The Templars in France revoke their rack-extorted confessions—They are tried as relapsed heretics, and burnt at the stake—The progress of the inquiry in England—The curious evidence adduced as to the mode of holding the chapters of the Order—As to the penance enjoined therein, and the absolution pronounced by the Master—The Templars draw up a written defence, which they present to the ecclesiastical council—They are placed in separate dungeons, and put to the torture—Two serving brethren and a chaplain of the Order then make confessions—Many other Templars acknowledge themselves guilty of heresy in respect of their belief in the religious authority of their Master—They make their recantations, and are reconciled to the church before the south door of Saint Paul’s cathedral—The order of the Temple is abolished by the Pope—The last of the Masters of the Temple in England dies in the Tower—The disposal of the property of the Order— Observations on the downfall of the Templars.
Veggio ‘1 nuovo Pilato sì crudele,
Che cio nol sazia, ma, senza decreto
Porta nel TEMPIO le cupide vele.
Dante. Del Purgatorio. Canto xx. 91.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1310.
IN France, on the other hand, the proceedings against the Order had assumed a most sanguinary character. Many Templars, both in the capital and the provinces, had made confessions of guilt whilst suffering upon the rack, but they had no sooner been released from the hands of their tormentors, and had recovered their health, than they disavowed their confessions, maintained the innocence of their order, and appealed to all their gallant actions, in ancient and modern times, in refutation of the calumnies of their enemies. The enraged Philip caused these Templars to be brought before an ecclesiastical tribunal convoked at Paris, and sentence of death was passed upon them by the archbishop of Sens, in the following terms:
“You have avowed,” said he, “that the brethren who are received into the Order of the Temple are compelled to renounce Christ and spit upon the cross, and that you yourselves have participated in that crime: you have thus acknowledged that you have fallen into the sin of heresy. By your confession and repentance you had merited absolution, and had once more become reconciled to the church. As you have revoked your confession, the church no longer regards you as reconciled, but as having fallen back to your first errors. You are, therefore, relapsed heretics (!) and as such, we condemn you to the fire.”*
JAMES DE MOLAY A.D. 1310
The following morning, (Tuesday, May 12), in pursuance of this absurd and atrocious sentence, fifty-four Templars were handed over to the secular arm, and were led out to execution by the king’s officers. They were conducted into the open country, in the environs of the Porte St. Antoine des Champs at Paris, and were burnt to death in a most cruel manner before a slow fire. All historians speak with admiration of the heroism and intrepidity with which they met their fate.†
Many hundred other Templars were dragged from the dungeons of Paris before the archbishop of Sens and his council. Those whom neither the agony of the torture nor the fear of death could overcome, but who remained stedfast amid all their trials in the maintenance of the innocence of their Order, were condemned to perpetual imprisonment as unreconciled heretics; whilst those who, having made the required confessions of guilt, continued to persevere in them, received absolution, were declared reconciled to the church, and were set at liberty. Notwithstanding the terror inspired by these executions, many of the Templars still persisted in the revocation of their confessions, which they stigmatized as the result of insufferable torture, and boldly maintained the innocence of their order.
On the 18th of August, four other Templars were condemned as relapsed heretics by the council of Sens, and were likewise burned by the Porte St. Antoine; and it is stated that a hundred and thirteen Templars were from first to last burnt at the stake in Paris. Many others were burned in Lorraine; in Normandy; at Carcassone, and nine, or, according to some writers, twenty-nine, were burnt by the archbishop of Rheims at Senlis! King Philip’s officers, indeed, not content with their inhuman cruelty towards the living, invaded the sanctity of the tomb; they dragged a dead Templar, who had been Treasurer of the Temple at Paris, from his grave, and burnt the mouldering corpse as a heretic.‡
In the midst of all these sanguinary atrocities, the examinations continued before the ecclesiastical tribunals. Many aged and illustrious warriors, who merited a better fate, appeared before their judges pale and trembling. At first they revoked their confessions, declared their innocence, and were remanded to prison; and then, panic-stricken, they demanded to be led back before the papal commissioners, when they abandoned their retractations, persisted in their previous avowals of guilt, humbly expressed their sorrow and repentance, and were then pardoned, absolved, and reconciled to the church! The torture still continued to be applied, and out of thirty-three Templars confined in the chateau d’Alaix, four died in prison, and the remaining twenty confessed, amongst other things, the following absurdities:—that in the provincial chapter of the Order held at Montpelier, the Templars set up a head and worshipped it; that the devil often appeared there in the shape of a cat, and conversed with the assembled brethren, and promised them a good harvest, with the possession of riches, and all kinds of temporal property. Some asserted that the head worshipped by the fraternity possessed a long beard; others that it was a woman’s head; and one of the prisoners declared that as often as this wonderful head was adored, a great number of devils made their appearance in the shape of beautiful women … !!*
* Joan. can. Sanct. Vict. Contin. De Nangis ad ann. 1310. Ex secundâ vitâ Clem. V. p. 37.
† Chron. Cornel. Zanfliet, apud Martene, tom. v. col. 159. Bocat. de cas. vir. illustr. Lib. 9. chap. xxi. Raynouard, Monumens historiques. Dupuy, Condemnation de Templiers.
‡ Vit. prim, et tert. Clem. V. col. 57, 17. Bern. Guac. apud Muratori, tom. iii. p. 676. Contin. Chron. de Nangis ad ann 1310. Raynouard, p. 120.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1310.
We must now unfold the dark page in the history of the Order in England. All the Templars in custody in this country had been examined separately and apart, and had, notwithstanding, deposed in substance to the same effect, and given the same account of their reception into the Order, and of the oaths that they took. Any reasonable and impartial mind would consequently have been satisfied of the truth of their statements; but it was not the object of the inquisitors to obtain evidence of the innocence, but proof of theguilt, of the Order. At first, king Edward the Second, to his honour, forbade the infliction of torture upon the illustrious members of the Temple in his dominions—men who had fought and bled for Christendom, and of whose piety and morals he had a short time before given such ample testimony to the principal sovereigns of Europe. But the virtuous resolution of the weak king was speedily overcome by the all-powerful influence of the Roman pontiff, who wrote to him in the month of June, upbraiding him for preventing the inquisitors from submitting the Templars to the discipline of the rack.† Influenced by the admonitions of the pope, and the solicitations of the clergy, King Edward, on the 26th of August, sent orders to John de Crumbewell, constable of the Tower, to deliver up all the Templars in his custody, at the request of the inquisitors, to the sheriffs of London, in order that the inquisitors might be able to proceed more conveniently and effectually with their inquisition.‡ And on the same day he directed the sheriffs to receive the prisoners from the constable of the Tower, and cause them to be placed in the custody of gaolers appointed by the inquisitors, to be confined in prisons or such other convenient places in the city of London as the inquisitors and bishops should think expedient, and generally to permit them to do with the bodies of the Templars whatever should seem fitting, in accordance with ecclesiastical law. He directs, also, that from thenceforth the Templars should receive their sustenance at the hands of such newly-appointed gaolers.*
* Raynouard, p. 155.
† Inhibuisti ne contra ipsas personas et ordinem per quœstiones ad inquirendum super eisdem criminibus procedatur, quam vis iidem Templarii diffiteri dicuntur super eisdem articulis veritatem . … . Attende, quæssumus, fili carissime, et prudenti deliberatione considera, si hoc tuo honori et saluti conveniat, et statui congruat regni tui. Arch. Secret. Vatican. Registr. Literar. curiæ anno 5 domini Clementis Papæ 5. — Raynourad, p. 152.
‡ Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. ad ann. 1310, p. 224.
On the Tuesday after the feast of St. Matthew, (Sept. 21st), the ecclesiastical council again assembled at London, and caused the inquisitions and depositions taken against the Templars to be read, which being done, great disputes arose touching various alterations observable in them. It was at length ordered that the Templars should be again confined in separate cells in the prisons of London; that fresh interrogatories should be prepared, to see if by such means the truth could be extracted, and if by straitenings and confinement they would confess nothing further, then the torture was to be applied; but it was provided that the examination by torture should be conducted without the perpetual mutilation or disabling of any limb, and without a violent effusion of blood! And the inquisitors and the bishops of London and Chichester were to notify the result to the archbishop of Canterbury, that he might again convene the assembly for the purpose of passing sentence, either of absolution or of condemnation. These resolutions having been adopted, the council was prorogued, on the following Saturday, de die in diem, until the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, A.D. 1311.†
On the 6th of October, a fortnight after the above resolution had been formed by the council, the king sent fresh instructions to the constable of the Tower, and the sheriffs of London, directing them to deliver up the Templars, one at a time, or altogether, and receive them back in the same way, at the will of the inquisitors.‡ The gaolers of these unhappy gentlemen seem to have been more merciful and considerate than their judges, and to have manifested the greatest reluctance to act upon the Orders sent from the king. On the 23rd of October, further and more preremptory commands were forwarded to the constable of the Tower, distinctly informing him that the king, on account of his respect for the holy apostolic see, had lately conceded to the prelates and inquisitors deputed to take inquisition against the Order of the Temple, and the Grand Preceptor of that order in England, the power of ordering and disposing of the Templars and their bodies, of examining them by torture or otherwise, and of doing to them whatever they should deem expedient, according to the ecclesiastical law; and he again strictly enjoins the constable to deliver up all the Templars in his custody, either together or separately, or in any way that the inquisitors or one bishop and one inquisitor may direct, and to receive them back when required so to do.* Corresponding orders were again sent to the sheriffs, commanding them, at the requisition of the inquisitors, to get the Templars out of the hands of the constable of the Tower, to guard them in convenient prisons, and to permit certain persons deputed by the inquisitors to see that the imprisonment was properly carried into effect, to do with the bodies of the Templars whatever they should think fit according to ecclesiastical law. When the inquisitors, or the persons appointed by them, had done with the Templars what they pleased, they were to deliver them back to the constable of the Tower, or his lieutenant, there to be kept in custody as before.† Orders were likewise sent to the constable of the castle of Lincoln, and to the mayor and bailiffs of the city of Lincoln, to the same effect. The king also directed Roger de Wyngefeld, clerk, guardian of the lands of the Templars, and William Plummer, sub-guardian of the manor of Cressing, to furnish to the king’s officers the sums required for the keep, and for the expenses of the detention of the brethren of the Order.‡
* Ib., p. 224, 225. claus. 4. E. 2. M. 22.
† Et si per hujusmodi arctationes et separations nihil aliud, quam prius, vellent confiteri, quod extunc quœstionarentur, ita quod quœstiones illæ fierent ABSQUE MUTILATIONE ET DEBILITATIONE PERPETUA ALICUJUS MEMBRI, ET SINE VIOLENTA SANGUINIS EFFUSIONE. —Condi Mag. Brit, tom. ii. p. 314.
‡ Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 227, 228.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1310.
On the 22nd of November the king condescended to acquaint the mayor, aldermen, and commonalty of his faithful city of London, that out of reverence to the pope he had authorised the inquisitors, sent over by his holiness, to question the Templars by torture; he puts them in possession of the Orders he had sent to the constable of the Tower, and to the sheriffs; and he commands them, in case it should be notified to them by the inquisitors that the prisons provided by the sheriffs were insufficient for their purposes, to procure without fail fit and convenient houses in the city, or near thereto, for carrying into effect the contemplated measures; and he graciously informs them that he will reimburse them all the expenses that may be incurred by them or their officers in fulfilling his commands. § Shortly afterwards the king again wrote to the mayor, aldermen, and commonalty of London, acquainting them that the sheriffs had made a return to his writ, to the effect that the four gates (prisons) of the city were not under their charge, and that they could not therefore obtain them for the purposes required; and he commands the mayor, aldermen, and commonalty, to place those four gates at the disposal of the sheriffs.*
* Cum nuper, OB REVERIENTIAM SEDIS APOSTOLICÆ, concessimus prælatis et inquisitoribus ad inquirendum contra ordinem Templariorum, et contra Magnum Præceptorem ejusdem ordinis in regno nostra Angliæ, quod iidem prælati et inquisitores, de ipsis Templariis et eorum corporibus in quiÆstionibus, et aliis ad hoc convenientibus ordinent et faciant, quoties voluerint, id quod eis secundum legem ecclesiasticam, videbitur faciendum, &c. — Teste rege apud Linliscu in Scotià, 23 die Octobris. Ibid. tom. iii. p. 228, 229.
† Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 229.
‡ Ibid. p. 230.
§ Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 231.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
On the 12th of December, all the Templars in custody at Lincoln were, by command of the king, brought up to London, and placed in solitary confinement in different prisons and private houses provided by the mayor and sheriffs. Shortly afterwards orders were given for all the Templars in custody in London to be loaded with chains and fetters; the myrmidons of the inquisitors were to be allowed to make periodical visits to see that the imprisonment was properly carried into effect, and were to be allowed to torture the bodies of the Templars in any way that they might think fit.†
On the 30th of March, A.D. 1311, after some months’ trial of the above severe measures, the examination was resumed before the inquisitors, and the bishops of London and Chichester, at the several churches of St. Martin’s, Ludgate, and St. Botolph’s, Bishopsgate. The Templars had now been in prison in England for the space of three years and some months. During the whole of the previous winter they had been confined in chains in the dungeons of the city of London, compelled to receive their scanty supply of food from the officers of the inquisition, and to suffer from cold, from hunger, and from torture. They had been made to endure all the horrors of solitary confinement, and had none to solace or to cheer them during the long hours of their melancholy captivity. They had been already condemned collectively by the pope, as members of an heretical and idolatrous society, and as long as they continued to persist in the truth of their first confessions, and in the avowal of their innocence, they were treated as obstinate, unreconciled heretics, living in a state of excommunication, and doomed, when dead, to everlasting punishment in hell. They had heard of the miserable fate of their brethren in France, and they knew that those who had confessed crimes of which they had never been guilty, had been immediately declared reconciled to the church, had been absolved and set at liberty, and they knew that freedom, pardon, and peace could be immediately purchased by a confession of guilt; notwithstanding all which, every Templar, at this last examination, persisted in the maintenance of his innocence, and in the denial of all knowledge of, or participation in, the crimes and heresies imputed to the Order. They declare that everything that was done in their chapters, in respect of absolution, the reception of brethren, and other matters, was honourable and honest, and might well and lawfully be done; that it was in no wise heretical or vicious; and that whatever was done was from the appointment, approbation, and regulation of all the brethren.* From their statements, it appears that the Master of the Temple in England was in the habit of summoning a general chapter of the Order once a year, at which the preceptors of Ireland and of Scotland were present. These were always called together to take into consideration the affairs of the Holy Land, and to determine on sending succour to their brethren in the East. At the close of their examination the Templars were again sent back to their dungeons, and loaded with chains; and the inquisitors, disappointed of the desired confessions, addressed themselves to the enemies of the Order for the necessary proofs of guilt.
* Ibid. p. 231, 232.
† Ibid. tom. iii. p. 232—235.
During the month of April, seventy-two witnesses were examined in the chapter-house of the Holy Trinity. They were nearly all monks, Carmelites, Augustinians, Dominicans, and Minorites; their evidence is all hearsay, and the nature of it will be seen from the following choice specimens.
Henry Thanet, an Irishman, had heard that Brother Hugh de Nipurias, a Templar, deserted from the castle of Tortosa in Palestine, and went over to the Saracens, abjuring the Christian faith; and that a certain preceptor of the Pilgrim’s Castle was in the habit of making all the brethren he received into the Order deny Christ; but the witness was unable to give either the name of the preceptor or of the persons so received. He had also heard that a certain Templar had in his custody a brazen head with two faces, which would answer all questions put to it!
Master John de Nassington declared that Milo de Stapelton and Adam de Everington, knights, told him that they had once been invited to a great feast at the preceptory of Templehurst, and were there informed that the Templars celebrated a solemn festival once a year, at which they worshipped a calf!
John de Eure, knight, sheriff of the county of York, deposed that he had once invited Brother William de la Fenne, Preceptor of Wesdall, to dine with him, and that after dinner the preceptor drew a book out of his bosom, and delivered it to the knight’s lady to read, who found a piece of paper fastened into the book, on which were written abominable, heretical doctrines, to the effect that Christ was not the Son of God, nor born of a virgin, but conceived of the seed of Joseph, the husband of Mary, after the manner of other men, and that Christ was not a true but a false prophet, and was not crucified for the redemption of mankind, but for his own sins, and many other things contrary to the Christian faith. On the production of this important evidence, Brother William de la Fenne was called in and interrogated; he admitted that he had dined with the sheriff of York, and had lent his lady a book to read, but he swore that he was ignorant of the piece of paper fastened into the book, and of its contents. It appears that the sheriff of York had kept this dangerous secret to himself for the space of six years!
* Acta contra Templartos, Concil. Mag. Brit. tom. ii. p. 368—371.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
William de laForde, a priest, rector of the church of Crofton in the diocese of York, had heard William de Reynbur, priest of the Order of St. Augustine, who was then dead, say, that the Templar, Brother Patrick of Rippon, son of William of Gloucester, had confessed to him, that at his entrance into the Order, he was led, clothed only in his shirt and trousers, through a long passage to a secret chamber, and was there made to deny his God and his Saviour; that he was then shown a representation of the crucifixion, and was told that since he had previously honoured that emblem he must now dishonour it and spit upon it, and that he did so. “Item dictum fuitei quod, depositis brachis, dorsum verteret ad crucifixum,” and this he did bitterly weeping. After this they brought an image, as it were, of a calf, placed upon an altar, and they told him he must kiss that image, and worship it, and he did so, and after all this they covered up his eyes and led him about, kissing and being kissed by all the brethren, but he could not recollect in what part. The worthy priest was asked when he had first heard all these things, and he replied after the arrest of the brethren by the king’s orders!
Robert of Oteringham, senior of the Order of Minorites, stated that on one occasion he was partaking of the hospitality of the Templars at the preceptory of Ribstane in Yorkshire, and that when grace had been said after supper, the chaplain of the Order reprimanded the brethren of the Temple, saying to them, “The devil will burn you,” or some such words; and hearing a bustle amongst them, he got up to see what was the matter, and, as far as he recollects, he saw one of the brothers of the Temple, “brachis depositis, tenentem faciem versus occidentem et posteriora versus altare!” Being asked who it was that did this, he says he does not exactly remember. He then goes on to state, that about twenty years before that time! he was again the guest of the Templars, at the preceptory of Wetberby (query Feriby) in Yorkshire, and when evening came he heard that the preceptor was not coming to supper, as he was arranging some relics that he had brought with him from the Holy Land, and afterwards at midnight he heard a confused noise in the chapel, and getting up he looked through the keyhole, and saw a great light therein, either from a fire or from candles, and on the morrow he asked one of the brethren of the Temple the name of the saint in whose honour they had celebrated so grand a festival during the night, and that brother, aghast and turning pale, thinking he had seen what had been done amongst them, said to him, “Go thy way, and if you love me, or have any regard for your own life, never speak of this matter.” This same “Senior of the Minorites” declares also that he had seen, in the chapel of the preceptory of Ribstane, a cross, with the image of our Saviour nailed upon it, thrown carelessly upon the altar, and he observed to a certain brother of the Temple, that the cross was in a most indecent and improper position, and he was about to lift it up and stand it erect, when that same brother called out to him, “Lay down the cross and depart in peace!”
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
Brother John de Wederal, another Minorite, sent to the inquisitors a written paper, wherein he stated that he had lately heard in the country, that a Templar, named Robert de Baysat, was once seen running about a meadow uttering, “Alas! alas! that ever I was born, seeing that I have denied God and sold myself to the devil!” Brother N. de Chinon, another Minorite, had heard that a certain Templar had a son who peeped through a chink in the wall of the chapter-room, and saw a person who was about to be professed, slain because he would not deny Christ, and afterwards the boy was asked by his father to become a Templar, but refused, and he immediately shared the same fate. Twenty witnesses, who were examined in each other’s presence, merely repeated the above absurdities, or related similar ones.*
At this stage of the proceedings, the papal inquisitor, Sicard de Yaur, exhibited two rack-extorted confessions of Templars which had been obtained in France. The first was from Robert de St. Just, who had been received into the Order by brother Himbert, Grand Preceptor of England, but had been arrested in France, and there tortured by the myrmidons of Philip. In this confession, Robert de St. Just states that, on his admission to the vows of the Temple, he denied Christ, and spat beside the cross. The second confession had been extorted from Geoffrey de Gonville, Knight of the Order of the Temple, Preceptor of Aquitaine and Poitou, and had been given on the 15th of November, A. D. 1307, before the grand inquisitor of France. In this confession, (which had been afterwards revoked, but of which revocation no notice was taken by the inquisitors), Sir Qeoffrey de Gonville states that he was received into the Order in England in the house of the Temple at London, by Brother Robert de Torvibe, knight, the Master of all England, about twenty-eight years before that time; that the master showed him on a missal the image of Jesus Christ on the cross, and commanded him to deny him who was crucified; that, terribly alarmed, he exclaimed, “Alas! my lord, why should I do this? I will on no account do it.” But the master said to him, “Do it boldly; I swear to thee that the act shall never harm either thy soul or thy conscience and then proceeded to inform him that the custom had been introduced into the Order by a certain bad Grand Master, who was imprisoned by a certain sultan, and could escape from prison only on condition that he would establish that form of reception in his order, and compel all who were received to deny Christ Jesus! but the deponent remained inflexible; he refused to deny his Saviour, and asked where were his uncle and the other good people who had brought him there, and was told that they were all gone; and at last a compromise took place between him and the Master, who made him take his oath that he would tell all his brethren that he had gone through the customary form, and never reveal that it had been dispensed with! He states also that the ceremony was instituted in memory of St. Peter, who three times denied Christ!*
* Suspicio (quæ loco testis 21, in MS. allegatur), probare videtur, quod omnes examinati in aliquo dejeraverunt (pejeraverunt), ut ex inspectione processuum apparet.—MS. Bodl. Oxon. f. 5. 2. Concil tom. ii. p. 359.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
Ferinsius le Mareschal, a secular knight, being examined, declared that his grandfather entered into the Order of the Temple, active, healthy, and blithesome as the birds and the dogs, but on the third day from his taking the vows he was dead, and, as he now suspects, was killed because he refused to participate in the iniquities practised by the brethren. An Augustine monk declared that he had heard a Templar say that a man after death had no more soul than a dog. Roger, rector of the church of Godmersham, swore that about fifteen years before he had an intention of entering into the Order of the Temple himself, and consulted Stephen Queynterel, one of the brothers, on the subject, who advised him not to do so, and stated that they had three articles amongst themselves in their order, known only to God, the devil, and the brethren of the Temple, and the said Stephen would not reveal to the deponent what those articles were.
The vicar of the church of Saint Clement at Sandwich had heard that a boy had secreted himself in the large hall where the Templars held their chapter, and heard the Master preach to the brethren, and explain to them in what mode they might enrich themselves; and after the chapter was concluded, one of the brothers, in going out of the hall, dropped his girdle, which the boy found and carried to the brother who had so dropped it, when the latter drew his sword and instantly slew him! But to crown all, Brother John de Gertia, a Minorite, had heard from a certain woman called Cacocaca! who had it from Exvalettus, Preceptor of London, that one of the servants of the Templars entered the hall where the chapter was held, and secreted himself, and after the door had been shut and locked by the last Templar who entered, and the key had been brought by him to the superior, the assembled Templars jumped up and went into another room, and opened a closet, and drew therefrom a certain black figure with shining eyes, and a cross, and they placed the cross before the Master, and the “culum idoli vel figuræ” they placed upon the cross, and carried it to the Master, who kissed the said image, (in ano), and all the others did the same after him; and when they had finished kissing, they all spat three times upon the cross, except one, who refused, saying, “I was a bad man in the world, and placed myself in this order for the salvation of my soul; what could I do worse? I will not do it;” and then the brethren said to him, “Take heed, and do as you see the Order do but he answered that he would not do so, and then they placed him in a well which stood in the midst of their house, and covered the well up, and left him to perish. Being asked as to the time when the woman heard this, the deponent stated that she told it to him about fourteen years back at London, where she kept a shop for her husband, Robert Cotacotal. This witness also knew a certain Walter Salvagyo of the family of Earl Warrenne, grandfather of the then earl, who, having entered into the Order of the Temple, was about two years afterwards entirely lost sight of by his family, and neither the earl nor any of his friends could ever learn what had become of him.
* This knight had been tortured in the Temple at Paris, by the brothers of St Dominic, in the presence of the grand inquisitor, and he made his confession when suffering on the rack; he afterwards revoked it, and was then tortured into a withdrawal of his revocation, notwithstanding which the inquisitor made the unhappy wretch, in common with others, put his signature to the following interrogatory, “Interrogatus utrum vi vel metu carceris aut tormentorum, immiscuit in suâ depositione aliquam falsitatem, dicit quod non!”
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
John Walby de Bust, another Minorite, had heard John de Dingeston say that he had heard that there was in a secret place of the house of the Templars at London a gilded head, and that when one of the Masters was on his deathbed, he summoned to his presence several preceptors, and told them that if they wished for power, and dominion, and honour, they must worship that head.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
Brother Richard de Koefeld, a monk, had heard from John de Borna, who had it from the Knight Templar Walter le Bacheler, that every man who entered into the Order of the Temple had to sell himself to the devil; he had also heard from the priest Walter, rector of the church of Hodlee, who had it from a certain who was a priest of the said Walter le Bacheler, that there was one article in the profession of the Templars which might not be revealed to any living man.
Gasper de Nafferton, chaplain of the parish of Ryde, deposed that three years back he was in the employ of the Templars for about six months, during which period William de Pokelington was received into the Order; that he well recollected that the said William made his appearance at the Temple on Sunday evening, with the equipage and habit of a member of the Order, accompanied by Brother William de la More, the Master of the Temple, Brother William de Grafton, Preceptor of Ribbestane and Fontbriggs; and other brethren: that the same night, during the first watch, they assembled in the church, and caused the deponent to be awakened to say mass; that, after the celebration of the mass, they made the deponent with his clerk go out into the hall beyond the cloister, and then sent for the person who was to be received; and on his entry into the church one of the brethren immediately closed all the doors opening into the cloister, so that no one within the chambers could get out, and thus they remained till daylight; but what was done in the church the deponent knew not; the next day, however, he saw the said William clothed in the habit of a Templar, looking very sorrowful. The deponent also declared that he had threatened to peep through a secret door to see what was going on, but was warned that it was inevitable death so to do. He states that the next morning he went into the church, and found the books and crosses all removed from the places in which he had previously left them; that he afterwards saw the knight Templar Brother William deliver to the newly-received brother a large roll of paper, containing the rule of the Order, which the said newly-received brother was directed to transcribe in private; that after the departure of the said Brother William, the deponent approached the said newly-received brother, who was then diligently writing, and asked to be allowed to inspect the roll, but was told that none but members of the Order could be allowed to read it; that he was then about to depart, when Brother William made his appearance, and, astonished and confounded at the sight of the deponent, snatched up the roll and walked away with it, declaring, with a great oath, that he would never again allow it to go out of his hands.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
Brother John de Donyngton, of the Order of the Minorites, the seventy-sixth witness examined, being sworn, deposed that some years back an old veteran of the Temple (whose name he could not recollect) told him that the Order possessed four chief idols in England, one at London in the sacristy of the Temple; another at the preceptory of Bistelesham; a third at Bruere in Lincolnshire; and the fourth in some place beyond the Humber (the name of which he had forgotten;) that Brother William de la More, the Master of the Temple, introduced the melancholy idolatry of the Templars into England, and brought with him into the country a great roll, whereon were inscribed in large characters the wicked practices and observances of the Order. The said old veteran also told the deponent that many of the Templars carried idols about with them in boxes, &c. &c.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
The deponent further states that he recollected well that a private gentleman, Master William de Shokerwyk, a short time back, had prepared to take the vows of the Order, and carried his treasures and all the property he had to the Temple at London; and that as he was about to deposit it in the treasury, one of the brethren of the Temple heaved a profound sigh, and Master William de Shokerwyk having asked what ailed him, he immediately replied, “It will be the worse for you, brother, if you enter our order. “That the said Master William asked why, and the Templar replied, “You see us externally, but not internally; take heed what you do; but I shall say no more;” and the deponent further declares, that on another occasion the said Master William entered into the Temple Hall, and found there an old Templar, who was playing at the game called Daly; and the old Templar observing that there was no one in the hall besides himself and the said Master William, said to the latter, “If you enter into our order, it will be the worse for you.”
The witness then goes into a rambling account of various transactions in the East, tending to show that the Templars were in alliance with the Saracens, and had acted with treachery towards the Christian cause!*
After the delivery of all this hearsay, these vague suspicions and monstrous improbabilities, the notaries proceeded to arrange the valuable testimony adduced, and on the 22nd of April all the Templars in custody in the Tower and in the prisons of the city were assembled before the inquisitors and the bishops of London and Chichester, in the church of the Holy Trinity, to hear the depositions and attestations of the witnesses publicly read. The Templars required copies of these depositions, which were granted them, and they were allowed eight days from that period to bring forward any defences or privileges they wished to make use of. Subsequently, before the expiration of the eight days, the officer of the bishop of London was sent to the Tower with scriveners and witnesses, to know if they would then set up any matters of defence, to whom the Templars replied that they were unlettered men, ignorant of law, and that all means of defence were denied them, since they were not permitted to employ those who could afford them fit counsel and advice. They observed, however, that they were desirous of publicly proclaiming the faith, and the religion of themselves and of the Order to which they belonged, of showing the privileges conceded to them by the chief pontiffs, and their own dépotions taken before the inquisitors, all which they said they wished to make use of in their defence.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
On the eighth day, being Thursday the 29th of April, they appeared before the papal inquisitors and the bishops of London and Chichester, in the church of All Saints of Berkyngecherche, and presented to them the following declaration, which they had drawn up amongst themselves, as the only defence they had to offer against the injustice, the tyranny, and the persecution of their powerful oppressors; adding, that if they had in any way done wrong, they were ready to submit themselves to the Orders of the church.
This declaration is written in the Norman French of that day, and is as follows:
“Conue chese seit a nostre honurable pere, le ercevesque de Canterbiere, primat de toute Engletere, e a touz prelaz de seinte Eglise, e a touz Cristiens, qe touz les freres du Temple que sumes ici assemblez et chescune singulere persone par sen sumes cristien nostre seignur Jesu Crist, e creoms en Dieu Pere omnipotent, qui fist ciel e terre, e en Jesu soen fiz, qui fust conceu du Seint Esperit, nez de la Virgine Marie, soeffrit peine e passioung morut sur la croiz pour touz peccheours, descendist e enferns, e le tierz jour releva de mort en vie, e mounta en ciel, siet au destre soen Pere, e vendra au jour de juise, ,juger les vifs e les morz, qui fu saunz commencement, e serra saunz fyn; e creoms comme seynte eglise crets, e nous enseigne. E que nostre religion est foundee sus obedience, chastete, vivre sans propre, aider a conquere la seint terre de Jerusalem, a force e a poer, qui Dieu nous ad preste. E nyorms e firmement en countredioms touz e chescune singulere persone, par sei toutes maneres de heresies e malvaistes, que sount encountre la foi de Seinte Eglise. E prioms pour Dieu e pour charite a vous, que estes en lieu nostre seinte pere l’ apostoile, que nous puissoms aver lez drettures de seinte eglise, comme ceus que sount les filz de sainte eglise, que bien avoms garde, e tenu la foi, e la lei de seinte eglise, e nostre religion, la quele est bone, honeste e juste, solom ordenaunces, e les privileges de la court de Rome avons grauntez, confermez, e canonizez par commun concile, priviliges ensemblement ou lestablisement, e la regie sount en la dite court enregistrez. E mettoms en dur e en mal eu touz Cristiens saune noz anoisourz, par la ou nous avoms este conversaunt, comment nous avoms nostre vie demene. E se nous avoms rien mesprys de aucun parole en nos examinations par ignorance de seu, si comme nous sumes genz laics prest sumes, a ester a lesgard de seint eglise, comme cely que mourust pour nouz en la beneite de croiz. E nous creoms fermement touz les sacremenz de seinte eglise. E nous vous prioms pour Dieu e pour salvacioun de vous almes, que vous nous jugez si comme vous volez respoundre pour vous et pour nous devaunt Dieu: e que nostre examinement puet estre leu e oii devaunt nous e devaunt le people, solom le respouns e le langage que fust dit devaunt vous, e escrit en papier*
* Acta contra Templarios.— Cocil. Mag. Brit. tom. ii. p. 358—364.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
“Be it known to our honourable father, the archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and to all the prelates of holy church, and to all Christians, that all we brethren of the Temple here assembled, and every of one of us are Christians, and believe in our Saviour Jesus Christ, in God the Father omnipotent, &c. &c. …”
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
“And we believe all that the holy church believes and teaches us. We declare that our religion is founded on vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, and of aiding in the conquest of the Holy Land of Jerusalem, with all the power and might that God affordeth us. And we firmly deny and contradict, one and all of us, all manner of heresy and evil doings, contrary to the faith of holy church. And for the love of God, and for charity, we beseech you, who represent our holy father the pope, that we may be treated like true children of the church, for we have well guarded and preserved the faith and the law of the church, and of our own religion, the which is good, honest, and just, according to the ordinances and the privileges of the court of Rome, granted, confirmed, and canonized by common council; the which privileges, together with the rule of our order, are enregistered in the said court. And we would bring forward all Christians, (save our enemies and slanderers), with whom we are conversant, and among whom we have resided, to say how and in what manner we have spent our lives. And if, in our examinations, we have said or done anything wrong through ignorance of a word, since we are unlettered men, we are ready to suffer for holy church like him who died for us on the blessed cross. And we believe all the sacraments of the church. And we beseech you, for the love of God, and as you hope to be saved, that you judge us as you will have to answer for yourselves and for us before God; and we pray that our examination may be read and heard before ourselves and all the people, in the very language and words in which it was given before you, and written down on paper.”
* Concil. Mag. Brit. tom. ii. p. 364.
The above declaration was presented by Brother William de la More, the Master of the Temple; the Knights Templars Philip de Mewes, Preceptor of Garwy; William de Burton, Preceptor of Cumbe; Radulph de Maison, Preceptor of Ewell; Michael de Baskevile, Preceptor of London; Thomas de Wothrope, Preceptor of Bistelesham; William de Warwick, Priest; and Thomas de Burton, Chaplain of the Order; together with twenty serving brothers. The same day the inquisitors and the two bishops proceeded to the different prisons of the city to demand if the prisoners confined therein wished to bring forward anything in defence of the Order, who severally answered that they would adopt and abide by the declaration made by their brethren in the Tower.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
It appears that in the prison of Aldgate there were confined Brother William de Sautre, Knight, Preceptor of Samford; Brother William de la Ford, Preceptor of Daney; Brother John de Coningeston, Preceptor of Getinges; Roger de Norreis, Preceptor of Cressing; Radulph de Barton, priest, Prior of the New Temple; and several serving brethren of the Order. In the prison of Crepelgate were detained William de Egendon, Knight, Preceptor of Schepeley; John de Moun, Knight, Preceptor of Dokesworth; and four serving brethren. In the prison of Ludgate were five serving brethren; and in Newgate was confined Brother Himbert Blanke, Knight, Grand Preceptor of Auvergne.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
The above declaration of faith and innocence was far from agreeable to the papal inquisitors, who required a confession of guilt, and the torture was once more directed to be applied. The king sent fresh orders to the mayor and the sheriffs of the city of London, commanding them to place the Templars in separate dungeons; to load them with chains and fetters; to permit the myrmidons of the inquisitors to pay periodical visits to see that the wishes and intentions of the inquisitors, with regard to the severity of the confinement, were properly carried into effect; and, lastly, to inflict torture upon the bodies of the Templars, and generally to do whatever should be thought fitting and expedient in the premises, according to ecclesiastical law.* In conformity with these orders, we learn from the record of the proceedings, that the Templars were placed in solitary confinement in loathsome dungeons; that they were placed on a short allowance of bread and water, and periodically visited by the agents of the inquisition; that they were moved from prison to prison, and from dungeon to dungeon; were now treated with rigour, and anon with indulgence; and were then visited by learned prelates, and acute doctors in theology, who, by exhortation, persuasion, and by menace, attempted in every possible mode to wring from them the required avowals. We learn that all the engines of terror wielded by the church were put in force, and that torture was unsparingly applied “usque ad judicium sanguinis!” The places in which these atrocious scenes were enacted were the Tower, the prisons of Aldgate, Ludgate, Newgate, Bishopsgate, and Crepelgate, the house formerly belonging to John de Banguel, and the tenements once the property of the brethren of penitence.† It appears that some French monks were sent over to administer the torture to the unhappy captives, and that they were questioned and examined in the presence of notaries whilst suffering under the torments of the rack. The relentless perseverance and the incessant exertions of the foreign inquisitors were at last rewarded by a splendid triumph over the powers of endurance of two poor serving brethren, and one chaplain of the Order of the Temple, who were at last induced to make the longdesired avowals.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
On the 23rd of June, Brother Stephen de Stapelbrugge, described as an apostate and fugitive of the Order of the Temple, captured by the king’s officers in the city of Salisbury, deposed in the house of the head gaoler of Newgate, in the presence of the bishops of London and Chichester, the chancellor of the archbishop of Canterbury, Hugh de Walkeneby, doctor of theology, and other clerical witnesses, that there were two modes of profession in the Order of the Temple, the one good and lawful, and the other contrary to the Christian faith; that he himself was received into the Order by Brother Brian le Jay, Grand Preceptor of England at Dynneslee, and was led into the chapel, the door of which was closed as soon as he had entered; that a cross was placed before the Master, and that a brother of the Temple, with a drawn sword, stood on either side of him; that the Master said to him, “Do you see this image of the crucifixion?” to which he replied, “I see it, my lord,” that the Master then said to him, “You must deny that Christ Jesus was God and man, and that Mary was his mother; and you must spit upon this cross which the deponent, through immediate fear of death, did with his mouth, but not with his heart, and he spat beside the cross, and not on it; and then falling down upon his knees, with eyes uplifted, with his hands clasped, with bitter tears and sighs, and devout ejaculations, he besought the mercy and the favour of holy church, declaring that he cared not for the death of the body, or for any amount of penance, but only for the salvation of his soul.
* Vobis, præfati vicecomites, mandamus quod illos, quos dicti prælati et inquisitors, seu aliquis eorum, cum uno saltern inquisitore, deputaverint ad supervidendum quod dicta custodia bene fiat, id supervidere; et corpora dictroum Templariorum in QUÆSTIONIBUS et aliis ad hoc convenientibus, ponere; et alia, quæ in hac parte secundum legem ecclesiasticam fueint facienda, facere permittatis. Claus. 4, E. 2. m. 8. Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 290.
† M. S. BodL F. 5, 2. Concil. p. 364, 365. Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 228, 231, 232.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
On Saturday, the 25th of June, Brother Thomas Tocci de Thoroldeby serving brother of the Order of the Temple, described as an apostate who had escaped from Lincoln after his examination at that place by the papal inquisitors, but had afterwards surrendered himself to the king’s officers, was brought before the bishops of London and Chichester, the archdeacon of Salisbury, and others of the clergy in St. Martin’s Church in Vinetria; and being again examined, he repeated the statement made in his first deposition, but added some particulars with regard to penances imposed and absolutions pronounced in the chapter, showing the difference between sins and defaults, the priest having to deal with the one, and the Master with the other. He declared that the little cords were worn from honourable motives, and relates a story of his being engaged in a battle against the Saracens, in which he lost his cord, and was punished by the Grand Master for a default in coming home without it. He gives the same account of the secrecy of the chapters as all the other brethren, states that the members of the Order were forbidden to confess to the friars mendicants, and were enjoined to confess to their own chaplains; that they did nothing contrary to the Christian faith, and as to their endeavouring to promote the advancement of the Order by any means, right or wrong, that exactly the contrary was the case, as there was a statute in the Order to the effect, that if any one should be found to have acquired anything unjustly, he should be deprived of his habit, and be expelled the Order. Being asked what induced him to become an apostate, and to fly from his order, he replied that it was through fear of death, because the abbot of Lagny, (the papal inquisitor), when he examined him at Lincoln, asked him if he would not confess anything further, and he answered that he knew of nothing further to confess, unless he were to say things that were not true; and that the abbot, laying his hand upon his breast, swore by the word of God that he would make him confess before he had done with him! and that being terribly frightened he afterwards bribed the gaoler of the castle of Lincoln, giving him forty florins to let him make his escape.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
The abbot of Lagny, indeed, was as good as his word, for on the 29th of June, four days after this imprudent avowal, Brother Thomas Tocci de Thoroldeby was brought back to Saint Martin’s Church, and there, in the presence of the same parties, he made a third confession, in which he declares that, coerced by two Templars with drawn swords in their hands, he denied Christ with his mouth, but not with his heart; and spat beside the cross, but not on it; that he was required to spit upon the Virgin Mary, but contrived, instead of doing so, to give her a kiss on the foot. He declares that he had heard Brian le Jay, the Master of the Temple at London, say a hundred times over, that Jesus Christ was not the true God, but a man, and that the smallest hair out of the beard of one Saracen was of more worth than the whole body of any Christian. He declares that he was once standing in the presence of Brother Brian, when some poor people besought charity of him for the love of God and our lady the blessed Virgin Mary; and he answered, “Que dame, alez vous pendre a vostre dame”—“What lady? go and be hanged to your lady,” and violently casting a halfpenny into the mud, he made the poor people hunt for it, although it was in the depth of a severe winter. He also relates that at the chapters the priest stood like a beast, and had nothing to do but to repeat the psalm, “God be merciful unto us, and bless us,” which was read at the closing of the chapter. (The Templars, by the way, must have been strange idolaters to have closed their chapters, in which they are accused of worshipping a cat, a man’s head, and a black idol, with the reading of the beautiful psalm, “God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and show us the light of thy countenance, that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations,” &c. Psalm lxvii.) This witness further states, that the priest had no power to impose a heavier penance than a day’s fast on bread and water, and could not even do that without the permission of the brethren. He is made also to relate that the Templars always favoured the Saracens in the holy wars in Palestine, and oppressed the Christians! and he declares, speaking of himself, that for three years before he had never seen the body of Christ without thinking of the devil, nor could he remove that evil thought from his heart by prayer, or in any other way that he knew of; but that very morning he had heard mass with great devotion, and since then had thought only of Christ, and thinks there is no one in the Order of the Temple whose soul will be saved, unless a reformation takes place.*
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
Previous to this period, the ecclesiastical council had again assembled, and these last depositions of Brothers Stephen de Stapelbrugge and Thomas Tocci de Thoroldeby having been produced before them, the following solemn farce was immediately publicly enacted. It is thus described in the record of the proceedings:
* Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 383—387.
“To the praise and glory of the name of the most high Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to the confusion of heretics, and the strengthening of all faithful Christian begins the public record of the reconciliation of the penitent heretics, returning to the orthodox faith published in the council, celebrated at London in the year 1311.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
“In the name of God, Amen. In the year of the incarnation of our Lord 1311, on the twenty-seventh day of the month of June, in the hall of the palace of the bishop of London, before the venerable fathers the Lord Robert by the grace of God archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and his suffragans in provincial council assembled, appeared Brother Stephen de Stapelbrugge, of the Order of the chivalry of the Temple; and the denying of Christ and the blessed Virgin Mary his mother, the spitting upon the cross, and the heresies and errors acknowledged and confessed by him in his deposition being displayed, the same Stephen asserted in full council, before the people of the City of London, introduced for the occasion, that all those things so deposed by him were true, and that to that confession he would wholly adhere; humbly confessing his error on his bended knees, with his hands clasped, with much lamentation and many tears, he again and again besought the mercy and pity of holy mother church, offering to abjure all heresies and errors, and praying them to impose on him a fitting penance, and then the book of the holy gospels being placed in his hands, he abjured the aforesaid heresies in this form:
“I, brother Stephen de Stapelbrugge, of the Order of the chivalry of the Temple, do solemnly confess,” &c. &c. (he repeats his confession, makes his abjuration, and then proceeds); “and if at any time hereafter I shall happen to relapse into the same errors, or deviate from any of the articles of the faith, I will account myself ipso facto excommunicated; I will stand condemned as a manifest perjured heretic, and the punishment inflicted on perjured relapsed heretics shall be forthwith imposed upon me without further trial or judgment!!”
He was then sworn upon the holy gospels to stand to the sentence of the church in the matter, after which Brother Thomas Tocci de Thoroldeby was brought forward to go through the same monstrous ceremony, which being concluded, these two poor serving brothers of the Order of the Temple, who were so ignorant that they could not write, were made to place their mark (loco subscriptionis) on the record of the abjuration.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
“And then our lord the archbishop of Canterbury, for the purpose of absolving and reconciling to the unity of the church the aforesaid Thomas and Stephen, conceded his authority and that of the whole council to the bishop of London, in the presence of me the notary, specially summoned for the occasion, in these words: ‘We grant to you the authority of God, of the blessed Mary, of the blessed Thomas the Martyr our patron, and of all the saints of God (sanctorum atque sanctarum Dei) to us conceded, and also the authority of the present council to us transferred, to the end that thou mayest reconcile to the unity of the church these miserables, separated from her by their repudiation of the faith, and now brought back again to her bosom, reserving to ourselves and the council the right of imposing a fit penance for their transgressions!’” And as there were two penitents, the bishop of Chichester was joined to the bishop of London for the purpose of pronouncing the absolution, which two bishops, putting on their mitres and pontificals, and being assisted by twelve priests in sacerdotal vestments, placed themselves in seats at the western entrance of the cathedral church of Saint Patil, and the penitents, with bended knees, humbly prostrating themselves in prayer upon the steps before the door of the church, the members of the council and the people of the city standing around; and the psalm, “Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness,” having been chanted from the beginning to the end, and the subjoined prayers and sermon having, been gone through, they absolved the said penitents, and received them back to the unity of the church in the following form:
“In the name of God, Amen. Since by your confession we find that you, Brother Stephen de Stapelbrugge, have denied Christ Jesus and the blessed Virgin Mary, and have spat beside the cross, and now taking better advice wishest to return to the unity of the holy church with a true heart and sincere faith, as you assert, and all heretical depravity having for that purpose been previously abjured by you according to the form of the church, we, by the authority of the council, absolve you from the bonds of excommunication wherewith you were held fast, and we reconcile you to the unity of the church, if you shall have returned to her in sincerity of heart, and shall have obeyed her injunctions imposed upon you.”
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
Brother Thomas Tocci de Thoroldeby was then absolved and reconciled to the church in the same manner, after which various psalms (Gloria Patri, Kyrie Eleyson, Christe Eleyson, &c. &c.) were sung, and prayers were offered up, and then the ceremony was concluded.*
On the 1st of July, an avowal of guilt was wrung by the inquisitors from Brother John de Stoke, chaplain of the Order, who, being brought before the bishops of London and Chichester in St. Martin’s church, deposed that he was received in the mode mentioned by him on his first examination; but a year and fifteen days after that reception, being at the preceptory of Garwy in the diocese of Hereford, he was called into the chamber of Brother James de Molay, the Grand Master of the Order, who, in the presence of two other Templars of foreign extraction, informed him that he wished to make proof of his obedience, and commanded him to take a seat at the foot of the bed, and the deponent did so. The Grand Master then sent into the church for the crucifix, and two serving brothers, with naked swords in their hands, stationed themselves on either side of the doorway. As soon as the crucifix made its appearance, the Grand Master, pointing to the figure of our Saviour nailed thereon, asked the deponent whose image it was, and he answered, “The image of Jesus Christ, who suffered on the cross for the redemption of mankind;” but the Grand Master exclaimed, “Thou sayest wrong, and are much mistakened, for he was the son of a certain woman, and was crucified because he called himself the Son of God, and I myself have been in the place where he was born and crucified, and thou must now deny him whom this image represents.” The deponent exclaimed, “Far be it from me to deny my Saviour but the Grand Master told him he must do it, or he would be put into a sack and be carried to a place which he would find by no means agreeable, and there were swords in the room, and brothers ready to use them, &c. &c.; and the deponent asked if such was the custom of the Order, and if all the brethren did the same; and being answered in the affirmative, he, through fear of immediate death, denied Christ with his tongue, but not with his heart. Being asked in whom he was told to put his faith after he had denied Christ Jesus, he replies, “In that great Omnipotent God who created the heaven and the earth.”*
* Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii, p. 388, 389.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
Such, in substance, was the whole of the criminatory evidence that could be wrung by torture, by a long imprisonment, and by hardships of every kind, from the Templars in England. It amounts simply to an assertion that they compelled all whom they received into their order to renounce the Christian religion, a thing perfectly incredible. Is it to be supposed that the many good Christians of high birth, and honour, and exalted piety, who entered into the Order of the Temple, taking the cross for their standard and their guide, would thus suddenly have cast their faith and their religion to the winds? Would they not ‘rather have denounced the impiety and iniquity to the officers of the Inquisition, and to the pope, the superior of the Order?
“Ainsi que la vertu, le crime a ses degrés
Et jamais on n’a vu la timide innocence
Passer subitement à l’extreme
licence. Un seul jour ne fait point d’un mortel vertueux
Un perfide apostat, un traitre audacieux.”
Phedre, Acte iv. Scene 2.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
On Saturday, the 3rd of July, the archbishop of Canterbury, and the bishops, the clergy, and the people of the city of London, were again assembled around the western door of Saint Paul’s cathedral, and Brother John de Stoke, chaplain of the Order of the Temple, made his public recantation of the heresies confessed by him, and was then absolved and reconciled to the church in the same manner as Brothers Thomas de Stapelbrugge and Tocci de Thoroldeby, after which a last effort was made to bend the remaining Templars to the wishes of the papal inquisitors.
* Acta fuerunt hæc die et loco prædictis, præentibus patribus antedictis, et venerandæ discretionis viris magistris Michaele de Bercham, cancellario domini archiepiscipi Cantuar. … et me Ranulpho de Waltham, London, episcoporum notaries publicis.—Acta contra Templarios. Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 387, 388.
On Monday, July 5th, at the request of the ecclesiastical council, the bishop of Chichester had an interview with Sir William de la More, the Master of the Temple, taking with him certain learned lawyers, theologians, and scriveners. He exhorted and earnestly pressed him to abjure the heresies of which he stood convicted, by his own confessions and those of his brethren, respecting the absolutions pronounced by him in the chapters, and submit himself to the disposition of the church; but the Master declared that he had never been guilty of the heresies mentioned, and that he would not abjure crimes which he had never committed; so he was sent back to his dungeon.
The next day, (Tuesday, July the 6th), the bishops of London, Winchester, and Chichester, had an interview in Southwark with the Knight Templar, Philip de Mewes, Preceptor of Garwy, and some serving brethren of the New Temple at London, and told them that they were manifestly guilty of heresy, as appeared from the pope’s bulls, and the depositions taken against the Order both in England and France, and also from their own confessions regarding the absolutions pronounced in their chapters, explaining to them that they had grievously erred in believing that the Master of the Temple, who was a mere layman, had power to absolve them from their sins by pronouncing an absolution in the mode previously described, and they warned them that if they persisted in that error they would be condemned as heretics, and that as they could not clear themselves therefrom, it behoved them to abjure all the heresies of which they were accused. The Templars replied that they were ready to abjure the error they had fallen into respecting the absolution, and all heresies of every hind, before the archbishop of Canterbury and the prelates of the council, whenever they should be required so to do, and they humbly and reverently submitted themselves to the Orders of the church, beseeching pardon and grace.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
A sort of compromise was then made with most of the Templars in custody in London. They were required publicly to repeat a form of confession and abjuration drawn up by the bishops of London and Chichester, and were then solemnly absolved and reconciled to the church in the following terms:
“In the name of God, Amen. Since you have confessed in due form before the ecclesiastical council of the province of Canter, bury that you have gravely erred concerning the sacrament of repentance, in believing that the absolution pronounced by the Master in chapter had as much efficacy as is implied in the words pronounced by bim, that is to say, ‘The sins which you have omitted to confess through shamefacedness, or through fear of the justice of the Order, we, by virtue of the power delegated to us by God and our lord the pope, forgive you, as far as we are able and since you have confessed that you cannot entirely purge yourselves from the heresies set forth under the apostolic bull, and taking sage counsel with a good heart and unfeigned faith, have submitted yourselves to the judgment and the mercy of the church, having previously abjured the aforesaid heresies, and all heresies of every description, we, by the authority of the council, absolve you from the chain of excommunication wherewith you have been bound, and reconcile you once more to the unity of the church, &c. &c.”
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
On the 9th of July, Brother Michael de Baskevile, Knight, Preceptor of London, and seventeen other Templars, were absolved and reconciled in full council, in the Episcopal Hall of the see of London, in the presence of a vast concourse of the citizens. On the 10th of the same month, the Preceptors of Dokes-worth, Getinges, and Samford, the guardian of the Temple church at London, Brother Radulph de Evesham, chaplain, with other priests, knights, and serving brethren of the Order, were absolved by the bishops of London, Exeter, Winchester, and Chichester, in the presence of the archbishop of Canterbury and the whole ecclesiastical council.
The next day many more members of the fraternity were publicly reconciled to the church on the steps before the south door of Saint Pauls cathedral, and were afterwards present at the celebration of high mass in the interior of the sacred edifice, when they advanced in a body towards the high altar bathed in tears, and falling down on their knees, they devoutly kissed the sacred emblems of Christianity.
The day after, (July 12), nineteen other Templars were publicly absolved and reconciled to the church at the same place, in the presence of the earls of Leicester, Pembroke, and Warwick, and afterwards assisted in like manner at the celebration of high mass. The priests of the Order made their confessions and abjurations in Latin; the knights pronounced them in Norman French, and the serving brethren for the most part repeated them in English.* The vast concourse of people collected together could have comprehended but very little of what was uttered, whilst the appearance of the penitent brethren, and the public spectacle of their recantation, answered the views of the papal inquisitors, and doubtless impressed the commonalty with a conviction of the guilt of the Order. Many of the Templars were too sick (suffering doubtless from the effect of torture) to be brought down to St. Paul’s, and were therefore absolved and reconciled to the church by the bishops of London, Winchester, and Chichester, at Saint Mary’s chapel near the Tower.
* Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 390, 391.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
Among the prisoners absolved at the above chapel were many old veteran warriors in the last stage of decrepitude and decay. “They were so old and so infirm,” says the public notary who recorded the proceedings, “that they were unable to stand their confessions were consequently made before two masters in theology; they were then led before the west door of the chapel, and were publicly reconciled to the church by the bishop of Chichester; after which they were brought into the sacred building, and were placed on their knees before the high altar, which they devoutly kissed, whilst the tears trickled down their furrowed cheeks. All these penitent Templars were now released from prison, and directed to do penance in different monasteries. Precisely the same form of proceeding was followed at York: the reconciliations and absolution being there carried into effect before the south door of the cathedral.*
Thus terminated the proceedings against the Order of the Temple in England.
Similar measures had, in the mean time, been prosecuted against the Templars in all parts of Christendom, but no better evidence of their guilt than that above mentioned was ever discovered. The councils of Tarragona and Aragon, after applying the torture, pronounced the Order free from heresy. In Portugal and in Germany the Templars were declared innocent, and in no place situate beyond the sphere of the influence of the king of France and his creature the pope was a single Templar condemned to death.†
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
On the 16th of October a general council of the Church, which had been convened by the pope to pronounce the abolition of the Order, assembled at Vienne near Lyons in France. It was opened by the holy pontiff in person, who caused the different confessions and avowals of the Templars to be read over before the assembled nobles and prelates, and then moved the suppression of an order wherein had been discovered such crying iniquities and sinful abominations; but the entire council, with the exception of an Italian prelate, nephew of the pope, and the three French bishops of Rheims, Sens, and Rouen, all creatures of Philip, who had severally condemned large bodies of Templars to be burnt at the stake in their respective dioceses, were unanimously of opinion, that before the suppression of so celebrated and illustrious an order, which had rendered such great and signal services to the Christian faith, the members belonging to it ought to be heard in their own defence.‡ Such a proceeding, however, did not suit the views of the pope and king Philip, and the assembly was abruptly dismissed by the holy pontiff, who declared that since they were unwilling to adopt the necessary measures, he himself, out of the plenitude of the papal authority, would supply every defect. Accordingly, at the commencement of the following year, the pope summoned a private consistory; and several cardinals and French bishops having been gained over, the holy pontiff abolished the Order by an apostolical ordinance, perpetually prohibiting every one from thenceforth entering into it, or accepting or wearing the habit thereof, or representing themselves to be Templars, on pain of excommunication.*
* Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 394—401.
† Concilia Hispaniæ, tom. v. p. 233. Zurita, lib. v. c. 73. 101. Mariana, lib. xv. cap. 10. Mutius, chron. lib. xxii. p. 211. Raynouard, p. 199—204.
‡ Ut det Templariis audientiuam sive defensionem. In hac sentential concordant omnes prælati Italiæ præter unum, Hispaniæ, Theutoniæ, Daniæ, Angliæ, Scotiæ, Hiberni æ, etc. etc., ex second. Vit. Clem. V. p. 43.—Rainald ad ann. 1311, n. 55. Walsingham, p. 99. Antiq. Britann., p. 210.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
On the 3rd of April, the second session of the council was opened by the pope at Vienne. King Philip and his three sons were present, accompanied by a large body of troops, and the papal decree abolishing the Order was published before the assembly.† The members of the council appear to have been called together merely to hear the decree read. History does not inform of any discussion with reference to it, nor of any suffrages having been taken.
A few months after the close of these proceedings, Brother William de la More, the Master of the Temple in England, died of a broken heart in his solitary dungeon in the Tower, persisting with his last breath in the maintenance of the innocence of his order. King Edward, in pity for his misfortunes, directed the constable of the Tower to hand over his goods and chattels, valued at the sum of 4l. 19s. 11d., to his executors, to be employed in the liquidation of his debts, and he commanded Geoffrey de la Lee, guardian of the lands of the Templars, to pay the arrears of his prison pay (2s. per diem) to the executor, Roger Hunsingon.‡
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
Among the Cotton MS. is a list of the Masters of the Temple, otherwise the Grand Priors or Grand Preceptors of England, compiled under the direction of the prior of the Hospital of Saint John at Clerken-well, to the intent that the brethren of that fraternity might remember the ancient Masters of the Temple in their prayers. § A few names have been omitted which are supplied in the following list:
Magister R. de Pointon.1
Rocelinus de Fossa.2
* Muratorii collect. Tom. iii. p. 448; tom. x. col. 377. Mariana. Tom. iii. p. 157. Raynouard, p. 191, 192.
† Raynouard ut supra. Tertia vita Clem. V.
‡ Pro executoribus testamenti Wilielmi de la More, quondam Magistri militiæ Templi in Anglia, claus 6. E. 2. m. 15. Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 380.
§ Registr. Hosp. S. Joh. Jerus. Cotton MS. Nero E. vi. p. 60. fol. 466.
Richard de Hastings,3 A.D. 1160.
Geoffrey, son of Stephen,5 A.D. 1180.
Thomas Berard, A.D. 1200.
Amaric de St. Maur6, A.D. 1203.
Alan Marcel,7 A.D. 1224.
Amberaldus, A.D. 1229.
Robert Mountforde,8 A.D. 1234.
Robert Sanford,9 A.D. 1241.
Amadeus de Morestello, A.D. 1254.
Himbert Peraut,10 A.D. 1270.
Robert Turvile,11 A.D. 1290.
Guido de Foresta,12 A.D. 1292.
James de Molay, A.D. 1293.
Brian le Jay,13 A.D. 1295.
William de la More the Martyr.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
The only other Templar in England whose fate merits particular attention is Brother Himbert Blanke, the Grand Preceptor of Auvergne. He appears to have been a knight of high honour and of stern unbending pride. From first to last he had boldly protested against the violent proceedings of the inquisitors, and had fearlessly maintained, amid all trials, his own innocence and that of his order. This illustrious Templar had fought under four successive Grand Masters in defence of the Christian faith in Palestine, and after the fall of Acre, had led in person several daring expeditions against the infidels. For these meritorious services he was rewarded in the following manner:—After having been tortured and half-starved in the English prisons for the space of five years, he was condemned, as he would make no confession of guilt, to be shut up in a loathsome dungeon, to be loaded with double chains, and to be occasionally visited by the agents of the inquisition, to see if he would confess nothing further!* In this miserable situation he remained until death at last put an end to his sufferings.
1Lansdown, MS. 207. E. vol. v. fol. 317.
2 Ib., fol. 284.
3 Ib., fol. 162, 163, 317.
4 Ib., fol. 467.
5 Ib., fol. 201.
6 Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 134, ad ann. 1203. He was one of those who advised king John to sign MagnaCharta.—Matt. Par, p. 253—255.
7 Ib., p. 258, 270.Matt. Par., p. 314.
8 Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 342, 344, 345. He was employed to negotiate a marriage between King Henry the Third and the fair Eleanor of Provence.
9 Matt. Par., p. 615, et in additamentis, p. 480.
10 Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 340.
11 Ib., p. 339, 341, 344.
12 Ib., p. 335, 343. Prynne, collect 3, 143.
13 Acta Rymeri, tom. i. part iii. p. 104.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
James de Molay, the Grand Master of the Temple, Guy, the Grand Preceptor, a nobleman of illustrious birth, brother to the prince of Dauphiny, Hugh de Peralt, the Visitor-general of the Order, and the Grand Preceptor of Aquitaine, had now languished in the prisons of France for the space of five years and a half. The Grand Master had been compelled to make a confession which he afterwards disowned and stigmatized as a forgery, swearing that if the cardinals who had subscribed it had been of a different cloth, he would have proclaimed them liars, and would have challenged them to mortal combat.† The other knights had also made confessions which they had subsequently revoked. The secrets of the dark prisons of these illustrious Templars have never been brought to light, but on the 18th of March, A.D. 1313, a public scaffold was erected before the cathedral church of Notre Dame, at Paris, and the citizens were summoned to hear the Order of the Temple convicted by the mouths of its chief officers, of the sins and iniquities charged against it. The four knights, loaded with chains and surrounded by guards, were then brought upon the scaffold by the provost, and the bishop of Alba read their confessions aloud in the presence of the assembled populace. The papal legate then, turning towards the Grand Master and his companions, called upon them to renew, in the hearing of the people, the avowals which they had previously made of the guilt of their order. Hugh de Peralt, the Visitor-General, and the Preceptor of the Temple of Aquitaine, signified their assent to whatever was demanded of them, but the Grand Master raising his arms bound with chains towards heaven, and advancing to the edge of the scaffold, declared in a loud voice, that to say that which was untrue was a crime, both in the sight of God and man. “I do,” said he, “confess my guilt, which consists in having, to my shame and dishonour, suffered myself, through the pakn of torture and the fear of death, to give utterance to falsehoods, imputing scandalous sins and iniquities to an illustrious order,” which hath nobly served the cause of Christianity. I disdain to seek a wretched and disgraceful existence by engrafting another lie upon the original falsehood.” He was here interrupted by the provost and his officers, and Guy, the Grand Preceptor, having commenced with strong asseverations of his innocence, they were both hurried back to prison.
JAMES DE MOLAY. A.D. 1311.
King Philip was no sooner informed of the result of this strange proceeding, than, upon the first impulse of his indignation, without consulting either pope, or bishop, or ecclesiastical council, he commanded the instant execution of both these gallant noblemen. The same day at dusk they were led out of their dungeons, and were burned to death in a slow and lingering manner upon small fires of charcoal which were kindled on the little island in the Seine, between the king’s garden and the convent of St. Augustine, close to the spot where now stands the equestrian statue of Henri IV.*
* In vilissimo carcere, ferro duplici constrictus, jussus est recludi, et ibidem, donec aliud ordinatum extiterit, reservari; et interim visitari, ad videndum si vellet alterius aliqua confiteri! —Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 393.
† Processus contra Templarios. Dupuy, p. 128, 139. Raynourard, p. 60.
Thus perished the last Grand Master of the Temple.
The fate of the persecutors of the Order is not unworthy of notice.
A year and one month after the above horrible execution, the pope was attacked by a dysentery, and speedily hurried to his grave. The dead body was transported to Carpentras, where the court of Rome then resided; it was placed at night in a church which caught fire, and the mortal remains of the holy pontiff were almost entirely consumed. His relations quarrelled over the immense treasures he left behind him, and a vast sum of money, which had been deposited for safety in a church at Lucca, was stolen by a daring band of German and Italian freebooters.
Before the close of the same year, King Philip died of a lingering disease which baffled all the art of his medical attendants, and the condemned criminal, upon the strength of whose information the Templars were originally arrested, was hanged for fresh crimes. “History attests,” says Monsieur Raynouard, “that all those who were foremost in the persecution of the Templars, came to an untimely and miserable death.” The last days of Philip were embittered by misfortune; his nobles and clergy leagued against him to resist his exactions; the wives of his three sons were accused of adultery, and two of them were publicly convicted of that crime. The misfortunes of Edward the Second, king of England, and his horrible death in Berkeley Castle, are too well known to be further alluded to.
To save appearances, the pope had published a bull transferring the property, late belonging to the Templars, to the Order of the Hospital of Saint John,† which had just then acquired additional renown and popularity in Europe by the conquest from the infidels of the island of Rhodes. This, bull, however, remained for a considerable period nearly a dead letter, and the Hospitallers never obtained a twentieth part of the ancient possessions of the Templars.
The kings of Castile, Aragon, and Portugal, created new military orders in their own dominions, to which the estates of the late order of the Temple were transferred, and, annexing the Grand Masterships thereof to their own persons, by the title of Perpetual Administrators, they succeeded in drawing to themselves an immense revenue.* The kings of Bohemia, Naples, and Sicily, retained possession of many of the houses and strongholds of the Templars in their dominions, and various religious orders of monks succeeded in installing themselves in the convents of the fraternity. The heirs of the donors of the property, moreover, claimed a title to it by escheat, and in most cases where the Hospitallers obtained the lands and estates granted them by the pope, they had to pay large fines to adverse claimants to be put into peaceable possession.†
* Villani, lib. vii. cap. 92. Contin. Chron. de Nangis, ad ann. 1313. Pap. Mass, in Philip, pulchr. lib. iii. p. 393. Mariana de reb. Hisp. lib. xv. cap. 10. Dupuy, ed. 1700, p. 71. Chron. Corn. Zanfliet apudMartene, tom. v. col. 160. Raynouard, p. 209, 210.
† Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 323, 4, 5, ad ann. 1312.
“The chief cause of the ruin of the Templars,” justly remarks Fuller, “was their extraordinary wealth. As Naboth’s vineyard was the chiefest ground of his blasphemy, and as in England Sir John Cornwall Lord Fanhope said merrily, not he, but his stately house at Ampthill in Bedfordshire was guilty of high treason, so certainly their wealth was the principal cause of their overthrow. … We may believe that King Philip would never have taken away their lives if he might have taken their lands without putting them to death, but the mischief was, he could not get the honey unless he burnt the bees.”‡
King Philip, the pope, and the European sovereigns, appear to have disposed of all the personalty of the Templars, the ornaments, jewels, and treasure of their churches and chapels, and during the period of five years, over which the proceedings against the Order extended, they remained in the actual receipt of the vast rents and revenues of the fraternity. After the promulgation of the bull, assigning the property of the Templars to the Hospitallers, King Philip put forward a claim upon the land to the extent of two hundred thousand pounds for the expenses of the prosecution, and Louis Hutin, his son, required a further sum of sixty thousand pounds from the Hospitallers, before he would consent to surrender the estates into their hands.”§ “J’ignore,” says Voltaire, “ce qui revint au pape, mais je vois evidemment que les frais des cardinaux, des inquisiteurs déléguès pour faire ce procès épouvantable monterent à des sommés immenses.”** The holy pontiff, according to his own account, received only a small portion of the personalty of the Order,†† but others make him a large participator in the good things of the fraternity.‡‡
* Zurita, lib. v. c. 101. Institut. milit. Christi apud Henriquez, p. 534.
†Annales Minorum. Gall. Christ nov. Aventinus, Annal. De Vertot, liv. 3.
‡ Fuller’s Hist. Holy War, book v. ch. iii.
§ Dupuy, p. 179, 184.
** Essai sur les moeurs, &c., tom. ii. p. 242.
†† Nihil ad nos unquam pervenit nisi modica bona mobilia. Epist. ad Philip, 2 non. May, 1309. Raynouard, p. 198. De Vertot, liv. iii.
‡‡ Raynouard 197, 198, 199.
On the imprisonment of the Templars in England, the Temple at London, and all the preceptories dependent upon it, with the manors, farms, houses, lands, and revenues of the fraternity, were placed under the survey of the Court of Exchequer, and extents* were directed to be taken of the same, after which they were confided to the care of certain trustworthy persons, styled “Guardians of the lands of the Templars,” who were to account for the rents and profits to the king’s exchequer. The bishop of Lichfield and Coventry had the custody of all the lands and tenements in the county of Hants. John de W burgham had those in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, and there were thirty-two other guardians entrusted with the care of the property in the remaining counties of England.† These guardians were directed to pay various pensions to the old servants and retainers of the Templars dwelling in the different preceptories,‡ also the expenses of the prosecution against the Order, and they were at different times required to provide for the exigencies of the public service, and to victual the king’s castles and strongholds. On the 12th of January, A.D. 1312, William de Slengesby, guardian of the manor of Ribbestayn in the county of York, was commanded to forward to the constable of the castle of Knaresburgh a hundred quarters of corn, ten quarters of oats, twenty fat oxen, eighty sheep, and two strong carts, towards the victualling of the said fortress, and the king tells him that the same shall be duly deducted when he renders his account to the exchequer of the rents and profits of the said manor. § The king, indeed, began to dispose of the property as if it was wholly vested in the crown, and made munificent donations to his favourites and friends. In the month of February of the same year, he gave the manors of Etton and Cave to David Earl of Athol, directing the guardians of the lands and tenements of the Templars in the county of York to hand over to the said earl all the corn in those manors, the oxen, calves, ploughs, and all the goods and chattels of the Templars existing therein, together with the ornaments and utensils of the chapel of the Temple.**
On the 16th of May, however, the pope addressed bulls to the king, and to all the earls and barons of the kingdom, setting forth the proceedings of the council of Vienne and the publication of the papal decree, vesting the property late belonging to the Templars in the brethren of the Hospital of St. John, and he commands them forthwith to place the members of that order in possession thereof. Bulls were also addressed to the archbishops of Canterbury and York and their suffragans, commanding them to enforce by ecclesiastical censures the execution of the papal commands,* King Edward and his nobles very properly resisted this decree, and on the 21st of August the king wrote to the Prior of the Hospital of St. John at Clerkenwell, telling him that the pretensions of the pope to dispose of property within the realm of England, without the consent of parliament, were derogatory to the dignity of the crown and the royal authority; and he commands him, under severe pains and penalties, to refrain from attempting to obtain any portion of the possessions of the Templars.† The king, indeed, continued to distribute the lands and rents amongst his friends and favourites. At the commencement of the year 1313, he granted the Temple at London, with the church and all the buildings therein, to Aymer de Valence earl of Pembroke;‡ and on the 5th of May of the same year he caused several merchants, from whom he had borrowed money, to be placed in possession of many of the manors of the Templars.§
* The extents of the lands of the Templars are amongst the unarranged records in the Queen’s Remembrancer’s office, and various sheriffs’ accounts are in the third chest in the Pipe Office.
† Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 130, 134, 139, 279, 288, 290, 1, 2, 297, 321. Dodsworth. MS. vol. xxxv. p. 65, 67.
‡ Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 292, 3, 4, 5.
§ Ib tom. iii. p. 299.
** Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 303.
Yielding, however, at last to the exhortations and menaces of the pope, the king, on the 21st of Nov. A.D. 1313, granted the property to the Hospitallers,** and sent orders to all the guardians of the lands of the Templars, and to various powerful barons who were in possession of the estates, commanding them to deliver them up to certain parties deputed by the Grand Master and chapter of the Hospital of Saint John to receive them.†† At this period, however, many of the heirs of the donors, whose title had been recognized by the law, were in possession of the lands, and the judges held that the king had no power of his own sole authority to transfer them to the Order of the Hospital.‡‡ The thunders of the Vatican were consequently vigorously made use of, and all the detainers of the property were doomed by the Roman pontiff to everlasting damnation.§§ Pope John, in one of his bulls, dated A.D. 1322, bitterly complains of the disregard by all the king’s subjects of the papal commands. He laments that they had hardened their hearts and despised the sentence of excommunication fulminated against them, and declares that his heart was riven with grief to find that even the ecclesiastics, who ought to have been as a wall of defence to the Hospitallers, had themselves been heinously guilty in the premises.***
* Ib , tom. iii. p. 326, 327.
† Ib., tom. iii. p. 337.
‡Cart. 6. E. 2. No. 4. 41.
§ Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 409, 410.
** Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 451.
†† Ib., p. 451, 454, 455, 457, 459––463. Dugd. Monast. Angl., vol. vi. part 2. p. 809.
‡‡ Rolls of Parliament, vol. ii. p. 41.
§§ Dugd. Monast. Angl., vol. vi. part 2, p. 849, 850. Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. 9. 499.
*** Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 956––959, ad ann. 1322.
At last (A.D. 1324) the pope, the bishops, and the Hospitallers, by their united exertions, succeeded in obtaining an act of parliament, vesting all the property late belonging to the Templars in the brethren of the Hospital of Saint John, in order that the intentions of the donors might be carried into effect by the appropriation of it to the defence of the Holy Land and the succour of the Christian cause in the East.* This statute gave rise to the greatest discontent. The heirs of the donors petitioned parliament for its repeal, alleging that it had been made against law and against reason, and contrary to the opinion of the judges;† and many of the great barons who held the property by a title recognised by the common law, successfully resisted the claims of the Order of the Hospital, maintaining that the parliament had no right to interfere with the tenure of private property, and to dispose of their possessions without their consent.
This struggle between the heirs of the donors on the one hand, and the Hospitallers on the other, continued for a lengthened period; and in the reign of Edward the Third it was found necessary to pass another act of parliament, confirming the previous statute in their favour, and writs were sent to the sheriffs (A.D. 1334) commanding them to enforce the execution of the acts of the legislature, and to take possession, in the king’s name, of all the property unjustly detained from the brethren of the Hospital.‡
Whilst the vast possessions, late belonging to the Templars, thus continued to be the subject of contention, the surviving brethren of that dissolved order continued to be treated with the utmost inhumanity and neglect. The ecclesiastical council had assigned to each of them a pension of fourpence a day for subsistence, but this small pittance was not paid, and they were consequently in great danger of dying of hunger. The king, pitying their miserable situation, wrote to the prior of the hospital of St. John at Clerkenwell, earnestly requesting him to take their hard lot into his serious consideration, and not suffer them to come to beggary in the streets. § The archbishop of Canterbury also exerted himself in their behalf, and sent letters to the possessors of the property, reproving them for the non-payment of the allotted stipends. “This inhumanity,” says he, “awakens our compassion, and penetrates us with the most lively grief. We pray and conjure you in kindness to furnish them, for the love of God and for charity, with the means of subsistence.”** The archbishop of York caused many of them to be supported in the different monasteries of his diocese.††
* Statutes at Large, vol. ix. Appendix, p. 23.
†Rolls of Parliament, vol. ii. p. 41. No. 52.
‡ Monast.Angl., p. 810.
§ Acta Rymeri, tom. iii. p. 472.
** Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii.
†† Walsingham, p. 99.
Many of the quondam Templars, however, after the dissolution of their order, assumed a secular habit; they blended themselves with the laity, mixed in the pleasures of the world, and even presumed to contract matrimony, proceedings which drew down upon them the severe indignation of the Roman pontiff. In a bull addressed to the archbishop of Canterbury, the pope stigmatises these marriages as unlawful concubinages; he observes that the late Templars remained bound, notwithstanding the dissolution of their order, by their vows of perpetual chastity, and he orders them to be separated from the women whom they had married, and to be placed in different monasteries, where they are to dedicate themselves to the service of God, and the strict performance of their religious vows.*
The Templars adopted the oriental fashion of long beards, and during the proscription of the fraternity, when the fugitives who had thrown off their habits were hunted out like wild beasts, it appears to have been dangerous for laymen to possess beards of more than a few weeks’ growth.
Papers and certificates were granted to men with long beards, to prevent them from being molested by the officers of justice as suspected Templars, as appears from the following curious certificate given by king Edward the Second to his valet, who had made a vow not to shave himself until he had performed a pilgrimage to a certain place beyond sea.
“Rex, etc. Cum dilectus valettus noster Petrus Auger, exhibitor presentium, nuper voverit quod barbam suam radi non faciat, quousque peregrinationem fecerit in certo loco in partibus transmarinis; et idem Petrus sibi timeat, quod aliqui ipsum, ratione barbae suae prolixæ fuisse Templarium imponere sibi velint, et ei inferre impedimenta seu gravamina ex hac causa; Nos ventati volentes testimonium pertulere, vobis tenore praesentium intimamus, quod preedictus Petrus est valettus camera nostra, nec unquam fait Templarius, sed barbam suam sic prolixam esse permittit, ex causa superius annotata, etc. Teste Rege, &c.”†
* Monast. Angl., vol. vi. port ii. p. 848.
† Pat. 4, E. 2, p. 2; m. 20. Dugdale, Hiat. Warwickshire, vol. i. p. 962, ed. 1730.