History of the Modern Templar Order
The Templar revival in the 20th century owed its existence to developments within the Grand Priory of Belgium, which had been founded under Dr. Fabre-Palaprat in 1825. Factional disputes between Catholic and Masonic members, along with European political developments, resulted in its being put to sleep for several years. In 1932, several former members re-established the Belgian Grand Priory, taking the name of “The Sovereign and Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem.” Hoping to re-establish this Order of the Temple as an international organization, a Regency was formed. The idea behind this Regency was that it would function as the temporary leadership of the Order until a new Grand Master could be elected.
Emile Isaac, who later took on his wife’s last name, “Vandenberg,” to hide his Jewish ancestry from the Nazis, was a key figure at this time. As Regent of this Belgian Grand Priory, Emile devoted much of his energy to revitalizing Templar Priories across Europe, including France, Italy, Portugal and Switzerland. Such a promising development was cut short by the Second World War. Viewing the German occupation of Belgium as a danger to Templar survival, Vandenberg made a temporary transfer of the leadership and archives of the Order to the care of the Portuguese Grand Prior, Antonio Campello de Sousa Fontes. Later in 1943, Emile requested the return of the archives. Then, de Sousa Fontes took advantage of the sudden death of Emile in that same year to assume the title of Regent. Once more there was schism, with some Priories rejecting his leadership. Sadly, there is evidence that the “car accident” that killed Emile Isaac was orchestrated by the Nazis who wanted this high-profile Jewish Templar dead (13).
In 1960 Antonio Campello de Sousa Fontes passed away and left it in his will that his son should succeed him as Regent of the order. It is interesting to note that the original Last Will and Testament of Antonio de Sousa Fontes was dated August 20, 1948, and not certified by a notary with the amended changes designating his son as successor until February 26, 1960, which was eleven days after Antonio de Sousa Fontes had already passed away! How a deceased man could have amended his will to provide for the succession of his son is a mystery we’ll never be able to solve. Thus, in 1960, when Fernando Campello de Sousa Fontes tried to succeed his father, ascribing to himself the title of Prince Regent, he met stiff resistance. Since the beginning of the Order in 1118, Grand Masters had always been elected and hereditary succession of the Grand Master’s seat has no precedence. Therefore many of the priories did not accept de Sousa Fontes’s son as the legitimate leader of the order and they soon got tired of the despotic way he tried to rule the Order.
In 1969, Regent de Sousa Fontes issued a Magistral Edict convoking a Convent General that would first meet in Paris in September, 1970, with the purpose of electing a new Grand Master. Many of the Priories were tired of de Sousa Fontes’s despotic and undemocratic leadership, his utter contempt for transparency, and blatant mismanagement. At that historic Convent General in Paris, participants democratically elected General Antoine (originally Andrzej) Zdrojewski (the Grand Prior of Europe and of France) to be the next Grand Master. It’s important to note that de Sousa Fontes authorized and attended this Paris Convent for the purpose of electing a new Grand Master as he believed he was going to win. In anticipation of his victory, Fontes had even prearranged a symbolic “victory lap” of two additional Conclaves: the first scheduled for 1971 in Chicago, Illinois, and the last in 1973 in Portugal.
Zdrojewski had been the Chief of the Polish Military Operations in France. The relationship between the French and Poles, fighting a common enemy, was very friendly. The Polish Government in Exile was also covertly regrouping remnants of army units (what would have been the 3rd and 4th Polish Infantry Divisions) for direct military contact to destabilize the German occupation of France. General Juliusz Kleeberg mustered one of the largest secret armies in France. The unit became known as the Polish Organization for Fighting for Independence (POWN) and was later commanded by Colonel Zdrojewski. Zdrowjeski became a war hero by distinguishing himself as the commander of this secret army and in 1944, after becoming a French citizen, the French Government promoted Zdrojewski to General. (9) (6) (1)
The defeated Fontes was both shocked and furious upon the election of Zdrojewski but he wasn’t willing to obey the Templar Rule of Succession by giving up power. He tried to have the results nullified by saying that General Zdrojewski was only elected Grand Master because the French Grand Priory had been “infiltrated” by the Gualist Secret Police, Service d’Action Civique (S.A.C.). Similar to the CIA or MI6 of today, the S.A.C. was established by President Charles de Gaulle as a 1901 law association on January 4th, 1960, in the proclaimed aim of providing unconditional support to de Gaulle’s policies (2). While it was true that the French Grand Priory included members from the S.A.C., it was certainly not “infiltrated.” Rather, these were their legitimately accepted members. General Zdrojewski had served under, been promoted to General by, and fully supported his former Commander, President Charles de Gaulle. He knew full well who the S.A.C. members were and accepted them into his French Grand Priory.
History is written by the political powers that survive to tell the tale. While President Charles de Gaulle was in power, the S.A.C. were the heroes defending the Republic and protecting President Charles de Gaulle during the precarious years following World War II. But when de Gaulle’s political enemies took power, they portrayed the S.A.C. as criminals (dirt can be found on even the best of organizations). Saying that the French Grand Priory was “infiltrated” by the S.A.C. is as ridiculous as saying the Templars of today have been infiltrated by retired military personnel. The Templars of today are fully aware that much of their ranks consist of retired military personnel and welcome them in.
Fontes’s failed attempt to have the election results nullified caused a split in the OSMTH. Some of the Grand Priories, including the French, Belgian, Swiss, and Polish, followed the newly elected General Zdrojewski, and some stayed with the defeated Fontes. Alfred Zappelli (Grand Prior of Switzerland), General Georges de Bruyn (Grand Prior of Belgium), and Badouraly-Somji Alibay (Commander of the Polish Commandery) were also backers of General Zdrojewski. After the election of Zdrojewski, our branch became known as OSMTJ (or “OSMTJ-Zdrojewski”). Those who continued to follow de Sousa Fontes were known as OSMTH (or “OSMTH-Regency”). “OSMTJ” is the French acronym for, “Ordre Souverain et Militaire du Temple de Jérusalem.” “OSMTH” is the latin translation of that: “Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani” (“Hierosolymitani” means “Jerusalem”). In English, you could translate the latin to, the “Supreme ( or Sovereign) Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem.”
On February 22, 1971, Grand Master Zdrojewski convened a Grand Council meeting of all member Grand Priories in Paris at Richelieu I. The first motion passed at this Grand Council was a decree that Fernando de Sousa Fontes was henceforth, stripped of all titles, ranks, and had lost his right to wear the robes and insignia of the Order. The reason for this was that the aforementioned had displayed no respect for the hierarchy or rules of succession of the Order and had committed violations of the rules of discipline of the Order. Specifically, Fernando de Sousa Fontes was known to sell ranks and titles in the order without merit. In fact, although the rules of the Order set forth only one Grand Prior per country at a time, Fernando de Sousa Fontes had accepted bribes to appoint several concurrent Grand Priors in many countries (“Grand Prior” is supposed to be the title for the one national leader in each country). For example, Fontes has accepted bribes to appoint six simultaneous Grand Priors in France, five in Spain, two in the United States twice (simultaneous U.S. Grand Priories in ’64 & again in ’95), two in Scotland, and two in Serbia. Each of these Grand Priors, being lead to believe they would be the only leader of their nation, had to pay a small fortune to de Sousa Fontes for that position only to discover Fontes was reselling that position to others!
In late 1973, Grand Master Zdrojewski carried out a reorganization of the OSMTJ and a reform of the Statutes. He approved the Grand Priories re-asserting the independence of the International Federation of Autonomous Grand Priories of the OSMTJ (Each member Grand Priory was recognized as autonomous). The Swiss Grand Priory accepted these reformed statutes in 1973 while the Belgian and United States Grand Priories accepted them in 1975.
One of the OSMTJ’s most important leaders at this time was the Grand Prior of Switzerland, Alfred Zappelli. Zappelli moved to Geneva where he was a Banker and Financial Consultant (3). He became the Grand Prior of Switzerland from 1967 until the mid 90’s except for a brief falling out with the Grand Master resulting in his expulsion in 1971 and reinstatement the following year. The OSMTJ suffered some tumultuous years from 1974, until near the end of the 70’s when it was necessary for Grand Master Zdrojewski to keep a low profile due to changes in the political powers of France (the election of new French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in 1974). Certain repercussions were meted out in the form of “investigations” (witch-hunts) on high profile supporters of the former French President, Charles de Gaulle, as well as against former members of his S.A.C.. General Zdrojewski had been one of de Gaulle’s staunchest supporters. During these years, Grand Prior Alfred Zappelli stepped up to hold the OSMTJ together. Zappelli recruited and introduced Philip A. Guarino to Grand Master Zdrojewski who appointed Philip the Grand Prior of the United States on February 15th, 1973 (TheKnightsTemplar.org) (8). Zappelli went on to found several other Grand Priories including one in Italy under Pasquale Gugliotta, who was named Grand Bailli of Italy on June 16, 1976 (2). Alfred continued giving lectures about the Knights Templar and recruiting for the OSMTJ all over the world. Despite his important position, Zappelli was a humble man and the Grand Priory he established still exists today at: http://Templiers.ch
General Antoine Zdrojewski remained Grand Master until his death in 1989. Before his death, in 1986, he issued a Charter of Transmission that gave authority to Georges Lamirand, the Grand Seneschal, and nominated him as his successor. Lamirand, the Director of the Billancourt Renault factory, had been serving as the Grand Prior of France. As Zdrojewski had wished, Georges Lamirand succeed Zdrowjewski as Regent (Caretaker) of the order, and then he went on to be elected Grand Master. Lamirand had started the war as an Artillery Officer in 1939, but had been promoted quickly through the ranks to become the Vichy General Secretary of Youth from September 1940 to March 1943. Starting in 1943, he covertly started working for the French Resistance and after ’43, he openly worked against the Vichy Government. Lamirand was also the Mayor of La Bourbole, Puy de Dome from 1955-1971. In the last decade of his life, Georges Lamirand was in poor health and appointed Dr. Nicolas Haimovici Hastier to the office of Grand Commander and Guardian of the Faith (11).
When Lamirand died on February 5th, 1994, his Grand Commander and Guardian of the Faith, Dr. Nicolas Haimovici Hastier, became the Regent (temporary caretaker until a Master is elected) of the Order. Dr. Nicolas was a naturalized French citizen, married to a German, and had lived a long time in Nice, France (on the French Riviera) before moving to Sanremo, Italy (11)(3).
Nicolas was a distinguished physician with more than 100 published scientific articles in peer-reviewed medical journals, as well as a consultant to the American Administration (Served in a Medical Overseeing capacity on several Navy ships including The USS Enterprise). He taught in various universities in France and for 12 years he taught at New York Medical College (Paramus, New Jersey) in the United States. He was a District Governor of Rotary in France and an officer in many other humanitarian organizations. In 2001, Nicholas wrote the book, The Rule of the Order of the Templars. It took him about 15 years to write this book and is considered a masterpiece: http://www.sartori.com/osmth/osmth4/book/
On April 17th, 2022, a fair and legitimate election was concluded run by an independent organization. Twenty two Priories voted and Philippe Matta was elected Grandmaster. Philippe Ghostine Matta, KGCTJ, was a member of OSMTJ since 2018, Lebanese on his mother’s side and Brazilian on his father’s side, is married with two daughters and one son, living in Beirut Lebanon. He was born into a Christian family and has remained Christian his entire life. He is Chairman of Mabco Trading and Contracting Company in Lebanon as well as General Manager of Rigotherm Pipes and Fittings Industry in Lebanon and Brazil. www.rigotherm.com.br
Of those Priories that had initially stayed faithful to de Sousa Fontes following his 1970 defeat, it didn’t take long for the majority to realize that they had stayed with the wrong man. Fernando De Sousa Fontes, up until this time, had called himself the “Regent” or caretaker of the order until such a time that a Grand Master could be elected. Now he changed his tune as he continued dismantling every democratic process in the OSMTH until he unilaterally changed the statutes to give himself the title of “Grand Master.” His revised statutes, which he created in 1990, stated that if a Grand Master had not been elected for 903 days, the Regent automatically becomes Grand Master for life without an election! When his national leaders united in their request for a Council of Grand Priors to allow them to have some input, Fontes mocked them by creating this council with only his family as members! In 1995 a lawsuit was filed against Fontes and there were allegations of him having misspent a significant portion of membership dues to fund his own lavish lifestyle (7).
At this point, in November of 1995, the majority of the OSMTH Grand Priories under Fontes assembled in the Austrian town of Salzburg and democratically voted to leave Fernando de Sousa Fontes, in effect, creating a new OSMTH Order (the original Order under Fontes being called the “OSMTH-Regency or OSMTH-Porto”). It’s important to note that their Grand Master, de Sousa Fontes, neither authorized nor attended this meeting and that no election took place at this meeting (12). We respect this new OSMTH as our Brothers and Sisters for we understand why they broke away from de Sousa Fontes.
(1) Zdrojewski promoted to General: http://www.swordforum.com/forums/showthread.php?75540-Would-love-some-assistance-on-this-sword
(2) SAC (French: Service d’Action Civique; or Civic Action Service https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Service_d’Action_Civique
(4) Pasquale Gugliotta named Bailli of Italy http://books.google.com/books?id=x-uhAgAAQBAJ&pg=PT36&lpg=PT36&dq=Pasquale+Gugliotta+Bailli&source=bl&ots=vkVzPcOXUx&sig=qJGmEqBuoMcddhpaH8_rG0xE1Ew&hl=en&sa=X&ei=9qb8UueuIOTN0QHngIHQDg&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Pasquale%20Gugliotta%20Bailli&f=false
(6) Background on General Antoine (or Antoni) Zdrojewski about http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoni_Zdrojewski
(7) See Lawsuit: SMOTJ Inc. v. de Sousa Fontes, case No. U.S.D.C. Texas No. 3-995CV-0890G
(8) History of Philip A. Guarino: http://www.TheKnightsTemplar.org/Philip-Guarino/
(9) History of Colonel Zdrojewski in WWII: http://www.PolandInExile.com/exile4.htm
(11) Venceslai, Stelio. L’Utopia Templare. Rome: Laris Editrice, 2011 . Print. Pages: 109-112.
(12) See the history leading up to this meeting and what took place there: http://www.theknightstemplar.org/forums/topic/fontes-versus-smotj-osmth-kti/ )
(13) Read the history of Emile Isaac (Vandenberg): http://mechelen.mapt.be/wiki/Emile_Clement_Joseph_Isaac_Vandenberg