The Knights Templar were formed by a small group of knights led by Hugh de Payens in 1118 at the time of the First Crusade to the Holy Land, they were an elite military force of monk/knights charged with guaranteeingsafe passage for Christians.
Growing in power and becoming rich by instituting the first form of banking network, they would receive money for safe keeping from pilgrims, giving it back to them when they reached their destination, using the money during the journey to increase their wealth.
Having a Gnostic-type form of worship, rumours soon began that this was Devil worship, based around the worship of the demon-like Bahomet. By 1300 they had fifteen thousand members and owned some nine thousand castles and manors.
Clearly they were becoming too powerful for the Christian hierarchy, who were pleased when the French king decided upon a coup to oust them. In 1303 they were driven out of the Holy Land by Islam and took refuge in Cyprus and other areas of Europe, their organisation suddenly weak.
Charged with heresy, they were attacked, their leaders, including Jacques de Molay, were arrested. Being the Grand Master of the Templars he was burned at the stake in Paris in 1314. Before dying, he cursed both the Pope and the French king. Both were dead within a year.
(c) Anthony North, Feb 2007