‘New’ manuscript of the Templars’ trial in England

In vol. 1, p. xxix of my edition of the Proceedings against the Templars in the British Isles (2011) I wrote that the only manuscripts of the testimonies from the trial of the Templars in Britain and Ireland were Oxford, Bodleian Library MS 454, London, British Library MS Julius B xii fols 67-82, and Additional MS 5444 (copy of Otho B iii), and Vatican, Archivio secreto Vaticano, Armarium XXXV, 147. I noted, however, that there might be others as some testimonies are missing.

The missing testimonies haven’t yet come to light, but another manuscript does exist. Early in 2017 a French scholar of classical literature, Marie-Lise Tosi, wrote to me that the Bibliothèque nationale MS Lat 5376, fols 33-40, includes an extract from the English proceedings against the Templars.

BN MS Lat 5376 fol. 33r

Paris, Bib. Nat. MS Lat. 5376 fol. 33r

Folios 33 and 40 of the MS Lat. 5376 correspond to Oxford: Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 454 fols 88v–90r and London: British Library, Cotton MS Julius B xii fol. 77r-v; folios 34 to 39 correspond to MS Bodley 454 fols 74r–81r. The corresponding sections in my edition of these documents are Proceedings Against the Templars in the British Isles, vol. 1, pp. 141–158, 173–178.

The testimonies on fols 34–39 of MS Lat. 5376 relate to the twenty-five additional charges investigating the Templars’ organisational structure, while those on fols 33 and 40 deal with the remission and absolution of sins in Chapter meetings.

For the text in folios 33 and 40, there are remarkably few differences between the various manuscripts. Where the text on folios 33 and 40 differs from MS Bodley 454 fols 88v–90r it is usually the same as Cotton MS Julius B xii fol. 77, but there is an additional ‘Actum’ statement on fol. 33v (just after the testimony of Brother Radulphus de Barton) reading: “Actu’ in prioratu sce Trinitatis Lond’ vj ydus Junij presentibus domino Sicardo de Vauro + Pontio de Curte not[ario]” and another ‘Actum’ statement on 40r gives more information than the equivalent statement in MS Bod. 454 fol. 89r, as a second scribal hand added details of who was present at this hearing of 8 June 1310: “Actu’ in prioratu trinitatis Lond’ vj ydus junij Presentibus domino Episcopo London’ \prior’ dicti loci/ et Adam de lindeseye not[ario] publico lond’.”

There are more differences between the texts on folios 34–39 and MS Bodley 454. The introductions to each testimony are different, although the meaning amounts to the same. MS Bodley 454 includes the opening words of each ‘article’ (or charge), which MS Lat. 5376 does not. ‘Raimundo de Monte Alto monacho’ appears more frequently in the ‘Actum’ statements in MS Lat. 5376 – the equivalent points in MS Bodley 454 are the ‘Act’ statements on fol. 74 and on fol. 78v. The testimony of John of Sutton is in a different place in each manuscript: in MS Lat. 5376 fol. 39r his testimony is at the end of a group of four testimonies, after Brother Thomas de Camera, just before the statement ‘Acta in ecclesia Sancti Botulphi extra Alegate’, while in MS Bodley 454 it occurs at the start of this group of four testimonies, on fol. 78v, just after the ‘Acta in ecclesia Sancti Botulphi extra portam Episcopi London’. In MS Lat. 5376 John of Sutton states that he is not willing stare spontaneis confessionibus et depositionibus of the Templars (to stand by the Templars’ spontaneous confessions and depositions), whereas in MS Bodley 454 fol. 79r he was willing to do this.

Although there is very little difference between the testimonies in MS Lat. 5376 and those I published in the Proceedings Against the Templars in the British Isles, this additional manuscript is important evidence for the procedures adopted during the proceedings against the Templars, and how the testimonies were recorded.

Perhaps these English testimonies were sent to the inquisitors in France by the papal inquisitors in England, as part of the latters’ attempts to assemble a case against the Templars in England. The rest of MS Lat. 5376 suggests a different purpose, however. Folios 41r-64v of BN MS Lat. 5376 contain a series of notes, which form concordances of the Templar testimonies from Florence, Cyprus and France. These could have been created by the papal commissioners as they assembled consolidated reports of the evidence they had gathered from the proceedings against the Templars in different countries, in preparation for the Council of Vienne, which would decide the Templars’ fate.

Vatican, Archivio Segreto Vaticano Armarium XXXV, 147 is a consolidated report on the trials in Britain and Ireland. I do not know of any other surviving consolidated reports like this, but the notes in MS Lat. 5376 suggest that such reports could have been produced for each country. So MS Lat 5376 fols 33-64 may provide valuable evidence for the process of the trial of the Templars and the detailed work behind the scenes in which the evidence from the trial was assembled and analysed.

About gawainsmum

I'm an academic researching on the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller, the crusades, religion and the role of women in warfare and in religious life in medieval Europe. This blog will feature developments in my research as it progresses.
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4 Responses to ‘New’ manuscript of the Templars’ trial in England

  1. Pingback: ‘New’ manuscript of the Trial of the Templars in England – knights templars estates - Cardiff University

  2. Artemy Streletsky says:

    Thank you for sharing your findings! Is there any possibility, that the proceedings from Germany could survive in such a report?

    • gawainsmum says:

      It’s tempting to hope so, but the fact that there is no mention of Germany in these working papers is discouraging: they contain only England, Florence, Cyprus and France. For the benefit of new readers: the proceedings from Germany were lost during the Napoleonic era. Apparently Napoleon had them brought to France from the papal archives in the Vatican where they had been kept. They should have been returned to the papal archives, but never got there. However, François J. M. Raynouard summarised them in 1813 in Monumens historiques relatifs à la condemnation des chevaliers du temple et à l’abolition de leur ordre (Paris, 1813), pp. 268-70, analysing the trial in Germany on pp. 124-27. Heinrich Finke analysed the available material in his Papsttum und Untergang des Templerordens, vol. 1 (Münster, 1907), pp. 317-320. Both volumes are now conveniently available online at archive.org

      • Artemy Streletsky says:

        Thank you for your kind response! It seems that the commissioners were eager to gather the Templar depositions from those parts of Europe, where the Templars did confess (or at least someone gave dishonorable testimonies against them)..

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