Trial of the Templars

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Of the various trials held in France, the first, and one of the larger trials, ran from 19 October to 24 November 1307 and was held in Paris. A total of 138 prisoners gave a full testimony and almost all admitted guilt to one or more charges.[38] 

Since torture was used to elicit these confessions, the reliability of their testimony before this and other inquisitional tribunals remains an open question.[39] What is known is these earlier confessions contradicted later testimony before the 1310 papal commissions in Paris.[39] Another important trial that was held at Poitiers between 28 June and 2 July 1308 where at least 54 Templars testified before the pope and his commission of cardinals.[40]Here too a considerable number of defendants confessed to one or more of the charges.[41] When asked if their statements were freely given many said that, while they had been tortured or threatened, restricted to bread and water and other forms of harsh treatments had been imposed on them, their confessions were not the results of any torture.[42] But in 1310 at least three said they had lied in front of the Pope and now wished to defend the order.[42]

Templar Peter (Pierre) of Bologna was trained as a canon lawyer and was the Templar representative to the papal court in Rome. On April 23, 1310, Peter, with others, went before the commission and demanded what amounts to full disclosure of their accusers and all the information and evidence gathered in the case. They also requested a ban on witnesses conversing with one another, and that all proceedings should be kept secret until they were sent to the Pope. In May 1310, the Archbishop of Sens, Philippe de Marigny, took over the trial of the Templars from the original commission. De Marigny conducted the proceedings against the Templars until his death in 1316.[43] Pope Clement V interceded and directed that actual trials take place; however, Philip sought to thwart this effort, and had several Templars burned at the stake as heretics to prevent their participation in the trials.[44] Two days after this change, 54 Templars were burned outside of Paris. When the papal commission met on November 3, 1310, they found the Templars had no defenders and adjourned until December 27.[45] At this time the prisoners insisted that Peter de Bologna and Renaud de Provins again defend them but were told the two priests had appeared before the commission of the Archbishop of Sens and that both de Pruno and de Bologna were found guilty and had been imprisoned.[45] Peter de Bologna, however, had managed to escape his confinement.[45]

Recantation and death of Templar leaders in France

Templars being burned at the stake

Eventually King Philip’s Inquisitors succeeded in making Jacques de Molay confess to the charges.[46] On 18 March 1314, de Molay and de Charney, recanted their confessions, stating they were innocent of the charges and they were only guilty of betraying their Order by confessing under duress to something they had not done. They were immediately found guilty of being relapsed heretics, for which the punishment was death. This effectively silenced the other Templars. Philip continued to pressure and threaten the Pope to officially disband the Order, and things came to a dramatic end in 1314 with the public execution by burning of leader Jacques de Molay, and Geoffroi de Charney.[3]

The Knights Templar Order