While King Philip and his associates were doing their utmost to see that the Templars and the order as a whole were tried and convicted as soon as possible, the rulers of other lands were not so eager to prosecute, or even to arrest the members of the order. The Templars were known for being proud and greedy, but this was a stereotype handy for satire but not used on a daily basis. Most people had good relations with the Templars who lived among them. It was only the order by Pope Clement V that convinced them to take any sort of action, with results that varied according to place.
ARRESTS AND TRIALS IN SPAIN
In the early fourteenth century the Iberian Peninsula was made up of several kingdoms: Castile, Leon, Navarre, Portugal, and Aragon, which included Catalonia and Valencia. The southern part of Iberia was Andalusia, still in Moslem hands.
The experience of the Templars in Aragon is the one for which we have the best information. The king, James II (1292-1327), loved to keep records and copies of messages and many of them still exist.1
At first there were only rumors about the happenings in France concerning the Templars. Then, late in October 1313, the Spanish Templars learned of the arrest of several of their brethren in the kingdom of Navarre, then ruled by Philip the Fair’s son Louis. Three of the Aragonese Templars set out to find out what was going on. As soon as they arrived in Navarre, they were arrested, too.
The Templar master of Aragon, Jimeno de Lenda, immediately wrote to King James. James sent an envoy to Navarre to have the Templars released. The envoy also tried to get information on just exactly what was going on with the Templars in France.
He reported back to King James, telling him of the accusations against the Templars. By the middle of November, James had received a letter from King Philip telling him in strong language that the Templars were horrible heretics and homosexuals and that they must be arrested at once.
James answered him politely, but did nothing. He sent word to the pope that “We can scarcely envisage that they do anything in secret or perpetuate any hidden deed attacking Christ, for whose faith they fight.”2
But again, it was the news of the confessions of Jacques de Molay and the others that convinced James that he ought to put the Templars under guard. That and the fact that the Templars in his lands had been busy fortifying their castles. They weren’t going to be caught unawares.
Since the Templars in Iberia had been fighting against the Moslems in their own land for two hundred years, they had a different status than in other Western countries. Unlike the Templars in the Latin kingdoms, they hadn’t lost territory, but helped to regain it. The castles they owned had once been on the borders of Christian lands. Now they were far from the frontier. People living around them knew what the Templars had done and could do.
Another difference was that, unlike the French Templars, many of the knights from Aragon came from the upper nobility. Guillermo de Rocaberti, archbishop of Tarragona, was the brother of a Templar.3 These men were less easily intimidated and their families were close enough by to lodge protests if they were badly treated.
In December 1307, James finally gave in to papal pressure and ordered that the Templars be taken into custody. However, he was not as forceful about it as King Philip. There was no sudden mass arrest. Instead, the Aragonese messengers went from one Templar house to another, surprised to find that very few of them were at home. Some had simply fled; others had made their way to one of the Templar castles to wait out the storm. The Templar master of Aragon was one of those who had refused to run. He was taken and imprisoned.
From their strongholds, the Templars sent letters to the king, not of defiance, but pleading with him to be allowed to prove their innocence and return to their commanderies.
James refused to do this. He had received the order from Pope Clement and felt compelled to obey it. He ordered the knights to surrender. The Templars had heard about the torture and starvation of the men in France and decided not to trust in the goodwill and justice of princes. James had to besiege their castles. It was a year and a half before the last one fell.
Once captured, the Templars were placed, for the most part, back in their commanderies, under guard. They were questioned by papal commissions along with the local inquisitor of the diocese.4 The first interrogations didn’t even start until November 7, 1309, two years after the French arrests. In the meantime, the Templars in Aragon had been decently fed, clothed, and housed. They weren’t tortured.
During the questioning, although some of the men were unsure about some of the minor offenses, such as thinking that the commander of the house could absolve their sins, not one confessed to spitting or defiling a cross or any of the other more sensational charges.
By 1311, the Council of Vienne was scheduled and Clement hadn’t received any good confessions from Iberia. He sent a letter to the bishops in charge of the interrogations authorizing them to use torture to get the truth. Eight Templars were tortured, but still none would confess. 5Finally, on November, 4, 1312, after the order had been dissolved
The Templar fortress of Monzón. (Photo by Joan Fuguet Sans)
by the pope, a council in Aragon declared all the Templars in the kingdom innocent.6
Since there was no longer an order, something had to be done with their property and also with the men themselves. For King James, his Templar headaches were only beginning. The king spent many years dealing with the needs and demands of the ex-Templars.
ARRESTS AND TRIALS IN ENGLAND
The number of Templars in England in 1307 has been reckoned at a total of 144. Of these, 20 at most were knights, 16 priests, and around 108 sergeants.7 Their extensive properties in the country were maintained for the most part by servants and tenants.8
When Philip the Fair arrested the Templars in France, he wrote to Edward II of England, who was engaged to Philip’s daughter, Isabella, telling him to arrest the British Templars at once. Edward, despite only having been king for four months, was not inclined to believe his prospective father-in-law. He not only wrote back that he doubted the truth of the charges, but also sent messages to the kings of Portugal, Castile, Aragon, and Naples, supporting the order. Then he wrote to Pope Clement V, saying that the Templars in England had been “constant in the purity of their faith.”9
Edward was inclined to think that the charges were totally false and the product of envy. He knew Philip.
However, the confession of Jacques de Molay and other Templars in France, along with the papal order for arrests everywhere, issued on November 22, 1307, seems to have convinced Edward that he should look into the matter further.10
He ordered that the Templars in England be arrested on January 10, 1308. This was done in a rather casual manner. Many of the Templars were put under house arrest in their own commanderies. The master in England, William de la More, was imprisoned at Canterbury but was given a daily allowance and the use of a “bed, robes and various personal possessions.”11 Torture was not used in England; it was illegal.
The Templars waited in relative comfort, supported by the income from their property, until the inquisitors arrived to interrogate them in October 1309.
The inquisitors might have saved themselves the trip. The Templars all gave totally orthodox accounts of their entry into the order. This included the preceptor of Auvergne, Imbart Blanc, who had either been visiting in England at the time of the trials or had escaped there. There are many speculations about why he happened to be in England but no hard facts.
Imbart was questioned on October 29. He had been a member of the order for thirty-six or thirty-seven years and had been received into it by William of Beaujeu, the master who had died defending Acre. He denied all the charges, stating only that he had been kissed on the mouth [as was customary] and that each and every one of the articles were evil lies and had never happened.12
One of the Templars, Thomas of Ludham, had entered the order only eleven days before being arrested, three months after the arrests in France.13 The implication is that the British Templars assumed that the problem was only in the French houses and that they should carry on as usual.
By June of 1310, the inquisitors were completely frustrated by the lack of confessions. Since torture was forbidden under English law, they asked the archbishop of Canterbury if they could take the Templars to Ponthieu, which was one of the king’s French holdings. There “torture could be more fully and freely applied.”14 To Edward’s credit, he did not allow the English Templars to be taken abroad for torture.
Edward did buckle a bit under pressure from the pope and some of his bishops. He had the Templars put under the authority of the inquisitors in prisons attached to the city gates of London. He said they could do what they wanted to the prisoners, but he was only allowing it out of reverence for the Apostolic See.15
It seems that, in London at least, some torture was finally applied but to no avail. The British Templars would not confess. The inquisitors added one more question to the list put to the French Templars. Why were Templars buried in secrecy?
Why they asked this is unknown. They may have been grasping at straws. The answer was that they weren’t buried in secrecy, and further investigation proved that this was so. Templar funerals were well attended.
This was becoming extremely embarrassing for the inquisitors.
In desperation, they decided to get evidence from witnesses from outside the order. By now it was 1311. The Council of Vienne was about to start and they worried they would be the only inquisitors to show up without some juicy tales of Templar sin.
The outside witnesses were much more fun.
One man, a serving brother from Ireland named Henry, said that he had heard tell that “Hugh the Master of Castle Pilgrim received many men with the denial of Christ as part of the ceremony.” 16He also knew of a Templar on Cyprus who owned a gold head, or maybe it was bronze, that answered any question put to it. But he didn’t think the Templar worshipped it, just used it for general information.17
Master John of Warrington, in York, announced that a Templar, William de la Fenne, had given (John’s) wife a book that said that Christ was not God and had not been crucified. De La Fenne responded that he had given Master John’s wife a book but there was nothing heretical in it, and, by the way, why had he waited six years to mention it?18
Several people said that they had heard about secret meetings held at night and, while they didn’t know what went on there, it stood to reason that it was something bad. One witness, described as a “loose woman,” told of “disgusting abominations concerning a black cat and a stone.”19
While not at all reliable, the testimony of witnesses, or those who knew someone who was a witness, is much livelier, if less credible.
Finally, a Franciscan witness said that “he had been told by a woman, who had been told by a man, who had been told by someone else, that a servant of the latter’s acquaintance had been put to death when caught watching the Templars worship an idol.”20
At this point even the most die-hard inquisitor would have to have thrown down his quill and quit.
They did manage to get three Templars, or possibly former Templars, to confess to the charges. All three had only recently been arrested and had been hiding out since 1307. It was now the summer of 1311. They seem to have been tortured to confess, but it’s not certain.
After these three confessed, they all publicly asked forgiveness. They were given a penance and absolved.21
Eventually the rest of the Templars, still in prison, although they hadn’t been convicted of anything, decided they might as well confess, too. The ones who were strong enough stood on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral and announced that they were no longer heretics but orthodox Christians. They were given penances, forgiven, and sent off to various monasteries around the country with a pension of four pence a day from Templar revenues.
Only the Templar master in England, William de la More, and the French preceptor, Imbart Blanc, refused to ask forgiveness. De la More insisted to the end that “he would not ask for absolution for something he hadn’t done.”22
Both men died in prison.
ARRESTS AND TRIALS IN GERMANY
There were not many Templars in Germany. The Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights were more popular, especially the latter, being the home team, as it were. In all of central Europe, the Templars only had fifty houses at the time of the dissolution.23 This includes all the various German states and Poland. They did own property throughout the area that was administered for them and the rents collected, but there were few places where Templars actually lived, even in small groups.
After the failure of the crusades of Saint Louis, the Templars had established a few new commanderies in Moravia (one named Tempelstein). Toward the end of the thirteenth century, they began to be in control of small territories, although nothing on the scale of the Teutonic Knights, who governed whole countries.24
There are no records of the trials in Germany. It’s known that in some areas, the Templars were arrested. But this was more complicated than in England or France. For instance, the archbishop of Magdeburg imprisoned a number of Templars, including Frederick of Alvensleben, who was preceptor of Germany. This should have been quite a coup. However, the bishop of Halberstadt took exception to this. The Templars had been poached from his territory. So the bishop excommunicated the archbishop. I’m fairly sure it’s against the rules to excommunicate one’s superior but the bishop of Halberstadt tried it anyway. Pope Clement had to step in, revoke the excommunication, and remind them that it was the Templars who were on trial.25
In Trier on the western edge of Germany, the archbishop tried three Templars. He also listened to some witnesses. The Templars in Trier were acquitted.26
Two brothers, Hugh and Frederick of Salm, were commanders of houses in Grumbach and the Rhineland. They were much more forceful in the defense of the order. Hugh burst into the council meeting in Mainz on May 13, 1310. He told the archbishop and the court that he had heard that the council was trying to destroy the order. This was completely “harsh and intolerable.” Hugh announced that he wanted to be heard by “a future pope,” not Clement V.27 Smart man.
Hugh also added something that may have been one of the earliest of the legends that grew up after the trials. He said that “those who had constantly denied these enormities had been delivered up to the fire, but that God had shown their innocence by a miracle, for the red cross and white mantle they wore would not burn.”28
The archbishop saw the logic in Hugh’s protest and said he would see what the pope said about it. Hugh and the twenty armed Templars he had brought with him were satisfied with his promise and left.29
Frederick of Salm told his inquisitors that he knew Jacques de Molay well and did not believe the charges. He offered to undergo the ordeal of red-hot iron, in which the suspect must hold onto a bar of iron brought straight from the forge. If the burns heal quickly, he is innocent. Frederick’s offer was turned down and the trial went on in the usual way, without torture. After hearing the evidence, the archbishop declared the Templars innocent.30
In other areas the pope’s orders were simply ignored. Otto, the Templar commander of Brunswick, had no intention of stepping down. He eventually became commander of the Hospitaller house at Süpplingenburg, with a yearly pension of one hundred marks. Of course, he was the brother of the duke.31 But it appears that less important Templars in the German states fared almost as well. Few of them were ever imprisoned and none of them were killed.
ARRESTS AND TRIALS IN CYPRUS
Cyprus was now the seat of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in exile. Both the Templars and the Hospitallers were based there. The king of Cyprus, Amaury of Lusignan, had been supported by the Templars in his takeover of the government from his brother, Henry. At the Templar headquarters on the island of Cyprus, seventy Templars were interrogated. 32 None of them confessed to any of the charges. Outside witnesses were also questioned. Most of them actually defended the Templars.33
Unlike the other Templar centers outside of Spain, the knights on Cyprus were the fighting force. The records of their trial finally give us an idea of the makeup of the Templar forces in the East. For the first time, there is a real sense that this was an international order. Brother Nicholas was English and had entered the order at Lidley in Shropshire in 1300.34 Brother John was also English but had become a Templar in Italy and, although a sergeant, had become the commander of a house.35Brother Francis came from Slavonia and had been received into the order by Jacques de Molay himself.36 Brother Bertrand came from Brindisi and Brother Pierre from Provence.37
There were even Templars from Acre: Brother Guy, who had been received in Acre, and Brother Hubald, who came from Acre but had joined in 1299 on Cyprus.38
These were the younger, fitter men who had been sent east as soon as possible to be ready to mount an expedition to regain the Holy Land. Most of them had fought and seen their friends die for the cause and they were even more indignant at the charges than the serving brothers in Europe, who may never have been to the East.39
In the middle of the trials, King Amaury was murdered, not by a Templar, I hasten to add. His body was found “stuffed beneath the stairs in his house at Nicosia.”40 The most likely suspect was his brother, Henry, who now became king, but I don’t believe the matter was looked into very closely.
Since the Templars had helped Amaury take the throne from Henry a few years before when the trial was reopened and new witnesses brought in, they had good reason to expect the worst.
It didn’t happen. The new witnesses, important men of the kingdom, told the inquisitors that the Templars were the most valiant fighting men they knew and all seemed devout. They regularly went to Mass and received the Host. One of the Templars’ guards had started out certain that the men were guilty. After two years with them, he not only had changed his mind, he felt that God had performed a miracle in order to prove it to him.41
Pope Clement wasn’t satisfied with these results and, in 1311, sent a papal legate to Cyprus to reopen the trial and this time to use torture. I’m not sure if he wanted to torture the Templars or the witnesses or both, but there is no record of anything more happening.
ARRESTS AND TRIALS IN ITALY
Italy, of course, is a modern nation. In the fourteenth century, the Italian peninsula was made up of several territories, such as Lombardy and Tuscany, or city-states, such as Venice, Pisa, and Genoa. Scattered among them were the various Papal States (see below). There was also the Kingdom of Naples, ruled by Charles II, uncle of Philip the Fair.42
Naples was one place where the Templars were seriously prosecuted. During the course of the trials, Charles died and was succeeded by his son, Robert, who wished to press his claim to the thrones of Jerusalem and Sicily. In the summer of 1309, Robert made a trip to Anjou to see Pope Clement and receive official confirmation of his rights.43
Few records remain of the trial in Naples but it appears that the six Templars arrested there were tortured in order to make them confess. The trial was held in April 1310 and the highlight of it was the testimony of one Galcerand de Teus, who regaled the inquisitors with the story of how he had been received in Catalonia and not only told to deny Christ but assured that Jesus, while on the cross, had confessed that he was not divine and had been forgiven. He insisted that all the Catalonian Templars knew this. However, it later came out that Galcerand had become a Templar in Italy and may not have ever been to Catalonia.44
In Tuscany only thirteen Templars were taken. Six of them confessed under torture. The other seven didn’t.45As was usual in other countries outside of France, more attention was paid to occupying and taking inventory of Templar property than in capturing the men themselves.46
Again the main thrust of the questioning involved the secret reception of new members of the order. The deposition of Brother Giacomo di Phighazzano sums up the frustration and exasperation the rest of the Templars must have felt:
“The reception of the brothers to the community was done as the Rule commanded,” he insisted. “No brother was received who was not received according to the rules handed down by the blessed Bernard and by which father James had received him.[Giacomo]”47
ARRESTS AND TRIALS IN THE PAPAL STATES
The Papal States were areas of Italy that came under the legal jurisdiction of the popes. They consisted of several towns and regions scattered up and down what is now the country of Italy. The total wasn’t a huge area, but it is rather surprising that in all of it, when there were at least thirty commanderies, only seven Templars were arrested. There were six serving brothers, Ceccus Nicolai di Langano, Andreas Armanni de Monte Oderisio, Gerard de Placentia, Petrus Valentini, Vivolus de villa Sancti Iustini, and Gualterius Johannis de Napoli, all Italian. The seventh was a Templar priest, Guillelmo de Verduno.48None of them had ever been overseas; they had never even left Italy.49
The seven Templars all confessed that they had spit and stamped on the cross, except the priest, who had been allowed to stamp on two pieces of straw. Four of them said they had been asked to worship an idol. Each one described a different idol. Ceccus saw a young boy made of metal; Andreas saw one with three heads; Gerard’s idol was made of wood and had one face; Vivolus saw a white head with the face of a man.
None of the Templars appeared to have been tortured. They were all absolved.
There is no record of what happened to the rest of the Templars in the Papal States.
OUTSIDE of France very few Templars confessed, or were judged guilty, of anything. Many never came to trial at all. In spite of Pope Clement’s attempts to get the regional church authorities to prosecute the Templars rigorously, using torture if necessary, it doesn’t seem to have often happened.
The result of the trials was to put a lot of Templars out of work. The Hospitallers eventually got most of the Templar property but they were saddled with the job of paying pensions to the ex-Templars and their dependents.
The real losers in the whole affair were Clement V and the popes who came after him. Clement was shown to be a weak man and his office as one with very little real power. He could order the arrest of the Templars because they were under his direct authority. But he couldn’t make local bishops hunt the Templars down. He had the power to suppress the order but not enough to see that its property was delivered where he wanted it.
And now the whole world knew it.
In Barcelona at the Archivo de la Corona de Aragón, if you want to check them. Or see Alan Forey, The Fall of the Templars in the Crown of Aragon (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2001); he has searched the archives extensively for you and me. I am extremely grateful.
This is my summary of Forey, pp. 1-6.
Forey, p. 215.
Ibid., p. 75.
Malcolm Barber, The Trial of the Templars (Cambridge, 2006) p. 236.
Barber, p. 237.
Thomas W. Parker, The Knights Templars in England (University of Arizona Press, 1963) p. 17.
Evelyn Lord, The Knights Templar in Britain (London: Longmand, 2002) pp. 44-137.
Barber, p. 218.
Anne Gilmour-Bryson, “The London Templar Trial Testimony,” in A World Explored: Essays in Honour of Laurie Gardiner, ed. Anne Gilmour-Bryson (Melbourne, 1993).
Barber, p. 219.
Roger Sève and Anne-Marie Chagny-Sève, Le Procès des Templier d’Auvergne 1309-1311, p. 253. “dixit quod osculantur se in ore, et omnia alia et singula in predictus articulis contenta sunt fallsa et mala, nec facta fuerunt.”
Gilmour-Bryson, p. 48.
Parker, p. 95.
Ibid., p. 96.
Gilmour-Bryson, p. 52.
Ibid. This was before the Internet, of course, but just imagine what a great science fiction story this would make. Remember, I had it first.
Lord, p. 198. It’s possible that John couldn’t read, but his wife could.
Parker, p. 97. All of these come from the records of the testimony.
Lord, p. 199
Karl Borchardt, “The Templars in Central Europe,” in The Crusades and the Military Orders: Expanding the Frontiers of Medieval Latin Christianity, ed. Zsolt Hunyadi and Josef Laszlovszky (Budapest: Central Hungarian University, 2001) p. 233.
Please see chapter 39, Other Regional Military Orders, for more on the Teutonic knights.
Barber, p. 251.
Ibid., p. 252.
Borchardt, p. 239.
Peter Edbury, “The Military Orders in Cyprus,” in Hunyadi and Laszlovszky, p. 102.
K. Schottmüller, Der Untergang des Templer Ordens (Berlin, 1887) Vol. II, p. 168. Prof. Anne Gilmour-Bryson has translated the records of the trial into English. Unfortunately, I was not able to obtain a copy of her book.
Ibid., p. 185.
Ibid., p. 191.
Ibid., pp. 207-9.
Ibid., pp. 188-89 and 217.
Barber, pp. 255-56.
Schottmüller, pp. 157-58.
Barber, p. 213.
Fulvio Bramato, Storia dell’Ordine dei Templari in Italia, Vol. II Le Inquisizioni, Li Fonti (Rome: Atanor, 1994) p. 29.
Ibid., pp. 30-31.
Barber, p. 215.
Bramato, pp. 47-49.
Quoted in Bramato, “receptions frutrum cominter predictis modis in ordine sic fiebant, tamen aliqui non sic recipiebantur, sed recipiebantur secumdum regulam eis traditam a beato Benardo secundum quam ipse fr. Jacobus asseruitse receptum.”
Gilmour-Bryson, pp. 34-35.
Ibid., p. 38. The following paragraphs are a summary of Gilmour-Bryson’s excellent edition of the transcripts of the trials.