The Far Right's Embrace of Knights Templar is About BigotryRoundup
tags: far right, medieval history, Crusades, Knights Templar
Thomas Lecaque is Associate Professor of History at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, located on Baxoje, Meskwaki and Sauk lands. He has written for The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and The Bulwark. Follow him @tlecaque on Twitter.
In 1302, the island of Arwad, off the coast of Syria, fell to Mamluk forces. The Templar garrison died in the assault. The Templar had lost their last stronghold in the Holy Land, and while the other major military orders were building new states—the Teutonic Knights in Prussia and the Knights Hospitaller in Rhodes—the Templar never found a new purpose.
Five years later, on October 13, 1307, the Templars in France were arrested, followed a month later by the papal bull Pastoralis praeeminentiae, which called for the arrest of all Templar knights and the seizure of their property. And five years after that, at the Council of Vienne, Pope Clement V issued Vox in excelso (voice from on high), the bull that formally dissolved the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon—better known as The Knights Templar.
Seven hundred and ten years ago, the Templar ceased to exist. And, despite all of the conspiracy theories; all of the neo-Templar groups; and all of the films and video games and other nonsense; the Templar lost, were disbanded, and died.
And yet the far-right still loves, emulates, and honors them. Because it’s not about tradition, or faith, or history, and it’s not about “winning.” The Templars—despite their slightly more complicated history—are loved for the same reason the Confederates are, or the Nazis, or any of a laundry list of unlovable losers noted for their bigotry and violence and hate are. The hate is the point—the Templars just provide another flavor of it.
Take retired Lieutenant Colonel Allen West, a former representative from Florida and Chair of the Texas GOP, who has the support of Christian nationalists like David Barton and apocalyptic Islamophobes like Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin. He is now a member of the so-called “Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, Knights Templar,” one of the many modern takes on the defunct order. Perhaps unsurprisingly, alongside a photo of West in a neo-Templar cloak, he claims that, “I took an oath to protect the Christians in the Holy Land.”