After the Cathars:
The Templars - used and eliminated by Philip 'The Fair' of France
adapted from a thesis by Tafi Olsen
By the eleventh century, the aggressive focus of the Western Church shifted from the fear of paganism to the threat of heresy. Heresy was by 1200 thought to be a terrible disease which could spread through Europe and infect the populace with beliefs and practices threatening to Catholic dogma. The Holy Inquisition was actively seeking out heretics and prosecuting them. Heresy was a dangerous charge that could be used to destroy one's enemies, and when the unpopular King Philip IV of France, called the Fair, heard a vague rumour about the Knights Templar, a military monastic order formed during the Crusades, he had an opportunity to do just that. Though the Templars could hardly be called his enemies, they were a threat to his power and an obstacle between him and the money he so desperately needed - for he had wrecked the economy of his little (but important) kingdom, which at that time was little more than the area of the present Ile-de-France.
Throughout the Crusades (1097-1291), pilgrims travelled to the dangerous Holy Land, and military orders such as the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, also called the Hospitallers, provided aid to the travellers. In 1118 nine knights, inspired by Hugues de Payens, travelled to Jerusalem to offer their services to King Baldwin II of Jerusalem in securing the safe passage of pilgrims, on the model of the Hospitallers of St.John, whose order had been founded earlier. The Poor Fellow-soldiers of Christ and of the Temple Solomon soon became known as the Templars. For a while they occupied the el-Aqsa mosque (the third most holy place in Islam), built on the ruins of the Temple of Solomon. The Knights took their name from the Templum Domini, the Christian church founded with typical arrogance on the Dome of the Rock.
At the Council of Troyes in 1128, the pope recognised the Templars as an official monastic order. Following the Templars' example of monks who fight, the Hospitallers took on a rival military rôle.
The Templars were a handy target for charges of heresy and immorality. Originally, like most Christian orders, they stressed chastity, humility and poverty, but, like almost all Christian orders, became - as an institution - immensely rich, proud and greedy. Nobles from all over Europe gave vast amounts of wealth and property to them. This could be because originally noble knights, princes, and dukes joined the Order.. Not only did secular authorities give money to the Templars, but the papacy and the state bestowed various privileges upon them. For example, the Templars were exempt from taxes, tolls, and tithes; and they were subject to no authority except that of the pope. They controlled entry and exit from Palestine both economically and militarily. They had refused to ransom Louis IX after one of his disastrous expeditions, thus incurring the resentment of the royal house of France. Their occupation of Palestine (like that of the Crusaders) was a series of war crimes.
Their headquarters was the massive Temple of Paris. (Vestiges of its donjon can still be seen in the Square du Temple.) When Philippe 'le Bel' decided to topple the Templars, he was able to tune into waves of resentment against them. When he had tried to extract money from them they had refused, taken their case to the Parlement (founded only in 1250 and largely an instrument of the king) and won their case.
The Rule of the Order made them secretive and ritualistic. Secrecy implied wrongdoing and heresy to the mediæval (as to any fundamentalist) mind. Philip knew that a heresy charge would bring in the Inquisition, over which he had control in France. In order to profit from the prosecution of the Templars, he needed to prove that the Templars, as an institution, were heretical as well as debauched.
Many historians have studied the arrest and trial of the Templars, and most have come to the conclusion that the Templars were innocent of the charges skilfully devised by king Philip. Henry Charles Lea, in A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages and The Guilt of theTemplars, provides an interesting narrative on the prosecution of the Templars. Lea is a firm believer in the innocence of the Order. He takes a positivist approach to the sources by using them at face-value to come to the conclusion of the Templars' innocence. Also, he shows his positivist perspective by discussing mainly the powerful men involved, ignoring the other classes of people not mentioned in the sources.Others, such as G. Legman, believe the Templars were innocent of the accusations. Legman claims the Grand Master of the Templars was homosexual and that, moreover, the Order was guilty of usury. On the whole, though, most historians would agree the Templars were innocent of these charges.
Two important works on the fall of the Templars are Norman Cohn's Europe's Inner Demons and R. I. Moore's groundbreaking book, The Formation of a Persecuting Society which is an important study on the persecution of Jews, lepers, and heretics. He alleges that these three categories of people were subjected to the same stock charges throughout the Middle Ages. Moore believes it was necessary for Europe's rulers to persecute the "other" through governmental institutions in order to secure control over the population. By using the defining characteristics of the groups, and making those characteristics dangerous, their persecutions were justified.and rulers became stronger. Thus European monarchs used persecution to gain power by suppressing those who could question their authority. Moore feels it was necessary for rulers to make a given group of people the enemy in order to gain support from the general population. Thus persecution became a mechanism of the state.
Norman Cohn was influenced by the annalist perspective in looking at Templar history. He considered all aspects of Templar life from warfare to economic matters to personal stories of the torture and trials, but differed from Lea in that he did not just focus on the leaders of the Templars and the two important men in the Order's story, King Philip and Pope Clement, but also discusses lower members of the Order and peasant reaction to the trial.
The Templars' seemingly limitless wealth was apparent when in 1147 King Louis VII of France borrowed a large amount of money from them and repaid them with tracts of land in Paris (mainly the Eastern part of the Marais). The Paris Temple (still remembered in the Métro station and the rues du Temple and Vieille du Temple) became the headquarters of Europe's finances. There, important jewels and money were held for monarchs. Consequently, the Templars established an early system of international banking. Because of their special papal privileges, they were exempt from local taxes which created an unfair advantage over merchants. They were an autonomous group, above secular law or authority and were perceived as arrogant.
In 1291, the last Crusader stronghold fell to the Muslims in Acre, which signified the end of the Crusades. The Templars were consequently left without a military rôle. This left them in a precarious situation. They had made many enemies over the years due to their special privileges and vast wealth. Many were upset the Templars were not fulfilling their military duties by going back to the Holy Land and fighting the Muslims.This is reflected in a poem by Rostan Berenguier written sometime after the fall of Acre:
Since manyTemplars now disport themselves on this side of the sea, riding their grey horses or taking their ease in the shade and admiring their own fair locks;since they so often set a bad example to the world; since they are so outrageously proud that one can hardly look them in the face: tell me, Batard, why the Pope continues to tolerate them; tell me why he permits them to misuse the riches which are offered them for God's services on dishonourable and even criminal ends. They waste this money which is intended for the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre on cutting a fine figure in the world; they deceive people with their idle trumpery, and offend God; since they and the Hospital have for so long allowed the false Turks to remain in possession of Jerusalem and Acre; since they flee faster than the holy hawk; it is a pity, in my view, that we don't rid ourselves of them for good.
This poem is a reflection of one person's thoughts about the Templars. It is unclear how much Berenguier's poem reflects public opinion, but it is likely some were bitter about the Templars lack of military service after the fall of Acre and their vast wealth. In the poem, the Templars' wealth is frowned upon because they were given money and property to help in the wars against the Muslims. Furthermore, the Order is seen as cowardly because it was no longer fighting. Basically, this poem reflects a negative view of the Templars as rich, proud, and useless.
Philip manipulated the charge of heresy to destroy the Order of the Templars. Although the definition of heresy has changed throughout the history of the Catholic Church, it basically means any unorthodox or dissenting idea or belief that is condemned in this case, by the Catholic Church. A heretic, in theory, was a "dissenter formally condemned by an accepted ecclesiastical authority." In the case of the Templars, the Inquisition was the authority involved in determining the guilt of the Order. Heresy was considered to be extremely threatening to the Catholic Church in the late Middle Ages (1250-1450). Often it was perceived as a disease which could spread through and harm communities. Pope John XXII described heresy as "a most pestilential disease besides growing stronger and increasingly serious, grievously infests the flock of Christ throughout the world". Heresy was a problem for the Church because it led to contrary claims to church offices and could possibly lead to division in the Church.
Even before the legalisation of Christianity in the Roman Empire, in 313 CE, there existed people who thought differently from those with ecclesiastical authority. Arianism, which distinguished the relationship between God the Father and Christ, started as a local controversy. Arians did not believe God and Christ were equal and thought Christ inferior to God the Father. The argument grew until Emperor Constantine called together the Councilof Nicæa in 325 CE to resolve the matter. This established the policy of heresies being addressed and adjudicated in church councils. After the Arian heresy, most major heretical sects were condemned in church councils which made canonical laws prohibiting them. Arius of Alexandria, the eponym of Arianism, wrote to Eusebius of Nicomedia "The bishop greatly wastes and persecutes us, and leaves no stone unturned against us. He has driven us out of the city as atheists, because we do not concur in what he publicly preaches . . ." Already those with dissenting beliefs were being publicly persecuted. The Council of Nicæa formed the Nicene Creed to establish the universal orthodox beliefs. Right after the legalisation of Christianity, heretics were being sought and persecuted - as, later, 'pagans' would be and their temples and shrines destroyed.
Occasionally, the bishops needed an outside authority, usually the Roman Emperor, to resolve differences in the church councils. Consequently, Roman Emperors after Constantine saw it as their duty to be arbiters of Church policy. They involved themselves in ecclesiastical laws. Emperors instituted anti-heretical laws in the fifth and sixth centuries.They, a secular authority, established a tradition that the Inquisition, an ecclesiastical authority, would follow of absolving the guilt of heretics. If they confessed and were brought back into the Church. The Theodosian Code of 438 contains laws regarding the prosecution of heretics by secular authorities.One section of the Code states "if any heretics . . . should embrace, by asingle confession, the Catholic faith and rites . . . We decree that they shall be absolved from all guilt . . ." Later Roman Emperors made laws that assigned death and property confiscation to heretics. These are good examples of how there was a tradition of secular authorities taking control of persecuting and absolving or punishing religious heretics.
After the eleventh century, the Church took the lead in seeking out heresy. Pope Lucius III, in 1184, issued the decretal Adabolendam which ordered bishops to root out heretics in their area. This is most likely because new forms of religious dissent had been forming in the twelfth century. Dualism, which argued the existence of two gods, one benevolent and the other malevolent, is one example.In Languedoc, in Southern France, dualist heretics took the name Cathars or Albigensians. Dualist ideas were spreading all over Europe. Ecclesiastical authorities were writing canonical laws about punishing heretics. Pope Innocent III wrote the decretal Vergenti sin 1199 which allowed for the goods and property of convicted heretics to be confiscated. Finally, in 1209, the fear that heresy was spreading led the papacy to launch a crusade against the Albigensians. The 'Albigensian Crusade' lasted from 1209-1229 and ended with the slaughter of many heretics, and huge confiscation of land, but did not fully destroy all dualist heresy.
To fully understand both why and how Philip orchestrated the prosecution the Templars as part of his grand plan to enlarge his dominion and his power, Philip's past relationship with the Order and his financial problems should be examined. Prior to his knowledge of the accusations agains tthe Templars, Philip had relied heavily upon the Order. In 1304, Philip granted them new privileges which turned the Temple into a virtually autonomous city-state within Paris. He spoke well of them and had previously sought refuge in the Paris Temple during a serious riot. Philip originally wanted to combine the Templars and the Hospitallers into one military order to recapture Jerusalem in a new Crusade and make himself king there. Others had tried before to combine the two groups and failed. For instance, in 1274, Pope Gregory X tried to combine the two military orders at the Council of Lyons without success. The two orders were rivals and both wealthy, consequently they refused to be united. Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Templars, did not want to combine with the Hospitallers because, he argued, the competition between the two Orders made them more efficient and he predicted problems in the details of the merger. Because the Templars were virtually autonomous, very wealthy, and powerful, they most likely did not want to share their privileges.
Philip was also in a difficult financial situation. He desperately needed the Templars' money. When Philip began his reign in 1285, the royal finances were already strained. He married Jeanne of Navarre the same year and gained the counties of Champagne and Brie. This was a major step toward his goal of state building because he gained territory over which he could rule, but it further strained his finances. Philip needed money to fight the English in Gascony and the Flemish in Flanders. He was defeated in Flanders in 1302, but had finally been able to assert his authority in 1305. This added the territory of Flanders to his lands, helping him to create a strong state. Flanders was constantly rebelling, and military expeditions to quell rebellion cost money. Consequently, taxes were raised. Philip had, moreover, borrowed five hundred thousand livres from the Templars for his sisters' dowry. He had taxed the people into revolt, debased the coinage, and had previously confiscated the money of the French Jews and expelled them from the kingdom in 1306. Even with the Jews' money, he still needed the Templars' wealth. When the Templars and Hospitallers failed to unite, Philip decided the best action would be to destroy the Templars. He could then use their money to go to Jerusalem and become king.
While Philip was still struggling with his finances, an opportunity arose to destroy the Templar Order. Prior to 1300, the Templars had not been accused of any heretical acts. In 1305, an account began circulating that a Templar had in prison confided to a Frenchman, Esquiu de Floyran, engagement in a number of blasphemous and heretical acts This man subsequently gained the ear of the king. Philip was a shrewd politician who quickly realised that the charges could be used to destroy the Order. He then passed them on to Pope Clement V on November 14, 1305. Nothing else was done about the accusations until August 1307 when Clement wrote back to Philip asking for proof of the charges and telling Philip he would look into them. Philip acted quickly upon receiving Clement's letter. For fear that the Templars would get wind of events and flee, he secretly sent letters out all over France on September 14, 1307, ordering the arrest of Templars and seizure of their property - which occurred on October 13, 1307.
The accusations against the Templars consisted of 127 charges. Most of them centred around the initiation ceremony and can be divided into five separate categories. First, it was alleged, the initiate was told to spit on the cross and renounce Christ three times. He was then stripped naked and the initiator kissed the initiate three times; on the mouth, on the navel, and on his lower back. The initiate was then made aware that sodomy was practised in the Order and he should engage in it if a fellow brother asked him. The next accusation was that the cord which the Templars wore around their waists had been consecrated by an idol which was deep "in a cave excavated in the ground, very dark...an image in the form of a man over which is a human skin and shining carbuncles for its eyes". This idol (whom the rumour-mongers called Baphomet, a corruption of Mohamed) contained a secret book, which only the Grand Master of the Templars and the elders knew about. The final accusation was that the host was not consecrated in the Templars' mass.
They were also accused of "practising Sufism" and being connected with Hussain Sabah, the leader of the Order of Assassins, wrongly accused (as anyone who has smoked cannabis will know) of stoking up their alleged murderousness with hashish or marijuana. Certainly the Templars were influenced by Sufism (itself strongly influenced by Buddhism), which also influenced the whole charade of Chivalry in Europe.
Some of the charges were for the most part standard charges used against several other groups such as Jews, Cathars and other 'heretics', and lepers. All were victims of an enthusiasm for persecution in Europe then - and since. From the time of the first Crusade, Jews were associated with "sex, sorcery, and the devil." This theme was repeated with regard to other groups such as lepers and unorthodox sects. The Templars were also inevitably accused of having abhorrent sexual practices and worshipping the devil through idolatry.
The lack of evidence surrounding the accusations leads most scholars to believe the Templars were innocent of these charges. Henry Charles Lea, in A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, does not support their validity because the confessions the Templars made under torture were mostly different from each other. There was not one universal confession made by all members of the Order. These Templars were also confessing under some of the worst torture of the Middle Ages. At least twenty-five Templars are known to have died under torture - but there must have been many more. The only proof of the accusations against them was the confessions they made while being tortured. In addition, Lea points out that had the Templars been trying to start a new religion of idol-worship, they would most likely have carefully chosen their initiates. Also, would not all the Templars know the new dogma ? In the confessions, the descriptions of this supposed new religion were very different. Some Templars said they renounced God, others said they renounced Christ. Some said they saw the idol and it was black, others said white. Although Lea's views date back to the 1950s, most scholars (but not all) concur.
For instance, G. Legman, author of The Guilt of the Templars, believes they were guilty of the accusations. To begin with, he asserts that Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Templars at the time of the arrest, was guilty of the charge of sodomy because he actually was homosexual. [It is important to interpolate here, however, that anal penetration was overwhelmingly a heterosexual activity up to the 19th century.] He alleges Molay made a deal with the prosecutor that he would confess to sacrilegious charges if he was not accused of sodomy. It is pointless to argue if Molay was or was not homosexual because the charges were against the group as a whole. It was imperative to prove the Templars were guilty, not one individual. Only with the whole Order guilty of the charges could Philip destroy the Templars. Legman also claims they were guilty of usury, which, although true, was not one of the formal accusations made against them. Usury is the practice of lending money and charging interest. Usury was deplored because it was against Catholic teaching - but conveniently practised by Jews. While conceding that none of the Templars agreed on what the idol they supposedly worshipped looked like, Legman insisted that the charges against the Templars were not stock charges because they were not accused of everything the Jews were - and so they were guilty!
To the people of the time the charge of heresy was believable, partly because the Templars were a secretive and ritualistic order. Their Rule, assigned to them at the Council of Troyes in 1128, called for them to wear specific clothes:
We command that all brothers' habits should always be of one colour, that is white or black or brown. And we grant to all knight brothers in winter and in summer if possible,white cloaks; and no-one who does not belong to the aforementioned Knights of Christ is allowed to have a white cloak, so that those who have abandoned the life of darkness will recognize each other as being reconciled to their creator by the sign of the white habits: which signifies purity and complete chastity.
The Rule is very specific about what the members can and cannot wear. It also prohibits "pointed shoes and shoe-laces and forbid[s] any brother to wear them . . . For it is manifest andwell known that these abominable things belong to pagans." By forcing the Order to wear specific clothing, and not allowing other orders to wear white mantles, the Templars were then distinguished as a group set apart. The group was allowed to have long beards, even though the Templars were religious men, to whom beards were normally forbidden. These attributes seemed to make them separate and implied a cult-like status. Because only Templars could wear white mantles and beards, they could invoke the dislike and distrust of other clergy, the lower orders of which were illiterate and often corrupt in any case. After confession of heretical acts or practices, a Knight Templar was forced to shave his beard and remove his white Templar mantle - thus renouncing the Order.
Templars held chapter meetings where all outsiders were excluded and even the cracks in the walls were filled to make sure others could not see what was happening during their meetings. It was reported that a Templar would rather die than tell what happened behind the sealed walls. This added to the feeling that the Templars were a group set apart. They also held their meetings at night, which many believed was connected with the practice of witchcraft. Paul of St. Pere de Chartres described heretics at Orleans in 1022: "They met on certain nights . . . each holding a light in his hand, and called a roll of the names of demons." Because outsiders were not allowed at the meetings, people could misinterpret what the Templars did that needed such secrecy. The initiation ceremony was held in the dark in complete secrecy. If any Templar talked about it, he was expelled from the Order. This explains why most of the accusations against the Templars centre around the initiation ceremony.
Secrecy has long been associated with evil. Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, hundreds of thousands have been persecuted because they worshipped in secret. Heretics were accused of "holding obscene rites in secret, dark places . . . " In the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed that evil had to avoid light. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, of course, lent his devastating authority by declaring that heretics "practise in secret things obscene and abominable . . ."
Because no outsiders were allowed to see what happened behind Templars' walls, people naturally speculated with superstitious and diseased imaginings.. Philip capitalised on heretiphobia by used a heresy charge to arrest the Templars. Consequently, when they were arrested, most people had come to believe they were guilty as charged, and a kind of Fifth Column working against the 'legitimate' order.
Several rumours agglomerated around the Templars after their initial arrest. One was that they would cook the bodies of babies and use the fat to anoint their idol. This is a standard calumny that was attached to 'witches' and heretical groups. For example, Paul of St. Pere de Chartres describes the heretics at Orleans in 1022:
They met on certain nights . . . and each of them grabbed whatever woman came to hand . . .and the child who was born of this foul union was put to the test of the flames after the manner of the ancient pagans, and burned. The ashes were collected .. . There was such power of diabolic evil in this ash that anyone who had succumbed to the heresy and tasted only a small quantity of it was afterwards scarcely ever able to direct his mind away from heresy and back to truth.
Another example of this use of children is found in the accusations against the 'witches' of Simmenthal who, in the fourteenth century, "stole children, killed them, and then cooked and ate them, or else they drained them of their juices in order to make ointment."
Why Philip attacked the Templars and not the Hospitallers - a monastic military order just as the Templars were - was because the Templars were already thought of as ruthless, not trusted by regular clergy who were very likely jealous of the Templars' wealth and privileges. They were resented by secular authorities, some of whom owed them a great deal of money. Then of course, the Templars were uniquely secretive. Finally, after the fall of Acre, the Hospitallers turned into a naval force and kept up their military duties while the Templars did not. Eventually, the Hospitallers ended up running the islands of Malta, where, appropriately, the language is a magnificent hybrid of Arabic and Italian.
The accusations of Esquiu de Floyran appeared at the right time. During the trial of the Templars, Esquiu de Floyran assisted the Inquisition in the torture of the members - which suggests he had some stake in destroying the Order. There seems to be no indication to suggest that Philip was the originator of the accusations against the Templars. It appears to simply have been opportune for Philip to endorse and spread the accusations and give them a fatally-heretical colour or twist for his own ambitious and financial ends.
It is important to understand that as a secular ruler, Philip used religious institutions to destroy the Templars. By arresting them, he was fulfilling his duty as both a secular ruler and a Christian because he was turning over heretics to ecclesiastical authorities and serving Mater Ecclesia. However, heresy charges were usually discovered by the Church through the wandering mendicant orders (friars) and then turned over to the Inquisition to be tried. Once found guilty, the heretics would sometimes be turned over to the secular authorities for punishment. Pope Innocent III's Cum ex officiinostri (1207) says, "Whatsoever heretic . . . shall be found therein, shall immediately be taken and delivered to the secular court to be punished according to law." Philip, on the other hand, having himself "discovered" the supposed heresy of the Templars, turned them over to the Inquisition. The Fourth Lateran Council, held in 1215, had made it punishable for secular authorities not to turn over heretics. The third canon stated: "But if a temporal ruler, after having been requested and admonished by the Church, should neglect to cleanse his territory of this heretical foulness, let him be excommunicated by the metropolitan and the other bishops of the province." On the threat of excommunication by the Church, Philip and other rulers in Europe, had to prosecute all heretics in their territories. The church councils reflect the real fear of heresy throughou tEurope. The Church was so threatened by heresy, it had to propose excommunication to rulers to insure their co-operation in ridding Europe of this terrible disease. The third canon would legitimise Philip's actions because it was his duty to scourge his land of harmful heretics even though the responsibility for identifying them belonged to the church.
By initiating the arrest of a religious group subject to no one other than the pope, Philip was indicating he was more powerful than Pope Clement. Since the establishment of the Inquisition in 1184 by Pope Lucius III, secular rulers had been involved in sentencing those found guilty of heresy. While the Fourth Lateran Council gave Philip permission to rid his lands of heretics, he upstaged the church by initiating the arrest of the Templars before the pope could consider the charges, and himself took control of a religious institution - thus asserting his authority over the pope.
The heresy charge meant the Templars would be brought before the Inquisition, an institution Philip controlled in France. Philip's own confessor, Guillaume Imbert of Paris, was the Grand Inquisitor of France and would be in charge of the Templar trial. Imbert's job was to make the suppression of the Templars legitimate - and to sideline the Papacy.
The torture that the Templars endured was extreme and ghastly. Bernard de Vado was tortured by fire so badly that bones in his feet burnt off. This extreme treatment produced quick confessions which Philip used to his advantage. He sent transcripts of them to Clement after the pope had sent him a letter discussing his indignation at the French king because he had arrested monks subject to no one other than the pope himself. In the letter Clement asked Philip to turn over the Templars and all their possessions to two cardinals, Berenger de Fredole and Etienne de Suissi. But Philip used the confessions (brought about by torture) as evidence, to show the pope the Templars were guilty and thus the cardinals were not required.
The confessions resulted in the pope sending out a papal Bull on November 22, 1307 to all the rulers in Europe, asking them to imprison the members of the Order and hold their property. By forcing Clement to take this action (even though he knew that the charges were trumped up) Philip outmanoeuvred the pope. Having issued his Bull, he could not retract it because the Templars had already confessed their guilt, even though it was under torture. If the pope decided later they were innocent, he himself would be committing heresy. For the Third Lateran Council of 1179 stated:"Heretics and all who defend and receive them are excommunicated." The Fourth Lateran Council also stated: "We decree that those who give credence to the teachings of the heretics, as well as those who receive, defend, and patronise them, are excommunicated . . . " At this time in the Middle Ages, it was thought that all who defended heretics were heretics themselves.
It is important for these events that Clement V was French and had been elected pope with the strong support of Philip. It is probable that there was an agreement between Philip and Clement that Philip would pressure French cardinals to elect Clement pope if Clement would help Philip at a later date. When Philip had the Templars arrested without Clement's knowledge, he was able to go over the pope's authority because Clement (though well aware of Philip's motivation, and himself sympathetic to the Templars) was weak both politically and physically
In October 1307, Philip publicly declared the guilt of the Templars in front of the University of Paris, bishops, and other royal officials. He then summoned the people in front of the royal palace to again denounce the crimes and heresies of the Order. This happened all over France. Philip also sent self-justifying letters to vassals and allies. Templars were also made to stand in front of large groups of people and proclaim their guilt and ask for forgiveness from the crowds.This use of propaganda legitimised Philip's actions against the Templars and made it seem he was acting out of religious zeal.
Thus Philip was portrayed "not as accuser or prosecutor but as the hero of a battle for the faith, the victor of a spiritual conflict which had already been won by the spontaneous confessions made by the guilty enemies of true religion." Working to establish a strong Nation State, he needed to build up a sense of "us" versus the "other" to bring about a feeling of unity: a practice universal amongst despots. With the people behind him, he could persecute those whom he claimed would poison the body politic. It was important Philip appear to be saving society from heresy because of anger at his debasing of the coinage and levying of crippling taxes upon the emergent merchant-class and bourgeoisie, whom he was in the process of franchising to some extent by establishing the Estates General (which lasted up until 1789) an assembly under his control. The confiscation of the heretics' wealth was bound to boost the economy.
As previously mentioned, Philip had tried to conquer Gascony and and needed more money to subdue and forcibly add such territories to his land. He also needed cash to send an army to Jerusalem and take back the Holy Land from the infidel. Previously, in 1306, he had followed the Plantagenet example in England and turned on the Jews (to whom he was in debt) in order to seize their resources. Jews, like the Templars, were easy targets because of their distinguishing characteristics and alien customs and religion. After their arrest and the sequestration of their property, he, like England's Richard I, expelled them - as Ferdinand and Isabella would do to the Spanish Jews, the Sephardim of Sepharad, (Hebrew for Spain, as Ashkenaz is Hebrew for Germany) in 1492.
His behaviour towards the Jews was, of course, a precedent. A few weeks after the Templar arrests, Cristiano Spinola, a Genoese politician, realised Philip's reason for attacking the Order - probably because he also was a politician. Most observers were not so likely to have put two and two together.
At a meeting to which Philip summoned the pope at Poitiers in May 1308, Philip tried to persuade Clement to totally disband the Order. To exert pressure, Philip had a large crowd of French nobles and clergy aggressively pursue the matter with the pope. Philip then hinted that if Clement did not act soon, the pope himself would be suspected of heresy. Later, on October 1, 1310, the Council of Vienne was convened to decide the Templars' fate. Their property was placed in the hands of a commission, while the Templars for appearance sake were allowed to defend their Order - unprepared. On March 28, 1310, 546 Templars assembled to defend themselves. Because Philip had been invited to help the Inquisition, over which he had power, he did not allow those Templars to be heard and at the Council of Sens in April 1310, had 54 Templars condemned as relapsed heretics and burned before they could even retract their confessions. The council had four more Templars burned a few days later to discourage others from defending the Order. The rest either confessed and were 'reconciled' to the Church or spent the rest of their days in jail until they were burned at the stake.
Philip had pushed Clement into an impossible position by forcing the Templars to confess and showing the confessions to Clement. When the pope sent out his Bull in November 1307, he could not later retract his assertion of their guilt. By doing so, as stated earlier, he would have himself been guilty of heresy. Consequently, when other Templars came to him to defend the Order, he had to destroy them to save himself. After the Council of Sens, seven others came forward to defend themselves and Clement had them thrown in jail before hearing them. On March 19, 1314, the leaders of the Templars, including the Grand Master Jacques de Molay, were brought forth from jail. They publicly retracted their confessions. This angered Philip who had them burned without a trial as relapsed heretics. Philip had the power to do this because the Order had already been condemned as a whole and it was written in the church councils that secular authority had the power to punish heretics after they had been proven guilty by the ecclesiastical authority. The Fourth Lateran Council says: "Those condemned, being handed over to the secular rulers or their bailiffs, let them be abandoned, to be punished with due justice." Philip therefore had legitimate authority to burn relapsed heretics.
In other countries the Templars were not prosecuted, although they were ordered by the pope to be taken into custody. In England, King Edward II wrote to Clement begging him to ignore the accusations and to "resist the calumnies of envious and wicked men." He was referring to Philip and was possibly threatened by Philip's method of state-building. He also wrote to Europe's other rulers and asked that they ignore the accusations also. However, because Pope Clement had sent them a papal bull, Edward was forced to seize the Templars' property, but the members of the Order were not put into prison. English law did not incorporate torture and, consequently, the Inquisition had no power there to force confessions from the Templars. Later, the inquisitors got permission from the king to use torture "in accordance with ecclesiastical law." The Inquisition was never successful in England, most likely because they did not have a driving force behind the accusations like Philip. In Scotland, Ireland, and Germany, little action was taken against the Templars. Some of their property was seized but later there were accounts that the Hospitallers were complaining that the Templars still had possession of some of their property. Rulers in other countries who did not have anything to gain by the prosecution of the Templars ignored the accusations.
Eventually, most of the Templars' property was given to the Hospitallers, and the Order was abolished. It was decreed that those who would thereafter assume the Templar habit would be excommunicated. Philip thus accomplished his goal of destroying the Order and collecting their money. He did not have to pay back the debts he owed them and he 'reclaimed' their treasure that he claimed belonged to the growing kingdom of France.
As he walked to the pyre on the Îlot des Juifs (now Île du Square du Vert-Galant, a tiny island in the centre of Paris), Jacques de Molay pronounced a curse on both King Philip and Pope Clement, predicting that neither would live out the end of the year (1314). The pope died just a month later from a mysterious disease, while the king was killed a few months later in a riding accident.
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