The birth of Hugues de Payns, first Master and founder of the Order of the Temple, is shrouded in mystery. Some historians place him in Ardeche, but most agree he originated from Champagne.
He was born around 1070 in the lands of Payens, located around 10 km from Troyes. We know he was dubbed a Knight around 1085, because he is mentioned as Lord of Montigny in a charter from this period.
de Payns seemed to be an important person in the Court of Count of Champagne. His name is mentioned several times as a witness of donations made by Hugues, Count of Champagne. Nobody is able to say with assurance whether Hugues de Payns participated in the First Crusade or not. It is interesting to note though that his name is absent from donation acts until the return of the first Crusaders.
With an element of surety we can say that de Payns accompanied the Count of Champagne on his pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1104. He returned to France the following year only to revisit the Holy Land in 1114 with other secular knights, supported by the Count of Champagne.
Hugues de Payns and his companions entered the service of the Holy Sepulchre Canon to defend and protect pilgrims who came to meditate in Jerusalem.
To this end, one of their first actions was to build the tower of Destroit, on the road from Cesaree to Haifa. In 1118, they created the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ which in 1119, after having taken their monastic vows in front of Jerusalem’s Patriarch they assumed the name “Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem”, or more simply, Knights of the Temple, or just the Templars. Hugues de Payns was the first Master of this burgeoning Order.
Until 1127, Hugues de Payns and his companions provided protection for pilgrims going to Jerusalem. In autumn of this year, Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, and the Patriarch Goromond decided to send Hugues de Payns and five of his companions West to ask for help.
At the same time, Baldwin II sent a missive to Bernard of Clairvaux for two reasons. First, it was important to establish recognition for the Templars.
Second, the new Order required a Rule to live by, and therefore someone to write it.
During the next two years, Hugues de Payns and his companions travelled through France developing their burgeoning Militia. Their travels also served to secure provisions indispensable to their functioning in the Holy Land.
In the spring of 1129, de Payns embarked from Marseille for the journey back to the Holy Land. He was accompanied by his companions and numerous new Knights.
According to chronicles, Hugues de Payns died in 1136. At a respectable 66 years old, his longevity leads many historians to think that he simply died of old age.
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