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2.7 Modern View

The questions asked to the Templars during their interrogations were very wide open and were very well written by competent lawyers who were specialists in the past heresies that had created problems to the church. They aimed to discover if the Templars were Gnostics, “Docetes”, Manicheans or Cathars believing in Dualism (that is in the existence of two divinities, the good one and the bad one). They also wanted to know if they had become Moslem. However their more important question aimed to discover if the Templars considered Jesus as a false Prophet, as a common law criminal, who had been crucified for his crimes. In this case the Templars were among those who were crucifying Jesus Christ a second time according to the King Philip the Fair statement. The Inquisitors knew this problem very well. One hundred years before some “Parfaits” Cathars had talked to them about this interpretation of the History of Jesus Christ. This new image of Jesus was already known to the Church but only to the high dignitaries. It was written in the archives of the Roman Empire. However after Constantin the story had been rewritten to suit the Church. It was also known by the Jews but their persecution had also aimed at destroying this information. It had been known of the Cathars and they had been suppressed with all their documents. The Cathars informed the Templars and it was their turn to be destroyed. The proof of this transferred knowledge exists and some prisoners admitted to know. The Templars began to be aware of the true story of Jesus in the middle of the 13th century. Probably they learned it in some manuscripts they found in the Holy Land. They could also have been informed by Learned Arabs or Jewish Cabbalists or directly from “Parfaits” Cathars. However it happened, they learned that the true historical face of Jesus was different from the legend that was and is being told by the Christian Church to the faithfuls. Probably these secrets were known by secret Masters of the Order answering only to the higher grades of the Order. The denial of Jesus as a Prophet was introduced in the Order by Roncelin de Fos a totally unknown Templars. He is thought to have introduced in Europe this knowledge from the Holy Land. He became aware of some documents that had escaped the destruction ordered by the Church and telling the real story of the origin of Christianity. This led to the rejection of the dogma of the Divinity of Jesus Christ and to come back to the Single God common also to the Jews and the Moslems. We can assume that a secret society was created within the Order to study this aspect of the History of Christ. It depended directly from the top level in the hierarchy and its members were not known. As a result the new recruits were asked to reject the cross. Those who refused to do it were sent to fight and die in the Holy Land while the others remained in Europe and little by little were introduced to the new knowledge and finally to the secret society. The final aim was to conquer the whole world to the new ideal. This required that the new knowledge remained a secret within the Order. It was the case for a long time but finally some Brothers spoke to outsiders and the King became aware of the Templars’ intentions. He took this opportunity to destroy them in agreement with the Pope. Obviously they had some interest in common to do it. The robbery of the Templars’ properties, their trial and finally their death destroyed the hope for a united Europe as well as the creation of a Religion common to all the people. (i)

Roncelin de Fos was the Knight of the little harbour still known by the name of Fos-sur-Mer. He was the vassal of the King of Aragon that helped the Cathars in the battle of Muret in 1213. Moreover Fos is not far away from Béziers where 100.000 Cathars and Catholics alike were killed by the army of Simon de Monfort on 22 July 1209. He probably disliked very much the Catholic Church for its involvement in this massacre. However the minutes of the interrogations of the Templars were rather low key in relation to the opinions expressed on Jesus. Probably this was done on purpose. To record the opinion of the “Parfaits” Cathars and some Templars on Jesus was to undermine the work of destruction of the traces of the true story of Jesus realised by the Fathers of the Church and later on by the Monk-Copyists. The later ones not only copied the older manuscripts before they were destroyed but also corrected their content to adapt it to the official creed. This explains why very few minutes of the interrogations of the Parfait Cathars or of the top grade Templars are available. On the opposite we have a lot of information on the interrogations of the simple believers but their knowledge of the doctrine was very limited. The Cathars did not really believe in Jesus-Christ as a human being and God at the same time. They did not believe either that he died on the cross to save the world or that Mary was his real mother in the normal sense of the word. For these reasons it must be assumed that the Cathars were not Christians and that they cannot be assimilated to the early Christians. They were in fact pure Manicheans and they did not believe in the Incarnation, the Passion, the Resurrection and the Ascension. The Templars followed the same road and in the end they were destroyed by the Temporal and Spiritual Authorities for the same reasons as the Cathars. They were in fact on the road leading them outside Christianity. (i)

A few months after the King Philip the Fair’s death, on 30 April 1315, his favourite Enguerrand de Marigny, the follower of Nogaret et Plaisians, was hanged in Montfaulcon. His last advice to Philip the Fair was to prevent women to climb to the throne.

The way the Templars were treated has to be judged taking into account the habits of the time. In these conditions it can be said that they were not treated differently of many other organisations or people who, for a reason or another, displeased the Kings or the Popes. They have a special place in History only due to the large number of people and the level of the personalities involved. Moreover the only suggestion of a Catholic order to be fully corrupted and practising such horrors shook the whole Church. It is true the ecclesiastic commissions in the other countries did not obtain any of the confessions gathered in France. But the suppression of such a well-known and powerful order by the Pope made the people very suspicious. Even at the present time there is still a lot of suspicion about what really happened. The imaginations of the people have charged them with all the possible sins of the world and this without the slightest historical justification. They have been accused of esoterism, sorcery, of having magical power, to have mastered all the secret of alchemy, to be at the origin of the Masonic sects, … The so-called secrets of the Templars have been described in hundred of books and however there is no historical bases to justify that they had any. However the myth goes on and probably will go on for many more centuries as it is also the case for the treasury of the Cathars. The discovery in 1972 of graffiti in the tower of the Chinon Castle where some Templars have been kept prisoners fed the imagination of the people who made the discovery. They could not possibly be from the time of the Templars but many people thought that they had magical or hermetic meaning not to mention that they could reveal the knowledge of the order in the field of alchemy. The mistake is even less understandable since real Templar inscriptions have been found long before in the same tower. But the people are always willing to believe in such strange stories and no logical reasoning can make them see the truth. If the Templars had all this knowledge that there are supposed to have, why did not they use them when they were on the point of being burn to death?

On the other hand the graffiti that can really be traced to the Templars are very interesting and have helped to understand their feelings during their stay in prison. From these inscriptions they claim their innocence of the accusations and proclaim the injustice of their destiny as well as the tortures they were submitted. The research going on in this direction will help to clarify the real history of the Templars.

It must be remembered that in their times they had the respect of their natural enemies, the Moslems that they have fought for many years. In many instances the guarantee given by the Templars was enough to allow the execution of the treaties concluded between the Moslems and the Christians. They were also tolerant allowing for instance the Moslems to keep their Mosques on the territory under their control. Their courage in battle was well known. They knew that if defeated they would be massacred by their adversaries. There was no way to be bought back in their case. The Order did not pay ransom. As a result of the defeat of Hattin in 1187 for instance, hundred of Templar and Hospitaller prisoners were decapitated by the Moslems whereas the other prisoners were saved. The only Templars to escape death in this case was their Master, Gérard de Ridefort. Historical knowledge at this date leads us to believe that he betrays the Order to save his life.

The loss of Jerusalem and the impossibility to take it back later on is a black spot on the fame of the military orders. It is well known that the Templars and the Hospitallers fought each other afterwards instead of fighting the Moslems. This did not do any good to the reputation of the Templars in the public opinion of the 13th century. The Hospitallers suffered less due to their continuing activities with the wounded and the sick. Moreover the Templars were known for their arrogance and their meanness due to their activity as bankers. The worse accusation came from the Emperor Frederick II who tried to take back Jerusalem by diplomatic means. When this failed in 1244 he tried to justify himself by blaming the second loss of Jerusalem on the Templars, who, he said, did not help him as the Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights did. These accusations were used and amplified by Nogaret to allow Philip the Fair to obtain their condemnation and the dissolution of the Order. Among the most unbelievable inconsistent accusations we can mention the “Baphomet” idol and the “secret of the rule”. In fact the word Baphonet is only a deformation of the word “Mahomet” and has been used in many written works and is part of the folklore of the time. In the same way the “secret of the rule” or the interdiction to reveal what is said or done in the Chapter is common to most orders. The Rule, in most orders, is only revealed to the new recruits and they are supposed not to reveal it as it is the case for the confession. The rule was perhaps applied with more rigour by the Templars because of the military nature of the order.

In the same way the other accusations contained in the arrest papers and used later on in their trials can not sustain a critical analysis. The use of the words sacrileges, blasphemies, impieties of all sort are part of the normal repertory of this kind of trials at the time of Philip the Fair and were often used by Guillaume de Nogaret. These words have sometime a Cathar origin as the misuse of the cross or the horror of women as witnesses the word sodomy. As we know the Parfaits were submitted to severe penance if they only touched a woman even by accident. Woman, the main factor in procreation was considered as the agent of the bad God, the creator of the Universe that the Cathars wanted to destroy. Only a few present Historians still defend Philip the Fair’s theory that the Templars were guilty as charged. An examination of the accusations and of the evidence leaves little doubt: all the confessions were obtained under heavy tortures and, strangely enough, only in France with very few exceptions. It is of course possible that some Templars were corrupt but their number was very limited. The evidences presented at the trial came from very few brothers most of them of low grade or new in the Order. It is only to be noted that only the innocents had to fear the King’s justice. The guilty brothers had only to admit their mistakes immediately and in doing so they avoided the tortures and were considered as repentant sinners. Those, on the opposite, that first admitted their mistakes under torture and came back later on their confession were handed to the Inquisition. They were considered as hardened sinner and as such generally burned on the stake.

It is also strange that the arrest could be executed so rapidly and so completely. In fact practically no French Templars escaped the arrest. The general opinion is that at least a few dignitaries were involved and saved their life in this way. Nowadays the military importance of the Templars has been downgraded. It is a fact that in Europe they had no real military strength. Their commanderies had no fortification and their main activity was the agriculture. This explains also why it was so easy to arrest them. On the other hand it is clear that Philip the Fair was interested in taking their large properties and wealth even if their value was smaller that he thought or hoped. It is however clear that many of the properties were sold for the King’s profit before the Order was suppressed by the Pope Clement V. He had to accept in the end the papal decision that their properties -or at least what was left- had to be transferred to the Hospitallers. However in addition to what he was able to sell he cashed the income for the period of at least five years when they were under his authority. The transfer of the Templar properties to the Hospitallers started in 1313. However the operation was very slow and the King’s agents made all they could to render it difficult. It is obvious that the King was interested, not only to take the wealth of the Templars, but also to destroy a military order that was interfering with his wishes to become an absolute monarch. The temporal power was not enough for him and his successors. They also wanted to become the spiritual head of their country. For example François I by the 1516 Concordat was allowed to nominate the priests and the bishops in France and Louis XIV revoked the Nantes Edit and put the siege to Avignon to intimidate the Pope Innocent XI. The suppression of the Templars announced, in a certain way, the suppression of the Jesuits at the end of the 18th century even if the procedure was not the same. It is true to-day, as it was then, that an absolute temporal authority cannot accept to exist together with a free spiritual power. (r)