Organizing the Knights Templar - dummies

Organizing the Knights Templar

By Christopher Hodapp, Alice Von Kannon

Every organization has to have its hierarchy, but the Templars’ was unique. The following list reveals some of their principal officers — these guys come into play in any discussion of the Templars in war or peace.

These offices were called bailies, meaning something entrusted to someone. It’s the root word for the more familiar term of bailiff.

  • Grand Master: This office was for life, and the Grand Master was in charge of the entire Order, worldwide. Throughout history, a couple of men retired from the position of Grand Master, with the pope’s permission, but for the most part, dying was the only way out of the job.
  • Master and Commander: The Master and Commander was the local commander in charge of the commandery — a small templar “city” and stronghold. He had complete command in the field.
  • Seneschal: The Seneschal was the right-hand man for the Master and was sometimes called a Grand Commander. In peace, the Seneschal administered all the lands belonging to the chapter house. In war, he handled the movement of the men, the pack trains, the food procurement, and other issues of moving an army.
  • Turcopolier: This officer was the third in line militarily. He was in command of the light cavalry and the Sergeant brothers (see below).
  • Marshal: The Marshal was in charge of all arms, as well as all horses. He was very much a military man, and a Master would usually consult with him, as well as the Seneschal and the Turcopolier, before making any final decisions on tactics.
  • Under-Marshal: The first officer under the Marshal, the Under-Marshal was in charge of the lesser equipment, bridles, padding for saddles, barrels of water, and other supply problems. He held a very important position in battle because he held the piebald banner, a flag at the head of all, to keep stragglers together.
  • Standard Bearer: Also called the Confanonier, the Standard Bearer was in charge of the Squires (see below). He was their paymaster, their disciplinarian, and the man who checked over their very important work of keeping the knights’ horses and weapons in good order. He didn’t actually “bear the standard” in battle — he marched in front of the banner and led his marching column.
  • Knight: The knight was the backbone of the battlefield. Knights were the equivalent of the cavalry. A small force of knights was very powerful, skilled in warfare, clad in armor, able to take on a large number of foot soldiers. Only a man whose father and grandfather both had been knights could become one, and if he were caught lying about his lineage, the penalty was severe.
    The knights dressed in the famous white habit adorned with a red cross. There was no mistaking a Templar knight on the battlefield. Hair was cut short, but knights were forbidden to shave their beards, probably in keeping with the Muslim belief that a beard was a sign of greater masculinity. No sense giving your enemies a reason not to respect you.
  • Sergeant: Usually from a lower social class than the more noble knights, the Sergeant was still a light cavalry officer, the chief support officer for the knight. Sergeants dressed in a black tunic and a black or brown mantle, often with a red cross.
  • Treasurer: The Treasurer’s duties are clear — this was the guy who kept the books.
  • Draper: The Draper was in charge of all the clothing and bed linen of everyone in the Order. He also had the power to oversee everyone of every rank, and to chastise them if their clothing was not proper for their position, or if anything decorated it, such as a collar of fur on a knight’s white robe or mantle.
  • Squires: Squires were the young men who, just like in the movies, were there to assist the knight in any way possible, from polishing his weapons to feeding his horses. The difference for a Templar Squire is that this was often a hired position, especially in the first hundred years of the Order. It was only later that many Squires were there specifically to test themselves and their mettle and to climb to the order of Knight.
  • Lay Servants: Lay Servants could run the gamut, from masons brought in to do building or repair work to personal servants to an officer. The hierarchical statutes of the Templar Rule laid out precisely how many of such servants each officer was allowed to have. For a Templar to have too many would be a sin of pride.
  • Chaplain brothers: One of the most important positions within a Templar commandery was that of the Chaplain brother. The job came with many delicate layers of meaning. He was sort of the internal priest for the Order. He had the power to hear confessions and to give absolution for sins. In fact, Templars were forbidden to say their confession to anyone else without a papal dispensation, which simply means special permission from the pope. This is a very important point, because in effect, what the pope did was to make the Templars spiritually, as well as politically, independent from the rest of the Church. They were not answerable to local clerics or bishops, but only to the pope.