Manifesto evokes blurry line between myth and reality of Knights Templar
Anders Breivik's purported manifesto says he is a member of a new order of the Knights Templar.
July 28th, 2011
09:49 PM ET

Manifesto evokes blurry line between myth and reality of Knights Templar

“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.

Post by:
Filed under: Crime • Norway
soundoff (170 Responses)
  1. Katie Nelson

    The things the national security agency is doing omg! All the people who believed they were abducted and implanted by alliens! That was the nsa and they were rfid chip test! I have one myself from my mother being in the military! There is no ufo! It's like the chinese stealth, a boomerang shaped aircraft that is thrown into a stall causing it to spin in circles! Those allien photos are actually starved ethiopian children whose faces have been distorted! They brainwash you and use your tv's speakers as a microphone to listen in to every home in America! I challenge you to plug a pair of headphones into the mic jack on your pc! One of the speakers doubles as a mic. It's the same principle. As for SETI they use that satellite not to send grettings into deep space, but to talk inside people's minds! Our hard earned tax dollars used against unarmed citizens! How do you know they didn't use this same brainwashing via satellite on this man? They have threatned to do the same thing to me!

    August 8, 2011 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
  2. Alicja

    Whatever this guy is smoking obviously isn't legal...

    August 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ruby

    I just want to know why? we as christians are not to kill. turn the other cheek vengence is the lords.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. No No No Obama has got to go

    How come CNN dont report on the flash mob violence towards whites, Asians, and Latinos. With many recent incidents in Philly, Wisconsin fair, Detroit Ect. But they will run a black victim for DAYS?

    August 11, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |

    YES , WE CAN...YES , WE CAN...WE WILL WIN IN WAR ON TERROR (30 whities or what are terrorists will never come back alive...thank you lord....aaamen).

    What do you mean tragedy! It was just a birthday present for planet apes president !!! That's all ! Feels great to flip hamburgers and hip hop atop of good news...makes you feel vibrant and energized !!!

    ARIZONA = UTOYA = GOVERNMENT‘S "AFTERLIFE" CASH & $$ FLASH MOB (there was no shooting in Utoya or Arizona, but instead tear gas and on faces of multiculturalism maniacs while calling you a terrorists) !!! or


    Whitie is fighting war on terrorism just to come home and be pronounced as terrorist...turned in Timothy, jobless, homeless ...YESSS, WE CAN...YESSS, WE CAN...GABBY OPENED HER EYES (Obaminator’s psychotic speech in Tucson = failed “Apocalypse Now“)


    Don't worry O(s)bama, you have just saved USA what is lots of Dollars in your DEBT DEALS(DEAD AND ILL) as those best of America or Navy Seals would also grew older and then you already know how it goes !!!

    August 14, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Concerned observer

      Please stop smoking crack and writing at the same time. Those are just a couple of things you should'nt do together. And we wonder what'ts really wrong with this world.

      August 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. onoudint

    Any wacko can cloak himself in religious righteousness to justify a twisted need for power by committing acts of violence. How d'ya think religion has gotten as far as it has?

    August 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jesus

    Give him a gun and line up 76 members of your family and I'm sure, he'll give you a "perfect" reconstruction.

    August 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mileikaj Meinertp

    What's up every one, here every person is sharing these experience, therefore itis pleasant to read this website, and I used to pay a visit this website every day.

    July 13, 2012 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7