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Freemasonry Watch

Tonawanda News: 'A piece of history' - Processus Contra Templarios

Manuscripts documenting the heresy trials of the historic Knights Templar

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The Tonawanda News - NY

A piece of history

Fri Mar 02, 2012

By Jill Keppeler

Processus Contra Templarios, Knights Templar
HISTORIC DISPLAY: A copy of “Processus Contra Templarios,” a volume of documents on the trials of the historic Knights Templar, is shown at Livingston Masonic Library in New York City. The volume will be on display Saturday at Sutherland Lodge No. 826 in North Tonawanda, when library director Thomas Savini will also give a lecture on the Knights Templar. Courtesy of Livingston Masonic Library

Processus Contra Templarios, Knights Templar
IN THE DETAILS: A close-up of the packaging of the “Processus Contra Templarios,” a volume of documents on the trials of the historic Knights Templar, is shown. The leather binder holds the facsimile parchments and the bound transcription of the testimony. Courtesy of Livingston Masonic Library

Processus Contra Templarios, Knights Templar
OUT OF THE PAST: One of the vellum facsimiles from the “Processus Contra Templarios” is shown. The synthetic re-creation includes stains, folds and other imperfections from the original document, said Thomas Savini, director of the Livingston Masonic Library in New York City. The script is in Latin. Courtesy of Livingston Masonic Library
— — Nine years after the Knights Templar were fictionalized as an order of secret-keepers in Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” — and more than 700 years after the downfall of the historic Templars — an event Saturday will bring a little bit of medieval history into North Tonawanda.

A copy of “Processus Contra Templarios,” a volume collecting reproductions of manuscripts documenting the heresy trials of the Templars, will be on display Saturday at Sutherland Lodge No. 826 in North Tonawanda. This copy of the rare publication — only 799 numbered copies were produced — is owned by the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of Grand Lodge, whose director, Thomas Savini, will also give a lecture on the Templars at the exhibition.

Kevin King, in charge of education for the local Masons, said the “Processus” has made stops in Western New York during previous tours, but never in the Tonawandas.

“It's a copy of actual documents from the archives in the Vatican,” he said. “They’re made to be as authentic as possible.

“It should be very interesting,” he said. “I think there’s going to be some eye-opening history. People might not realize some of the things that went on.”

The Knights Templar, a medieval Christian military order known for protecting pilgrims to Jerusalem, attained a great deal of power over the years before order members’ arrest in 1307 by the French Inquisition on charges of heresy. The “Processus” was published by the Vatican Secret Archives in collaboration with Italy’s Scrinium cultural foundation in 2007, the 700th anniversary of the arrest of the Templars, and includes a copy of the “Chinon Parchment” containing Pope Clement V’s absolution of the order on the charge of heresy.

The reproduced documents include transcriptions of the testimony of captive Templars, handwriting of inquisitors and sometimes the stains and imperfections of the originals, Savini said.

The pages are recreations of 14th century parchment that can travel well, but still look extremely authentic, he said. “It’s the kind of thing people can come up and touch, that they can take a look at it and get a sense of what history looks like in a very tangible way.”

In addition to Savini’s talk and the display of the volume, a group of modern-day Templars will be there in their full regalia, King said. He called the group “a concordant body of Masonry.”

The connection of modern Freemasons to the Templars is a tenuous — possibly nonexistent — one, but there’s a lot of conjecture, he said.

“It depends on who you believe. There’s no direct point where someone can say, ‘Ah ha!’ There’s a lot of speculation of possible ties,” said King, who added that speculation hinges upon the thought that some of the Templars escaped the inquisition to one day found the Masons. “I’ve read quite a few different books on what the ties are and they all have a different slant ... whether perhaps the Templars absorbed the Masons or the Masons absorbed the Templars.”

Savini said he starts the lecture off noting that there’s “not a shred of evidence” to prove a connection between the Templars and Freemasonry, but that he acknowledges the different theories and make note of what they have in common — including themes of separation of church and state.

“The Templars were sort of a forerunner, or at least an early victim of the battle between church and state,” he said. “It gets people in the door because they’re interested in the Templars, and we can connect it to Freemasonry.”

The Livingston Masonic Library acquired the “Processus” as simply an interesting piece of historical work, not before of any true Masonic link, Savini said, but it also makes a good educational tool.

“We thought well, if we can use it as a door opener ...,” he said. “It seems to be what the public wants. They want the fantastic and the mystery.

“Another point I make in the lecture is that Freemasonry has always been an organization that has relayed on legend and symbolism. It has never had a problem separating the two.”

When the organization started, literacy was a rare thing, making reliance on symbols a necessary point for the first Masons, Savini said.

“Our stories have always been important to us,” he said. “As long as we know the difference between fact and fiction, we’re OK.”

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