The Order of Knights Templar marks the highest rank of the York Rite for Freemasons. The order says that its origins reach back to biblical times. Today, the organization persists as a Christian social group.
Freemasonry's exact origins remain unknown. The fraternal group has existed at least since 1390, when a poem printed referred to the organization. A number of prominent early Americans, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere, belonged to the Masons.
At the conclusion of the first crusade in 1099, Christians began trekking to Jerusalem, and the Knights of Templar organized to protect pilgrims on the dangerous journey. The Muslims still controlled greater Palestine, and corpses killed by marauders dotted the roadsides. The knights' operations lapsed after a grand master was burned at the stake in 1314 for alleged heresy, although the group says dubious evidence suggests it continued in secret.
The Knights Templar became active again during the 1700s as a part of the Masons. No concrete evidence exists connecting the earlier faction of knights to the Masons, according to the order, although this point generates significant controversy. While all knights belong to the Masons, not all Masons call themselves knights. The Freemasons require a belief in God but freedom to choose a faith, while the knights are a Christian-oriented group.
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