Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The King and London

The Tower of London is the most visited tourist site in London. It was built by William the Conqueror to be the king's home when he was in London. It was built not to be just a home, however, but a fortress. London was not necessarily a safe haven for the king. Its citizens enjoyed a level of control over their own fates and weren't about to let the king change that.

William recognized this, and made sure that he had a secure place to stay when he visited London. The White Tower (named because it used to be whitewashed) was designed for this. More than that, he built another fortress at Windsor, where he could station troops that would be a day's march from London if he needed support.

William even built two more fortresses within London's walls: Baynard and Montfichet. He couldn't entrust his fortresses to local people, so he put them in the hands of Normans who followed him over the Channel. Baynard and Montfichet were barons into whose hands he put those properties.

Although he might have felt he would be reasonably safe from an uprising, he took to heart the importance of independence to the citizenry of London, the most important city on the island. There still exists his charter, granting to "all the citizens, French and English" the same "laws and customs as they were in King Edward's time."

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Secret Templar Initiation

In 1307, Philip IV of France arrested several Templar Knights, accusing them of horrible sins. Some of the worst sins took place during a "secret initiation" in which new members supposedly were asked to denounce and spit on the Crucifix, to practice sodomy, and to engage in improper kissing.

Pope Clement V insisted that the captured and excommunicated Knights be brought to him at Avignon to be questioned. The knights were not able to make the journey, so Clement had his emissaries meet them at Chinon. These emissaries included Bérenger Fredoli. The interrogations at Chinon were conducted on 17-20 August, 1308.

Interrogating the Knights actually turned out some surprising affirmatives. One Knight questioned, Geoffroy de Gonneville, admitted that he was asked to denounce and spit on the Cross, but that he refused and was admitted to the Order anyway. Others admitted to denouncing out loud but not in their hearts.

In 2001, a document known as the Chinon Parchment surfaced in the Vatican Secret Archives. It is the account of the questioning by Bérenger and the others of the Templars. It also includes this:
After this, we concluded to extend the mercy of pardons for these acts to Brother Jacques de Molay, the Grandmaster of the said Order, who in the form and manner described above had denounced in our presence the described and any other heresy, and swore in person on the Lord’s Holy Gospel, and humbly asked for the mercy of pardon [from excommunication], restoring him to unity with the Church and reinstating him to communion of the faithful and the sacraments of the Church.
Whatever they heard, they did not consider it damning enough to keep the Templars excommunicated. Examining this document has led some to suggest that the steps of the secret initiation may very well have included what look like desecration, but had a different purpose. The statement of de Gonneville, for instance, suggests that denouncing the Cross was not necessary, and perhaps was a test of faith. It has also been suggested that the initiation was intended to expose them to what they might encounter if they were captured by non-Christians during tours of duty in the Middle East.

So maybe they did do the "terrible" things of which they were accused, but the reality/intent was very different from the appearance.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Berenger Fredoli and the Rebellious Canons

Bérenger Fredoli was a Frenchman with a successful religious career. Little is known about his youth, except that he was born in Vérune about 1250. Some of his career highlights include:

  • Becoming chair of canon law at the University of Bologna.
  • Being chosen by Pope Boniface VIII to help write the books of Canon Law known as the Decretals.
  • Playing a prominent role in the dispute between Boniface and Philip IV over papal vs. monarchic authority.
  • Becoming a cardinal in 1305 thanks to Pope Clement V.
  • Almost becoming pope on the death of Clement V (but it went to John XXII).
  • Became Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals in 1321.
In July 1321, a document with his name on it was sent to Maiden Bradley Priory in Wiltshire, England. Maiden Bradly was founded in 1164 as a leper hospital. A few decades later, it was placed under the authority of Augustinian canons, but it had been not living by the proper Augustinian statutes. For these transgressions they had been excommunicated.

Bérenger's letter was on behalf of Pope John XXII, notions that they had seen the error of their ways, punished the offenders, and were granted absolution, lifting their excommunicated status.

Berenger's name cropped up on another letter just a few years ago, regarding the persecution of the Templars. We will look at that next.