideration, and was always regarded as the representative of the order. In the councils, the Masters of the Temple and the Hospital took precedence of all ambassadors, and sat next the prelates. All monarchs conceded princely rank and place to the Master of the Temple.

A situation which offered so much state and consideration

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must, of necessity, have been an object of ambition; but the scanty records remaining of the society do not enable us to point out any specific cases of intrigue employed for the attainment of it. That of the last Master, hereafter to be mentioned, is somewhat problematic.

The election of a Master of the Temple was as follows:--

When the Master was dead, an event which always occurred in the East, as he was bound to reside there, if it took place in the kingdom of Jerusalem, and the marshal of the order was on the spot, he took upon him the exercise of the vacant dignity till, with the aid of the chapter and of all the bailiffs on this side of the sea (i.e. in the East), he had appointed a great-prior to represent the Master. But this election did not take place till after the funeral. Should the death of the Master have occurred in the province of Tripolis, or that of Antioch, the prior of the province took the direction of the order till the great-prior was appointed.

Owing to the constant state of war which prevailed in the East, and to other causes, a considerable space of time occasionally intervened between the death of one Master and the appointment of his successor. During the interregnum the society was directed by the great-prior who bore the seal of the Master.

When the day appointed for the election was arrived, the great officers of the order and all the bailiffs who were invited to be present assembled in the place selected for holding the election--generally the chapel of the order. The great-prior, taking several of the knights aside, consulted with them; and they then made two or three or more of the knights who were most highly-esteemed retire. The great-prior took the voices of those present on the merits

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of the absent knights; and he who had most in his favour was declared the electing-prior. The knights were then called in, and the choice of the assembly notified to them. A knight, possessing the same virtues of piety, love of peace, and impartiality with himself, was then assigned for an assistant to the electing-prior: and the whole assemblage withdrew, leaving the two alone in the chapel, where they passed the entire night in prayer.

Early next morning, after performing their usual devotions and hearing the mass of the Holy Ghost, the chapter re-assembled. The great-prior then exhorted the two electing brethren to perform their duty truly and honestly. These, then retiring, chose two other brethren; these four chose two more, and so on, till the number amounted to twelve, in honour of the apostles. The twelve then chose a brother-chaplain to represent the person of Jesus Christ, and maintain peace and concord. It was necessary that these thirteen should be of different provinces--eight of them knights, four serving-brethren, and one priest. The thirteen electors then returned to the chapter, and the electing-prior besought all present to pray for them, as a great task had been laid on them. All then fell on their knees and prayed; and the great-prior solemnly reminded the electors of their duty, and conjured them to perform it truly and uprightly. Having again implored the prayers of the assembly, the electing-prior and his companions retired to the place appointed for their deliberations. If the electors, or the majority of them, declared for any knight on this or the other side of the sea, he was appointed; if they were divided into parties, the electing-prior came with one of the knights, and, informing the assembly of the circumstance, asked their prayers. All fell on their knees, and the two

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electors returned to their companions; if they now agreed, the person whom they chose was declared Master.

Should the object of their choice be, as was not unfrequently the case, actually present in the chapter, the thirteen came in; and the electing-prior speaking in their name, said, "Beloved sirs, give praise and thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, and to our dear Lady, and to all the saints, that we are agreed, and have, according to your command, chosen, in the name of God, a Master of the Temple. Are ye content with what we have done?" All then replied, "In the name of God!" "Do ye promise to yield him obedience as long as he lives?" "Yea, with the help of God!" The electing-prior then turned to the great-prior, and said, "Prior, if God and we have chosen thee for the Master, wilt thou promise to obey the chapter as long as thou live, and to maintain the good morals and good usages of the order?" and he answered, "Yea, with the aid of God!" The same question was then put to some of the most distinguished knights; and if the person elected was present, the electing-prior went up to him, and said, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, we have chosen you brother, N. N., for Master, and do choose you!'' He then said, "Beloved sirs and brethren, give thanks unto God: behold our Master." The chaplains then chanted aloud the Te Deum laudamus, the brethren arose, and, with the utmost reverence and joy, taking the new Master in their arms, carried him into the chapel, and placed him before the altar, where he continued kneeling while the brethren prayed, the chaplains repeating Kyrie Eleïson, Pater noster, and other devotional forms.

The election of the Master of the Temple required

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no papal confirmation: the choice of the chapter was conclusive. Two knights were assigned to him as his companions.

The allowances and train of the Master were suitable to the rank which he was to support in the world, and to the dignity of the order which he represented. He was allowed four horses, and an esquire of noble birth. He had a chaplain and two secretaries; one for managing his Latin correspondence, whom he might, after a time, admit to become a knight of the order; the other, who was called his Saracenic secretary, and who was probably an eastern Christian, for carrying on his Arabic correspondence with the Infidels. He had, moreover, a farrier, a cook, and a Turcopole *, two footmen, and a Turcoman , to serve as guide. On a march, the Turcoman rode on a horse behind an esquire: during the time of war he was led by a cord, to prevent his escape. On any ordinary journey, the Master might take two beasts of burden with him; but in war-time, or in case of his going beyond the Jordan, or the Dog's Pass , he might extend the number to four, which the statutes thriftily direct to be put into the stable when he arrives at the house where he is going to stop, and to be employed in the service of the house. The Master was finally commander-in-chief

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of the order in the field; and then, like the Spartan kings, he could act in some degree unfettered by the chapter. When he died, he was buried with great solemnity and pomp, by the light of torches and wax tapers--an honour bestowed by the order on no other of its members. All the knights were required to attend the funeral; and the prelates were invited to give their presence at it. Each brother who was present was to repeat 200 Pater nosters within seven days, for the repose of the soul of the deceased; and 100 poor persons were fed at home in the evening, with the same design.

On the other hand, the Master was bound to obey the chapter; and he could do nothing without consulting some of the brethren. He could not nominate to any of the higher dignities of the order; but he might, with the advice and consent of some of the most reputable knights, appoint to the inferior priories and preceptories. He could not sell, or in any other way dispose of, any of the lands of the order, without the consent of the chapter; neither could he make peace or truce without their approbation. Their consent was also required to enable him to make any alteration in the laws of the society, to receive any person into it, or to send a brother beyond sea. He could take no money out of the treasury without the consent of the prior of Jerusalem, who was the treasurer of the society. In fact, the Master of the Temple was so curbed and restrained in every way, and his office made so much an honorary one, that his dignity may best he compared with that of a Spartan king or a Venetian doge. It is rather curious that the Master of the Temple should be thus limited in authority, when the abbot of the Benedictines, whose rules the Templars in a great measure adopted, enjoyed monarchical power.

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Next in rank to the Master stood the seneschal, who, as his name denotes *, was the Master's representative and lieutenant. He had a right to be present at all chapters of the order; and to be acquainted with all transactions of consequence. He was allowed the same number of horses as the Master; but, instead of a mule, he was to have a palfrey: he had two esquires, and was assigned a knight as his companion; a deacon acted as his chaplain and Latin secretary; he had also a Saracenic secretary and a Turcopole, with two footmen. Like the Master, he bore the seal of the order.

The marshal, was the general of the order; he had charge of the banner, and led the brethren to battle. All the arms, equipments, and stables of the order were under his superintendence. It was he who nominated the sub-marshal and the standard-bearer. Like all the other great officers, he was appointed by the Master and the chapter. As we have seen, when the Master died in the kingdom of Jerusalem, the marshal occupied his place till a great-prior was chosen. The marshal was allowed four horses, two esquires, a serving-brother, and a Turcopole.

The office of treasurer of the order was always united with the dignity of preceptor of the kingdom of Jerusalem. This officer had the charge of all the receipts and expenditure of the order, of which he was bound to give an account, when required, to the Master and the chapter. The wardrobe of the order was also under him; and the draper was assigned as his companion, without whose knowledge he could not dispose of any of the clothes. As the ships, though few in number, which the Templars possessed, were under him, he may be regarded as,

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also, in some sort, the admiral of the order; and on this account the preceptor of Acre was subordinate to him. The treasurer had the same allowance of horses, &c. as the seneschal.

The draper had charge of the clothing of the order: he was to see that each brother was decently and properly dressed. His allowance was four horses, two esquires, and a pack-servant.

The Turcopilar was the commander of the light horse. All the armed serving-brethren and the Turcopoles were under his command. He was himself subordinate to the marshal. When he was going into action, some of the knights were sent with him. These were under his orders; but if their number amounted to ten, and they had with them a banner and a knight-preceptor, the Turcopilar became subordinate to this officer; which proves that the office of Turcopilar was not one of the higher dignitaries of the order. The Turcopilar was allowed four horses.

Besides these offices of the order in the East, there were the great-priors, great-preceptors, or provincial-masters (for the terms are synonimous) of the three provinces of Jerusalem, Tripolis, and Antioch; and the preceptors, who were subordinate to them.

The great-prior of the kingdom of Jerusalem was also treasurer. His office has been already noticed. The great-priors of Tripolis and Antioch had the superintendence over the brethren and the possessions of the order in these provinces. They had the same allowances of attendants and horses as the seneschal. The prior of Antioch, when on a journey to Armenia, which bordered on his province, and in which the order had possessions, was allowed to take with him a chaplain and a portable chapel, as the Armenians were monophysite heretics, with whom

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the orthodox brethren of the Temple could not join in worship.

The prior of the town of Jerusalem had peculiar duties to perform. It was his office, with ten knights who stood under his command, to escort the pilgrims on their way to and from the Jordan--one of the principal objects of the institution of the order. On this occasion he had with him the banner of the order and a round tent, into which he might take any persons whom he should find sick when he encamped; he was also to take with him provisions, and beasts of burden on which to place such of the pilgrims as might be fatigued on the return.

When the true cross was brought forth on any expedition, it was the duty of the prior of Jerusalem to keep by it, with his ten knights, night and day, and to guard it; he was to encamp close to it; and two brethren were to watch it every night.

All the secular knights who associated themselves to the order in Jerusalem were under his orders, and fought beneath his banner. All the brethren of the order who were in Jerusalem were, in the absence of the marshal, under his command. One half of the booty captured beyond the Jordan fell to him, the other half to the prior of the kingdom.

As we have seen above, the West was, like the East, divided into provinces of the order. Each of these provinces was presided over by a lieutenant of the master, named the provincial-master, great-prior, or great-preceptor, with his chapter and officers corresponding to those of the kingdom of Jerusalem. He was appointed, as it would appear, by the Master and chapter; and when entering on his office, he bound himself by oath to defend the Catholic religion, not only with his lips, but with arms and all his strength; to follow the rules drawn up by St. Bernard; to obey the Master; to come over the sea to his

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aid whenever it was necessary; to defend him against all unbelieving kings and princes; not to fly before these unbelieving foes; not to alienate the goods of the order; to be loyal to the prince of the country; to be chaste; and to aid all spiritual persons, especially the Cistercians, by words and by deeds.

Under the provincial-masters stood the priors, bailiffs, or masters, who governed large districts of the provinces, and had under their inspection several of the houses of the order and their preceptors. They dwelt in large temple-houses, with a good number of knights; they had the power of holding chapters, and of receiving members into the order.

The preceptors were subordinate to the priors; they presided over one or more houses. They were generally knights, but they were sometimes priests. They were of two kinds--house-preceptors and knight-preceptors; the former, as their name denotes, merely presided over the houses, and might be priests or serving-brethren; the latter, who were probably only to be found in the East or in Spain, led each ten knights in the battle.

Another office to be found among the Templars was that of visitors. These were knights, who, as the representatives of the Master, visited the different provinces of the order, especially in the West, to reform abuses, make new regulations, and terminate such disputes and law-suits as were usually reserved for the decision of the Master and the chapter. All the provincial officers, even the great-priors, were subject to the visitors, as the representatives of the Master. The powers of the visitors ceased as soon as the business ended for which they were sent, or when they were recalled.

Besides the foregoing offices, which were almost exclusively confined to the knights, there were some inferior ones appropriated to the serving-brethren.

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Preceptory, Swingfield, Dover
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Preceptory, Swingfield, Dover


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[paragraph continues] These offices were five in number--namely, those of sub-marshal, standard-bearer, farrier, cook, and preceptor of the coast of Acre. Each of these was allowed two horses.

The sub-marshal had the charge of all the inferior sort of accoutrements (le petit harnois) of the order, in which the horse-furniture seems to have been included. All the handicraftsmen of the order were under him, and were obliged to account to him for their work. He supplied them with the needful tools and materials; could send them where he pleased on the service of the house; and on holidays give them permission to go from one house to another to amuse themselves. The sub-marshal and the standard-bearer were each the representative of the other in his absence.

The standard-bearer had the command over all the esquires of the house; that is, those who were engaged for a limited time in the service of the order, whom he was bound to make acquainted with the rules to which they were subject, and the punishments to which they were liable in case of disobedience; he was also to pay them their wages. Whenever the esquires took the horses out to graze, he was bound to precede them with a standard of the order. He always presided at the table of the serving-brethren and esquires. When the order was marching to battle, it was his task to ride before the standard, which was borne after him by an esquire, or carried on a wain *; he was to lead whithersoever the marshal directed him. When the battle commenced, those esquires who led the horses of the knights were to combat behind their masters; the others were to take the mules on which their masters rode, and remain with the standard-bearer, who was to

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have a banner rolled about his lance, which, when he saw the marshal engaged in action, he was to unfurl, and draw up the esquires in as handsome order as possible behind the combatants, in order to support them.

The serving-brethren were eligible to the office of house-preceptor; but there was this distinction made between them and knights who held that office, that, the serving-brethren being allowed but one horse, their esquire was a serving-brother. As Acre was the sea-port at which all the shipments of the order to and from Europe took place, the preceptory there was necessarily an office which entailed a good deal of toil and business on the person who held that situation, and required a knowledge of commerce and of the affairs of the world. It was therefore not considered suitable to a knight, and was always given to a serving-brother. The serving-brethren were also set over the various farms and estates of the order. These were named the brother-stewards,--in Latin, grangiarii and preceptores grangiarum,--and were probably selected from the craftsmen of the order. They were allowed two horses and an esquire.


253:* Magister, Maistre, is the almost invariable expression in the historians, the statutes of the order, and most documents. Magnus Magister was, however, early employed. Terricus, the Master of the order, thus styles himself when writing to Henry II. of England. The term Grand-Master is apt to convey erroneous ideas of pomp and magnificence to the minds of many readers.

257:* The Turcopoles were the offspring of a Turkish father, by a Christian mother; or also those who had been reared among the Turks, and had learned their mode of fighting. The Christians employed them as light cavalry; and the Templars had always a number of them in their pay.

257:† The Turcomans were, as their name denotes, born Turks. The Christians used them as guides on their expeditions.

257:‡ Le pas de chien. Münter (p. 66) declares his ignorance of where it lay. It was evidently the dangerous pass at the Nahr-el-Kelb, (Dog's River), near the sea, on the way to Antioch.

259:* Seneschal is one qui alterius vicem gerit. Charpentier Supplem. ad Dufresne Gloss. iii. p. 759.

264:* The Carroccio of the Italian republics.

Next: Chapter VIII