The Siren’s Call: What really happened to the Knights Templar?
A talk with Michael Haag, author of ‘The Templars: The History and the Myth.’ Why did they disappear? Blame it on the king of France, Haag says.
Well, in comparison to the egregious greed, cruelty and lies of the king of France, the Templars were honest in their faith and straightforward in their conduct. They should be remembered for their bravery, which was legendary, their dedication, which was absolute — a few dozen Templars could turn the weight of battle and save a kingdom. Their attrition rate was high: At least 20,000 Templars were killed either on the battlefield or after being taken captive and refusing to renounce their faith to save their lives. Without the Templars, the Crusader venture in the East would have lasted only half as long as it did. After the Battle of Hattin, in which Saladin was victorious, he ordered the decapitation in cold blood of all his Templar captives, a hundred men, fearing them above all others because “they have great fervor in religion, paying no attention to the things of this world.”
As builders of castles and churches, they were men of powerful vision and exquisite taste; they have left behind them in the Middle East today numerous beautiful monuments speaking of the Romanesque and Gothic styles of the France and England from which they came.
Tell us a little bit more about their organization as an elite task force – were they the first to submit only to papal authority? In defending the Holy Land, why was this direct line of obedience only to the pope so important?
In the late 11th century, the Church was involved in the Investiture Controversy over whether the secular powers of Europe or the papacy itself had the authority to appoint high church officials in each and every state. Secular kings and princes were eager to have the authority for themselves, as it would give them control over the great wealth and powers such officials could command. But in the event, it was an argument that the papacy won. Papal assertion did not end there; only the pope could establish a university or approve a monastic order; and when the Byzantine Empire sent to Rome for help against a fresh Muslim invasion, it was the pope who raised the First Crusade.
By means of a series of papal bulls in the early 12th century, the Templars were recognized as an independent and permanent order within the Catholic Church answerable to no one but the pope. Their “grand master” was chosen from among the ranks of Templar knights who conducted their elections free from any outside interference. The Templars were also given their own priesthood answerable to the grand master, which made the order independent of the diocesan bishops in both Europe and the East. The First Crusade itself had been called for by the pope, and the kingdom of Jerusalem, like the other Crusader states, owed themselves to papal initiative and the continuing goodwill and energy of the papacy for support and maintenance from the West. The pope did not want to see the Templars fall subject to religious or political rivalries. It is not that the pope actually controlled the Templars; rather, by owing allegiance to no one but the pope, the Templars maintained their independence from all and sundry and could give themselves freely and single-mindedly to their supreme task, the defense and preservation of the Holy Land.
Defending Jerusalem, you said earlier, was their reason for existing. When it fell, the Templars were in limbo, but didn’t they try to find a new mission for themselves?
The Templars were founded to protect pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem and other sites throughout the Holy Land. In time their task became to defend the Holy Land itself — not just Jerusalem but the several Crusader states which included the kingdom of Jerusalem, the county of Tripoli and the principality of Antioch. The city of Jerusalem fell to Saladin in 1187, though it changed hands several times thereafter, but meanwhile the new capital of the kingdom of Jerusalem became the port city of Acre, and when Acre fell in 1292 the Crusader venture was effectively over. Yes, there were a few attempts to regain the Holy Land, and the Templars, who were temporarily based in Cyprus, took the lead in these, but when finally they lost their tiny island outpost of Ruad in 1302, they looked highly redundant.
The Hospitallers were also a religious order of fighting monks, and they might have found themselves in the same boat as the Templars. But they quickly captured the island of Rhodes from the Byzantine Empire, which was Christian, and turned it into a state of their own, which allowed them to harass the surrounding Muslim powers and which also gave them protection from jealous Christian powers in Europe. The Hospitallers eventually retreated to Malta, finally to be driven out by Napoleon in 1798, though the order still exists and even has quasi-sovereign state observer status within the United Nations.
The Templars might have enjoyed a twilight existence in this way had they taken some large and defensible island, perhaps Cyprus, as their own. But instead of putting their own interests first, they so completely identified with their role as defenders of the Holy Land that they placed their trust in the pope and the king of France, Philip IV, who were contemplating launching yet another crusade. The Templar grand master Jacques de Molay and other high officers of the order were in France precisely to discuss such matters when they and all other Templars on French soil were arrested at dawn in October 1307 by Philip IV and accused of blasphemy and heresy.
When people ask, “Who were the Templars?,” they’re not using the correct verb tense, right? Some people believe they still exist today through their connections to the Freemasons and others.
In the mythic sense, the Templars are with us today, if only because many people wish it to be so. Such people include the Freemasons, some branches of which claim descent from the Templars who are said to have survived the persecutions of Philip IV and gone underground, to arise again wearing aprons and carrying trowels, among them such seditious figures as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. The French Revolution was blamed on the Freemasons, who some people with lively imaginations said were really the Templars in disguise. Bringing matters more up to date, the Templars are behind the World Bank, the IMF, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, and also NATO, the European Union, the United Nations and the Skull and Bones Society at Yale. All of this is discussed in my book.
But the claim that the Templars discovered America, on the face of it one of the most far-fetched claims of all, actually contains a great deal more than a grain of truth.
They were not eradicated everywhere throughout Europe. In Spain and Portugal, they had performed good service in the local crusades, what we now call the Reconquista, against the Arab occupation of the Iberian peninsula, and instead of being disbanded, they were simply reestablished under other names and given royal protection and favor. In Portugal, the Templars became the Order of Christ, and none less than Prince Henry the Navigator became their grand master, using Templar wealth and zeal to send ships down the coast of Africa and far out into the Atlantic, to the Azores and Madeira. The achievements of Vasco da Gama, who found the first sea route round Africa to India in 1498; of Ferdinand Magellan, who in 1519 initiated the first voyage round the world; and of Christopher Columbus, who discovered America in 1492, were all the fruits of Prince Henry the Navigator’s lifelong endeavor as Grand Master of what had been the Templars.
Thank you for your time.
The Siren’s Call appears monthly at www.latimes.com
Some people consider the Bilderberg Group, founded in 1954, an innocent brainstorming session, but the cloak-and-dagger theorists scored a point this week when the self-appointed Bilderberg expert Daniel Estulin addressed the European Parliament on the invitation of an Italian member, Mario Borghezio.
Mr Estulin, an investigative journalist who has written two best-selling books on the subject, contends that “the Bilderberg Club” is not a classic conspiracy but a potentially dangerous meeting of minds with a common goal: to centralise global economic power to benefit corporations. He defined it as “a virtual spider web of interlocking financial, political and industrial interests”.
“It isn’t a secret society,” he said. “No matter how powerful they are, no group sits around a table holding hands and deciding the world’s future. It is an ideology.”
Secret society or not, the speculation surrounding Bilderberg rivals the eternal question of who shot JFK – to the extent that one Spanish activist vowed he has sighted freemasonry symbols on the Sitges hotel. Being the meeting is secret, it is impossible to confirm which executives and lawmakers have checked into the spiffy Dolce, in the heart of golf-and-sunbathing territory. Politicians often deny participation. But according to press leaks, this year’s A-list participants include Queen Beatrix of Holland, Spain’s Queen Reina Sofia (supposedly a regular), World Trade Organisation Director Pascal Lamy, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, former NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and former Spanish vice president Pedro Solbes, known during his stint as an EU commissioner as “Mr Euro”.
Meanwhile, Extremadura Progresista, a left-wing newspaper from Extremadura, one of Spain’s poorest regions, published a list of participants on its website, including former Secretary of State for Business Peter Mandelson and the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne (although he’s currently in Asia), plus executives from Siemens AG, Microsoft, Royal Dutch Shell, Chase Manhattan Bank and Morgan Stanley International.
And what might this all-star cast be discussing between forkfuls of paella and sips of cava on a warm summer’s eve? Topics reportedly include everything from the possible failure of the euro and the creation of a global currency, to a military strike against Iran.
Another issue supposedly on the agenda is the financial meltdown in Greece, where last year’s brainstorming session was held. The irony is not lost on Spanish activists, who hope the Bilderberg “witches’ Sabbath” does not brew bad tidings for the troubled Spanish economy. “We joke that the horror film festival is starting early,” Didac Sanchez, an activist with the organisation EcoXarxa Montseny, told The Independent over the phone amid background chanting. “The monsters are here.”
Thursday’s protests, which attracted about 100 demonstrators, were paltry compared to previous anti-globalisation rallies in Catalonia – partly because chic-and-wealthy Sitges is not the sort of place to get ruffled about whatever a bunch of CEOs do in their spare time. But Bilderberg’s low profile also played a part.
“It’s so secretive that not even people in the leftist movements know about it,” Mr Sanchez said. “And it’s so frightening that people can’t even believe that it’s real. Some people theorise that they want to kill off half the world; others believe they’re directing the world’s finances. But we’re here to say it is real, it is happening.”
He expects momentum to build throughout the weekend, however. The carnival-inspired theme of the protest is “unmasking Bilderberg”. “We will set up a healing camp,” he said. “It will be a festival of cleansing.”
Who are these guys and what are they about??? Peyton 12/16/10
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So here we are with a Socialist Elite taking over the Democratic Party and trying to take over the world step by step as they take control of banks, food, jobs, media, how you think and what you eat. It is time to rise up with Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and many others trying to keep freedom and democracy alive. Peyton 12/9/10
But ordinary citizens can only guess at the goings-on at the annual meeting of the secretive Bilderberg Group, a media-barred pow-wow of the global elite that in the past has reportedly attracted former US President Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and David Cameron, and US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner. Even the late Enoch Powell once attended.
We have now been able to obtain the full official list of 2011 Bilderberg attendees. Routinely, some members request that their names be kept off the roster so there will be additional Bilderbergers in attendance.
- Coene, Luc, Governor, National Bank of Belgium
- Davignon, Etienne, Minister of State
- Leysen, Thomas, Chairman, UmicoreChina
- Fu, Ying, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Huang, Yiping, Professor of Economics, China Center for Economic Research, Peking UniversityDenmark
- Eldrup, Anders, CEO, DONG Energy
- Federspiel, Ulrik, Vice President, Global Affairs, Haldor Topsøe A/S
- Schütze, Peter, Member of the Executive Management, Nordea Bank ABGermany
- Ackermann, Josef, Chairman of the Management Board and the Group Executive Committee, Deutsche Bank
- Enders, Thomas, CEO, Airbus SAS
- Löscher, Peter, President and CEO, Siemens AG
- Nass, Matthias, Chief International Correspondent, Die Zeit
- Steinbrück, Peer, Member of the Bundestag; Former Minister of FinanceFinland
- Apunen, Matti, Director, Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA
- Johansson, Ole, Chairman, Confederation of the Finnish Industries EK
- Ollila, Jorma, Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell
- Pentikäinen, Mikael, Publisher and Senior Editor-in-Chief, Helsingin SanomatFrance
- Baverez, Nicolas, Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
- Bazire, Nicolas, Managing Director, Groupe Arnault /LVMH
- Castries, Henri de, Chairman and CEO, AXA
- Lévy, Maurice, Chairman and CEO, Publicis Groupe S.A.
- Montbrial, Thierry de, President, French Institute for International Relations
- Roy, Olivier, Professor of Social and Political Theory, European University InstituteGreat Britain
- Agius, Marcus, Chairman, Barclays PLC
- Flint, Douglas J., Group Chairman, HSBC Holdings
- Kerr, John, Member, House of Lords; Deputy Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell
- Lambert, Richard, Independent Non-Executive Director, Ernst & Young
- Mandelson, Peter, Member, House of Lords; Chairman, Global Counsel
- Micklethwait, John, Editor-in-Chief, The Economist
- Osborne, George, Chancellor of the Exchequer
- Stewart, Rory, Member of Parliament
- Taylor, J. Martin, Chairman, Syngenta International AGGreece
- David, George A., Chairman, Coca-Cola H.B.C. S.A.
- Hardouvelis, Gikas A., Chief Economist and Head of Research, Eurobank EFG
- Papaconstantinou, George, Minister of Finance
- Tsoukalis, Loukas, President, ELIAMEP GrisonsInternational Organizations
- Almunia, Joaquín, Vice President, European Commission
- Daele, Frans van, Chief of Staff to the President of the European Council
- Kroes, Neelie, Vice President, European Commission; Commissioner for Digital Agenda
- Lamy, Pascal, Director General, World Trade Organization
- Rompuy, Herman van, President, European Council
- Sheeran, Josette, Executive Director, United Nations World Food Programme
- Solana Madariaga, Javier, President, ESADEgeo Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics
- Trichet, Jean-Claude, President, European Central Bank
- Zoellick, Robert B., President, The World Bank GroupIreland
- Gallagher, Paul, Senior Counsel; Former Attorney General
- McDowell, Michael, Senior Counsel, Law Library; Former Deputy Prime Minister
- Sutherland, Peter D., Chairman, Goldman Sachs InternationalItaly
- Bernabè, Franco, CEO, Telecom Italia SpA
- Elkann, John, Chairman, Fiat S.p.A.
- Monti, Mario, President, Univers Commerciale Luigi Bocconi
- Scaroni, Paolo, CEO, Eni S.p.A.
- Tremonti, Giulio, Minister of Economy and FinanceCanada
- Carney, Mark J., Governor, Bank of Canada
- Clark, Edmund, President and CEO, TD Bank Financial Group
- McKenna, Frank, Deputy Chair, TD Bank Financial Group
- Orbinksi, James, Professor of Medicine and Political Science, University of Toronto
- Prichard, J. Robert S., Chair, Torys LLP
- Reisman, Heather, Chair and CEO, Indigo Books & Music Inc. Center, Brookings InstitutionNetherlands
- Bolland, Marc J., Chief Executive, Marks and Spencer Group plc
- Chavannes, Marc E., Political Columnist, NRC Handelsblad; Professor of Journalism
- Halberstadt, Victor, Professor of Economics, Leiden University; Former Honorary Secretary General of Bilderberg Meetings
- H.M. the Queen of the Netherlands
- Rosenthal, Uri, Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Winter, Jaap W., Partner, De Brauw Blackstone WestbroekNorway
- Myklebust, Egil, Former Chairman of the Board of Directors SAS, sk Hydro ASA
- H.R.H. Crown Prince Haakon of Norway
- Ottersen, Ole Petter, Rector, University of Oslo
- Solberg, Erna, Leader of the Conservative PartyAustria
- Bronner, Oscar, CEO and Publisher, Standard Medien AG
- Faymann, Werner, Federal Chancellor
- Rothensteiner, Walter, Chairman of the Board, Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich AG
- Scholten, Rudolf, Member of the Board of Executive Directors, Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AGPortugal
- Balsemão, Francisco Pinto, Chairman and CEO, IMPRESA, S.G.P.S.; Former Prime Minister
- Ferreira Alves, Clara, CEO, Claref LDA; writer
- Nogueira Leite, António, Member of the Board, José de Mello Investimentos, SGPS, SASweden
- Mordashov, Alexey A., CEO, Severstal
- Bildt, Carl, Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Björling, Ewa, Minister for Trade
- Wallenberg, Jacob, Chairman, Investor ABSwitzerland
- Brabeck-Letmathe, Peter, Chairman, Nestlé S.A.
- Groth, Hans, Senior Director, Healthcare Policy & Market Access, Oncology Business Unit, Pfizer Europe
- Janom Steiner, Barbara, Head of the Department of Justice, Security and Health, Canton
- Kudelski, André, Chairman and CEO, Kudelski Group SA
- Leuthard, Doris, Federal Councillor
- Schmid, Martin, President, Government of the Canton Grisons
- Schweiger, Rolf, Ständerat
- Soiron, Rolf, Chairman of the Board, Holcim Ltd., Lonza Ltd.
- Vasella, Daniel L., Chairman, Novartis AG
- Witmer, Jürg, Chairman, Givaudan SA and Clariant AGSpain
- Cebrián, Juan Luis, CEO, PRISA
- Cospedal, María Dolores de, Secretary General, Partido Popular
- León Gross, Bernardino, Secretary General of the Spanish Presidency
- Nin Génova, Juan María, President and CEO, La Caixa
- H.M. Queen Sofia of SpainTurkey
- Ciliv, Süreyya, CEO, Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri A.S.
- Gülek Domac, Tayyibe, Former Minister of State
- Koç, Mustafa V., Chairman, Koç Holding A.S.
- Pekin, Sefika, Founding Partner, Pekin & Bayar Law FirmUSA
- Alexander, Keith B., Commander, USCYBERCOM; Director, National Security Agency
- Altman, Roger C., Chairman, Evercore Partners Inc.
- Bezos, Jeff, Founder and CEO, Amazon.com
- Collins, Timothy C., CEO, Ripplewood Holdings, LLC
- Feldstein, Martin S., George F. Baker Professor of Economics, Harvard University
- Hoffman, Reid, Co-founder and Executive Chairman, LinkedIn
- Hughes, Chris R., Co-founder, Facebook
- Jacobs, Kenneth M., Chairman & CEO, Lazard
- Johnson, James A., Vice Chairman, Perseus, LLC
- Jordan, Jr., Vernon E., Senior Managing Director, Lazard Frères & Co. LLC
- Keane, John M., Senior Partner, SCP Partners; General, US Army, Retired
- Kissinger, Henry A., Chairman, Kissinger Associates, Inc.
- Kleinfeld, Klaus, Chairman and CEO, Alcoa
- Kravis, Henry R., Co-Chairman and co-CEO, Kohlberg Kravis, Roberts & Co.
- Kravis, Marie-Josée, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, Inc.
- Li, Cheng, Senior Fellow and Director of Research, John L. Thornton China Center, Brookings Institution
- Mundie, Craig J., Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Microsoft Corporation
- Orszag, Peter R., Vice Chairman, Citigroup Global Markets, Inc.
- Perle, Richard N., Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
- Rockefeller, David, Former Chairman, Chase Manhattan Bank
- Rose, Charlie, Executive Editor and Anchor, Charlie Rose
- Rubin, Robert E., Co-Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Secretary of the Treasury
- Schmidt, Eric, Executive Chairman, Google Inc.
- Steinberg, James B., Deputy Secretary of State
- Thiel, Peter A., President, Clarium Capital Management, LLC
- Varney, Christine A., Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust
- Vaupel, James W., Founding Director, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
- Warsh, Kevin, Former Governor, Federal Reserve Board
- Wolfensohn, James D., Chairman, Wolfensohn & Company, LLC