Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vox In Excelso - 700 Years Later

Latin for "Voice From On High", Vox in Excelso was the Papal Bull which, on March 22, 1312, dissolved the medieval Knights Templar during their Inquisition by removing the support of the Pontiff and all mandates given to them by the previous Vicars of Christ.

The Templars had existed since (circa) AD 1118 as the "Special Forces" of the Holy Land. Now, after the loss of the Holy Land, they were seen as the ones who lost it and the French Monarch had the Templars in his cross-hairs. This Bull was issued five years after the arrest and suppression of the Templar Order in France (and eventually throughout Christendom).

Here is the translated text of the Papal Bull:
Clement, bishop, servant of the servants of God, for an everlasting record. A voice was heard from on high, of lamentation and bitter weeping, for the time is coming, indeed has come, when the Lord shall complain through his prophet: This house has aroused my anger and wrath, so that I will remove it from my sight because of the evil of its sons, for they have provoked me to anger turning their backs to me, not their faces, and setting up their idols in the house in which my name is invoked, to defile it. They have built the high places of Baal in order to consecrate their sons to idols and demons. They have sinned deeply as in the days of Gibeah. When I learnt of such deeds of horror, at the dread of such notorious scandal—for who ever heard of such infamy? who ever saw the like?—I fell down at hearing it, I was dismayed at seeing it, my heart grew embittered and darkness overwhelmed me. Hark, a voice of the people from the city! a voice from the temple! the voice of the Lord rendering recompense to his enemies. The prophet is compelled to exclaim: Give them, Lord, a barren womb and dry breasts. Their worthlessness has been revealed because of their malice. Throw them out of your house, and let their roots dry up; let them not bear fruit, and let not this house be any more a stumbling block of bitterness or a thorn to hurt.

Not slight is the fornication of this house, immolating its sons, giving them up and consecrating them to demons and not to God, to gods whom they did not know. Therefore this house will be desolate and in disgrace, cursed and uninhabited, thrown into confusion and levelled to the dust, lowly, forsaken, inaccessible, spurned by the anger of the Lord, whom it has despised; let it not be lived in but reduced to a wilderness. Let everyone be astonished at it and hiss at all its wounds. For the Lord did not choose the people on account of the place, but the place on account of the people. Therefore the very place of the temple was made to share in the punishment of the people, as the Lord proclaimed openly to Solomon when he built the temple for him, to Solomon who was filled with wisdom like a river: But if your sons turn aside from me, not following and honouring me but going instead after strange gods and worshipping them, then I will cut them off from before me and expel them from the land which I have given to them; and the temple which I have consecrated to my name I will cast out of my sight, and it will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. Everyone passing by it will be astonished and shall hiss, and shall say, "Why has the Lord done thus to this temple and to this house?" And they will say : "Because they forsook the Lord their God who bought and redeemed them, and followed instead Baal and other gods, worshipping and serving them. Therefore the Lord has brought all this evil upon them'".

Indeed a little while ago, about the time of our election as supreme pontiff before we came to Lyons for our coronation, and afterwards, both there and elsewhere, we received secret intimations against the master, preceptors and other brothers of the order of Knights Templar of Jerusalem and also against the order itself. These men had been posted in lands overseas for the defence of the patrimony of our lord Jesus Christ, and as special warriors of the catholic faith and outstanding defenders of the holy Land seemed to carry the chief burden of the said holy Land. For this reason the holy Roman church honoured these brothers and the order with her special support, armed them with the sign of the cross against Christ's enemies, paid them the highest tributes of her respect, and strengthened them with various exemptions and privileges; and they experienced in many and various ways her help and that of all faithful Christians with repeated gifts of property. Therefore it was against the lord Jesus Christ himself that they fell into the sin of impious apostasy, the abominable vice of idolatry, the deadly crime of the Sodomites, and various heresies. Yet it was not to be expected nor seemed credible that men so devout, who were outstanding often to the shedding of their blood for Christ and were seen repeatedly to expose their persons to the danger of death, who even more frequently gave great signs of their devotion both in divine worship and in fasting and other observances, should be so unmindful of their salvation as to commit such crimes. The order, moreover, had a good and holy beginning; it won the approval of the apostolic see. The rule, which is holy, reasonable and just, had the deserved sanction of this see. For all these reasons we were unwilling to lend our ears to insinuation and accusation against the Templars; we had been taught by our Lord's example and the words of canonical scripture.

Then came the intervention of our dear son in Christ, Philip, the illustrious king of France. The same crimes had been reported to him. He was not moved by greed. He had no intention of claiming or appropriating for himself anything from the Templars' property; rather, in his own kingdom he abandoned such claim and thereafter released entirely his hold on their goods. He was on fire with zeal for the orthodox faith, following in the well marked footsteps of his ancestors. He obtained as much information as he lawfully could. Then, in order to give us greater light on the subject, he sent us much valuable information through his envoys and letters. The scandal against the Templars themselves and their order in reference to the crimes already mentioned increased. There was even one of the knights, a man of noble blood and of no small reputation in the order, who testified secretly under oath in our presence, that at his reception the knight who received him suggested that he deny Christ, which he did, in the presence of certain other knights of the Temple, he furthermore spat on the cross held out to him by this knight who received him. He also said that he had seen the grand master, who is still alive, receive a certain knight in a chapter of the order held overseas. The reception took place in the same way, namely with the denial of Christ and the spitting on the cross, with quite two hundred brothers of the order being present. The witness also affirmed that he heard it said that this was the customary manner of receiving new members: at the suggestion of the person receiving the profession or his delegate, the person making profession denied Jesus Christ, and in abuse of Christ crucified spat upon the cross held out to him, and the two committed other unlawful acts contrary to Christian morality, as the witness himself then confessed in our presence.

We were duty-bound by our office to pay heed to the din of such grave and repeated accusations. When at last there came a general hue and cry with the clamorous denunciations of the said king and of the dukes, counts, barons, other nobles, clergy and people of the kingdom of France, reaching us both directly and through agents and officials, we heard a doleful tale: that the master, preceptors and other brothers of the order as well as the order itself had been involved in these and other crimes. This seemed to be proved by many confessions, attestations and depositions of the master, of the visitor of France, and of many preceptors and brothers of the order, in the presence of many prelates and the inquisitor of heresy. These depositions were made in the kingdom of France with our authorisation, edited as public documents and shown to us and our brothers. Besides, the rumour and clamour had grown to such insistence that the hostility against both the order itself and the individual members of it could not be ignored without grave scandal nor be tolerated without imminent danger to the faith. Since we though unworthy, represent Christ on earth, we considered that we ought, following in his footsteps, to hold an inquiry. We called to our presence many of the preceptors, priests, knights and other brothers of the order who were of no small reputation. They took an oath, they were adjured urgently by the Father, Son and holy Spirit; we demanded, in virtue of holy obedience, invoking the divine judgment with the menace of an eternal malediction, that they tell the pure and simple truth. We pointed out that they were now in a safe and suitable place where they had nothing to fear in spite of the confessions they had made before others. We wished those confessions to be without prejudice to them. In this way we made our interrogation and examined as many as seventy-two, many of our brothers being present and following the proceedings attentively. We had the confessions taken down by notary and recorded as authentic documents in our presence and that of our brothers. After some days we had these confessions read in consistory in the presence of the knights concerned. Each was read a version in his own language; they stood by their confessions, expressly and spontaneously approving them as they had been read out.

After this, intending to make a personal inquiry with the grand master, the visitor of France and the principal preceptors of the order, we commanded that the grand master, the visitor of France and the chief preceptors of Outremer, Normandy, Aquitaine and Poitou be presented to us while we were at Poitiers. Some of them, however, were ill at the time and could not ride a horse nor conveniently be brought to our presence. We wished to know the truth of the whole matter and whether their confessions and depositions, which were said to have been made in the presence of the inquisitor of heresy in the kingdom of France and witnessed by certain public notaries and many other good men, and which were produced in public and shown to us and our brothers by the inquisitor, were true. We empowered and commanded our beloved sons Berengar, cardinal, then with the title of Nereus and Achilleus, now bishop of Frascati, and Stephen, cardinal priest with the title of saint Cyriacus at the Baths, and Landulf, cardinal deacon with the title of saint Angelo, in whose prudence, experience and loyalty we have the fullest confidence, to make a careful investigation with the grand master, visitor and preceptors, concerning the truth of the accusations against them and individual persons of the order and against the order itself. If there was evidence, it was to be brought to us; the confessions and depositions were to be taken down in writing by a public notary and presented to us. The cardinals were to grant absolution from the sentence of excommunication, according to the form of the church, to the master, visitor and preceptors—a sentence incurred if the accusations were true—provided the accused humbly and devoutly requested absolution, as they ought to do.

The cardinals went to see the grand master, the visitor and the preceptors personally and explained the reason for their visit. Since these men and other Templars resident in the kingdom of France had been handed over to us because they would freely and without fear of anyone reveal the truth sincerely to the cardinals, the cardinals by our apostolic authority enjoined on them this duty of telling the truth. The master, the visitor and the preceptors of Normandy, Outremer, Aquitaine and Poitou, in the presence of the three cardinals, four notaries and many other men of good repute, took an oath on the holy gospels that they would tell the truth, plainly and fully. They deposed one by one, in the cardinals' presence, freely and spontaneously, without any compulsion or fear. They confessed among other things that they had denied Christ and spat upon the cross at their reception into the order of the Temple. Some of them added that they themselves had received many brothers using the same rite, namely with the denial of Christ and the spitting on the cross. There were even some who confessed certain other horrible crimes and immoral deeds, we say nothing more of these at present. The knights confessed also that the content of their confessions and depositions made a little while ago before the inquisitor was true. These confessions and depositions of the grand master, visitor and preceptors were edited as a public document by four notaries, the master and the others being present and also certain men of good repute. After some days, the confessions were read to the accused on the orders and in the presence of the cardinals; each knight received an account in his own language. They persisted in their confessions and approved them, expressly and spontaneously, as they had been read out to them. After these confessions and depositions, they asked from the cardinals absolution from the excommunication incurred by the above crimes; humbly and devoutly, on bended knee, with hands joined, they made their petition with many tears. Since the church never shuts her heart to the sinner who returns, the cardinals granted absolution by our authority in the customary form of the church to the master, visitor and preceptors on abjuration of their heresy. On their return to our presence, the cardinals presented to us the confessions and depositions of the master, visitor and preceptors in the form of a public document, as has been said. They also gave us a report on their dealings with these knights.

From these confessions, depositions and report we find that the master, the visitor and the preceptors of Outremer, Normandy, Aquitaine and Poitou have often committed grave offences, although some have erred less frequently than others. We considered that such dreadful crimes could not and should not go unpunished without insult to almighty God and to every Catholic. We decided on the advice of our brothers to hold an enquiry into the above crimes and transgressions. This would be carried out through the local ordinaries and other wise, trustworthy men delegated by us in the case of individual members of the order; and through certain prudent persons of our considered choice in the case of the order as a whole. After this, investigations were made both by the ordinaries and by our delegates into the allegations against individual members, and by the inquisitors appointed by us into those against the order itself, in every part of the world where the brothers of the order have usually lived. Once made and sent to us for examination, these investigations were very carefully read and examined, some by us and our brothers, cardinals of the holy Roman church others by many very learned, prudent, trustworthy and God-fearing men, zealous for and well-trained in the catholic faith, some being prelates and others not. This took place at Malaucene in the diocese of Vaison.

Later we came to Vienne where there were assembled already very many patriarchs, archbishops, selected bishops, exempt and non-exempt abbots, other prelates of churches, and procurators of absent prelates and of chapters, all present for the council we had summoned. In the first session we explained to them our reasons for calling the council. After this, because it was difficult indeed almost impossible, for the cardinals and all the prelates and procurators gathered for the council to meet in our presence in order to discuss how to proceed in the matter of the Templars, we gave orders as follows. Certain patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, exempt and non-exempt abbots, other prelates of churches, and procurators from all parts of Christendom, of every language nation and region, were concordantly chosen out of all the prelates and procurators at the council. The choice was made from those believed to be among the more skilful, discreet and apt for consultation on such an important affair and for discussing it with us and the above-mentioned cardinals. After this we had the attestations received during the inquiry read publicly in the presence of the prelates and procurators. This reading went on during several days, for as long as they wished to listen, in the place assigned for the council, namely the cathedral church. Afterwards the said attestations and the summaries made from them were considered and examined, not in a perfunctory manner but with great care, by many of our venerable brethren, by the patriarch of Aquileia, by archbishops and bishops of the present sacred council who were specially chosen and delegated for the purpose, and by those whom the whole council had chosen very carefully and earnestly.

We convoked therefore the said cardinals, patriarchs, archbishops and bishops, the exempt and non-exempt abbots, and the other prelates and procurators elected by the council to consider this affair, and we asked them, in the course of a secret consultation in our presence, how we should proceed, taking special account of the fact that certain Templars were presenting themselves in defence of their order. The greater part of the cardinals and nearly the whole council, that is those who were elected by the whole council and were representing the whole council on this question, in short the great majority, indeed four-fifths among every nation taking part, were firmly convinced, and the said prelates and procurators advised accordingly, that the order should be given an opportunity to defend itself and that it could not be condemned, on the basis of the proof provided thus far, for the heresies that had been the subject of the inquiry, without offence to God and injustice. Certain others on the contrary said that the brothers should not be allowed to make a defence of their order and that we should not give permission for such a defence, for if a defence were allowed or given there would be danger to a settlement of the affair and no small prejudice to the interests of the holy Land. There would be dispute, delay and putting off a decision, many different reasons were mentioned. Indeed although legal process against the order up to now does not permit its canonical condemnation as heretical by definitive sentence, the good name of the order has been largely taken away by the heresies attributed to it. Moreover, an almost indefinite number of individual members, among whom are the grand master the visitor of France and the chief preceptors, have been convicted of such heresies, errors and crimes through their spontaneous confessions. These confessions render the order very suspect, and the infamy and suspicion render it detestable to the holy church of God, to her prelates, to kings and other rulers, and to Catholics in general. It is also believed in all probability that from now on there will be found no good person who wishes to enter the order, and so it will be made useless to the church of God and the carrying on of the undertaking to the holy Land, for which service the knights had been destined. Furthermore, the putting off of a settlement or arrangement of this affair of the Templars, for which we had set ourselves a final decision or sentence to be promulgated in the present council, would lead in all probability to the total loss, destruction and dilapidation of the Templars' property. This has for long been given, bequeathed and granted by the faithful for the aid of the holy Land and to oppose the enemies of the Christian faith.

There were therefore two opinions: some said that sentence should immediately be pronounced, condemning the order for the alleged crimes, and others objected that from the proceedings taken up to now the sentence of condemnation against the order could not justly be passed. After long and mature deliberation, having in mind God alone and the good of the holy Land without turning aside to right or to left, we elected to proceed by way of provision and ordinance, in this way scandal will be removed, perils avoided and property saved for the help of the holy Land. We have taken into account the disgrace, suspicion, vociferous reports and other attacks mentioned above against the order, also the secret reception into the order, and the divergence of many of the brothers from the general behaviour, way of life and morals of other Christians. We have noted here especially that when new members are received, they are made to swear not to reveal the manner of their reception to anyone and not to leave the order; this creates an unfavourable presumption. We observe in addition that the above have given rise to grave scandal against the order, scandal impossible to allay as long as the order continues to exist. We note also the danger to faith and to souls, the many horrible misdeeds of so many brothers of the order, and many other just reasons and causes, moving us to the following decision.

The majority of the cardinals and of those elected by the council, a proportion of more than four-fifths, have thought it better, more expedient and advantageous for God's honour and for the preservation of the Christian faith, also for the aid of the holy Land and many other valid reasons, to suppress the order by way of ordinance and provision of the apostolic see, assigning the property to the use for which it was intended. Provision is also to be made for the members of the order who are still alive. This way has been found preferable to that of safeguarding the right of defence with the consequent postponement of judgment on the order. We observe also that in other cases the Roman church has suppressed other important orders for reasons of far less gravity than those mentioned above, with no fault on the part of the brethren. Therefore, with a sad heart, not by definitive sentence, but by apostolic provision or ordinance, we suppress, with the approval of the sacred council, the order of Templars, and its rule, habit and name, by an inviolable and perpetual decree, and we entirely forbid that anyone from now on enter the order, or receive or wear its habit, or presume to behave as a Templar. If anyone acts otherwise, he incurs automatic excommunication. Furthermore, we reserve the persons and property for our disposition and that of the apostolic see. We intend with divine grace, before the end of the present sacred council, to make this disposition to the honour of God the exaltation of the Christian faith and the welfare of the holy Land. We strictly forbid anyone, of whatever state or condition, to interfere in any way in this matter of the persons and property of the Templars. We forbid any action concerning them which would prejudice our arrangements and dispositions, or any innovation or tampering. We decree that from now on any attempt of this kind is null and void, whether it be made knowingly or in ignorance. Through this decree, however, we do not wish to derogate from any processes made or to be made concerning individual Templars by diocesan bishops and provincial councils, in conformity with what we have ordained at other times. Let nobody therefore ... If anyone ...

Given at Vienne on 22 March in the seventh year of our pontificate.

1. Vox In Excelso – March 22nd 1312. (2010, March 31). Retrieved from Templar Histoory:

2. Council of Vienne (1311-1312). (n.d.). Retrieved from Global Catholic Television Network:

3. Ralls, K. (n.d.). The Knights Templar. Retrieved from Ancient Quest:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Death of Jacques DeMolay

Well, today marks the spot where 698-years ago the 23rd and last Grand Master of Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, or the Knights Templar, was put to death by the French King. Besides the founding Grand Master, Hugh de Payen, Jacques de Molay is the most famous Templar Grand Master.

Life Before the Templars

Not much is known about De Molay's early life. Since it was said that he joined the Templars at the age of 21 in 1265 and died at the age of 70, historians believe he was born around 1244 in Molay, in the French region of Haute-Saône, in the county of Burgundy, at the time a territory ruled by Otto III as part of the Holy Roman Empire, and in modern times in the area of Franche-Comté, northeastern France.

As it is required to join the Templars, he was born into a noble family, but one of minor status. 

Early Years in the Templars

As I said before, De Molay joined the Templars in 1265.  He was received into the Order of in a chapel at the Beaune House, attended by Humbert de Pairaud, the Visitor of France and England, and Amaury de la Roche, Templar Master of the province of France.

Little is remembered of his activities for the next 20 years, but it is said he spent most of his time in the East where legend says he was one of the survivors of the siege of Acre, escaping with the then Grand Master, Thibaud Gaudin.

The Last Grand Master

At the death of the previous Grand Master, Gaudin, in 1292 De Molay was elected as Grand Master. By this time the Templars were located on the island of Cyprus due to the loss of the Holy Land to the Mamluks.

Immediately he departed on a European trip to seek support for another Crusade to retake the Holy Land.  This would prove difficult as morale was down and, politically, the Templars were seen as the "men who lost the Holy Land" so there was little faith in their ability to conquer Mamluks.  He was able to secure supplies to assist in the strengthening of the Cyrpus island, but couldn't muster any commitment for a new Crusade.

Jacques De Molay endeavored in the early years to reform the Order to strengthen it and prepare the knights for battle against the Egyptian Mamluks.

They tried several times to take the coastal city of Tortosa (Syria), but were relying on the assistants of the Mongols.  Their faith in Mongol assistance was misplaced, as they had their own internal/tribal issues, and each time they attempted to retake Tortosa they were pushed back to the staging island of Ruad.  Eventually, they would lose this island in September of 1302.  This eliminated the Christians's last foothold in close proximity to the mainland.

Following this loss, De Molay kept trying to raise enough support to raise a large enough army to invade and reconquer the Holy Land, but power struggles erupted in Europe; Phillip and the Papacy as well as the feud between King Henry II and his brother Amalric.  There was also a push for the knightly orders to merge, which we see both De Molay and the Hospitaller leadership reject.

Accusations, Charges, and Tortures

Jacques De Molay it seems was pulled into a trap by the French King, Phillip le Belle.  The French monarchy was in debt to the Templars and wanted to erase the debt as well as the Templars for which it can be easily said that he saw the Templars as a threat to his divine right. When De Molay first went to France from Cyprus, he was greeted, as Chris Hodapp put it, "with interest and diplomacy" and completely deceived the Grand Master.

De Molay was in Paris on the 12th of October, where he was a pallbearer at the funeral of Catherine of Courtenay, wife of Count Charles of Valois, and sister-in-law of King Phillip. The next day, the trap was sprung and De Molay, along with Templars across France, were imprisoned and this would last for the aged Grand Master for the next 7-years.

Phillip had the Templars charged with heresy and many other trumped-up charges, most of which were identical to the charges which had previously been leveled by Phillip's agents against Pope Boniface VIII. By making the charges religious in nature, he wouldn't be seen as a greedy tyrant, but as a servant of God.

The initial charges held against the Templars numbered in five:
  1. They renounced Christ and spit upon the cross during initiation into the Order.
  2. Men were stripped to be initiated and the thrice kissing of that man by the preceptor on the navel, posteriors, and the mouth.
  3. The neophyte (novice) was told that unnatural lust was lawful and indulged in commonly.
  4. The neophyte wore a cord day and night was consecrated by wrapping it around an idol in the form of a human head with a great beard, and that this idol was adored in all chapters.
  5. Priests of the order did not consecrate the host in celebrating Mass.
These charges would later increase, somewhere between 86 and 127.

During his interrogation in late October 1307, De Molay confessed that the Templar initiatory rites included denying Christ and stepping on the cross. It is said he was forced to write a letter, and after all, this occurred, King Phillip forced his new Papal puppet (Clement V) to order the arrest of all Templars throughout Christendom.

In December 1307, the Pope sent two Cardinals to interview De Molay where he retracted his confessions. This did not please the French King and a power struggle occurred. Two commissions, via a Papal Bull (Faciens misericordiam), were established one ran by the Church and one by the French Crown.

Eventually, De Molay was re-interviewed by the two Cardinals, but this time with French royal agents present where he was coerced into returning to his original guilty confession. In late 1309 he would again recant and say that he did not acknowledge the accusations and charges pushed against the Templar Order.

Just as De Molay did, many Templars confessed, under torture, to the charges.  The most common method of torture was known as "strapaddo" where the victim's hands, at the wrist, are bound behind the back.  Their bound wrists would be connected to a rope that was hung over a high beam whereby they would be lifted up, dropped, and stopped suddenly which would cause damage to the arms and shoulders. Other torture methods include strapping victims to the rack, which could cause major bone and ligament damage, and lathering the feet with lard which would be held over a fire until the feet would be roasted or burned away.  Under this kind of cruelty, it is not unreasonable to see that most would confess to any crime at the promise of stopping the torture.

The Pontiff wanted to conduct trials, but Phillip intervened and many Templars were burned at the stake as heretics (which did not require Papal approval to do). In 2001, a Vatican paleographer named Barbara Frale found a copy of the Chinon Parchment which states that in 1308 the Pope secretly absolved the Jacques de Molay and the Templar Order. This could explain why so many Templars were later burned as heretics or just simply disappeared from the jails.

Eventually the Pope, on March 22nd, 1312, would disband the Knights Templar through the Papal Bull, "Vox in Excelso".

His Execution

On the 18th of March, 1314, De Molay and some other Templar leaders were dragged before the public.  It had been Seven (7) long years and finally, they were to receive the sentence agreed upon by the Cardinals, which supposed to be lifelong imprisonment.  To the surprise and dismay of both the crowd and Cardinals, Jacques De Molay and Geoffrey DeCharney, Preceptor of Normandy, stood up and stated they were only guilty of betraying their Order by giving into torture and confessing to these false charges.

While the Cardinals were meeting to deal with this, the incensed King Phillip pronounced that De Molay and De Charney were relapsed heretics to be burnt at the stake. A pyre was set up on a small island on the Seine near Notre Dame.

Contrary to the belief of the conventional "burning stake/pyre", it could not have been a stake with wood and accelerant at the base as the victim would die within minutes from asphyxiation. The fire and heat would rise and the flames would be swallowed, burning the lungs, and soon filling with fluid thereby causing asphyxiation. For De Molay to have lasted for a while and slow burn, it would have required a pyre built by a stake in the center with a ring of fire, most likely hot coals, around it (think of the point within a circle as a diagram), which would cause an oven effect cooking him slowly and burning him from the feet up.

Eyewitness testimony said that De Molay showed no sign of fear and it said during the slow death of burning at the stake, he decried the Pope and King, saying that their deaths would be avenged and that those would join him in the Afterlife. Whether he really cursed them or not, both the Pope and French King died within a year.

The death of Jacques De Molay is the end of the written and accepted history of the Templar Order. The fall of the Templars and the death of De Molay though started many myths that endure to this day.


1. Jacques de Molay 1244 - 1314. (2010, March 31). Retrieved from Templar History:

2. Hodappp, C. (2009, March 18). 695th Anniversary of the Death of Jacques de Molay. Retrieved from Templar Code for Dummies blog:

3. Trial of the Knights Templar: Arrests, charges, and subsequent events. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: 

4. Zolnai, A. (n.d.). Jacques de Molay. Retrieved from Project Beauceant:

5. Hodapp, C. (2007). Templar Code for Dummies. p128-132. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley Publishing Inc.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Green Degrees of Freemasonry

Well, first I wish everyone a Happy Saint Patrick's Day. Since the color appropriate today is green I'm going to talk about the Green Degrees also known as the Order of Knight Masons.


The Knight Masons is an honorary body that extends invitations for membership to active, hard-working Royal Arch Freemasons. The membership includes many of the leaders of Masonry in the United States and is considered an honor earned by service to the craft. In the United States, Freemasons are not supposed to ask for membership in Knight Masonry, but rather wait to be invited. One is required to be a Royal Arch Freemason in good standing in his lodge and chapter, be recommended for membership, and pass a unanimous ballot.

The Mission Statement from the Grand Council of Knight Masons, USA, is:
The Grand Council of Knight Masons of the United States of America, in consideration of its origin strives to:
  1. Perpetuate the ancient rituals of the Irish Masonic Canon, (the "Green" degrees) by promoting their frequent and regular conferral inits constituent councils, and by its expectation that such conferral will be executed with an accuracy, a precision, and a dramatic power congruent with the highest traditions of the Masonic institution.
  2. Elevate to membership in its constituent councils only those Freemasons who in their character and persons have amply and thoroughly demonstrated in their Masonic lives, by means of a faithful attachment to the institution, a true and honorable record of service to its goals, and a genuine dedication to its high ideals.
  3. Foster in its constituent councils the regular exploration and studyof the Masonic Tradition and Heritage by means of an aggressive program of scholarly inquiry and research, and to pursue that Masonic learning in the spirit of our Celtic forbears who kept the light of faith burning in times of darkness.
  4. Encourage its constituent councils to discover in the pleasures and diversions of the festive board that warm fellowship and that joyous fraternity, which have ever characterized and actuated the great spirit of this Ancient Craft.
  5. Promote the charitable dimension so central to, and inherent in, Masonic life and tradition by obliging its constituent councils to contribute with customary Masonic liberality to those institutions, both Masonic and non-Masonic, which serve the needs of the greater community.

Knight Masonry contains those degrees which are worked within a council of Knight Masons under the jurisdiction of the Grand Council of Knight Masons.

The Grand Council of Knight Masons was formally constituted in Ireland in 1923 to look after the degrees which were previously worked by Royal Arch chapters, commanderies (known as preceptories in Europe and Canada) of High Knight Templars, and even a Rose Croix chapter. These “Green” degrees are ancient and are, in essence, Old Testament based. The degrees are three, in addition to the chair degree. They are:
  • Knight of the Sword (formerly the Red Cross of Daniel or Babylonian Pass): The candidate, representing Zerubbabel, seeks admission to come before King Cyrus. The King relates the details of a dream to his courtiers and then permits Zerubbabel to enter. Zerubbabel requests liberty for the captive Jews and gives a signal demonstration of his fidelity. The King, being impressed, grants Zerubbabel and his company permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. He invests him with a sash, a sword, and a password.
  • Knight of the East (formerly Jordan Pass): The time is now 16 years after the action of the previous degree. Zerubbabel now returns to Persia from Jerusalem to request King Darius continued support in building the Jewish Temple, and his aid in driving away from the enemies who are frustrating their efforts. Darius grants the request and appoints Zerubbabel as a palace guard. Before retiring, the King proposes the discussion of the relative strengths of wine, women, or the king. Zerubbabel and two other guards contend via argument, with Zerubbabel coming out the victor. He is then escorted safely back to Jerusalem.
  • Knight of the East and West (formerly Royal Order)In this degree, Zerubbabel returns in triumph to Jerusalem and reports to the Sanhedrin, or Jewish Council. As a recognition for his valor and constancy, he is created a Knight of the East and West, and is invested with a sash and apron.
  • Installed Excellent Chief (a chair degree of the presiding officer)
They are not to be confused with the degrees which may have similar names in other Orders. Despite this, you will find many similarities in the settings and plot elements with the Supreme Degree of the Holy Royal Arch, the Order of the Red Cross of the chivalric orders, and the Scottish Rite’s 15° (Knight of the East), 16° (Prince of Jerusalem), and 17° (Knight of the East and West). These are all, to some extent, related as they all are based on the legend of Zerubbabel (in Hebrew: זְרֻבָּבֶל‎) and feature Kings Cyrus (in Farsi: کوروش بزرگ) II (a/k/a Cyrus the Great or Cyrus the Elder), Darius (داریوش) I and Josiah (in Hebrew: יֹאשִׁיָּהוּ), and the return of the Jewish Diaspora from Babylonian captivity circa 536 B.C.E. Perhaps most familiar to you will be the wine-women-king debate featured in degrees throughout Freemasonry.


In about 1790 (possibly earlier), “Green Masonry” became separated from the Royal Arch and was known as “Red Cross Masonry;” but by 1810 in some manner not very clear now, the name was changed to “Knight of the Sword”, “Knight of the East” and “Knight of the East and West”. Also, as time went on, the conferring of these three degrees became the exclusive privilege of the Order of Knights Templar, some of the oldest Warrants of the preceptories (known as “commanderies” in the United States) covered the conferring of these degrees. They were not very generally conferred because they had nothing in common with the Templar Orders. Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the degrees were controlled by the Great Priory of the Order of Knights Templar in Ireland. The degrees are also worked under the authority of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland.  It was the gradual dying of the brethren who were sufficiently versed in Knight Masonry to confer the degrees that first caused alarm early in the Twentieth Century. Candidates for the degrees had to travel far to procure them. 

It was visualized that the degrees would eventually die out unless a means to prevent it was taken. The first move was to contact those preceptories/commanderies whose warrants included these degrees. Some of them were loath to part with their rights. Eventually, the subject was taken up with the Great Priory of Ireland. After some time, that body obtained the consent of its preceptories to hand over the conferring of the degrees to the suggested new body. which we now know as the Grand Council of Knight Masons.

The "modus operandi" of this relinquishment of rights from one Grand Body to another eventual Grand Body is unique and pertinent to our existence. In 1922, at a joint meeting of the members of the Great Priory and the Knights Templar, who desired to form the new body was held. A motion by Gerald Black, G.C.T., was passed “that pursuant to report of Committee, all rights and privileges touching the Red Cross Degrees, which are at present vested in the Great Priory be transferred to a Grand Council for these degrees.” The new Grand Council met for its first meeting on 18 June 1923, when it notified the Great Priory that it was then in a position to take over and exercise the rights and privileges with which it was invested.

The first President of the Grand Council was Gerald Black, who received the Degrees on 9 January 1901 in Commercial Priory No. 245, possibly by Gerald Byrne who probably was the last person to confer these degrees in Dublin; it is known that but three Preceptories — Commercial (Dublin), Sharavogue, (Birr) and Shaflesbury (Belfast) were conferring the “Red Cross Degrees” at the turn of the century. Thus we have a Grand Council of Knight Masons, for all intents and purposes appointed by the Great Priory of Ireland.

Knight Masonry was introduced in the United States on 20 May 1936 when the Grand Council in Ireland chartered three councils in North Carolina under a Provincial Grand Superintendent. Seven additional councils were chartered by the Provincial Grand Superintendent. The councils in the United States formed the Grand Council of Knight Masons of the United States of America in 1967. The Grand Council in Dublin recognized this Grand Council of the U.S.A. two years later. All councils chartered in the U.S. since that time was chartered by the Grand Council of the United States. All councils in Ohio, less their newest one, remain under the province of the mother Grand Council in Ireland. Today, there are over seventy councils of Knight Masons in the U.S.A. with more than seven thousand cousins.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Never Forget

From "The Poetry Of Freemasonry" by Rob Morris

Never forget, dear Comrade, while you live,
The ties of which the Templar's vow is wound;
Never forget a Templar to forgive,
If in his breast a kindred heart is found;

Never forget, though rust and sin may soil,
And lewd desires your bosom's tablet stain,
There is full pardon after life's turmoil,
If we but trust in Him who rose again.

Never forget the sad, sad story told
This hour, of treason in Gethsemane;
Never forget the good Cyrenian bold
Who bore the Sufferer's cross so manfully;

Never forget the taper quenched in night,
The darkened room, the silent group around;
Never forget the jubilant delight
When in his place a worthier was found.

Never forget to live the Templar's life,
Though hard it may be, rough, and fraught with care;
Our work, we told you, is a constant strife, —
We promised you but coarse and scanty fare;

Not long the weary arm, the moldy crust,
See on Celestial plains our camps are set!
Strike and press on, brave Comrade, as you must,
"By this sign conquer!" do thou ne'er forget.

Beware the Ides of March!

March is such an interesting month, historically and symbolically.  Now we come to the Ides of March of course.  Ides coming from the Latin word "idus" meaning "half division", which for the Romans was the 15th of March.  In ancient times, this day was a  festive day dedicated to the war god Mars (or Aries in Greek mythology).

This phrase is most famously known in Shakespeare's dramatic re-enactment of the murder of Julius Caesar in 44 BC where a seer warns Caesar to beware the Ides of March.

Maybe it's an omen, but today I have to take a midterm test for my Political Ideologies class.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Order of Knights of the Red Cross of Constantine

I am honored to say tonight I was approached by the Eminent Commander of my Templar Commandery and told that I have been invited to join St. Michael's Conclave, Red Cross of Constantine. I will go through the initiatory ceremony at the end of May, and I can't wait. here is some background to the Order.

The Red Cross of Constantine is officially known as The Masonic and Military Order of the Red Cross of Constantine and the Orders of the Holy Sepulchre and St. John the Evangelist; the latter two of which are called the Appendant Orders. The basic unit for this order is known as the Conclave and the officers are as follows:
Puissant Sovereign
Eminent Viceroy
Senior General
Junior General
Standard Bearer
Conclaves confer the first degree, Knight of the Red Cross of Constantine, while the two Appendant Orders are under the control of the Regional Conclaves. This degree is short, but lays the foundation of the order and the story of the Roman Emperor Constantine and the Battle of Milvian Bridge. The Order of the Holy Sepulchre is the first of the Appendant Orders and surrounds the legend of the guards who guarded the supposed place where Jesus Christ was buried. This degree is conferred with a Sanctuary and the presiding officer is known as a Prelate. The second Appendant Order is known as the Order of St. John the Evangelist. In comparison to the first Appendant Order, this degree is relatively short. This degree is conferred in a Commandery and the presiding officer is known as Commander.

There are also two chair degrees conferred on the Viceroy and Puissant Sovereign of a Conclave, and two honorary orders: Knight Commander of Constantine and Knight Grand Cross. The degree of Venerable Priest-Masons, or Installed Eusebius, is conferred upon those Knight Companions elected as Eminent Viceroy of their Conclave. The degree is conferred in a College of Priest-Masons. For those elected to serve as Puissant Sovereign, a Knight Companion is to be admitted to the degree of Perfect Prince-Mason which is conferred in a Senate of Princes-Mason.

From the Red Cross of Constantine website:
The purpose of the Constantinian Orders are to commemorate the first elevation of Christianity from the position of a despised and proscribed heresy to that of a legally recognized and honored religion, to cultivate the social virtues, appeal to the intellectual and moral qualities, preserve as far as possible the customs of the fraternity and bring about good fellowship and understanding between all branches of Masonry.
Knights Companions, the title for members, of the Order meet in Conclaves of the Red Cross of Constantine and a member must be a Royal Arch Mason in good standing and subscribe to a belief in the Christian religion as revealed in the New Testament. Membership is by invitation and each Conclave has a prescribed membership limit.

In the June 2011 edition of the Knights Templar magazine, Jim Herndon, a Past Grand Sovereign from Idaho discusses the history of the Order:
The early history of the RCC contains a mixture of fact and legend. The Constantinian Orders are the most ancient of all the chivalric orders and degrees and have a legendary history extending back to the early days of the Christian era, even before the Crusades. This most ancient chivalric order of military fraternities owes it origin to a celestial vision. Constantine the Great found the Order of the Red Cross as a memorial to the divine miracle which brought about his conversion to the Christian faith. The Red Cross degree traditionally recites the circumstances attending the conversion of Constantine to the Christian faith and his vision of the cross in the heavens inscripted “IN HOC SIGNO VINCES.” It is said that on October 27, 312, Constantine received his vision, and the next day he was victorious. In 313 A.D., Constantine’s Order of the Knights of the Red Cross received whole-hearted recognition.

The second and third working orders of the Red Cross, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and The Order of St. John the Evangelist, were first established in 327 or 328 A.D. along with the Order of Knights of the Grand Cross, first conferred in 326 A.D. The Popes of Rome exercised authority over the orders from A.D. 337 to A.D. 1094. In 1099 the Order of the Holy Sepulchre was revived and every recruit receiving the Order of the Knight of the Holy Sepulchre or that of St. John was required to wear a red cross on his arm or shield.

In 1692, Abbe Giustiniani, antachee introduced the Orders of the Red Cross into England. In 1760 the Grand Masters of the English and Scottish Knights or the Red Cross of Rome assembled in London and adopted as a requirement for knighthood that the applicant must be a Royal Arch Mason and a Christian. Judge Wallor Rodwell Wright was installed Provisional Grand Sovereign in 1804. A Grand Imperial Council of England was organized and on March 13, 1809, asserted sovereignty throughout Europe and America.