Yes, the bulk of the Templars were laymen. Pope Innocent II's bull of 29 March 1139, 'Omne datum optimum', allowed the Templars to have their own priests. However, the priests did not fight: their function was to pray and perform other priestly duties. The Templars were not canons, because canons were priests.

While canon law did forbid priests to shed blood, priests were frequently involved in violence. Contemporary commentators remarked on (and complained about) the fact that many priests joined the crusades, including monks. Of course this was a different matter from a religious order whose function was to fight. Although the Order of the Temple was the first such order to receive official Church approval, others followed. The fighting members of such orders were never priests.

Despite Bernard of Clairvaux's rhetoric in his De laude novae militiae, the Templars were not, strictly speaking, monks because they were not tied to one location and they did not live in enclosed houses. Likewise, the Augustinian and Premonstratensian canons were not monks – they could travel around, performing priestly duties -- and the later orders of friars were not monks. They were religiosi, religious men, men who had taken religious vows as part of a religious order.

The concept of the military religious order is understandable if one considers the social context: lay piety (for example, as depicted in the Chanson de Roland), the growth of the knightly class and the development of the crusade idea. The development of the concept has been discussed by many historians – for example, Malcolm Barber at the beginning of his book The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple (Cambridge, 1994).

If it would be of any use, you are free to use the reading list and documentswhich I produced for my ownstudents.

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