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The incredible story of how Knights Templar ' invented ' banks

Temple Church, in a kind of hidden in the heart of London was the first City Bank Temple Church, in a kind of hidden in the heart of London was the first City Bank

In Fleet Street, one of Central London's busiest, ten minutes ' walk from Trafalgar Square, there is a stone Archway through which many people can spend and time travel. A quiet courtyard leads to a strange, circular chapel, and a statue of two Knights on a single horse. The Chapel is the Temple Church, built by the Knights Templar in 1185, when it became known as the "London House of the Knights of Templar". But the Temple Church is not only an architectural, historical and religious importance. She was also the first bank in London. The Knights Templar warrior monks. Was a religious order, with a hierarchy based on theology and Mission declared — in addition to a code of ethics — but also an army armed and dedicated to "holy war". But then how did they get to the business of the banks? The Templars dedicated themselves entirely to the defence of Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. The city had been captured in the first crusade in 1099, and waves of pilgrims started to arrive, traveling thousands of kilometers across Europe. These pilgrims had to somehow afford months of food, transport and accommodation for all of them, without having to carry large sums of money with you — because that would make them an easy target for thieves.

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Pope secured the officialization of the Knights Templar in 1128
Pope secured the officialization of the Knights Templar in 1128

Fortunately, the Templars had a solution. A pilgrim could leave your money in the Temple Church in London, then get him back in Jerusalem. Instead of loading the money by then, he would need only take a card with the credit. The Knights Templar were the Western Union (money transfer company between countries) of the Crusades. We don't know how the Templars did this system work, nor as if protected against fraud. There was a secret code to check the document and the identity of the traveler? PRIVATE BANK the Templars were not the first organization in the world to offer this type of service. Several other countries had done this before, as the Tang dynasty in China, which used the "" — "feiquan flying money", a two-way document which allowed the merchants deposit your profits in a regional office and then get the money back in the capital. But that system was operated by the Government. The banking system offered by the Templars operated much more like a private bank — although belonged to the Pope — combined with Kings and Princes around the Europe and managed by a partnership of monks who had made a vow of poverty. And the Knights of the Templar did much more than just transferring money over long distances. In your book "Money Changes Everything" ("Money changes everything", in free translation), William Goetzmann says they offered a series of financial services recognized as advanced for its time. If you wanted to buy an island off the West coast of France — as King Henry third of England did in the years 1200 with the island of Oleron, North-West of Bordeaux, the Templars could help close the deal.

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King Henry 3rd bought island in France using the financial services offered by the Knights Templar
King Henry 3rd bought island in France using the financial services offered by the Knights Templar

Henry 3rd paid 200 pounds per year for five years to the Templars in London, and when his men took possession of the island, the Templars zelaram for which the seller had received all the money. Still in the year 1200, the Crown jewels were kept in the temple as a form of security for a loan — with the Templars, acting as a kind of pawnshop. The Templar Knights were not the Bank of Europe forever, of course. The order lost your reason to exist after the European Christians lost control of Jerusalem in 1244, the Templars were dissolved in 1312. So who took over this function they have left bank? If you had seen the great fair of Lyon in 1555, might know the answer. She was the largest market for international trade in the whole of Europe. SOPHISTICATED EXCHANGE But in this edition of the fair, began to circulate rumors about the presence of an Italian merchant who was making a fortune on the site. He wasn't buying or selling anything. All he had was a front desk and a fountain pen.

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' Return ' allowed traders could do business in other countries
' Return ' allowed traders could do business in other countries

Day after day, he was taking and traders signed pieces of paper — and, in a way, it was Rico. Local residents looked at him with suspicion. But for a new international elite of the great houses of Europe, its activities were perfectly legitimate. He was buying and selling debt — and, in doing so, was generating considerable economic value. A Lyon merchant who wanted to buy, say, Florence wool, could go to the banker and ask for a type of loan called "Exchange account". It was a credit document, which does not specify the currency of transaction. Its value was expressed in "marc ecu", a private currency used for this international network of bankers. And if Lyon traders or their agents travel to Florence, the "trading account" of the banker of Lyon would be accepted by bankers in Florence, which would trade without problems the document through the local currency. By this network of bankers, a local businessman could change not only coins, but also "translate" your purchase value in Lyon to purchase value in Florence, a city where no one had heard about it. Was a valuable service, it was worth it. Of months in months, of the network of agents were bankers in large fairs such as Lyon, gave his notes and certain accounts among themselves. Our financial system today has a lot to do with this template. An Australian with a credit card can do shopping in a supermarket. The Czech supermarket with a French Bank, who speaks with an Australian Bank, approving the payment to demonstrate that he has the money. COUNTERPOINTS But this network of banking services always had your dark side also. Transforming personal obligations on negotiable debt internationally, these medieval bankers began to create your own private money, outside the control of the Kings of Europe.

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The collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 led to a global financial instability
The collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 led to a global financial instability

Rich and powerful, they don't need to submit to sovereign currencies of their countries. What in some ways is still done today. International banks are closed in a network of mutual obligations difficult to understand or control. They can use your international reach to try to evade taxes and regulations. And whereas the debt between them are a kind of private money, when banks are weakened or in trouble, the monetary system of the world is also vulnerable. We're still trying to figure out what to do with these banks. We can't live without them, it seems, but also we're not sure we want to live with them. Rulers long ago seeking ways to control them. Sometimes, this approach has been in "laissez-faire" ("let do"), other times not. Few Governments have been tougher with the banks than King Philip 4, of France. He owed money to the Templars, and they refused to forgive your debt. So, in 1307, in the place where today stands the Temple Paris Métro station, Felipe launched an attack on the Temple of Paris — the first in a series of attacks around Europe. The Templars were tortured and forced to confess all the sins that the Inquisition could imagine. The order was eventually dissolved by the Pope. The Temple of London was rented to lawyers. And the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, was brought to the Centre of Paris and publicly burned to death. Tim Harford writes a column in the Financial Times economy. "The 50 things that made the modern economics" is a program broadcast on BBC World Service radio