In his zeal against his old enemy Philip had called, probably as early as 1305, for the canonization of Coelestine V. A second time, in 1307. Boniface’s condemnation was pressed upon Clement by the king in person. But the pope knew how to prolong the prosecution on all sorts of pretexts. Philip represented himself as concerned for the interests of religion, and Nogaret and the other conspirators insisted that the assault at Avignon was a religious act, negotium fidei. Nogaret sent forth no less than twelve apologies defending himself for his part in the assault. In 1310 the formal trial began. Many witnesses appeared to testify against Boniface—laymen, priests and bishops. The accusations were that the pope had declared all three religions false, Mohammedanism, Judaism and Christianity, pronounced the, virgin birth a tale, denied transubstantiation and the existence of hell and heaven and that he had played games of chance.
Clement issued one bull after another protesting the innocency of the offending parties concerned in the violent measures against Boniface. Philip and Nogaret were declared innocent of all guilt and to have only pure motives in preferring charges against the dead pope. The bull, Rex gloriae, 1311, addressed to Philip, stated that the secular kingdom was founded by God and that France in the new dispensation occupied about the same place as Israel, the elect people, occupied under the old dispensation. Nogaret’s purpose in entering into the agreement which resulted in the affair at Anagni was to save the Church from destruction at the hands of Boniface, and the plundering of the papal palace and church was done against the wishes of the French chancellor. In several bulls Clement recalled all punishments, statements, suspensions and declarations made against Philip and his kingdom, or supposed to have been made. And to fully placate the king, he ordered all Boniface’s pronouncements of this character effaced from the books of the Roman Church. Thus in the most solemn papal form did Boniface’s successor undo all that Boniface had done. When the Ecumenical Council of Vienne met, the case of Boniface was so notorious a matter that it had to be taken up. After a formal trial, in which the accused pontiff was defended by three cardinals, he was adjudged not guilty. To gain this point, and to save his predecessor from formal condemnation, it is probable Clement had to surrender to Philip unqualifiedly in the matter of the Knights of the Temple.
After long and wearisome proceedings, this order was formally legislated out of existence by Clement in 1312. Founded in 1119 to protect pilgrims and to defend the Holy Land against the Moslems, it had outlived its mission. Sapped of its energy by riches and indulgence, its once famous knights might well have disbanded and no interest been the worse for it. The story, however, of their forcible suppression awakens universal sympathy and forms one of the most thrilling and mysterious chapters of the age: Dollinger has called it “a unique drama in history.”
The destruction of the Templar order was relentlessly insisted upon by Philip the Fair, and accomplished with the reluctant co-operation of Clement V. (The Templars were a military order founded in Jerusalem in 1119. They formed under the Augustinian rule one of the spiritual orders of chivalry that owed their origin to the Crusades, a knightly society on a spiritual basis and for spiritual ends. The Templars in France were a formidable obstruction against centralization of power in the hands of the king. This explains the opposition of Philip the Fair against this order and why Clement V was so reluctant to accede to the demand of the king.—H.V.) In vain did the king strive to hide the sordidness of his purpose under the thin mask of religious zeal. At Clement’s coronation, if not before, Philip brought charges against it. About the same time, in the insurrection called forth by his debasement of the coin, the king took refuge in the Templars’ building at Paris. In 1307 he renewed the charges before the pope. When Clement hesitated, he proceeded to violence, and on the night of Oct. 13, 1307, he had all the members of the order in France arrested and thrown into prison, including Jacques de Molay, the grand-master. Dollinger applies to this deed the strong language that, if he were to pick out from the whole history of the world the accursed day,—dies nefastus,—he would be able to name none other than Oct. 13, 1307. Three days later, Philip announced that he had taken this action as the defender of the faith and called upon Christian princes to follow his example. Little as the business was to Clement’s taste, he was not man enough to set himself in opposition to the king, and he gradually became complaisant. The machinery of the, Inquisition was called into use. The Dominicans, its chief agents, stood high in Philip’s favor, and one of their number was his confessor. In 1308 the authorities of the state assented to the king’s plans to bring the order to trial. The constitution of the court was provided for by Clement, the bishop of each diocese and two Franciscans and two Dominicans being associated together. A commission invested with general authority was to sit in Paris.
In the summer of 1308 the pope ordered a prosecution of the knights wherever they might be found. The charges set forth were heresy, spitting upon the cross, worshipping an idol, Bafomet—the word for Mohammed in the Provencal dialect—and also the most abominable offences against moral decency such as sodomy and, kissing the posterior parts and the navel of fellow knights. The members were also accused of having meetings with the devil who appeared in the form of a black cat and of having carnal intercourse with female demons. The charges which the lawyers and Inquisitors got together numbered 127 and these the pope sent through France and to other countries as the basis of the prosecution.
Under the strain of prolonged torture, many of the unfortunate men gave assent to these charges, and more particularly to the denial of Christ and the spitting upon the cross. The Templars seem to have had no friends in high places bold enough to take their part. The king, the pope, the Dominican order, the University of Paris, the French episcopacy were against them. Many confessions once made by the victims were afterwards recalled at the stake. Many denied the charges altogether. In Paris 36 died under torture, 54 Suffered there at one burning, May 10, 1310, and 8 days later 4 more. Hundreds of them perished in prison. Even the bitterest enemies acknowledged that the Templars who were put to death maintained their innocence to their dying breath. At the trial before the bishop of Nismes in 1309, out of 32, all but three denied the charges. At Perpignan, 1310, the whole number, 25, denied the charges. At Clement 40 confessed the order guilty, 28 denied its guilt. With such antagonistic testimonies it is difficult, if at all possible, to decide the question of guilt or innocence.
In accordance with Clement’s order, trials were had in Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus and England. In England, Edward II at first refused to apply the torture, which was never formally adopted in that land, but later, at Clement’s demand, he complied. Papal inquisitors appeared. Synods in London and York declared the charges of heresy so serious that it would be impossible for the knights to clear themselves. English houses were disbanded and the members distributed among the monasteries to do penance. In Italy and Germany the accused were, for the most part, declared innocent. In Spain and Portugal, no evidence was forthcoming of guilt and the synod of Tarragona, 1310, and ether synods favored their innocence.
The last act in these hostile proceedings was opened at the Council of Vienne, called for the special purpose of taking action upon the order. The large majority of the council were in favor of giving it a new trial and a fair chance to prove its innocence. But the king was relentless. He reminded Clement that the guilt of the knights had been sufficiently proved, and insisted that the order be abolished. He appeared in person at the council, attended by a great retinue. Clement was overawed, and by virtue of his apostolic power issued his decree abolishing the Templars, March 22, 1312. Clement’s reasons were that suspicions existed that the order held to heresies and other offences that thereafter reputable persons would not enter the order, and that it was no longer necessary for the defense of the Holy Land. Directions were given for the further procedure. The guilty were to be put to death; the innocent to be supported out of the revenues of the order. With this action the famous order passed out of existence.
The end of Jacques de Molay, the 22nd and last grandmaster of the order of Templars, was worthy of its proudest days. At the first trial he confessed to the charges of denying Christ and spitting upon the cross, and was condemned, but afterwards recalled his confession. His case was reopened in 1314. With Geoffrey de Charney, grand-preceptor of Normandy, and others, he was led in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, and sentenced to perpetual imprisonment. Molay then stood forth and declared that the charges against the order were false, and that he had confessed to them under the strain of torture and instructions from the king. Charney said the same. The commission promised to reconsider the case the next day. But the king’s vengeance knew no bounds, and that night, March 11, 1314, the prisoners were burned. The story ran that while the flames were doing their gruesome work, Molay summoned pope and king to meet him at the judgment bar within a year. The former died; in a little more than a month, of a loathsome disease, though penitent, as it was reported, for his treatment of the order, and the king, by accident, while engaged in the chase, six months later. The king was only 46 years old at the time of his death, and 14 years after, the last of his direct descendants was in his grave and the throne passed to the house of Valois.
As for the possessions of the order, papal decrees turned them over to the Knights of St. John, but Philip again intervened and laid claim to 260,000 pounds as a reimbursement for alleged losses to the Temple and the expense of guarding the prisoners. In Spain, they passed to the orders of San Iago di Compostella and Calatrava. In Aragon, they were in part applied to a new order, Santa Maria de Montesia, and in Portugal to the Military Order of Jesus Christ, orde militac Jesu Christi. Repeated demands made by the pope secured the transmission of a large part of their possessions to the Knights of St. John. In England, in 1323, parliament granted their lands to the Hospitallers, but the king appropriated a considerable share to himself. The Temple in London fell to the Earl of Pembroke, 1313. The wealth of the Templars has been greatly exaggerated. They were not richer in France than the Hospitallers. Thomas Fuller, the English historian, quaintly says, “Philip would never have taken away the Templars’ lives if he might have taken away their lands without putting them to death. He could not get the honey without burning the bees.”