Films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, National Treasure, and The Da Vinci Code have helped further myths about the Knights Templar, a Christian military group that existed in medieval times. These soldiers worked to protect fellow Christians who were traveling through Western Europe, and in that time, they managed to amass massive amounts of money and treasure while making enemies of the French monarchy. Historical movies that twist stories about the Templars have created some fascinating myths about the Christian soldiers.
Many religious conspiracy theorists believe the Knights Templar used their vast amounts of wealth to escape France in the early 1300s in order to hide the Holy Grail, but the real story of this religious group is actually much simpler. When debunking myths about the Knights Templar, all one needs to do is simply look at the facts. The stories about the Templars are very cool and make for great fiction, but the actual history of the Knights Templar is just as interesting as anything Dan Brown could ever invent.
The Reality: When King Philip IV of France grew tired of the Knights Templar, he tried to dismantle them. Even though he claimed the group was taking part in Satanic rituals and lusty pastimes, most historians believe he really just wanted their wealth for himself.
Templars were imprisoned throughout the fall of 1307, beginning on Friday, October 13, of that year. Some superstitious scholars even tie the history of Friday the 13th all the way back to the 13 guests at the last supper, suggesting the number is an omen of destruction.
Why The Myth: The myth of Friday the 13th tying in with the Knights Templar was thrust into the limelight by Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. In the book, Brown says the imprisonment of the Templars on the 13th is responsible for our distrust of this spooky day, but it's more likely that a conflation of multiple events plays into the superstition.
The Reality: In spite of the esoteric markings and references to the Knights Templar inside Scotland's Rosslyn Chapel, there's no actual evidence that the Templars had anything to do with building the remarkable church. The Templars were wiped out in 1307, 150 years before construction on the chapel began. A few Templars are rumored to have made their way to Scotland and hid the remains of their treasure in the church during construction, but this is little more than speculation.
Why The Myth: The idea that the surviving Templars took their religious loot with them to Scotland is intriguing, and the strange carvings in the church definitely add to the idea that something cryptic happened during construction. On top of that, there's almost no documentation relating to the beginnings of Rosslyn. The rumors were obscure until the adaptation of Brown's The Da Vinci Code was filmed on site, sparking an increase in visitation.
The Reality: Ruling between 965 BCE and 925 BCE, Solomon was supposedly one of the wealthiest kings of Israel. It's rumored that he built a temple to house his cache of gold and the Ark of the Covenant, the chest that stored the Ten Commandments. His temple was wiped out about 400 years after his reign, however, and his riches were plundered, becoming the stuff of legend.
There's no conclusive evidence about whether the Knights Templar found Solomon's treasure. If they did, they did not document its new location, so its wonders are likely lost forever.
Why The Myth: The Knights Templar were one of the wealthiest groups of their time. They accumulated vast riches by inventing the modern banking system. The fact that they were also on the hunt for religious artifacts makes it easy to assume they hoarded what was left of Solomon's treasure.
The Reality: In 1867, a British archeological team discovered a series of 82-feet-deep tunnels fanning out vertically and horizontally underneath a mosque on the site of the temple mount in Jerusalem. The tunnels ran all the way to King Solomon’s temple and the inside was littered with items belonging to the Knights.
While it's possible that some Knights made their way to Jerusalem after the order was decommissioned by King Philip IV, the tunnels under the mosque likely don't belong solely to the organization. The Knights who made their way to Jerusalem were probably just continuing their mission.
Why The Myth: The Knights genuinely were collectors of religious artifacts, so it makes sense that the survivors of the great Knights Templar purge of the 14th century would continue searching for answers in their holy land. They're also rumored to have found King Solomon's treasure, which adds to the idea that they would have been the ones digging tunnels beneath his temple.