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Chinon Parchment

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The Chinon Parchment is a historical document, published by Étienne Baluze in Vitae Paparum Avenionensis ("Lives of the Popes of Avignon"), Paris, 1693. It has recently been made famous when Barbara Frale made the claim 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, 1308 August 17 - 20th; the Vatican keeps an authentic copy with reference number Archivum Arcis Armarium D 218, the original having the number D 217.


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. The parchment was dated August 17–20 , 1308. According to the document, Pope Clement V instructed Berengar, cardinal priest of SS. Nereus and Achileus, Stephanus, cardinal priest of St. Cyriac in Thermis, and Landolf, cardinal deacon of St. Angel, 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."edi

Raymbaud de Caron was the first to be interrogated on August 17, 1308. After the interrogation, the cardinals granted absolution thus:

"…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 absolution 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."

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

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

The Grandmaster was interrogated last on August 20, 1308. The cardinal interrogators also gave their absolution. According to the document, all interrogations of the accused spanning the 17th to 20th of August 1308 were always in the presence of the notaries public and the gathered witnesses. Among the accusations were sodomy,[2] 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 absolution given to Molay thus reads:

"After this, we concluded to extend the mercy of absolution 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 absolution, restoring him to unity with the Church and reinstating him to communion of the faithful and sacraments of the Church."

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.[3]

All denied the practice of sodomy or ever witnessing sodomy;[4] 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 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."

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.


Prior to its discovery, accusations were made concerning the Knights Templar, Pope Clement V and the Catholic Church.[clarification needed]

Several reference books on the Templars refer to the Chinon Parchment. In 2002, 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 and wrote a book on the subject, Il papato e il processo ai templari, 2004.

In 2007, the Vatican announced that they would release the Chinon Parchment in published form, after 700 years of obscurity.[5]

See also


  1. Long-lost text lifts cloud from Knights Templar,, retrieved 2007-10-12 
  2. 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).
  3. Gordon Napier, The Rise and Fall of the Knights Templar.
  4. 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).
  5. "Vatican to publish new papers on trial of Knights Templar". Associated Press via USA Today. October 12, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 


  • 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.

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