As the Templar mission grew, Pope Innocent III extended their influence by issuing the Omne Datum Optimum, a Papal Bull declaring that the order be excused from taxes, permitted freely to cross borders and be subject to the authority of no one monarch. The Bull also confirmed the Templar status as ‘Poor Knights of the Order of the Temple of Solomon’ and validated the Templar Rule. The Bull was also significant in that it allowed the Templars to keep the spoils of war and also permit them to collect tithes themselves, on condition they be presented as a gift rather than an act of requirement.
Papal approval was a significant aspect of the Templar’s ability to grow as an order. According to Rule, each man was required to adhere to vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and piety. For men of noble status, this often required relinquishing large amounts of money or property that henceforth would be used for the good of the order.
The Omne Datum Optimum was the first of three Papal Bulls issued in the first half of the 12th century helping enforce the Templar’s status. In 1144 Pope Celestine II published the Milites Templi, which was soon followed by the Militia Dei by Eugenius III a year later. The new Bulls extended the Templar’s privileges even further: including collecting taxes once a year and being allowed to build their own churches.
Though controversial, their new wealth allowed the order to develop as a military institution. At the height of their power, their military reputation was formidable, embodied by their custom that they should only surrender when outnumbered three to one. Gifts of money and land were used to establish fortifications at key pilgrimage points, which extended their influence geographically. As the order’s expansion continued, they were also presented the opportunity to establish new trade links.