The Templars

After eight years of these secret excavations on Solomon's Mount, Hugh de Payens abruptly left Jerusalem to participate in the Synod of Troyes of 1128, a significant event that granted the Count de Champagne and de Payens, together with their new organization by then known as the Knights Templar, virtual independence from both church and royal administration by making them directly answerable to the Pope (Innocent II). By all accounts, this was an extraordinary political course, orchestrated largely by the future Saint Bernard. Earlier, in 1115, the Count de Champagne had donated land on which Saint Bernard built the famous Abbey of Clairvaux. In the following years, the Knights Templar would become the most powerful political organization in the medieval world. Many have speculated that de Payens must have found something very interesting underneath Solomon's Temple to so quickly accumulate such immense political and religious power.

In 1153, Bertrand de Blanchefort became the fourth grand master of the Knights Templar and transformed the organization into a powerful political institution. Bertrand granted the Knights Templar his lands around Rennes-le-Chateau and, in 1156, began an aggressive construction program. Rennes-le-Chateau thus evolved into the Knights Templar's central headquarters, commanding a worldwide organzation. It is curious, therefore, that the Coat of arms of Rennes-le-Chateau, this supposed bastion of Christendom, is a Star of David (see illustration)! Does this refer back to the legacy of Rashi?

Hugues Count de Champagne lived circa 1070 to 1130. His son, Thibaud (circa 1100-1152), continued the family role in the Knights Templar. The third generation included Marie, Countess de Champagne. Marie employed a young court chonicler, Chrétien de Troyes (1160-1191). In 1180, when Chrétien was only twenty, Marie outlined for him a curious story, the romance of Sir Lancelot (see manuscript fragment of 1180, at right, courtesy of Department of Romance Languages, Princeton University), which was to become extremely influential in European literature. Then, in the late 1180s, Marie outlined another story, the Conte du Graal , almost certainly based on direct knowledge of her grandfather's secret diggings in Jerusalem. This piece, unfinished at de Troyes death in 1191, later became the basis for the legend of the Holy Grail.

Quite remarkably, then, we have a speculative connection between Rashi, the consolidation and protection of thousands of years of Jewish philosophical thought, the secretive Knights Templar, and the enduring myth of the Holy Grail.


  1. Marcus, Jacob R., The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook, 315-1791, (New York: JPS, 1938), 301-303, quoted in Internet Medieval Source Book (6-23-98)
  2. Barnavi, Eli, A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People, Knopf, New York, 1992, map on p.99
  3. Law, Joy, Fleur de Lys: The Kings and Queens of France, McGraw Hill, 1976
  4. Chamberlin, E.R., Life in Medieval France, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1967
  5. Guizot, M. and Guizot de Witt, The History of France (Volume 1), Bradley, New York, 1869
  6. Guerard, Albert Leon, French Civilization, Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1921