Fall of the Knights Templar

An In Nomine Resource

By Emily Dresner

Entering the late 13th century, the Templars were recognized across Europe for their wealth and power, which brought about the dark ire of rival political forces. Paranoia is a powerful tool of Hell, and the uninformed people of Western Europe began to become critical of their benefactors who protected them and their holdings in the East. Were the Templars only killing and looting for their own gain, or bringing back powerful religious relics to use in secret rituals in their locked monasteries? Rumors were spreading like wildfire about the Templars and their secret initiation rites, witchcraft and dark practices.

At the same time, the Templars were dealt a powerful military blow to their organization. During the passing years, the Moslems were not sitting idle. Radical Moslems, upset over the crusades, had formed several military responses to the Knights Templar. One of these was the group known as the Assassins, loyal to the death to al-Hasan ibn-al-Sabbah, who used the European intrusion into their lands for personal and political reasons. After several smaller losses, the Templars were humiliatingly defeated on July 4th, 1187 at the Horns of Hattin, a barren double hill which protected the pass between Tiberias and Acre on the Sea of Galilee. This allowed the Saracens not only access to the Holy City but to Palestine as a whole.

Without being able to protect the Christian holdings in Palestine, the Templars were routed. By the time of the battle of la Forbie in 1244, there were only 44 Knights in the Holy Land. After the Fall of Acre in 1291, there were no more Europeans living in the East. The Knights, suffering grievous loss after loss, were no longer Europe's shining defenders; they became Europe's scapegoats.

Philip the Fair and William de Nogaret

Philip IV of France was a man of action, intensely proud, and often at odds with the Church. He was also a King at the head of an Empire that was nearly bankrupt from the Crusades. His closest advisor, William de Nogaret, accompanied Philip. De Nogaret was a spin-doctor, a master of disinformation, a man who could make anyone look extremely bad, no matter the reputation, no matter how holy, how gifted by the Church, or how enlightened. He was also a weapon.

Although Philip was a pious man, he would not consent to being just another subject to the Pope in any sense other then the spiritual. He refused to stand by idly as Pope Boniface VIII issued the Papal Bull Clericis Laicos, which forbade the clergy to pay taxes to any prince without the direct consent of the Church. Philip was annoyed at the Pope's show of power, so he cut off the export of gold and silver from France to the Holy See, nearly crippling it. Boniface retracted his Bull, but a new problem was already in the works.

Philip set his new sights on a bishop in Southern France, and wanted him to be removed from office for personal reasons. Boniface did not agree, and would not consent to degrade the bishop for purely political reasons, even after Philip presented a very creative and interesting list of the bishop's vices, created largely by de Nogaret. Pope Boniface, in retaliation, reissued the Clericis Laicos.

Philip summoned his estates of the realm to gather the people against Pope Boniface. The Pope turned around and threatened Philip with excommunication. Boniface set forth a new Papal Bull, the Unam Sanctum, where no earthly prince was above the Pope, not even if he happened to be named Philip. Philip chose to preempt the Bull, and sent de Nogaret down to Italy deal with the troublesome Pope. De Nogaret, who had already shown his hand in the matter of the bishop, drew up a list of vices that would make the most hardened demon cringe. According to de Nogaret, Pope Boniface was guilty of being, among other things, a heretic, a sorcerer, an assassin of sorts, and keeper of a mistress to hide the fact that he was, in reality, a sodomist. In the night with his group of thugs, de Nogaret seized the Pope and held him captive for some days before he was forced to free him by the local nobility. But Boniface, an old man by the standards of the time, never recovered from being kidnaped, and died soon after.

The next pope, Benedict IX, proceeded to blame de Nogaret for what had happened to Boniface, and excommunicated him in 1304. Just as the new Pope was getting ready to take on Philip, Benedict died within a year of taking office. The threat he would have been was ended.

This time, under the advisement of de Nogaret, Philip suggested to the College of Cardinals that he would be quite happy if they chose a Frenchman as the successor Pope. To everyone's surprise, a man clearly under Philip's control, Bertrand de Got, Archbishop of Bordeaux, was selected and chose the name Clement V.

When Clement came to power, De Nogaret, who demanded to be cleared of all wrongdoing in the incidents revolving around Pope Boniface, approached him. Clement was reluctant to allow de Nogaret to get his way. For six years, de Nogaret wheedled and nagged the Pope, until Clement caved and reopened the case. De Nogaret was allowed to present his side of the story, a tale that twisted both lies and truths. He then requested Boniface to be exhumed and publicly burned. Clement gave in, and even claimed that Philip IV had acted justly. All of the King's men were permitted to have their honor back. Clement did not, however, allow the dead Pope to be publicly humiliated.

When the Pope was cowed and out of the way, Philip set his eyes on a larger prize, the treasure of the Templars. Philip's coffers were empty, and he would not allow the existence of a power in his country that did not answer to him and him alone, a power he could not control.

The Inquisition and the Fall of the Templars

A scheme was devised to get the Templar money from the monasteries and into the King's coffers, while permanently destroying their reputation. This required playing on the new public loss of trust in the Knights, and their secret practices and rites. Philip and his advisor chose to have them accused of heresy and witchcraft. As heretics, they knew, the Pope would no longer protect the Knights. The Church would not come to their rescue.

De Nogaret first met with an embittered renegade from the Order, Esquin de Florian of Beziers, who had been expelled for various crimes. With the renegade knight and his knowledge of the inner workings of the Templars, de Nogaret was in position to plant spies in the great Houses and discover their patterns of activities and daily schedules. At the same time, on September 14th, 1307, Philip sent a letter to his nobles, claiming he had been informed of many heinous crimes the Templars had committed by "righteous people," and posed as a staunch defender of the faith. He claimed that he had Papal consent to deal with this blight on his French landscape. The stage was set.

On Friday the 13th, October 1307, sweeping arrests were made throughout the countryside. The knights were taken completely by surprise. Every Templar institution in France was stormed at dawn. The knights throughout France were arrested by the King and transported to dungeons for Inquisition. Enormous inventories were made of the Templar houses, and not a penny was missed. Large caravans transported the Templar holdings to the Kingly coffers. For the 14th century, the operation was an amazing military success, then and for many centuries to come.

Captured Knights were subjected to an inquisition, where confessions were to be extracted any means possible, including torture. Those knights who maintained their innocence often found themselves on the rack, which neatly invented memories of unspeakable horrors. Suddenly, the defenders of the faith found themselves admitting to heinous crimes and rituals only to avoid horrible pain and torture, all of which fed the tribunal for their upcoming trial. Knights claimed to have enjoined in rituals and religious work only in body, and never in spirit.

Since most of the Western Templars were more monks then knights, working with money and agriculture, many had never seen a live Moslem let alone rushed headlong into battle with one. They were not battle hardened warriors who had experienced pain at the hands of the enemy, they were farmers and handlers of money.

The effect of the inquisition was quick and decisive terror. Out of 138 knights captured, a full 134 confessed to terrible crimes. They admitted to everything from spitting on the Virgin Mary, to worshiping a crystal head of the demon Baphomet. 120 were burned at the stake. Pope Clement V, faced with the sheer number of confessions, issued a papal bull to suppress the order, and sever it permanently from the Church.

Outside of France, the neighboring monarchs were not as enthusiastic about joining in the attack and persecution of the Templars. They had seen the flimsy evidence of heretical activity. Those few foreign monarchs who actively made arrests made no overtures toward an Inquisition, and soon let those they captured go.

At first, Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar and a staunch upholder of knightly ethics, admitted to the crimes set forth before him in front of multiple tribunals over several years, some confessions extracted through torture. He admitted that his Order committed horrible rituals and demonic acts to save his own life. Through his words, many of the other Templars were damned and set to burn at the stake. But at the last moment, on March 19th, 1314, as sentencing of his own imprisonment was read before Notre Dame, de Molay stood and heroically defended his order, denouncing Philip and his groundless Inquisition:

"I think it only right" he began, "That at so solemn a moment I should speak up for the truth. Before heaven and earth, and with all of you here as my witness, I admit that I am guilty of the grossest iniquity. But the iniquity is that I have lied in admitting the disgusting charges laid against the Order. I declare that the Order is innocent. Its purity and saintliness are beyond question. I have indeed confessed that the Order is guilty. But I have done so only to save myself from terrible tortures Life is offered to me, but at the price of infamy. At such a price, life is not worth having."

As he said his proclamation, the sentence was quickly changed to death. Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake with several of his highest supporters. With the death of the Grand Master, and no other man to take his place, the lands destroyed, the reputation besmirched, knights dead, and the money taken by the King, the Order of the Templars, as a powerful force and an organization, was no more.

Through all the cajoling and torture and pain, Philip IV lost in the end to the puppet Pope. The lands would not be his, and he was not to control the former Templars holdings across Europe as he had imagined. Clement turned and gave all the Templar lands to the Order of the Hospitallers.

Less then a year after Jacques de Molay had been burned at the stake, both Philip IV and Clement V died. Some claim that de Molay, as he died, levied a curse upon both of their heads for their crimes. Others say it was simply justice.

Saladin, Soldier of Fire

Corporeal Forces -- 2 Strength -- 5 Agility -- 3
Ethereal Forces -- 2 Intelligence -- 5 Precision -- 3
Celestial Forces -- 2 Will -- 4 Perception -- 4
Status: 4
Charisma: +1
Skills: Fighting/3, Tactics/4, Dodge/2, Large Weapon (Sword)/3, Knowledge (Religion)/2

Saladin was born in 1138 as Salah-ad-Din, Yusuf-bin-Ayub, or "Righteousness of the Faith, Joseph son of Job". He was a Sunni Moslem of Kurdish origin. In his youth, he as a student of the Koran, Arabic and poetry, but as he grew older he became consumed with Jihad against the infidel Franks who had invaded and installed themselves in Palestine.

Saladin was a very clever strategist, and in 1164-1169, he was sent on many campaigns against the crusaders. He suffered heavy defeat at Al-Ramlah at the hands of the Templars in 1177. He was forced to retreat to Egypt without supplies, water, or food for the horses. He learned his lesson well and put his knowledge to good use at the Battle of the Horns at Hattin.

Saladin was instrumental in Frankish defeat in the East. In July 1187, the Christians suffered their decimating defeat at Hattin, and on October 2, he entered the Holy City. This tipped off the Third Crusade.

Several other campaigns established Saladin as the most influential man in the East. Saladin died in 1193, leaving behind no clear successor. The Moslems quarreled over his empire for seven years until his brother, Saphadin, took control.

Philip IV, Soldier of Greed

Corporeal Forces -- 1 Strength -- 2 Agility -- 2
Ethereal Forces -- 3 Intelligence -- 7 Precision -- 5
Celestial Forces -- 2 Will -- 5 Perception -- 3
Status: 6
Skills: Emote/3, Fast-talk/3, Lying/3, Savior-Faire/3

Philip "Le Bel" or the Fair was born in 1268 AD, and ruled France from 1285-1314. He was called the "Fair" in reference to his good looks: tall and handsome with long blond hair and blue eyes. His personality was in conflict with his pleasing looks -- a cold hard man who harbored desires to see France as the head of the empire. In order to carry out his wishes, he would need great financial resources and a weak and subservient Pope. He and his corrupt advisors worked feverishly to accomplish these aims.

Philip's persecution of the Templars was not his first attempt to destroy a group of people just to line his coffers. He first attacked the Jews and the Italian Bankers, the Lombards. He expelled the Jews from France after acquiring their money and their properties, annexing them onto his own.

Philip went so far as to purposefully devalue the coinage of his own country. He recalled all the coinage, melted it down for his own private usage, and issued replacement currency of lesser value. At one point Philip devalued the French currency to such a point he enraged the populace. He was forced to take refuge in a Templar monastery from his own people. It is possibly here, while hiding from a potential riot in a Parisian Templar Temple, that he became aware of the Knight's wealth and desired to add it to his own.

Philip died in 1314.

Nogaret, Balseraph of Factions, Captain of the Broken Promise

Corporeal Forces -- 2 Strength -- 4 Agility -- 4
Ethereal Forces -- 4 Intelligence -- 9 Precision -- 7
Celestial Forces -- 5 Will -- 11 Perception -- 9
Vessel: Humans/2 (+2 Charisma)
Role: William de Nogaret/6 at Status/5
Skills: Fast-Talk/1, Savior-Faire/3, Dodge/2, Area Knowledge (France)/3
Songs: Entropy (Celestial/3), Charm (Corporeal/3, Celestial/4)
Attunements: Balseraph of Factions, Knight of Deception, Captain of the Broken Promise

Nogariel took on the role of a Medieval Lawyer in the late 1200s, in an attempt to create as much strife as possible among the French populace. To have the greatest effect, he chose a deep cover role, which included being born into a rich family. The first true mark of his effectiveness was when his human role parents were burned at the stake as Albigensian heretics.

Nogariel worked through the bureaucracy. After conspiring to get Philip the Fair's Head Chancellor burned at the stake for heresy through contrived evidence, he rose to be the French King's closest advisor. He reveled in the corrupt King's greed, and worked gleefully to fulfill his aims. He advised destroying the Italians and the Jews, both biasing the French people against supposed "ethnic outsiders" and filling the King's coffers - which fueled Philip's attempts to make France the most powerful nation in Europe.

Nogariel's true mark on history was in the matter of the Templars. He destroyed one Pope, and subverted another in an effort to have control of the power of the Papal seat. He helped to conceive the sweeping arrests of the Templars, coordinate the testimony garnered through torture, and the trials to prove that the Knights had conspired of every crime from homosexuality and heresy to black magic and worshiping Baphomet.

After the death of Philip the Fair in 1314, Nogariel lost his position in France, and with his one great victory, disappeared from history.

Adventure Seed: Treasures of the Templars

Archangel Laurence has commanded a group of angels to retrieve a lost relic of the Knights Templar. It is a plain old chest long hidden away in an old Temple, sealed away from the rest of the world for the last 700 years. He's rather adamant about the retrieval of this chest, and impresses upon the group its importance. On Earth, the Temple has been turned into a modern tourist attraction. Sneaking around in the roped off areas can prove to be a challenge, as the local guards aren't too enthusiastic about guests wandering around. If the angels get through, sure enough, they will find a hidden cavity in the floor in a back room, as told in the debriefing. Except the cavity is open, and the chest is gone. From the small collection of cigarette butts, it looks like it's been opened recently. The perpetrators may still be in the building. Where did it go, and what was in the chest?

Article publication date: January 22, 1999

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