Hugues de Payens, the founder of Templar, was born around 1070 in the eastern French region of Champagne, in the village of Paiens, near Troyes. He died at 66, on May 24, 1136, in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In the founding of the Order, he was assisted by Bernard of Clairvaux, the chief reformer of the Benedictine monastic order. There is no reliable information about his life, most of them is preserved in Latin or medieval French.
The same name appears in numerous other charters until 1113 in relation to the Count of Champagne Hugues (Hugues of Champagne), which suggests that the founder of the Templar order was of noble origin. By 1113, he was married to Elizabeth de Chappes, and they had at least one child, Thibaud. Hugues was also identified with Hug de Pinós, the third son of Galceran I, Lord of Pino in Catalonia. However, Galceran married in 1090, which would be too late to be the father of the founder of the Order of the Knights Templar.
There is also a claim that Hugues de Payens or Ugo de’ Pagani came from Nocera de’ Pagani in Campania, southern Italy. Reference to Nocera as his birthplace is found at least as early as Baedeker’s Southern Italy and is also found in the Old Catholic Encyclopedia. Two more recent writers say that the theory is supported by a letter that Hugues wrote from Palestine in 1103, in which he talked of writing to “my father in Nocera” to tell him of the death of his cousin Alessandro.
Hugh, Count of Champagne made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1104–07 and visited Jerusalem for the second time in 1114–16. It is probable that he was accompanied by Hugues de Payens, who remained there after the Count returned to France as there is a charter with “Hugonis de Peans” in the witness list from Jerusalem in 1120 and again in 1123. In 1125 his name appears again as a witness to a donation, this time accompanied by the title “magister militum Templi” (“Master of the Knights of the Temple”).
Later chroniclers write that Hugues de Payens approached King Baldwin II of Jerusalem (whose reign began in 1118) with eight knights, two of whom were brothers and all of whom were his relatives by either blood or marriage, in order to form the Order of the Knights Templar. The other knights were Godfrey de Saint-Omer, Payen de Montdidier, Archambaud de St. Agnan, Andre de Montbard, Geoffrey Bison, and two men recorded only by the names of Rossal and Gondamer. Baldwin approved the foundation of the Order and entrusted the Temple of Jerusalem to its care.
As Grand Master, Hugues de Payens led the Order for almost twenty years until his death, helping to establish the Order’s foundations as an important and influential military and financial institution. On his visit to England and Scotland in 1128, he raised men and money for the Order, and also founded their first House in London and another near Edinburgh at Balantrodoch, now known as Temple, Midlothian. Museum Hugues de Payens is located in Payen in France.