The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St. John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta, of England and Wales and Provinces Overseas
This is the formal title of the two Masonic Orders known widely to-day as the Knight Templar Order and the Malta Order. The former derives its inspiration from the original military order known as The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon founded in 1118 (some sources say 1119), for the express purpose of protecting pilgrims on their journey from the coast to Jerusalem to worship at the Holy Sepulchre (and which became known as the Knights of the Temple or, simply, the Knights Templar).
The Knights Templar derives its inspiration from the order known as the Hospitallers of St John given ecclesiastical sanction by Pope Paschall II in 1113 and dedicated to providing succour and aid, particularly medical aid, to pilgrims and later assuming a military role as well, almost rivalling that of the Templars. In fact, the Hospitallers claimed descent (at least spiritually and possibly actually) from a Latin hospice founded in Jerusalem by Pope Gregory I in about AD 603.The most obvious question to arise is whether there is any connection between those two religious and military orders and the two modern masonic orders and how the present day masonic orders complement the main masonic orders of the Craft and the Royal Arch.
The origins of both Masonic orders are shrouded in the mists of time and any historical link between the original orders and the present day must be regarded, in the Scottish phrase, as not proven. With each passing year, more historic fact is uncovered and there can now be no doubt at all that when the military order of Knights Templar was suppressed in 1307 by the activities in France of King Philip IV (known as Philip Le Bel or The Fair) and Pope Clement V, some knights escaped to and settled on the west coast of Scotland. Indeed there is a fascinating and persistent but unproven legend that a force of ex-Templars made a pivotal (but seemingly incognito) intervention in the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and in so doing swung the battle in favour of Robert Bruce. The knights who settled in Scotland no doubt became absorbed by marriage into the fabric of local Scottish society and their blood lines and moral influence may well have continued into later generations, even if they themselves no longer formed any identifiable group or body as such.
The first reliable evidence of a Knight Templar Masonic ritual being practised is in France in 1740 and shortly afterwards it was ‘exported’ to England via the then main trade routes. By 1772 a Knight Templar Rite was being worked in Bristol and by 1780 in York. In 1791 a national organisation was formed called the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar for England and Wales. ‘Encampment’ was the name then used by Masonic Knights Templar rather than ‘lodge’ and has now been replaced by ‘Preceptory’. Not all encampments in England and Wales joined but those that did demonstrate the passage of this Masonic order from the continent. They were in Bristol, Bath, York, London, Dorchester, Bideford and Colchester.
The reason behind the foundation of these Masonic orders was that until 1723 all freemasons had to be Christian Trinitarians (believing in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost). In 1723 freemasonry was declared open to all ‘good men and true who were not atheists or irreligious libertines’ so it remained necessary to believe in a Supreme Being but not necessary to be a Christian Trinitarian. Pope Clement XII found this unacceptable and in 1738 published a Papal Bull known as In Eminenti Apostolatus Specular, which excommunicated all those who were either freemasons or assisted them unless they renounced their freemasonry. This was particularly painful in France where both freemasonry and the influence of the Pope were widespread and naturally freemasons looked for a way of pursuing their Masonic interests but avoiding the dire consequences. It was in this atmosphere that it is thought the Knight Templar Order (and most probably the Malta Order) was established.
It is easy to see why the model of the original Templars and Hospitallers was adopted. They were themselves Christian orders and of high standing with the Papal authorities (until the Templars allegedly ‘lost their way’ and duly suffered the consequences). The new Masonic orders were Christian Trinitarian and taught the well known and widely accepted virtues of faith, humility, courage both mental and physical, constancy and loyalty, honour and the like. Consequently, they achieved the desired result of proving acceptable to the Papal authorities and began to flourish. They still do to-day well over 250 years later, which is testimony to the enduring qualities of those ethics and values set out at the beginning of the Question and Answer section of this web site to which are now added those of a Christian Trinitarian. It is hoped that a man who is such a Christian, who has absorbed those ethics and values and who strives to practise those chivalric virtues can be considered a worthy citizen.
In order to become a Knight Templar freemason, a candidate must be a member of both the Craft and Royal Arch and must also be a Christian Trinitarian. The candidate must first pass the first Degree to become a Knight Templar and then on passing the second Degree he becomes a Knight of Malta Both Masonic orders (although separate) are to-day united and administered centrally. Each preceptory comprises both a preceptory of Knights Templar and a Priory of Knights of Malta. The dress for and the ceremonies of each order are different and their separate histories are maintained, these Orders are then joined by the third or passing Degree to become a Knight of St Paul
A candidate for the first Degree is in the position of a pilgrim travelling symbolically through hardship and dangers until he is received as a Knight. It teaches humility and urges the candidate to live his life as a Christian Knight. The second Degree deals with the period when the Knights travelled from Palestine to reach their final home in Malta, emphasising their Christian virtue.
The regalia of the Order is most impressive, being based on that of the medieval Knights Templar, consisting of a mantle, tunic, cap, sash, star, belt, sword and gloves. The Knights of Malta regalia is different but not obligatory. Candidates for installation must profess the Christian faith and be both Master Masons and Royal Arch Companions. A Provincial Church Service for members, families and friends is held annually, with the spectacle of the Knights in full regalia.
The order is worldwide. In England and Wales it has a headquarters in London and the country is divided into 30 provinces. The Province of East Kent has twelve Preceptories, the nearest for members of Loyal and True are:
The Galloway Preceptory No 596, at the Franklin Rd. Gillingham Centre.
Meetings are held on the second Friday in February, May and October.
The Roffa’s Camp Preceptory No 224, Wigmore.
Meetings are held on the fourth Friday in February, May, August and November.
The Westwood Preceptory No 433, Hoo.
Meetings are held on the third Saturday in March, the first Saturday in June and the third Saturday in November.
Name: Peter J Wise
Position: Provincial Vice – Chancellor
Telephone: 020 8244 2356
Email:Peter J Wise