On this day in 1128, Pope Honorius II grants a papal sanction to the military order known as the Knights Templar, declaring it to be an army of God. The Knights Templar were a military monastic order that came into being circa 1119 as a collection of French noblemen whose stated purpose was to protect pilgrims on the perilous route to Israel after the victorious First Crusade (1095-1099) opened up the Holy Land to Christian pilgrims.
They initially called themselves the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ, and they swore the vows of monkhood as well as knighthood, renouncing natural desires and swearing chastity, faith, obedience, discipline and poverty. King Baldwin II of Jerusalem was impressed and granted the knights, numbering only nine at the time, a portion of the Temple of Solomon (also the site of the Muslim al-Aqsa mosque) to use as a base. Thus they became known as the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple, or the Knights Templar for short. By 1125, Hugues de Payens, one of the Order’s founders, was making regular trips to Europe to recruit followers and lobby for funding.
Many noblemen and knights were smitten by the romance of belonging to and fighting for such an Order, and many pledged money and land to the Knights. Over the next two years, de Payens moved in the highest circles of Europe and France, spreading word and establishing the first Templar Preceptory in London, not far from the magnificent Temple Church inside the Inns of Court. de Payens finest triumph was when he caught the ear of Bernard of Clairvaux , an influential theologian and later canonised in 1174. de Payens was invited to make representations at the Council of Troyes in 1128. The Council endorsed the Order as a charitable organisation, and Bernard was tasked with drawing up what was later known as Latin Rule of the Templars, consisting of regulations that would form the core of the Rule of the Templars. The Rule followed many of the patterns of Bernard’s own Rule for the Cistercian Order of Monks.