Cardiff University: Cardiff School of History, Archaeology and Religion
HS 1805 The Military Orders, 1100-1320
Translated by Helen Nicholson: this edition 2008-2009
Document 11: The Trial of the Templars.
All the translated material in this document is © Helen Nicholson, 1994-2008. It is intended ONLY for the use of Cardiff University students taking HS1805.
The charges against the Templars in 1307
A summary based on Malcolm Barber, The Trial of the Templars (Cambridge, 1978), pp. 248-52. The headings are by H. J. Nicholson. The charges were numbered, and were generally referred to by those numbers in the the trial proceedings.
Errors of belief
The Templars denied Christ at their reception into the order or soon after. They spat on the Cross and defiled it.
They adored a cat.
They did not believe in the Mass or other sacraments of the Church. Their priests did not speak the words of consecration in the Mass. (So donations for Masses to be said for a donor's soul would be wasted.)
They were taught that the master, visitor and commander (many of whom were laity) could absolve them from sin - which only ordained priests could do.
They exchanged obscene kisses at their reception into the order.
There were dubious activities at their reception: they were made to swear that they would not leave the order, receptions were held in secret, and sodomy was encouraged at their reception.
They practised sodomy.
They adored an idol, a bearded head, and said that the head had great powers. Each of them wore around their waist a cord which had been wound around the head.
They had to swear not to reveal what was said at their reception.
They were only allowed to confess their sins to a brother of the order.
They did not correct these errors, which were said to be “of long and general observance”, or “ancient custom”.
Errors of practice
The order did not make charitable gifts as it ought, nor was hospitality practised.
They did not reckon it a sin in the order to acquire properties belonging to another by legal or illegal means.
They did not reckon it a sin in the order to procure increase and profit for the order in whatsoever way they could.
Perjury was not reckoned a sin if done to win gain for the order.
Other suggestive evidence against the order
They held chapters in secret, at night.
Many brothers left the order, “because of the filth and errors of their order”.
“That concerning these things there is public talk, general opinion and repute both among the brothers of the order and outside”.
All translations are by Helen Nicholson.
1) Le Roman du Fauvel by Gervais du Bus
[A French contemporary of the Trial of the Templars. The ‘Fauvel’ of the title is a bay-coloured mule which represents vanity, flattery, greed, villainy, cowardice and envy. The order of things has been turned upside down when Fauvel, who ought to serve people, becomes lord and everyone tries to stroke and pat him. Spiritual powers should be more powerful than temporal, but Fauvel has made the temporal powers greater than the spiritual. Gervais criticises the pope, the bishops and canons of cathedrals, and the friars and other religious. Then he comes on to the Templars. After this he discusses the laity, kings and nobles. He ends by lamenting the state of the world; the end of the world must be at hand.]
[Lines 945-1020] God save me! Fauvel has succeeded in disordering all the religious orders. It is clear that Fauvel is a bad leader; he has recently brought to grief an order which used to be one of the most honoured of all.
This animal has succeeded in making our mother, Holy Church, grieve and lament. The open fraud of the Templars, which condemned them to death and loss, has made our mother sad and sorrowful, sigh and sob, so that every man who is a good son of the Holy Church ought to shudder. The Templars have brought her to grief, so that she laments in great distress and bewails like this:
“Alas! what bad luck, what grief, what severe fortune, when my children have abandoned me! The Templars whom I so loved and honoured have brought me into dishonour and calumny. They have denied my dear Spouse, who was crucified for them, whose sign they bore. Alas! Why did they want to do this? I have always been their sweet, gracious and benign mother. They bore the sign of the cross; they should have upheld Christendom and been her champions. They were highly honoured for this reason, exalted everywhere and they held rent and great possessions. I never did them any harm; no, they had an immeasurable quantity of the good things of the true Crucified One, freedoms and privileges. Alas! now they have become heretics and sinners against nature.
“My heart is depressed and shudders because they have been bound to the enemy for so long. They were all infected by it; it is more than a hundred years since their mischief first appeared. Between them they have made an order which is so foul, vile and horrible that it is hideous to speak about it. As soon as they received someone into their order, they made him deny God and despise Jesus Christ and the Cross, commanding him to spit on it. They kissed each other's buttocks. They did many things. Alas! it is a shame that they were ever born of Adam, because they will all be condemned and scattered and destroyed. Alas! Alas! And with good reason! for they have carried on in this foul way for too long; if they had reigned any longer, Christianity would certainly have been completely poisoned.
“God, who wished to avenge himself on them, was very gracious to the king of France, in enabling him to perceive what was going on. In His love, God called him and revealed this evil to him, which could never be known before. Saint Louis and the king of Sicily did hear tell in their time about suspicions of the Templars and tried very hard to find out about them; but no one could get certain evidence in their day. However, this nephew of Saint Louis ought to be praised and congratulated because he has detected and seen the truth. He has put in great labour and effort to make the matter certain. He has done his duty very well. Diligently, like a worthy man, he pursued this matter before the pope of Rome, until some of the greater Templars acknowledged their shame before the pope.
“There is so much sadness and great shame in spinning out the story that it is better for me to be quiet. They were condemned and put to death.
“So those who do not avoid doing things to please Fauvel are right fools! Fauvel taught them to live falsely in the world. Such is the payment for those who serve such a master. When Fauvel has got his servants lost, he gives them their payment.”
[ed. A. Langfors, Société des anciens textes français (Paris, 1914-19).]
2) Geoffrey de Paris: Metrical Chronicle
[His chronicle covers the years 1300-16. He was a supporter of Philip IV and says he believes the charges against the Templars, but yet he clearly harbours doubts about the case.]
The brothers and the master of the Temple who were amply supplied with resources of gold and silver and wealth, and who lived such a noble life, where are they? What has become of them, they who were so strong that no one could take them on? They were always buying, never giving back. They stood with kings, they were feared by all; they were greater than all people; now they have fallen from high to low. They despised no riches; the pot went to the well so many times it broke.[Lines 3483-96]
God knew their behaviour and their little game; He soon pays everyone their due according to their actions. [Lines 3501-3]
If it is true, their falseness and evil was greater than has ever been done or even existed. [Lines 3429-31.]
If it is true what they report, they were the worst of the worst. [Lines 3450-1.]
For, according to what many people say, they did great wrong; but I don’t know if they’re speaking the truth. But it is necessary to hold as true something which the pope and the great council of the world wish to do; therefore I will keep quiet. [Lines 3476-82.]
It is written that God often justly absolves those whom the prelate curses, for God sees all and knows all. And many who are condemned in the world are crowned in Heaven, and God loves them and holds them dear; no one may conceal anything from Him. But here below, in this Church, we must all hold to the commands and the ordinances of the pope; and if anyone doubts them, they are guilty of a form of heresy. [Lines 3549-61.]
Geoffrey gives what he claims is an eye-witness description of Master James de Molay’s death.In fact his account is not completely accurate because he does not mention Geoffrey de Charney, the Grand Commander of Normandy, who was burned with the Master. Instead he describes ‘two brothers’ who were there with the Master. In any case, his description must reflect the stories in circulation in Paris at the time of writing: around 1316, two years after the Master’s death and the deaths of both Philip IV and Clement V. The extract begins as James de Molay has been brought to the island in the Seine where he is to be burned: 18 March 1314.
The Master contradicted the cardinal [who had condemned him], and said to him that he believed in Our Lord and that there was no more loyal and better Christian than he was; and if there happened to be any evil Brother in the Order, that could well be the case, for he had often heard that there are evil people everywhere. But he did not know anything in the Order which did not originate in good faith and in the Christian law. He would not abandon his Order, but would suffer death there for God’s sake, and for justice and for right. No one present was so hard-hearted that they did not cross themselves many times [for pity] when they heard him speak about his Order like this.
Seeing the fire ready, the Master took off his clothes. I say what I saw: he stood there in just his shirt, happily and in good spirits. He did not tremble, no matter how they dragged and prodded at him. They took hold of him to tie him to the stake; he agreed to this, happy and rejoicing. They tied his hands with a cord, but first he said to them: ‘Sirs, at least, let me join my hands together for a little while and make my prayer to God, for now is the time and the season to pray. I see here my judgement, the place where I must die a short time hence; God knows that my death is wrong and a sin. So in a short time evil things will befall those who have condemned us to death; God will avenge our death.’
‘Sirs,’ he said, ‘you should know, without any argument, that all those who have acted against us will suffer for what they have done to us. I wish to die in this belief. See here my faith: and I beg you to turn my face towards the church of Our Lady, from whom Our Lord was born.’
His request was met. He died like this, and met his death so sweetly that everyone was amazed. [lines 5691-5740]
People have different opinions about this and there is great debate in the world, but I don’t know what to say to you about it. Some speak out of jealousy, others otherwise; I don’t know who is telling the truth and who is lying. Let what must come, come; even the world must come to an end. There are those who start off well and come to a very bad end. You can fool the Church, but you can’t fool God. I won’t say any more - draw your own conclusions. [Lines 5756-61.]
[Source: La Chronique Métrique attribuée à Geffroy de Paris, ed. Armel Diverrès (Paris, Société d’Édition Les Belles Lettres, 1956); extracts translated from A. K. Wildermann, Die Beurteilung des Templerprozesses bis zum 17. Jahrhundert (1971), pp. 98-9.]
3) Lament for the Templars
[Early 1308, by an anonymous writer close to the Templars.]
To the honourable doctors and scholars of the University of Paris, Greeting.
If the quite amazing and absolutely stupefying cruelty of the enemy of the human race treacherously devised by diabolical instigation in the area of Gascony, which is recognised to be part of the French kingdom, is diligently examined it ought to turn the hearts of the faithful to compassionate mourning and bitter tears of compunction. Meanwhile, the kingdom’s living fount of justice which used to irrigate the whole globe with its example and customs has completely dried up. The shining light of truth, which used to reside on the crown of the candelabra, lighting no only this kingdom but all nations and peoples, has been placed under a bushel so that it may not be seen!
All this is clearly apparent from the unheard of and iniquitous proceedings issued against the Templars, which contain no justice but rather savage tyranny, since they were arrested without warning, suddenly without right or judgement being made, shamefully and dishonourably incarcerated with destructive rage, afflicted with taunts, the gravest threats, and various sorts of torture, compelled to die or produce absurd lies which they knew nothing about, wrongly given into the hands of their enemies, who force them through those torments to read out a foul, filthy and lying list which cannot be conceived by human ears and should not enter the human heart. But when the brothers refuse to produce these lies, although they know absolutely nothing about them, the torments of the attendants who press them daily force them to speak the lies, saying that they must recite them before the Jacobins and assert that they are true if they wish to preserve their lives and obtain the king's plentiful grace.
But many of them, choosing to serve God rather than Mammon, have so strongly embraced truth, that 36 of them in the Paris house alone, besides an infinite number of others who have been similarly treated throughout various parts of the kingdom, have passed through these torments like athletes of Christ with the martyr’s palm to the Lord and attained the celestial kingdom. Of the rest, many, belted with divine virtue, have been destroyed by the tortures of the aforementioned attendants and left for dead, only half-alive. Like the strongest of warriors they have always held to the word of truth, saying that the brothers of the Temple promise four things when they enter the order, i.e. obedience, chastity, poverty, and that they will expend all their strength in the service of the Holy Land. They are received with an honourable kiss of peace; they take the Lord’s Cross together with the habit, custom and rule from the Roman Church and the Holy Fathers and they are taught to keep them safely. The same brothers of the said order report, assert and repeat this on their own oath again and again.
But the said attendants and the Jacobin Friars [Dominican Friars], masters - or rather, assassins - of great iniquity, block their ears like adders do against this truth, which they are unable to understand, and twist it like venomous serpents do, since in their malice they desire to get the result they hope for; because they are deceived by their ardent hatred and blinded by their savage cupidity. They hope to enrich their monks and associates at the expense of others, to get fat on the Templars’ goods, so that they will be able to gain a part of their revenues forever. So they order that the Templars who tell the truth should be tortured fiercely for so long until either they die from the punishment or they are forced to suppress the truth and lie that they denied God, despised Christ's Cross and produce the other worthless things which not only should not be done but not even described.
What is more, if they do not say these things, not only before but even after torture, they are always held in dark prison cells, with only the bread of sorrow and the water of affliction, in winter time with the pressing cold, lying with sighs and grief on the ground without straw or coverings. In the middle of the night, to increase their terror, now one, now another is taken from cell to cell. Those whom they have killed in torture they secretly bury in the stable or in the garden, for fear that such horrible and savage deeds should reach the royal ears, since they had told and tell that the aforesaid brothers did not confess their crimes by violence but of their own accord.
Anyone who is defeated by the tortures and produces the lies which the attendants and Jacobins want, although they ought to be punished for lying even though they did not want to lie, is raised up to chambers where they are happily provided with everything they need, so that they will keep up the lie. They are continually warned with threats, or with rough or flattering words. What is more, a certain monk - or more truly a demoniac - ceaselessly runs through the chambers at any hour, day and night, tempting the brothers and extending warnings of what will happen to them. And if he discovers that anyone has repented of the said lies, he sends them straight back to the aforesaid afflictions and penuries.
What more is there to say? In short, I say that human tongue cannot express the punishments, afflictions, miseries, taunts, and dire kinds of tortures which have been suffered by the said innocents in the space of three months since the day of their arrest, because by day and night constant sobs and sighs have not ceased in their cells, nor have cries and gnashing of teeth ceased in their tortures. Is it amazing if they say what the torturer wants, since truth kills them and lies liberate them from death? The protection of the truth is certainly not a human attribute but a completely divine attribute; as many have miraculously shown divine courage. But those who are shattered with such terrors and scourges persist in pure truth, although the torture would stop if they lied. As for the rest, however, who are fearful and timid, it is not surprising if they say these things solely out of terror, since the punishment of one brings fear on all.
So pay attention, you wise men, and see the sorrow; there is no sorrow like this sorrow. Ah, God, what is this great error and blindness of hearts, such great madness and loss of senses, which has appeared without cause among Christians in our time? It is truly astounding and terrifying. O good Jesus, merciful Father, what kind of advice has led such a great prince to act like this - when he always used to rule and be ruled by Your Will? Didn't you adorn him with a special privilege above all the other princes of the world, so that there is no similar arm of the Church in the world, none so worthy of the Christian name? For what reason did you allow him to be given such crooked advice, when he is good in himself, just, merciful, and benevolent. Be vigilant, therefore, and pour Your Spirit of Counsel over him, uncover the ancient watercourse of the accustomed fount of justice, take away the bushel and place the lamp back on its candelabra, so that he may see the truth and recall the said brothers of the Temple to their old position and punish their false detractors, who have totally defamed the golden crown of honour, the visible sign of glorious sanctity, and the whole kingdom subject to him by bringing in such a grave scandal and sin, such that one cannot read of any such having been committed since the beginning of the world.
In fact it brings opprobrium and contempt not only on the kingdom itself but also on the holy Church and the whole Christian faith, for the whole world says and sees that this iniquity arose from the accusers’ obvious greed alone, and nothing can conceal it. For who can believe that a free man, of whatever status or condition he might be, would seek to enter a religious order to the detriment and death of his soul? This would certainly be ridiculous and insane! It would seem absurd and absolutely incredible, or rather, impossible, that the noble brothers, clergy and burgesses of a religious order which has spread through the whole world should be ensnared by such crimes, when they have given themselves to the service of the glorious Virgin for the salvation of their souls, and constantly bear the cross out of reverence for the Crucified and in memory of His passion. Moreover, in ancient and modern times a great many people have left the order because they lacked firmness of purpose. After apostacizing in this way, they received many taunts from their parents and friends because their religious order had dismissed them. If such people knew about the blot in the order, why did they keep quiet, when they could have excused themselves by saying that they did not wish to remain among men involved in such wickedness? Instead, after tearful prayers and long insistence, the penitents received permission to return, and ate for a year and a day on the ground, fasting for six days on bread and water, and each Sunday they stripped down to the underpants and went up to the altar at solemn mass to receive discipline from the hand of the priest, and could not recover the habit nor the company of the brothers without first completing a year's penance humbly and devotedly. So why did such people return like dogs to their vomit, and receive such great penance in peril of their souls and disgrace to their bodies? Others, who sinned so far that according to the statues of the order they could not receive permission to return - why didn't they reveal this blot, if not that they could not tell such incredible and unheard-of lies?
What is more, I believe that around a hundred brothers of the said order are still in Egyptian prisons, who preferred to die there in penury in order to win life eternal, rather than to do anything against their faith; and if they wished to give up their faith, they would be honoured by the Saracens and have wives, horses and weapons and live among nobles; but they prefer to end in obedience to their religion rather than to lose eternal life for a transitory life.
So anyone wise may clearly recognise the innocence of the unjustly oppressed poor brothers of the Temple, who are denied both justice and a hearing. And since various voices of ignorant people who should not by rights be heard are crying that sentence should be given against them, the dictator of the present letter has endeavoured to tell you the truth. Therefore, may your Circumspections’ great assembled wisdom consider what ought to be done and how, with all obstacles of fear, hatred and love removed, having only God before your eyes, so that you may offer advice which will deserve to receive reward from God and praise from humanity.
[Latin text edited by Christopher R. Cheney, ‘The Downfall of the Templars and a letter in their defence’, in his Medieval Texts and Studies (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), pp. 322-327. Trans. H.J.N.]
4) The Deeds of the Bishops of Magdeburg
[Another contemporary source.]
But as it is commonly said, a major cause of their [the Templars’] destruction was their great wealth, especially in the kingdom of France; because it is difficult to believe that such a great order, bearing the sign of the cross, founded for the glory of the Cross, could come down to such worthless and execrable errors and ignominious actions against the Cross. Also, on the other hand, it would be temerity to slander the judgement of the apostolic see; so whatever the truth may be, it should be left to divine judgement.
[From A. K. Wildermann, Die Beurteilung des Templerprozesses bis zum 17. Jahrhundert (1971), pp. 98-9. Trans. H.J.N.]
5) Albertino Musato: Historia Augusta
[An Italian source: on Emperor Henry VII’s Italian War, 1308-13.]
This investigation of inquiry and elucidation can certainly be attributed to King Philip of France, who followed the illustrious footsteps of his ancestors in the fervour of his Christian faith... He was prompted by neither vice nor avarice, as some of their company asserted, since he got nothing for himself; but he removed their possessions intact from their hands, and of his own accord and on his own order preserved it for the sacrosanct Church, from which it had come.
[From A. K. Wildermann, Die Beurteilung des Templerprozesses, p. 90. Trans. H.J.N.]
6. Dante Aligheri, The Divine Comedy: Purgatorio canto 20, was highly critical of the actions of King Philip IV of France. There are various editions in the library.
7. Boccaccio, in his De Casibus (translated into French by Alain Demurger, Jacques de Molay (Paris, 2002), pp. 347-53, was highly critical of King Philip IV and the trial. CR4753.M6.D3.
8. Chronicle of Geoffrey the Baker of Swinbrook (Oxon)
[An English historian, writing in the mid-fourteenth century]
In the same year  Pope Clement V celebrated the Council of Vienne, beginning on the first day of October and lasting until Pentecost, in which the order of the Temple was condemned. The king of France, Philip called ‘the Fair’, was present, and brought this about. He held the grand master of the Order in hatred because the master had been importuning him to repay the money which the head of the French Province [of the Order] had once lent the king for the marriage of his daughter Isabel, queen of England. Also, the same King Philip hoped that one of his sons would be crowned as king of Jerusalem, and would be endowned with the plunder from the destroyed knights of God’s Temple. And for this reason, he procured the burning of the aforesaid master and many others of that order who were established in his kingdom, and that the council should annihilate the whole order.But his intended cruel greed was not satisfied, for the pope assigned the lands and possessions of the annulled brothers to the Hospitallers. In order to have them handed over to the Hospitallers’ lordship he sent into England a certain cardinal [Arnaud de Nouveau, cardinal of St Priscia] and the bishop of Albano [Arnaud d’Aux, bishop of Poitiers, cardinal-bishop of Albano] as his associate. The English nobles, whose ancestors had endowed the Templars with ample booty, resisted them, and when the order had been condemned they occupied the possessions which had reverted to their hands, so that the said papal nuncios returned without having completed the business for which they had come.
[Source: Chronicon Galfridi Le Baker de Swynebroke, ed. Edward Maunde Thompson (Oxford, 1889), pp. 5-6 and p. 185]
9) Thomas Walsingham, St Alban’s Chronicle, from Adam of Murimuth, Continuatio Chronicarum
[Late fourteenth century, based on an early fourteenth century source]
Then Philip, king of France, planned to make one of his sons king of Jerusalem and get for him all the revenues and incomes of the Templars, and on these grounds he had earlier procured to have many Templars in his kingdom and especially the grand master of the order and many others burned, and he procured and brought about the condemnation of the order in the council aforesaid [Vienne, 1312]. But however his intention for their revenues was not put into effect, because the pope assigned these to the Hospitallers; not without the intervention of a great deal of money.
Chronica monasterii S. Albanii Thomae Walsingham, ed. Henry T. Riley, 2 vols
(London, 1863-4), vol. 1, p. 127.]
The Trial of the Templars in France
Extracts translated from J. Michelet, ed.: Le Procès des Templiers, 2 vols (Paris, 1841-51), trans. H. Nicholson.
The hearings before the papal commissioners, 1309-10.
Michelet, vol. 1, pp. 36-39: Thurs. 27 November 1309: the interrogation of Brother Ponzard de Gizy, commander of Payns (Champagne). (Translated into French in G. Lizerand, Dossier de l’affaire des Templiers (Paris, 1923), pp. 154-63.)
After this, the same place and day, Brother Ponzard de Gizy, commander of Payns, was led into the presence of the same lords commissioner [the papal commissioners who were conducting the interrogations of the Templars] and was asked by the same whether he wished to defend the said order.
He replied that the charges which had been brought against the order, viz. that the order denied Jesus Christ and spat on the cross, and that leave was given for one brother to lie carnally with another, and certain other similar enormities dependent on the same, were false; and the things which he and other brothers of the said order had confessed on the aforesaid matters in the presence of the bishop of Paris or others, were false. He went on to say that they had been forced to say the aforesaid things on account of the danger and fear they were in, because they had been tortured by Floyran de Béziers the prior of Montfaucon and William Roberts the monk, their enemies, and on account of a certain agreement and information which they had made in the presence of those who were held in prison, and on account of fear of death, because thirty-six brothers had died in Paris because of the jail and the torture, and many others had died in other places. He also said that he was ready to defend the aforesaid order on his own behalf and on behalf of those who supported him, if their expenses would be met from the possessions of the Temple, and he asked that Brothers Reginald d’Orléans and Peter de Bologna [or Boulogne], priests and brothers of the said order, should be assigned to him to give him aid and counsel. He also handed over a short deposition, written, he said, by his own hand, in which were written the names of certain people, whom he said were enemies of the aforesaid order.
The deposition went like this:
[In French]: These are the traitors, who have intended lies and treachery against the order of the Temple: William Roberts the monk, who has had them walled up in discomfort; Esquieu de Floyran de Béziers, prior of Montfaucon, Bernard Pelet prior of the Maison of the Genoese, and Gerald de Boysol, cellarer [?], venerer of Gisors.
He was asked whether he had ever been tortured, and he replied that he had. Three months before his confession made in the presence of the Lord bishop of Paris, his hands tied behind his back so tightly that the blood ran down to his fingernails, in a certain pit, in which he could only take a single pace, protesting and saying that if he was put to the torture again he would deny everything that he had said now and say whatever he was told to say. For a short time he had been prepared to have his head cut off, or to suffer fire or boiling for the honour of the said order, but now that he had suffered imprisonment for the past two years he was not able to bear such long tortures as he had already been in. He was then asked whether he wished to say anything else to give reasons why the said lords commissioner should not proceed well and faithfully to the enquiry, and he replied no, and that he wished the enquiry to be made by good people.
Item, when the said provost of Poitou handed over to the said lord commissioners a certain document in the presence of the said Brother Ponzard, and it was read in his presence, the said Brother Ponzard said that because truth does not seek to hide anything, he had written a certain document like that, and given it to the same provost, so that it would be brought to the attention of the lord Pope and the lords commissioner, so that it would be heard. He also said that he had written it when he had been extremely angry against the order, because the treasurer of the Temple had spoken insolently to him. The document went as follows:
[In French]: These are the points on which you should have the Brothers of the Temple investigated, on which points they have never been investigated:
The first point is that it is forbidden by the masters for a brother to borrow from the offertory.
Again, the said brothers are not to hold children at the font when they are baptised.
Again, a brother may not lie under a roof where a woman lies; and for breaking these articles, masters will put a poor brother in prison and forget about him [?].
Yet: the masters who make brothers and sisters of the Temple, make the said sisters promise obedience, chastity and to live without personal possessions, and the said masters promise them faith and loyalty, as if they were their real sisters.
And again, when the said sisters have been admitted to the order, the said masters take their virginity; and even other sisters who are of good age, who think that they will enter a religious order to save their souls, find that the masters force them let them have their way with them, and the masters have children by these sisters, and the said masters make their children brothers of the order.
The second point is that the ruling of the order is that no brother should receive another into the order if he is not healthy in all his limbs and not a bastard and if he is not a man of good life and good behaviour.
Yet, commonly, thieving people who have killed other people, if they have a bit of money, are made brothers.
And again, the said masters of baillies [local administrators] who ask permission from the provincial commanders to admit brothers to the order, just as someone would sell a horse at the market, so they make a sale to the person who wishes to enter the order; and you know that all the men and women who enter the order by simony [in exchange for payment], both the one who receives them into the order and the one who enters, are excommunicate, and the person who is excommunicated in such a case cannot be absolved except by our father the pope.
Again, the said masters make the brother swear on relics that they did not enter the order in exchange for a gift or a promise, and the said masters know full well that the brother is perjuring himself, and the said brother is perjured and excommunicate, and the brother cannot win salvation.
What is more, if any little [i.e., unimportant] brother says anything to one of the the said commanders of baillies which annoys him, he arranges through gifts to the provincial commander that the poor brother goes overseas to die, or into a foreign country which he doesn't know, and where he is bound to die from grief or poverty; and if he leaves the order he may be captured and put in prison.
Again, at the last chapter which was held by the Visitor, and was held at the feast of Candelour of Our Lady, Brother Renaut de la Folie claimed that the island of Tortosa [Arwad aka Ruad] was lost through Brother Gerald de Villiers and another brother, and through him the brothers were killed and captured, and some were still in prison; and he would prove this with the help of good people. This was because the said Brother Gerald left a day before and took his friends with him, and for want of the good knights that he took, the island was lost.
And because the same Brother Ponzard said that he was afraid that his imprisonment would be made worse because he had put himself forward to defend the said order, he begged that they would make sure that it did not get worse because of the aforesaid things, and the said lords commissioner said to the said provost of Poitou and John of Gamville that they should not harm him in any way because he had put himself forward to defend the aforesaid order. They replied that they would not harm him any more because of this.
Pages 77-9: Wednesday 18 February 1310.
...The brothers listed below were brought out of the Temple of Paris, in the presence of the said lords commissioner, with the exception of the lords archbishop of Narbonne and of Bayeux. These brothers were asked individually and separately whether they wished to defend the order, and they replied as follows:
Brother Bayard of Tremblay, priest of the diocese of Paris, who had been before the said lords commissioner at another time, following the first papal edict, said that if he were out of prison and had the means, he would willingly defend it, and he protested as much.
Brother P. de Fons Ambianensis said that he did not wish to defend it, because he had only been in the order for five weeks, and he asked to be able leave the order.
[p.78] Brother Fulk de Dun, Reims diocese, said that he did not wish to defend the order, because he had only been in the order for a month and two days, and he asked to be released, and be allowed to leave the abovesaid order.
Brother Peter de Varmeriville, Reims diocese, said that he did not wish to defend the order, because he had only been in the order for a month less two days, and he asked for permission to be given to him to leave the order.
Brother Nicholas de Ancinmonte, Cathalan diocesis, said that he did not wish to defend the order, because he had only been in the order for three months, and he asked for permission to be given to him to leave the order.
Brother John de Turn, Paris diocese, said that he wished to defend the order.
Brother Raynier de Larchant, Sens diocese, said who had been before the lords commissioners before following the first papal edict, said that he wished to defend it, as far as he could.
Brother Ralph de Salix, Laudun diocese, who had been before the lords commissioner before following the first papal edict, said that he wished to defend it as far as he could.
Brother Nicholas de Trecis said that he wished to defend it.
Brother Simon de Cormice, Reims diocese, said that he wished to defend it, with the aid of the brothers.
Brother William de Gizy, Bisuntin diocese, said that he wished to defend it in every good way that he could.
Brother John de Aumosne, Paris diocese, said that he wished to defend it with the aid of the brothers, if he were free from prison, as he was at the time of the arrests.
Brother Stephen de Pruin, Sens diocese, who had been before the lords commissioner before following the first papal edict, said that he wished to defend the said order as far as he was able, and if he were out of prison.
Brother Gerard de Moineville of Autun, and William Espaulart, Lingon diocese, said that they wished to defend the said order.
[p.79] Brother Guy de Latigny Seche, diocese of Meldensis, requested to be returned to the state he was in before the arrests, and then he would defend the order, as he said, as was good and just.
Brother Tossanz de Lanchiville, diocese of Beauvais, said that he wanted to defend it with the help of the brothers.
Brother William Ardoyn, Orléans diocese, said that he wanted to defend it as far as he could, with the aid of the brothers.
Brother John de Cormelle, diocese of Soissons, requested to be returned to the state in which he was at the time of the arrests, and then he would defend the order as far as he could, with the aid of the brothers.
Brother Peter of Sarcelles, clerk, of the diocese of Paris, said that he was poor, and if he were in the state that he was at the time of the arrests, he would willingly defend the order, as he said.
Brother P. Picard of Bures, Lingon diocese, asked to be put out of prison, and then he would defend the said order with the aid of the other brothers.
Brother John of Pont d’Evêque, diocese of Noyon [?], said that if he were in the state that he was at the time of the arrests, he would willingly defend the order, but as a prisoner and poor, he could not.
Brother Thomas Quintin, Bayeux diocese, said that he wished to defend the said order, and he sought the aforenamed sacraments of the Church.
The aforesaid things were done on that day and place, in the presence of me Floriamonte Dondedei and the other notaries above named.
Page 178: The interrogation of Brother John de St Benoit, 13 April 1310.
After this, on the following Monday, which was the thirteenth day of the month of April, the said lord archbishop of Bayeux and the bishop of Limoges and the archdeacon of Magalonensis [?], together with us the below-written notaries, went to the aforesaid St Glodoald, to the bishop’s house in that place, in which the said Brother John was lying unwell, and explained to him the reason for their coming. The same brother John, having laid his hand on the holy Gospels, according to the abovewritten form, swore on them to tell the full, complete and pure truth as he knew it and believed it, about the said charges sent by the apostolic see and concerning them, not adding anything false. He would also speak the truth, both in favour of and against the order, and would not give testimony of anything for the sake of prayer or price, love or fear, personal hatred or worldly gain which he would have or might have or hoped to have. When he had given the oath, the same Brother John made his deposition as follows:
Brother John of St Benedict, commander of the house of the Temple of l’Île Bochard, in the diocese of Tours, and born in that diocese, laid sick on his bed, aged sixty years or about that, as he said, gave testimony on oath following the aforesaid form and was carefully interrogated on the charges sent by the apostolic see for the investigation to be made against the Order of the Temple; and first the first charges were carefully laid out before him, which deal with the denial of Christ or Jesus, etc. as far as the charge about spitting on the cross. He said that he was received a good forty years or so ago at La Rochelle, in the diocese of Nantes, by Brother P. de Legion, then commander [p. 179] of La Rochelle, now dead, who in his reception said to him that he had to deny Our Lord, but he did not recall whether he named Jesus or Christ or the Crucified, but he said to the witness that all is one. The witness replied that if he denied him, he would not deny with the heart but with the mouth, and thus he denied him at the instigation of the man who received him into the Order. On being asked whether this was done generally in the Order to everyone or to the greater part, he said that he had received many Brothers but he never did this nor did he see it done to anyone, except to him, as he said, and he did not know what others did, because it did not happen and he did not believe that they did this. When he was asked about the charges about spitting on the cross as far as the article about the cat, which were carefully read out to him, he said that the said Brother P. who received him said to him that he should spit on a certain small cross which was there, and he, at his command, spat next to the cross, not on it, when the said Brother P. had taken him away from the others. When he was asked whether this was done commonly in the Order, he said that he did not do it and he did not believe that it was done by others, because he had never seen it except at his own reception. Again, asked about the charge about the cat, he said he knew nothing. Again, asked about the charge about the sacrament of the altar and on the other things as far as the belief that the Grand Master could absolve them, etc., he said that he believed and had believed in all the ecclesiastical sacraments, and he believed that the Order believed in them, and he believed that the priests of the Order, in their masses, said the words by which [the host] became the body of Christ.
Again, he was asked about the charge that the Master and other commanders of the Order could absolve the Brothers from sin, etc., and on the following charges as far as the article about the kissing. He said that he had never heard it said or believed that they could [absolve Brothers from sin] unless they were priests, nor did he know anything else about those charges. Again, on the charges about the kissing, up as far as the charge about swearing not to leave the Order, he said that he was kissed on the mouth when he was received into the Order, but he did not see what happened to the others, and he did not believe that this [charge] was practised in the Order. Again, when he was asked about the charge of swearing not to leave the Order and the other charges as far as the charge of having sexual relations with each other [p. 180], he said that those who received Brothers made those whom they received swear at their reception that they would not leave the Order, for better or for worse, without the Grand Master’s permission, and that as soon as they were received they were regarded as being fully professed, and that their receptions were generally carried out behind closed doors, and with no one present apart from the Brothers of the Order, and he believed that because of this there was and had been for a long time suspicion against the Order, and he believed that this was commonly done within the Order, and he had done the same and had seen it done by many others.
Again, on the charge about sexual relations and the other charges as far as the charge about the idol, he replied that he had never heard, nor seen, nor knew, nor believed that such vices were carried on or committed in the Order. Again, on the charge about idols and others as far as the charge about not confessing except to priests of the Order, he said that never in his life had he seen any idol in the said Order, nor did he know of any, nor had he adored any, nor had he heard tell of any before his arrest, nor did he believe that there was any idol in the Order, nor the head of any idol, nor that any idol was venerated in the Order, but he said that at their receptions they received a certain cord which they wore tied over their shirt by day and night, and that the whole Order did this. He knew nothing about the other charges, nor had he heard tell of them before his arrest. Again, on the charge that the Brothers were told not to confess except to priests of the Order, he said that the Brothers were forbidden to give their confessions to anyone except a priest of the Order provided one could be found or had, adding that the priests of his Order had the privilege of confessing other Brothers from their sins, just as archbishops and bishops have over their subjects.
Again, on the charge that the Brothers failed to correct these faults, etc., and the other charges as far as the charge of not giving alms, etc., he said that he [p. 181] knew nothing about the contents of these charges and did not believe them, except for what he had said above, and that they were not done Overseas nor in remote parts. He asserted that even when he was at a general chapter of the Templars at Montpellier, he had not heard anything done, nor said, which confirmed the contents of these charges.
Again, on the charge about alms and the others as far as the charge which says that they held their chapters in secret, etc., he said that on the contrary alms were well done and hospitality was well kept up in the said Order, and he kept it up well in the house which he was in charge of, and he never heard or knew that the contents of this charge were instructions or commands given to the Brothers, nor were they said by those in the Order, but he believed that someone from outside had accused them of this; but he knew well that they were accused of this sin unjustly.
Again, when he was asked about the charge of holding chapters in secret and the others as far as the charge that this error was rife and had been rife in the Order, he replied that he had seen chapters held many times, some by day, some by night. When they were held by day, they sometimes had a religious man there from outside the Order who preached to them, and when he had preached the preacher and his companions and everyone except the Brothers of the Order had to leave, and they held their chapter and dealt with business behind closed doors, and he never saw, or heard, that they dealt with anything except good things; he had never seen or knew anything about the other contents of this charge.
Again, asked about the charge that the Grand Master and other grand preceptors of the Order could absolve the Brothers, etc., he replied what he had already replied above, and he did not believe that the Grand Master could absolve people from sin, but he was able to ameliorate the punishments which were due for breaking the Rule of the Order; and as for the other contents as far as the charge that the Grand Master and his convent did this, etc., he replied that he knew nothing more than what he had said.
Again, asked about the charge that the Grand Master [p. 182] did this with his convent, he said that the Grand Master and convent ordained Overseas and gave good instructions as to what should be observed on this side of the sea, but he had never heard that they instructed that any error should be observed. On the other charges as far as the charge that many Brothers left the said Order because of the foul things in the Order, etc., he said that knew nothing beyond what he had already said.
Again, on the charge that many Brothers of the said Order left because of the foul things in the Order, etc., and on the other things as far as the end, he said that many men left the said Order, not because of the foul things and errors which might be in the Order, but for their own personal reasons. He said that many grave scandals had arisen against the Order from these charges which had been brought against it and generated in the hearts of great persons and the people, but he did not know anything except what he had said above. On the confessions of the Master and of the other Grand Commanders and of the confessions of many Brothers, which are said to have been made in the presence of the Lords Pope and Cardinals and in the consistory, he did not know anything, nor was he among them, except that he heard what was in their confessions from a certain papal letter which had been read to him on another occasion.
This was done on Monday, at St Glodoald, in the house of the said bishop, by the said lords bishop of Bayeux and Limoges, and the archdeacon of Magalonensis, and in their presence, with Masters Bernard Filioli, Nicholas de Constances and John de Fellins, notaries public, also present, as they later reported.
These texts were transcribed as part of my research project ‘The Trial of the Templars in the British Isles’, funded in 2003-04 by a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship.
1. June 1308: Brother William de Grafton, commander of the Temple in Yorkshire, is released from prison and entrusted to the keeping of Lord Henry de Percy
Deliberation re the person of William de Grafton of the Order of the knighthood of the Temple.
King Edward II to the treasurer and barons of the exchequer.
We have granted to our dear and faithful lord Henry de Percy that Brother William de Grafton of the Order of the Temple, who has been arrested and is held in our prison, should be delivered into the hands of the said Lord Henry on condition that he will return him to our prison in the same state in which he is now at such time as should please us and he should be reasonably provided for. We instruct you that you have the said brother William handed over into the keeping of the said Lord Henry on the aforesaid conditions and have his mounts and his personal belongings handed over to him and his pledges such as were assigned to him. Given under our private seal at Doustend, 25 June in the first year of our reign (1308).
And John de Noutl’ knight, seneschal of the said Henry, came here with this aforesaid writ, saying that as the said Henry was absent [in an unidentified place] on the king’s business he could not at present come in person, and he asked for the court’s permission to be allowed to take the said Brother William into his keeping in place of Henry, on the conditions set out in the king’s mandate above.
And the treasurer and barons, considering this, in view of the fact that the said Henry was detained in the aforesaid place as was said and that they had the king’s instructions to commit Brother William to his keeping, and that they could not see any danger could arise if the person of Brother William was released into the keeping of the said John according to the conditions set out above, and also that the lord king wishes that whatever involves the said Henry at the royal court should be dealt with quickly, agreed that they would send instructions to the sheriff of York, in whose keeping Brother William is, to hand him over to the keeping of the aforesaid John in place of the aforesaid Henry. And the same John took him into his keeping, to hold him at the king’s will when, etc.. Nevertheless, the said Henry should come here as soon as possible in person to acknowledge that he has William in his keeping according to the aforesaid conditions, or he should send his letters patent giving testimony to this.
[Source: The National Archives: Public Record Office E 368/78, fol. 72 dorse: Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer, Memoranda Rolls, 1 Edw. 11 (1307-8), Recorda: Trinity term.]
2. A typical Templar testimony from the English trial of the Templars
Templar witness no. 43 in the London trial, Nov. 1309
Brother William de Wells of the Order of the Temple took an oath in the same words and form as [the other Templar witnesses had done] above, and was carefully interrogated about himself as principal and others as a witness, and was first asked when, where, by whom, with whom present and by what method he was received into the said order: he replied that he was received 26 years ago and more at Bruer [Lincs.] in the chapel around the first hour [i.e. just after dawn] by Brother Robert de Turville then grand commander in England. Interrogated about those present, he replied that he does not know. Asked whether there was the same method of receiving brothers into the said order everywhere he replied that he does not know about the method of receiving brothers overseas. Again, interrogated on the form of his reception, he replied that he promised obedience, chastity, to live without his own property, to help the Holy Land as far as he could.
Again, interrogated on the first to 8th charges [that the brothers denied Christ, the Virgin Mary and the saints at their reception and the receiver told them Christ is not God, was a false prophet, did not suffer for humanity’s sins and cannot give salvation], he denied all and each of contents of the said charges.
Again, interrogated on the 9th-13th charges [that the brothers spat and urinated on the Cross], he denied all and each of contents of the said charges.
Again, interrogated on the 14th and 15th charges [that the brothers adored a cat]: he denied the contents of the said charges.
Again, interrogated on the 16th-19th charges [that the brothers did not believe in the sacraments of the Church], he replied that he believes in all the sacraments of the altar and the other sacraments of the Church, and he believes that the other brothers believe.
Again, interrogated on the 20th-23rd charges [that the order’s priests did not say the words of consecration during the Mass], he denied all and each of contents of the said charges.
Again, interrogated on the 24th-28th charges [that they believed that the grand master, visitor and commanders of the order could absolve the brothers from sin, although they were only laymen], he replied that they could not absolve from sins.
Again, interrogated on the 29th charge [that even before he was arrested, the grand master had confessed to these things in the presence of important persons], he replied that he did not know what he might have confessed and he had not heard tell of it until now.
Again, interrogated on the 30th-33rd charges [that newly-admitted brothers were kissed on the mouth, the navel or naked stomach, on the anus or base of the spine or on the penis], he admits that they were kissed on the mouth [the normal kiss of peace used in religious services], and denies all and each of the other things.
Again, interrogated on the 34th and 35th charges [at their reception brothers swore never to leave the order, and there was no period of probation as in traditional religious orders], he admits the contents of the said charges and that they could not leave without their superior’s permission.
Again, interrogated on the 36th and 37th charges [that receptions were secret and only brothers of the order were present], he said that the contents of the charges were true.
Again, interrogated on the 38th and 39th charges [that because of this there had long been great suspicion widely held against the order], he replied that he did not believe that there was suspicion, nor was there any grounds for suspicion because there was nothing in the said order except what was good and honourable.
Again, interrogated on the 40th-45th charges [that the brothers were allowed to have sex with each other, did not regard this as a sin, and many did so], he denied all and each of contents of the aforesaid charges.
Again, interrogated on the 46th-57th charges [in each province of the order the brothers had idols with three heads, or one, or a human skull, which they venerated at their general chapters and meetings, as if it were God, and they believed it could give them salvation, make their order rich, and that it make the seeds grow and the trees blossom], he denied all and each of contents of the said charges.
Again, interrogated on the 58th-61st charges [that each brother was given a belt to wear at his reception into the order, which had been wound about the said idol], he admits that they had a belt for decency’s sake, but denies all and each of the other things.
Again, interrogated on the 62nd-68th charges [that those who refuse to do these things during their reception into the order are killed or imprisoned], he denied all and each of contents of the said charges.
Again, interrogated on the 69th-74th charges [that they had to swear an oath not allowed to reveal the details of their reception ceremony to others, even to other brothers, and if they did they were killed or imprisoned], he said that all and each of contents of the said charges are false.
Again, interrogated on the 74th charge [that they could give their confession only to a brother of the order] he denies the contents of the charges because they could confess to others.
Again, interrogated on the 75th-77th charges [that the brothers had not corrected these errors although they had the opportunity to do so], he replied that he had never heard of the aforesaid errors until now.
Again, interrogated on the 78th and 79th charges [that the brothers could procure gains and benefits for the order by legal and illegal means, and did not consider this a sin], he replied that what was contained in the aforesaid charges was false and that they had a precept that they should do justice to all Christians [MS Cotton Julius B XII reads: to all people].
Again, interrogated on the 80th and 81st charges [that all these things were well known and obvious to the brothers and that there was public outcry and common opinion and rumour about them both among the brothers and outside the order], he replied that he knew nothing about rumour nor had he heard about those things until now.
Again, interrogated on the 82nd-85th charges [that an enormous number of the brothers had confessed to these things both in court and outside to important people and public places, and that many brothers and priests of the order had confessed to them on oath in the presence of the pope and cardinals, in full consistory] he replied that if they confessed they lied.
Done in the chapel of St Mary Barking, 17 November 1309, in the presence of the aforesaid friars except the Dominican prior.
[Source: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 454, fols 53v-54r, collated with London, British Library MS Cotton Julius B XII, fol. 81v. Transcribed and translated by Helen Nicholson.]
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This page was created on 17 September 2004 by Dr H. J. Nicholson , revised 10 September 2010 and is valid until September 2011.