“Perfect Knight I have always strived to be.”
Anders Breivik supposedly wrote those words in his diary last winter. Breivik admitted killing 76 people in a bombing and shooting rampage in Norway last week, his lawyer said.
CNN could not independently verify that the diary, titled "2083: A European Declaration of Independence," was written by Breivik, 32.
According to the diary, he's a warrior on a quest to save Europe from Muslim colonization. Breivik wants the world to know he is a member of a new order of the Knights Templar, the medieval order that protected Christian pilgrims from Muslims in the Christian holy land between the 12th and 14th centuries.
Breivik wrote that the new order is devoted to fighting against the influx of Muslims and non-Europeans to the West.
The cover of the manifesto and the medals he forged for his fake military uniform have the sign of the Templars, a blood red cross on a white background.
Scotland Yard and experts on right-wing extremism don’t rule out there might be such a modern-day group named for the Knights Templar. But they have no evidence of it, other than what Breivik has said.
Click to hear story from CNN Radio's Libby Lewis:
Historian Paul Crawford has devoted his career to understanding the real Knights Templar. He doesn’t make the real Knights Templar out to be gods or heroes.
“The Knights Templar were human beings. Sometimes they were heroic and virtuous and sometimes they were unheroic and sordid. That’s the way it is to be a human being.”
But he says the real Knights Templar weren't haters.
“Most people joined the Templars as an act of love. That strikes the modern mind as very odd. We don’t think of people going off to war out of love. They were following a commandment of Jesus in the New Testament. He said, ‘Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’”
In the 12th century, the very idea was new: a religious order of knights to shield Christians from Muslims in Israel, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon during the Christian Crusades and prevent the spread of Islam.
From this ideal of devotion, the Knights Templar grew into a wealthy, hugely powerful order in the medieval world - only to dissolve within 200 years.
They broke up in 1307 after the King of France leveled a flood of charges against them: charges that Knights spit on the cross and engaged in sodomy, charges so sordid that Pope Clement V felt compelled to abandon the Templar.
Until their name arose in the manifesto last week, the real Knights Templar have lived mainly in the world of scholars like Crawford and British historian Malcolm Barber. But the mythic Knights Templar are a different matter.
The myths of the Templar are woven into films, books and TV series such as the "Indiana Jones" movies, "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Last Templar." They have taken root in popular consciousness in fiction and film, as a secret society that held the Holy Grail, or as a mysterious group with secret knowledge of Jesus.
It leaves one wanting to know where all the myths sprang from.
Crawford says there are clues in history. For instance, the Knights Templars’ early base in Jerusalem was on the site of Solomon’s Temple.
The space is sacred to all three major religions - and King Solomon has his own hold on popular imaginations.
"Solomon had the reputation of being one of the wisest men who ever lived and in Arabic mythology he’s supposed to be the person who could put demons and genies in bottles," Crawford says. "Maybe somebody thought if you lived on the site where he used to be, you would pick up some of that by osmosis."
Then there was the wealth the Templars amassed from those devout Christians who donated money and property to the order. The Templars also held money and property for nobles and wealthy members in a kind of banking system.
“What people saw at the time was a vast network of Templar properties across Western Europe. They saw them absorbing vast amounts of money and resources, and then they kept getting bad news from the Latin East -– the Muslims kept winning and the Christians kept losing. That did generate some ill will towards the Templars," Crawford says.
There's also the story of the lost treasure of the Templars on Cyprus. No one knows where it went or why it went missing.
So, there is plenty of fodder for legend and myth and for wayward men like Breivik.
Crawford says he doesn’t know why Breivik was drawn to the Templars. But he says Breivik grossly misunderstood what the Templars were about.
"I don’t know of any instance when they engaged in terrorism against unarmed populations. If they needed to oppose Islam, they did it on the battlefield. And they had respectful relations with their Muslim neighbors as human beings, when they could."
But that, of course, is history. And the power of the Knights Templar lies in the empty spaces of history –- spaces that impressionable men and film directors can draw on forever.