The medieval military orders were religious institutions whose members had professed a life of combat and prayer that, although it transcended traditional forms of regular religious life by combining contemplation with active military service, nonetheless integrated them into a religious landscape sharply defined by diversity. As part of this landscape military order communities came into regular contact with secular and regular clerics from other institutions as well as with laymen and -women who provided them with revenues and possessions, among them churches and chapels and the rights pertaining to them. Through the use of these devotional spaces, the military orders became shareholders in the spiritual economy of the regions they had entered. Unfortunately, still very little is known about the military orders’ religious functions in the dioceses in which they held ecclesiastical possessions. This is in spite of the fact that considerable headway has been made towards understanding the religious and social entanglements of military orders at the local level, on the one hand, and integrating their origins and developments more fully into the central narrative of religious reform and renovation in medieval Europe, on the other hand.Footnote 1
However, what has been neglected in the debate on military order religion is a more focused discussion of how the religion of individual military orders was understood and experienced by outsiders through the ecclesiastical property these orders possessed and the devotional spaces they created and maintained.Footnote 2 Recent research by Jean-Marie Allard on Templar parishes in Aquitaine, by Damien Carraz on the struggle between military orders and secular clergy over control of churches and cemeteries in Provence, and by Thomas Krämer on conflict resolution between military orders and prelates more broadly, has offered valuable insights into how such a discussion should be pursued.Footnote 3 Focusing solely on the Order of the Temple, this study follows their lead by examining aspects of Templar religious involvement in medieval society in general and the reactions of senior clergymen to the Templars’ religious engagement on the parish level in particular. Drawing on evidence from continental Europe (mostly from France) and the British Isles, it argues that the Templars proved very keen to expand their network of parish churches even against the wishes of bishops who previously had supported them and that, in so doing, they proved willing to engage with the lay public on an even larger scale than has hitherto been believed.Footnote 4
Templar Ecclesiastical Property
The Templar charters that still survive in local archives and published document collections are the best source we have for information about the great number of churches, chapels, and oratories that the Templars had been accumulating since the 1120s.Footnote 5 For the most part these had been donations by ecclesiastics or wealthy laymen who had given them to the Templars as sources of revenue.Footnote 6 In 1139, the bull Omne datum optimum granted the Order papal permission to build new oratories for the benefit of the souls of its brethren and lay associates.Footnote 7 In theory, this should have allowed every Templar community access to a chapel or church where the canonical hours could be observed. Over time the Templars established a recognizable religious presence in the regions they had entered. This would not have gone unnoticed. The Templars’ ringing of church bells, for example on Maundy Thursday at every canonical hour from matins until mass and then again at Easter Eve,Footnote 8 alerted those living in the vicinity of the liturgical activity that went on behind commandery walls, as did of course the very sight of a Templar church or chapel and the border stones bearing the order's insignia, which the Templars and other orders used to delineate their property.Footnote 9 Some of the churches that were given to the Templars became nuclei of new commanderies, as was the case, for example, with La Trinité in Reims, which Archbishop Henry of Reims had given to the Templars sometime in the late 1160s and which became the center of a large Templar community.Footnote 10 If they already had parochial status, these converted churches could continue to care for the souls of parishioners. The Templar church of Montsaunès at the foot of the French Pyrenees, for example, was situated within the enclosure of a commandery but still accessible to the public. Situated on the west wall of the commandery and facing eastward, the church of Montsaunès formed a barrier between the domestic and military offices to the north and the cemetery and presbytery garden to the south. Serving the parish as well as the Order, it had two doors through which Templars and parishioners entered the church separately. Public access was through a Roman portal in the west wall of the building, which was framed by a line of mysterious heads and topped with an encircled chi-rho symbol held up by two angels. The Templars entered through a door in the north wall. Once inside the church the parishioners could marvel at colorful frescoes on the walls and a ceiling covered with stars and Templar crosses.Footnote 11 The chapel in the compound of the Templar commandery of Sainte-Catherine at Montbellet in the Mâconnais also seems to have served as a parish church, in this case for the villages of Mercey and Montbellet. Built in the late thirteenth century it was decorated with gothic sculptures (including the Agnus Dei found in so many other Templar churches and on Templar seals)Footnote 12 and early fourteenth-century life-size frescoes representative of the saints and apostles.Footnote 13 In general, however, the Order's conventual chapels were reserved for the devotional use of Templar brothers, although laymen could still enter them.Footnote 14 In fact, laymen and -women were frequently required to access the devotional spaces of commandery chapels to discuss and negotiate contracts, conclude and sign benefactions to and business transactions with the Order, or attend important ceremonies, like burials and receptions.
Burials were public affairs, and friends and relatives of the deceased flocked to Templar churches to celebrate the divine office and mourn the dead. The same holds true for burials of Templar brothers, including benefactors who had accepted the habit on their deathbed. These were celebrated by the entire Templar convent, but outsiders were allowed to attend and participate in the celebration. Depending on the social standing of the deceased and his family, the number of attendees varied from very few people to large crowds, as has been attested for late thirteenth-century England. Whereas the burial of Brother Thomas of Oseney near Warwick was attended only by the chaplain of the local parish church and two laymen from the same parish (a certain Adam and Richard the Miller), the burials of Brothers Robert the Carpenter and W. Marshal at Cressing apparently attracted more than sixty mourners, including “many … secular people, both from the family and others.”Footnote 15 And allegedly up to one hundred mourners attended Templar burials in the Templar infirmary at Eagle in Lincolnshire.Footnote 16
The presence of family members during the burial ceremony was encouraged by the Templars, for whom such events were good opportunities to have the benefactions of the deceased reenacted and confirmed by his relatives and before witnesses. In a charter issued late in 1197, Lord Odo of Grancey remembered that when his grandfather, who had joined the Templar order late in his life, died at the nearby commandery of Bure in 1197,
the mourning brothers [of the Temple] sent for me, Odo, lord of Grancey. I, who was myself in much sorrow about the demise of my grandfather, went to Bure with my uncles Peter, Pons, and Hugh, and with many others. We remained there for as long as the ceremony of the divine office lasted. After the celebration of the divine office we proceeded to the tomb, and with great honour was the body of my grandfather buried.Footnote 17
The exact location of Odo of Grancey's tomb in the devotional topography of the commandery of Bure cannot be established from the charter, but similar examples drawn from other regions show that the tombs of important benefactors-turned-Templar were sometimes prominently placed before the altar in the commandery chapel, thus providing the families with extra incentive for further patronage as well as a focal point for future commemoration.Footnote 18
If funerals attracted crowds to Templar churches, so too did receptions. During his deposition after his arrest in 1307, brother Reginald remembered that, during his reception into the Order at Provins, crowds of relatives, friends, and other people were gathering outside the closed door of the chapel.Footnote 19 Perhaps as many as one hundred spectators, but among them only two Templars, had allegedly been present when William Raven was received into the Order in the chapel of Temple Combe, although it is likely that most of them would again have waited outside, since the receptions were supposed to be held in private.Footnote 20 The reception of a friend or relative may not always have been the only reason why lay people flocked to Templar houses on particular occasions. Since many receptions took place during Palm Sunday, Candlemas, Easter, the Ascension, Pentecost, the Assumption, All Saints, Christmas, or the Exaltation of the Holy Cross — on feast days, in other words, which were celebrated in the Temple with a solemn procession after Mass — it is possible that some spectators, and in particular those ominous “other people,” were drawn to the chapels by the spectacle of Templar devotion.Footnote 21 I have argued elsewhere that the Holy Cross played a particularly important role in Templar devotion.Footnote 22 Its link with the Templars, who imitated Christ in their suffering and conquered evil in death, was not lost to the laity. Pious men and women flocked to the Templar church in Paris on Good Friday to witness the brothers’ veneration of the Cross. Even almost twenty years after the Order of the Temple had been disbanded, the citizens of Pavia on Good Friday held on to the tradition of proceeding to the old Templar church after Mass at the Franciscan convent.Footnote 23
Templar Clergy and Religious Privileges
However, it was the parish church under Templar patronage and not the Templar commandery chapel that provided the setting in which most laymen would have been able to witness and experience the mass celebrated by a Templar priest or, more frequently, by one of the Order's many associated priests.Footnote 24 Until 1139, when the Order of the Temple was allowed its own clergy, the Templars were entitled to control the revenues of their churches and to give them as benefices to priests who needed to be accepted by the bishop and who would serve the Order temporarily. If their employment was in the Holy Land then these priests were subject to the patriarch of Jerusalem;Footnote 25 otherwise, they answered to the local bishop. Only after 1139 could the Templars present their own priests — priests, in other words, who were also fully professed members of the order — to the benefices of their churches, still pending, however, the bishop's approval.Footnote 26 Ideally, the bishop's approval of the Templars’ candidates should have been a formality, but in reality the Templars’ choices were frequently contested, causing the popes time and again to urge the bishops to accept the priests or vicars presented to them by the Templars.Footnote 27 For their part, the Templars were growing increasingly reluctant to seek the bishops’ approval in the first place. Still in 1235 Pope Gregory IX had to remind them to present their priests and those “suitable secular clerics, who live with you in your houses, gather with you at your table, and sleep in your dormitory” to the bishop of the diocese “as you should” (“prout ad vos pertinet”).Footnote 28
In his bull Omne datum optimum of 1139, Pope Innocent II invested the Templars with apostolic protection by placing them under direct papal authority and outside the fiscal and jurisdictional control of the bishops. The intention of the bull may have been to facilitate the Templars’ access to the sacraments and the cure of souls (cura animarum) and not to diminish the influence of ordinary church authorities in the Order. Even so, after 1139 the door to exemption from episcopal jurisdiction stood open, and by the end of the pontificate of Alexander III (1159–1181) the Templars had shut it behind them.Footnote 29 Amendments that were made to the Templar rule after 1139 included a general ban for confessions to non-Templar priests (only to be revoked if no Templar chaplain was at hand) and the formal statement that even associated priests had no disciplinary authority in the Order.Footnote 30 A set of papal bulls and decrees gradually enhanced the Templars’ privileges until they eventually extended over entire areas rather than localities.Footnote 31 They included the right to celebrate divine office and mass once a year in churches under interdict (1144);Footnote 32 extensions to the Order's burial rights (1166 × 79);Footnote 33 and the right of the chaplains of major Templar commanderies, or baiuliae, to absolve their brethren (1238).Footnote 34 Also added was the permission for associated priests to hear Templars’ confessions, to absolve Templars, and to administer the sacraments to them, as well as the pope's permission for Templar chaplains to absolve all “people of the Order,” or familiares, and to administer the sacraments to them as well (1260).Footnote 35
These amendments were a major blow for the bishops and parish priests, who saw themselves deprived of revenues and important disciplinary powers. Not all bishops accepted these challenges to their authority willingly and quietly, as the number of references to litigations and disputes between bishops and cathedral chapters, on the one hand, and Templar convents, on the other hand, shows. Some, however, eventually acknowledged the Templars’ entitlement to certain privileges in their dioceses, not least because they realized that the Order enjoyed widespread local support. This would seem to have been the case in 1189 when Hugh Bishop Hugh of Rodez confirmed the possessions held by the Templars of Sainte-Eulalie within the parish of Saint-George. He acknowledged their privileges and possession of churches in the diocese, dropped his accusations against them, and left them in possession of all gifts, alms, and bequests made to them by his parishioners, which ex occasione Decreti he had the right to reclaim.Footnote 36
Templars and Other Clergy: Aspects of Collaboration and Support
In practice, the accumulation of privileges did not affect all Templar communities equally. Not everywhere would Templars have been willing to implement their right to have a cemetery, for which land would have to be made available and which would require them to loosen their ties with other religious communities on whose spiritual assistance they still counted. Some Templar houses continued to pay annuities to provide for the souls of brothers who were buried in another church. The Templars of Combe in Somerset, for example, agreed to pay the Augustinian prior and convent of Bruton three shillings annually for the souls of their brothers who were buried at Bruton.Footnote 37 Nor did their exempt status prevent the Templars from creating ties of subordinate relationship with the bishops over churches and hospitals, which the latter were willing to assign to them in return for annuity payments and the assurance that their control over these properties would not be violated. In response to the bull Milites Templi of 1144, which urged churchmen to receive the Templars favorably, Bishop Ulger of Angers had ordered the prelates and clergy of his diocese “to receive with kindness and affection our brothers when they come to you, and grant them your churches for their preaching, and encourage your parishioners to open their hearts and to make very generous donations to them.” With a clear reference to the bull, he continued that, “wishing to share in their blessedness and destiny, we ourselves grant that if they go to churches which are under an interdict, on their arrival, on one single day of the year, for the honor of God and of them, the bells shall be solemnly rung and the divine office be celebrated. All parishioners except those that are excommunicated will be allowed to enter those churches. And if any of these brothers wearing the emblem or the habit, or living the life should happen to die on that day, he may be given burial.”Footnote 38
Although some senior clergy seem barely to have tolerated the establishment of the Templars’ religious presence in their dioceses, others, like Bishop Ulger of Angers or Bishop Carlo of Turin, supported it outright.Footnote 39 Temporary association with the Templars in the Holy Land became a recognized form of penance;Footnote 40 even benefactions to the Temple (and the Hospital) and visits to particular Templar (and Hospitaller) churches counted as penitential exercises.Footnote 41 Already in the 1120s the archbishop of Aux promised every person who gave a penny to the Temple a remittance of forty days of penance.Footnote 42 Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury and later his successor Thomas Becket offered indulgences worth twenty days to visitors to the old Templar church of Saint Mary at Holborn,Footnote 43 whereas Archbishop Roger of York rewarded them with ten days and the prayers and benefits of Saint Mary's, York.Footnote 44 Pilgrims who arrived at New Temple London for the anniversary of the dedication of the church by the patriarch of Jerusalem secured themselves a remission of sixty days of penance.Footnote 45 Other bishops from England, Ireland, and Plantagenet Aquitaine offered between ten and forty days indulgence for the same journey.Footnote 46 Papal indulgences offered for pilgrimages to the Templars’ church in Paris extended from fifteen days (1217)Footnote 47 to twenty days (1230).Footnote 48 And in 1249 Pope Innocent IV offered a relaxation of forty days penance to everyone who contributed to the construction of the Templar church in Barcelona.Footnote 49
Throughout the twelfth century, the bishops and cathedral chapters of Langres, Carcassonne, and Trois-Châteaux counted among the most prolific benefactors of the Templars in their dioceses, often instigating the foundation of new commanderies with their gifts of landed property, churches, and parochial rights.Footnote 50 Damien Carraz has argued that, in France and Italy at least, the military orders “received a warm welcome, partly because bishops expected some support with church reform and pastoral care from these novae religiones.”Footnote 51 Their decision to complete the network of parishes in their dioceses with the help of the Templars therefore seems to have been a deliberate one, for they hoped that the presence of the new order would instill in their parishes a new spirit of religious fervor and diligence. Like the new monks and canons regular, the Templars were charged with the reform of religious communities that the bishops found lacking in discipline and vigor.
Evidence also exists that on a local level the Templars’ spiritual worth was recognized by senior churchmen in the form of charters recording the transfer of churches and monasteries into the care of the Templars. Already in 1139 the newly appointed bishop of Périgueux, Geoffrey of Cauze, installed the Templars at Andrivaux after having expelled the monastery's previous occupants, a convent of Benedictine nuns, for irregular behavior.Footnote 52 He was thereby following in the footsteps of his predecessors, who had in previous years installed chapters of Augustinian canons at Saint-Astier and Saint-Jean-de-Côle and who had encouraged the creation of another Augustinian chapter at Chancelade, close to Andrivaux, and the foundation of the Cistercian abbey of Cadouin.Footnote 53 A similar motivation (that is, to stimulate reform in the diocese) can be assumed to be behind the decision of the archbishop of Bordeaux in 1170 to install the Templars in the church of Saint-Pierre-de-Vaux (today Arveyres, dép. Gironde)Footnote 54 or Bishop Ulger of Angers’ plea for support for the Templars some years after he had helped establish no fewer than three reform convents in Anjou: the Savigniac priory of La Boissière (1131), the Tironensian priory at Asnière (1133), and the Cistercian abbey of Pontron (1134).Footnote 55 Taken at face value, these twelfth-century examples seem to demonstrate the bishops’ trust in the Templars’ spiritual steadfastness, a trust that would certainly have registered with other laymen and ecclesiastics in the diocese. One pope who shared the bishops’ evaluation of the Templars as spiritually steadfast and sound was Gregory IX, who in the late 1230s entrusted the Templars of Tuscany with the reform (ad melius reformandam) of the monastery of San Giustino in the diocese of Perugia, which he considered as “in spiritualibus deformatum et in temporalibus collapsum.”Footnote 56 His decision not only shows the spiritual value that he evidently attributed to the Order of the Temple; implicitly, it also demonstrates his conviction that the Templars of Tuscany possessed the spiritual manpower and equipment that was necessary to enforce a regimen of reform in a monastic community that had hitherto failed to live up to its religious standards.
As already suggested in Ulger's letter from 1144 cited above and illustrated by some of the examples just given, not all bishops and prelates treated the Templars with suspicion and hostility from the outset, although many more adopted this attitude in the thirteenth century. By then the Templars were pursuing an aggressive policy of religious expansion, thereby cutting many secular clerics short of their revenues. Nor were prelates in principle opposed to the idea that the Templars should engage in the cure of souls; some bishops even entrusted them with this task, thus treating them no differently from other reform orders.Footnote 57 In many places, Templars were welcomed by secular and regular religious alike, who sought, or accepted, association with them. Ties between Templar and Cistercian communities were frequent, for example, in France and northern Italy.Footnote 58 But ties to other (often very local) institutions also existed. Perhaps as early as October 1131 the canons of Arras offered to celebrate solemn Mass once a year for the three days of Rogation and the five days thereafter in their chapel at Ypres in honor of the Temple (which implied that the offerings would go to the Order).Footnote 59 The canons of Péronne seem to have provided the Templars with annual payments from their prebends right up to the early fourteenth century (as we know from the Hospitallers’ recorded attempt to claim their succession to these revenues after the dissolution of the Temple).Footnote 60 The Augustinian convent of Saint-Vaast in Flanders established in the 1140s a spiritual alliance with the Templars with whom the canons felt united in their ambition “to enlarge the body of our Lord Jesus Christ.” An elemental part of this spiritual bond was that the Templars were henceforth commemorated in the canons’ prayers.Footnote 61 The Augustinians of Bruton in Somerset accepted Templars for burial and prayed for their souls.Footnote 62 In 1193 Archbishop Imbert of Arles endowed the Templars of Saint-Gilles with the church of Saint-Pierre-de-Campublic, including all appurtenances and parochial rights, in return for an annual rent of one mark in silver.Footnote 63 And still in 1211 Bishop Bertrand of Antibes enabled the Templars to have a church and cemetery in the town of Grasse.Footnote 64
Templars and Other Clergy: Aspects of Conflict
Even if they were supportive of the Order, however, bishops and prelates were careful to take precautions that their own privileges would remain untouched and their interests protected.Footnote 65 Templar chaplains who were allowed, or had been encouraged, to serve in parishes were entitled to a share in the parish revenues; the parishes, however, still remained under the bishop's jurisdiction, and, unless the donation charter stated otherwise, dues had to be paid to him.Footnote 66 When the canons of Saint-Vaast in Flanders declared their spiritual alliance with the Templars, they provided them with land at Haden to build a chapel where the divine office could be celebrated for the brothers and their associates who had renounced the world but were otherwise adamant that in every other respect their parochial rights in Haden would remain intact.Footnote 67
The situation was particularly tense in urban centers where commanderies suffered from restrictions imposed by the bishops and prelates, who were anxious to avoid spiritual competition from increasingly autonomous religious institutions within the city walls.Footnote 68 The use of Templar chapels and cemeteries was to be limited to Templar brothers and associates, and in some urban centers, Arles being one of them, even the use of church bells was restricted.Footnote 69 In 1152, the archbishop of Arles granted the Templars permission to attach a cemetery to their oratory under the condition that they would not accept parishioners for burial without his permission.Footnote 70 The abbot of Saint-Gilles gave the Templars exact prescriptions for the church they intended to build and explicitly prohibited them from celebrating the divine office for anyone other than themselves and their familiares. They were also to desist from administering the sacraments for anybody and from collecting oblations, tithes, or other revenues.Footnote 71 In 1165, the abbot of Saint-Etienne in Dijon vehemently opposed the Templars’ construction of a chapel and cemetery next to their house in Dijon but was defeated when the Templars obtained papal permission for the construction to go ahead. In this case, however, the abbot's opposition to the Templars’ building plans seems to have been not so much founded on the fear that the chapel would draw parishioners away from Saint-Etienne as on the fact that the chapel would block the canons’ access to the nearest bridge over the river Ouche. A solution to that problem was found five years later when Hugh of Burgundy granted the canons permission to pierce through the city walls between the Templar house and the bridge and to have a gate inserted into the wall.Footnote 72
Considering the relative autonomy of the more scattered Templar commanderies and the heavy reliance of all Templar houses on local support, it is no surprise that the Templar communities frequently and sometimes excessively overstepped their prerogatives in order to accommodate the spiritual demands of lay neighbors, benefactors, and parishioners, to the great annoyance of the local clergy.Footnote 73 In October 1247, Innocent IV acknowledged that the Templars were stretching their privileges to the limit when he prohibited them and the Mendicants (and any other religious order for that matter) from continuing the administration of sacraments in the town of Mondovì, which he had put under interdict.Footnote 74 Moreover, the Templars’ habit of appointing priests to benefices or removing them from livings without the approval of the diocesan, as well as their frequent negligence in filling vacancies in due time, were causes of tension that, although they were being addressed at the Third Lateran Council in 1179, continued to strain relations between the Order and individual bishops throughout the thirteenth century.Footnote 75 Even an admirer of the Order like Bishop Bartholomew of Cahors, who apparently felt bound to the Templars, and in particular to the Order's provincial master Raymbaud of Caron, by a “great friendship” (magna familiaritas) and “great affection” (magna affectio), was compelled to make arrangements so that his donation of churches to the Templars did not allow them to infringe on his “right to install chaplains in the aforesaid churches whenever these happen to be vacant, following the presentation by the brothers preceptors of the Temple, to whom the churches have been subjected, or on his rights of advowson [procuratio] or any of his other episcopal rights in them.”Footnote 76
Determined that their fiscal and pastoral interest in the churches would properly be communicated to, and understood by, Templar officials who usually came from knightly families, some prelates issued contracts with individual Templar preceptors using language that borrowed heavily from the vocabulary and protocol of feudal agreements. In May 1235, the Templar preceptor of La Cabane de Monson thus received a church from the Benedictine abbot of Conques, for which he was asked to swear obedience and fidelity to the abbot and his successors for the rest of his life.Footnote 77 In allowing terminology that was loaded with secular implications of lordship and fealty to creep into the charters regulating their relations with other institutions, however, individual Templars became vulnerable to the accusation of willfully compromising their mandate of absolute obedience to the Pope and the Order. They, as well as the prelates, were also acting against the papacy's ruling, explicitly expressed in 1139, that “we prohibit and altogether forbid that any ecclesiastical or secular person should dare to demand fealties, homage, oaths, or other safeguards, which are commonly used by seculars, from the master and the brothers of this house [i.e., the Order of the Temple].”Footnote 78
As a direct consequence of the Order of the Temple's increasing autonomy, and success in accumulating church property, the issue of episcopal oversight and visitation became a cause of controversy. It raised the question of possessio and administratio of churches under Templar patronage, which the bishops were reluctant to give up. As Jean-Marie Allard has pointed out,Footnote 79 the visitation records of Bertrand de Got, archbishop of Bordeaux, from 1304 and 1305 are evidence of how reluctant many religious communities, including the military orders, were to subject themselves to any form of inspection by outsiders.Footnote 80 The bishop of Autun's planned visitation of the Templar church of Neuilly in April 1301 indicates that this was also the case elsewhere. The church of Neuilly was run by a rector, which, by the thirteenth century, described a priest serving a parish who, under normal circumstances, was subjected to the bishop's visitatio and correctio.Footnote 81 On finding the doors of the church locked, the bishop reportedly asked
three Templars whom he found outside the church whether they held the keys to the gates or doors of the church. Their answer was yes; but when the bishop asked them to hand over the keys so the church could be opened and he could enter it and do what his office required of him, they refused to hand them over and to open the church or have it opened because if they did they would openly and publicly recognize and admit in the presence of the bishop that he possessed the rights of visitation and correction in this house and over its rector and brothers. When the mentioned Templars told him that with the consent of the brothers and sisters [fratres et sorores] of the house and by apostolic authority they had administratio and possessio of said church, the bishop replied that they had not been authorized or licensed by the apostolic see. As was well known, the rector of the house had been invested by the bishop; therefore they could not hold or have administratio or possessio of said house without the consent of the same bishop, who had in this case by no means consented to it or given his support. Upon this they replied that since the monastery of Mormant [which was by then in Templar possession] in the diocese of Langres had been given to them and their order by the Pope, the bishop had no authority over the mentioned house of Neuilly. As it was not a member of said monastery or belonged to its appurtenances, however, he [the bishop] demanded of the Templars that they would not violate or obstruct the bishop or church of Autun's enjoyment of the jurisdiction to which they were entitled in the house mentioned. They should leave the place because, as long as they remained there, he could not make free use of his right or the enjoyment of the right to which he was entitled. Because by saying that the administratio and possessio of said house was with them, when neither the one nor the other could be obtained or held by anybody — except by authority of the apostolic see — without the consent of the bishop of Autun, they had hindered the bishop and church of Autun in the employment of their right to install a rector for the management [administratio] of the estate [possessio]. When the Templars refused to accede to his request, he asked the dean, provost, and other canons of the church of Autun who had been present to help him defend the lawful possession and legal right of the church of Autun, warning them, however, not to heap blame or injustice upon the Templars nor to use excessive methods when defending the possession of the church.Footnote 82
The willingness of the Templars to sideline and question the supervisory authority of the bishops to which this charter testifies corresponded with a wider trend among regular religious communities in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to resist the perceived paternalism of the bishops and to assert their independence, a trend that found additional manifestation in the creation of new parishes.Footnote 83
The Templars were not only entrusted with parishes; they (and other military orders) also created them on a large scale. As many as thirty parishes in the diocese of Limoges owed their origin to the military orders.Footnote 84 In fact, a recent study by Allard shows that only three of the Temple's nineteen parishes in the same diocese predated the arrival of the Templars. The remaining sixteen churches had been elevated to parochial status under the Templars, some of them without the approval of the local bishop. Instead, the Templars had made use of their privilege to turn to external bishops for the blessing of their churches.Footnote 85 The resulting long dispute between the cathedral chapter of Limoges and the Templars is documented in a charter dated 23 June 1282, which has been examined in detail by Allard. Linking the sixteen self-proclaimed parish churches of the Templars to their rightful mother-churches, the bishop and canons confronted the Order with a list of revenues and dues that they expected to receive from them henceforth.Footnote 86
Similar complaints reached the papal curia throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. One was issued by the provost and canons of Sisteron in Provence, who boycotted the Templars’ plan to have an oratory erected at Sisteron for fear that this would allow them to infringe on the parochial privileges of the mother church, which belonged to the chapter of Sisteron. Innocent III's initial response was to set the canons a two-month deadline within which they could obtain a written warranty (cautio) from the Templars guaranteeing the parochial privileges of the mother church of Sisteron. If no such warranty could be produced, the Templars were permitted to finish their work on the oratory and even to build new oratories if they wished, under the condition that their building activity remained in accordance with their institutional privileges. The bishops of Avignon, Saint-Paul-Trois-Château, and Cavaillon were given the task of overseeing the implementation of the verdict. They were also given authority to subject the provost and canons of Sisteron to the judgment of the ecclesiastical court to ensure that the Templars were reimbursed for all damages and construction delays inflicted or caused by the canons.Footnote 87
The precautions to protect the Order of the Temple's sacral buildings were justified by the enormous damage that groups of enraged clerics had been prone to inflict upon Templar communities on other occasions. A few years earlier, for example, the pope had excommunicated the prior and monks of Saint-Pourçain in Auvergne and put their community under interdict for the vicious attack they had conducted one Good Friday on a nearby Templar church, which had cost the Templars more than fifty marks in fire damages and had left them with one brother injured and their altar smashed into pieces. As so often, the attack had escalated from a dispute over tithes and burial fees, which the monks had accused the Templars of exacting and withholding unlawfully.Footnote 88
The legates whom the papacy dispatched to mediate in these conflicts did not always decide in favor of the Templars, however. A legal complaint issued by the canons of Maguelonne and concerning the Templars of Montpellier's collection of tithes, oblations, and vigil and burial fees, but equally the establishment of new church buildings and the issues of inflicted violence and perceived injustices, was settled by the papal legate Archbishop Imbert of Arles. His verdict required of the Templars that they share their revenues with the canons of Maguelonne and the prior of Saint-Firmin. They were ordered to desist from constructing further churches or oratories in the diocese of Maguelonne without prior consent of the bishop and chapter and were forced to destroy their chapel at Lunel, which they had already started building. They were no longer to accept excommunicates or anyone put under interdict by the church of Maguelonne into their church or for burial in their cemetery, misconduct of which they seem to have been guilty in the past. What is more, henceforth, whenever the bishop or the prior of the parish church called for the parishioners of other churches to congregate, the Templars were prohibited from celebrating the offices with the laity in the presence of parishioners from other churches. The canons, alternatively, were henceforth expected to leave the other possessions of the Templars in peace and to work towards an agreement on how the grievances caused by the damages and injustices they had inflicted on the Templars and the repeated attacks on their property, during which the canons had abducted some of the Templars’ farm animals, could be settled.Footnote 89
The battle over church control — or better, the control of church revenues and exercise of the pastoral activities from which these derived — to which these accounts testify, is indicative of the quagmire of conflicting loyalties and authorities into which Templar parishes could be drawn. In particular, on important feast days, the spurned mother churches commended themselves to the parishioners by insisting on legal, traditional, and customary obligations. We can use the Limoges charter of June 1282 mentioned earlier as a window into an ideal image of the past as created by the bishop and his canons, and, if we do, we see that, on the day after Easter, the parishioners of the small Templar church of La Forest were expected to march in procession to the nearby church of Nouziers to make pious oblations there. The parishioners of the Templar chapel at Poulhat were expected to meet once a year at the feast day of St. Stephen for a procession to the church dedicated to the saint at Fursac, as was customary; and their contemporaries from the new Templar parish of Chambon were expected to gather on the day after Pentecost to walk in procession to the church of Chirac for their payment of their annual oblation of one denar.Footnote 90 However, in many dioceses this ideal image was in the past. Under the Templars the chapels had become parish churches in their own right, which means that the Order had equipped them with an altar and a baptismal font or that they had been subjugated to a parish church under Templar patronage. They were served by clergy who had not necessarily been approved by the bishop and over which he had in practice often only limited disciplinary power.
Clashes between the Templars and other church bodies occurred when the Templars began sidelining the authority of senior ecclesiastics by elevating the status of their chapels to that of parish churches without the bishops’ prior consent and with little regard for the rights of other communities or the established relationships of these chapels with existing parish churches.Footnote 91 Their actions were partly motivated by the heightened public demand for new spiritual advocates, which is reflected in the general success of the new reformed religious orders.Footnote 92
Templars and Cura Animarum
For the bishops and prelates, the unchecked spread of pastoral activity through new and increasingly autonomous religious institutions like the military orders, but not only through them, posed a serious threat to their own authority over cura animarum.Footnote 93 The bulls issued by Pope Alexander III condemning the celebration of mass in the parish without prior consent of the bishop are as much a testament to that threat as are the decrees of Lateran III (1179) insisting on the presentation of parish priests to, and their reception by, the bishop.Footnote 94 Complaints that were brought before the church courts and the papal curia often centered on the same issues: the Templars were practicing their parochial duties illegally and had taken away burials from the parish churches, or they were (perceived to be) threatening to do so once a particular chapel had been built; and they were withholding parish revenues.Footnote 95 Elena Bellomo has unearthed many such cases for northern Italy. In 1186, for example, Urban III issued a stern warning against the Templars in Acqui to stop administering pastoral functions for parishioners of other religious institutions in the city, and in 1217 Honorius III issued a similar warning against the Order's priests in the city of Alba to stop blessing pilgrims’ purses and admitting “sponsas vel paiolatas levantes de partu vel surgentes” to the mass.Footnote 96 Similar grievances strained relations between the military orders and secular clerics in urban centers in Provence, as Carraz has shown.Footnote 97 The Templars of Arles and Saint-Gilles were by 1217 in conflict with the archbishop and canons of Arles over tithes in Argence, which they were then receiving from possessions in the diocese of Arles, and from revenues that they had been drawing from last wills and to which the archbishop and his canons claimed entitlement. Eventually the parties met in the cloisters of Saint-Trophime and a compromise was reached, which demanded of the Templars fixed yearly payments to the archbishop and canons of Arles and the transfer to the canons of the fourth part of all deathbed bequests made by parishioners from the diocese of Arles who had chosen their burial with the Templars, with the exception of horses, mules, and arms (“exceptis equitaturis, scilicet destrariis, roncinis, mulis et mulabus et armis”). Also not affected were donations made to the Templars inter vivos, to which the canons and archbishop had no legal claim. The Templars were prohibited from administering the divine office for excommunicates or for people put under interdict by the church of Arles, which indicates that they had done so in the past. The ruling also suggests, however, that the general prohibition against accepting parishioners in the church without formal approval by the bishop had been lifted. The Templars were still not allowed to receive excommunicates and persons under interdict as brothers or donats into their communities, but parishioners from Arles were henceforth free to choose their burial with them.Footnote 98
It is from these and similar accusations leveled against the Templars by the bishops and prelates that examples of the Templars’ pastoral work in the parish and in society at large can be drawn. As has been seen, usually the accusations concerned the illegal administration of the divine office and the celebration of mass and the sacraments for non-associated members of the lay public, activities that often went hand in hand with the Templars’ endeavor to transform smaller chapels into parish churches. In 1260, the bishop of Auxerre issued a formal complaint at the papal curia that the local Templars had given their chapel at Monteau the exterior of a parish church, that they were regularly ringing the bell to summon people for mass, and that they were celebrating marriages in the church.Footnote 99 Accusations like these were not without foundation. In fact, a number of manuals, office books, and liturgical instruments found in Templar churches and recorded in the inventories testify to a variety of pastoral activities, not all of which the Templars would have performed unlawfully. The books discovered in the Templars’ church of Grasse in Provence during the investigation of Templar property following the arrest of the Templars in 1307 included one ritual on the baptism of children;Footnote 100 those discovered at Ormelle in Treviso and San Vitale in Verona included rituals on religious instruction (“cathecuminos faciendos; liber ad faciendum christianos”) and, in the case of San Vitale, exorcism (incipit Exoçiço te);Footnote 101 and those discovered in the Templar church of Santa Maria in Bologna included another ritual on how to make holy water for the sick,Footnote 102 all of which suggest a localized involvement of Templar clergy in pastoral activity.
The precautions undertaken by the prelates to maintain control over Templar pastoral activities and their outcry when they felt the Templars had infringed on their authority are indicative of the increasing popularity of the Templars as providers of spiritual advocacy in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries; this popularity was concomitant with a rise in demand for burial in the Order's cemeteries, which is also supported by archaeological evidence,Footnote 103 and which in turn was closely related to a rise in confraternity agreements. At the core of any confraternity agreement, and arguably behind many professions, lay the desire to be buried within the sacred space of a chosen religious community, which would also be chiefly responsible for the commemoration of the deceased's soul.
Also closely linked with the desire for burial was the personal but also very public desire for memoria, the commemoration of the dead through the prayers of the living. This was another activity in which the Templars, through their churches, were actively engaged and for which they were approached by outsiders. Around individual commanderies and their churches, confraternities developed. Focused as they were on commemoration, these prayer communities played an important part in promulgating a sentiment of attachment to the Order among parishioners, in particular if they included the local clergy, as was the case at Templar Cardington in Shropshire in 1185, where the local Templar confraternity included not only the vicar of the church but also the local priest and his wife.Footnote 104 The charters and testaments from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries contain evidence that laymen and -women trusted the Templars with the business of cura animarum, which the Templars were expected to provide with the help of secular priests especially employed for this task. Already before 1151, for example, Lady Amultrudis reacted to her concerns for her spiritual well-being and that of her ancestors by promising part of her possessions to the Templars of Laon if they would use it to employ one of their own or a hired priest to celebrate the divine offices, “as it becomes a house of the Lord,” in the order's church of Sainte-Genovefe.Footnote 105 At around the same time, a certain Deusde Gat and his wife Estolz gave the church of Routlac to the Templars of La Selve in Aveyron, expecting that the Templars would from now on “sing mass and matins at La Selve and visit the cemetery at the day of the Invention of the True Cross,” where Deusde also asked to be buried.Footnote 106 In 1195, Uc Sacristain sold to the Templars of Saint-Gilles extensive properties and in return received assurance, in the presence of the archbishop of Arles, that his kin (parentes) and friends would henceforth be commemorated by the Templars, that a priest of the house would chant a special prayer for them every day, and that after his death the priests of the house would chant masses every year to celebrate his anniversary.Footnote 107 When in January 1223 × 24 a certain John Rufus elected the Templar cemetery of Arles as his place of burial, he bequeathed to the Templars not only 1,200 sous, parts of his landed possessions, and a vineyard, but he also ordered that the Templars should receive the sum of 200 sous to allow one secular priest (sacerdos) for one year to celebrate the divine office for his soul and that of his late nephew William Peter.Footnote 108 When Count William of Joigny felt his end approaching, in July 1238, he made arrangements in his testament that, for the benefit of his soul and the souls of his ancestors, a chapel should be erected in the Templar commandery of Saulce-sur-Yonne, for which his family had been acting as patrons for almost fifty years, and which he hoped to make sustainable with a perpetual endowment of fifteen livres turnois payable every year in three installments (300 sous each) at the Octave of All Saints, the Octave of the Purification of Mary, and the Octave of the Ascension.Footnote 109 In 1243, the nobleman Barral of Baux acted on his heartfelt concern for the spiritual well-being of his deceased parents by promising the Templars of Arles enough material provisions to pay for the employment of another priest (sacerdos) for the perpetual care of his parents’ souls.Footnote 110 In 1259, Berenguer of Catena made concessions to the commandery of Arles to have his and his parents’ anniversaries celebrated by the brothers.Footnote 111 In 1264, Bertran Rainouart chose the same commandery as his and his father's final resting place and promised the Templars a piece of land if they agreed to celebrate his anniversary in their church in Arles.Footnote 112 Guy of Toucy ensured the commemoration of his anniversary in the Templar church of Saulce-sur-Yonne with similar concessions in 1268.Footnote 113 And still in August 1299, Isabel, the widow of William of Grancey, whose family had been ardent supporters of the commandery of Bure for more than one and a half centuries, endowed Bure with a house and chapel in Courcelles under the condition that the chapel would remain active and that her own anniversary and that of her late husband would be celebrated at Bure.Footnote 114
People who had arranged for votive masses and masses for the dead in churches that later came under Templar patronage could expect the Templars to honor these arrangements and provide the requested services. The continuing commemoration of benefactors, living or dead, and their relatives in churches that had subsequently come into the Order's possession enabled the Templars to weave local traditions into their devotional practices, thus adding clout and substance to their own religious standing in the region. The obituary of La Trinité in Reims is a good case in point. Formerly home to a chapter of canons, the collegial church La Trinité had, by 1170, come into the possession of the Templars.Footnote 115 Recorded in the obituary of La Trinité, which forms part of a necrological manuscript that the Templars had inherited with the church and that they had decided to continue, were the names and anniversaries of more than three hundred men and women for whose souls the Templars of La Trinité had agreed to pray, including the names and anniversaries of former canons of La Trinité and of many of the canons’ lay associates, whose donations and rents had secured them chantry masses and prayers of commemoration at the church's altars.Footnote 116 Over the course of the thirteenth century the Templars made additions to the obituary and the martyrology also embedded in the manuscript, thus creating, as Michael Peixoto has shown, a symbolic connection with the church's former occupants and their patronage network.Footnote 117
The military orders were the most radical expression of a spiritual development in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that favored action over contemplation.Footnote 118 Public engagement, for example, through charitable work, could form part of these activities, although for the Templars it never became an end in itself. The rule of the Order of the Temple clearly favored an introspective spiritual development through outward action guided by right intentions.Footnote 119 This means that although they engaged in the world, the Templars’ motivation for doing so was ultimately self-centered and in line with Cistercian ideas of inward spiritual edification. Consequently, the Templars were strongly discouraged from celebrating the offices in the company of laymen.Footnote 120 And parishioners who entered churches under Templar patronage would therefore seldom have encountered professed Templar brothers practicing their devotion. Moreover, because the number of professed priests in the Order of the Temple was never sufficient, church benefices, as has been seen, were frequently given to outsiders who had been hired by the Order to help cope with the increasing demand for requiem masses and vigils.Footnote 121
This, however, is not to say that laymen and laywomen were not aware that the Templars had a religious presence, and were religiously active, in their parishes. Like other religious communities, the Templars marked their ecclesiastical possessions and decorated their devotional spaces with their insignia, usually the Templar cross. The Templars’ activities brought them into frequent contact with laypeople and ecclesiastics alike, who visited their churches, associated with them temporarily, helped them through the liturgical routine of the year, or sought spiritual assistance and advocacy. Some criticism was voiced about the fact that the Templars, as professed members of a religious order, engaged in military activities, and opinions differed on how a spirituality thus expressed compared to that of more traditional religious institutions.Footnote 122 In spite of the fundamental skepticism regarding the spiritual worth of Templar activities, however, the religiosity of the Temple itself was never questioned. Popes, bishops, and prelates entrusted the Order with spiritual responsibilities and religious duties and interfered if they thought the Templars were overstepping or abusing their privileges. But they never argued that the Order was fundamentally unfit to perform them.
Nor should the introspective spirituality of the Templars (at least as described in the normative documents) distract from the fact that, at the local level, the Order seems to have been quite keen to expand its religious presence and engage with laymen. The inventory lists of Templar houses and the accounts of lawsuits and complaints issued by other religious suggest that religious activity was taken seriously in the Temple and that considerable energy was spent on the creation of devotional spaces that Templars as well as laymen could use. Recent research into the liturgical inventories of Templar chapels and churches has shown that a number of these spaces (especially in Spain) allowed for carrying out a variety of liturgical tasks in an environment and visual context that was often laden with color and symbolic meaning.Footnote 123 What the present study has shown is that the churches and chapels secured the Order a place on the religious map of medieval Europe and that in France, England, and the Iberian Peninsula at least, the Templars pursued the opportunities offered by these places to engage with the wider public and create parishioners quite aggressively, to such an extent that they have been described as “agents of civic religion.”Footnote 124