Biblical Archaeology,  Israel,  Paul Backholer

The Knights Templar and Israel’s Lost Treasures

What happened to the lost treasures of the Templar Knights? In our quest to discover the legacy of the Knights Templar, we explored the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Templar Tunnels in Acre, the Crusader Castles in the Middle East and the Temple Church in London. But who were the Knights Templar?

Even those from afar shall come and build the Temple of the Lord

– Zechariah 6:15

The Templar Knights existed for approximately two centuries during the Middle Ages. They were considered to be the Special Forces of the Crusader period, for their skilled fighting units and expertise. As European Knights their mission was to serve and protect pilgrims to the Holy Land, originally gaining little for themselves.

In 1129, they were officially endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church and they helped free the Holy Land from Islamic rule, setting up their base in Jerusalem on the sacred Temple Mount. This order of Knights made pilgrimages safe for Christians to visit the Holy Land and operated a medieval banking fund, allowing a pilgrim to put money into a ‘Templar Bank’ in London and withdraw it in the Middle East. With the charges on these exchanges and the glory earned for their skills, the Templar Knights became wealthy and spent their riches building churches around Europe, and Castles in the Middle East.

During this period, the Knights Templar had full access to the Temple Mount, where Solomon’s Temple once stood. Consequently, some have claimed that this order excavated on the Temple Mount and found the golden treasures of Solomon, including the Ark of the Covenant and smuggled them back into Europe, to hide them all beneath various churches in France, England or Scotland etc.

However, this powerful order, which was once the hero of all Europe, fell out of favour with the King of France and their secret initiation ceremonies led to mistrust and accusations. Many were tortured into confirming charges made against them and in 1312, the Pope dissolved them.

The rapid disbanding of the premier European organisation of their age and the transfer of their wealth into other hands, led to the proposal that their treasures were spirited away and hidden in various churches, never to be seen again.

The Temple Church in London was built in the late 12th century by the Knights Templar as their English headquarters. Designed to resemble the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, it is now famous for the effigy tombs, where Knights lay in wait for the resurrection. This church is featured in The Da Vinci Code.

The crypts of many ancient chapels have been sealed for many years, allowing imaginations to project fantasies that the Holy Grail, the Templar Treasures or the Ark may be in a subterranean vault, below the secret stairway.

Those who search after the treasures of the Knights Templar follow clue after clue, from stained glass windows and architectural mysteries to ancient images. This quest for the treasure of the Templar Knights has more in common with Hollywood, than history.

The Knights Templar continues to inspire imaginations because they are regularly portrayed in books, on TV, films and in computer games. When a rich and powerful organisation suddenly falls and its wealth vanishes, the unanswered questions left behind remain to tantalise subsequent generations. Over the centuries, facts and myth intertwine and legend begins. Nevertheless, in the modern era, new investigations propose that the financial problems of the King of France made the dissolution of the Templar Knights a convenient act, which helped solve many of France’s problems.

Some have alleged that these Knights found the chambers of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. However, archaeologists have been able to excavate many of the Templar Knights locations, and are able to give us a proposal of how much they achieved in their search.

In Jerusalem itself, many tunnels and chambers have been uncovered, which appear to have been unopened since the time of Christ and if Solomon’s treasures had been retrieved, they would have been paraded about, as was the case with many other ‘relics’ which the Templar’s possessed. Yet, the question of the depth of the Temple Mount evacuation remains unanswered.

In the 1930s during British rule in Jerusalem, the director of the British Mandate Antiquities Department carried out the only official archaeological excavation under the Al-Aqsa Mosque, on the Temple Mount. R.W. Hamilton’s photo archive of this project shows a Byzantine mosaic floor underneath the mosque, suggesting it was built on the site of a church or monastery.

The exact penetration of the Templar Knights on the Temple Mount is open to speculation, but with excavation forbidden, it appears little more will be known until the situation changes. At the present time, the evidence suggests that the only secret treasure that the Templar Knights bereft to this generation is the unending treasure of the imagination.

This article was adapted from the book Lost Treasures of the Bible by Paul Backholer and is used by permission.

By Paul Backholer. Find out about Paul’s books here.