Primary sources and documents

Missing letter

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A popular collection of essays entitled “The Templar Papers: Ancient Mysteries, Secret Societies, and the Holy Grail” contains an article by Sandy Hamblett in which she attempts to answer some questions regarding the Knights Templar origins. In order to prove the possibility of hermetic inclinations on the part of some Crusaders, she alludes to a letter written Gerbert of Aurillac (who later became Pope Sylvester II). Hamblett quotes Jean Markale’s book The Templar Treasure at Gisor.

This Pope had (some 100 years before the first crusade) suggested in a letter that he “hopes France would recover the holy places so that a search could be made for the keys to the Universal Understanding hidden there.” This of course suggests that knowledge of some sort was known, and that it would necessitate a search of the Holy Places. (p. 34)

This sounds like very unusual words for the future pope to utter, and with good reason: Hamblett is not quoting the letter (as it might appear), but instead its paraphrase or summary, given by Markale. However, Jean Markale adds that the letter’s authenticity has never been proved! Thus far, I was unable to find any source that actually contains this letter. It does indeed seem that it would be interesting and possibly even relevant to the history of the Knights Templar. But at the moment I am not even sure that this letter even exists.

Templar resistance in Germany: 1310

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In 1310, prior to the council of Vienne, a local council was convened by Peter, the Archbishop of Mainz. Acting on the orders from Pope Clement V, the council was supposed to participate in determining the fate of the Knights Templar. However, the main reason for which this council is remembered is one the most stunning displays of Templar resistance to unfair treatment of the Order by both ecclesiastical and civil authorities that took place that day in Mainz.

As soon as the council began its deliberations, the meeting was interrupted by an impressive spectacle of Templar might: At least twenty knights clad in Templar uniform and fully armed (probe armati) burst into the building. The group was headed by Count Hugo of Grünbach (or possibly Grumbach). When the archbishop, fearing bloodshed, offered the count to take seat and to state his business in a calm fashion, Hugo instead stood in the midst of the assembly and addressed it in a loud and clear voice. The count explained that he was aware of the council’s intent to judge him and his comrades for crimes that they themselves found most disturbing and vile. Hugo made it clear that he believed the present pope to be an unfair and ruthless tyrant (to quote one account of the incident), therefore he expressed his wish to petition the future pope of Rome. He thought that the innocence of the Order could be demonstrated to a newly elected Supreme Pontiff. As one way of proving the Templars’ good standing in matters of faith count Hugo claimed that when brothers of the Order were burnt at the stake the red crosses on their mantles remained intact. The Archbishop had little choice but to grant the Templars their wish. However, because Clement V was alive (although rumors about his health problems already circulated, as it becomes clear from Hugo’s speech) the bishop wrote to him. In response, Peter was ordered to continue investigating the Knights Templar. According to  Jacob of Mainz, in June of 1311 the Archbishop of Mainz granted absolution to the Knights Templar in his region, on the grounds of their innocence.

There is little doubt that the incident indeed took place, although some details are unclear. The story appears in Johannes Nauclerus’ Chronica and Jacob of Mainz is named as its source. It appears that another handwritten account was used by Nicolaus Serrarius and reproduced in Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, t. 25. Nicolaus Gürtler in his Historia Templariorum indicates Nauclerus as his main source, however the speech that he attributes to Count Hugo does not appear in Chronica or elsewhere. Whether Gürtler composed this little oration himself (which is somewhat out of character for him) or took it from yet another account, it certainly represents the dramatic mood on the day of the incident:

Ego quidem, Moguntine Praesul, audio hac vos convenisse die ut me meosque fratres, sancti atque nostro sanguine occupati diusque defensi et Christianis servati templi milites, heic mecum stantes, devoveatis diris, et omni suppliciorum genere e medio tollatis: scito autem, et praesenti clero tuo indicato, quia gravius quam pro merito in sanctissimum et rei Christianae utilissimum Ordinem animadvertitur, me et meo et fratrum meorum injuste oppressorum nomine, Romanum Pontificem in Clementis iniquissimi juxta et inclementissimi tyranni locum proxime eligendum appellare, cui Ordinis nostri innocentiam, totique Christiano orbi probabimus.

So I heard, prelate of Mainz, that you have convened today in order to invoke dire curses upon me and my brothers standing here with me, the Knights of the Holy Temple that was conquered by our blood, defended for a long time and preserved for the Christians, and to remove us from your midst by every kind of punishment. But you should know now and tell your clerics present here that, because our Order, holy and most valuable for Christendom, is being prosecuted more gravely than it deserves, on behalf of myself and my unjustly oppressed brothers, I call for the immediate election of a new Roman Pontiff instead of Clement, the unfair and ruthless tyrant. To that Pontiff and to the entire Christian world we will prove the innocence of our Order.

Knights Templar Undercover

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Among the depositions taken during the trials of the Knights Templar in England there is one interesting claim by brother Thomas Totti.

Et dicit, quod praesens fuit in curia Romana, et alloquebatur poenitentiarium domini papae; et tam ibi, quam alibi in regno Franciae audivit multos confitentes plura de dictis articulis. Et dicit, quod ante unumquemque egressum suum habuit licentiam a magistro ordinis in Anglia, per literam, quod posset exire in habitu seculari, et explorari et procurare ea, quae essent utilia pro ipsis, et pro ordine; et quod ultra mare, et citra, et in curia Romana semper gestabat sub pannis secularibus chlamydem habitus sui, et adhuc gerit in praesenti. (D. Wilkins. Concilia Magnae Britanniae et Hiberniae. London. 1737, v.2, 368.) [click to continue…]

Knights Templar wealth and power – a typical will

capitulaireAlphonse Jourdain, count of Toulouse lays down legal grounds for donations to the Order of the Knights Templar:

Anno ab incarnatione Domini MCXXXIIII. Ego, Idelfonsus, comes Tolosanus. do et offero Deo et militibus Xpisti qui in Templo Salomonis Deo serviunt et civitatem sanctam cum habitatoribus custodiunt, advenientes quoque et redeuntes defendunt, tantam potestatem et licenciam in omni terra mea, quantam in partibus orientis a rege Iherosolimitano, a principe Antiocetio et a comite Tripolitano habent, videlicet ut quisquis in omni provincia mea aut se ipsum aut pecuniam aut terram aut villam aut castellum aut etiam civitatem vel aliquid horum que a me feualiter tenent eis dare voluerit, et ipse dare, nullo calumpniante. et ipsi accipere libere possint, ut in eternum domus militum lherosolimitana possideat ac vice hereditario in perpetuum teneat, nulli pro his nisi Deo soli serviens. Factum et confirmatum est donum istud in curia Sancte Marie de Podio, in die assumptionis ejusdem, cernentibus et audientibus istis Guillelnimo, episcopo Podiensi, Raimundo Berengario, comite Barchinonensi, Guillelmo de Monte Pessulano, Rotgerio Biterrensi, Rostagno de Sabrano et multis aliis. [click to continue…]






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