An unknown letter from Jacques de Molay found

 Letter from Jacques de Molay

"A recent finding at the Archives of the Crown of Aragon, has produced an unknown letter from Jacques de Molay, the last Master of the Order of the Knights Templar, addressed to Ramon de Bell-lloc, Commander of the Order, dated 21st January 1296. What is this letter about?

The letter was part of the preparations for (Jacques de Molay, TN) the new Grand Master of the Knights Templar’s passage to Cyprus, as part of the strategy to try to regain the Kingdom of Jerusalem after the Acre disaster (1291, TN). This Grand Master had assumed the role sometime between 1292 and 1293, after the death of Grand Master Thibaud Gaudin on 16th April 1292.

The document was inserted into the legal proceedings of the Royal Chancery (ACA, Cancillería, Procesos en folio, leg. 2, No. 4) and related to the proceedings brought before the Curia Regis to resolve the territorial conflict between the Knights Templar of Miravet and Berenguer de Entenza between 1288 and 1293. The document, in paper (105x305 mm.), was originally a loose leaf that is today pasted into the last booklet. 

It is in quite good condition; it still has the five folds and forty per cent of the black wax seal that closed and validated the document, which was broken precisely when the addressee opened it. The remains of the seal, originally measuring approx. 30 mm, allow us to identify the word “MILITV” on the bottom of the legend (“[+SIGILLVM :] MILITV[M : XPISTI]”), as well as the hoofs and belly of a horse and a Greek Cross in the field. 

The letter, which is an original, is not however handwritten by the Grand Master himself. It was probably penned by a secretary working for Molay, a Frenchman to go by the handwriting, similar to that of many other parchments originating from France, which are preserved at the ACA. (...)

The French historian Alain Demurger puts Molay’s passage to Cyprus, the subject of the letter, at 1296. (...)  In the letter, Molay informs Ramon de Bell-lloc, Commander of the Order, of his intention to travel to Cyprus, as agreed by the Pope, setting the date of his voyage as June 24th, the feast day of St. John the Baptist. Prior to that, he wants to call an assembly of the Chapter in Arles (...). The assembly did take place on 15th August, 1296, so his passage to the East was delayed until the Autumn. (...)

The importance of the letter kept at the ACA lies in its uniqueness and, at the same time, it is also the confirmation that Jacques de Molay started to prepare his passage to the East with the intention of winning back the Holy Sites, seeking the help of the lands under Western control. During his European tour from 1293 to 1296, he had secured from various monarchs, including James II of Aragon, the right of the Templar lands in their kingdoms to freely send food, arms, horses and money to the East. And this is precisely what he was asking for to Ramon de Bell-lloc in the letter we present here: a third of the monies that the Templar lands were contributing to the war efforts of the Order. (...)"

This post quotes, slightly abbreviated and adapted, an undated post on the website of the Archivo de la Corona de Aragón, to be found here. The illustration, showing the letter, is from the same source.

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