Templar liturgy and pastoral work in the Middle Ages

"Templar assets, including liturgical books, instruments and garments, but also all other writings which the Templars had possessed or produced, dispersed widely and were absorbed into the treasuries and sacristies of laymen and ecclesiastics after the disintegration of the Order around 1312. Only few religious books once pertaining to the Order have as yet been discovered. They shed light on the question whether or not the Templars used a uniform liturgy and what they used it for. (...)

Research has shown that Templar commanderies in the East followed the liturgy of Jerusalem but distanced themselves in their liturgy from the holy city after it had been lost, whereas western Templar commanderies ceased to follow the Jerusalem liturgy entirely and adopted local rites instead. These could be monastic, canonic or mendicant in character, depending on the foundation date, location, size and social composition of the Templar commandery under scrutiny. Understandably, the observation that western Templar houses adopted local liturgical rites has in turn serious implications on how we can assess Templar religion, since different rites allowed for different degrees of lay participation in the liturgy. (...)

The documentary evidence that captures the patchwork nature of Templar religion best is found in the Templar inventories drawn up, for the most part, shortly after the Templars’ arrests in 1307–1311. Buried in them are snippets of valuable information relating to Templar liturgy, pastoral care and devotion usually not mentioned in the order’s normative texts (such as the Rule, TN) and numerous other documentary sources.(...)

The majority of books used in the Temple were of liturgical nature. They can be almost equally divided into books for Mass and books for the Divine Office. The most popular book used by priests and the choir was the missal. (...) In the Temple, as in most other religious communities, the popularity of the missal was concomitant with a rise in the demand for Votive Masses which could only be met by individual priests operating solitarily within the devotional space of the Templar church or chapel. (...) 

(The presense of such books, TN) could therefore be seen as evidence for the increasing involvement of Western Templar communities all over medieval Europe in the business of cura animarum (pastoral care, TN). Complementary evidence for the involvement of Templar priests in pastoral work and the cure of souls exists in the form of liturgical books other than missals, such as, for example, rituals. The ritual on how to baptize children at in the Templar church of Grasse, the two rituals on religious instruction found in the Templar churches of Campagne di Ormelle, the rituals on Exorcism discovered in the Templar church of San Vitale in Verona, and the ritual on how to make holy water for the sick discovered in the Templar church of Santa Maria in Bologna, point to a localized involvement of Templar clergy in a variety of pastoral activities.

The charter evidence for one leaves no doubt that the Templars were in demand as spiritual advocates. (...) These demands correspond with the list of accusations which many bishops and prelates later levelled against the Templars. Usually these accusations concerned the illegal administration of the divine office and the celebration of Mass and the sacraments for not-associated members of the lay public. (...)"

This blog quotes sections, sometimes abbriviated, from the paper The Documentary Evidence for Templar Religion by Jochen Schenk, In: Borchardt, K., Döring, K., Josserand, P. and Nicholson, H. (eds.) The Templars and their Sources. Series: Crusades - Subsidia (10). Routledge, pp. 199-211. ISBN 9781138201903, source. The illustrations show two pages of the Bréviaire de l'ordre du Temple, dated 1201-1300, kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits. Latin 10478,  gallica.bnf.fr, Source consulted 9-3-2024.  Fair Use intended.

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