The Templar admission ceremony: secret or not?

The eighty-eight charges against the Templars which were used as the basis of interrogations in the proceedings against the Templars in the British Isles, 1309–11, included the charge that admissions into the Order were secret, and that only brothers of the order were present. What are the facts?

Outside the British Isles, there is some evidence that outsiders could attend Templar admission ceremonies. Often cited is the example of the German Templar, was arrested and interrogated within France, who stated that in Germany honest, respectable outsiders could attend. However, within the British Isles, all the Templars testified that only Templars attended receptiones, although some qualified their statements. But was this true? The evidence actually given by the Templars and non-Templars suggests that some of them had attended admission ceremonies before becoming full members of the Order. (...)

All of this evidence suggests that outsiders did attend Templar chapter meetings, even if only for part of the meeting, but that such attendance was limited to those who were highly trusted by the Templars and had a close relationship with the Order. The Templars’ own testimonies suggest that some of them had been present at admission ceremonies before they were themselves admitted as members of the order. 

(...) when we have made allowances for inaccurate memories and scribal errors (and if we are going to assume that some of this evidence has the possibility of being accurate) we are left with too many discrepancies for all to be simply dismissed as obvious mistakes. Is it possible that non-Templars who were intending to join the Order would have been allowed to attend the Order’s meetings? (...)

Overall, the discrepancies in the Templars’ own testimonies mean that they cannot be used to draw any firm conclusions regarding procedures among the Templars in the British Isles. However, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that in practice the order may not have been as strict in keeping non-members out of the admission ceremony as the Templars’ testimonies implied. Clearly, individuals who had a close relationship with the Order, who were donats or servants of the Order or who were employed as notaries or financial officers, could be present –whether actually in the room, or just outside the open door – for at least part of meetings which were closed to the general public. (...)"

This blog quotes from the paper "How secret was the Templar admission ceremony? Evidence from the proceedings in the British Isles" by Helen J. Nicholson (2012), Paper presented at the 47th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, 12 May 2012, also published on; illustration Templars being burned at the stake, from anonyme Chronik, „Von der Schöpfung der Welt bis 1384 / From the Creation of the World until 1384“, Wikipedia (Public Domain)

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