An old, rich, well-established although now militarily irrelevant crusader order, the Templars, was being rounded up by the French monarchy (including, amusingly, one Templar rounded up while tax-collecting for the self-same French monarch), being tried, and then re-tried by the papacy, ordered to disband, and disbanding by bits and stages all over Europe (or, in the case of Portugal and Aragon, being staunchly defended by the relevant monarchs and given permission to transmute into national orders) in a process that took half a century.
On Tuesday, I went down with the Centre for Medieval Studies to view the University’s new facsimile of the Templar trial papers. I’m sorry to say they looked just like pieces of faux-vellum and paper to me, but I can now say I’ve seen the handwriting of Pope Clement the Something, at least. The facsimile includes four or five faux-vellum documents, most of which stretched right across the huge veiwing table, and some of which are barely readable. There is also a paper facsimile which consists of the summaries of the French trials, as put together by or for Pope Clement, and including notes in his own handwriting; and there’s a small square document which is the proceedings of the papal trial at Chinon. These last two, I gather, were only recently found, miscatalouged, in the Secret Archive by Barbara Someone-or-Other (sorry for the lack of details, pens aren’t allowed in the Rare Book library so my notes were all made at the end), who was studying paeleography there. Another two of the vellum documents were edited in the 19th century, but according to JP, none of the documents in the facsimile have been used by modern Templar historians. Michael Barber, the big cheese in Templar studies, doesn’t refer to them in his book on the subject, or in the edition (catalogue?) of Templar documents which he and one of his students published more recently.
The facsimile pack also includes a full transcription (including UV transcriptions of the illegible documents), and replica seals of the papal curia.
There’s nothing terribly inflammatory in the documents; they, as the assembled academics remarked in a satisfied fashion, throw a bucket of cold water on the whole Da Vinci Code hullaballoo. (Not that Templar conspiracists will care…) According to JP, who did say he hasn’t had a chance to really look at the documents, Pope Clement was rather suspicious of the confessions garnered from the French trials, and was trying to do the best he could for the Order in a sticky political situation.
Ours is copy number 300 of 799 copies for public sale (Pope Palpatine Benedict got number 800). Neil Boness, the Rare Books Librarian, thinks all 799 probably won’t sell, or won’t sell quickly, due to the high asking price.
The only other thing of interest I noted was that all the academics were standing around nodding solemnly about the scope for a really kick-arse PHD based on these documents. If you’ve an interest in Templars, or in Phillip the Fair, or Pope Clement, or any such thing, get yourself a grad school application for a school which owns a copy of this facsimile. (And if you can’t get Barber for your supervisor, you could do worse than JP, even if his speciality is more in the Crusade direction… just sayin’… There’s a woman in Melbourne who works on the Italian Templar trials, but I believe we have the only copy of the facs. in Australia.)