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Masonic History

Order of the Temple


When the Knights Templar had, on account of their power and wealth, excited the fears and the cupidity of Pope Clement V, and King Philip the Fair, of France, the Order was soon compelled to succumb to the combined animosity of a spiritual and a temporal sovereign, neither of whom was capable of being controlled by a spirit of honor or a dictate of conscience The melancholy story of the sufferings of the Knights, and of the dissolution of their Order, forms a disgraceful record, with which the history of the fourteenth century begins.

On the 11th of March, in the year 1314, and in the refined city of Paris, James de Molay, the last of a long and illustrious line of Grand Masters of the Order of Knights Templar, testified at the stake his fidelity to his vows; and eleven years of service in the cause of religion were terminated, not by the sword of a Saracen, but by the iniquitous sentence of a Roman Catholic Pope and a perverted Christian King.

The manufacturers of Masonic legends have found in the death of De Molay and the dissolution of the Order of Templars a fertile source from which to draw materials for their fanciful theories and surreptitious documents Among these legends there was, for instance, one which maintained that during his captivity in the Bastile the Grand Master of the Templars established four Chiefs of the Order in the North, the South, the East, and the West of Europe, whose seats of government were respectively at Stockholm, Naples, Paris, and Edinburgh. Another invention of these Masonic speculators was the forgery of that document so well known as the Charter of Larmenius, of which we shall presently take notice Previously, however, to any consideration of this document, we must advert to the condition of the Templar Order in Portugal, because there is an intimate connection between the society there organized and the Order of the Temple in France, which is more particularly the Subject of the present article.

Surprising as it may appear, it is nevertheless true, that the Templars did not receive that check in Portugal to which they were Subjected in France, in England, and some other countries of Europe on the contrary, they were there maintained by King Denis in all their rights and privileges; and although compelled, by a Bull of Clement V, to change their names to that of the Knights of Christ, they continued to be governed by the same rules and to wear the same costume as their predecessors, excepting the slight addition of placing a white Latin cross in the center of the usual red one of the ancient Order.

In the degree of establishment it was expressly declared that the King, in creating this new Order, intended only to effect a reform in that of the Templars In 1420, John I, of Portugal, gave the Knights of Christ the control of the possessions of Portugal in the Indies, and succeeding monarchs granted them the proprietorship of all countries which they might discover, reserving, of course, the royal prerogative of sovereignty In process of time the wealth and the power of the Order became so great, that the King of Portugal found it expedient to reduce their rights to a considerable extent; but the Order itself was permitted to continue in existence, the Grand Mastership, however, being for the future vested in the Sovereign.

We are now prepared to investigate understandingly the history of the Charter of Larmenius, and of the Order of the Temple at Paris, which was founded on the assumed authenticity of that document The writings of Thory, of Ragon, and of Clavel, with the passing remarks of a few other Masonic writers, will furnish us with abundant materials for this narrative, interesting to all Freemasons, but more especially so to Masonic Knights Templar In the year 1682, and in the reign of Louis XIV, a licentious society was established by several young noblemen, which took the name of La Petite Resurrection des Templiers, or The Little Resurrection of the Templars. The members wore concealed upon their shirts a decoration in the form of a cross, on which was embossed the figure of a man trampling on a woman, who lay prostrate at his feet The emblematic Signification of this symbol was, it is apparent, as unworthy of the character of man as it was derogatory to the condition and claims of woman The lying, having been informed of the infamous proceedings which took place at the meetings, dissolved the Society, which it was said was on the eve of initiating the dauphin; caused its leader, a Prince of the blood, to be ignominiously published, and banished the members from the Court; the heaviest penalty that, in those days of servile submission to the throne, could be inflicted on a courtier.

In 1705, Philip of Orleans, who was subsequently the Regent of France during the minority of Louis XV, collected together the remnants of this Society, which still secretly existed, but had changed its object from a licentious to one of a political character.

He caused new Statutes to be constructed; and an Italian Jesuit, by name Father Bonani, who was a learned antiquary and an excellent designer, fabricated the document now known as the Charter of Larmenius, and thus pretended to attach the new society to the ancient Order of the Templars. As this Charter is not the least interesting of those forged documents with which the history of Freemasonry unfortunately abounds, a full description of it here will not be out of place. The theory of the Duke of Orleans and his accomplice Bonani was, and the theory is still maintained by the Order of the Temple at Paris, that when James de Molay was about to suffer at the stake, be sent for Larmenius, and in prison, with the consent and approbation of such of his knights as were present, appointed him his Successor, with the right of making a similar appointment before his death.

On the demise of De Molay, Larmenius accordingly assumed the office of Grand Master, and ten years after issued this Charter, transmitting his authority to Theobaldus Alexandrinus, by whom it was in like manner transmitted through a long line of Grand Masters, until in 1705 it reached Philip, Duke of Orleans. It will be seen hereafter that the list was subsequently continued to a later period.

The signatures of all these Grand Masters are affixed to the Charter, Which is beautifully executed on parchment, illuminated in the choicest style of Medieval chirography, and composed in the Latin language, but written in the Templar cipher. From the copy of the document given by Thory in his Acta Latomorum (ii, page 145) five make the following translation:

I, Brother John Mark Larmenius, of Jerusalem, by the grace of God and the secret decree of the most venerable and holy martyr, the Grand Master of the Soldiery of the temple, to whom be all honor and glory, confirmed by the common council or the Brethren, being endowed with the Supreme Grand Mastership of the whole Order of the Temple, to every one who shall see these Letters Decretal thrice greeting:

Be it known to all, both present and to come, that the failure of my strength, on amount of extreme age, my poverty, and the weight of government being well considered I, the aforesaid humble Master of the Soldiery of the temple, have determined, for the greater glory of God and the protection and safety of the Order, the Brethren, and the statutes, to resign the Grand Mastership into stronger hands.

On which account, God helping, and with the consent of a Supreme Convention of Knights, I have conferred and by the present decree do confer, for life, the authority and prerogatives of Grand Master of the Order of the Temple upon the Eminent Commander and very dear Brother, Francis Thomas Theobald Alexandrinus, with the power, according to time and circumstances, of conferring the Grand Mastership of the Order of the Temple and the supreme authority upon another Brother, most eminent for the nobility of his education and talent and decorum of his manners: which is done for the purpose of maintaining a perpetual succession of Grand Masters, an uninterrupted series of successors, and the integrity of the statutes. Nevertheless, I command that the Grand Mastership shall not be transmitted without the consent of a General Convention of the fellow-soldiers of the Temples as often as that Supreme Convention desires to be convened, and, matters being thus conducted, the successor shall be elected at the pleasure of the knights.

But, lest the powers of the supreme office should fall into decay, now and for ever let there be four Vicars of the Grand Master, possessing Supreme power, eminence, and authority over the whole Order, With the reservation of the rights of the Grand Master, which Vicars of the (Grand Masters shall be chosen from among the alders, according to the order of their profession. Which is decreed in according with the above-mentioned wish, commended to me and to the Brethren by our most venerable and most blessed Master, the martyr, to whom be honor and glory. Amen.

Finally, on consequence of a decree of a Supreme Convention of the Brethren, and by the supreme authority to me committed, I will, declare, and command that the Scottish exemplars, as deserters from the Order, are to be accursed, and that they and the brethren of Saint John of Jerusalem, upon whom may God have mercy, as spoliators of the domains of our soldiery are now and hereafter to be considered as beyond the pale of the Temple I have therefore established signs, unknown to our false Brethren, and not to be known by them, to be orally communicated to our fellow-soldiers, and in which way I have already been pleased to communicate them in the Supreme Convention.

But these signs are only to be made known after due profession and knightly consecrations according to the Statutes, Rites, and Usages of the fellow-soldiery of the Temple, transmitted by me to the above-named Eminent Commander as they there delivered into my hands by the venerable and most holy martyr, our Grand Master, to whom be honor and glory. Let it be done as I have said. So mote it be. Amen.

I, John Mark Larmenius, have done this on the thirteenth day of February, 1324.
I, Francis Thomas Theobaldus Alexandrinus, God helping, have accepted the Grand Mastership, 1324.

And then follow the acceptances and signatures of twenty-two succeeding Grand Masters-the last, Bernard Raymund Fabre, under the date of 1804.

Brother Hawkins here wishes to point out that after having disappeared for many years, the original of this Charter was rediscovered and purchased by Brother F. J. ART. Crowe, of Chichester, England, who thought it too important and valuable to remain in private hands, and it was accordingly placed in the possession of the Great Priory of England. A transcript of the document, differing slightly from that given above, has been published by Brother Crowe (see Transactions, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, volume xxiv).

The Society, continues Doctor Mackey, thus organized by the Duke of Orleans in 1705, under this Charter, which purported to contain the signatures manupropria in their own hands, of eighteen Grand Masters in regular succession, commencing with Larmenius and ending with himself, attempted to obtain a recognition by the Order of Christ, which we have already said was established in Portugal as the legitimate successor of the old Templars, and of Which King John V was al that time the Grand Master. For this purpose the Duke of Orleans ordered two of his members to proceed to Lisbon, and there to open negotiations with the Order of Christ. The king caused inquiries to be made of Don Luis de Cunha, his ambassador at Paris, upon whose report he gave orders for the arrest of the two French Templars. One of them escaped to Gibraltar; but the other, less fortunate, after an imprisonment of two years, was banished to Angola, in Africa, where he died.

The Society, however, continued secretly to exist for many years in France, and is supposed by some to have been the same which, in 1879. was known by the name of the Societe d'Aloyau, a title which might be translated into English as the Society of the Sirloin -a name much more appropriate to a club of bons vivants, good livers, than to an association of knights. The members of this Society were dispersed at the time of the French Revolution, the Duke of Casse Brissac, who was massacred at Versailles in 1732, being its Grand Master at the period of its dispersion. Thory says that the members of this association claimed to be the successors of the Templars, and to be in possession of their Charters.

A certain Brother Ledru, one of the sons of the learned Nicholas Philip Ledru, was the physician of Casse Brissac. On the death of that nobleman and the sale of his property, Ledru purchased a piece of furniture, probably an escritoire, in which was concealed the celebrated Charter of Larmenius, the manuscript Statutes of 1705, and the journal of proceedings of the order of the Temple. Clavel says that about the year 1804, Ledru showed these articles to two of his friends-de ,Saintot and Fabre Palaprat; the latter of whom had formerly been an ecclesiastic. The sight of these documents suggested to them the idea of reviving the Order of the Temple. They proposed to constitute Ledru the Grand Master, but he refused the offer, and nominated Claudius Matheus Radix de Chevillon for the office, who would accept it only under the title of Vicar; and he is inscribed as such on the list attached to the Charter of Larmenius, his name immediatel following that of Casse Brissac, who is recorded as the last Grand Master.

These four restorers of the Order were of opinion that it would be most expedient to place it under the patronage of some distinguished personage; and while making the effort to carry this design into execution, Chevillon, excusing himself from further official labor on account of his advanced age, proposed that Fahre Palaprat should be elected Grand Master, but for one year only, and with the understanding that he would resign the dignity as soon as some notable person could be found who would be willing to accept it. But Fabre, having once been invested with the Grand Mastership, ever afterward refused to surrender the dignity.

Among the persons who were soon after admitted into the Order Were Decourchant, a notary's clerk; Leblond, an official of the Imperial Library; and Arnal, an ironmonger, all of whom were entrusted with the secret of the fraud, and at once engaged in the construction of what have Since been designated the Relics of the Order. Of these relics, which are preserved in the treasury of the Order of the Temple at Paris, an inventory was made on May 18, I810, being, it is probable, soon after their construction. Doctor Burnes, who was a firm believer in the legitimacy of the Parisian Order and in the authenticity of its archives, has given in his Sketch of the history of the Knights Templar (Appendix, page xii), a copy of this inventory in the original French. Thory gives it also in his ActaLatomorum (ii, page 143). A brief synopsis of it may not be uninteresting. The relics consist of twelve pieces- a round dozen -and are as follows:

  • The Charter of Larmellius, already described. But to the eighteen signatures of Grand Masters in the Charter, which was in 1705 in possession of Philip, Duke of Orieans, are added six more carrying the Succession on from the last-named to Fabre Palaprat, who attests as Grand Master in 1804.


  • A volume of twenty-seven paper sheets in folio bound in crimson velvet, satin, and gold, containing the Statutes of the Order in manuscript, and signed Philip


  • A small copper reliquary, in the shape of a Gothic church, containing four fragments of burnt bones, wrapped in a piece of linen. These are said to have been taken front the funeral pile of the martyred Templars


  • A sword, said to be one which belonged to James de Molay.


  • A helmet, supposed to have been that of Guy, the Dauphin of Auvergne.


  • An old gilt spur.


  • A bronze patina, a plate or dish, in the interior of which is engraved in extended hand, having the ring and little fingers bent in upon the palm, which is the form of the Episcopal. Benediction given in the Roman Catholic Church.


  • A pax or tablet in gilt bronzes containing a representation of Saint John, under a Gothic arch. The pax is a small plate of gold, silver (or other rich material carried round by the Priest to communicate the Kiss of Peace.


  • Three Gothic seals.


  • A tall ivory Cross and three Miters, richly ornamented.


  • The Beauseant, in white linen, with the Cross of the Order.


  • The War Standard in white linen, with four black rays.

    Of these relics, Clavel, who, as being on the spot, may be supposed to know something of the truth, tells us that the copper reliquary the sword, the ivory cross, and the three miters vere bought by Leblond from an old iron shop in the market of Saint Jean, and from a maker of church vestments in the suburbs of Paris, while the helmet was taken by Arnal front one of the government armories.

    Francisco Alvaro da Sylva Freyre de Porto, a knight of the Order of Christ, and a Secret agent of John VI, King of Portugal, was admitted into the Order in 1805, and continued a member until 1815. He was one of the few, Clavel says, whom Fahre and the other founder's admitted into their full confidence, and in 1812 he held the of fire of Grand Master's Secretary. Fahre having signified to him his desire to be recognized as the Successor of James de Molaw by the Grand Master of the Order of Christ, Da Sylva sent a copy of the Charter of Larmenius to John VI, who was then in Brazil; but the request for recognition was refused. The Order of the Temple, which had thus been ingeniously organized by Fabre Palaprat and his colleagues, began now to assume high prerogatives as the only representative of Ancient Templarism.

    The Grand Master was distinguished by the sounding titles of Most Eminent Highness, Very Great, Powerful, and Excellent Prince, and Most Serene Lord. The whole world was divided into different Jurisdictions, under the names of Provinces, Bailiwicks, Priories, and Commanderies, all of which were distributed among the members; and proofs of nobility were demanded of all candidates; but if they were not able to give these proofs, they were furnished by the Grand Master with the necessary Patents.

    The ceremonies of initiation were divided into three houses, again subdivided into eight Degrees, and were as follows:

    I HOUSE OF INITIATION


    1. Initiate. This is the Entered Apprentice's Degree of Freemasonry.


    2. Initiate of the Interior. This is the Fellow craft.


    3. Adept. This is the Master Mason.


    4. Adept of the East. The Elu of Fifteen of the Scottish Rite.


    5. Grand Adept of the Black Eagle of Saint Joann. The Elu of Nine of the Scottish Rite.


    II. HOUSE OF POSTULANCE


    1. Postulant of the Order. The Rose Croix Degree.


    III. COUNCIL


    1. Esquire. Merely a preparation for the Eighth Degree .


    2. Knight or Levite of the Interior Guard. The Philosophical Kadosh.


    At first the members of the Order professed the Roman Catholic religion, and hence, on various occasions, Protestants and Jews were denied admission. But about the year 1814, the Grand Master having obtained possession of a manuscript copy of a spurious Gospel of Saint John, which is supposed to have been forged in the fifteenth century, and which contradicted in many particulars the canonical Gospel, he caused it to be adopted as the doctrine of the Order; and thus, as Clavel says, at once transformed an Order which had always been perfectly orthodox into a Schismatic sect. Out of this spurious Gospel and an Introduction and Commentary called the Levitikon, said to have been written by Nicephorus, a Greek monk of Athens, Fabre and his colleagues composed a liturgy, and established a religious sect to which they gave the name of Johannism.

    The consequence of this change of religious views was a schism in the Order. The orthodox party, however, appears to have been the stronger; and after the others had for a short time exhibited themselves as soi-disant, or so-called, Priests in a Johannite Church Which they erected, and in which they publicly chanted the liturgy which they had composed, the church and the liturgy were given up, and they retired once more into the secrecy of the Order.

    Such is the brief history of the rise and progress of the celebrated Order of the Temple, which thus continued to exist at Paris, with, however, a much abridged exercise, if not with less assumption of prerogative. It claimed to be the only true depository of the powers and privileges of the ancient Order of Knights Templar, denouncing all other Templars as spurious, and its Grand Master has proclaimed himself the legal successor of James de Molay; with how much truth the narrative already given will enable every reader to decide.

    The question of the legality of the Order of the Temple, as the only true body of Knights Templar in modern days, is to be settled only after three other points have been determined: First, was the Charter of Larmenius, which was brought for the first time to light in 1705 by the Duke of Orleans, an authentic or a forged document? Next, even if authentic, was the story that Larmenius was invested with the Grand Mastership and the power of transmission by De Molay a fact or a fable? And, lastly, was the power exercised by Ledru, in reorganizing the Order in 1804, assumed by himself or actually derived from Casse Brissae, the previous Grand Master? There are many other questions of subordinate but necessary importance to be examined and settled before we can consent to give the Order of the Temple the high and, as regards Templarism, the exclusive position that it claims.

    - Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

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