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The Arrests

P hilip's order of the arrests is dated 14 September 1307. The letter was remarkably well kept secret. In it Philip poses as a defender of the Faith, at first reluctant to believe the heinous crimes the Templars were said to have committed, but "as evidence mounted, he had no chance but to start investigating the matter", as he put it. Philip claimed that information of Templar crimes was passed on to him by pious and righteous people who wanted to see the Faith purified of all blasphemous and heretical tendencies in which the Order was said to excel. In the letter Philip claimed to have Papal consent on the arrests after having consulted the Pope on how to deal with the accusations. In reality, the Pope Clement V was not aware of the impending operation. True, Philip had talked with him on the Order, but in a general manner, with no indication of the upcoming hunt.

A t dawn on Friday 13 October, Philip's men stormed every Templar installation in France. Given the less-than-perfect communications network of the 14th century, the operation was a triumphal success, with very few escaping the net. Even fewer dignitaries of the order found an escape route - most of those who went unaccounted for were servants and other less important figures. A distinct demonstration of Philip's success of keeping the secret was that new recruits were admitted into the Order even only a few days before the arrests.

T hus the French Templars all were in the King's custody, but foreign monarchs were less than enthusiastic about attacking the Order. Philip wrote to his neighboring rulers trying to make them act against Templars in their domains. Few responded, and those who did apprehend Templars did not let the Inquisition sharpen its teeth on the Order, as happened in France. Thus the captives were better off elsewhere. Philip kept on claiming that the biggest cause of the operation was "vehement suspicion against the Order" with very little meat on the bones, which of course sounded a thin reason for such a large attack.

P hilip's orders were very clear: All Templar houses were to be investigated and a detailed inventory made of all possible items. All those on the premises were to be arrested, well guarded and isolated from each other. Confessions were to be extracted from all captives, through torture if need be. To all those who confessed to the crimes Philip had listed, the baillis were allowed to offer full pardon. Those who protested their innocence often found themselves in the rack, which of course rearranged things in their memories and dug up several crimes and heresies the Templars had taken part in. It must be remembered that many Templars were from quiet rural houses, agrarian workers and servants, who had never seen a live Muslim, much less fought with one. The effect of Philip's operation was one of immediate and desperate terror, which helped Philip gather many confessions even as the raid was still under way.

P hilip saw to it that Templars had no contact with each other to ward off any attempts at defense. Single Templars who ventured to claim innocence of either themselves or the Order as a whole were most often tortured cruelly until they retracted their claims. In no time, then, Philip was able to begin preparing for the upcoming trial.

Armory Bailey Barracks Chapel Dungeon Library Pub

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