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Trial and Suppression

I In 1308 Pope Clement V announced that he would hold a General Council in Vienne, Southern France (not Vienna, mind you) in May 1310. As with all large projects, schedules slipped slightly, and the Council of Vienne opened in October 1311. Clement had seen to it that all data collected in all Europe was sent to him in advance for strict inspection. It was absolutely necessary for both Philip and Clement to justify their joint venture by the prestige of a General Council, and it had to run smoothly.

H owever, nine Templars attempted to stage a defence effort. They were quickly arrested by Clement to prevent them from messing with the agenda. Word got out, though, that the Templars had prepared to speak out, and the Council got bogged down thinking whether they should be allowed to speak their piece or not. In all this, Clement gradually lost control of the Council, which was not good news to Philip. He, being the man of action he was, parked his army outside Vienne on 20 March 1312 and went on to demand the immediate and complete suppression of the Order then and there. Clement held a secret consistory of the Council, and two days after that he asked the General Council to vote on the matter.

T he Council decided to suppress the Order by a 4/5 majority. On 3 April 1312 Clement read out his bull for the day, titled Vox in Excelso. (He was accompanied by Philip on his side, making sure the document remained unedited.) The main point in this bull was the wording of it: the Order was suppressed - not condemned. By this choice of words Clement indicated that the evidence against the Templars was not sufficient to warrant condemnation, which would have yielded a much wider palette of possible punishments for the accused Templars. From this we can judge the veracity of the accusations: the Church lost no time condemning heretics, as we saw with the Albigensian Crusade.

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