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BROTHERHOOD OF VICE: SODOMY, ISLAM, AND THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR
Unveiling Allegations: Knights Templar Trials
The charges against the Knights Templar encompassed a spectrum of alleged transgressions, ranging from sacrilege to financial impropriety. Let’s delve into the multifaceted accusations brought forth during their trials.
1. Blasphemous Acts
Accusations included committing sacrilegious acts against sacred figures such as Christ, God, the Virgin, and the Saints. This formed a grave concern for both secular and ecclesiastical authorities.
2. Denial of Sacraments
The shocking claim that the Templars denied the sacraments further challenged the authority of the Church, raising eyebrows among religious circles.
3. Idol Worship and Secret Ceremonies
Engaging in idol worship and participating in clandestine ceremonies were among the allegations, posing a threat to the established religious order.
4. Financial Impropriety Unveiled
The Templars, economically potent and independent, faced charges of illegally increasing their wealth. Such accusations struck a chord with secular authorities, emphasizing concerns about financial integrity.
5. Scandalous Practices
Intriguingly, the accusations extended to scandalous practices, including placing obscene kisses on new entrants in unconventional areas, challenging societal norms.
6. Unraveling the Charge of Sodomy
Unique among the accusations was the charge of sodomy. Unlike organizational heresies, sodomy was perceived as a crime of personal moral failure, adding a distinctive layer to the trials.
7. Moral Corruption and Institutionalized Power
The broader context revealed that charges of moral corruption provided a means for both state and Church to essentialize the Templars as enemies, attributing to them the potential to corrupt society.
8. Sodomy as a Moral Element
In the historical backdrop, the association of Islam with sodomy added a recognizable moral element to the charges, intertwining religious heresy and financial impropriety with a perceived moral decline.
Edward Burman’s exploration sheds light on the complex web of allegations, offering perspectives on how these charges shaped the narrative of the Templar trials.
Guardians of the Faith: Origins and Independence
1. Formation of the Templars
The Knights Templar, like other religious military orders, emerged from the need to safeguard Christian pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land. Despite the victorious 1099 battle at Jerusalem during the First Crusade, the perilous routes remained treacherous for pilgrims, facing attacks from fierce Saracens.
2. Founding Fathers
In 1118, veterans of the First Crusade, French knight Hughes de Payens, and Flemish knight Godfrey de Saint-Omer established the Order known as the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon (Knights Templar). King Baldwin II granted them headquarters at the Temple Mount, marking the birth of the Order.
3. Unprecedented Independence
The Templars’ quiet existence shifted in 1139 with Pope Innocent II’s bull, Omne datum optimum. This declaration conferred almost unheard-of independence, exempting the Order from tithes, allowing tithes collection, providing their own priests, and permitting oratories without secular interference.
4. Papal Bulls and Expansion
Successive papal bulls, such as Celestine’s Milites Templi (1144) and Eugenious III’s Militia Dei (1145), expanded Templar privileges, allowing them to collect their tithes and burial fees. By 1307, the Templars boasted unparalleled independence from both Church and secular authorities.
Financial Prowess and Political Intrigues
1. Quasi-International Banking
Beyond their role in protecting pilgrims, the Templars evolved into a quasi-international bank. Pilgrims deposited funds with one Temple house, later retrieving them in their destination’s preferred specie for a fee.
2. Diverse Banking Functions
The Templars’ financial administration extended to issuing loans for crusades, safeguarding important documents, managing state treasuries, and even housing monarchs during civil unrest, as seen with Philip IV.
3. Templars: Allies and Targets
While cooperating with the Crown, the Templars’ wealth made them attractive targets. King Philip IV, heavily indebted, sought to replenish state coffers, portraying the Templars as corrupted through their interactions with Muslims after the fall of Acre in 1291.
The history of the Knights Templar intertwines the noble pursuit of protecting pilgrims with their pivotal role as financial administrators, ultimately leading to their downfall amidst political machinations.
Medieval Perspectives: Islam, Sodomy, and Templar Trials
1. Christian Perceptions of Islam
For some medieval Christians, Islam represented the antithesis of their beliefs, viewing Muhammad as a false prophet ruling over a depraved people. Polemics against Islam often centered on themes of sexuality, portraying it as a religion of licentiousness and depravity.
2. Sexuality as a Focal Point
The medieval discourse portrayed Muslims as practicing idolatry and promised a sensuous afterlife. Particularly, accusations of sodomy were prevalent, highlighting the perceived sexual depravity of Islam.
3. Constructing Categories of Difference
In Spain, the association of Islam with sodomy served as a method to create distinctions between Spanish Christians and Muslims, fueling the reconquista. The “sodomitic Moor” became a response to perceived queerness among Spanish Christians.
4. Demonization of Subaltern Groups
John Boswell’s study suggests that Christian polemics against Muslims, including accusations of sexual depravity, were prevalent until the Third Lateran Council (1179). The demonization of subaltern groups, like Jews and homosexuals, intensified with the dissolution of the Templars on charges of sodomy.
Templars as a Case Study
1. Islam/Sodomy Dialectic
The Templars became entwined in the Islam/sodomy dialectic, with accusations of sodomy serving as a tool to prosecute political enemies. By associating sodomy with Islam, authorities could portray those accused as internal representatives of an external threat.
2. Tradition of Character Assassination
Accusing the Templars of sodomy continued a tradition of character assassination in medieval politics. Allegations of sexual deviancy were frequently employed to impugn the character of political adversaries.
3. Larger Contextual Issues
Malcolm Barber suggests that larger contextual issues, such as a weakened papacy and the belief in internal and external threats to Christendom, played a role in the accusations against the Templars.
Early Christian Writings: Linking Sodomy and Islam
1. Hrotswitha’s Account
Hrotswitha’s biography of Saint Pelagius documented the connection between sodomy and Islam. Pelagius was purportedly martyred for refusing the sexual advances of Abd ar-Rahman III, Emir and Caliph of Córdoba.
2. Essentializing the “Other”
The association of Islam with sodomy was a way to assert normative Christian behavior by comparing it to perceived abnormative behavior of an “alien” or minority group, demonstrating the interchangeability of Islamophobia and homophobia.
In the complex interplay of medieval beliefs and politics, accusations of sodomy against the Templars became a potent tool, reflecting larger societal anxieties and political machinations of the time.
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The Medieval Perception of Islam and Sodomy
For some medieval Christians, Islam embodied all that was antithetical to Christian beliefs. Muhammad was considered a false prophet and a magician who ruled over a depraved people. Muslims were thought to practice idolatry, and it was believed that Islam promised a sensuous, materialistic afterlife. In fact, many polemics against Islam focused on the theme of sexuality.
Christian Writings on Islam: Themes and Motivations
The institutions of polygamy and concubinage provoked the recriminations of Christians who believed it corrupted its practitioners and made them enervated and effeminate. For medieval Christians, Islam lacked spirituality and was seen as a religion of licentiousness and depravity[^4^]. The perceived dissoluteness of Islam was the antithesis of Christian canons that celebrated celibacy and chastity, therefore sodomy was a believable accusation to be levied against Muslims[^5^].
Islam and Sodomy in Crusade Histories
Crusade histories contained references to Islamic sodomy, and this theme would only become more common as the struggle to regain the Holy Land continued. Well into the Fifth Crusade (1217-1221), the association between sodomy and Islam had become almost matter-of-fact in Christian writings on the Middle East.
Examining the Connection in Medieval Narratives
In William of Ada’s De Modo serracenso extirpandi (thirteenth century), Muslims were depicted as engaging in various sexual acts, and “effeminate men in great number” were mentioned who would dress and act as women[^22^].
Templar Trials: Sodomy as a Political Tool
The Koran is clear in its condemnation of same-sex relations. Yet in the fourteenth century, most Christians knew little of this strange religion from the east, instead relying on a variety of Christian writings in which to form their opinions of Islam.
King Philip IV’s Agenda Against the Templars
In his own crusade against the Templars, Philip and his inquisitors were able to draw upon these perceptions to accuse the Order of having abandoned Christianity by embracing Islamic sodomitic practices.
Legacy and Impact: Seven Centuries Later
The Vatican published the proceedings from the Templar trials in Rome (1307-1312), which, at the behest of King Philip, Pope Clement V had suppressed. In these parchments, it has been revealed that Pope Clement V cleared the Templars of most of the charges, except those of immorality[^50^].
Revisiting the Vatican’s Revelation on the Templar Trials
Even those who were aware of Philip’s true intentions appeared to accept the sodomy-Islam-Templar connection[^50^].