BERNARD AND THE TEMPLARS: IN BURGUNDY AND CHAMPAGNE
In Champagne and Burgundy lay the Order’s origin and the seed of its success. Over the course of fifty years a star-burst of spiritual energy illumined all of Europe; and its centre lay in a small area of eastern France. Hugh’s town of Payns was near Troyes, the local city of one Robert, who became a Cluniac monk. In 1075 this Robert, already an abbot, left his monastery with a group of hermits to found a new house: at Molesme. The list of those influenced by Robert and his houses reads as a roll-call of Europe’s spiritual leaders. There was Bruno, who lived briefly as a hermit near Molesme before establishing the most ascetic of all houses, La Grande Chartreuse; Bruno had already been master to Odo, who later became Pope Urban II and preached the First Crusade. When Robert moved again, in search of a yet more rigorous life, he took with him Stephen Harding, later Archbishop of Canterbury. They set up their house at Citeaux.
Harding would in time become abbot. The rigour of the house made it few friends among the local nobility. Its future was uncertain. And then arrived as remarkable a monk as any of that remarkable age: Bernard. He spent three years at Citeaux before a local lord, Hugh Count of Champagne, gave him in 1116 an area of inhospitable woodland well to the north, back in the neighbourhood of Payns. It was known as the Valley of Gall. Bernard gave it a new name: Clairvaux, the Valley of Light. Bernard secured single-handed the Templars’ future. Hugh of Champagne became a Templar; so did Bernard’s own uncle Andrew. The Templars’ constitution, the Rule, shows all the marks of Bernard’s influence; at the Council of Troyes in 1129 he spoke up for the Order; and, most influential support of all, at the repeated request of Hugh of Payns Bernard wrote In Praise of the New Knighthood.