Although some have said that the Knights Templar were a Satanic organisation the historical and theological evidence is completely contradictory. They were a Christian military order founded in 1118 CE to defend routes to the holy land, and they gained wealth and influence. They funded the building of many of Europe's greatest cathedrals, became bankers, and are said by some to be one of the first multinational corporations1,2. They fell out of favour due to their power and influence and were then oppressed by French royalty from 13073. All kinds of claims of immorality, debauchery, homosexuality and corruption were common against them, but the claim of Devil Worship was very unlikely4,5 and the evidence was invented by competing Christian institutions.
The Knights Templar were founded in 1118 in the growing shadow of the Dark Ages. They were the most powerful military religious order of the Middle Ages. They built Europe's most impressive ancient Cathedrals and were the bankers "for practically every throne in Europe"1. Some historians trace the history of all globalised multinationals to the banking practices of the Knights Templar2. They had strong presence in multiple countries; Portugal, England, Spain, Scotland, Africa (i.e. Ethiopia) and France. They were rich and powerful, with members in royal families and the highest places including Kings. King John II of Portugal was once Grand Master of the Order. They explored the oceans, built roads and trade routes and policed them, created the first banking system, sanctioned castles, built glorious buildings, and had adequate forces to protect their prized holy places and objects. Their fleet was world-faring, and their masterly knightly battle skills were invaluable to any who could befriend them or afford their mercenary services.
The Knights Templar fell into disrepute with the powerful Catholic Church and the French kingdom, and the Catholics ran a long campaign against them, accusing them of devil worship, of immorality, subversion, and accused them of practicing magic and every kind of occult art. The organisation was finally destroyed and its members burned from 1310. Nowadays, although the accusations are thoroughly discredited, they are still equated with the Occult and sometimes with Satanism, sometimes even by practitioners of those arts themselves.
“City skylines began to change as the great Notre Dame cathedrals [...] rose from the Earth. The architecture was phenomenal. [...] Of all these, Notre Dame de Cartres is said to stand on the most sacred ground. [...] It was a Pagan site, dedicated to the traditional Mother Goddess - a site to which pilgrims travelled long before the time of Jesus [...] identified with the Womb of the Earth.”
“The Knights Templar were the most powerful military religious order of the Middle Ages. Formed to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land, they participated in the Crusades and rapidly gained wealth, lands and influence and were answerable to none save the Pope himself. In addition to having a fearful military reputation, they were also Christendom's first bankers, and invented the modern banking system that is still in use today, and were also involved in exploration and engineering. [...]
The myth of the Templars was born and in the ensuing seven centuries, they have exerted a unique influence over European history: orthodox historians see them as nothing more than soldier-monks whose arrogance was their ultimate undoing, while others see them as occultists of the first order, the founders of Freemasonry, possessors of the Holy Grail and creators of the Turin Shroud. Sean Martin considers both the orthodox and conspiratorial version of events, and includes the latest revelations from the Vatican Library.”
Amazon Review of Sean Martin's "The Knights Templar
The Templars are credited with great knowledge about many esoteric subjects and certainly they were expert masons, builders and warrior knights, knowledgeable in many practices, from across the Christian world, through the underlying Pagan world, and across to Eastern (Arabian) mysticism and theology. Their services and knowledge were called upon by everyone. Their clients were the richest royal families, those with most to lose would often not want to go far without the protection of the Knights or the wisdom of their counsel.
“In times to follow, however, the once revered knowledge of the Templars caused their persecution by the Popes of other Orders, and by the savage Dominican friars of the Inquisition. It was at that point in the history of Christianity that the last vestige of free thinking disappeared. Neither special knowledge nor access to truths counted for anything against the hard new party line from Rome.”
All evidence of devil-worship is second-hand but nonetheless the possibilities are so strong that many take it as a given fact that they were Devil worshippers. The Templars funded extensive studies of Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism), had friendly dealings with Muslims and Arabs including absorbing parts of Arab occultism, researched and utilized many forms of magic, ritual and generally had their hands in every (dark) art imaginable. Those who believe in real magic attribute their whole success to magical artifacts acquired via Solomon, and say that the Templars' astonishingly rapid rise to power was due to either genuine black magic, use of Godly powers, or both. However each individual area of study is only circumstantial evidence of devil worship.
It is general knowledge in the occult community that the Templars were Devil Worshippers of some kind, Traditional Satanists worshipping some kind of hybrid god borne from Christian, Jewish and Occult mythologies. Or at least that such forces were in control of the Templars whether or not they knew it. Eliphas Levi, one of the most inaccurate and ill-respected historians of magic, says that the Templars were anti-Christian and anti-Papal from their foundation and merely became more blasé and open about it as they grew strong and arrogant.
Other authors beside Levi (i.e., Gavin Baddeley) also repeat the same general theme, that the Knights Templar (who devised the early version of the Baphomet, later adopted as the main Sigil of the Church of Satan) were originally Christians that became power-mongering, utterly corrupt, devil-worshipping black magicians. By anyone's standards that's quite a large change: history tends to exaggerate, especially the history of the victims as written by winners!
In "The History of Magic" by Eliphas Levi (1860)7 the author says, "when a rich and dissolute Order, initiated into the mysterious doctrines of the Kabalah, seemed ready to turn on legitimate authority, on the conservative principles of the hierarchy, menacing the entire world with a gigantic revolution. The Templars, whose history is understood so little, were the terrible conspirators in question, and it is time at length to reveal the secret of their fall". Levi pours scorn and unholy criticism upon the Knights Templar for a further five pages before moving on to other (just-as-paranoid) matters.
A prodigal book on Knights Templar conspiracy theory is the infamous "Holy Blood and Holy Grail" by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln (1991)8. The authors are known to be unreliable in places, but it's an important book nonetheless and quite beloved by holy grail enthusiasts. There is at least one Magister in the Church of Satan (go figure) who is involved with obscure and disreputable holy grail research.
Page 72 states that "The Templars supposedly worshipped a devil called Baphomet. At their secret ceremonies they supposedly [... were] invested with occult powers. [...]". He mentions infanticide, orgies, abortions, obscene kisses (kissing the backside of Satan was a common accusation of the Inquisition, denoting subservience to the devil) and homosexuality.
"But", the author continues, "of all the charges levelled against these soldiers of Christ, who had fought and laid down their lives for Christ, one stands out as most bizarre and seemingly improbable. They were accused of ritually denying Christ, of repudiating, trampling and spitting on the cross"
Accused, largely it seems, of black mass, and the formal accusations by the Inquisition included lots of magical deviance - in short this meant of being in league with the Devil.
Sceptics are very right to point out that the Inquisition (and the King who initiated the campaign against the Templars) demonized them, and that we don't actually know the truth. Much of the Christian Churches active investigation into the Knights Templar focused on a head/baste that they worshipped, some historians say it could be the head of various Christian saints, and it may be this that was demonized by the estranged Catholic Church into a demonic figurehead.
But we do know they were strong, wealthy and powerful. Were they fallen, devil-worshipping Christians? Were they devil worshippers of a different kind? Were they simply corrupt and immoral, or were they mostly-upstanding Christians, victims of some political game that we don't know about? The possibilities are more like monstrous hydras than sober topics of conversation and many historians won't delve into it.
("Holy Blood, Holy Grail" does go in to much more detail on the etymology and possibilities of what the "Baphomet" was and represented, but that's a tangent.)
Endless research is possible, and so are endless assumptions; there are many misleading books on the subject, so tread carefully if you care enough to research the Knights Templar!
Formal accusations against them were issued from Rome in 1308. The Inquisition and Christian armies began a slow war against the Templars, gradually routing and dispersing them, with notable success from 1310 onwards. During this rout they spread even further and wider, disappearing underground under many guises under which they survived prosecution. They are credited with the creation of the Illuminati and therefore the Free Masons, and it is said that the FreeMasons still hold traditions and knowledge derived from the Templars.
“Seemingly untouchable for nearly two centuries, the Templars fell from grace spectacularly after the loss of the Holy Land: in 1307, all Templars in France were arrested on charges of heresy, homosexuality, denial of the cross and devil worship. The order was suppressed by the Pope in 1312, and Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master, was burnt at the stake as a heretic two years later. ”
Amazon Review of Sean Martin's "The Knights Templar"
Serious scholars largely agree that the demise of the Templars was political, they were victims of the power games of the Royal House of France and the opinion of Religious Orders were easily swayed against their suspiciously large and active Order. Other scholars believe that Rome discovered that the Templars were corrupt and evil and that their knowledge was being put to diabolical ends. It's easy to see how a campaign slandering the Templars would generate the claims of devilry despite its absence, but also it is easy to imagine that the devilry was actual. One of the wisest seeming summaries has been that of Bertrand Russell:
“The cardinals in 1305 elected the Archbishop of Bordeaux, who took the name of [Pope] Clement V. He was a Gascon, and consistently represented the French party in the Church. [...] Clement V signalized his alliance with the king of France by their joint action against the Templars. Both needed money, the Pope because he was addicted to favouritism and nepotism, Philip for the English war, the Flemish revolt, and the costs of an increasingly energetic government. After he had plundered the bankers of Lombardy, and persecuted the Jews to the limit of 'what the traffic would bear', it occurred to him that the Templars, in addition to being bankers, had immense landed estates in France, which, with the Pope's help, he might acquire. It was therefore arranged that the Church should discover that the Templars had fallen into heresy, and that king and pope should share the spoils. On a given day in 1307, all the leading Templars in France were arrested [...]. At last, in 1313, the Pope suppressed the order, and all its property was confiscated. The best account of this proceeding is in Henry C. Lea's History of the Inquisition, where, after full investigation, the conclusion is reached that the charges against the Templars were wholly without foundation”
There is much written about the methods and places the Knights Templar used to hide; sometimes renaming themselves was enough for them to escape ignorant Christian persecution. Forming various groups, underground and open, they spread far and wide. There is a lot made of their movement to Scotland and battles they fought there previously, and of their founding of the Illuminati and therefore the Free Masons. The Templars were a true elite with a beautifully decadent and indulgent internal society, matching the styles of later Satanic groups.