Wednesday, 14 July 2010

What I am reading

Hidden France is a special book by Nathalie van Koot and David Scherpenhuizen about esoteric and occult locations in France.
Translated from Dutch to English here on Facebook.

The part I am reading is The Fall of the nights Templar.
Part 1
In 1307, all members of the powerful Knights Templar in France were rounded up by forces of the French king. They were thrown into chains, accused of base beresy and subjected to long years of brutality and cruelty. What brought the once proud military order to this sorry state of affairs? Read part 1.

Gotterdammerung at Acre

The fall of Acre
A century after Jerusalem fell to Saladin and the “Cutting of the Elm” at Gisors, the Christian forces in the Holy Land seemed further away from their goal of conquering the Outremer (the Middle East) than ever before.

In 1289, Sultan Qalawun of Egypt captured Tripoli. This reduced the Christian held territories to a mere handful. The most important possession was the major trading city of Acre. Besides that there was also the Templar fortress of Athlit to the South and the northern town of Tortosa. The Sultan offered a ten years truce but the Christians mistrusted him and they petitioned Pope Nicolas IV for reinforcements.

In August 1290, a motley crew of peasants from Lombardy and Tuscany arrived in Acre, where they promptly and piously raped and murdered every Muslim in sight. Sultan Qalawun demanded that the culprits be handed over to him. The Grand Master of the Templars, William de Beaujeu, had close relations with the Egyptian sultan and he urged the town’s councillors to accept Qalawun’s demand but they jeered at the Grand Master’s “cowardice and treachery” and refused. Another demand for a ransom was also rejected. Qalawun broke out in a rage at such insolence and swore to destroy the city stone by stone. He died within a year, however, unable to make good on his vow. Nevertheless, this didn’t let Acre off the hook because the sultan’s heir, Ashraf Khali, vowed to fulfil his father’s vow of vengeance. He quickly gathered a large army and laid siege to Acre in April 1291.

A month later, King Henry II of Lusignan and Cyprus arrived in the beleaguered city and took command of its defenders. He made an unsuccessful attempt to make peace with Khali. By May 8 the Christian resistance was almost completely broken. All that remained in Christian hands was the headquarters of the Templars, the Temple. The Muslim forces surrounded the tower like birds of prey and prepared for the kill.
Three days later, the Templars sued for peace and Khali magnanimously agreed to spare their lives. However, when the Muslim envoys entered the temple and started to arrogantly sexually molest the attendant women and children, the knights flew into a rage. They slew the Muslims and threw their bodies from the tower, followed by the blood-stained white flag under which they had entered. Several days later, Khali surprisingly seemed prepared to make amends for his subordinates’ misbehaviour. He invited a Templar envoy, led by Peter de Sevrey, to his camp to negotiate a safe passage. The unsuspecting envoy, however, was seized and bound. They were then dragged to within sight of the Temple, where they were beheaded in full view of the remaining Crusaders. There was no turning back. No quarter would be expected or given. Khali ordered his sappers to mine the walls of the Temple.

On May 18, the besiegers attempted to force their way into the temple. William de Beaujeu, was killed during the fierce fighting and King Henry II was forced to flee back to Cyprus. The sappers had been so thorough in undermining the building that the whole structure collapsed, crushing Christian and Muslim alike. When the dust finally settled it was all over; Acre had fallen into Saracen hands and the Christians’ days in the Holy Land were well and truly numbered.

The men who would be Pope
In 1294, a train of events started which would lead to the eventual fall of the Knights Templars. A dispute broke out between Rome’s two leading families, the Colonnas and the Orsinis, about the successor to Pope Nicholas IV. Both sides put forward candidates but neither would concede. As a time-gaining measure the Colonnas nominated Pietro of Morrone, who was a religious zealot and a strict ascetic. However, as he was already in his eighties he wasn’t expected to live very long, which suited the Colonnas’ schemes. Unfortunately they weren’t the only schemers in the game and they soon found themselves outmanoeuvred by wily King Charles of Naples, who quickly had the papal designate moved under his wing in Naples.

In August, Pietro of Morrone was crowned Celestine V. He promptly announced the papacy would relocate to Naples, much to the dismay of the main conspirators surrounding the pope; the Colonnas and Orsinis and King Philippe IV of France. There was also wild card in the deck. His name was Benedetto Gaetani, a close advisor of the pontiff who secretly coveted the papacy for himself. He conspired to force Celestine V to abdicate by drilling a hole in the wooden wall of his bedroom and whispering to the senile monk. He pretended to be an angel of the Lord and urged him to step down. He scheme bore fruit and Celestine V resigned in December. Four days later Benedetto Gaetani became Pope Boniface VIII and moved the papacy back to Rome within a month.
Throughout the next year veneration grew for the disposed pope, Celestine V, and a dispute broke out about the legitimacy of Boniface’s claim to the papacy.
In May 1296 the gods seemed to intervene in Boniface‘s favour when Celestine was found dead in his cell. It was, however, quickly rumoured that the aged former pope was suffocated at the orders of Boniface and the furore surrounding his position increased. At this time the ambitious Colonnas stepped back into the limelight, claiming Celestine was the true pope and demanding that Boniface resign. The outraged pope responded by stripping the Colonna cardinals of their revenues and privileges. They lashed back by accusing him of a long list of crimes, including an unlawful claim to the papacy and the misuse of Church funds. ‘T was all too true, Boniface, was indeed bleeding the papal treasury dry.

God's representative on earth was nothing but a puppet on a string

Later that year, the Colonnas gained an unexpected ally in the form of Philippe IV of France. The king had come into conflict with Pope Boniface when he imposed a ten percent tax on all Church holdings and revenues in France. This was another of the king’s never ending attempts to solve his financial problems brought about by his ceaseless warfare against England. The pope deemed the tax ungodly (not to mention inconvenient) and instructed the French clergy to ignore it. Philippe reacted by banning the export of all gold and silver so that the church could not send its revenues to Rome. The avaricious pope was forced to compromise and swallow the tax for the time being but he was not amused.

The Colonnas accursed
In the same year, Philippe’s financial woes increased when he was forced to pay an enormous wedding dowry for his daughter, Isabella. Philippe and his arch foe, Edward I of England, had finally concluded a peace and as a gesture of goodwill they agree that Isabella would marry Edward’s son, Prince Edward of Wales. Philippe had to borrow heavily from the Knights Templars to pay for the dowry.
In 1297 the dispute between the pope and the Colonnas reached a head after the headstrong Stephan Colonna ambushed a mule train carrying treasure “appropriated” by the pontiff. Boniface demanded that the loot be returned and that the culprit be delivered to him for punishment. The Colonnas refused and were subsequently excommunicated. The Colonnas struck back by publicly accusing Boniface of murdering his predecessor. This meant war, literally, and the pope declared a “holy” crusade against the Colonnas, who were accused of heresy (what else?).

For the next year, the Colonnas were hunted like rats by hordes of enthusiastic Crusaders, hoping to enhance their fortunes and gain remission for their sins in the bargain. The Crusaders led by the Orsinis pillaged Colonna holdings and territories throughout Italy with the blessings of the pope. The Colonnas were eventually forced to pull back to the city of Palestrina, where they prepared to fight to the end. The Colonna troops were led by Giovanni Colonna, also known by his colourful nom-de-guerre of “Sciarra” (the Quarreler).

In October 1298, the two-faced Boniface pledged to spare the Colonnas if they surrendered and recognised his authority. They threw themselves at the pope’s dubious mercy and he betrayed their gullibility by slaughtering all the people of Palestrina and destroying the city. The Colonnas went into exile. Sciarra was captured by Mediterranean pirates. To his surprise his ransom was paid by Philippe IV and he settled in Paris.

To be continued in part 2....

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