Secular Templar privileges, powers and immunities in the 12th century

In 1172 AD Pope Alexander’s famous bull, Omne datum optimum, confirming the previous privileges of the Templars, and conferring upon them additional powers and immunities, was published in England.

After the preamble and the first section on independance of the Templars in matters of the church, pope Alexander details their independance in worldy matters.

He states:
“And since those who are defenders of the church ought to be supported and maintained out of the good things of the church, we prohibit all manner of men from exacting tithes from you in respect of your moveables or immoveables, or any of the goods and possessions appertaining unto your venerable house...."
“And that nothing may be wanting to the plenitude of your salvation, and the care of your souls; and that ye may more commodiously hear divine service, and receive the sacraments in your sacred college; we in like manner ordain, that it shall be lawful for you to admit within your fraternity, honest and godly clergymen and priests, as many as ye may conscientiously require; and to receive them from whatever parts they may come, as well in your chief house at Jerusalem, as in all the other houses and places depending upon it, so that they do not belong to any other religious profession or order, and so that ye ask them of the bishop, if they come from the neighbourhood; but if peradventure the bishop should refuse, yet nevertheless ye have permission to receive and retain them by the authority of the holy apostolic see.

“If any of these, after they have been professed, should turn out to be useless, or should become disturbers of your house and religion, it shall be lawful for you, with the consent of the major part of the chapter, to remove them, and give them leave to enter any other order where they may wish to live in the service of God, and to substitute others in their places who shall undergo a probation of one year in your society; which term being completed, if their morals render them worthy of your fellowship, and they shall be found fit and proper for your service, then let them make the regular profession of life according to your rule, and of obedience to their Master, so that they have their food and clothing, and also their lodging, with the fraternity.

“But it shall not be lawful for them presumptuously to take part in the consultations of your chapter, or in the government of your house; they are permitted to do so, so far only as they are enjoined by yourselves. And as regards the cure of souls, they are to occupy themselves with that business so far only as they are required. Moreover, they shall be subject to no person, power, or authority, excepting that of your own chapter, but let them pay perfect obedience, in all matters and upon all occasions, to thee our beloved son in the Lord, Odo, and to thy successors, as their Master and Bishop.

“We moreover decree, that it shall be lawful for you to send your clerks, when they are to be admitted to holy orders, for ordination to whatever catholic bishop you may please, who, clothed with our apostolical power, will grant them what they require; but we forbid them to preach with a view of obtaining money, or for any temporal purpose whatever, unless perchance the Master of the Temple for the time being should cause it to be done for some special purpose. And whosoever of these are received into your college, they must make the promise of stedfastness of purpose, of reformation of morals, and that they will fight for the Lord all the days of their lives, and render strict obedience to the Master of the Temple; the book in which these things are contained being placed upon the altar.

“We moreover, without detracting from the rights of the bishops in respect of tithes, oblations, and buryings, concede to you the power of constructing oratories in the places bestowed upon the sacred house of the Temple, where you and your retainers and servants may dwell; so that both ye and they may be able to assist at the divine offices, and receive there the rite of sepulture; for it would be unbecoming and very dangerous to the souls of the religious brethren, if they were to be mixed up with a crowd of secular persons, and be brought into the company of women on the occasion of their going to church. But as to the tithes, which, by the advice and with the consent of the bishops, ye may be able by your zeal to draw out of the hands of the clergy or laity, and those which with the consent of the bishops ye may acquire from their own clergy, we confirm to you by our apostolical authority.”
The above bull further provides, in various ways, for the temporal and spiritual advantage of the Templars, and expressly extends the favours and indulgences, and the apostolical blessings, to all the serving brethren, as well as to the knights. It also confers upon the fraternity the important privilege of causing the churches of towns and villages lying under sentence of interdict to be opened once a year, and divine service to be celebrated within them.

A bull exactly similar to the above appears to have been issued by Pope Alexander, on the seventh id. Jan. 1162, addressed to the Master Bertrand de Blanquefort. Both the above instruments are to a great extent merely confirmatory of the privileges previously conceded to the Templars.

source "The History of the Knights Templars, Temple Church and The Temple", by Charles G. Addison Esq (London 1842); Illustration Former Knights Templar commandery in Coulommiers (Seine-et-Marne, France): the courtyard, the tithe barn (16th-century) and the utilitarian buildings; Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 & GFDL

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