Who are the Knights Templar? Many unrelated groups apear to claim the name
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Who are the Knights Templar? Many unrelated groups apear to claim the name

Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik has claimed allegiance to the Knights Templar, which he described as a secret society created to carry out a crusade against Islam in Europe. Several unrelated organizations claim the name but not the goal that Breivik has described.

The original Knights Templar was a Christian military order founded in the early 12th century whose members, wearing white mantles with a red cross, became one of the most formidable fighting forces of the Crusades. It was dissolved in 1312.

The group’s mythology has been boosted by books like Dan Brown’s bestselling novel “The Da Vinci Code,” which depicted the knights as a cultish society linked to the Vatican and concealing church secrets, including the location of the Holy Grail.

Other groups claiming ties to the Knights Templar include:

— A man named Paul Ray based in Malta claims to lead a group called the Ancient Order of the Templar Knights, which shares Breivik’s anti-Islam, anti-multicultural ideology, but Ray says he had nothing to do with Breivik.

— The Knights Templar — full name, The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta — is an order of Freemasonry that describes itself as a philanthropic organization.

— The Militia Templi Christi pauperum Militum Ordo (Militia of the Temple Order of the Poor Knights of Christ) is a Roman Catholic lay order founded in Italy by Count Marcello A. Cristofani della Magione in 1979. It has affiliates in 10 other countries.

— The Grand Commandery of Knights Templar, based in London, says it promotes historical research, spirituality, meditation and chivalry. One of its projects is encouraging random acts of kindness.

— Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani (The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem), based in Englewood, Florida, describes itself as a Christian humanitarian organization with 5,000 members worldwide. It is recognized as a non-governmental organization by the United Nations. It has affiliates in 14 countries, including Norway.

— The Rosslyn Templars are dedicated to research on Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, the elaborately decorated building that figured in the film of “The Da Vinci Code.”

— The Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests, or the Order of Holy Wisdom, is based in York, England.

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