Payen de Montdidier - co-founder of the Knights Templar

Payen (Paganus, Païen) de Montdidier was one of the founding members of the Knights Templar. He is one of the more obscure members of whom little is known. A quick scan in public sources showed that reliable data on Payen himself are very scarce indeed. At the same time, there is more than enough information to show the importance of his family and the contribution he made to the Templars. What are the facts?

Montdidier is a commune in the Somme department in the administrative region of Hauts-de-France (historically Picardy), northern France. The commune has existed since before Roman times, possibly corresponding to the site of Bratuspance. Under Charlemagne, a donjon was built in the north-west of the town, on a chalk promontory, nowadays the site of the Prieuré. It was here, in 774, that Desiderius, king of the Lombards, was held prisoner by Charlemagne, giving the town its name (in French, Didier).

Around the year 948, the first church was built near the castle by Heldwide, the wife of Hilduin I (ca 970 - 1037), first of the house of the Counts of Montdidier, which county is usually seen as sister to or even part of the County of Vermandois.
Herbert (Hilduin, Hildouin) IV de Vermandois, Montdidier and Roucy (ca 1032-1080) became possessor of the county of Montdidier. After the death of Herbert IV, Hugues de France, son to Henri I, King of France and younger brother of the later King Philippe I of France (1052-1108), found himself by marriage (1080) to Adèle de Vermandois and Montdidier (1045-1121, daughter of Herbert IV), in possession of these counties, whose name and arms he took. 

Renamed Hugues I de Vermandois, he partricipated in the First Crisade of 1096 with a large contingent of his own, part of the army of Godfrey of Bouillon. He fought at the siege of Nicaea and at Dorylaeum. After the capture of Antioch, where he earned the nickname "Great", the Turks came to besiege the city. Hugues, discouraged, abandoned the crusaders and returned to France without having fulfilled his vow. The capture of Jerusalem covered him with shame and, to repair his failure, he returned to Palestine. There he was wounded in a fight on the banks of the River Halys after which he died at Tarsus, in Cilicia around 1102. 

After Hugues' I death in the Orient his son Raoul I (1094-1152) became count of Vermandois and Montdidier. He was buried at Montdidier, having decided so before his death. So Montdidier had special meaning for him, probably because his great-grandfather Raoul IV de Crespy/Valois/Vexin (1055-1074) had originally been buried there too, according to his specific wish. His mother, Adèle de Vermandois retained, after the death of her husband, Raoul's father, the administration of both counties Vermandois and Montdidier. Mother Adèle often resided in Montdidier. In 1114, she held her court of justice there. After the death of Adèle, around 1121, her other son Simon inherited the title of Count of Montdidier.

Payen de Montdidier was probably born in about 1075/1080, obviously in the House of Montdidier. To which branch could not be established by TN. Around his birth the tilte resided either with Herbert IV de Vermandois, Montdidier (until 1080) or Hugues de France, renamed Hugues I de Vermandois. Around Payen's twenties Adélaide de Vermandois/Montdidier/Amiens/Valois would probably have held the very powerfull position of mater familias, being widowed in 1102 to Hughes I, son to the King of France, and her remarrying in 1103 to Renault II, Count of Clermont, and factually ruling the Counties of Vermandois, Montdidier, Amiens andValois.

The family scetch presented above already illustrates the importance of the Vermandois/Montdidier family. To this may be added that in its ancestry there were other direct important links, such as to Charlemagne himself as well as the more contemporaneous Counties of Champagne, Blois, Valois and Amiens. His contemporary niece Marguerite de Amiens (1105-1132), daugther of Countess Adelaïde from her second marriage to Renault II, Count of Clermont (1070-1162), married Charles I, Count of Flanders (1083-1127). So lines with major nobility, nearby and far away, were strong and short indeed.

It is also said that Payen de Mondidier was by family related to another Founder, Archambauld de Saint Amand. For now no proof of this was encountered, but some extra effort will be made when TN investigates that founder. 

There is no information on how and when Payen de Montdidier went to the Holy Land. But his age being about 20 in 1096, it is not unthinkable that he accompanied his prominent family member Hugues I Count of Vermandois when he headed a part of the first crusader army to the East. It is certain however that Payen was in the Holy Land, holding a more than obscure position. In 1127 he joined a small delegation of crusaders from the East, that was sent to Pope Honorius III in Rome to alert him to the precarious situation of the crusaders and Christians in the recently conquered territories. This group consisted of Hugues de Payns, the first Templar Master, Geoffroy de Saint-Omer, Archambauld de Saint-Amand, Geoffrey Beisol, Bernard Roland and Payen de Montdidier. The mission of the trip was to beg the Pope to organise a new crusade as well as directly mobilise men and means. For that latter purpose Hugues de Payns not only visited Rome but travelled extensively around France and England

In the Flemish countryside this mission met immediate succes. The foundations of the Templar financial power in Flanders were laid as early as 1127, when the Temple received the elevation right - a kind of inheritance right - over all the count's loans in Flanders, first from William Clito, and later, in a deed of 13 September 1128, from Diederik of Alsace. Last donation took place during a ceremony at St Peter's Church in Cassel, which was also attended by Godfrey of St Omer. This example was contagious to a number of nobles, who also ceded the elevation rights on their borrows to the Templars; for the French Netherlands we mention Baudouin, viscount of Lens; Hugo Campus de Avena, count of St.-Pol; Rogier II, viscount of Lille; Henry I, viscount of Broekburg and Gerard, viscount of Cassel. The contribution of the French Netherlands to the temple order was undoubtedly important.

Payen de Montdidier is named with Hugues de Payns and Godefroy de Saint-Omer in two deeds: a donation from Thierry de Flandre in 1128 and another donation that took place in Troyes, shortly after the council in 1129. As early as 1130, the Bishop of Noyon (now Oise department, at the northern edge of Paris) gave them the annates of the prebends of his cathedral. Among the names mentioned in the deed is that of Nivard, nicknamed Payen de Montdidier, a knight of the Temple, to whom the founder Hugues had entrusted the care of the Order's affairs in this region, i.e. in the diocese of Noyon and no doubt also in the diocese of Amiens.

It has been assumed that the commandery of Fontaine-sous-Montdidier, which in 1307 had a house in Montdidier proper, as well as in Rocquencourt, Belle-Assise, Jumel and Rollot and counted about 40 managing Sergeants, was originally an early donation to the Order by Payen de Montdidier himself. 

In 1130, Hugues entrusted Payen de Montdidier with the management of property (curam rerum suarum) in the region of Flanders as well as Northern France (in partibus istis). On this occasion, he was known as "Nivardus, cognomine Paganus de Mondisderio", the same name mentioned in the above mentioned deed. There is no explanation for the use of this name.

In 1130 Hughes the Payns had sent Payen de Mondidier to England to continue the acquisition work Hugues had started there during is round trip in 1128. King Stephen granted Payen the right to build an whole string of new Preceptories. Amongst others, he established a Preceptory at Oxford, England because of strong support from Queen Matilda, before marriage Princess Mathilde of Boulogne. The Queen of England, and before that Countess of Boulogne and of Edessa, made Oxford one of the richest and most important centers of the Templars in England during the period when Walter Map was Archdeacon of Oxford, so after 1196.Wife to Stephen I, King of England (reign 1135-1154) and former Count of Blois and sopn of one of the first  , 

Under her patronage Payen de Montdidier also established the Perceptory of Temple Guiting near Cheltenham. At the end of the 1130s, there is evidence of his presence in Lincoln, England, where he is referred to simply as "frater Paganus de Mundidesiderio". There is proof that from 1138 Payen operating in England had to deal with an marked increase of acquisitions since Stephen of Blois, now King Stephen I, had gained the throne in 1135.

Nothing is known of the end of Payen de Montdidier, which, seen by the evidence above, was at least after about 1140. A common theory is that Payen de Montdidier ended his years in the West, managing, as we have seen, and expanding Templar properties in Flanders, Northern France and perhaps England. As suggested by a grant made in Brittany in 1141 William Falco had become Master of the Temple (in Northern France) and may possibly have taken over this role of Payen de Montdidier.

Considering his personal relationship with many Templar settlements, a retreat to a Templar House or Cistercian monastery in either England or France is possible. As was done in 1152 by Evrard des Barres and in 1156 by André de Montbard, both retired Grandmasters.

This blog is a research product of TemplarsNow, based on The New Knighthood - a history of the Order of the Temple  by Malcom Barber (Cambridge, 1998) and sveral sources on the internet, mainly,,, (1, 2), several pages on, Turning the Templar Key by Robert Lomas (2007), and several pages on Wikipedia (1, 2, 3, 4). The illustration shows the Priory of Montdidier, at Montdidier, France. In the Carolingian era there was a keep on this site. In the 10th century, the Count of Montdidier lived in this fortress. His wife had the Notre-Dame church built nearby. King Philippe-Auguste made the castle of the counts his royal residence and restored the fortifications. Destroyed during the First World War, this building was rebuilt around 1930 in the neo-Gothic style. Only the base and the adjoining Philippe-Auguste tower have been preserved. source. Fair Use intended.

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