Supremely Abominable Crimes, an over-clever title taken from the words of the formal 'Arrest Order' issued by King Philip the Fair in 1307, is one of the books I enjoyed doing the most, a natural outgrowth of The Templars: Knights of God, in which a single chapter deals with the trials and suppression of the Order of the Temple.
It focuses on the three-month trial which took place in Paris in 1310, based on the Latin transcripts which were published by the great French historian Jules Michelet as Le Procès des Templiers in the mid-nineteenth century. From them we learn that the interrogations took place in the private chapel and garden of the Bishop of Paris, beside his now-disappeared palace. The site was on the south side of Notre Dame, where a large tree can be seen to the left of the cathedral in the banner image above. The photo was taken on a gloomy October morning probably much as it was when the interrogations began on Saturday 14 October 1310.
The transcripts were republished in a more accessible paperback version by Les Éditions du C.T.H.S (the 'Comité des Travaux historiques et scientifiques' of the French Ministry of Education), in two volumes in 1987 - over a thousand pages of Latin text. A reading of these transcripts is both boring and exciting: boring because many of the interrogations are identical with the same questions and the same well-rehearsed answers; exciting because sudden glimpses of personality and details of living conditions appear.
Published records of other trials were used for reference and elaboration, and several excellent chronicles provided contemporary opinion and eye-witness detail: you in particular the Latin chronicle of the monk of St Denis, Guillaume de Nangis, and his unknown continuator; the anonymous semi-official history of the Capetians known as Les grandes chronicles de France; the Italian Croniche of the Florentine historian Giovanni Villani; the Excerpta of the Benedictine monk Jean de Paris from the Benedictine monastery of St Victor; and the rhyming chronicle in old French attributed to a contemporary royal clerk, anonymous but usually referred to as Geoffrey de Paris.
On the basis of the inquisitorial accuracy concerning the temporary addresses of the men on trial, and other sources such as the Book of the Poll-Tax of Paris for the previous decade, it was possible to construct a map of their locations around the city which was included in the book.
The aim was to create a readable narrative from this often dry and laconic evidence.
A new and revised edition will appear here soon, available through Amazon, with the new title:
THE TRIAL OF THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR IN PARIS, 1310