Over hundreds of years, the Templars had evolved from a small, rag-tag order of devout warriors and bodyguards, to one of the most powerful organisations on Earth. They may have officially been the ‘Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ’, but the order had effectively become a multinational business empire, controlling fleets of ships and vast tracts of land, including farms, water mills and vineyards.
The Templars built up their incredible wealth through numerous income streams. Famously, they established an early banking network which crisscrossed Europe and the Middle East. Pilgrims heading to the Holy Land would deposit their money with one Templar house and receive a letter of credit which would let them withdraw their funds at another ‘branch’ elsewhere on their journey. The exact wording of these letters of credit, and how they prevented fraud by unscrupulous pilgrims, remains a great historical riddle. It’s likely the letters contained secret cyphers that only Templars could understand, proving they were authentic.