THE TRIAL OF THE KNIGHTS TEMPLARS BY BRO. HENRY D. FUNK, MINNESOTA The trial of the Knights Templars in the early fourteenth century was one of the most brutal travesties of justice known to mankind and the dissolution of the order was one of the saddest tragedies chronicled in the history of civilization. The trial began suddenly and was conducted with unrelenting animosity until the ruin of the Templars was achieved. Owing to the real or fancied connection of that Medieval order with the Knights Templars of today an examination of the historic trial may be of interest to the readers of "The Builder." I - HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE TEMPLARS TO 1307 Shortly after the end of the first crusade, in the year 1119, eight knights under the leadership of Hugo de Payens assumed the task of forming themselves into guards for the safe-conduct of pilgrims from Europe traveling between the Eastern Mediterranean sea coast and Jerusalem. The associates of De Payens were Godfrey de St. Omar, Roval, Godfrey Bisol, Payens de Montidiel, Archembald de St. Amand, Andrew de Montbarry, and Gundemar who took the regular monastic vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, and lived together according to the rules of the Augustianian friars said to have been made by Bernard of Clairvaux. So eminently useful was the service of these eight knights that Baldwin II, king of Jerusalem, bestowed favors upon them and provided them with headquarters in a part of his-palace located near the spot where the Temple of Solomon is said to have stood. The association of the incipient order with this historic site gave to the knights the name of Knights of the Temple. Their number increased normally at first, the most illustrious addition being count Hugo of Champagne who became a Templar in 1125. In 1128 the council of Troyes witnessed the papal confirmation of these knights as a religious order and then their numbers increased rapidly. (1) The insignia of the Templars were: a white mantle, symbolizing purity, and a red cross signifying their readiness to endure martyrdom. They ate their meals in common, were permitted to keep horses, but not more than three for each knight, and were entitled to have one servant per knight. They were allowed to hunt lions but were forbidden to go on the chase with falcons. Correspondence with relatives was prohibited and every form of communication with women, including mothers and sisters, was denied. Any infraction of the rules was punished by expulsion from the order. From its inception the order proper was composed of knights of noble descent, born in honorable wedlock, innocent of grave offenses, and sound in body and mind. New members of this class were admitted without passing through a novitiate; but at an early date two other classes became identified with this order: the clergy, or priests, and the servientes, or servants. Accessions from secular knights by scions of noble families tended to change the monastic character of the Templars and make them not only secular but worldly. Then we find at their head a Grandmaster, ranked as a prince, and other ministeriales such as a seneschal, a marshall, a president of the war office, a Grand-Preceptor, a treasurer of the order, a drapier, and a commander of the light cavalry. Their organization spelled efficiency and won for them the good will of the papacy. Eugene III in 1148 remitted one-tenth of the pennance to all who made bequests to this order. Alexander III in 1163 allowed them their own clergy, and Innocent III in 1209 prohibited the use of the interdict against them except by papal consent. Such favors implied obligations by the recipients which the popes were not slow in demanding of their beneficiaries: aid for the papal agents in breaking down the independence of local churches. This service being performed the papacy compensated the Templars again in 1266 by decreeing that gifts to this order entitled the donors to the benefits of indulgences in the Holy Land. Consequently many gifts were bestowed upon them, such as manors, villages, and towns, and their possessions were multiplied in Jerusalem, Tripoli, Antioch, Cyprus, and Morea in the East, while in the West they held lands in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany and England. In all these countries they built their temple courts and engaged in financial enterprises. They were the leading bankers of Paris and London; the Templars of Paris acted as bankers for Blanche of Castile, Alphonso de Poitiers, Robert of Artois, and many other nobles. The order also furnished ministers of finance to James I of Aragon and Charles I of Naples. The Templar Thierre of Geleran was the chief adviser of Louis VII of France, and the order's treasury at Paris was the financial center for the French kingdom. (2) But the material prosperity of the Templars was their undoing. From the days of Phillip Augustus to the reign of Philip IV princes and prelates as also the Knights of St. John were jealous of the power wielded by the Templars, and it was to be expected that at the first opportunity the envious would harm them. Unfortunately the Templars were not sufficiently alert to maintain the order above reproach. They committed a grave blunder when they permitted an unreasonable increase in the lowest ranks, that of the servientes, which had been limited to one for each knight. By and by so many churls of every degree, mechanics, shepherds, stablehands, and swineherders joined this class that they eventually constituted nine-tenths of the entire order. (3) Among these were naturally enough many of coarse habits and those who had "the vices of monks." The popular mind did not distinguish between these "heweres of wood and carriers of water" and the knights proper. In France it became customary to describe an intemperate man by saying: "boire comme un templier," i.e. he drinks like a Templar; and in Germany the old word "Tempelhaus" was equivalent to a house of prostitution. Their immense possessions had made all Templars conscious of their wealth and power, a fact not especially conducive to the cultivation of the Christian virtue called humility. Hence it became customary to characterize a man of great pride by saying: he is as proud as a Templar. Toward the end of the thirteenth century public opinion held that the Templars and the Knights of St. John were not needed in the West but that they ought to sell their possessions in western Europe and after effecting a union of the two orders locate in the East and direct all their efforts against the enemies of Christ. Phillip IV of France was especially anxious to eliminate them from his kingdom in order to carry out his centralizing policy. They had resisted the same aim on the part of Louis VII in 1149 and blocked Phillip's political program in 1190. The failure of the crusade led by Louis IX was laid at their door, and they had opposed Charles of Anjou in the conquest of Naples sanctioned and invited by the pope; moreover they had taken part in the Sicilian vespers against the French, and had united in expelling the French regent and aided in inviting the Aragonese to the throne of Sicily. In 1295 they refused to pay a tenth to Phillip IV, and in 1296 during the bitter struggle between Boniface VIII and the same king over the right to tax the clergy they exported the precious metals to the pope in violation of the royal edict. When Phillip IV demanded their aid against the pope in 1303 they refused obedience, and in 1306 when the king urged an amalgamation of Hospitalers and Templars they declined to consider his suggestion. (4) Such resistance to the royal will on the part of a strong king was more than he would tolerate. Fortuitous circumstances had arisen to make possible the destruction of this hated order within his realm, and Phillip was not slow to see the opportunity. The year 1305 marks the beginning of the so-called Babylonian Captivity of the papacy, a phrase which signifies the residence of the popes at Avignon in France for almost seventy years, i.e. until 1378. This transfer of the papal See from Rome to French soil came about as the result of the controversy between Phillip IV and Boniface VIII. Eleven months after the death of Boniface VIII the cardinals elected the archbishop of Bordeaux to be head of the church. The new pope took the name of Clement V and started for Rome; but at Lyons Phillip IV met him and persuaded him to take up his residence at Avingnon, He created twenty four new cardinals, mostly Frenchmen and relatives of the pope. During the quarrel between the French king and Boniface VIII the former had charged the pope with heresy, sodomy and simony. He had accused him of obtaining the papacy by fraud and demanded that he should be removed from the Holy See. The reason for this charge is that the predecessor of Boniface, Celestine V, a former hermit, had been elected to the papal throne much against his own will July 7, 1294. After a few months he issued a decree declaring the right of any pope to abdicate. He was encouraged to issue this decree and to abdicate by Beneditino Gaetani, one of the leading cardinals, who thereupon was elected his successor and assumed the papal name of Boniface VIII, December, 1294. Now after the election of Clement V in 1305 when the king had the new pope living on French soil he used this threat of calling a council to inquire into the legality of the election of Boniface VIII and his successor, and the question of the morals and orthodoxy of Boniface, as the means of compelling Clement V to obey the wishes of the king. When Clement received the papal tiarra at Lyons the king had a conference with him and submitted a plan for the dissolution of the Templars. Another meeting about the same subject occurred by these parties in the spring of 1307. Phillip prepared to strike the fatal blow. On the twelfth of October, 1307, the head of the Templars in France, Grandmaster Jacques de Molai, was an important functionary at the burial of the king's sister, Catherine; the next day he was arrested by order of the inquisitor general of France, William Imbelt, the chaplain to the king, and thrown into prison. II - THE CHARGES AGAINST THE TEMPLARS The sudden arrest of the Grandmaster startled all France. In order to appease the enraged public which felt kindly disposed toward the head of the order, and to secure a favorable opinion for his action in France and abroad, Phillip issued an explanation setting forth the reasons for his procedure against the Templars. In short, he charged them with immorality and heresy, naming five specific offenses: 1. That upon being received into the order every neophyte must spit on the cross and deny Christ thrice. (5) 2. That the receptor and the novice exchanged indecent kisses, i.e. on the navel and the posteriors, while disrobed. 3. That they pledged themselves to practice sodomy. 4. That the priests of the order did not pronounce the words of consecration when administering the mass. 5. That the cord which the Templars wore over their shirt day and night as a symbol of purity had been consecrated by wrapping it around an idol they worshipped in the chapters. (6) III - THE FORM OF THE TRIAL After being arrested the Templars were placed in solitary confinement for periods varying from a few days to years. One by one they were brought before the inquisition without the benefit of legal counsellors. The five general accusations were then read to them and amplified until they covered one hundred and twenty statements or questions. (7) They were then informed that a frank admission of the points on which they were accused and a promise to return to the church would secure pardon and liberty, but refusal to do this would be followed by the death penalty. The church, it is true, forbade the use of torture to secure evidence, but in order to obtain the damaging testimony necessary to establish a list of crimes and errors on which to convict the accused the inquisitor general resorted to torture. When the desired evidence had been secured by this procedure the witness was asked to state that his testimony had been given voluntarily and without constraint. Then it was written down by two clerks. If he refused to perjure himself by making such false statements as were demanded he was handed over to the tormentors until he declared no force had been employed in obtaining his testimony, or he was tortured to death. Some witnesses were exposed to the sufferings of the rack three and four times before the inquisition could extract the answer wanted. When Clement V heard of the drastic measures taken by Phillip IV he appears to have repented of the concession he had made to the king and wrote a reproachful letter to him. But the threat of calling a council to inquire into the legality of the last two papal elections and to investigate the orthodoxy of Boniface VIII quickly forced Clement to surrender to Phillip. On August twelfth, 1308, the pope issued a Bull, "Faciens Miselicoldiam," directing an investigation of the Templars in all countries where they had chapters by a Commission of Inquiry composed of the archbishops of Canterbury, Mayence, Cologne and Treves. Before this Commission Molai was tried November 22, 1309. After stoutly maintaining the innocence of the order he at last was overcome in his enfeebled and emaciated condition by the wiles and torture of his foes. Committed to prison again he was brought forth once more in the spring of 1314 and burned at the stake. Meanwhile church councils in various countries found verdicts in favor of the Templars. The archbishop of Magdeburg in May, 1308, arrested a number of Knights but released them in November of the same year owing to the protests of the lay and ecclesiastical princes. The king of Portugal boldly defended the order; Edward I of England proceeded against the Templars in a half-hearted way; James of Aragon and Ferdinand of Castile imprisoned a few Knights, but the council of Salamanca pronounced the order innocent, October, 1310. (8) The same judgment was rendered by the council of Ravenna in June, 1310, and at Mayence, July 1, of the same year. The first council of Canterbury did not convict them, and the second council pronounced them guilty only after resorting to torture, October, 1310. If the investigations in the countries outside of France resulted generally in favor of the Templars, King Phillip prevented such an issue for the order in France. On August 20, 1308, he obtained from the pope a second Bull, "Justum et laudabile," which authorized him to watch over the Templars and to hold them in disposition to the church. (9) Thus the great pastor at Avignon had appointed a wolf to guard his sheep. What he would do was a foregone conclusion. In October, 1310, fifty Knights were burned at the stake in Paris, and the council of Senlis the same year pronounced the order guilty. The council at Vienne in France was tampered with by both king and pope to compel them to pronounce against the order, October, 1311, and March, 1312. Thus in France the Templars experienced neither mercy nor justice. IV - THE CHARACTER OF THE FORCED CONFESSIONS The Grandmaster Molai when first arrested admitted, as well he might, that certain disorders existed in the chapters. He well knew that the order had drifted away from the lofty ideals of its founders. But he nowhere incriminated his fellow knights with the offenses the inquisitors were determined to fasten on the order. To the very last, even at the stake, he denied the charges. His enemies, however, seized upon the admissions of his first trial, perverted the testimony to suit their purpose and then sent this doctored confession to the Templars of France, representing it as a communication from the head of their order asking them to join him in admitting guilt. (10) To the evidence obtained by violence and by fraud we will now direct our attention. 1. As to the accusation that they had renounced Christ thrice and had spit on the cross. a. Some, believing that Molai's altered confession and the forged order to admit the charges were genuine, obediently declared themselves guilty. b. Others yielded admission of the charge only after threatenings and false promises. c. Some confessed these outrages only when they could endure the torture no longer, while those refusing D admit the charge were martyred unto death. d. Almost all who admitted the accusations belonged to the class of servientes. e. Their statements were contradictory; some said that upon entering the order they were commanded to deny Christ; others declared they were asked to deny God; again some said they were compelled to renounce the Saints, and still others avowed they had to blaspheme the Virgin Mary and our Lord. f. One confessed he had urinated on the cross. g. This was done: in full view of the assembled brethren; in a dark room; in a field; in a grange; in a coopershop; in a room for the manufacture of shoes. Sometimes the witness declared he himself had done this, others again asserted they had not been guilty of such misconduct but had witnessed it in their brethren. Some said these things were done as a joke; others averred these acts were required as a test of their obedience, and that they had denied Christ "ore non corde," i.e. with the mouth but not with the heart. Some said they had spit near the cross, others that they expectorated over it, and still others declared they adored the cross on Good Friday. One who had endured the rack and torture declared that if he would be obliged to undergo the ordeal again he was prepared to confess that he had "murdered the mother of God." (11) 2. The accusation about the indecent kisses. Respect for general decency will prevent us from entering into details; but here again we must note that the witnesses did not agree. Some professed absolute ignorance of such a practice, others admitted they had kissed the receptor, while still others asserted such osculation was mutual. A Templar in England confessed there were two receptors, the one was good but the other fellow a wicked man. (12) 3. Concerning unnatural lust. This charge was the subject for a searching examination. Again torture was used to secure evidence. Some vowed they lad never heard of such a sin; some admitted they were told it was permissable but they had never indulged in it; others asserted they had been commanded to practice sodomy but had not obeyed the order. The stablehand of the Grandmaster Molai accused his master of practicing this sin with him, but he recanted when freed from the torture and witnessing before the papal commission, saying he could not remember ever having made such a statement. (13) 4. As to the omission of the consecrating words in saying mass. At the trials in Spain and in Cyprus numerous priests testified that they witnessed many celebrations of the mass by the order but that they had always been in proper form. Some testified they had observed a slight deviation from the general practice, but said that when the Templars received their rules it was not customary to elevate the cup or the host, this form having been directed as late as the Lateran Council in 1215. (14) In France, however, torture secured the testimony that the mass had not been celebrated by the order according to the proper ritual. 5. The testimony about the idol. On this subject all sorts of admissions were obtained. Some declared the Templars worshipped it and that it was produced whenever a neophyte was received; others said it was worshipped in secrecy in the chapters. Its form was of every imaginable character. It was a "quoddam caput," i.e. a sort of head of reddish color; it resembled a human being; it was black and had a human form; it had sparkling eyes that lighted up a dark room; it was made of gold and had a long gray beard; it had a double face; it had three faces; it looked like a beautiful woman; it was garbed like a Templar in a priestly robe. An English Minorite described it as a calf; some said it was the statue of a boy about three feet tall and had two or four legs joined to the face. A few persisted they had never heard of the idol while some admitted they had heard about it but had never seen it. Others were positive it looked like a tom-cat; a raven; a painting; a drawing. The testimony of a few reads that the idol would answer any questions put to it by the president of the chapter; and some swore that the devil himself or demons in the form of pretty women came to them with whom they had sexual intercourse. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS In summing up the main points brought out by the trial we must consider the following facts: 1. That the majority of the witnesses belonged to the class of servientes whose confessions were obtained chiefly by torture and that the same witnesses at different times contradicted their statements. In 1307 there were from fifteen thousand to twenty thousand Knights Templars in France, and of that number only fourteen knights proper were tried as compared with one hundred and twenty-four servientes. In 1310 out of five hundred and forty-six called before the inquisition only eighteen were knights, all the others belonged to the servientes. (16) 2. At Paris, Rheims, and Sens one hundred and thirty-three died from torture because they would not perjure themselves and incriminate their order. 3. The eight Grand Preceptors of Apulia, Provence, Normandy, England, Upper and Lower Germany, Aragon and Castile, all persisted in maintaining the innocence of the Templars, while only three preceptors, those of France, Guienne and Cyprus admitted the charges, and then only after severe torture. 4. A large number of those who confessed under constraint recanted after they were free again, and others stated before the tortures began that any confession wrung from them by violence would be untrue. 5. The nature of the crimes admitted was conditioned by the severity of the torture. 6. Numerous church councils declared the order innocent of the charges. 7. Two neophytes in England refused to leave the 'order despite threats and flattering promises. Would they have remained loyal to the Templars had they been subjected to humiliating ordeals upon entrance? 8. The worship of the idol was said to have been service to a new religion established by the Templars. And yet no Templar was willing to profess his supposed faith and endure martyrdom for this cause. Is it likely that thousands who had been unwillingly forced to abjure the Christian faith and to worship an idol would - have refused the opportunity to return to mother church when that was possible? 9. In spite of all the searching investigations made in the different chapters in all the countries only one image or idol was found, and that was in the fol m of a small locket which a Templar had obtained in the orient as a trinket. 10. The Bishop of Beirut who had administered communion to the Templars for forty years had found no fault with them. And the priests to whom they had gone for confession swore they had never heard about the errors charged against the order. 11. The crimes of which they were accused were the same as were laid up against all heretics in the Middle Ages, such as the Waldenses, the Albigenses, the Knights of St. John, and were the same as the king of France, Phillip IV, had not hesitated to charge against Boniface VIII. 12. If we are to believe the testimony of the Templars with respect to sacrilege and immorality then we must believe their statements about intercourse with the devil or demons in the form of voluptuous women. That is utterly absurd. 13. Finally we must not forget that the prime movers in the process against the Templars were the two most unscrupulous men in Europe, Phillip IV and --his subservient minister, William Nogaret. There can be no doubt that the servientes were guilty of certain irregularities, and it is quite possible that even among the knights proper gross offenses were committed occasionally. They had become proud, greedy, conscious of their power, and sometimes arrogant. But what human organization has even had a perfect membership? The Christian ministry on the whole is composed of men of high ideals and noble character, and yet, if any man were to make a searching examination of crimes perpetrated by a small number of professed preachers of the Gospel he could, without much difficulty, at the beginning of the twentieth century, establish a catalog of sins which would make the ministry appear one of the most corrupt organizations in modern society. But no one thinks of blaming on the entire church the moral errors of a few hypocrites or degenerates. The fact is that Phillip IV had determined to destroy the Templars. The trial served only as an excuse for his action; no testimony favorable to the order was admitted in the evidence obtained by the persecutors; the procedure was absolutely one-sided, the one object constantly pursued being conviction. It may be that the Knights Templars had outlived the time of their usefulness, nevertheless from beginning to end in France the trial was a farce, nay it was worse than that, it was a travesty of justice without parallel in history, and the dissolution of the order was a tragedy. BIBLIOGRAPHY The following works may be recommended for further investigation of this subject and have been used in preparing this paper. 1. Finke, Papsttum und Untergang des Tempelordens. 2. Gmelin, Die Tempelherren. 3. Lea, H.C., History of the Middle Ages, Vol. III. 4. Langlois, in Deux Mondes, Vol. 103. 5. Langlois, in Revue Historique, Vol. 40, 177-8. 6. History of Masonry and Concordant Orders, Henry L. Stillson, Editor-in-chief. 7. Perkins, in English Historical Review, Vol. 24. 8. 8. Schottmueller, Untergang des Templerordens. 9. Le Roulx, J. D., in Revue des Questions Historique, Vol. 48. 10. Prutz, Tempelherren Orden. 11. Wilcke, Geschichte des Ordens der Tempelherren. Important documentary evidence may be found in Schottmueller, III: A. Processus Poiteriensis. B. Excerpta Processus Anglici. C. Inquesta faca et habita Brundisio. D. Processus Cypricus. E. Processus in Patrimonio. In Finke, Papsttum und Untergang des Templerordens, Vol. II, are letters, addresses and opinions on the history of the fall of the Templars, reports of the Aragonese ambassador relative to the General Council at: Vienne, and the answers of the king. (1) Langlois, in Deux Mondes, Vol. 103, p. 384 (2) Langlois, in Deux Mondes, Vol. 103, p. 386. (3) Lea, History of the Middle Ages, Vol. 3, p. 243. (4) Finke Papsttum and Untergang des Tempelordens, P. 6. (5) Schotimueller, Untergang des Tempelordens, p 132. (6) Lea, Vol. 3, p. 263. (7) Finke, p. 330. (8) Schottmueller, 191. (9) Le Roulx, Revue Quest. Historique, Vol. 48, 43-45. (10) Finke, 341. (11) Lea, 270-273, Schottmueller, 141, 200. (12) Perkins, English Historical Review, Vol. 24, p. 441. (13) Schottmueller 630; Fink 335. (14) Schottmueller, 632. (15) Schottmueller, 633; Lea, 270. (16) Finke, 335; Schottmueller, 237. THE KNIGHT TEMPLAR I made them lay their hands in mine and swear To win the heathen and uphold the Christ. To ride abroad redlessing human wrongs, To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it; To lead sweet lives in purest chastity. --Lord Tennyson.
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