900 Years Council of Nablus, January 16, 1120 - synod, parliament and Templar kick-off

Very soon after the First Crusade, European troops began to return to their homelands, having fulfilled their promise to liberate the Holy Land. This put extra strain on the remainders, who faced continued challenges ranging from locusts plagues to repeated Saracen incursions.

To face up to these challenges, the Council of Nablus was convened. This council of ecclesiastic and secular lords of the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem was held on January 16, 1120. It was convened by Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and King Baldwin II of Jerusalem.

The council established twenty-five canons (decrees) dealing with both religious and secular affairs. As such it provided the first written laws for the kingdom. Therefore it can be considered both a parliament and an ecclesiastical synod.

The Nablus Council was probably also where Hugues de Payens obtained permission from King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem to found the Knights Templar. But direct reference to the Templars as such or their recognition as a group is missing in the decrees. There is only mention that "Achardus, prior of the Temple of the Lord", was present. This probably pertains to Achardus de Aroasia, "prior Templi Domini" (Vita S. Joh., episcopus Morinorum; AA.SS.: in the 12th century, January 27). 

Another source mentions: "1120 - Jan. 14 – Sept. 13 (Jan. 16. Nablus?). King Baldwin II leases part of his palace in Jerusalem (the Temple of Solomon) to the Templars." This would support that by in 1120 giving the proto-Templars a proper headquarters at the Temple compound, the King did -possibly at Nablus- arrange the kick-off of the Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Salomonici, later known as the Knights Templar.

The full text of the Nablus Canons, of which at present only one copy remains in the Vatican Library (MS Vat. Lat. 1345), is quoted below (source):

Here begins the Council of Nablus

In the 1120th year of the Incarnation of the Lord - after, as our sins demand, the country of Jerusalem was devastated by many calamities and for four years it was laid waste, with its crops consumed by locusts and its walls by frequent Saracen assaults and plots, and with so many of its pilgrims and citizens murdered - a man of dove-like innocence and a pupil of humility, the patriarch Warmund, and a son of good fortune, Baldwin, the second King of the Latins of Jerusalem, readying to meet the danger threatening the citizens with prayers of piety and works of justice, prodded by Divine Inspiration to raise up the Church and fix firm the country, entered into counsel with the prelates of the Church and the leading men of the kingdom in the second year of his reign and of his patriarchate, on the 17th Kalends of February [January 16],  at the city of Nablus of Samaria. And, as the need of the land demanded, for the correction of the fallen people, they established the decrees which we have written below.

For since, at that time especially, the people of the aforesaid country followed every degrading desire - and therefore, weakened, they tempted misfortune every day - it seemed to them that the sole refuge was to pray for the mercy of God and to put in place some restraints of justice on the sins of the plummeting people. Then, after the people gave up their sins, as we have read happened amongst the Israelite people, divine vengeance might be held back. And the mercy of God, who desires not death, but the correction of sinners, delivered the penitent sons from the threatening danger of the enemy. For the enemy, namely the Saracens, had, in the past summer, slain Roger, Prince of Antioch, and, alas, practically the whole of the vanquished Christian community of the principality of Antioch in battle! And they [i.e. the Saracens, TN] were invading the country of Jerusalem more frequently than usual. But no further about these things.

Now, rather, about the men who were present at the previously-noted council and about the precepts they confirmed, which follow. We note their names below:

Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem
Baldwin II, Latin King of Jerusalem
Evremar, archbishop of Caesarea
Bernard, bishop of Nazareth
Ausquitullius, bishop of Bethlehem
Roger, bishop of Ramla
Guildoinus, abbot-elect of St. Mary of the Valley of Josaphat
Peter, abbot of Mount Tabor
Achardus, prior of the Temple of the Lord
Arnold, prior of Mount Zion
​Gerard, prior of the Sepulchre of the Lord
Pagan, chancellor of the king
Eustace Granerius
William of Buris
Barisan of Jaffa, constable
Baldwin of Ramis

First Decree of the Nablus Council
Since the things which originate from God must inevitably end through Him and in Him, so this holy council ought to originate from God and have its end in God. I, Baldwin, second Latin King of the Jerusalemites, setting into motion this holy assembly from God, as He orders, return and grant to the sacrosanct church of Jerusalem and to Warmund, the present patriarch, and his successors the tithes of my revenues, as regard for his diocese demands, that is, the tithes of the revenues of Jerusalem, Nablus, and Ptolemais, which is called Acre by another name, so that he, performing the office of prayer for the state of the kingdom before God, may be able to support the present people with this buttress of royal charity. And if at any time he or any of his successors should ordain a bishop from the growing Christian religion in any of the aforesaid cities, let him distribute the tithes of these cities on behalf of the king and Church.

Second Decree
I King Baldwin render to the men of this sacred council seeing and supporting [it], my men and barons, and the same in as much as the account collects of their parishes concerning making tithes, that I have previously said, I render tithes and these above-mentioned things, which I or they from this place have withheld, taking responsibility with them [i.e. the barons], I ask permission beg pardon.

Third Decree
I, Patriarch Garmundus, from the direction [guidance] of all powerful God and by my power and the power of all the standing bishops and brothers, absolve you of the above and aforesaid rendering of returns and tithes, which you all recognize should be given to God, me, and to your other bishops, in as much as whose parish examines the present or absence of brothers, I receive them charitably.

Fourth Decree
If anyone should be afraid to be handled by a bad wife, who has suspicion [of her adultery] he may sue and the household may summon her entrance at a conference of the wife before legal witnesses. If in fact after the decree the husband himself or one of his friends finds them conversing [at] her home or elsewhere, the man should be summoned to the judgment of the church without interruption of "members".  And if he cleanses himself by fire and the sword [ordeal], let the unpunished be released. But if anything in discussion supports the finding of disgrace, let the unpunished be released for the transgressed decrees without freedom [from the crime].      

Fifth Decree
Whosoever will be tried as to have lain with the wife of another, the accepted sentence of the judgment may deprive him of virility [castration], and let him be expelled from this land. The woman adulterer's nose should be cut off, unless the other man [whose wife cheated on him] wishes to show his mercy. Because if he does so, both are to cross the sea [in exile].     

Sixth Decree
If anyone should suspect a cleric, let him prohibit him [cleric] from his home and speaking with his wife, as we have previously said. If in fact he finds them speaking together afterward, let him show it [evidence] to the magistrate of the church. And if after this, he discovers them lying together and speaking together, then let him at last bring them to justice. Because if justice exonerates him, thereafter he will be subject in other courts to deeds under of a lay sentence.

Seventh Decree
If a brothel keeper or female mistress corrupts someone's wife with words and makes them commit adultery, let them come under the sentence of an adulterer.

Eighth Decree
If anybody were tried as an adulterer had defiled him/herself with sodomy and wickedness by their own free will, let both the one doing and the one receiving be burned.

Ninth Decree
If a child or anyone advanced in years should be defiled by the force by some sodomite woman and thereafter make a protest, let the sodomite woman be surrendered to the flames. He who in fact will have sinned not by their own will, let him do penance according to the ecclesiastical sentence and not fall into legation.

Tenth Decree
If anyone who has suffered the wicked crime of sodomy at any time and who hid it [the crime] and once more allows himself to be dirtied [defiled] nor discloses it to justice, when he will have been tried afterwards, then he will be judged a sodomite.

Eleventh Decree
If anyone accused as a sodomite before he comes to his senses and having been led to penance for abominable wickedness (by oath swearing) rejects [the practice], let him be received in a church and be judged according to the sentence of the canons. If, however, the accused fell into it [the practice by accident] and secondly wishes to do penance, indeed let him be allowed to do/ for penance but be sent abroad [exiled] from the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Twelfth Decree
If anyone should be tried with having lain with a Saracen woman consensually ementuletur, indeed let the Saracen women's nose be cut off.

Thirteenth Decree
If anyone should oppress [rape] his Saracen slave woman, she herself will be marked and he himself will be castrated.

Fourteenth Decree
If anyone should push himself on a Saracen of another by force, he will undergo the sentence of an adulterer.

Fifteenth Decree
If a Christian woman should mix with a Saracen by her free will, let both be judged the sentence of adultery. If in fact she was oppressed [raped] by him with force, she will not be held herself at fault, but the Saracen will be castrated.

Sixteenth Decree
If a Saracen man or woman should dress themselves in the Frankish manner, let them be infiscentur.

Seventeenth Decree
If anyone having a living wife, has brought home another as successor to his former wife, let the confessed do penance all the way to the first Sunday of the aforesaid year for forty days and from then on follow the precept according to the church. If in fact he will have hidden anymore, his property will be infiscabuntur   [confiscated] and the trickster himself will be banished publicly from this land.

Eighteenth Decree
If anyone unknowingly has married the wife of another or the woman of another unknowingly joined in marriage, whom ignorance defends by his wife, let him remain in this land and hold wedding license.

Nineteenth Decree
If anyone wishing to divorce who says he himself has another woman or a living wife he had married, either let him prove it by hot water and iron or legal witnesses, who together by oathswearing should prove for him, present to a magistrate of the church. We have established firmly whatever sentences however mistaken in the male gender, we confirm the same in the feminine gender.

Twentieth Decree
If a cleric should bring arms for the sake of defense, let him not be held culpable. If however he abandons the crown [ring of defenders] on account of the war or the [hospital], let the confessed return to the crown [ring] all the way to the aforesaid boundary of the church and from then on carry himself according to the precept of the patriarch. If however he should hide anymore, let him comprise himself in front of the council of the king and patriarch.

Twenty-first Decree
If a monk or regular canon should apostate, let him either return to his order or to his country.

Twenty-second Decree
Whosoever should accuse another and is unable to prove [the claim], let him be subject to the same penalty.

Twenty-third Decree
If anyone should be convicted of robbery, if the property was more than 1 bezant, let his limbs be crushed, or hand or foot or eyes. If in fact the stolen property was lower than 1 bezant, let a brand be burned onto his face, and be led through the village yielding to whips. And if something should be found on him, let the stolen property be returned to him [the original owner], if in fact he has nothing [stolen], his body should be decided to make [good] the stolen article to this man. If he should perpetrate it again at another turn, let him be deprived of all his limbs or life.

Twenty-fourth Decree
If anyone should commit a robbery and was beneath old age [adulthood] let him be guarded until he may be looked after into the court of the king what is to be done about him. 

Twenty-fifth Decree
If any of the barons should capture a man of his equal let not his limbs be crushed, but be sent into the court of the king for judgment.  a council of ecclesiastic and secular lords in the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, held on January 16, 1120.

sources: Wikipedia and crusaderstates.org; llustration: Minaret of the Great Mosque at Nablus, originally built in the 3rd Century as a Byzantine basilica and in 1120 the Church of the Passion and Resurrection, the place where the council of Nablus may have taken place, source

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