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HUGO DE PAYNS, THE FIRST INFLUENCER IN HISTORY

Hugo de Payns was the founder and first master of the Order of the Temple.

He was born in the castle of Payns, near Troyes (France), and was greatly influenced in his childhood by the religious reform that took place in Champagne. After the death of his first wife, Hugo de Payns became a monk at the Abbey of Molesmes. Around 1100, he abandoned his habits, joined the Champagnesian court, and made the first voyage to the Holy Land. Although he married after his return and even had children, his religious devotion went further. In 1119, he decided to abandon everything: he took vows of chastity and returned to the Holy Land. A year later, the Templar Order was created.

To carry out their incursions and maintain the troops, funding would be needed. It was then that Hugo de Payns decided to embark on a journey that took him to France, Scotland, Great Britain, and Flanders. During the months he was away, receptions with powerful people, royalty, businessmen, or nobles were constant. Hugo de Payns acted as leader of the order to show them the importance of the Templars’ work. These receptions were fruitful and each secured large amounts of gold, jewels, and even land and castles, all intended to fund the funding of the Templars.

The affection Hugo de Payns felt was known to all, so no one hesitated to give him all they could to keep the Templar Order in operation. Even some kings, like Alfonso I, dedicated all their possessions to the order when they died.

When Hugo de Payns died, his figure grew larger, being venerated in the nightly liturgies addressed to a saint.

Indeed, this point was one of the topics used by Pope Clement V and King Philip IV to later accuse the Templar of heretics for venerating a person (who had not been canonized).

One Brief History of Hugo de Payns 

Transport yourself back nine hundred years to what is now Israel…and let’s meet the Templar founder Hugh de Payens.

The city of Jerusalem was like a magnet to Christians at that time. It was the ultimate pilgrimage. If you were a devout Christian in England, France, or any other kingdom of the time, you would have yearned to make that long journey to the Holy Land and see for yourself where Christ was born, preached, died, and rose again.

It was a dangerous trip. And it took many months. There was a strong likelihood you would never return home again. Add to that the uncomfortable fact that Jerusalem was no longer under Christian control. In 1118, when the Templars appeared, the city had been in Muslim hands for 450 years.

Now that hadn’t been an insurmountable problem. Pilgrims were still able to get to Jerusalem and the sacred sites were normally protected. But there had been outbreaks of hostility towards the Christians and the roads into the city were plagued by bandits, thieves, and murderers. As you completed your long trek, you might have trudged past the skeletons of those killed for their money and belongings.

Horror stories like these were used to raise a crusader army in Europe to take Jerusalem back from Muslim control. There had also been desperate pleas from the Christian emperor in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) whose Greek-speaking empire was being eaten away by Seljuk Turkish invaders. The pope and many priests, most notably Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, told their congregations to take up the sword and wield it in the name of their faith.

In 1099, the first crusade seized Jerusalem in an orgy of bloodshed. A few years later, a band of nine knights emerged with a novel proposition. They went to the king of Jerusalem – now a Christian – and submitted an idea for a new religious order. It would protect the pilgrimage routes and see off the bandits. And it would be based on what these knights believed to have been the Temple of Solomon in biblical times – a building that is now the Al Aqsa mosque.

Their leader was Hugh de Payens. Like Saint Bernard and many of the early Templars, he came from the Champagne region of France, near the important market town of Troyes. The exact details of how he came to create the Knights Templar and become its first Grand Master are very scant. Hugh probably joined the first crusade and when his liege lord, the Count of Champagne, returned to France – he stayed behind.

How did he come up with the idea for the Templars? Why was King Baldwin of Jerusalem so cooperative? What compelled Hugh to insist the order had to be based in the Temple of Solomon, from which it took its name? We don’t know for certain. But in a very short period, Hugh had established the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon – or Templars for short.

He went on a kind of fundraising and brand visibility tour of Europe. In 1128, he even made his way to London and then up north to Edinburgh setting up Templar houses. These were economic engines to create the riches to fund the order’s crusading activity. Donations started to flood in from the aristocracy proving that Hugh de Payens and his fellow knights had really tapped into the prevailing zeitgeist.

In 1129, he went before Pope Honorius at the Council of Troyes. Doing a double act with Saint Bernard, they sold the notion of the Templars to a very receptive church audience. He assured them that his knights lived according to monastic vows. They prayed regularly. They took no wives. They lives modestly. Pope Honorius was convinced that the Templars would enjoy papal protection for nearly two centuries until their downfall.

For twenty years, Hugh tirelessly built the Knights Templar until his death in the Holy Land in 1136. Then the order was led by its second Grand Master Robert de Craon. Its richest and most glorious days were still ahead of it. But Hugh must be credited with developing the concept of an order of monastic knights and turning it into a bright and shining reality.

Source: Canal História and The Templar Knight

Notes 

The Crusades were wars encouraged by the Catholic Church, which took place in Western Europe. Their main objective was to retake Palestine and Jerusalem, taking the cities away from Muslim rule. There were nine official Crusades, which took place between the 11th and 13th centuries, during the Middle Ages, in Europe

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