Chinon Parchment

Chinon Parchment

The Chinon Parchment is a historical document, discovered in September 2001 by Barbara Frale, an Italian paleographer at the Vatican Secret Archives who claimed that in 1308, Pope Clement V secretly absolved the last Grand Master Jacques de Molay and the rest of the leadership of the Knights Templar from charges brought against them by the Medieval Inquisition.[1] The parchment is dated Chinon, 17-20 August 1308 and was written by Bérenger, cardinal priest of SS. Nereus and Achileus, Stephanus, cardinal priest of St. Cyriac in Thermis, and Landolf, cardinal deacon of Sant'Angelo in Pescheria; the Vatican keeps an authentic copy with reference number Archivum Arcis Armarium D 218, the original having the number D 217 [2] (see below for the other Chinon Parchment published by Étienne Baluze in 1693).



An investigation was carried out by agents of the Pope to verify claims against the accused in the castle of Chinon in the diocese of Tours. According to this document and another Chinon Parchment (see below), Pope Clement V instructed cardinals to conduct the investigation of the accused Knights Templar. The cardinals thus:

"…declare through this official statement directed to all who will read it... the very same lord Pope wishing and intending to know the pure, complete and uncompromised truth from the leaders of the said Order, namely Brother Jacques de Molay, Grandmaster of the Order of Knights Templar, Brother Raymbaud de Caron, Preceptor (of) the commandaries of Templar Knights in Outremer, Brother Hugo de Pérraud, Preceptor of France, Brother Geoffroy de Gonneville, Preceptor of Aquitania and Poitou, and Geoffroy de Charney, Preceptor of Normandy, ordered and commissioned us specifically and by his verbally expressed will in order that we might with diligence examine the truth by questioning the grandmaster and the aforementioned preceptors—one by one and individually, having summoned notaries public and trustworthy witnesses."(Chinon Parchment dated 17-20 August 1308)

Raymbaud de Caron was the first to be interrogated on August 17, 1308.

"…After this oath, by the authority of lord Pope specifically granted to us for that purpose, we extended to this humbly asking Brother Raymbaud, in a form accepted by the Church the mercy of pardon from the verdict of excommunication that had been incurred by the aforementioned deeds, restoring him to unity with the Church and reinstating him for communion of the faithful and sacraments of the Church."(Chinon Parchment dated 17-20 August 1308)

Second to be interrogated on the same day was Geoffroy de Charney. The third to be interrogated on the same day was Geoffroy de Gonneville.

On August 19, 1308, Hugo de Pérraud was fourth to be interrogated.

The Grandmaster was interrogated last on August 20, 1308. According to the document, all interrogations of the accused spanning the 17th to 20 August 1308 were always in the presence of the notaries public and the gathered witnesses. Among the accusations were sodomy,[3] denouncing God, illicit kisses, spitting on the cross, and worshiping an 'idol'.

The body of the text details the appearance of the accused, the swearing in of the accused, charges against the accused, and the mode of questioning of the accused: in Molay's interrogation,"When he was asked whether he had confessed to these things due to a request, reward, gratitude, favor, fear, hatred or persuasion by someone else, or the use of force, or fear of impending torture, he replied that he did not. When he was asked whether he, after being apprehended, was submitted to any questioning or torture, he replied that he did not.". The text further details the denunciations, requests of absolution by the accused, and the granting of absolution by the agents of the pope; all of these were always in the presence of witnesses. An excerpt of pardons given to Molay thus reads:

"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 (afainst Excommunication), restoring him to unity with the Church and reinstating him to communion of the faithful and sacraments of the Church."(Chinon Parchment dated 17-20 August 1308)

Analysis of the Chinon Parchment enabled Barbara Frale to establish some of the secret initiation practices of the Templars. While three of the accused admitted to having been asked by their receptors during their initiation to denounce the Cross and spit at the crucifix, their stories are all inconsistent. Geoffroy de Gonneville admitted to not succumbing under duress of denouncing and spitting on the Cross. Despite this, Geoffroy de Gonneville was still admitted to the order, implying that the denial of the cross may have been a test of some sort. The others admitted to "denouncing in words only, not in spirit". Gordon Napier feels that the practice of the denial of the cross was training in case they had been taken prisoner by the Saracens.[4]

All denied the practice of sodomy or ever witnessing sodomy;[5] however, kisses were admitted having been given as a sign of respect only during Templar initiation.

Only Hugo de Pérraud alone stated that during his initiation, he had been told "…to abstain from partnership with women, and, if they were unable to restrain their lust, to join themselves with brothers of the Order". In addition, only Hugo de Pérraud claimed to see the "head of an idol" the Templars were accused of worshiping, in Montpellier, in the possession of Brother Peter Alemandin, Preceptor of Montpellier. All other Templars mentioned in the Chinon parchment denied being encouraged to "join" with other brothers, and none of the others were asked about an idol.

They all added that as with any Catholic, any transgressions of the Catholic faith were fully confessed to a priest or bishop, penances made and absolutions granted.

The Chinon parchment itself was prepared by Robert de Condet, cleric of the diocese of Soissons, an apostolic notary. The apostolic notaries public were Umberto Vercellani, Nicolo Nicolai de Benvenuto, Robert de Condet, and Master Amise d’Orléans le Ratif. The witnesses of the proceedings were Brother Raymond, abbot of the Benedictine monastery of St. Theofred, Annecy diocese, Master Berard (Bernard?) de Boiano, archdeacon of Troia, Raoul de Boset, confessor and canon from Paris, and Pierre de Soire, overseer of Saint-Gaugery in Cambresis. Furthermore, according to the document, three other copies were made but in fuller detail by the other notaries public. All documents were sealed and signed by the participants. According to the document:

"…Their words and confessions were written down exactly the way they are included here by the notaries whose names are listed below in the presence of witnesses listed below. We also ordered these things drawn up in this official form and validated by the protection of our seals."(Chinon Parchment dated 17-20 August 1308)

The Chinon parchment details a failed attempt by the Pope to preserve the Templars from the machinations of the king of France, Philippe IV, by establishing that the Order was not heretical and was capable of reform under the aegis of the Church. However, as it became apparent that Philippe was determined upon the extermination of the Order (and the confiscation of their considerable wealth and property within his kingdom) the Pope abandoned the Templars to their fate. Outside France, the dissolution of the Order was achieved with far less bloodshed, and surviving members of the order were absorbed into other religious institutions.


In September 2001, Barbara Frale, MA, found a copy of the parchment in the Vatican Secret Archives. Frale has published her discoveries in the Journal of Medieval History [6] and wrote a book on the subject, Il papato e il processo ai templari. [7]

In 2007, The Vatican published the Chinon Parchment as part of a limited edition of 799 copies of Processus Contra Templarios [8] after 700 years of obscurity, with the 800th edition being presented to Pope Benedict XVI.[2][9]

Another Chinon Parchment

There is another Chinon Parchment in existence that has been well known to historians [10][11][12] published by Étienne Baluze in 1693, [13] and by Pierre Dupuy in 1751.[14] This other Chinon Parchment is dated Chinon 20 August 1308 and was written by cardinals Bérenger Fredol cardinal priest of SS. Nereus and Achileus, Etienne de Suisy cardinal priest of St. Cyriac in Thermis and Landolfo Brancaccio, Deacon of Sant'Angelo in Pescheria, addressed to Philip IV of France, stating that absolution had been granted to all those Templars that had confessed to heresy "and restored them to the Sacraments and to the unity of the Church".

See also


  1. ^ Long-lost text lifts cloud from Knights Templar. MSNBC. Retrieved 2007-10-12 
  2. ^ a b "The Parchment of Chinon – The absolution of Pope Clement V of the leading members of the Templar Order". Vatican Secret Archives. Vatican Library. Retrieved 2010-02-05. 
  3. ^ Anne Gilmour-Bryson fully explored this issue in "Sodomy and the Knights Templar" Journal of the History of Sexuality 7.2 (October 1996), pp. 151-183. She begins her inquiry with the caveat "In any examination of Inquisition testimony, it is impossible to lay aside the effect that torture must have had on the answers given." (p. 153).
  4. ^ Gordon Napier, The Rise and Fall of the Knights Templar.
  5. ^ The vagueness of the term sodomy, applied to all sexual acts that did not lead directly to procreation, is explored in John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (1980).
  6. ^ Barbara Frale, The Chinon Chart. Papal absolution to the last Templar, Master Jacques de Molay (Journal of Medieval History; Volume 30, issue 2, June 2004, pages 109-134).
  7. ^ Barbara Frale, Il Papato e il processo ai Templari. L’inedita assoluzione di Chinon alla luce della diplomatica pontificia (Viella, 2002).
  8. ^ Processus Contra Templarios, Exemplaria Praetiosa, published on 25 October 2007.
  9. ^ "Vatican to publish new papers on trial of Knights Templar". Associated Press via USA Today. October 12, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  10. ^ Charles d' Aigrefeuille, Histoire de la ville de Montpellier, Volume 2, page 193 (Montpellier: J. Martel, 1737-1739).
  11. ^ Sophia Menache, Clement V, page 218, 2002 paperback edition ISBN 0-521-592194 (Cambridge University Press, originally published in 1998).
  12. ^ Germain-François Poullain de Saint-Foix, Oeuvres complettes de M. De Saint-Foix, Historiographe des Ordres du Roi, page 287, Volume 3 (Maestricht: Jean-Edme Dupour & Philippe Roux, Imprimeurs-Libraires, associés, 1778).
  13. ^ Étienne Baluze, Vitae Paparum Avenionensis, 3 Volumes (Paris, 1693).
  14. ^ Pierre Dupuy, Histoire de l'Ordre Militaire des Templiers (Foppens, Brusselles, 1751).


  • Barber, Malcolm, The Trial of the Templars (Cambridge) 1978.
  • Frale, Barbara. "The Chinon chart. Papal absolution to the last Templar, Master Jacques de Molay". Journal of Medieval History, 30,.2, April 2004, pp. 109–134
  • Frale, Barbara. Il papato e il processo ai templari : l'inedita assoluzione de Chinon alla luce della diplomatica pontificia. Le edizioni del Mulino. 2004
  • Frale, Barbara. Processus contra Templarios Vatican Secret Archive. 2007.
  • Haag, Michael. The Templars: History and Myth, Profile Books, London 2008.
  • Frale, Barbara. The Templars: The secret history revealed, Maverick House Publishers, Dunboyne 2009.

External links

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