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C.4.1 The Story of the Scottish Templars

C.4 Other Traditions

The Knights Templars are, by tradition corroborated in part by history, linked with Freemasonry in Scotland after the suppression of their Order. The Templars, after the defeat of Acre, had to leave the Holy Land. They settled temporarily in Cyprus and in their numerous commanderies in Western Europe, but principally in France. Philip IV, known also as Philip the Fair, was King of France and Clement V had become Pope with the intervention of Philip. He chose Poitiers as his residence and he had to promise to repay the King of France with some favours, one of them is believed to be the suppression of the Templars. Clement V summoned the heads of the Military Orders to Poitiers and Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Templars, went there. On Friday the 13th of October 1307, King Philip ordered the arrest of all the Templars in France under the accusation of heresy. Jacques de Molay and most of the French Templars were sent to prison, tortured until they accepted to confirm the accusations, and tried. A little later Pope Clement V excommunicated all the Templars and ordered their arrest in all the countries under his influence. The Templars who refused to confess the crimes of which they were accused were sent to jail for life, or burned at the stake. Jacques de Molay who retracted his confession was burned at the stake in Paris on the 11th of March 1314. The Order was completely suppressed in France and in most Western Countries and its possessions confiscated. Outside France, however, no Templar was ever condemned to death.

Some scholars believe that the order did not disappear completely and that, on the contrary, it survived in a different form. They also believe that Jacques de Molay’s powers were transmitted to a certain Larmenius who created the Order of the Temple. In Scotland, where they previously owned many properties, most Templars escaped and, according to the legend, joined Robert Bruce’s army in his war against King Edward of England.

According to one legend the Templars fought victoriously with the Scots at the battle Bannockburn on St.John the Baptist’s Day in 1314. After the battle a new order was founded, the Royal Order of Scotland, to accommodate the Templars. Robert Bruce is also credited with the creation of the Order of St. Andrew of the Thisle and the Order Royal Order of Heredom, this last one to regroup the Scottish Masons who had participated in the same battle. There is however no evidence that the Templars joined any of these orders and this legend is most probably a pure invention.

According to another legend, the French Grand Master of Auvergne, Peter d’Aumont, fled to Scotland with seven other knights disguised as Operative Masons. In Scotland they founded a new secret order and they called themselves Francs Masons (from French or free). When they established themselves in England they changed their name again and they now called themselves Freemasons. It is on this legend that the Baron Von Hund founded his rite of Strict Observance. This doctrine was not well received in Germany but grew fast in France.

In reality it was the Chevalier Ramsay who invented the doctrine of the Templar origin of Freemasonry and the d’Aumont legend. This last one is pure fiction. To reconcile in some way the supposed heretical behaviour of the Templar with the Christian faith of the Scottish Masons, a third legend was created. Accordingly, after the abolition of the Templars the clerical part of the Order, the chaplains and priests, escaped to Scotland to revive it and to transform it in Freemasonry. Again there is no historical support for this legend.

It is believed that some Templars fled to Scotland and joined the building fraternities and the Knights of St. John, but this does not mean that these two organisations are the continuation of the Templars Order.