The Order of the Temple of Solomon was never dissolved nor extinguished any time after 1307 AD. Most of the central working assets, equipment, writings and records of the Knights Templar, and the majority of its Knights, Dames and supporters, successfully fled from France shortly before the infamous French Inquisition raid by King Philip IV.

As recorded in testimony of the Knight Jean de Châlon, the Templars had advance warning of the impending raid, and arranged a fleet of 18 galley ships to leave La Rochelle port, visibly leaving behind a couple ships to avoid raising suspicions of their escape [1]. This testimony during the trials specified that “Gerard de Villiers, the Paris Preceptor, had escaped with 50 horses and 18 ships.” [2]

The historical record leaves “no doubt” that the Templar Grand Mastery “was aware that the arrests were impending”, planned for 13 October 1307 AD. It is documented that “the arrest orders were dated 14 September, so at the most the Templars had four weeks’ advance notice. … With a depleted stockpile of workable assets, coinage, gold, jewels and other saleable goods, the Templars fled the area of immediate persecution before the hammer could fall.” [3]

It is known that “the very Rule of the Templar Order commanded the brothers to defend one another”, with a “duty to protect the order; at the cost of [one’s] own life if necessary.” For this reason, the Grand Master Jacques de Molay and a group of dedicated knights stayed behind, to avoid arousing suspicion, thus allowing the majority to escape to safety. “Only 620 Templar personnel are known to have been arrested in France” after the raids of 1307 AD. Historians “estimate that there were over 3,000 Templars” in France at that time, such that “over 2,000 fully armed and equipped Templar brothers, with their entire retinues of squires, servants, horses, baggage trains and camp followers” in fact did escape, and must have boarded the 18 ships that left the port of La Rochelle. [4]

Scholars generally agree that “the Templars managed to disperse most of their portable wealth before the King’s henchmen came to confiscate it. Indeed, the royal agents found monasteries that had in large part been abandoned… they found the ships had set sail”. Other smaller “Templar fleets in the south and north of France, Flanders, and Portugal also left port – and sailed into legend. … Also missing from the Templars’ strongholds were the documents and records” of the former empire of the Order. [5]

To provide for the infrastructure of the new form of the Order as an underground network, “with no more Holy wars to wage”, the Templars “fell back on their second career, finance and trade.” Naturally, “most of the Templar wealth was out in the field earning interest and revenue for the order… the money would be transferred to those branches still open and put to even greater use to recover the recent losses.” Also, besides the 18 ships that escaped from the port of La Rochelle in 1307 AD, “the vast majority of Templar ships, both merchant vessels and armed galleons… would surely have been doing what the Templars did best – plying the seas of the Mediterranean and Atlantic, earning money to keep the order financially sound.” [6]