Prominently featured in the Assassin's Creed series, the Knights Templar (or Order of the Temple), are a Western Christian military order that was active from the years 1119 to 1314. The order was comprised of two groups of individuals, the soldiers and the non-combatants. The non-combatant members of the Templars created and maintained many strongholds across Europe and the Promised Land, where they learnt and adapted an early of form of financial banking. They are most associated with the era of the Crusades.
The order of the Templar was subject to much controversy and is still matter of rumor and speculation to this day. Their secretive initiation ceremony, known as Reception, was heavily questioned as outsiders weren't allowed attendance and initiates were required to willingly give up their riches and goods. Rumors of their quick rise to power and military dominance were always existent and their association with legends and holy relics only increased the amount of said rumors. While it is "documented" that the Knights Templar were in possession of such relics like a piece of the True Cross, it was also speculated that they were in possession of idols worshipping the pagan deity
Baphomet, where more rumors of the Templars practicing Witchcraft arose. The most infamous holy artifact tied to the Templars is the Shroud of Turin, as it was first presented by the widow of a direct descendant of a Templar Preceptor, Geoffrey de Charney.
Trust and support for the Templars quickly diminished as the Promised Land was lost. The Templars engaged in periodic fights with other religious military factions like the Teutonic Knights and parties involved weakened as time passed. In 1187, Jerusalem was captured by Muslim forces and the Templars relocated to Acre, where they also fought and lost, forcing them to move from location to location as their outposts would continue to be conquered. They finally settled in Cyprus, where they once again were vanquished. Having lost all of their outposts and headquarters in the Promised Land, the Knights Templar became part of the common community, managing many businesses and farms.
In early 1307, charges against a Templar outcast 2 years prior were under investigation by Pope Clement V and the Templar leader Jacques de Molay due to a delay in a meeting between the Pope, Templars and Hospitallers Order to try and unite the two forces. Pope Clement V sent a letter to King Philip IV requesting his aid in the investigation. Attempting to absolve himself of his debts to the Order, he pressured the Church into taking action against the Templars. In 1307, many Templar leaders and the vast majority of members were arrested under King Philip IV's authority. While under arrest, the Templar were tortured into confessing for crimes the likes of treason, corruption, fraud, secrecy, heresy and ritualistic practice. Pope Clement V called to have the Templars investigated under trial, which was blocked by King Philip IV who had them burned at the stake. King Philip IV later threatened military intervention to the Church and the Pope unless they take action against the Order. In 1312, the Pope had issued a series of documents which officially disbanded the Order of the Templar and turned most of their assets to the Hospitallers Order. Jacques de Molay and Preceptor of Normandy Geoffrey de Charney were accused of relapsed heresy and sentenced to be burned at the stake in 1314, thus bringing the Templar organization to a final end. Remaining Templars were either arrested, or absolved into the Knights of Hospitaller.
The order of the Templars is also frequently featured in conspiracy theories as having survived until the present day, still controlling the world behind the scenes. This aspect of the order is seen in the Assassin's Creed series, but also in games such as Deus Ex, Broken Sword, or Gabriel Knight 3, though with a greater emphasis on their contemporary exploits.