Friday, October 05, 2007

Something for the conspiracy-theorists...

Via the Telegraph:
The mysteries of the Order of the Knights Templar could soon be laid bare after the Vatican announced the release of a crucial document which has not been seen for almost 700 years.
A new book, Processus contra Templarios, will be published by the Vatican's Secret Archive on Oct 25, and promises to restore the reputation of the Templars, whose leaders were burned as heretics when the order was dissolved in 1314.
The Knights Templar were a powerful and secretive group of warrior monks during the Middle Ages. Their secrecy has given birth to endless legends, including one that they guard the Holy Grail.
Recently, they have been featured in films including The Da Vinci Code and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
The new book is based on a scrap of parchment discovered in the Vatican's secret archives in 2001 by Professor Barbara Frale. The long-lost document is a record of the trial of the Templars before Pope Clement, and ends with a papal absolution from all heresies.

Prof Frale said: "I could not believe it when I found it. The paper was put in the wrong archive in the 17th century."
The document, known as the Chinon parchment, reveals that the Templars had an initiation ceremony which involved "spitting on the cross", "denying Jesus" and kissing the lower back, navel and mouth of the man proposing them.
The Templars explained to Pope Clement that the initiation mimicked the humiliation that knights could suffer if they fell into the hands of the Saracens, while the kissing ceremony was a sign of their total obedience.
The Pope concluded that the entrance ritual was not truly blasphemous, as alleged by King Philip when he had the knights arrested. However, he was forced to dissolve the Order to keep peace with France and prevent a schism in the church.
"This is proof that the Templars were not heretics," said Prof Frale. "The Pope was obliged to ask pardon from the knights.
"For 700 years we have believed that the Templars died as cursed men, and this absolves them."
Hmmmmm... I'm not going to speculate how reliable or unreliable this particular report is.


Paul said...

Uhm, this isn't new information -- the alleged details of the rituals have been part of the historical record regarding the Templar trial for years, as has Clement's sympathy towards the order. The work of John Riley-Smith and Desmond Seward has demonstrated the papacy's suspicion regarding Philip's charges, and the resulting lengths that Philip went to in order to keep the trial in local, not Papal, courts. I guess it's nice to have it all on one original piece of parchment, but this isn't earth-shattering to anyone who has kept up with the serious historical research in the area.

Anonymous said...

This appears to be the official response to an appeal by modern-day followers of the Templar tradition.

A letter to the Pope from living descendents of the Templars appeared in the press in 2004. "We shall witness the 700th anniversary of the persecution of our order on 13th October 2007," the letter said. "It would be just and fitting for the Vatican to acknowledge our grievance in advance of this day of mourning."

On 25 October 2007, exactly 13 days from the morning of the anniversary, an official document will be released by the Vatican absolving the Knights Templar and confirming their innocence.

Full story with sources and additional reading material:

Boeciana said...

For 700 years we have believed that the Templars died as cursed men, and this absolves them.

Er... As far as I knew, for 700 years we have believed that the king of France (the formidable Philip IV) really twisted the Pope's arm (poor Clement V), and that, whatever the Templars may or may not have been doing, the trials were a highly unsavoury business. As Paul above suggests.

More documentation about the trial is always interesting. Good to know that misfiling continues to allow historians to make archival discoveries!