The first rule for the Templars, called the Primitive Rule, was composed in Latin and was the result of discussions concerning the establishment of the Order at the Council of Troyes in 1129. The Primitive Rule was translated into French sometime after the Council of Pisa in May of 1135, since it contains clauses not found in the original Latin version, and a list of feast days first set forth at the Pisan council. There is some evidence to suggest that the founder of the Order, Hugh de Payns, first drafted the Rule orally in French before the Council of Troyes, and that the Rule was then altered by the scribe who recorded the Rule in Latin even though it was presented by Hugh in French.
Unlike with the Latin versions of the Templar Rule, which are often found in manuscripts collections of diverse texts, four out of five of the manuscripts which contain the French-language redaction are identical in their manuscript context. In each of these manuscripts the copy of the Rule is immediated followed by a list of feasts and fasts observed by the order, and then by a list of statues that applied to the Order's officers, commonly called the Retrais.
The Rule itself provides an idealized view of Templar life, and a proscriptive rather than descriptive view of the Order's membership. Copies of the Rule circulated very little, as members of the Temple wished to keep the Order's practices secret for fear that open knowledge of their customs and procedures would endanger the well-being of the organization as a whole.
Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery, W. 132.
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds fr., 1977
Dijon, Archives Départementales, H 111 (stolen in 1985)
Rome, Accademia dei Lincei, cod. 44, A14
Simonetta Cerrini, "La Tradition Manuscrite del la Regle du Temple," in Autour de la Premiere Croisade, Actes du Colloque de la Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1996, 203-219.