Sunday, June 1, 2014

Papal Bulls & the Templars

There are many important dates in the history of the Middle Ages, but some notable ones were the issuance of the Papal Bulls and, in this instance, those issued for and against the medieval Knights Templar. A Papal Bull is a formal proclamation or order issued by the Pope and the use of "bull" is derived from the lead seal or "bulla" that is appended to the end of the order to authenticate it. Originally a Papal Bull was used for normal communications, but would evolve and used for formal and important occasions.

The Knights Templar is said to have formed in 1118, but it did not have Papal recognition for another 2-decades. Initially, the knights were received and formed with the permission of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem. In 1128, by the efforts of Bernard of Clairvaux the Council of Troyes convened and the Catholic Church officially recognized the Knights Templar. Following the Council of Troyes, three Papal Bulls were issued which further endorsed the Templars and defined them.

Omne Datum Optimum, Latin for "Every Good Gift," was a Papal Bull issued by Pope Innocent II in 1139 which endorsed the Knights Templar. It allowed the Templars to keep their spoils of war, placing donations directly under papal protection, and exempting them from paying to tithe. This proclamation added a priest class to the hierarchy as well as making the members of order answerable to the Grand Master.

Milites Templi, Latin for "Soldiers of the Temple," was issued by Pope Celestine II in 1144 gave ecclesiastical protection of the Knights Templar, and further endorsed them by advocating that the faithful donate to the cause of the Templars. This along with the Templars annual collections and with the next Papal Bull laid the base for the Orders famous wealth.

Militia Dei, Latin for "Soldiers of God," was issued by Pope Eugene III in 1145. This was somewhat controversial as it allowed the Templar priests to take tithes, build their own churches, collect property taxes from their tenants, and bury their dead in their own cemeteries. Some speculate that this gave the Order's priests to take confession, but others believe this is a false assumption as no language exists within this Papal Bull that allows for such liberties.

On Friday, the 13th of October, 1307, the Templar suppression began by the French King with support from the Holy See. The French King 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. The first papal bull dealing with the fall and dismantling of the Templars wouldn't come for another month and would begin with Pastoralis Praeeminentiae, but would include 9 others.

Pastoralis Praeeminentiae, Latin for "Pastoral Preeminence," was issued by Pope Clement V on 22 November 1307. This bull was sent to all Christian monarchs and ordered the arrest of all Knights Templar and the seizure of all their properties. In spite of this request not all monarchs complied immediately; some did not believe the accusations and required more force by the Church for the arrests, confiscation, and investigation to occur in places like England.

Faciens Misercordiam, Latin for "Granting forgiveness," was issued by Pope Clement V on August 12, 1308. This bull called for the creation of an Ecumenical Council as a part of the trials against the Knight Templars, the creation of commissions who ran investigations into the charges leveled against the Templars, and established formal structures for the confiscation of Templar property and possessions. This council was asked to be held in 1310, but would not be held until 1311, and is important because it vested the fate of the Templars with the Papacy and not any of the monarchs.

Regnans in Coelis, Latin for "Reigning in Heaven," was the 15th Ecumenical Council which was held in Vienne located in Southern France. They met between 1311 and 1312, and its principal purpose was to formally withdraw the papal support given to the Knights Templar as well as dealing with the massive properties that they had accumulated over the centuries. The Templars were allowed to have representatives at this council; the Grand Master was requested to attend, but was imprisoned in Paris by the French king. Those attending the Council were 20 cardinals, 4 patriarchs, around 100 archbishops and bishops, plus several abbots and priors.

Vox in Excelso, Latin for "A Voice from on High," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1312. This bull formally dissolved and removed all Papal support from the Templar Order, but did not wholly condemn the Templars which goes along with his actions of secretly absolving the Templar Order with the Chinon Parchment.

Ad Providam, Latin for "To Provide," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1312. With the Templars disbanded and their property confiscated the Church needed to either take it over or bequeath it to another chivalric order. With this bull, Clement chose the latter and handed over all assets of the Knights Templar to the Knights Hospitaller. This bull shows that the Templars were suppressed quickly due to the appearance of guilt and quick suppression by the French crown rather than for judicious reasons.

Considerantes Dudum, Latin for "Considering Time," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1312. This bull repeats the reasons for the suppression of the Templar and outlines the disposition for members of the Knights Templar by decreeing that those Templars who have been legally acquitted or will be acquitted in the future, shall be supplied with the goods that had belonged to the Templar Order. It also stated that any fugitive member should appear in person within a year or face ex-communication and be condemned as heretics.

Nuper in Concilio, Latin for "Recently in Council," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1312. When the Templars were first suppressed, Pastoralis Praeeminentiae ordered that the Templar property should be confiscated and this bull was the order of the Papacy to turn that property over to the Hospitallers. This bull also continued to give some property back to the Templars who were acquitted.

Licet Dudum, Latin for "Granted Lately," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1312 at the Council at Vienne. This bull set up the system for the disposition of the confiscated Templar property permanently. This also settled some disputes that had arisen between the French episcopate and the Holy See.

Dudum in Generali Concilio, Latin for "A While Ago in General Council," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1312 at the Council at Vienne. This bull further dealt with the distribution of the acquired Templar property to the Hospitallier Order with any exceptions under the authority and supervision of the Pope. This set up further regulations and appellate systems for the disbursement of Templar property.

Licet Pridem, Latin for "Formerly Lawful," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1313 at the Council at Vienne. This was the last bull issued by Clement V and surrounded further considerations as to the question of the Templars' property.

The last few of these bulls were due to issues that the Pope was having with some of his clergies in France along with the French king who was attempting to take over the former Templar lands, particularly since the Templars owned most of Southern France. It is quite interesting to see that it took only 3 Papal bulls for the Templars to thrive and rise to such mythological heights while it took 10 total to fully dismantle it; though I could argue that it took really only 3 to take it down with 7 more being administrative measures. With the Chinon parchment, we see that the Pope absolved the Templars, but continued to dismantle and suppress the Templars because of pressure from the French king since the papacy at that time resided in Avignon rather than Rome, Clement V was a childhood friend of the king, and the previous pope had been assassinated by the French king. Here we stand today; 700-years after the death of the last Templar Grand Master, and the medieval Knights Templar still mystifies us and captures our imaginations.


1. Ad Providam. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

2. Avignon Papacy. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

3. Butler, A. (2010, March 31). The Council of Troyes. Retrieved from Templar History:

4. Council of Vienne. (n.d.). Retrieved from Papal Encyclicals Online:

5. Faciens misericordiam. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

6. FAQ: Origin of the Knights Templar. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Encampment of Knights Templar:

7. History. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani: Priory of Bulgaria:

8. Knights Templar History. (n.d.). Retrieved from Lords and Ladies:

9. List of Papal Bulls. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: 

10. Milites Templi. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: 

11. Militia Dei. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: 

12. Omne Datum Optimum. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: 

13. Order of the Temple. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Medieval Combat Society: 

14. Pastoralis praeminenti. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: 

15. Pope Clement V – 1264 – 1314. (2010, March 31). Retrieved from Templar History: 

16. Regnans in Coelis. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: 

17. The Holy See and the Order. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Preceptory Chapel: 

18. Vox in Excelso. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

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