700-year-old Templar document stops in Great Valley
Salamanca Press | Oct 24, 2008
By Chris Chapman
GREAT VALLEY – The Crusades, Templars, Charges of heresy. What do they have to do with a little Western New York town?
At the Great Valley Masonic Lodge Thursday night, plenty.
The facility hosted a piece of history that has been making its way through the state. A reproduction of a 700-year-old papal document, entitled Processus Contra Templarios (Trial against the Templars), made an evening visit with its caretakers, Thomas Savini, director of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of the Great Lodge in New York City; and William Thomas, library trustee.
The document is believed to be the official transcript of the trial of the Templars as well as Pope Clemente V’s verdict in 1308.
Since the inception of Masonry in the United States, speculation of ties to the Knights Templar has surrounded the organization.
“Although it seems unlikely, there might have been philosophical influences on the formation of Masonry,” Savini said. “(The alleged ties between the two groups) is one of the reasons the library decided to purchase this document.
“The Templars had a belief in the integrity of a man, and many died for that belief. It is that same philosophy that is a vital part of Masonry,” Savini said.
The documents were thought to be lost to history, only to be found by a researcher for the Vatican’s Secret Archives in 2001.
“The documents were in the pages of another book,” Thomas told those assembled.
Upon discovery, the documents were found to be in tremendous condition, according to Savini.
“It’s a lot like when you stuff the paid bill in the drawer,” Savini said. “Sometimes you jam the paper into the drawer once, twice, seventeen times because it doesn’t go in right.
“We were lucky that these documents were printed on parchment and folded the way they were – parchment is meant to last,” Savini said of the preservation.
The collection came into the possession of the Library through a bequest of a Mason that passed away. According to Thomas, it was the wishes of the man to have the Library purchase rare items and documents that have significance to Masonry.
“We have talked with members of his lodge and have been told that this is exactly what he would have wanted,” Savini said.
The reproduction of the papal work is number 355 of 799 numbered copies made by the Vatican’s publishing house, Scrinium. A total of 800 copies were produced, mold impressions, water stains and all. The last copy, unnumbered was presented to Pope Benedict XVI.
Of the 799 sets sold by the Holy See, only three reside in the United States. Cornell University and the House of the Temple in Washington D.C.
The collection is complete with reproductions of the three wax seals found on the original documentation.
The sets were sold for $8,375 in 2007, six years after their rediscovery, when the Vatican announced the find and released it to the world.
The Templars have carried a sense of mystique since their creation during The Crusades, into modern day on the pen of authors like Dan Brown, and movies like National Treasure. The latter playing on the tie between the Holy Warriors and contemporary Masonry.
The Templars were accused of several heresies, to include the practice of mathematics, and association with Saladin’s armies and Muslims in the Middle East.
Although shrouded in mystery, the initiation rite of the group formally known as the Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon, is believed to have included ceremonial spitting on a cross, supposedly as a practice, should the Muslim armies capture the Templar.
After the death of Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay, recorded lineage of the Templars was lost. He was believed to be the last Grand Master of the group.
Conspiracy abounds as to the actual demise of the Templars.
Some theories say the knights traveled too the British Isles and fought with Robert the Bruce in the Battle of Bannockburn, a major turning point against the British forces.
Other theories have the knights climbing aboard their vast navy and sailing to present-day Canada, establishing a temple in North America.
The documentation left its Manhattan home Oct. 19 and has been across the state, going to schools and Masonic Lodges. It will complete its journey Friday with a trip to three locations in Buffalo before returning to the Livingston Library.