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Primary sources and documents

Knights Templar treasure: a primary source


Are you reasonably well read in modern Templar research? Then you probably have heard about 18 ships leaving the port of La Rochelle on the eve of the arrests in France. This story is supposed to be almost the only piece of evidence regarding the fate of the Order’s treasures and it comes from the records of the trials. Numerous books repeat this account as their authors struggle with the question of where the Templar fleet went from La Rochelle. I will give you examples from very different writers.

The most commonly touted escape route of the Knights has long been claimed to be the port city of La Rochelle, about 300 miles from Paris. During the trials, Jean de Chalon testified that Gerard de Villiers, Preceptor of the Paris temple, had fled the country with 50 horses and 18 ships. The Templars did indeed have ships, but again, surely someone on the king’s side, privy to the arrest order, would have noticed streams of Templars making their way to La Rochelle, as well as unusual activity on the docks around the Templar
ships. There is no record of such a mass exodus.

Christopher Hodapp, ‎Alice Von Kannon. The Templar Code For Dummies.

Although all this frustrated Philip, his greatest frustration was the disappearance of the treasure from the Paris Temple Bank. It had reportedly been loaded on a wagon train that raced for the port of La Rochelle. There the treasure was placed aboard the Templar fleet, again flying the skull and crossbones, from which it disappeared once more.

Steven Sora. Secret Societies of America’s Elite. From the Knights Templar to Skull and Bones.

If the Order knew what Philip’s plans were in advance, that might explain why the French king was unable to find the Order’s treasure (assuming it to have been actual, rather than metaphorical), which was said to have been smuggled out of the Paris Temple shortly before the arrests and taken by river to the Templars’ main naval base at La Rochelle. How many Templar ships sailed from La Rochelle in the autumn of 1307 is unknown – what they were carrying likewise – but one thing is known: the Templar fleet vanished utterly.

Sean Martin, The Knights Templar.

Somehow, however, the actual original account (which exists and is available in Latin) where this story comes from is never quoted. So, here is your chance to find out how second hand history happens. [click to continue…]

Missing letter


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


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: [click to continue…]

Knights Templar Undercover


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…]