Document Shows Templars Not Heretics, Historian Says

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When several Knights Templar were burned at the stake for heresy in 1314, legend has it they screamed out a curse against the villainous lawyer who convicted them. Eight days later, he died.

They begged God to prove their innocence by taking the pope within 40 days. Thirty-three days later, Pope Clement V died too. Eight months after that, the French king who had coveted their money also passed away, and all his sons succumbed within 14 years, ending the royal family's 300-year reign.

So did the Templars really worship idols, spit on the crucifix and sodomize each other, as the French king claimed? Or did they just fall victim to his desperate greed, as a recently discovered parchment suggests?

In 2001, a second-year student of ancient documents at the Vatican stumbled across the Chinon chart, a 58-by-70 centimetre parchment misfiled in the secret archives for 400 years.

"I thought I was dreaming," Barbara Frale told the Citizen in an e-mail. "It took six months for me to fully grasp that it was real."

Frale, who is writing a book about her find, says the document shows that Pope Clement V did not excommunicate the Templar leaders, but absolved them of heresy and brought them back in the church. Rumours about sodomy and idolatry were simply misunderstood military hazing rituals.

"Historians had concluded that the Templars were innocent, but most people still thought they were heretics, occultists and the like," she wrote to the Citizen. "Now we have definitive proof. The Templars were not heretics. The order, which was a military brotherhood, simply practised a secret ritual that was grossly misunderstood and misinterpreted."

Late last year, the Vatican produced 800 limited edition copies of her find, with a full-size reproduction of the parchment, a Latin translation, a historical commentary written by Frale, and three replicas of medieval church seals. Ottawa's Saint Paul University has purchased No. 302 for its renowned rare book library at a cost of $8,000.

Many historians have pilloried Pope Clement for selling out the Templars to the French king. But in her commentary, Frale argues the pope was no toady. He was a subtle thinker who had to "run with the hare and hunt with the hounds" to keep the church from splitting apart...

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