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The Power Officially endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church in 1128, the Order became a favored charity across Europe and grew rapidly in membership and power. Templar knights, in their distinctive white mantles each with a red cross, were among the best fighting units of the Crusades.

Non-combatant members of the Order managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom, inventing or adapting many financial techniques that were an early form of banking, and building many fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land.

The Success The Templars' success was tied closely to the Crusades; when the Crusaders were defeated and lost the Holy Land, support for the Order faded. Rumors about the Templars' secret initiation ceremony created mistrust, and King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Order, began pressuring Pope Clement V to take action. In 1307, Pope Clement condemned the Order's members, having them arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and burned at the stake.

In 1312, Pope Clement, under continuing pressure from King Philip, disbanded the Order. The abrupt disappearance of a major part of the European infrastructure gave rise to speculation and legends, which have kept the "Templar" name alive until the present.

The Secrecy The secrecy around the powerful medieval Order of the Knights Templar, and the speed with which they suddenly disappeared over the space of a few years, has led to many different Knights Templar legends. These range from rumors about their association with the Holy Grail, to questions about their association with the Freemasons.

Recent speculation about the Templars has further increased because of references to them in bestselling books such as The Da Vinci Code. The Templars were mentioned in association with the Freemasons in "National Treasure". In the movie Founding Fathers such as Benjamin Franklin were listed as members.

Legends Many legends surround the location of the Templars' first headquarters on the Temple Mount, which had been assigned to them by King Baldwin II of Jerusalem. They were in operation there for 75 years. The Temple Mount is sacred ground to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and is believed to be the location of the ruins of Solomon's Temple, and the ancient resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.

Pseudo-historical books such as The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail claim that the Templars discovered documents hidden in the ruins of the Temple, "proving" that Jesus survived the Crucifixion or possibly "proving" Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had children by her. Indeed, the supposition that the Templars must have found something under the Temple Mount lies at the heart of most Templar legends and pseudo-historical theories.

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