The structure of the Order was very rigid, looking more like a military organisation that a religious fraternity. However the power of the leaders was not absolute. Leaders were elected and assemblies or councils assisted and controlled their actions and decisions. At the top of the hierarchy was the Master of the Temple known at the present time as Grand Master although this term was never used by the Templars. He had the same power as a Father Abbot now. He had to support the weak and to impose the discipline and the rules to the members. He was assisted by a Council of wise and able members of the Order. But for the important decisions all the Chapter was assembled as well as the Council of the Chapter. However the Brothers had to obey his orders. He also nominated the heads of the different Offices. Every knight was allowed one Squire. Knights and Sergeants could be accepted in the Order for a limited period of time without taking the vows but they were not allowed to wear the “white dress, symbol of the Knights of the Temple. The Sergeants and squire wore black or brown cloaks. The Templars had also some lay-brothers, knights or sergeants that want to live a normal life outside the order but participated in their actions. They had to live outside the houses of the Brothers. In the same way women were excluded from these houses as considered dangerous to these brothers who had made vows of chastity. (r)
The Order had many provinces:
– In the Holy Land they had three provinces, Jerusalem, Tripoli and Antioche. The house of Jerusalem in the Templum Domini is the main house. It is also the residence of the Master and of his two Deputies: the Commander of the land and the kingdom of Jerusalem that managed all the establishments of the province; the Commander of Jerusalem who protected and led the pilgrims. Two other Commanders led the two other provinces as representatives of the Master and with complete authority.
– In the occident, we have the provinces of France, England, Poitou, Provence, Aragon, Portugal, Pulia and Hungary. They are headed by Commanders, Masters or Preceptors according to the time. The continuous increase in wealth of the provinces especially in land as well as the dispersion of the properties led the Order to create sub-division of the provinces. (r)
In addition there was also detailed regulations called “Retraits” that clarified the official rule especially in relation to the authority of the leaders. Before all important decisions the Master had to ask the opinion of the Chapter (to give a piece of land, attack a castle, begin war or ask for a truce, to nominate the main Commanders and the principal dignitaries, …). All the money coming from overseas had to be presented to him before being taken in charge by the Commander of the Kingdom of Jerusalem who was also the Order’s principal treasurer in the East. The Master had at his disposal a part of the wealth of the Order if the Council of the Wise men agreed to it. He could also give present but within well-defined limits. The Master had four horses at his disposal. To help him he had two brother knights, a Chaplain, a clerk, a Sergeant and a valet. He also had a shoeing-smith, a secretary/interpreter, a soldier, a cook and two footmen. In addition he received a turcoman horse for his pleasure, two beasts of burden and a round tent. The “Retraits” summarises in one sentence the Master rights: “All the Brothers of the Temple must obey the Master and the Master must obey his convent”. The Seneschal was his main assistant, his lieutenant. He replaced the absent Master and had more or less the same helpers. The Marshal was the military commander of the Order. All the military resources were under his command. The various Commanders had very different responsibilities depending on where they were in charge. The “Retraits” give us a good idea of the daily occupation of the Brothers. Their day begins with a mass and prayers and could very well continue with a battle. In all cases the Brothers prayed many times during the day and, if possible, listened to the lecture of the Bible during the meals. The meals were in general very good in relation to the standard of the time. They all ate meat regularly. After the meal they gave graces. In the evening, after the bell had rung, the Brothers went to bed and the silence was imposed. All the Knights wore the same clothes of the same colour (white, brown or black dress). In particular They wore a white cloak. Their battle dresses were imposed by the Order and in line with the habits and necessities of the time. Their arms were the sword, the spear, the mass and the shield or ecu as well as three knifes. The Sergeants had black or brown clothes. Most of them had only one horse. The discipline was military and very strict. They could do very little of their own free will. The Templars were very often travelling two-by-two or in small number mainly on the roads. They followed the Rule as much as possible and gave the good example. The Order was open to all the Knights. It is believed that most of their recruits came from among the crusaders. Some of them joined the Templars instead of going home. They agreed this way to defend the Saint Sepulchre. Only adults (generally 18 years old and over) were accepted as Brothers. In order to accept a new Brother the Master assembled the Chapter. The ceremony was well defined in the “Retraits”. The discipline was maintained through the weekly convocation of the Chapter or assembly of the Brothers whatever their number was, small or large. The Templars wore their cloak. The ceremony began with a prayer followed by a sermon. Then every Brother that has made a fault must confess in public. In the absence of the guilty, the Chapter decided secretly the punishment and the chairman informed each one of the decision. The faults judged by the Chapter were those related to the Rule. The sins were dealt with in the confession. (r)
As it has already been mentioned the Master was elected. When a Master died the Marshal replaced him and organised the funeral. Prayers were said by the Brothers for a period of seven days and one hundred poor were fed. Moreover the Brothers fasted three Fridays and prayed for the election. The Commanders were asked to come to Jerusalem or to another town in the Kingdom. The first task consisted to elect a Grand Commander that would fill the interim. All the Brothers that could leave their post assembled on the day foreseen for the election in the place decided by the Grand Commander assisted by the Marshal and the three Commanders of the provinces of the Kingdom. The Grand Commander and his assistants selected some “prud’hommes” (wise men) of the Convent. After they had left he, with the Council, chose among them the Commander of the election as well as a Brother Knight as a Companion. The next day these two chose two more brothers; the four of them chose again two others and so on until twelve members have been chosen. Among the twelve members there must be 8 Knights and 4 Sergeants. This assembly of twelve brothers then elected the new Master. This procedure seems complicated but it was in large use at the time and gave positive result. (r)