The downfall of the Templars—The cause thereof—The Grand Master comes to Europe at the request of the Pope—He is imprisoned, with all the Templars in France, by command of King Philip—They are put to the torture, and confessions of the guilt of heresy and idolatry are extracted from them—Edward II. king of England stands up in defence of the Templars, but afterwards persecutes them at the instance of the Pope—The imprisonment of the Master of the Temple and all his brethren in England—Their examination upon eighty-seven horrible and ridiculous articles of accusation before foreign inquisitors appointed by the Pope—A council of the church assembles at London to pass sentence upon them—The curious evidence adduced as to the mode of admission into the Order, and of the customs and observances of the fraternity.
En cel an qu’ai dist or endroit, Et ne sait a tort ou a droit, Furent li Templiers, sans doutance, Tous pris par le royaume de France. Au mois d’Octobre, au point du jor, Et un vendredi fu le jor.
JAMES DE MOLAY A.D. 1297.
IT now only remains for us to describe the miserable fate of the surviving brethren of the Order of the Temple, and to tell of the ingratitude they encountered from their fellow Christians in the West. Shortly after the fall of Acre, a general chapter of the fraternity was called together, and James de Molay, the Preceptor of England, was chosen Grand Master.* He attempted once more (A.D. 1302) to plant the banners of the Temple upon the sacred soil of Palestine, but was defeated by the sultan of Egypt with the loss of a hundred and twenty of his brethren.* This disastrous expedition was speedily followed by the downfall of the fraternity. Many circumstances contributed to this memorable event.
* Raynald, tom. xiv. ad ann. 1298. Cotton MS. Nero E. vi. p. 60. fol. 466.
JAMES DE MOLAY A.D. 1302.
With the loss of all the Christian territory in Palestine had expired in Christendom every serious hope and expectation of recovering and retaining the Holy City. The services of the Templars were consequently no longer required, and men began to regard with an eye of envy and of covetousness their vast wealth and immense possessions. The privileges conceded to the fraternity by the popes made the church their enemy. The great body of the clergy regarded with jealousy and indignation their exemption from the ordinary ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The bull omne datum optimum was considered a great inroad upon the rights of the church, and broke the union which had originally subsisted between the Templars and the ecclesiastics. Their exemption from tithe was a source of considerable loss to the parsons, and the privilege they possessed of celebrating divine service during interdict brought abundance of offerings and alms to the priests and chaplains of the Order, which the clergy looked upon as so many robberies committed upon themselves. Disputes arose between the fraternity and the bishops and priests, and the hostility of the latter to the Order was manifested in repeated acts of injustice, which drew forth many severe bulls and indignant animadversions from the Roman pontiffs. Pope Alexander, in a bull fulminated against the clergy, tells them that if they would carefully reflect upon the contests which his beloved sons, the brethren of the chivalry of the Temple, continually maintained in Palestine for the defence of Christianity, and their kindness to the poor, they would not only cease from annoying and injuring them, but would strictly restrain others from so doing. He expresses himself to be grieved and astonished to hear that many ecclesiastics had vexed them with grievous injuries, had treated his apostolic letters with contempt, and had refused to read them in their churches; that they had subtracted the customary alms and oblations from the fraternity, and had admitted aggressors against the property of the brethren to their familiar friendship, insufferably endeavouring to press down and discourage those whom they ought assiduously to uphold. From other bulls it appears that the clergy interfered with the right enjoyed by the fraternity of collecting alms; that they refused to bury the brethren of the Order when deceased without being paid for it, and arrogantly claimed a right to be entertained with sumptuous hospitality in the houses of the Temple. For these delinquencies, the bishops, archdeacons, priests, and the whole body of the clergy, are threatened with severe measures by the Roman pontiff.†
* Marin Sanut Torsell. lib. iii. pars. 13, cap. x. p. 242. De Guignes, Hist des Huns, tom. iv. p. 184.
† Acta Rymeri tom. i. p. 575, 576—579, 582, tom. ii. p. 250. Martene, vet. script, tom. vii. col. 156.
The Templars, moreover, towards the close of their career, became unpopular with the European sovereigns and their nobles. The revenues of the former were somewhat diminished through the immunities conceded to the Templars by their predecessors, and the paternal estates of the latter had been diminished by the grant of many thousand manors, lordships, and fair estates to the Order by their pious and enthusiastic ancestors. Considerable dislike also began to be manifested to the annual transmission of large sums of money, the revenues of the Order, from the European states to be expended in a distant warfare in which Christendom now took comparatively no interest. Shortly after the fall of Acre, and the total loss of Palestine, Edward the First, king of England, seized and sequestered to his own use the monies which had been accumulated by the Templars, to forward to their brethren in Cyprus, alleging that the property of the Order of the Temple had been granted to it by the kings of England, his predecessors, and their subjects, for the defence of the Holy Land, and that since the loss thereof, no better use could be made of the money than by appropriating it to the maintenance of the poor. At the earnest request of the pope however, the king afterwards permitted their revenues to be transmitted to them in the island of Cyprus in the usual manner.* King Edward had previously manifested a strong desire to lay hands on the property of the Templars. On his return from his victorious campaign in Wales, finding himself unable to disburse the arrears of pay due to his soldiers, he went with Sir Robert Waleran and some armed followers to the Temple, and calling for the treasurer, he pretended that he wanted to see his mother’s jewels, which were there kept. Having been admitted into the house, he deliberately broke open the coffers of the Templars, and carried away ten thousand pounds with him to Windsor Castle.† His son, Edward the Second, on his accession to the throne, committed a similar act of injustice. He went with his favourite, Piers Gavaston, to the Temple, and took away with him fifty thousand pounds of silver, with a quantity of gold, jewels, and precious stones, belonging to the bishop of Chester.‡ The impunity with which these acts of violence were committed, manifests that the Templars then no longer enjoyed the power and respect which they possessed in ancient times.
As the enthusiasm, too, in favour of the holy war diminished, large numbers of the Templars remained at home in their western preceptories, and took an active part in the politics of Europe. They interfered in the quarrels of Christian princes, and even drew their swords against their fellow-Christians. Thus we find the members of the Order taking part in the war between the houses of Anjou and Aragon, and aiding the king of England in his warfare against the king of Scotland. In the battle of Falkirk, fought on the 22nd of July, A.D. 1298, seven years after the fall of Acre, perished both the Master of the Temple at London, and his vicegerent the Preceptor of Scotland.* All these circumstances, together with the loss of the Holy Land, and the extinction of the enthusiasm of the crusades, diminished the popularity of the Templars in Europe.
* Acta Rymeri, tom. ii. p. 683. ad ann. 1295.
† Chron. Dunmow. Annals of St. Augutin. Rapin.
‡ Ipse yero Rex et Petras thesaurum ipsius episcopi, apud Novum Templum Londoniis reconditum, ceperunt, ad sum mam quinquaginta millia librarum argenti, præter aurum multum, jocalia et lapides preciosos. … Erant enim ambo præsentes, cum cistæ frangerentur, et adhuc non erat sepultum corpus patris sui.—Hemingford, p. 244.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1306.
At the period of the fall of Acre, Philip the Fair, son of St. Louis, occupied the throne of France. He was a needy and avaricious monarch,† and had at different periods resorted to the most violent expedients to replenish his exhausted exchequer. On the death of Pope Benedict XI., (A.D. 1304), he succeeded, through the intrigues of the French Cardinal Dupre, in raising the archbishop of Bourdeaux, a creature of his own, to the pontifical chair. The new pope removed the Holy See from Rome to France; he summoned all the cardinals to Lyons, and was there consecrated, (A.D. 1305), by the name of Clement V., in the presence of King Philip and his nobles. Of the ten new cardinals then created nine were Frenchmen, and in all his acts the new pope manifested himself the obedient slave of the French monarch. The character of this pontiff has been painted by the a woe ecclesiastical historians in the darkest colours: they represent him as wedded to pleasure, eaten up with ambition, and greedy for money; they accuse him of indulging in a criminal intrigue with the beautiful countess of Perigord, and of trafficking in holy things.‡
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1307.
On the 6th of June, A.D. 1306, a few months after his coronation, this new French pontiff addressed letters from Bourdeaux to the Grand Masters of the Temple and Hospital, expressing his earnest desire to consult them with regard to the measures necessary to be taken for the recovery of the Holy Land. He tells them that they are the persons best qualified to give advice upon the subject, and to conduct and manage the enterprize, both from their great military experience and the interest they had in the success of the expedition. “We order you,” says he, “to come hither without delay, with as much secrecy as possible, and with a very little retinue, since you will find on this side the sea a sufficient number of your knights to attend upon you.”§ The Grand Master of the Hospital declined obeying this summons; but the Grand Master of the Temple forthwith accepted it, and unhesitatingly placed himself in the power of the pope and the king of France. He landed in France, attended by sixty of his knights, at the commencement of the year 1307, and deposited the treasure of the Order which he had brought with him from Cyprus, in the Temple at Paris. He was received with distinction by the king, and then took his departure for Poictiers to have an interview with the pope. He was there detained with various conferences and negotiations relative to a pretended expedition for the recovery of the Holy Land.
* Chron. Triveti, ad ann. 1298. Hemingford, vol. i. p. 159.
† Dante styles him il mal di Francia, Del. Purgat. cant. 20, 91.
‡ Questo Papa fue huomo molto cupido di moneta, e fue lusurioso, si dice ache tenea per amica la contessa di Paragordo, bellissima donna ! ! Villani, lib. ix. Cap. 58. Fuit nimis cupiditatibus deditus… Sanct. Ant. Flor. De Concil. Vien. Tit. 21. sec. 3. Circa thesaurus colligendos insudavit, says Knighton apud X script. col. 2494. Fleuri, 1. 92. p. 239.Chron. de Namgis, ad ann. 1305.
§ Rainald. Tom. xv. ad ann. 1306, n. 12. Fleuri, Hist. Eccles. Tom. xix. p. 111.
Among other things, the pope proposed an union between the Templars and Hospitallers, and the Grand Master handed in his objections to the proposition. He says, that after the fall of Acre, the people of Italy and of other Christian nations clamoured loudly against Pope Nicholas, for having afforded no succour to the besieged, and that he, by way of screening himself, had laid all the blame of the loss of the place on pretended dissensions between the Templars and Hospitallers, and projected an union between them. The Grand Master declares that there had been no dissensions between the Orders prejudicial to the Christian cause; that there was nothing more than a spirit of rivalry and emulation, the destruction of which would be highly injurious to the Christians, and advantageous to the Saracens; for if the Hospitallers at any time performed a brilliant feat of arms against the infidels, the Templars would never rest quiet until they had done the same or better, and e converso. So also if the Templars made a great shipment of brethren, horses, and other beasts across sea to Palestine, the Hospitallers would always do the like or more. He at the same time positively declares, that a member of one order had never been known to raise his hand against a member of the other.* The Grand Master complains that the reverence and respect of the Christian nations for both orders had undeservedly diminished, that everything was changed, and that most persons were then more ready to take from them than to give to them, and that many powerful men, both clergy and laity, brought continual mischief upon the fraternities.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1307.
In the mean time, the secret agents of the French king industriously circulated various dark rumours and odious reports concerning the Templars, and it was said that they would never have lost the Holy Land if they had been good Christians. These rumours and accusations were soon put into a tangible shape.
According to some writers, Squin de Florian, a citizen of Bezieres, who had been condemned to death or perpetual imprisonment in one of the royal castles for his iniquities, was brought before Philip, and received a free pardon, and was well rewarded in return, for an accusation on oath, charging the Templars with heresy, and with the commission of the most horrible crimes. According to others, Nosso de Florentin, an apostate Templar, who had been condemned by the Grand Preceptor and chapter of France to perpetual imprisonment for impiety and crime, made in his dungeon a voluntary confession of the sins and abominations charged against the Order.* Be this as it may, upon the strength of an information sworn to by a condemned criminal, King Philip, on the 14th of September, despatched secret orders to all the baillis of the different provinces in France, couched in the following extravagant and absurd terms:
* Bal. Pap. Avert, tom. ii. p. 176.
“Philip, by the grace of God king of the French, to his beloved and faithful knights. … &c. &c.
“A deplorable and most lamentable, matter, full of bitterness and grief, a monstrous business, a thing that one cannot think on without affright, cannot hear without horror, transgressions unheard of, enormities and atrocities contrary to every sentiment of humanity, &c. &c., have reached our ears.” After a long and most extraordinary tirade of this kind, Philip accuses the Templars of insulting Jesus Christ, and making him suffer more in those days than he had suffered formerly upon the cross; of renouncing the Christian religion; of mocking the sacred image of the Saviour; of sacrificing to idols; and of abandoning themselves to impure practices and unnatural crimes. He characterises them as ravishing wolves in sheep’s clothing; a perfidious, ungrateful, idolatrous society, whose words and deeds were enough to pollute the earth and infect the air; to dry up the sources of the celestial dews, and to put the whole church of Christ into confusion.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1307.
“We being charged,” says he, “with the maintenance of the faith; after having conferred with the pope, the prelates, and the barons of the kingdom, at the instance of the inquisitor, from the information already laid, from violent suspicions, from probable conjectures, from legitimate presumptions, conceived against the enemies of heaven and earth; and because the matter is important, and it is expedient to prove the just like gold in the furnace by a rigorous examination, have decreed that the members of the Order who are our subjects shall be arrested and detained to be judged by the church, and that all their real and personal property shall be seized into our hands, and be faithfully preserved,” &c. To these orders are attached instructions requiring the baillis and seneschals accurately to inform themselves, with great secrecy, and without exciting suspicion, of the number of the houses of the Temple within their respective jurisdictions; they are then to provide an armed force sufficient to overcome all resistance, and on the 13th of October are to surprise the Templars in their preceptories, and make them prisoners. The inquisition is then directed to assemble to examine the guilty, and to employ torture if it be necessary. “Before proceeding with the inquiry,” says Philip, “you are to inform them (the Templars) that the pope and ourselves have been convinced, by irreproachable testimony, of the errors and abominations which accompany their vows and profession; you are to promise them pardon and favour if they confess the truth, but if not, you are to acquaint them that they will be condemned to death.”*
* Bal. Pap. Aven. tom. i. p. 99. Sexta Vita, Clem. V. apud Balux, tom. i. col. 100.
As soon as Philip had issued these orders, he wrote to the principal sovereigns of Europe, urging them to follow his example,† and sent a confidential agent, named Bernard Peletin, with a letter to the young king, Edward the Second, who had just then ascended the throne of England, representing in frightful colours the pretended sins of the Templars. On the 22nd of September, King Edward replied to this letter, observing that he had considered of the matters mentioned therein, and had listened to the statements of that discreet man, Master Bernard Peletin; that he had caused the latter to unfold the charges before himself, and many prelates, earls, and barons of his kingdom, and others of his council; but that they appeared so astonishing as to be beyond belief; that such abominable and execrable deeds had never before been heard of by the king and the aforesaid prelates, earls, and barons, and it was therefore hardly to be expected that an easy credence could be given to them. The English monarch, however, informs King Philip that by the advice of his council he had ordered the seneschal of Agen, from whose lips the rumours were said to have proceeded, to be summoned to his presence, that through him he might be further informed concerning the premises; and he states that at the fitting time, after due inquiry, he will take such steps as will redound to the praise of God, and the honour and preservation of the catholic faith.‡
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1307.
On the night of the 13th of October, all the Templars in the French dominions were simultaneously arrested. Monks were appointed to preach against them in the public places of Paris, and in the gardens of the Palais Royale; and advantage was taken of the folly, the superstition, and the credulity of the age, to propagate the most horrible and extravagant charges against the Order. They were accused of worshipping an idol covered with an old skin, embalmed, having the appearance of a piece of polished oil-cloth. “In this idol,” we are assured, “there were two carbuncles for eyes, bright as the brightness of heaven, and it is certain that all the hope of the Templars was placed in it; it was their sovereign god, and they trusted in it with all their heart.” They are accused of burning the bodies of the deceased brethren, and making the ashes into a powder, which they administered to the younger brethren in their food and drink, to make them hold fast their faith and idolatry; of cooking and roasting infants, and anointing their idols with the fat; of celebrating hidden rites and mysteries, to which young and tender virgins were introduced, and of a variety of abominations too absurd and horrible to be named.* Guillaume Paradin, in his history of Savoy, seriously repeats these monstrous accusations, and declares that the Templars had “un lieu creux ou cave en terre, fort obscur, en laquelle ils avoient un image en forme d’un homme, sur lequel ils avoient appliqué la peau d’un corps humain, et mis deux clairs et lui sans escarboucles au lieu des deux yeux. A cette horrible statue etoient contraints de sacrifier ceux qui vouloient etre de leur damnable religion, lesquels avant toutes ceremonies ils contragnoient de renier Jesus Christ, et fouler la croix avec les pieds, et apres ce maudit sacre auquel assistoient femmes et filles (seduites pour etre de ce secte) ils estegnoient les lampes et lumieres qu’ils avoient en cett cave. … Et s’il advenoit que d’un Templier et d’un pucelle nasquit, un fils, ils se rangoit tous en un rond, et se jettoient cet enfant de main en main, et ne cessoient de le letter lusquacequil fu mort entre leurs mains: etant mort ils se rotissoient (chose execrable) etde la graisse ils en ognoient leur grand statue!”† The character of the charges preferred against the Templars proves that their enemies had no serious crimes to allege against the Order. Their very virtues indeed were turned against them, for we are told that “to conceal the iniquity of their lives they made much almsgiving, constantly frequented church, comported themselves with edification, frequently partook of the holy sacrament, and manifested always much modesty and gentleness of deportment in the house, as well as in public.”‡
* Hist. de la Condemnation des Templiers.—Dupuy, tom. ii. p. 309.
† Mariana Hispan. Illustr. Tom. iii. p. 152. Le Gendre Hist. de France, tom. ii. p. 499.
‡ Acta Rymerti, tom. iii. p. 18. ad ann. 1307.
During twelve days of severe imprisonment, the Templars remained constant in the denial of the horrible crimes imputed to the fraternity. The king’s promises of pardon extracted from them no confession of guilt, and they were therefore handed over to the tender mercies of the brethren of St. Dominic, who were the most refined and expert torturers of the day.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1307.
On the 19th of October, the grand inquisitor proceeded with his myrmidons to the Temple at Paris, and a hundred and forty Templars were one after another put to the torture. Days and weeks were consumed in the examination, and thirty-six Templars perished in the hands of their tormentors, maintaining with unshaken constancy to the very last the entire innocence of their order. Many of them lost the use of their feet from the application of the torture of fire, which was inflicted in the following manner: their legs were fastened in an iron frame, and the soles of their feet were greased over with fat or butter; they were then placed before the fire, and a screen was drawn backwards and forwards, so as to moderate and regulate the heat. Such was the agony produced by this roasting operation, that the victims often went raving mad. Brother Bernarde de Vado, on subsequently revoking a confession of guilt, wrung from him by this description of torment, says to the commissary of police, before whom he was brought to be examined, “They held me so long before a fierce fire that the flesh was burnt off my heels, two pieces of bone came away, which I present to you.”* Another Templar, on publicly revoking his confession, declared that four of his teeth were drawn out, and that he confessed himself guilty to save the remainder.† Others of the fraternity deposed to the infliction on them of the most revolting and indecent torments‡ and, in addition to all this, it appears that forged letters from the Grand Master were shown to the prisoners, exhorting them to confess themselves guilty. Many of the Templars were accordingly compelled to acknowledge whatever was required of them, and to plead guilty to the commission of crimes which in the previous interrogatories they had positively denied. §
* Les forfaits pourquoi les Templiers furent ars et condamnez, pris et contre eux approuvez Chron. S. Denis. Sexta vita, Clem. V. Dupuy, p. 24. edition de 1713.
† Liv. ii. chap. 106, chez Dupuy.
Sexta vita, Clem. V. col. 102.
These violent proceedings excited the astonishment and amazement of Europe.
On the 20th of November, the king of England summoned the seneschal of Agen to his presence, and examined him concerning the truth of the horrible charges preferred against the Templars; and on the 4th of December the English monarch wrote letters to the kings of Portugal, Castile, Aragon, and Sicily, to the following effect:
“To the magnificent prince the Lord Dionysius, by the grace of God the illustrious king of Portugal, his very dear friend Edward, by the same grace king of England, &c. Health and prosperity.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1307.
“It is fit and proper, inasmuch as it conduceth to the honour of God and the exaltation of the faith, that we should prosecute with benevolence those who come recommended to us by strenuous labours and incessant exertions in defence of the Catholic faith, and for the destruction of the enemies of the cross of Christ. Verily, a certain clerk, (Bernard Peletin), drawing nigh unto our presence, applied himself, with all his might, to the destruction of the Order of the brethren of the Temple of Jerusalem. He dared to publish before us and our council certain horrible and detestable enormities repugnant to the Catholic faith, to the prejudice of the aforesaid brothers, endeavouring to persuade us, through his own allegations, as well as through certain letters which he had caused to be addressed to us for that purpose, that by reason of the premises, and without a due examination of the matter, we ought to imprison all the brethren of the aforesaid order abiding in our dominions. But, considering that the Order, which hath been renowned for its religion and its honour, and in times long since passed away was instituted, as we have learned, by the Catholic Fathers, exhibits, and hath from the period of its first foundation exhibited, a becoming devotion to God and his holy church, and also, up to this time, hath afforded succour and protection to the Catholic faith in parts beyond sea, it appeared to us that a ready belief in an accusation of this kind, hitherto altogether unheard of against the fraternity, was scarcely to be expected. We affectionately ask, and require of your royal majesty, that ye, with due diligence, consider of the premises, and turn a deaf ear to the slanders of ill-natured men, who are animated, as we believe, not with the zeal of rectitude, but with a spirit of cupidity and envy, permitting no injury unadvisedly to be done to the persons or property of the brethren of the aforesaid order, dwelling within your kingdom, until they have been legally convicted of the crimes laid to their charge, or it shall happen to be otherwise ordered concerning them in these parts.”*
* Ostendei duo ossa quod dicebat ilia esse qua ceciderunt de talis suis. Processus contra Templarios. Raynouard Monumens Historiques, p. 73, ed. 1813.
† In quibus tormentis dicebat se quatuor dentes perdidisse. Ib p. 35.
‡ Fuit quaestionibus ponderibus appensis in genitalibus, et in aliis membris usque ad exanimationem. Ib.
§ Tres des Chart. TEMPLIERS, cart 3, n. 20.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1307.
A few days after the transmission of this letter, King Edward wrote to the pope, expressing his disbelief of the horrible and detestable rumours spread abroad concerning the Templars. He represents them to his holiness as universally respected by all men in his dominions for the purity of their faith and morals. He expresses great sympathy for the affliction and distress suffered by the master and brethren, by reason of the scandal circulated concerning them; and he strongly urges the holy pontiff to clear, by some fair course of inquiry, the character of the Order from the unjust and infamous aspersions cast against it† On the 22nd of November, however, a fortnight previously, the Pope had issued the following bull to King Edward.
“Clement, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his very dear son in Christ, Edward, the illustrious king of England, health and apostolical blessing.
“Presiding, though unworthy, on the throne of pastoral pre-eminence, by the disposition of him who disposeth all things, we fervently seek after this one thing above all others; we with ardent wishes aspire to this, that shaking off the sleep of negligence, whilst watching over the Lord’s flock, by removing that which is hurtful, and taking care of such things as are profitable, we may be able, by the divine assistance, to bring souls to God.”
* Dat. Apud Redyng, 4 die Decembris. Consimiles litteræ diriguntur Ferando regi Castillæ et Ligionis, consanguineo Regis, domino Karolo, regi Siciliæ, et Jacobo regi Aragoniæ, amico Regis. Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. ad ann. 1307, p. 35, 36.
† Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 37, ad ann. 1307.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1307.
“In truth, a long time ago, about the period of our first promotion to the summit of the apostolical dignity, there came to our ears a light rumour, to the effect that the Templars, though fighting ostensibly under the guise of religion, have hitherto been secretly living in perfidious apostasy, and in detestable heretical depravity. But, considering that their order, in times long since passed away, shone forth with the grace of much nobility and honour, and that they were for a length of time held in vast reverence by the faithful, and that we had then heard of no suspicion concerning the premises, or of evil report against them; and also, that from the beginning of their religion, they have publicly borne the cross of Christ, exposing their bodies and goods against the enemies of the faith, for the acquisition, retention, and defence of the Holy Land, consecrated by the precious blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we were unwilling to yield a ready belief to the accusation… ”
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1307.
The holy pontiff then states, that afterwards, however, the same dreadful intelligence was conveyed to the king of France, who, animated by a lively zeal in the cause of religion, took immediate steps to ascertain its truth. He describes the various confessions of the guilt of idolatry and heresy made by the Templars in France, and requires the king forthwith to cause all the Templars in his dominions to be taken into custody on the same day. He directs him to hold them, in the name of the pope, at the disposition of the Holy See, and to commit all their real and personal property to the hands of certain trustworthy persons, to be faithfully preserved until the holy pontiff shall give further directions concerning it.* King Edward received this bull immediately after he had despatched his letter to the pope, exhorting his holiness not to give ear to the accusation against the Order. The young king was now either convinced of the guilt of the Templars, on the high authority of the sovereign pontiff, or hoped to turn the proceedings against them to a profitable account, as he yielded a ready and prompt compliance with the pontifical commands. An order in council was made for the arrest of the Templars, and the seizure of their property. Inventories were directed to be taken of their goods and chattels, and provision was made for the sowing and tilling of their lands during the period of their imprisonment.† This order in council was carried into effect in the following manner:
On the 20th of December, the king’s writs were directed to each of the sheriffs throughout England, commanding them to make sure of certain trustworthy men of their bailiwicks, to the number of ten or twelve in each county, such as the king could best confide in, and have them at a certain place in the county, on pain of forfeiture of everything that could be forfeited to the king; and commanding the sheriffs, on pain of the like forfeiture, to be in person at the same place, on the Sunday before the feast of Epiphany, to do certain things touching the king’s peace, which the sheriff would find contained in the king’s writ about to be directed to him. And afterwards the king sent sworn clergymen with his writs, containing the said order in council to the sheriffs, who, before they opened them, were to take an oath that they would not disclose the contents of such writs until they proceeded to execute them.* The same orders, to be acted upon in a similar manner in Ireland, were sent to the justiciary of that country, and to the treasurer of the Exchequer at Dublin; also, to John de Richemund, guardian of Scotland; and to Walter de Pederton, justiciary of West Wales; Hugh de Aldithelegh, justiciary of North Wales; and to Robert de Holland, justiciary of Chester, who were strictly commanded to carry the Orders into execution before the king’s proceedings against the Templars in England were noised abroad. All the king’s faithful subjects were commanded to aid and assist the officers in the fulfilment of their duty.†
* Dat. Pictavis 10, kal. Dec. Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. ad ann. 1307, p. 30—32.
‡ Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 34, 35, ad ann. 1307.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1308.
On the 26th of December the king wrote to the Pope, informing his holiness that he would carry his commands into execution in the best and speediest way that he could; and on the 8th of January, A.D. 1308, the Templars were suddenly arrested in all parts of England, and their property was seized into the king’s hands.‡ Brother William de la More was at this period Master of the Temple, or Preceptor of England. He succeeded the Master Brian le Jay, who was slain, as before mentioned, in the battle of Falkirk, and was taken prisoner, together with all his brethren of the Temple at London, and committed to close custody in Canterbury Castle. He was afterwards liberated on bail at the instance of the bishop of Durham. §
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1308.
On the 12th of August, the Pope addressed the bull faciens misericordiam to the English bishops as follows: “Clement, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to the venerable brethren the archbishop of Canterbury and his suffragans, health and apostolical benediction. The Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, using mercy with his servant, would have us taken up into the eminent mirror of the apostleship, to this end, that being, though unworthy, his vicar upon Earth, we may, as far as human frailty will permit in all our actions and proceedings, follow his footsteps.” He describes the rumours which had been spread abroad in France against the Templars, and his unwillingness to believe them, “because it was not likely, nor did seem credible, that such religious men, who particularly often shed their blood for the name of Christ, and were thought very frequently to expose their persons to danger of death for his sake; and who often showed many and great signs of devotion, as well in the divine offices as in fasting and other observances, should be so unmindful of their salvation as to perpetrate such things; we were un- willing to give ear to the insinuations and impeachments against them, being taught so to do by the example of the same Lord of ours, and the writings of canonical doctrine. But afterwards, our most dear son in Christ, Philip, the illustrious king of the French, to whom the same crimes had been made known, not from motives of avarice, (since he does not design to apply or to appropriate to himself any portion of the estates of the Templars, nay, has washed his hands of them!) but inflamed with zeal for the orthodox faith, following the renowned footsteps of his ancestors, getting what information he properly could upon the premises, gave us much instruction in the matter by his messengers and letters.” The holy pontiff then gives a long account of the various confessions made in France, and of the absolution granted to such of the Templars as were truly contrite and penitent; he expresses his conviction of the guilt of the Order, and makes provision for the trial of the fraternity in England.* King Edward, in the mean time, had begun to make free with their property, and the Pope, on the 4th of October, wrote to him to the following effect:
* Ibid. p. 34, 35.
† Ibid. p. 45.
‡ Knyghton, apud X. script, col. 2494, 2531.
§ Acta Rymeri tom. iii. p. 83.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1308.
“Your conduct begins again to afford us no slight cause of affliction, inasmuch as it hath been brought to our knowledge from the report of several barons, that in contempt of the Holy See, and without fear of offending the divine Majesty, you have, of your own sole authority, distributed to different persons the property which belonged formerly to the Order of the Temple in your dominions, which you had got into your hands at our command, and which ought to have remained at our disposition. … We have therefore ordained that certain fit and proper persons shall be sent into your kingdom, and to all parts of the world where the Templars are known to have had property, to take possession of the same conjointly with certain prelates specially deputed to that end, and to make an inquisition concerning the execrable excesses which the members of the Order are said to have committed.”†
To this letter of the supreme pontiff, King Edward sent the following short and pithy reply:
“As to the goods of the Templars, we have done nothing with them up to the present time, nor do we intend to do with them aught but what we have a right to do, and what we know will be acceptable to the Most High.”‡
* Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 101, 2, 3.
† Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 110, 111. Vitoe paparum Avenion, tom. ii. p. 107
‡ Ibid., tom. iii. p. 121, 122.
On the 13th of September, A.D. 1309, the king granted letters of safe conduct “to those discreet men, the abbot of Lagny, in the diocese of Paris, and Master Sicard de Vaur, canon of Narbonne,” the inquisitors appointed by the Pope to examine the Grand Preceptor and brethren of the Temple in England;* and the same day he wrote to the archbishop of Canterbury, and the bishops of London and Lincoln, enjoining them to be personally present with the papal inquisitors, at their respective sees, as often as such inquisitors, or any one of them, should proceed with their inquiries against the Templars.†
On the 14th of September writs were sent, in pursuance of an order in council, to the sheriffs of Kent and seventeen other counties, commanding them to bring all their prisoners of the Order of the Temple to London, and deliver them to the constable of the Tower; also to the sheriffs of Northumberland and eight other counties, enjoining them to convey their prisoners to York Castle; and to the sheriffs of Warwick and seven other counties, requiring them, in like manner, to conduct their prisoners to the Castle of Lincoln. ‡ Writs were also sent to John de Cumberland, constable of the Tower, and to the constables of the castles of York and Lincoln, commanding them to receive the Templars, to keep them in safe custody, and hold them at the disposition of the inquisitors. § The total number of Templars in custody was two hundred and twenty-nine. Many, however, were still at large, having successfully evaded capture by obliterating all marks of their previous profession, and some had escaped in disguise to the wild and mountainous parts of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Among the prisoners confined in the Tower were brother William de la More, Knight, Grand Preceptor of England, otherwise Master of the Temple; Brother Himbert Blanke, Knight, Grand Preceptor of Auvergne, one of the veteran warriors who had fought to the last in defence of Palestine, had escaped the slaughter at Acre, and had accompanied the Grand Master from Cyprus to France, from whence he crossed over to England, and was rewarded for his meritorious and memorable services, in defence of the Christian faith, with a dungeon in the Tower.** Brother Radulph de Barton, priest of the Order of the Temple, custos or guardian of the Temple church, and prior of London; Brother Michael de Baskeville, Knight, Preceptor of London; Brother John de Stoke, Knight, Treasurer of the Temple at London; together with many other knights and serving brethren of the same house. There were also in custody in the Tower the knights preceptors of the preceptories of Ewell in Kent, of Daney and Dokesworth in Cambridgeshire, of Getinges in Gloucestershire, of Cumbe in Somersetshire, of Schepeley in Surrey, of Samford and Bistelesham in Oxfordshire, of Garwy in Herefordshire, of Cressing in Essex, of Pafflet, Hippleden, and other preceptories, together with several priests and chaplains of the Order.* A general scramble appears to have taken place for possession of the goods and chattels of the imprisoned Templars; and the king, to check the robberies that were committed, appointed Alan de Goldyngham and John de Medefeld to inquire into the value of the property that had been carried off, and to inform him of the names of the parties who had obtained possession of it. The sheriffs of the different counties were also directed to summon juries, through whom the truth might be better obtained.†
* Ibid. p. 168.
† Ibid. p. 168, 169.
‡ Ibid. p. 174.
§ Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 173, 175.
** Rainald, tom. xv. ad ann. 1306.
On the 22nd of September, the archbishop of Canterbury transmitted letters apostolic to all his suffragans, enclosing copies of the bull faciens misericordiam, and also the articles of accusation to be exhibited against the Templars, which they are directed to copy and deliver again, under their seals, to the bearer, taking especial care not to reveal the contents thereof.‡ At the same time the archbishop, acting in obedience to the papal commands, before a single witness had been examined in England, caused to be published in all churches and chapels a papal bull, wherein the Pope declares himself perfectly convinced of the guilt of the Order, and solemnly denounces the penalty of excommunication against all persons, of whatever rank, station, or condition in life, whether clergy or laity, who should knowingly afford, either publicly or privately, assistance, counsel, or kindness to the Templars, or should dare to shelter them, or give them countenance or protection, and also laying under interdict all cities, castles, lands, and places, which should harbour any of the members of the proscribed order. § At the commencement of the month of October, the inquisitors arrived in England, and immediately published the bull appointing the commission, enjoining the citation of the criminals, and of witnesses, and denouncing the heaviest ecclesiastical censures against the disobedient, and against every person who should dare to impede the inquisitors in the exercise of their functions. Citations were made in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and in all the churches of the ecclesiastical province of Canterbury, at the end of high mass, requiring the Templars to appear before the inquisitors at a certain time and place, and the articles of accusation were transmitted to the constable of the Tower, in Latin, French, and English, to be read to all the Templars imprisoned in that fortress. On Monday, the 20th of October, after the Templars had been languishing in the English prisons for more than a year and eight months, the tribunal constituted by the Pope to take the inquisition in the province of Canterbury assembled in the episcopal hall of London. It was composed of the bishop of London, Dieudonné, abbot of the monastery of Lagny, in the diocese of Paris, and Sicard de Vaur, canon of Narbonne, the Pope’s chaplain, and hearer of causes in the pontifical palace. They were assisted by several foreign notaries. After the reading of the papal bulls, and some preliminary proceedings, the monstrous and ridiculous articles of accusation, a monument of human folly, superstition, and credulity, were solemnly exhibited as follows:
* Concil. Mag. Brit. tom. ii. p. 346, 347.
† Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 178, 179.
‡ Concil. Mag. Brit. tom. ii. p. 304—311.
§ Processus contra Templarios, Dugd. Monast. Angl. vol. vi. part 2, p. 844—846 ed. 1830.
“Item. At the place, day, and hour aforesaid, in the presence of the aforesaid lords, and before us the above-mentioned notaries, the articles inclosed in the apostolic bull were exhibited and opened before us, the contents whereof are as underwritten.
“These are the articles upon which inquisition shall be made against the brethren of the military order of the Temple, &c.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1309.
“1. That at their first reception into the Order, or at some time afterwards, or as soon as an opportunity occurred, they were induced or admonished by those who had received them within the bosom of the fraternity, to deny Christ or Jesus, or the crucifixion, or at one time God, and at another time the blessed virgin, and sometimes all the saints.
“2. That the brothers jointly did this.
“3. That the greater part of them did it.
“4. That they did it sometimes after their reception.
“5. That the receivers told and instructed those that were received, that Christ was not the true God, or sometimes Jesus, or sometimes the person crucified.
“6. That they told those they received that he was a false prophet.
“7. That they said he had not suffered for the redemption of mankind, nor been crucified but for his own sins.
“8. That neither the receiver nor the person received had any hope of obtaining salvation through him, and this they said to those they received, or something equivalent, or like it.
“9. That they made those they received into the Order spit upon the cross, or upon the sign or figure of the cross, or the image of Christ, though they that were received did sometimes spit aside.
“10. That they caused the cross itself to be trampled under foot.
“11. That the brethren themselves did sometimes trample on the same cross.
“12. Item quod mingebant interdum, et alios mingere faciebant, super ipsam crucem, et hoc fecerunt aliquotiens in die veneris sanctâ!!
“13. Item quod nonnulli eorum ipsâ die, vel alia septimanæ sanctæ pro conculcatione et minctione prædictis consueverunt convenire!
“14. That they worshipped a cat which was placed in the midst of the congregation.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1309.
“15.That they did these things in contempt of Christ and the orthodox faith.
“16. That they did not believe the sacrament of the altar.
“17. That some of them did not.
“18. That the greater part did not.
“19. That they believed not the other sacraments of the church.
“20. That the priests of the Order did not utter the words by which the body of Christ is consecrated in the canon of the mass.
“21. That some of them did not.
“22. That the greater part did not.
“23. That those who received them enjoined the same.
“24. That they believed, and so it was told them, that the Grand Master of the Order could absolve them from their sins.
“25. That the visitor could do so.
“26. That the preceptors, of whom many were laymen, could do it.
“27. That they in fact did do so.
“28. That some of them did.
“29. That the Grand Master confessed these things of himself, even before he was taken, in the presence of great persons.
“30. That in receiving brothers into the Order, or when about to receive them, or some time after having received them, the receivers and the persons received kissed one another on the mouth, the navel. … !!
“36. That the receptions of the brethren were made clandestinely.
“37. That none were present but the brothers of the said order.
“38. That for this reason there has for a long time been a vehement suspicion against them.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1309.
The succeeding articles proceed to charge the Templars with crimes and abominations too horrible and disgusting to be named.
“46. That the brothers themselves had idols in every province, viz. heads; some of which had three faces, and some one, and some a man’s skull.
“47. That they adored that idol, or those idols, especially in their great chapters and assemblies.
“48. That they worshipped it.
“49. As their God.
“50. As their Saviour.
“51. That some of them did so.
“52. That the greater part did.
“53. That they said that that head could save them.
“54. That it could produce riches.
“55. That it had given to the Order all its wealth.
“56. That it caused the earth to bring forth seed.
“57. That it made the trees to flourish.
“58. That they bound or touched the head of the said idols with cords, wherewith they bound themselves about their shirts, or next their skins.
“59. That at their reception the aforesaid little cords, or others of the same length, were delivered to each of the brothers.
“60. That they did this in worship of their idol.
“61. That it was enjoined them to gird themselves with the said little cords, as before mentioned, and continually to wear them.
“62. That the brethren of the Order were generally received in that manner.
“63. That they did these things out of devotion.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1309.
“64. That they did them everywhere.
“65. That the greater part did.
“66. That those who refused the things above mentioned at their reception, or to observe them afterwards, were killed or cast into prison.”*
The remaining articles, twenty-one in number, are directed principally to the mode of confession practised amongst the fraternity, and to matters of heretical depravity. Such an accusation as this, justly remarks Voltaire, destroys itself.
Brother William de la More, and thirty more of his brethren, being interrogated before the inquisitors, positively denied the guilt of the order, and affirmed that the Templars who had made the confessions alluded to in France had lied. They were ordered to be brought up separately to be examined.
On the 23rd of October, brother William Raven, being interrogated as to the mode of his reception into the Order, states that he was admitted by brother William de la More, the Master of the Temple at Temple Coumbe, in the diocese of Bath; that he petitioned the brethren of the Temple that they would be pleased to receive him into the Order to serve God and the blessed Virgin Mary, and to end his life in their service; that he was asked if he had a firm wish so to do; and replied that he had; that two brothers then expounded to him the strictness and severity of the Order, and told him that he would not be allowed to act after his own will, but must follow the will of the preceptor; that if he wished to do one thing, he would be ordered to do another; and that if he wished to be at one place, he would be sent to another; that having promised so to act, he swore upon the holy gospels of God to obey the Master, to hold no property, to preserve chastity, never to consent that any man should be unjustly despoiled of his heritage, and never to lay violent hands on any man, except in self-defence, or upon the Saracens. He states that the oath was administered to him in the chapel of the preceptory of Temple Coumbe, in the presence only of the brethren of the Order; that the rule was read over to him by one of the brothers, and that a learned serving brother, named John de Walpole, instructed him, for the space of one month, upon the matters contained in it. The prisoner was then taken back to the Tower, and was directed to be strictly separated from his brethren, and not to be suffered to speak to any one of them.
* The original draft of these articles of accusation, with the corrections and alterations, is preserved in the Tresor des Chartres Raynouard, Monumens Historiques, p. 50, 51. The proceedings against the Templars in England are preserved in MS. in the British Museum, Harl. No. 252, 62, f. p. 113; No. 247, 68, f. p. 144. Bib. Cotton Julius, b. xii. p. 70; and in the Bodleian Library and Ashmolean Museum. The principal part of them has been published by Wilkins in the Concilia Magna Britannia, torn. ii. p. 329—401, and by Dugdale, in the Monast. Angl. vol. vi. part 2. p. 844—848.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1309.
The two next days (Oct. 24 and 25) were taken up with a similar examination of Brothers Hugh de Tadecastre and Thomas le Chamberleyn, who gave precisely the same account of their reception as the previous witness. Brother Hugh de Tadecastre added, that he swore to succour the Holy Land with all his might, and defend it against the enemies of the Christian faith; and that after he had taken the customary oaths and the three vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, the mantle of the order and the cross with the coif on the head were delivered to him in the church, in the presence of the Master, the knights, and the brothers, all seculars being excluded. Brother Thomas le Chamberleyn added, that there was the same mode of reception in England as beyond sea, and the same mode of taking the vows; that all seculars are excluded, and that when he himself entered the Temple church to be professed, the door by which he entered was closed after him; that there was another door looking into the cemetery, but that no stranger could enter that way. On being asked why none but the brethren of the Order were permitted to be present at the reception and profession of brothers, he said he knew of no reason, but that it was so written in their book of rules.
Between the 25th of October and the 17th of November, thirty-three knights, chaplains, and serving brothers, were examined, all of whom positively denied every article imputing crime or infidelity to their order. When Brother Himbert Blanke was asked why they had made the reception and profession of brethren secret, he replied, Through their own unaccountable folly. They avowed that they wore little cords round their shirts, but for no bad end; they declared that they never touched idols with them, but that they were worn by way of penance, or according to a knight of forty-three years’ standing, by the instruction of the holy father St. Bernard. Brother Richard de Goldyngham says that he knows nothing further about them than that they were called girdles of chastity. They state that the receivers and the party received kissed one another on the face, but everything else regarding the kissing was false, abominable, and had never been done.
Brother Radulph de Barton, priest of the Order of the Temple, and custos or guardian of the Temple church at London, stated, with regard to Article 24, that the Grand Master in chapter could absolve the brothers from offences committed against the rules and observances of the Order, but not from private sin, as he was not a priest; that it was perfectly true that those who were received into the Order swore not to reveal the secrets of the chapter, and that when any one was punished in the chapter, those who were present at it durst not reveal it to such as were absent; but if any brother revealed the mode of his reception, he would be deprived of his chamber, or else stripped of his habit. He declares that the brethren were not prohibited from confessing to priests not belonging to the Order of the Temple; and that he had never heard of the crimes and iniquities mentioned in the articles of inquiry previous to his arrest, except as regarded the charges made against the Order by Bernard Peletin, when he came to England from King Philip of France. He states that he had been guardian of the Temple church for ten years, and for the last two years had enjoyed the dignity of preceptor at the same place. He was asked about the death of Brother Walter le Bachelor, knight, formerly Preceptor of Ireland, who died at the Temple at London, but he declares that he knows nothing about it, except that the said Walter was fettered and placed in prison, and there died; that he certainly had heard that great severity had been practised towards him, but that he had not meddled with the affair on account of the danger of so doing; he admitted also that the aforesaid Walter was not buried in the cemetery of the Temple, as he was considered excommunicated on account of his disobedience of his superior, and of the rule of the Order.
Many of the brethren thus examined had been from twenty to thirty, forty, forty-two, and forty-three years in the Order, and some were old veteran warriors who had fought for many a long year in the East, and richly merited a better fate. Brother Himbert Blanke, knight, Preceptor of Auvergne, had been in the Order thirty-eight years. He was received at the city of Tyre in Palestine, had been engaged in constant warfare against the infidels, and had fought to the last in defence of Acre. He makes in substance the same statements as the other witnesses; declares that no religious order believes the sacrament of the altar better than the Templars; that they truly believed all that the church taught, and had always done so, and that if the Grand Master had confessed the contrary, he had lied. Brother Robert le Scott, knight, a brother of twenty-six years’ standing, had been received at the Pilgrim’s Castle, the famous fortress of the Knights Templars in Palestine, by the Grand Master, Brother William de Beaujeu, the hero who died so gloriously at the iiead of his knights at the last siege and storming of Acre. He states that from levity of disposition he quitted the Order after it had been driven out of Palestine, and absented himself for two years, during which period he came to Rome, and confessed to the Pope’s penitentiary, who imposed on him a heavy penance, and enjoined him to return to his brethren in the East, and that he went back and resumed his habit at Nicosia in the island of Cyprus, and was re-admitted to the Order by command of the Grand Master, James de Molay, who was then at the head of the convent. He adds, also, that Brother Himbert Blanke (the previous witness) was present at his first reception at the Pilgrim’s Castle. He fully corroborates all the foregoing testimony.
Brother Richard de Peitevyn, a member of forty-two years’ standing, deposes that, in addition to the previous oaths, he swore that he would never bear arms against Christians except in his own defence, or in defence of the rights of the Order; he declares that the enormities mentioned in the articles were never heard of before Bernard Peletin brought letters to his lord, the king of England, against the Templars.
On the 22nd day of the inquiry, the following entry was made on the record of the proceedings:
“Memorandum. Brothers Philip de Mewes, Thomas de Burton, and Thomas de Staundon, were advised and earnestly exhorted to abandon their religious profession, who severally replied that they would rather die than do so.”*
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D.1309.
On the 19th and 20th of November, seven lay witnesses, un-connected with the Order, were examined before the inquisitors in the chapel of the monastery of the Holy Trinity, but could prove nothing against the Templars that was criminal or tainted with heresy.
Master William le Dorturer, notary public, declared that the Templars rose at midnight, and held their chapters before dawn, and he thought that the mystery and secrecy of the receptions were owing to a bad rather than a good motive, but declared that he had never observed that they had acquired, or had attempted to acquire, anything unjustly. Master Gilbert de Bruere, clerk, said that he had never suspected them of anything worse than an excessive correction of the brethren. William Lambert, formerly a “messenger of the Temple,” (nuntius Templi), knew nothing bad of the Templars, and thought them perfectly innocent of all the matters alluded to. And Richard de Barton, priest, and Radulph de Rayndon, an old man, both declared that they knew nothing of the Order, or of the members of it, but what was good and honourable.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1309.
On the 25th of November, a provincial council of the church, summoned by the archbishop of Canterbury, in obedience to a papal bull, assembled in the cathedral church of St. Paul. It was composed of the bishops, abbots, priors, heads of colleges, and all the principal clergy, who were called together to treat of the reformation of the English church, of the recovery and preservation of the Holy Land, and to pronounce sentence of absolution or of condemnation against singular persons of the Order of the chivalry of the Temple in the province of Canterbury, according to the tenor of the apostolical mandate. The council was opened by the archbishop of Canterbury, who rode to St. Paul’s on horseback. The bishop of Norwich celebrated the mass of the Holy Ghost at the great altar, and the archbishop preached a sermon in Latin upon the 20th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles; after which a papal bull was read, in which the holy pontiff dwells most pathetically upon the awful sins of the Templars, and their great and tremendous fall from their previous high estate. Hitherto, says he, they have been renowned throughout the world as the special champions of the faith, and the chief defenders of the Holy Land, whose affairs have been mainly regulated by those brothers. The church, following them and their order with the plenitude of its especial favour and regard, armed them with the emblem of the cross against the enemies of Christ, exalted them with much honour, enriched them with wealth, and fortified them with various liberties and privileges. The holy pontiff displays the sad report of their sins and iniquities which reached his ears, filled him with bitterness and grief, disturbed his repose, smote him with horror, injured his health, and caused his body to waste away! He gives a long account of the crimes imputed to the Order, of the confessions and depositions that had been made in France, and then bursts out into a paroxysm of grief, declares that the melancholy affair deeply moved all the faithful, that all Christianity was shedding bitter tears, was overwhelmed with grief, and clothed with mourning. He concludes by decreeing the assembly of a general council of the church at Vienne to pronounce the abolition of the Order, and to determine on the disposal of its property, to which council the English clergy are required to send representatives.*
* Actum in Capella infirmariæ prioratus Sanctæ Trinitatis præsentibus etc. Concilia Magnæ Britanniæ, tom. iii. p. 344. Ibid. p. 334—343.
After the reading of the bulls and the closing of the preliminary proceedings, the council occupied themselves for six days with ecclesiastical matters; and on the seventh day, being Tuesday, Dec. 2nd, all the bishops and members assembled in the chamber of the archbishop of Canterbury in Lambeth palace, in company with the papal inquisitors, who displayed before them the depositions and replies of the forty-three Templars, and of the seven witnesses previously examined. It was decreed that a copy of these depositions and replies should be furnished to each of the bishops, and that the council should stand adjourned until the next day, to give time for deliberation upon the premises.
On the following day, accordingly, (Wednesday, December the 3rd), the council met, and decided that the inquisitors and three bishops should seek an audience of the king, and beseech him to permit them to proceed against the Templars in the way that should seem to them the best and most expedient for the purpose of eliciting the truth. On Sunday, the 7th, the bishops petitioned his majesty in writing, and on the following Tuesday they went before him with the inquisitors, and besought him that they might proceed against the Templars according to the ecclesiastical constitutions, and that he would instruct his sheriffs and officers to that effect. The king gave a written answer complying with their request, which was read before the council,* and, on the 16th of December, orders were sent to the gaolers, commanding them to permit the prelates and inquisitors to do with the bodies of the Templars that which should seem expedient to them according to ecclesiastical law. Many Templars were at this period wandering about the country disguised as secular persons, successfully evading pursuit, and the sheriffs were strictly commanded to use every exertion to capture them.† On Wednesday, the ecclesiastical council again met, and adjourned for the purpose of enabling the inquisitors to examine the prisoners confined in the castles of Lincoln and of York.
* Concil. Mag. Brit, tom. ii. p. 305—308.
In Scotland, in the mean time, similar proceedings had been instituted against the Order.‡ On the 17th of November, Brother Walter de Clifton being examined in the parish church of the Holy Cross at Edinburgh, before the bishop of St. Andrews and John de Solerio, the pope’s chaplain, states that the brethren of the Order of the Temple in the kingdom of Scotland received their orders, rules, and observances from the Master of the Temple in England, and that the Master in England received the rules and observances of the Order from the Grand Master and the chief convent in the East; that the Grand Master or his deputy was in the habit of visiting the Order in England and elsewhere; of summoning chapters, and making regulations for the conduct of the brethren and the administration of their property. Being asked as to the mode of his reception, he states that when William de la More, the Master, held his chapter at the preceptory of Temple Bruere in the county of Lincoln, he sought of the assembled brethren the habit and the fellowship of the Order; that they told him that he little knew what it was he asked, in seeking to be. admitted to their fellowship; that it would be a very hard matter for him, who was then his own master, to become the servant of another, and to have no will of his own; but notwithstanding their representations of the rigour of their rules and observances, he still continued earnestly to seek their habit and fellowship. He states that they then led him to the chamber of the Master, where they held their chapter, and that there, on his bended knees, and with his hands clasped, he again prayed for the habit and the fellowship of the Temple; that the Master and the brethren then required him to answer questions to the following effect: Whether he had a dispute with any man, or owed any debts? whether he was betrothed to any woman? and whether he had any secret infirmity of body? or knew of anything to prevent him from remaining within the bosom of the fraternity? And having answered all those questions satisfactorily, the Master then asked of the surrounding brethren, “Do ye give your consent to the reception of brother Walter?” who unanimously answered that they did; and the Master and the brethren then standing up, received the said Walter in this manner. On his bended knees, and with his hands joined, he solemnly promised that he would be the perpetual servant of the Master, and of the Order, and of the brethren, for the purpose of defending the Holy Land. Having done this, the Master took out of the hands of a brother chaplain of the Order the book of the holy gospels, upon which was depicted a cross, and laying his hands upon the book and upon the cross, he swore to God and the blessed Virgin Mary to be for ever thereafter chaste, obedient, and to live without property. And then the Master gave to him the white mantle, and placed the coif on his head, and admitted him to the kiss on the mouth, after which he made him sit down on the ground, and admonished him to the following effect: that from thenceforth he was to sleep in his shirt, drawers, and stockings, girded with a small cord over his shirt; that he was never to tarry in a house where there was a woman in the family way; never to be present at a marriage, nor at the purification of women; and likewise instructed and informed him upon several other particulars. Being asked where he had passed his time since his reception, he replied that he had dwelt three years at the preceptory of Blancradok in Scotland; three years at Temple Newsom in England; one year at the Temple at London, and three years at Aslakeby. Being asked concerning: the other brothers in Scotland, he stated that John de Hueflete was Preceptor of Blancradok, the chief house of the Order in that country, and that he and the other brethren, having heard of the arrest of the Templars, threw off their habits and fled, and that he had not since heard aught concerning them.
* Concil. Mag. Brit, tom. ii. p. 312—314.
† Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 194, 195.
‡ Ibid., p. 182.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1309.
Brother William de Middleton, being examined, gave the same account of his reception, and added that he remembered that brother William de la More, the Master in England, went, in obedience to a summons, to the Grand Master beyond sea, as the superior of the whole order, and that in his absence Brother Hugh de Peraut, the visitor, removed several preceptors from their preceptories in England, and put others in their places. He further states, that he swore he would never receive any service at the hands of a woman, not even water to wash his hands with.
After the examination of the above two Templars, forty-one witnesses, chiefly abbots, priori, monks, priests, and serving men, and retainers of the Order in Scotland, were examined upon various interrogatories, but nothing of a criminal nature was elicited. The monks observed that the receptions of other orders were public, and were celebrated as great religious solemnities, and the friends, parents, and neighbours of the party about to take the vows were invited to attend; that the Templars, on the other hand, shrouded their proceedings in mystery and secrecy, and therefore they suspected the worst. The priests thought them guilty, because they were always against the church! Others condemned them because (as they say) the Templars closed their doors against the poor and the humble, and extended hospitality only to the rich and the powerful. The abbot of the monastery of the Holy Cross at Edinburgh declared that they appropriated to themselves the property of their neighbours, right or wrong. The abbot of Dumferlyn knew nothing of his own knowledge against them, but had heard much, and suspected more. The serving men and the tillers of the lands of the Order stated that the chapters were held sometimes by night and sometimes by day, with extraordinary secrecy; and some of the witnesses had heard old men say that the Templars would never have lost the Holy Landy if they had been good Christians!*
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1309.
On the 9th of January, A.D. 1310, the examination of witnesses was resumed at London, in the parish church of St. Dunstan’s West, near the Temple. The rector of the church of St. Mary de la Strode declared that he had strong suspicions of the guilt of the Templars; he had, however, often been at the Temple church, and had observed that the priests performed divine service there just the same as elsewhere. William de Cumbrook, of St. Clement’s church, near the Temple, the vicar of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, and many other priests and clergymen of different churches in London, all declared that they had nothing to allege against the Order.†
On the 27th of January, Brother John de Stoke, a serving brother of the Order of the Temple, of seventeen years’ standing, being examined by the inquisitors in the chapel of the Blessed Mary of Berkyngecherclie at London, states, amongst other things, that secular persons were allowed to be present at the burial of Templars; that the brethren of the Order all received the sacraments of the church at their last hour, and were attended to the grave by a chaplain of the Temple. Being interrogated concerning the death and burial of the Knight Templar Brother Walter le Bachelor, he deposes that the said knight was buried like any other Christian, except that he was not buried in the burying ground, but in the court, of the house of the Temple at London; that he confessed to Brother Richard de Grafton, a priest of the Order, then in the island of Cyprus, and partook, as he believed, of the sacrament. He states that he himself and Brother Radulph de Barton carried him to his grave at the dawn of day, and that the deceased knight was in prison, as he believes, for the space of eight weeks; that he was not buried in the habit of his order, and was interred without the cemetery of the brethren, because he was considered to be excommunicated, in pursuance, as he believed, of a rule or statute among the Templars, to the effect that every one who privily made away with the property of the Order, and did not acknowledge his fault, was deemed excommunicated. Being asked in what respect he considered that his order required reformation, he replied, “By the establishment of a probation of one year, and by making the receptions public.”
* Et ad evidentius præmissorum testimonium reverendus in Christo pater dominus Willielmus, providentiâ divinâ S. Andreæ episcopus, et magister Johannes de Solerio prædicti sigilla sua præsenti inquisitioni appenderunt, et eisdem sigillis post subscriptionem meam eandem inquisitionem clauserunt. In quorum etiam firmius testimonium ego Willielmus de Spottiswod auctoritate imperiali notarius qui prædictæ inquisitioni interfui die, anno, et loco prædictis, testibus prasentibus supra dictis, signum meum solitum eidem apposui requisitas, et propriâ manu scripsi rogatus.—Ada contra Templarios. Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 380, 383.
† Act. in ecclesiâ parochiali S. Dunstani prope Novum Templum.—Ib., p. 349.
Two other Templars were examined on the same 27th day of January, from whose depositions it appears that there were at that time many brethren of the Order, natives of England, in the island of Cyprus.
On the 29th of January, the inquisitors exhibited twenty-four fresh articles against the prisoners, drawn up in an artful manner. They were asked if they knew anything of the crimes mentioned in the papal bulls, and confessed by the Grand Master, the heads of the Order, and many knights in France; and whether they knew of anything sinful or dishonourable against the Master of the Temple in England, or the preceptors, or any of the brethren. They were then required to say whether the same rules, customs, and observances did not prevail throughout the entire order; whether the Grand Preceptors, and especially the Grand Preceptor of England, did not receive all the observances and regulations from the Grand Master; and whether the Grand Preceptors and all the brethren of the Order in England did not observe them in the same mode as the Grand Master, and visitors, and the brethren in Cyprus and in Italy, and in the other kingdoms, provinces, and preceptories of the Order; whether the observances and regulations were not commonly delivered by the visitors to the Grand Preceptor of England; and whether the brothers received in England or elsewhere had not of their own free will confessed what these observances were. They were, moreover, required to state whether a bell was rung, or other signal given, to notify the time of the assembling of the chapter; whether all the brethren, without exception, were summoned and in the habit of attending; whether the Grand Master could relax penances imposed by the regular clergy; whether they believed that the Grand Preceptor or visitor could absolve a layman who had been excommunicated for laying hands on a brother or lay servant of the Order; and whether they believed that any brother of the Order could absolve from the sin of perjury a lay servant, when he came to receive the discipline in the Temple-hall, and the serving brother scourged him in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, &c. &c.
Between the 29th of January and the 6th of February, thirty-four Templars, many of whom appeared for the first time before the inquisitors, were examined upon these articles in the churches of St. Botolph without Aldgate, St. Alphage near Cripplegate, and St. Martin de Ludgate, London. They deny everything of a criminal nature, and declare that the abominations mentioned in the confessions and depositions made in France were not observances of the Order; that the Grand Master, Preceptors, visitors, and brethren in France had never observed such things, and if they said they had, they lied. They declare that the Grand Preceptor and brethren in England were all good men, worthy of faith, and would not deviate from the truth by reason of hatred of any man, for favour, reward, or any other cause; that there had been no suspicion in England against them, and no evil reports current against the Order before the publication of the papal bull, and they did not think that any good man would believe the contents of the articles to be true. From the statements of the prisoners, it appears that the bell of the Temple was rung to notify the assembling of the chapter, that the discipline was administered in the hall, in the presence of the assembled brethren, by the Master, who punished the delinquent on the bare back with a scourge made of leathern thongs, after which he himself absolved the offender from the guilt of a transgression against the rule of the Order; but if he had been guilty of immoral conduct, he was sent to the priest for absolution. It appears also, that Brother James de Molay, before his elevation to the office of Grand Master, was visitor of the Order in England, and had held chapters or assemblies of the brethren, at which he had enforced certain rules and regulations; that all the Orders came from the Grand Master and chief convent in the East to the Grand Preceptor of England, who caused them to be published at the different preceptories.*
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1310.
On the 1st of March, the king sent orders to the constable of the Tower, and to the sheriffs of Lincoln and of York, to obey the directions of the inquisitors, or of one bishop and of one inquisitor, with regard to the confinement of the Templars in separate cells, and he assigns William de Diene to assist the inquisitors in their arrangements. Similar orders were shortly afterwards sent to all the gaolers of the Templars in the English dominions.†
On the 3rd of March five fresh interrogatories were exhibited by the inquisitors, upon which thirty-one Templars were examined at the palace of the bishop of London, the chapel of St. Alphage, and the chapter-house of the Holy Trinity. They were chiefly concerning the reception and profession of the brethren, the number that each examinant had seen received, their names, and as to whether the burials of the Order were conducted in a clandestine manner. From the replies it appears that many Templars had died during their imprisonment in the Tower. The twenty-sixth prisoner examined was the Master of the Temple, Brother William de la More, who gives an account of the number of persons he had admitted into the Order during the period of his mastership, specifying their names. It is stated that many of the parishioners of the parish adjoining the New Temple had been present at the interment of the brethren of the fraternity, and that the burials were not conducted in a clandestine manner.
* Acta contra Templarios. Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 350, 351, 352.
‡ Acta Rymeri, torn, iii. ad ann. 1310. p. 202, 203.
In Ireland, in the mean time, similar proceedings against the Order had been carried on. Between the 11th of February and the 23rd of May, thirty Templars were examined in Saint Patrick’s Church, Dublin, by Master John de Mareshall, the pope’s commissary, but no evidence of their guilt was obtained. Forty-one witnesses were then heard, nearly all of whom were monks. They spoke merely from hearsay and suspicion, and the gravest charges brought by them against the fraternity appear to be, that the Templars had been observed to be inattentive to the reading of the holy Gospels at church, and to have cast their eyes on the ground at the period of the elevation of the host.*
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1310.
On the 30th of March the papal inquisitors opened their commission at Lincoln, and between that day and the 10th of April twenty Templars were examined in the chapter-house of the cathedral, amongst whom were some of the veteran warriors of Palestine, men who had moistened with their blood the distant plains of the far East in defence of that faith which they were now so infamously accused of having repudiated. Brother William de Winchester, a member of twenty-six years’ standing, had been received into the Order at the castle de la Roca Guille in the province of Armenia, bordering on Palestine, by the valiant Grand Master William de Beaujeu. He states that the same mode of reception existed there as in England, and everywhere throughout the Order. Brother Robert de Hamilton declares that the girdles were worn from an honourable motive, that they were called the girdles of Nazareth, because they had been pressed against the column of the Virgin at that place, and were worn in remembrance of the blessed Mary; but he says that the brethren were not compelled to wear them, but might make use of any girdle that they liked. With regard to the confessions made in France, they all say that if their brethren in that country confessed such things, they lied !†
At York the examination commenced on the 28th of April, and lasted until the 4th of May, during which period twenty-three Templars, prisoners in York Castle, were examined in the chapter-house of the cathedral, and followed the example of their brethren in maintaining their innocence. Brother Thomas de Stanford, a member of thirty years’ standing, had been received in the East by the Grand Master William de Beaujeu, and Brother Radulph de Rostona, a priest of the Order, of twenty-three years’ standing, had been received at the preceptory of Lentini in Sicily by Brother William de Canello, the Grand Preceptor of Sicily. Brother Stephen de Radenhall refused to reveal the mode of reception, because it formed part of the secrets of the chapter, and if he discovered them he would lose his chamber, be stripped of his mantle, or be committed to prison.*
* Acta Rymeri tom. iii. p. 179, 180. Concil. Mag, Brit, tom. ii. p. 373 to 380.
† Terrore tormentorum confessi sunt et mentiti.—Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 365, 366, 367.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1310.
On the 20th of May, in obedience to the mandate of the archbishop of York, an ecclesiastical council of the bishops and clergy assembled in the cathedral. The mass of the Holy Ghost was solemnly celebrated, after which the archbishop preached a sermon, and then caused to be read to the assembled clergy the papal bulls fulminated against the Order of the Temple.† He exhibited to them the articles upon which the Templars had been directed to be examined; but as the inquiry was still pending, the council was adjourned until the 23rd of June of the following year, when they were to meet to pass sentence of condemnation, or of absolution, against all the members of the Order in the province of York, in conformity with ecclesiastical law.‡
On the 1st of June the examination was resumed before the papal inquisitors at Lincoln. Sixteen Templars were examined upon points connected with the secret proceedings in the general and particular chapters of the Order, the imposition of penances therein, and the nature of the absolution granted by the Master. From the replies it appears that the penitents were scourged three times with leathern thongs, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, after which they were absolved either by the Master or by a priest of the Order, according to the particular circumstances of each case. It appears, also, that none but preceptors were present at the general chapters of the Order, which were called together principally for the purpose of obtaining money to send to the Grand Master and the chief convent in Palestine.§
* Despositiones Templariorum in Provinciâ Eboracensi.––Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 371––373.
† Eodem anno (1310) XIX. Die Maii apud Eborum in ecclesia cathedrali, ex amndato speciali Domini Papæ, enuit dominus Archiepiscopus concilium provinciale. Prædicavitque et erat suum thema; omnes isti conregati venerunt tibi, factoque sermone, recitavit et legi fecit sequentem bullam horribilem contra Templarios, &c. &c. Hemingford apud Hearne, vol. i. p. 249.
‡ Processus observatus in concilio provinciali Eboracensi in ecclesia beati Petri Ebor. contra Templarios celebrato A.D. 1310, ex. Reg. Will. Grenefeld Archiepiscopi Eborum, fol. 179, p. 1.––Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 393.
§ Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 367.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1310.
After closing the examinations at Lincoln, the abbot of Lagny and the canon of Narbonne returned to London, and immediately resumed the inquiry in that city. On the 8th and 9th days of June, Brother William de la More, the Master of the Temple, and thirty-eight of his knights, chaplains, and sergeants, were examined by the inquisitors in the presence of the bishops of London and Chichester, and the before-mentioned public notaries, in the priory of the Holy Trinity. They were interrogated for the most part concerning the penances imposed, and the absolution pronounced in the chapters. The Master of the Temple was required to state what were the precise words uttered by him, as the president of the chapter, when a penitent brother, having bared his back and acknowledged his fault, came into his presence and received the discipline of the leathern thongs. He states that he was in the habit of saying, “Brother, pray to God that he may forgive you and to the bystanders he said, “And do ye, brothers, beseech the Lord to forgive him his sins, and say a pater-noster;” and that he said nothing further, except to warn the offender against sinning again. He declares that he did not pronounce absolution in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost! and relates, that in a general chapter, and as often as he held a particular chapter, he was accustomed to say, after prayers had been offered up, that all those who did not acknowledge their sins, or who appropriated to their own use the alms of the house, could not be partakers in the spiritual blessings of the Order; but that which through shame-facedness, or through fear of the justice of the Order, they dared not confess, he, out of the power conceded to him by God and the pope, forgave him as far as he was able. Brother William de Sautre, however, declares that the president of the chapter, after he had finished the flagellation of a penitent brother, said, “I forgive you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” and then sent him to a priest of the Order for absolution; and the other witnesses vary in their account of the exact words uttered, either because they were determined, in obedience to their oaths, not to reveal what actually did take place, or else (which is very probable) because the same form of proceeding was not always rigidly adhered to.
When the examination was closed, the inquisitors drew up a memorandum, showing that, from the apostolical letters, and the depositions and attestations of the witnesses, it was to be collected that certain practices had crept into the Order of the Temple, which were not consistent with the orthodox faith.*
* Acta contra Templarios. Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 358.