Fans of History Channel’s The Curse of Oak Island know that countless theorists have connected the Knights Templar to the fabled treasures reported to lay buried beneath the 140 acre Atlantic Ocean island. Just who were these brave crusaders and why do some believe they stashed invaluable artifacts on an out of the way map dot in the New World?
The Knights Templar were a Catholic military group that banded together in the early 12th century. They were easily recognized by a uniform consisting of a white tunic which bore a distinctive red cross. Some Knights Templar members fought in the Crusades while others ran a crude precursor to today’s modern banking institution that operated across Europe and included the Holy Land.
In 1129. the group caught a major foothold after a key church figure, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, recognized them. Following his endorsement, the Templars received significant donations for use in their fight for the Holy Land.
Roughly ten years later, their power increased exponentially when Pope Innocent II proclaimed that, in effect, the group answered only to him. This meant they were free to cross any border and paid no taxes.
Although the Templars took a vow of poverty, they controlled vast wealth. Their wealth accrued as travelers to the Holy Land turned over their valuables to them prior to making a pilgrimage. In turn, the travelers were guaranteed an equal amount of treasure upon their arrival in the Holy Land.
Ironically, the Templar’s connection to the Holy Land played a large part in their undoing. After this land was lost, their mission came under suspicion and by the early 14th century, the group was largely decimated via persecution at the hand of King Philip IV of France, in part to wipe out his own debt to the order.
How did this far away and long ago religious order come to be associated with a fantastic legend centered on a tiny island in the New World?
Part of the answer is that their story lends itself to speculation. The group’s sudden demise along with their exposure to Holy Land artifacts such as the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail leaves it wide open to conjecture about their fate.
The late Zena Halpern, a Knights Templar researcher from New York, was instrumental in getting the latest Oak Island treasure hunting team on board with the theory that Templar riches are buried on Oak Island.
After Halpern passed along her pet theory to Oak Island researcher and historian Doug Crowell, he, in turn, shared it with the treasure chasing team led by Rick and Marty Lagina, currently featured on the popular documentary reality series, The Curse of Oak Island.
The Laginas were intrigued enough to invite Halpern on the show to explain why she believed the Knights Templar were connected to Oak Island. For her part, Halpern carefully described documents in her possession, dated from 1170-1180, that reported a Templar voyage to an island of oaks, and showed the team a 1347 map with a land mass labeled Oak Island.
The team were impressed with Halpern’s theory and even after her passing, it is clear that they hold her in high regard. Halpern bequeathed the entirety of her research library to Rick Lagina, and it now resides on the island in a center named in her honor.
Will Halpern’s theory about the Knights Templar and Oak Island be proven correct, scoring the Laginas and their team incredible fame and wealth while at the same time the privilege of re-writing history?
Be sure to tune in and find out!
The Curse of Oak Island airs Tuesday nights at 9/8c.