The Order of the Temple is a Christian ecumenical organization founded in 1804 by the physician Fabré-Palaprat with the support of Napoleon, and officially recognized in 1853 by Napoleon III. The Order operates on the basis of the traditions of the medieval Knights Templar. It reclaims the spirit of, but does not assert any direct descent from the ancient Order founded by Hugues de Payens in 1118 and dissolved by Pope Clement V in 1312.
Fabré-Palaprat was a product of the Age of Enlightenment, with its humanitarian and humanistic ideals. The concepts of “Templar” and “Templarity” became for him a synonym of help and protection, decency, dedication and chivalrous behavior. He based his new Order of the Temple on these ideals. For these reasons, in the 19th century the Order counted among its members very prominent people and protectors. Given that the Order developed during the height of the Romantic period, the name of the Templars became associated also with the romantic mystical world in which the legends of the lost treasure of the Templars, the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Shroud, the Holy Grail and the Rosslyn legends played a particularly prominent role.
With the death of Napoleon III the Order lost its strongest protector. Compounded with various wars that pre-empted any attempt of cohesion in the International Order of the Temple, the Templar movement splintered. Even today, there are dozens of groups that carry in some form the name of the Templars. The direct descendants of Fabré-Palaprat’s Templars are, however, those Templars who have carried the name of the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (SMOTJ) since 1932.
In 1995, the majority of SMOTJ Templars (mostly grouped in the Grand Priories of Austria, France, Italy, Finland, England & Wales, Scotland, NATO and the USA) assembled in the Austrian town of Salzburg and democratically adopted several resolutions to restructure and modernize the Order. One of the landmark decisions was to withdraw recognition from the Regent of the Order, Fernando de Sousa Fontes, because of mismanagement and irregular conduct.
The present SOMTJ is therefore the largest and best organized Templar group to date. It is also known by its English initials – SMOTJ. It is an apolitical, not-for-profit organization registered in Geneva, Switzerland, under Federal Registry number CH-660.197299-4.
Each grand priory is patriotic, being committed to the betterment of the host country. Our Order is devoted to the preservation of Liberty, which is essential to freedom of conscience and religion for all and to the efficient performances of good works. But the principal mission of the modern Templars is Charity. The Order accomplishes its mission through charitable works (both locally and in the Holy Land), which help people to help themselves, thereby enhancing Hope.
Today the Order is a secular-military order of chivalry – a Knighthood which is intended for accomplished Christian military and civilian men (Knights) and women (Dames), who have demonstrated that they possess high ethical and moral principles and who wish to carry on the traditions of the Temple.