"The knights also excelled in military architecture and their castles in Palestine were exceptionally well designed and virtually impregnable. Foremost amongst these imposing fortresses was Atlit (Château Pˇlˇgrin or Castle Pilgrim) which...had been built in the year 1218 by the fourteenth Grand Master of the Templars, William of Chartres..."
"...Some of the nearest castles to the Assassin 'state' as it developed were the Templar castles of Tortosa (granted to the Templars in 1152) and Chastel Blanc."
"The austere and spiritual Templars looking back to some imagined form of lost perfection, an exalted and nostalgic idea of an ideal order of chivalry, conscious themselves of their courage, loyalty and religious purpose, cannot have failed to recognize the goals and methods of the Assassins as close to their own. The same kind of men, not great noblemen but men from modest country manors who would have no role in the non-religious context, appear to have joined the Assassins and the Templars. There were essentially new men whose success derived from their search for personal and spiritual identity reinforced by the tight religious structure, rules and hierarchy of the two orders."
"...The lay brothers, sergeants and knights of the Templars duplicate the lasiq (layman), fida'i (agent) and rafiq (companion) of the Assassins, while the knightly equivalent within the Assassins, the rafiqs, wore white mantels trimmed with red which correspond to the white mantle and red cross of the Templars."
"The higher ranks of both orders, with priors, grand priors and Master, are also strikingly similar; prior, grand prior and Master correspond to da'i, da'i kabir and the Grand Master. In this context it is worth observing that while St Bernard provided the Rule of the Templars, the hierarchical structure seems to have come later and evidently from some other source."
"It is unlikely hat there were very often more than three hundred heavily armed Templars in the Holy Land, even when knights and sergeants are counted together. But these shock troops were surrounded by squires, servants, Turkish mercenary troops and other dependents, so that in the greatest Palestinian castles fifty or sixty knights and sergeants would form the nucleus of a garrison of four or five hundred."
"Assassin castles usually consisted of a walled compound with a keep built at its weakest point, designed as a fortified base for operations rather than to defend territory. Before sophisticated siege warfare, such as that used by Hulegu against Alamut over a century later they were in Syria relatively small and without the natural defense of remoteness of the Persian castles. It is this strategic, colonizing function of the castle which the Templars and other crusading orders may have developed from the Assassins, with no thought of territorial control, and no qualms about letting enemies pass between the castles."
"The famous question of the three thousand gold pieces paid the by Syrian branch of the Assassins to the Templars is another matter which has never been settled. One opinion holds that this money was given as a tribute to the Christians; the other, that is was a secret allowance from the larger to the smaller organization. Those who think that the Assassins were fanatical Moslems, and therefore would not form any alliance with those who to them were infidels, should be reminded that to the followers of the Old Man of the Mountains [Rashid al-Din Sinan, Grand Master of the Syrian Assassins fron 1162 to 1193] only he was right, and the Saracens who were fighting the Holy War for Allah against the Crusaders were as bad as anyone else who did not accept the Assassin doctrine."
Saladin "attacked nearby Hittin at dawn on Friday, July 3rd . Thirty thousand Crusaders were captured, including the King of Jerusalem. No Templar is mentioned in the detailed Arab account as asking for mercy on religious or other grounds, although all knew that Saladin had issued a war-cry: 'Come to death, Templars!' The Grand Master, Gerard of Ridefort, and several other knights were among those taken. Saladin offered them their lives if they would see the light of the True Faith. None accepted, and all these knights were beheaded except, admittedly, the Templar Grand Master." Other accounts refer to "a body of Templars who went over to the Saracen side, and whose supposed descendants survive to this day as the Salibiyya (Crusader) tribe in north Arabia."
"...A poem written in Provençal dialect by; a troubadour who is thought to have been a Templar" refers " to the disastrous fall of a number of the main cities and castles of the Crusader kingdom in 1265 (notably the town of Caesarea and the fortress of Arsuf)..."
"Pain and wrath invade my heart so that I almost think of suicide, or of laying down the cross I once assumed in honor of he who was laid upon the cross, for neither the cross nor his name protect us against the accursed Turks. Indeed, it seems clear enough that God is supporting them in our despite.
"At one stride they have captured Caesarea and taken by force the strong castle of Arsuf. O lord God, what a hard road have the knights, the sergeants and the burghers taken, who were harbored within the walls of Arsuf! Alas! the losses of the kingdom of Syria have been so heavy that is power is dispersed for ever!
"Then it is really foolish to fight the Turks, not that Jesus Christ no longer opposes them. They have vanquished the Franks and Tartars and Armenians and Persians, and they continue to do so. And daily they impose new defeats on us. for god, who used to watch on our behalf, is now asleep, and Mohammed (Bafometz] puts forth his power to support the Sultan."
- Ricault Bonomel
(2) The Fall of Acre
"...In March 1291 an enormous Mameluke army marched on Acre - 160,000 infantry and 60,000 cavalry. Their artillery was awe-inspiring, including not less than 100 mangonels [catapults]" In defense, "out of a population of fifty thousand, 14,000 were foot soldiers and 800 were mounted men-at-arms."
"Turkish engineers were steadily undermining the towers, which began to crumble beneath a ceaseless bombardment from the sultan's mangonels, a hail of enormous rocks and timber baulks. Lighter machines hurled pots of Greek fire or burning pitch which burst when they hit their targets and the sky was ablaze with naphtha arrows. Henri [III] tried to negotiate, but the implacable al-Ashraf would accept nothing but complete surrender. By 15 May the first wall and all its towers had been breached. Filling the moat with the bodies of men and horses as well as sandbags the Saracens swept through the main gate, encouraged by 300 drummers on camels. Charging on horseback down the narrow streets the Templar and Hospitaller brethren drove them out, but by evening the desperate Franks were forced to withdraw behind the inner wall. Next day many citizens put their wives and children on board ship for Cyprus, but unfortunately the weather was too bad to put out to sea."
"Just before dawn on Friday, 18 May 1291, the sultan ordered a general assault, announced by first one great kettle drum then by massed drums and a battery of trumpets and cymbals, 'which had a very horrible voice'. Mangonels and archers sent an endless shower of fire bombs into the doomed city, the arrows 'falling like rain', while Mameluke suicide-squads led by white-turbaned officers attacked through the dense smoke all along the wall in deep columns."
"Acre was now lost irretrievably. The terrified population, women, babies and old men, ran to the harbor in frantic despair, though many able-bodied citizens died fighting. King Henri had already sailed for home and there were too few ships. Horrible struggles took place on the crowded jetties and overloaded boats sank....To add to the horror a great storm blew up. The Saracens soon reached the jammed quays to butcher the screaming fugitives."
The surviving Templars held out in the fortified Temple by the sea. "A large number of women and children had fled to them for protection and the Templars showed that they could be generous, putting as many refugees as possible aboard the Order's galleys, and sending them off to join the king's fleet. There was not enough room for everyone, and all the brethren, even the wounded, stayed behind. An eyewitness who saw the ships leave wrote afterwards that 'when they set sail everyone of the Temple who remained raised a great cheer, and thus they departed." After several days al-Ashraf offered good terms, which Fra. Pierre accepted and some Mamelukes were admitted. They hoisted the crescent flag of Islam but then began to rape the women and boys, whereupon the infuriated Templars killed them. The infidel flag was torn down and 'Beau Seant' hauled up again. That night the marshal sent sway the Commander, Tibald Gaudin, by boat with the Temple treasury, the holy relics, and some non-combatants. Next day the sultan once more proposed excellent terms, admitting that his men had got what they deserved, so Fra. Pierre when out to discuss surrender. He was immediately seized and beheaded. Some of the brethren were old men, most of them wounded and all exhausted, yet they decided to fight to the finish. They beat off assault after assault. 'They can fight the battle of the Lord and indeed be soldiers of Christ. Let them kill the enemy or die, they need not be afraid'. But the brethren had no replay to mangonel fire and the tunnels which riddled the foundations. On 28 May, the mines were fired. Part of the massive wall collapsed and 2,000 Turkish troops poured in to meet a bloody reception. The weight was too much for the tottering building, which came crashing down and Saracens and brethren perished together in a flaming hecatomb."
"The Poor Knights' most lasting achievement, their contribution towards the overthrow of the Church's attitude to usury, was economic. No medieval institution did more for the rise of capitalism. Yet the Templars deserve to be remembered not as financiers but as the heroes of Acre, that strange fellowship of death who died for Christ with such disturbing courage."
"They set about amassing great riches, becoming not only the greatest soldiers of the West, but its greatest bankers. They also became great builders of cathedrals, accomplished diplomatists, and the most reliable chamberlains at the courts of Europe."
"The order's possessions were divided into eight langues or linguistic regions according to nationality, and ten provinces which ignored state boundaries, especially in France. The chief house of each langue was called a grand priory, and was directly subordinate to the grand master. The langues in order of seniority were Provence, Auvergne, France, Italy, Aragon (which comprised Navarre, Catalonia, Roussillon and Sardinia), England (including Scotland and Ireland), Germany (a highly complex langue made up of Upper and Lower German, Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, Denmark and Sweden) and Castile (made up of León, Portugal, Algarve, Granada, Toledo, Galicia and Andalusia). The ten provinces mentioned in the French Rule, which had been drawn up in 1140 to supplement St Bernard's Rule, are listed as Jerusalem, Tripoli in Syria, Antioch, France, England, Poitou, Anjou, Portugal, Apulia and Hungary. Each province had its own master and commander who headed the local hierarchy of commanders of individual houses."
"...Most Templar violations of the feudal code were of a kind very frequently committed by others. In devoting a lot of attention to plunder, as they did from the start, the Templars behaved like other feudal lords. In exacting large payments of tribute from Muslim and Assassin rulers they again (in company with the Hospitalers) only complied with normal feudal and Syrian practice. But in one respect the Templars offended against all feudal ideas: this was in lending money and in accepting money to keep on deposit....The Templars were no strangers to 'largesse': their Rule specifically defines the value of the gifts which the great officers of the Order could make to those whom they chose to honor."
"By lending vast sums to destitute monarchs they became the bankers for every throne in Europe - and for certain Muslim potentates as well."
"And the Templars traded not only in money, but in thought as well. Through their sustained and sympathetic contact with Islamic and Judaic culture, they came to act as a clearing-house for new ideas, new dimensions of knowledge, new sciences. They enjoyed a veritable monopoly on the best and most advanced technology of their age - the best that could be produced by armorers, leather-workers, stonemasons, military architects and engineers. They contributed to the development of surveying, map-making, road-building and navigation. They possessed their own sea-ports, shipyards and fleet, a fleet both commercial and military, which was among the first to use the magnetic compass. And as soldiers, the Templars' need to treat wounds and illness made them adept in the use of drugs. The Order maintained its own hospitals with its own physicians and surgeons - whose use of mold extract suggests an understanding of the properties of antibiotics. Modern principles of hygiene and cleanliness were understood. And with an understanding also in advance of their time they regarded epilepsy not as demonic possession but as a controllable disease."
After the fall of the Holy Land "disillusioned anticlericalism was becoming almost universal. In such circumstances the Templars and Hospitalers who returned to the west, apparently unemployed and yet still enjoying their old moneys and privileges, seemed an offensive addition to the great class of clerical hypocrites and drones."
"They waste this money which is intended for the recovery of the Holy Sepulcher on cutting a fine figure in the world; they deceive people with their idle trumpery, and offend God; since they and the Hospital have for so long allowed the false Turks to remain in possession of Jerusalem and Acre; since they flee faster than the holy hawk; it is a pity, in my view, that we don't rid ourselves of them for good."
- Rostan Berenguier of Marseilles
"No sharper experience of alienation form God's order could be had than the feeling that demons were threatening Christian people, and that the protection which the sacramental order had formerly given against these evil spirits was no longer effective.."
"For many years there had been strange rumors about the Templars, who had developed a mania for secrecy. Minds darkened by hostility were only to ready to credit sinister accusations; 'suspicions among thoughts are like bats among birds - they ever fly by twilit', and the brethren became enveloped in a miasma of poisonous gossip."
Philip the Fair of France "probably looked at the Templars first of all as an element in crusading policy. In this respect the Templars, the Hospitallers, and the pope had all opposed an irritating passive resistance to his policies."
"The French government had for some years been demanding the fusion of the two main Military Orders. It was discreetly silent in the diplomatic negotiations about what was to be done with the Orders when they had been merged, but from the writings of royal propagandists we know that the aim was to form a single Order headed by one of the sons of the King of France...The Catalan zealot Ramon Lull...had earlier launched the visionary idea of a Christian 'Warlike King' who would centralize and lead the whole Christian crusading effort."
"It was common practice among late medieval kings to obtain very large sums of money from the clergy by promising to take the cross, or by actually taking it, and persuading the pope to tax the clergy of their land for a crusading tithe. In many of not in most cases the king concerned would somehow get control of these moneys, which he had promised with more or less sincerity to use on Crusade. On very few occasions was the money actually so used: once it came into the direct control of the royal financial agents it was usually made to disappear on one pretext or another into the general stream of royal finances. Philip the Fair himself acquired a great deal of money in this way, as did his contemporary Edward I of England."
"...It is difficult to believe that a king as scrupulous and conscientious in other respects as Philip demonstrably was would have attacked the Templars with such violence merely for financial gain. While Barber [The Trial of the Templars] attempts to link the Templars with other 'outgroups' and to consider all equally victimized by Philip's extortionary practices, the effort remains unconvincing. It was one thing to harass the despised Lombards and the Jews, who operated on the border of permissible Christian behavior, but quite another to proceed against a monastic order, garnered with all the spiritual prestige, however momentarily tarnished. of the highest deals of Christian Europe. Surely a king of Philip's acknowledged religious sensibilities would have understood the moral difference between these actions."
"Barber himself shows that as early as 1305 Philip was receiving reports of scandalous practices among the Templars from informers such as Esquieu de Floyran, who approached the king after having failed to sell his rumors to James II of Aragon. Why Philip, unlike James, proved receptive to these reports is, in turn, best explained by the shift in Philip's personal concerns toward a more religious bent, which Robert-Henri Bautier has recently argued took place after the death of this wife, Jeanne of Navarre, in April 1305 (See R.-H. Bautier, "Diplomatique et histoire politique: Ce que la critique diplomatique nous apprend sur la personalite de Philippe le Bel," Revue Historique, 259 (1978): 3-27). Jeanne's death struck Philip with great force and appears to have produced in him an almost fanatical desire to reform himself and his kingdom in the image of his holy grandfather, St. Louis."
"In the end, the best evidence suggests that is was not the desire for specie but the weightier coinage of religious purity and personal righteousness that motivated Philip the Fair, a coinage potentially more dangerous to the rights of nonconformity and dissent than even Professor Barber fears."
(2) Mass Arrest in France
"Avignon had been the seat of Pope Clement V - who had been crowned at Lyons in 1305 in the presence of King Philip of France...It also been Clement V who had order the arrest of the Templars throughout Christendom in 1307."
"...There is evidence that he [Philip IV] began to plan his operation against the Templars about a year in advance of its implementation (i.e. in 1306) and there is also evidence that on several occasions during that year he discussed his plans with Pope Clement."
"King Philip the Fair of France developed a similar idea of making himself ruler of a vast Christian empire centered at Jerusalem. He also needed money. First he seized all the Jews in his kingdom and forced them to give up their futures by removing one of their eyes and threatening to remove the other." Then he moved against the Templars to seize their riches.
Jacques de Molay was the last Templar Grand Master.
"On the night of Thursday, 12 October 1307, Philip's troops broke in to arrest Molay with sixty brethren, incarcerating some in royal prisons, others in the Temple's own dungeons. By the morning of Friday, 13 October, 15,000 people had been seized: knights, chaplains, sergeants confratres, and retainers - even laborers on the Order's arms. Probably not more than 500 were full members, less than 200 were profess brethren. By the weekend popular preachers were denouncing the Poor Knights to horrified crowds all over France.
"The arrest was illegal; the civil authority could not arrest clerics responsible only to Rome. But Philip hoped to substantiate certain charges: denial of Christ, idol worship, spitting on the crucifix, and homosexuality - unnatural vice was a practice associated with the Albigensians and all these accusations were the stock in trade of heresy trials. The French Inquisition staffed by Dominicans, 'Hound of the Lord', was expert at extracting confessions. The brethren, unlettered soldiers, faced a combination of cross-examining lawyers and torture chambers whose instruments included the thumbscrew, the boot, and a rack to dislocate limbs. Men were spread-eagled and crushed by lead weights or filled with water through a funnel till they suffocated. there was also 'burning in the feet'. Probably the most excruciating torments were the simplest - wedges hammered under finger nails, teeth wrenched out and the exposed nerves prodded. The Templars would have resisted any torment by Moslems but now, weakened by confinement in damp, filthy cells and systematic starvation, they despaired when the torture was inflicted by fellow Christians."
"...There were only fourteen knights among the 138 Templars heard by the grand Inquisitor, and only eighteen knights among the 546 prospective 'defenders' of the Order in 1310. Perhaps between fifty and a hundred knights were involved; this is a far cry from the army of 2000 knights which some supposed to have constituted a military danger to the French monarch."
(3) The Case for the Prosecution
"The quarrel between Boniface VIII and Philip the Fair of France involved many long-standing disputes between the medieval Church and the State." A French civil servant called Guillaume de Nogaret enlisted the help of a small private army attempted to arrest and seize the pope in Italy. "The intention was to take him back to France to face trial by a French-controlled Church Council, but this part of the plan miscarried. Boniface was after a few days freed by a counter-stoke of his supporters, although only a few weeks later he died, a defeated and disgraced man (12 October 1303).. His attackers were automatically excommunicated under canon law..."
"Although sanctions against the French king himself were soon lifted, the popes refused to lift the excommunication against Guillaume de Nogaret, the king's chief minister...On the French side [the government] build up a huge dossier against the dead pope, representing him as a heretic, an unbeliever, a simoniac, and also as a magician and the patron of sorcerers. This most emphatically magical accusations were that Boniface had familiar converse with demons, whom he constantly called to his assistance and sometimes worshipped."
"It was to be one of the great ironies of the Templar trials that the minister who was mainly in charge of their prosecution [Guillaume de Nogaret] was for the whole duration of the trials lying under the formal ban of the Church."
"G. Legman, in The Guilt of the Templars, a composite work by five distinguished English academicians, says the Templars did not practice homosexuality faute de mieux but as a formal dedication, betrayed by the ritual nudity required at their secret initiation..."
"The obscene kiss, or osculum infame, was another of their pastimes which shocked contemporary opinion."
"Item, that in the reception of the brothers of the said Order or at about that time, sometimes the receptor and sometimes the received were kissed on the mouth, on the navel, or on the bare stomach, and on the buttocks or the base of the spine.
Item, [that they were kissed] sometimes on the navel.
Item, [that they were kissed] sometimes on the base of the spine.
Item, [that they were kissed] sometimes on the penis."
In contrast, St. Bernard, used the imagery of the holy "three-fold kiss" to depict the steps to spiritual perfection.
"Much has been made of the supposed obscenity of the Templar initiation and of the kissing that formed part of it. In fact it differed very little from the everyday practice of the time whereby the bond between lord and vassal was affirmed by the ceremony of homage. Here the vassal knelt, placed his clasped hands within those of his master, and declared: 'Lord, I become your man', and took an oath of fealty. The lord then raised him to his feet and bestowed on him a ceremonial kiss. The vassal was thenceforth bound 'to love what his lord loved and to loathe when he loathed, and never by word or deed do aught that could grieve him'."
"Of all the charges leveled against the Templars, the most serious were those of blasphemy and heresy, - of denying, trampling and spitting on the cross."
"In June of 1311, the English Inquisition came across some very interesting information from a Templar by the name of Stephen de Strapelbrugge, who admitted that he was told in his initiation that Jesus was a man and not a god. Another Templar by the name of John de Stoke stated that Jacques de Molay had instructed that he should know that Jesus was but a man, and that he should believe in 'the great omnipotent God, who was the architect of heaven and earth, and not the crucifixion'."
"These are the articles on which inquiry should be made against the Order of
the Knighthood of the Temple.
Firstly that, although they declared that the Order had been solemnly established and approved by the Apostolic See, nevertheless in the reception of the brothers of the said Order, and at some time after, there were preserved and performed by the brothers those things which follow:
Namely that each in his reception, or at some time after, or as soon as a fit occasion could be found for the reception, denied Christ, sometimes Christ crucified, sometimes Jesus, and sometimes God, and sometimes the Holy Virgin, and sometimes all the saints of God, led and advised by those who received him. - Item, [that] the brothers as a whole did this. - Item, that the majority [of them did this].
Item, that [they did this] also sometimes after the reception.
Item, that the receptors said and taught those whom they were receiving, that Christ, or sometimes Jesus, or sometimes Christ crucified, is not the true God.
Item, that they told those whom they received that he was a false prophet.
Item, that he had not suffered nor was he crucified for the redemption of the human race, but on account of his sins.
Item, that neither the receptors nor those being received had a hope of achieving salvation through Jesus, and they said this, or the equivalent or similar, to those whom they received.
Item, that they made those whom they received spit on a cross, or on a representation or sculpture of the cross and an image of Christ, although sometimes those who were being received spat next [to it].
Item, that they sometimes ordered that this cross be trampled underfoot.
Item, that brothers who had been received sometimes trampled on the cross.
Item, that sometimes they urinated and trampled, and caused others to urinate, on this cross, and several times they did this on Good Friday.
Item, that some of them, on that same day or another of Holy Week, were accustomed to assemble for the aforesaid trampling and urination."
(4) "Spare No Known Means of Torture"
"The standard nature of the confessions bespeaks the standard application of a questionnaire, which as in most subsequent witchcraft trials guaranteed a remarkable uniformity in details."
"The inquisitors had orders to 'spare no known means of torture' so they could let their wild imaginations run free. Some Templars had their teeth pulled out one at a time, with a question between each extraction, then had the empty sockets probed to provide an additional level of pain. Some has wood wedges driven under their nails, while others had their nails pulled out. A common device was an iron frame like a bed, on which the Templar was trapped with his bare feet hanging over the end. A charcoal brazier was slid under his oiled feet as the questioning began. Several knights were reported to have gone mad with the pain. A number had their feet totally burned off, and at a later inquiry a footless Templar was carried to the council clutching a bag containing the blackened bones that had dropped out of his feet when they were burned off. His inquisitors had allowed him to keep the bones as a souvenir of his memorable experience. The hot iron was a favorite tool because it could be easily applied again and again to any part of the body. It could be held a couple of inches away, cooking the flesh while the question was asked, then firmly pressed against the body when the answer came out incorrectly or too slowly."
"Of 138 Templars questioned in Paris during October and November, 105 admitted that they had denied Christ during their secret reception into the order, 123 that they had spat at, on, or near some form of the crucifix, 103 that they had indecently kissed, usually on the base of the spine or the navel, and 102 implied that homosexuality among the brothers was encouraged (although only 3 admitted directly engaging in homosexual relations). This immediate and virtually unanimous confession of guilt on the part of the Templars, including the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and the Visitor, Hughes de Pairaud, cast a pall over the order from which it never recovered. Although the confessions were extracted by torture and later denied before papal inquisitors, the Templars had sentenced themselves out of their own mouths. "
In France "it is not surprising that thirty-six brethren died, or, that out of 138 examined 123 confessed to the least nauseating charge, spitting on the crucifix, for medieval man was accustomed to swearing oaths under duress and then obtaining absolution once he was safe. Even Jacques de Molay stooped to this stratagem, humiliated by a charge of homosexuality which he furiously denied. However, though his 'confession' may have been politic it unnerved the brethren. Fra. Hughues de Peyraud frightened them still more by admitting every accusation; 'made of the willow rather than the oak' the wily Treasurer cooperated with gusto, declaring he worshipped an idol in chapter. At Carcassone two brethren agreed they had adored a wooden image called 'Baphomet' while a Florentine Templar named it 'Mahomet' and another brother said it had a long beard but no body. Royal agents hunted frantically for Baphomet and 'discovered' a metal-plated skull suspiciously like a reliquary. These avowals of idolatry only served to discredit other evidence for in extremities of pain and anguish man will say anything. Yet only three brethren would confess to homosexual practices, a refutation of 'indecent kisses'. It was alleged that in the rite of profession, postulants were required to kiss their superior on the navel or the base of the spine - possibly a few preceptors indulged in mumbo-jumbo but it is highly unlikely. And intensive searches failed to find 'the secret rule'."
"The course of the trials in England, Aragon, Navarre (ruled by Philip the Fair's eldest son, Louis), Majorca, Castile, Portugal, Italy and Germany demonstrates incontestably that only in France or in territories under French influence were there substantial confessions to the alleged crimes. In England and Aragon, whose laws of procedure forbade the use of torture, confessions came only after the papal inquisitors had taken over and introduced torture. The sole exception was the admission of the English Templars to a belief in the power of absolution exercised by the Grand Master and regional preceptors in chapter, which Barber [The Trial of the Templars] convincingly explains as a consequence of Templar confusion over the changing definition of absolution in the thirteenth century, to which Templar practice did not conform. The sharp distinction in obtaining confessions between countries that did and did not employ torture makes entirely plausible Barber's conclusion that 'it would now be difficult to argue, as some nineteenth-century historians did, that the Templars were guilty of the accusations made against them by the regime of Philip the Fair'."
In England, "if the Templars would confess to the sin of a layman granting absolution and swear their own condemnation of the Templar heresies charged in the papal encyclicals, they could perform a minor penance and be free men, back in the bosom of the Church. That was too good a bargain to pass up, and most of the English Templars agreed.
They made their confession in public, then were sent into monasteries to perform their penances. With that done, a few went into the Hospitallers, but most returned to secular lives, with meager pensions based on what the Church felt was the minimum amount required by a monk for food and clothing."
(5) The Papal Bans
"When one considers how the Templars fought and died throughout the crusades it seems hard not to believe in their innocence...It is surely more than coincidence that the most strident accusations came from the heartlands of the Albigensian heresy; Nogaret was a Provençal, Fra. Esquiu a Catalan. Local brethren in these regions could well have turned isolated perceptories into Cathar cells during the previous century when the heresy was at its height, while the Order's bankers would have been quite capable of protecting fugitive heretics to obtain the Cathar treasure which disappeared just before their last stronghold fell in 1244. Admittedly Catharism was almost extinct by 1307. But vague memories from years before of heresy hunts within the Order, kept secret to avoid scandal, may have been the origin of tales of devil worship, secret rites and sodomy which were all charges which had been made against the Cathars."
"...The supposed adherence of the Templars to Catharism [is] nonsense. This belief is to some extent based on the erroneous identification of Bertrand de Blanquefort, a Templar Grand master, with a Cathar nobleman called Bertrand de Blanchefort. It is true that both names appear as 'Blancafortis' in Latin texts, but the Templar came from Guyenne, not Languedoc, and had nothing whatever to do with the Cathars. In any case, there are three towns in France called Blanquefort and one called Blancafort, apart from the Blanchefort from which the Cathar took his title. Since French noblemen were invariable known by the names of their estates and not by hereditary surnames, nothing can be deduced form the coincidence of two men with similar names."
"Clement V...who became pope in 1305, moved the papal court to Avignon where it remained for over seventy years - 'the Babylonish captivity'. This new Vicar of Christ, weak, racked by ill health, was desperately afraid of his former sovereign who had secured his election by heavy bribes."
"At first the pope had protested vigorously, suspending the Inquisition in France on 27 October 1307. But by now Philip was announcing sensational 'discoveries', including a letter of confession from Fra. Jacques, and so, at the end of November, Clement issued a second bull ordering the arrest of all Templars. Courts of enquiry were set up throughout Christendom. In January 1308, with some reluctance, England arrested its Templars. There were not more than 135 in the country - 118 sergeants, 11 chaplains, and only 6 knights....Irish and Scottish Templars were also rounded up. All but two Scottish brethren escaped; shrewd politicians, they may well have found refuge with the Bruce's guerrillas - certainly King Robert never legally ratified the Scottish Temple's dissolution."
"From Spain and Cyprus came news that the Templars were innocent, while investigations in the empire too found them guiltless. Pressure could be brought to bear on England, but here many prisoners had escaped, and when the remaining fifty were interrogated nothing could be extracted; a second enquiry in 1310 examined 228 brethren with no more result. Finally Clement ordered Edward II to use to torture. Eventually King Edward agreed, stipulating that there must be no 'mutilations, incurable wounds or violent effusions of blood'."
"The prime responsibility for the 'discovery, punishment and prevention of heresy' had been bestowed on what by now was known as the congregation of the Holy Office but was still referred to as the Inquisition. Its functions were largely in the hands of the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans, founded by the Spanish priest Dominic Guzman (later St. Dominic), who had made his name by his extraordinary zeal against the Albigensian heretics in southern France." In 1311 in England, the ten professional torturers provided by the pope "were only able to get admissions that to preserve their secrets Templars were told to go only to their own priests for confession, that they might have occasionally absolved each other of sin in special situations, and that the wore a cord next to their skin, although they didn't know why."
In England, "out of more than 200 Templars including confratres and retainers, examined in 1310 and 1311 all of whom were subjected to excruciating agonies, only four admited to spitting at the cross."
In Paris "by the end of May , 120 Templars had been burnt."
"Perhaps the Templars' worst anguish was spiritual - it must have seemed that God Himself had died - and probably many brethren went mad. Yet the wildest rumours circulated, for French public opinion undoubtedly believed in the brethren's guilt. They were supposed to hve summoned devil women from hell and slept with them, whole bastards were roasted in front of images smeared with chldren's fat, and cats were worshped."
"Some Castilian Templars were so horrified that they fled to Granada and turned Moslem."
"In February 1312 the French Estates' General demanded the Order's condemnation. Finally, in March, Clement, in private consistory (that is, with his advisers in camera) formally pronounced the Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon to be guilty of all charges made against them. When the council [General Council of the Church] reassembled on 3 April they were presented with a fait accompli, the bull Vox in excelso, declaring the Order dissolved. The pope explained his reasons; canonically the Templars could not be convicted on the evidence, but he himself was convinced of their guilt and had therefore exercised his prerogative to condemn them. The General Council accepted his decision without demur. On 2 May a further bull disposed of the brotherhood's lands which were given to the Hospitallers. Those brethren who had retracted confessions - or refused to confess at all - received life imprisonment, while those who had stuck to their confessions were released on a minute pension, most of them ending up as beggars."
"...This was an immense accession of wealth for the Hospitallers. In Germany the vast estates of the Templars enabled the Herrenmeister of the Brandenburg Ballei of the 'Johanniterorden' to become semi-autonomous. English commanderies had to be drastically reorganized to absorb new lands; sometimes the commandery itself was transferred to a former receptory, as at Egle in Lincolnshire."
"On 14 March 1314 the four Templar great officers were paraded on a scaffold outside Notre-Dame to hear their sentence life imprisonment."
Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Order unexpectedly recanted his confession.
"I think it only right that at so solemn a moment when my life has so little time to run [he was nearly seventy] I should reveal the deception which has been practiced and speak up for the truth. Before heaven and earth and with all of you here as my witnesses, I admit that I am guilty of the grossest iniquity. But the iniquity is that I have lied in admitting the disgusting charges laid against the Order. I declare, and I must declare, that the Order is innocent. Its purity and saintliness is beyond question."
- Master fra. Jacques de Molay
"Two of his brethren listened fearfully, but the Preceptor of Normandy, Fra. Geoffroy de Charnay, rallied to the Grand Master, speaking with equal defiance. Next morning the two brothers in religion were burnt alive over a slow charcoal fire on an island in the Seine, shouting their innocence through the flames. The crowd was inclined to think them martyrs. A legend grew up that Fr. Jacques had summoned Philip and Clement to come before God for judgment; certainly the pope was dead within a month, the king by the autumn, and his three sons and successors all died young."
"There were no Templar martyrs, as has often been observed. The aim of the examination of the Templars was to obtain confessions of guilt; so far as we know, once these had been obtained no Templar was ever made to suffer capital punishment on their account unless he went back on the confession. Both the fifty four Templars burned in 1310 and the two Templar leaders burned in 1314 died while asserting their religious orthodoxy and Catholic loyalty."
"Convincing or specific evidence that the Templars were Cathars cannot have existed, or the prosecution would have used it, as it did use the rather technical charge that the officers in chapter absolved the brothers after their confession of sin as though the officers had been priests. It seems unlikely that the Templars would have pursued a way of salvation other than that offered by the Church, when the path to their life's end which was laid down by the official Order seemed to promise just that certainty of salvation for which men craved. Perhaps, particularly after the return from the Holy Land which deprived them of the chance of a martyr's death in battle against the infidel, some Templars strayed into unorthodox ways. But the evidence of the examinations outside France suggests that if there were such men, they were only a few, and that though there may have been irregularity, there was no real heresy."
In the eighteenth century "the German Masonic bookseller, Friedrich Nicolai, produced an idea that the Templar Masons, through the medieval Templars, were the eventual heirs of an heretical doctrine which originated with the early Gnostics. He supported this belief by a farrago of learned references to the writings of early Fathers of the Church on heresy, and by impressive-looking citations from the Syriac. Nicolai based his theory on false etymology and wild surmise, but it was destined to be very influential. He was also most probably familiar with Henry Cornelius Aggripa's claim, made in the early sixteenth century, that the medieval Templars had been wizards."