France, fall 1307: Templar arrests, interrogations, confessions and royal-papal power struggle

"On October 12, 1307 Jacques de Molay went to Paris specifically to attend the funeral of Catherine, wife of Charles de Valois, brother of the king. He resides, of course, within the Temple enclosure. It's a coincidence that he's here. Does this mean that he knows nothing of what is going on and that he has unconsciously thrown himself into the den of the wolf? 

It is possible that De Molay knows nothing, but the opposite is also likely. Some Templars, who knew about it, managed to escape arrest, such as the master of France Gérard de Villiers. In Poitiers the Templars of the curia were well placed to gather information. Molay could have suspected something but, trusting in the protection of the Pope and sure of his good faith, refused to pay attention to the threats. Precisely because they were innocent, the Templars should not fear a judgment that would clear them. (...)

Still, on October 13 in the early morning, throughout the kingdom, the Templars were arrested and transferred to royal prisons: the castle of Caen, Gisors for the bailiwick of Rouen, Najac in the south of Toulouse,  but also the Temple of Paris, seized by royal agents, for the Templars of Ile-de-France. 

The assets of the Temple are placed under sequestration. The inventories reveal nothing sensational: no weapons, no money, no “treasure”. We have the names and statements of 230 Templars arrested and interrogated in October and November 1307 throughout France. That's not much. However, what we know about the rest of the procedures shows that there were much more of them.(...)

The agents of royal power suggested to the Templars that they were arresting them with the agreement of the Pope. It's wrong. As soon as he was informed, Clement V strongly protested and defended the prerogatives of the Church, especially since the king's agents unceremoniously arrested the Templars from the pope's entourage. Philip the Fair, immediately after the arrest, wrote to the Pope and Christian sovereigns, inviting them to follow his example. Neither the king of England nor the Iberian kings accepted his arguments. It is true that they did not yet know anything about the procedure that the King of France intended to follow.

From October 19, in Paris, the Templars were questioned. There is every reason to believe that between the arrest and their appearance before the inquisitor and royal officials, the Templars were mistreated and tortured. On this point, the king could rely on the rules decreed by Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241): in the fight against heresy, torture is lawful. For the king, the Templars are clearly heretics; it doesn't even have to be proven. (...) 

The royal proceedings are covered by the inquisitors of the faith. Not by the Pope. For even though the inquisitors are appointed by the Pope and derive their power from him, they have not received instructions from the Pope on this matter. But Clément V - we know from other sources - is wary of inquisitors and seeks to limit their interventions. In any case, it is the royal agents, in the presence or not of inquisitors, who carry out the interrogations. 

In Paris, Caen, Carcassonne, Cahors, Bigorre or Chaumont, in October and November 1307, the procedure applied can be described as a royal procedure. These interrogations led to confessions: 134 of the 138 Templars questioned in Paris admitted all or part (most often) of the charges brought against them. For the accusation it is not necessary that everyone recognizes everything, but that everyone recognizes something. (...) Jacques de Molay, interviewed on October 24, recognizes that, when he was received in Beaune around 1265, he denied Christ "with his mouth but not with his heart" and that he spat on the cross (but next to it). He does not recognize (and subsequently will not recognize) anything else. These confessions, even partial, are enough. (...)

With confessions so quickly obtained, the King of France triumphs. Smirking, he can write again to the Pope and the princes who had not believed him: was he not right? The Templars are heretics and so he saved the Church while its legitimate leader, the Pope, procrastinated. (...)

The Pope sensed the danger; he must regain control. On November 22, 1307 he wrote to all the Christian sovereigns of the West and of Cyprus, to all the bishops of Christendom and ordered them to proceed, everywhere, to the arrest of the Templars and the seizure of their property. People and property will be placed under the protection of the Church.

He sends two cardinals to Paris with a mission to contact the Templars to question them themselves. At first the king rejects them. Clement V insists and sends them back to Paris again. On Christmas Eve 1307, at Notre Dame, the cardinals were able to speak with the Templars and their leader. According to the King of Aragon's envoy to Paris (a source usually neglected but perfectly credible), Jacques de Molay revolted, claimed that he had been tortured and revoked his confession. He instructs other Templars to do the same. Naturally he was silenced.

But the Pope, informed, was confirmed in his doubts. At the beginning of 1308, he broke the royal procedure by breaking the powers of the inquisitors and suspending them. He took the Templars under his protection and demanded the King of France to hand over the Temple property to the Church. Elsewhere in Europe, without really hurrying, sovereigns carried out the Pope's orders and had "their Templars" arrested. " The Kings of Castille and Portugal did nothing, whereas the King of Aragon met resistance until 1309, led by the Commander of Mas Dieu in the Roussillon.

This blog quotes English translations by TN of occasionally slightly edited or rearranged quotes from p 91-101 of Les Templiers by Alain Demurger (2018), 127 pp, Editions Jean-Paul Gisserot. Illustration Arrest of the Templars from the medieval manuscript Chroniques de France ou de St Denis (from 1270 to 1380), British Library, Public Domain

Support TemplarsNow™ by becoming a Patrontipping us or buying one of our Reliable Books

No comments: