How the Vatican destroyed the Knights Templar

One of the most iniquitous chapters in the history of the medieval church was revisited in Rome yesterday when the Vatican publisher Scrinium put on sale facsimiles of the trial of the Knights Templar order, held before Pope Clement V in 1308.

The book is unlikely to turn up in Foyles or Waterstone's: measuring 27 by 22in, printed on artificial parchment with replicas of the original papal seals, it is as close as the publishers can get to the appearance of the original document, which turned up in the Vatican's secret archives in 2001, having been mislaid for more than 300 years.

Academics and fans of Dan Brown's thrillers will be eager to get their hands on the book but it costs ¿5,900 per copy, and most of the 799 copies have already been reserved by specialist libraries. The 800th will be given to the Pope.

It ought to make uncomfortable reading for him. The Knights Templar, the order of monastic knights set up to defend Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, seized during the First Crusade, went into decline after Christians were expelled from the Holy Land in the 13th century. King Philip IV "the Fair" of France owed the order large amounts of money and land; to avoid repaying the debt, he prevailed on Pope Clement V, based in Avignon and dependent on his good offices, to put members on trial for heresy.

The pope tried them, and while he found them guilty of immorality, the key charge of heresy was found to be false. It had been alleged that while in Jerusalem they had been in the custom of spitting on crosses, and underwent an initiation ceremony that involved kissing.

They persuaded the pope and his judges that the spitting was done to prepare themselves for the dissembling they would be obliged to practice if captured by the Saracens, while the kissing was a way of promising complete obedience. The pope accepted their arguments and absolved them of heresy. This, however, did not satisfy Philip. The pope was pressured to reverse his verdict, and the head of the order and his closest associates were burnt at the stake. The order's riches were handed to a rival knightly order, and the surviving knights melted away. It was a demonstration of the power of realpolitik to trump justice.

The order's downfall stimulated the growth of legends and fables about the order. Founded in Jerusalem by veterans of the successful First Crusade of 1096, it was a potent armed force designed to protect Christian pilgrims. When the pope gave it special status – exemption from local laws and taxes and answerable to no one but the pontiff – it soon became uniquely rich and powerful.

The order developed a way for wealthy travellers to pay for services received by leaving lands and wealth at the disposal of a Templar group in Europe.

It believed, as did the Jews, that Al-Aqsa was the site of Solomon's Temple, from which sprung the belief that many holy relics had fallen into its hands. The Turin Shroud, fragments of the Cross and the chalice used by Christ at the Last Supper – the Holy Grail – are among treasures it was popularly believed to have acquired.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes