The Knights Templar was a Christian military order founded during the Crusades in order to protect Christian pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. These "Monks of War" were highly disciplined and they participated at many major battles during all nine Crusades, including the pivotal Battle of Hattin. They also founded the first modern checking/credit system, which made the organization wealthy enough to buy the island of Cyprus.
The Templars were exempt from all laws (except those given by the Pope) and as a result, they were feared by the kings of Europe. One king, Philip the Fair, decided to deal with the problem and on Friday the 13th, he simultaneously betrayed and backstabbed all of the Templars. The Templars then disappeared from history, though many groups (such as the Freemasons), have claimed that they are extensions of this famous organization.
For more information, read: http://www.sacred-texts.com/sro/hkt/index.htm
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