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The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (Latin: Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Salomonici), commonly known as the Knights Templar, the Order of the Temple (French: Ordre du Temple or Templiers) or simply as Templars, were among the most wealthy and powerful of the Western Christian military orders and were among the most prominent actors of the Christian finance. The organization existed for nearly two centuries during the Middle Ages.
Officially endorsed by the Catholic Church around 1129, the Order became a favoured charity throughout Christendom and grew rapidly in membership and power. Templar knights, in their distinctive white mantles with a red cross, were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades. Non-combatant members of the Order managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom, innovating financial techniques that were an early form of banking, and building fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land.
The Templars' existence was tied closely to the Crusades; when the Holy Land was lost, support for the Order faded. Rumours about the Templars' secret initiation ceremony created mistrust and King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Order, took advantage of the situation. In 1307, many of the Order's members in France were arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and then burned at the stake. Under pressure from King Philip, Pope Clement V disbanded the Order in 1312. The abrupt disappearance of a major part of the European infrastructure gave rise to speculation and legends, which have kept the 'Templar' name alive into the modern day.
The Templars and the Shroud of Christ ]
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:Dr. Barbara Frale is a historian on staff at the Vatican Secret Archives. An expert in ancient documents, the Templars, and the Crusades, Frale is the author of several books including The Last Battle of the Templars, The Papacy and the Trial of the Templars, and The Templars. She is also the author of the acclaimed The Templars: The Secret History Revealed. Frale earned her PhD at the University of Venice.
For a certain period in history, the Knights Templar—the most powerful military religious order of the Middle Ages—secretly guarded the Shroud of Turin. Worshipped in a relentlessly secret manner, and known in its intimate nature by only a handful of the order's officials, the swathe of fabric was kept in the central treasury of the Knights Templar, who were known for their expertise in the field of relics. The precious cloth's history and whereabouts were known only to the highest dignitaries of the secretive order. In an era of widespread doctrinal confusion in much of the Church, the Templars considered the Shroud to be a powerful antidote against the proliferation of heresies.
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