The Knights Templar was an order of devout Christians founded in Jerusalem sometime between A.D. 1118 and 1119, after the First Crusade (1096-1099). The Order was created to protect Europeans traveling to the Holy Land, among other duties. The knights were known across Europe as an elite fighting force with a strict code of conduct and, eventually, immense wealth. For nearly 200 years, the Knights Templar were at the center of politics and finance in Europe and took part in the Christian military campaigns in the Holy Land. Then, in 1312, Pope Clement V officially dissolved the Knights Templar.
In the seventh century, a Muslim Arab army conquered Jerusalem and the Holy Land, ending Christian rule in the region under the Byzantine Empire, also called the Eastern Roman Empire. By the end of the 11th century, the Byzantine Empire had lost more territory to Muslim invasion, including more Christian holy sites, according to historian Peter Frankopan’s book “The First Crusade” (Belknap Press, 2012).
As a result, in A.D. 1095 Alexios I Komnenos asked Pope Urban II for assistance in fighting the Muslims. “His call for help was a desperate last roll of the dice for a ruler whose regime and empire was on the brink of collapse,” Frankopan wrote. In response, the pope called for the capture of Christianity’s holy sites in the Holy Land, beginning the First Crusade. “Nobody called it the First Crusade back then, but their objective was to get the holy places back under Christian control,” Malcolm Barber, emeritus professor of history at the University of Reading in the U.K., told All About History magazine in an email.