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Knights Templar: a very wealthy and powerful military order for nearly 200 years during the Middle Ages. Endorsed by the Catholic Church around 1129, the Order became a favoured charity throughout Christendom and grew rapidly in membership and power. Templar knights, in their distinctive white mantles with a red cross, were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades. Other Order members managed an early form of the banking system which helped to build cathedrals and castles.