The Knights Templar preceptory in Nice (Provence) dated back to as early as 1135. According to one local legend, the first Templar to reside in the area acquired his fortune in a battle with the devil himself. An even more elaborate story exists about the final days of the Knights Templar in Nice. When in 1307 subordinates of King Philip arrested the Knights Templar all over France, members of the Order stationed in Nice (not a French territory at the time) got an early warning about what was coming their way. The legend claims that a Templar chaplain by the name of Guillaume Auger Guigonis was in a secret amorous relationship with Bertrade d’Arlac, the daughter of Nice’s governor. The young woman knew about the calamitous fate of the Knights Templar in France. When she overheard at her father’s castle some conversations about similar measures that were going to take place in Provence she informed her sweetheart, and many knights were able to escape shortly before the arrests in Province began in January of 1308. Some people even believe that Bertrade also assisted Guigonis in finding a safe place for the Knights Templar treasure.
Unwilling to part with Bertrade, the Templar chaplain did not leave Nice until the very last moment. He was eventually apprehended in Aix-en-Provence and was burned at the stake. On the very next morning after his execution Bertrade’s body was found on the rocks directly beneath her father’s castle.
In some modern accounts of this legend it is indicated that in 1822 a supposed tombstone was found among the ruins of the castle in Nice. It bore this inscription:
AG GB + EMMANUEL HA IV MCCC VIII
I was unable to find any trustworthy sources regarding this inscription. For some reason it is construed to be related to the fate of the two lovers in this story. Some authors claim that the name “Emmanuel,” used in Isiah’s famous prophetic words about Christ the Savior, served as a password for Auger and Bertrade.
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