This is one of those questions that people interested in the Templars often ask. But so far as we know the Templars did not keep membership lists; certainly none have survived. We don’t even know how many Templars there were at any one time. Working from figures given by Archbishop William of Tyre and by the Templar official Terricus (Thierry) after the Order’s heavy losses in the East in 1187, it appears that there were around 300 Templar knights in the kingdom of Jerusalem in the 1180s. Malcolm Barber has estimated that there were around 1,000 sergeant-brothers in addition to the 300 knight-brothers.[i]
Is this a reasonable figure? As a comparison: there were reported to be eighty-three Templar knight-brothers and thirty-five sergeant-brothers on Cyprus just before the arrest of the Templars on Cyprus in May 1308. [ii] So from perhaps 1,300 Templars in the East in 1187 the number had fallen to 118 in 1308 — less than a tenth! The Templars had certainly suffered enormous losses when Acre fell to the Mamluks in 1291 and again when the Mamluks conquered the island of Ruad (Arwad) in 1302, but this decrease of over 90% suggests that the estimated figure of 1,300 Templars in the East in the 1180s is too large. Perhaps there were only 300 brothers in total, in the whole of the East; that would mean that numbers more than halved between the 1180s and the early fourteenth century, but that would be reasonable after the losses of 1291-1302.
That is only the East: how many Templars were there overall?
In 1992 Malcolm Barber estimated that there were 7,000 Templars in total at the time of the brothers’ arrests in 1307-8. But Anne Gilmour-Bryson has gone through all the surviving testimonies and calculated that between 1307 and 1311 only around 935 Templars testified.[iii]
Some readers assume that this means that a lot of Templars escaped! But there’s a simpler explanation — that estimate of 7,000 is far too large. Malcolm assumed that every known Templar house had two or three brothers in it in 1307, but as scholars work through the inventories and the other records of the trial it now appears that many had no resident brothers at all.
So how many Templars were there in 1307? To judge from Britain and Ireland – where there were around 144 Templars at the time of the arrests but only 108 (that is, 75% of the total) testified – some 25% of Templars avoided interrogation because they were too ill, because they died, or because they evaded arrest.[iv] Roger Sève and Anne-Marie Chagny-Sève calculated that there were ninety-one Templars in the diocese of Clermont, in 1307, of whom sixty-five were interrogated; and ninety-seven Templars in the diocese of Limoges, of whom sixty-eight were interrogated — that is, around 30% were not interrogated.[v] In Cyprus seventy-six Templars testified: 64% of the 118 in Cyprus in May 1308.[vi] If we apply the percentage of interrogations versus actual Templars in Britain and Ireland to Gilmour-Bryson’s figure for testimonies, we get a total of only 1,246 Templars in 1307. The percentage of interrogations to actual Templars in Clermont diocese would give us 1,309 Templars; ditto in Limoges diocese 1,334 Templars; the percentage for Cyprus would give us 1,452 Templars. At the time of writing I don’t have comparable figures for the other provinces, but so far this suggests that there were no more than 1,500 Templars in Europe and Cyprus in 1307.
[i] Barber, The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple (Cambridge: CUP, 1994), pp. 93-4; Barber, ‘Supplying the Crusader States: the role of the Templars’, in The Horns of Hattin. Proceedings of the 2nd Conference of the Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East: Jerusalem and Haifa 2-6 July 1987, ed. Benjamin Z. Kedar (Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi, 1992), pp. 314-326: at p. 315.
[ii] ‘Chronique d’Amadi’ in Chroniques d’Amadi et de Strambaldi, ed. René de Mas Latrie (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1891), vol. 1, p. 286; Nicholas Coureas and Peter Edbury, The Chronicle of Amadi translated from the Italian (Nicosia: Cyprus Research Centre, 2015), p. 268 .
[iii] Barber, ‘Supplying the Crusader States’ (1992), p. 319; Anne Gilmour-Bryson, The Trial of the Templars in Cyprus: A Complete Edition (Leiden: Brill, 1998), p. 9.
[iv] Helen Nicholson, Knights Templar on Trial (Stroud: History Press, 2009), p. 49; Proceedings Against the Templars in the British Isles, ed. and trans. Helen Nicholson (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), vol. 2, pp. xix, xxxix.
[v] Roger Sève, and Anne-Marie Chagny-Sève, eds, Le Procès des Templiers d’Auvergne, 1309–1311: Edition de l’interrogatoire de juin 1309 (Paris: Editions du Comité des Travaux historiques et scientifiques, 1986), p. 31; p. 32.
[vi] Gilmour-Bryson, Trial of the Templars in Cyprus (1998), pp. 448-50.