Vatican archive yields Templar secrets
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome
The Knights Templar, a military order of the Roman Catholic Church, are back in the news again, almost 700 years after they were suppressed by papal edict. They were originally formed to protect Christians in the Holy Land during the early Crusades. The Templars are the stuff of legend, and their exploits have provided the plots for many films and popular novels.
The Knights, who wore a distinctive white mantle decorated with a red cross, became very wealthy, owned property all over Europe and the Middle East, and started up a primitive international banking system. They caused deep controversy, even in their own time. They helped to finance wars waged by several European monarchs.
Some believe the Templars were the custodians of the fabled Holy Grail. Disentangling fact and fiction about them is difficult. In France, a Grand Master of the Order and other knights were burned alive by order of King Philip IV, after the Order was accused of heresy, blasphemy and sexual misconduct. Now the Vatican has decided to shed some new light on this often obscure period of late medieval history. To the delight not only of scholars but also of Templar buffs around the world, who have been captivated by Dan Brown's stories, they are publishing facsimile reproductions of the original account in Latin of the investigation and trial into the alleged misdeeds of the Knights Templar. It took place in Rome between 1307 and 1312.
The document, known as the Chinon parchment, shows that Pope Clement V found the Templars not guilty of heresy, but guilty of other lesser infractions of Church law. Nonetheless he ordered the disbandment of the order.
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