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Demise of the Templars

In 1306, Philippe IV of France, was acutely anxious to rid his territory of the Templars, who were, at their best, arrogant and unruly.  But for Philippe, the Templars were also efficient and highly trained, a professional military force much stronger and better organized than anything Philippe IV could muster.  Philippe had no control over them, as their allegiance was only to the Pope, and even the latter was only a nominal allegiance.*

On top of all of this, Philippe owed the Templars money.  A great deal of money!  But worse yet, Philippe had also been humiliated by the Templars on more than one occasion, including the indignity of having been haughtily rejected when he applied to join the order as a postulant.  All of this prompted Philippe to act against the Templars, using heresy as a convenient excuse.            

Philippe first had to enlist the cooperation of the Pope.  Between 1303 and 1305, the French king and his ministers engineered the kidnapping and death of one Pope (Boniface VIII) and quite possibly the murder by poison of another (Benedict XI).  Then in 1305, Philippe managed to secure the election of his own candidate, the archbishop of Bordeaux, to the vacant papal throne.  The new Pontiff took the name Clement V.  Indebted as he was to Philippe's influence, Clement V opened the way to the eventual suppression of the Knights Templar by his benefactor, the French King.           

Philippe set up an operation which would have impressed the Nazi SS or Gestapo.  Issuing sealed and secret orders to his seneschals throughout the country and where they were opened simultaneously, all Templars in France were seized and placed under arrest by the King's men, their goods confiscated, and their preceptors placed under royal sequestration.  Despite this great surprise at dawn on Friday, October 13, 1307, Philippe's primary interest -- the order's immense wealth -- eluded him.  It was never found and what became of the fabulous "treasure of the Templars" remained a mystery.           

Actually, it is doubtful that the surprise attack on the Templars was unexpected.  (Some people just canít keep a secret!)  Considerable evidence suggests that the order knew that catastrophe was imminent.  (Perhaps two murdered Popes was a clue!)  In any case, precautions had been taken.  There is persuasive evidence to suggest that the order's treasurer and a group of knights, took the "treasure of the temple", along with almost all of the order's documents and records, and smuggled them by wagons to the coast -- presumably to the order's naval base at La Rochelle -- and loaded everything aboard eighteen galleys, which were never heard of again. [In later traditions, the significance of a Navy has never been lost on the inheritors of the Templar traditions.]           

Where those ships sailed to is unknown, but Nova Scotia has been suggested as a possible candidate.  The fact that this implies the Templars knew about the New World almost two centuries before Columbus is seemingly not a problem in that the Templars also possessed the wisdom of the East (and avoided the willful ignorance of the West).

In 1312, the bullied Pope officially desolved the Knights Templar -- despite the lack of a conclusive verdict of guilt or innocence ever being pronounced -- and despite Philippe's attempts for another two years to extract information.  In March 1314, Jacques de Molay, the grand master of the Templars, and Geoffroi de Charnay, preceptor of Normandy, were roasted to death over a slow fire.  With their execution the Templars supposedly vanished from the stage of history.  Nevertheless, the order did not cease to exist, and given the number of knights who escaped, who remained at large, or who were acquitted, it would be surprising if it had.           

But Philippe was still not content with eliminating the Templars' presence in France.  He tried to influence his fellow monarchs, hoping to ensure that no Templar would survive in Christendom.  Generally, he was not successful.  King Edward II of England, Philippe's own son-in-law, complied with the Pope and the French king's demands only partially and tepidly.  In Scotland, who was at war with England at the time, no one even bothered to publish the papal bulls.  In Lorraine, which was part of Germany at the time (not part of France), the Templars were supported by the duke of the principality.  Interestingly, Christopher Columbus was married to the daughter of a former Knight of Christ and had access to his father-in-law's charts and diaries.  And it was under the Knights Templar's red cross that his three caravels crossed the Atlantic to the New World.           

A final note on Philippe IV's campaign is that at the time of Jacques de Molay's death, as the smoke from the slow fire choked the life from his body, he is said to have called his persecutors -- Pope Clement and King Philippe -- to join him and account for themselves before God's court within the year.  Within a month Pope Clement was dead, supposedly from a sudden onslaught of dysentery, and by the end of the year Philippe had died of mysterious causes.  Considering the expertise of the Templars in poisons and the like, the mystery may not be all that tantalizing.           

But there's another strange twist.  During the sixteenth century, the house of Lorraine and its cadet branch, the house of Guise, made a concerted and determined attempt to topple the Valois dynasty of France -- to exterminate the Valois line and claim the French throne.  This attempt on several occasions came within a hair's breath of dazzling success.  In the course of some thirty years all Valois rulers, heirs, and princes were wiped out and the line driven to extinction.  This French line was, of course, descended from Philippe IV, and apparently, the attempts were Templar inspired.           

Interestingly, Nostradamus was said to have been an agent for the houses of Guise and Lorraine.  As a confident and court astrologer in the French court, he could have been responsible for providing Lorraine and Guise with important information concerning the activities and plans of their adversaries, as well as all manner of intimate secrets, quirks, and weaknesses of personality.  Many of Nostradamus' prophecies may not have been prophecies at all, but cryptic messages, ciphers, schedules, instructions and blueprints for action.  Nostradamus, before embarking on his career as prophet, spent considerable time in Lorraine.  This would appear to have been some sort of novitiate, or period of probation, after which he was supposedly "initiated" into some portentous secret.   

More specifically, he is said to have been shown an ancient and arcane book, on which he based all of his own subsequent work. There is no question but that some of Nostradamus' prophecies referred quite explicitly to the past, and to the Knights Templar, the Merovingian dynasty, and the history of the house of Lorraine.  A striking number of them refer to the Razes -- the old comte of Rennes-le-Chateau.  And the numerous quatrains that refer to the advent of "le Grand Monarch" -- the Great Monarch -- indicate that this sovereign was to derive ultimately from the Languedoc.  Once again, the village of Rennes-le-Chauteau and the Languedoc crop up in our story.  Must be important.           

It is noteworthy that in addition to being the war zone during the Albigensian Crusade and the near extermination of the Cathars in 1209, the Languedoc contains within its borders sites of various pagan temples.  It is also known that the Romans and later various Celtic tribes considered the area around Rennes-le-Chateau as sacred.  The village church of Rennes-le-Chauteau was consecrated to the Magdalen in 1059, and the church itself stood on the foundations of a still older Visigoth structure dating from the sixth century.  And of course, there is Poussin's painting, whose tomb suggested that the secrets of God were concealed within.           

In 1789 when Louis XVI, the last of the French line on which Jacques de Molay had laid his curse, had been guillotined, an unknown man is reported to have leaped onto the scaffold.  Dipping his hand in the monarch's blood, he flung it out over the surrounding throng and cried, "Jacques de Molay, thou art avenged."  Apparently, the Templars were alive and well even toward the end of the 18th century.           

What is it, one might ask, that so enrages the Roman Catholic Church against Cathars, Knights Templar, and the Merovingian Dynasty that would perpetuate crusades, inquisitions, and wholesale attempts at exterminating whole peoples?  Perhaps Pope John XXIII can give us a clue.  


Siege of Montsegur        History 009

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*This very abbreviated historical perspective is taken from numerous sources, including specifically, the excellent book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln [Dell Publishing, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, 1983].   



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