from the original "Primitive Rule" created by the Council of
Troyes in 1129 over the entire 180-year history of the Order until its
suppression by King Philip the Fair in the early 1300¹s. It is important
to view the Templars within the context of their secular contemporaries.
Although the Templars were profoundly innovative in the vision of their
founding, the basic organizational building blocks were a product of their
secular environment. Members were well indoctrinated in the outside world
before joining. The Rule clearly states that children were not to be admitted
to the Order. Knights were to be raised and trained in the secular world
at least until they had reached adulthood before being admitted into the
Templars. Thus, the influence of the norms, social structure, and standard
military tactics of medieval Europe was pervasive. With that in mind, let
us start this analysis with a brief sketch of how that secular world operated.
I¹ll also discuss how the Templars contrasted with the secular world
in subtle, but important ways.
Central focus of military tactics in the medieval world was the heavy cavalry
charge of a group of mounted knights. This was supported by the mounted
sergeants (ignoble mounted soldiers) and prepared for by the infantry.
Although Philippe Contamine¹s research tells us that a typical army
contained four to nine times as many infantrymen as mounted warriors, the
medieval military mind was almost exclusively centered on the Knight, as
its most devastating weapon.
secular Knight is, therefore, the fundamental element of interest for our
discussion. The "Knight" was not an individual in this context.
He was the central figure of a tactical and logistic unit. To avoid confusion,
I¹ll refer to this concept as a "Lance". A basic Lance was
comprised as follows:
A Knight with a destrier (war horse). He rode a mule, palfrey, roncin,
or such traveling mount to and from engagements. This kept his "main
battle tank" fresh and ready for action.
A lightly armed squire to care for the destrier and equipment, typically
riding a mule.
One or two pack animals.
knights might double or triple this entourage. Altogether, we have between
two and five people and three to ten mounts per Lance. The romantic image
of a lone errant knight is strictly a literary invention. A lone knight
was generally a miserable figure, down on his luck, and extraordinarily
to twenty knights formed a banner. Ten to twenty Banners would form a Squadron.
Five to ten squadrons formed a "battle", assuming that many troops
were present. The battles were generally arranged in five groups; The Van,
Left and Right Wings, the Center or Main Battle, and the Rear Guard. The
size, distribution and character of these forces varied greatly. They were
organized around the feudal lords who were called up or under hire. The
detailed deployment of the forces while on campaign was a daily affair,
arranged on an ad hoc basis. Not surprising, the equipment and logistical
support (such as it was) was anything, but uniform. Managing the force
and maintaining discipline must have been a Herculean task.
Templars employed the same basic structure used by the secular armies,
but did it with Prussian efficiency. A fundamental difference between the
Templars and their secular counterparts was the submission of free will.
This important characteristic of modern armies was not present in secular
medieval forces. Secular knights tended to be very independent. They were
responsible for their own gear, squires and upkeep, and were brought together
on campaign only for a short time each year. Controlling them was difficult,
at best. By contrast, Templars possessed a high degree of discipline and
conformity. The concept of the monastic vow of obedience is that a monk
should obey the instructions of his abbot as if he were obeying the Lord.
The Rule further instructs that Brother Knights should obey the orders
of the commanders set over them. The effect of the culture of obedience
was that Templars were noted for maintaining formation and order under
the most difficult situations.
all real armies in the field, the Templars often found themselves with
other than ideal force levels. Unlike their secular counterparts, however,
their structure and basic building block units remained relatively consistent.
The Rule precisely specifies the equipment, mounts and personal staff of
every member , from the Master right down to Brother Sergeants. It even
provides for modifications when horses or squires are in shortage or abundance.
The Rule also leads us to believe that Banners and Squadrons were standardized
in composition. With all of the equipment and mounts belonging to the order
and not the individual Knights (who took the vow of poverty), the Templars
developed a centralized system for the supply and efficient distribution
of these resources.
Templars utilized the basic military model of the secular world from which
they originated. Their ability to achieve discipline and uniformity, however,
set them apart. As I will discuss below, the Templars were also available
around the clock and all year round. This was also a very important distinction
between them and their secular counterparts.
stated above, the basic military unit of both the secular and Templar worlds
was the Knight. Feudal socioeconomic structure was organized to support
this military building block. The fundamental economic unit was the "knight¹s
fee" or "basic fief". This was usually an agricultural entity
consisting of around 60 to 120 acres held by as few as one or as many as
eight villein families . Several of these together would support a knightly
household consisting of a married knight, his children and a few servants.
was a tenuous existence. War, bad crops, or other misfortune could bounce
these families right out of the knightly class in the blink of an eye.
Such noble families appeared and disappeared on a regular basis throughout
the middle ages. Never the less, these were the lucky middle class of knighthood.
Most knights never achieved their own household and spent their lives attached
to the hotel of another important lord.
fundamental knightly units were gathered together by wealthier lords into
Knight Bannerets. Several Bannerets might be joined together as a County
under the lordship of a Count. In regions continually threatened by invasion,
counties often gathered together under a Marquis. From there, we work our
way to up to Dukes, Princes, or Kings. The simplistic and theoretical view
of this system was an orderly pyramid. The King was at the top. All land
belonged to him and he farmed it out in exchange for annual military service.
In reality, this completely nationalistic view was generally held by no
one except the King.
more accurate model would be to think of feudalism as a system of rights
and obligations. It is a "relativistic" set of relationships
that should be viewed from the instantaneous perspective of the individual
of interest. He looked downward to the rights he held from his vassals
and upward to the obligations he owed to his lords. He rarely perceived
this chain traveling beyond the next layer. Kings would occasionally try
to extract personal oaths of fealty from everyone. This weak attempt at
nationalism was rarely effective.
the thirteenth century, the standard service obligation was only forty
days per year. If this was not bad enough, several exclusions, clauses
and limitations also existed. For example, it might only be "20 days
south of the Alps", or zero days beyond a certain district. The knight
was also compensated if his horse were killed. Although this was not a
cash based economy, it became increasingly necessary to pay not only the
specialist mercenary troops, but also one¹s own vassals just to keep
them in the field for a reasonable length of time. For any major campaign,
it was usually necessary for the lord to borrow heavily and mortgage his
estates in order to raise the necessary cash. We must bear in mind that
a system of regular taxation did not exist. Revenues were "opportunistic".
Great Lords seldom achieved the numbers during a muster to which they thought
themselves entitled. Looking back on this system from modern times, it
is amazing that large scale wars ever happened at all!
difference in the economic support system and administrative command structure
available to secular leaders and that employed by the Templars is stark.
While both were agrarian at their foundation, the Templars had a cohesive
chain of command from the top to the bottom. The Order¹s organization
achieved the advantages of nationalism without the existence of a physical
country. Under the Papal Bull Omne Datum Optimum, the Templars held gifted
estates all over Europe but owed no taxes or fealty to anyone, but the
Pope. The Master was the Great Ruler of a virtual state.
was consistent, regular, and supplemented by shipping, banking, and other
industries. No "active duty" time limitations existed for Templar
military personnel. They were signed up for life. The Templar force was
available for field duty year round. The highly disciplined Templar troops
were powered by a vast and efficient resource system. Free from the plague
of complex feudal obligations and limitations, the Templar command structure
was stable, consistent and efficient. These attributes made them a powerful
war machine, especially in comparison to their secular contemporaries.
operation and management of such a unique group also required innovation
in its basic internal organization. The Templars had a dual organizational
structure with the Master at the Head. Beginning with the Seneschal and
flowing down through the Commanders of the Lands, a complex system of administration
existed for the raising of revenue, maintaining of castles, and support
of the Brothers when not on campaign. A similar hierarchy existed in Europe
under the eight Western or Provincial Templar Masters. The main job of
the European administrative branch, which included the majority of the
Order¹s members, was to create the resources necessary for the Order
to pursue its primary role: Defense and conquest of the Holy Land from
following organization chart provides a good frame of reference for how
the peacetime side of the Order was structured.
Order¹s structure altered while on campaign. It formed a second branch
that was led by the Marshal. He acted as Commander in Chief of the brothers
under arms, reporting directly to the Master (Rule 103). The Brother Knights
and Sergeants were transferred from the command of the Houses to the Marshalcy
while on campaign. The Marshalcy also controlled the horses, weapons, and
other directly military equipment (Rule 102). This structure is actually
organization while engaged in battle.
duality can be somewhat challenging for the casual student. It is also
further confusing in that the same individuals moved between the two branches,
occupying different roles. The Commander of the Land of Jerusalem is a
good example. His peacetime role was to be the Chief Administrative Officer
in the kingdom of Jerusalem and the Treasurer of the Order. In this capacity,
he reported through the Seneschal. This job was much like that of a modern
regional COO and overall CFO combined. In wartime, however, he would become
a simple Squadron Commander under the authority of the Marshal (Rule 103).
Thus, one might say he had "two bosses", a common complaint of
personnel in modern matrix organizations.
is fascinating to realize that the duality of the Templar organizational
structure bears a striking similarity to modern organizational theory.
Some of the most sophisticated principles employed in private business
and military organizations can be found in the system described above.
There are three basic types of organizations, which are generally recognized;
Functional, Projectized, and Matrix. Functional and projectized organizations
are the most common. In a functional model, organizational units are identified
by basic functional definitions. Which to say; the kind of work performed.
Personnel are grouped in these units and authority and responsibility flow
within these divisions. In a projectized model, organizational units are
formed around products or projects. Personnel are not divided along functional
lines until further down the organizational tree, if at all. The matrix
structure is a less common model in which the previous two are blended
together. Personnel are grouped into major divisions according to function,
but are then "farmed out" to support projects. This is the most
complex of the three types.
modern executive, drafting a matrix organization for a group like the Templars,
would create something like this:
organization in a typical matrix structure.
This is the actual organizational structure that was used with the minor
exception that the post of Treasurer was combined with that of the Commander
of the Land of Jerusalem (Rule 111). This was no doubt due to the physical
proximity of the Commander to both the Order¹s headquarters and the
capital city of the Holy Land. The ultimate "product" of the
Templars was the making of war on the enemies of the Christian States.
The Marshal was in charge of this "product". The three lands
and eight Provincial Masters were the functional groups charged with raising
revenue and the literal "care and feeding" of the Brothers when
not on campaign.
is an extraordinarily sophisticated structure for a medieval institution.
Remember that the Matrix Model has only recently gained wide spread popularity
in our own time. It is clearly the most complex of the choices available.
It is also much more difficult to execute successfully, requiring many
more choices to be made. The Templars seem to have adopted this model very
early in their history. Their environment would have encouraged this from
the start. Their mission was fighting in Outremer, but their resources
were scattered throughout the Western Europe and the Near East. This created
the need for a matrix structure. The monastic nature of the Order enabled
its application. As a church organization, a unifying coherency of authority
was implicit. Without a coherent chain of command, a matrix organization
would rapidly fracture. Thus, we see the happy convergence of need with
a quick review of the Order¹s accomplishments tell us that there is
something extraordinary about this group:
Over 170 years of successful military service in the Holy Land
The Only (along with the Hospitallers) major standing army in the
Garrison and construction of many of the most important Christian
Vast property holdings all over Europe
A sophisticated, international banking system
Interests in most Mediterranean and European industries
analysis discussed above has shown that the Templar organizational structure
was highly tuned to their complex and widely dispersed interests. Indeed,
when we examine it against the standards of modern organizational theory,
we find a sophisticated matrix structure, executed so well as to put many
modern corporations to shame. What is more remarkable, however, is that
this was achieved during the Middle Ages, when socioeconomic institutions
were relatively primitive. Without breaking important interfaces to the
secular world, the Templars evolved this very modern structure from a purely
vision of Founder Hugh de Payens, a monastic military order, was the underlying
moral compass. It guided the application of the Templars¹ unique tools
and abilities. The effectiveness of the secular socioeconomic system was
greatly hampered by the fragmentation of authority, the absence of even
a rudimentary chain of command, and the acute lack of a consistent cash
flow. Hugh¹s original vision overcame these shortfalls. He and his
successors carried the Templars though more than a century and a half of
unparalleled success. Their accomplishments are truly remarkable."
© 2001 by Salvatore T. Bruno