The real estate agents of the Knights Templar

When they established themselves in certain Provençal towns, the military orders sought to rely on some urban knights by entrusting them with the task of making acquisitions for the benefit of the commanderies in formation. A practise which continued later. What did these "real estate agents" do?

Thus invested with the function of 'procuratores', i.e. legal representatives of the religious institution, these laymen worked to build up the temporal assets of the commanderies, while formalising their social and spiritual closeness to the friars by joining the confraternity or even by making full profession.

The military orders could find many advantages in this type of collaboration. It made it possible to better manage the commanderies which, at the beginning, still had a limited number of friars. Above all, the acquisitions benefited from the support of notables who were well aware of the local land market and were able to gather land without arousing the suspicion of the competing seigneuries (bishoprics, communes, etc.). Finally, the commanderies were thus able to tie up the fate of these procuratores who, on their death, ceded their property to the military orders. This explains why fragments of private archives have integrated those of the Temple and the Hospital. 

The miles Catalan, for example, was thus the real architect of the establishment of the Temple in Tarascon by negotiating, between 1200 and 1215, several purchases of land and vineyards. He became a confrater in 1202, and confirmed his affiliation at the same time as the donation of all his property in 1215. In all, some twenty original acts bear witness to his intense activity on behalf of the order in the years 1200-1213. These are not private charters since the sales are addressed "to Catalan and the house of the Temple". However, the transmission of this documentation is most probably due to the initiative of this benefactor: indeed, 16 acts have come down to us in the form of copies transcribed in a rather compact form, in two columns, on a large parchment.

In form and content, this collection of notarised 'original copies' resembles a pancarte 1). This type of document is an exception in the Provençal archives of the Temple and even in the regional documentary tradition. Catalan probably had this pancarte made as a testimony of his action in the service of the Templars. In addition to 15 acts of purchase carried out jointly with the brothers, it includes a receipt attesting to work carried out at his expense in the Temple house, as well as the donation of all the goods mentioned on the parchment to the Arles commandery.

1) Pancartes were medieval historical documents, drawn up by a monastery or another Order, that recorded a sequence of gifts to the Order. They were created in order that the whole group of grants or gifts could be confirmed by the ruler. source

This blog presents a slightly edited quote, translated from French by TN, from Danien Carraz (2016) Chartriers privés et autres documents familiaux conservés dans les archives templières. Le cas de quelques commanderies du Midi français, from Commilitones Christi, Miscellanea di studi per il Centro Italiano di Documentazione sull’ Ordine del Tempio MMXI - MMXVI a cura di Sergio Sammarco (Lisanti Editors). Illustration Porte de la Condamine, Tarascone, Bouches-du-Rhône, France where Templars established themselves in 1180. (CC BY-SA 4.0), source

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