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Knights Templar QUESTION from Paul January 12, 2001 I have read conflicing histories concerning the demise of the Knights Templar. Some histories seem to point to a political move on the part of King Phillip of France to strip them of their financial power. Others point to occultic practices that were condemned by the Inquisition. Other histories claim this was a ruse. I am puzzled how an organiiation that started out as gallant heroes of the Middle Ages suddenly became so villainized.
ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on January 15, 2001 Dear Paul,
The history of the Templars is still heavily debated. I can see how their fail would be a perplexing question.
The Knights Templars were founded as a military order c. 1119 in order to protect pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. When the Muslims expelled the crusaders in 1187, the crusading spirit began to wane, and military orders became anachronistic. They had to reinvent themselves in order to remain relevant. The Templars became very interested in banking and finance.
The trouble began when Philip IV ascended the French throne. He was in open conflict with the papacy. He distrusted the Templars, who were perceived to be the fighting arm of the Church. He also coveted their wealth. He was also convinced that the Templars were plotting to create an enclave in France. He thought by destroying the Templars, he could humble the papacy and recuperate the Templar wealth.
One of the Templars' weaknesses in all this is that their ceremonies and rituals were secret. This provided Philip with a pretext to accuse them of obscene and blasphemous practicies. In 1307, he sent pope Clement V a list of specific charges against the order, and the latter agreed to an investigation. That same day Philip had 2000 Templars were arrested in France and sequestered their property.
Philip could not allow the Templars to only be destroyed in France: they would eventually revive. He wanted to destroy the order on a universal scale. Philip negotiated with Clement to have a double investigation: one for individual Templars, under the jurisdiction of local ordinaries, and one for the whole order itself. Clement agreed. The judgment of individuals was to be rendered at a provincial council. But Philip couldn't wait that long. He launched his own investigation using the French inquisition and extracted false confessions under torture.
In every country that was not under French influence, the Templars were found completely innocent. But in France, Naples, Provence and the States of the Church, they were found guilty. Clement, in order to placate the French king, dissolved the order. However, Philip did not obtain everything he wanted. The wealth of the Templars was turned over to the Knights Hospitaller, with a few exceptions.
The main motive for this miscarriage of justice was greed and power. Philip wanted the wealth of the Templars, and he did not want them threatening his power. The Inquisition was simply an instrument he used to get what he wanted; it had nothing to do with heresy or the occult.
The Templars downfall had less to do with their reputation or what they actually accomplished and more to do with what they represented to the King, and the windfall he would come into if he succeeded in eliminating them. Philip, by the way, carried out propaganda campaign among the French to stir up his subjects against them.
Thank you for your question, Suzanne Fortin
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