Only about about 700 years after the fact. Only 799 copies of this 300 page document, so it'll set ya back $8,377 if ya want your own personal copy.
Vatican Publishes Templar Trial Papers Friday, October 12, 2007 4:41:28 PM By ARIEL DAVID
The Vatican has published secret documents about the trial of the Knights Templar, including a parchment -- long ignored because of a vague catalog entry in 1628 -- showing that Pope Clement V initially absolved the medieval order of heresy.
The 300-page volume recently came out in a limited edition -- 799 copies -- each priced at $8,377, said Scrinium publishing house, which prints documents from the Vatican's secret archives.
The order of knights, which ultimately disappeared because of the heresy scandal, recently captivated the imagination of readers of the best-seller "The Da Vinci Code," which linked the Templars to the story of the Holy Grail.
The Vatican work reproduces the entire documentation of the papal hearings convened after King Philip IV of France arrested and tortured Templar leaders in 1307 on charges of heresy and immorality.
The military order of the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon was founded in 1118 in Jerusalem to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land after the First Crusade.
As their military might increased, the Templars also grew in wealth, acquiring property throughout Europe and running a primitive banking system. After they left the Middle East with the collapse of the Crusader kingdoms, their power and secretive ways aroused the fear of European rulers and sparked accusations of corruption and blasphemy.
Historians believe Philip owed debts to the Templars and used the accusations to arrest their leaders and extract, under torture, confessions of heresy as a way to seize the order's riches.
The publishing house said the new book includes the "Parchment of Chinon," a 1308 decision by Clement to save the Templars and their order.
The Vatican archives researcher who found the parchment said Friday that it probably had been ignored because the 1628 catalog entry on the 40-inch-wide parchment was "too Spartan, too vague."
"Unfortunately, there was an archiving error, an error in how the document was described," the researcher, Barbara Frale, said in a telephone interview from her home in Viterbo, north of Italy.
"More than an error, it was a little sketchy," she said.
The parchment, in remarkably good condition considering its 700 years, apparently had last been consulted at the start of the 20th century, Frale said, surmising that its significance must have not have been realized then.
Frale said she was intrigued by the 1628 entry because, while it apparently referred to some minor matter, it noted that three top cardinals, including the right-hand man of Clement, Berenger Fredol, had made a long journey to interrogate someone.
"Unfortunately, there was an archiving error, an error in how the document was described," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from her home in Viterbo, north of Rome. "More than an error, it was a little sketchy."
The parchment, in remarkably good condition considering its 700 years, apparently had last been consulted at the start of the 20th century, Frale said, surmising that its significance must not have been realized then.
Frale said she was intrigued by the 1628 entry because, while it apparently referred to some minor matter, it noted that three top cardinals, including Pope Clement's right-hand man, Berenger Fredol, had made a long journey to interrogate someone.
"Going on with my research, it turned out that in reality it was an inquest of very great importance," she said.
Fredol "had gone to question the Great Master and other heads of the Templars who had been segregated, practically kidnapped, by the king of France and shut up in secret in his castle in Chinon on the Loire."
Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Templars, was burned at the stake in 1314 along with his aides.
The surviving monks fled. Some were absorbed by other orders, and over the centuries, various groups have claimed to be descended from the Templars.
As for Clement, he "was a hostage in French territory" on the eve of what historians would call the Avignon period of popes, Frale said.
She said the parchment reveals the cardinals reached the conclusion the Templars were guilty of abuses but not "a real and true heresy."
"There were a lot of faults in the order -- abuses, violence ... a lot of sins, but not heresy," she said.
These included forcing new recruits to "reject Christ in words and spit on the cross," in imitation of the violence suffered by knights when captured by Muslims, Frale said. New members were kicked and punched if they refused to undergo this kind of hazing, she added.
Philip had "confiscated all the wealth of the order, which he used to pay his debts," said Frale, who has written three books about the Templars. "Had the (order) survived, it's clear that Philip ... would have had to give back all" the wealth.
"But the king of France had already spent it," she said.
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