Following the historical account of the Knights Templar, it was here on the French soil of Marais, much of their story was played out.
In 1137, King Louis VII of France gave the “Order of the Knights Templar” a house, in the swamp marshland area, in the northern parts of Paris, just outside the city walls.
Large stretches of marshland, remnants of the ancient branch of the River Seine, which once flowed down from Belleville, east of Paris.
In less than a century, these hardy knights had dried out the marshlands, and moved to its north-eastern edge, upon which they built, the “Enclos du Temple,” a fortified compound, consisting of crenellated walls, buttresses, watch towers and a drawbridge. To accompany the tower, a gothic styled round chapel was built in stages, granted by a papal bull of Pope Honorius in 1217. The church was consecrated to the Holy Mary, the burial place for Templar high dignitaries who died in Paris.
The church was aligned from west to east, comprising of three parts:
- The gothic nave was characterised by a clerestory located on the ground floor.
- The round was built on two floors, encompassed by a circular gallery. The round vault, leant on six pillars, laid out in a circle.
- The chancel consisted of five bays with tall windows. Access to the bell tower was by way of the south-wall bay.
In the latter part of the 12th century and early 13th century, the preceptor grew larger, and additional buildings were erected, on the six acres of land set aside for the preceptor. The area was protected by an eight – ten metre high crenellated wall, equipped with buttresses, and flanked by turrets and stone shelters.
The Knights Templar created an International Banking System, which contributed to their increasing wealth. The Enclos du Temple, became home to their bank, and the European headquarters of the Templar’s.
It is said Philip Augustus made use of their services, by depositing much of his treasures with them in 1190, before departing on the Third Crusade to the Holy Land.
In 1254, King Henry III of England chose to stay at the Knights Templar temple on his visit to France and Paris, instead of the Royal Palace. One has to ask, how the French King would have felt about that.
The war in the Holy Land had stretched France’s finance’s to breaking point, and the Templar’s had taken control of France’s finances. In short France was under the control of the Knights Templar, with King Philip IV, nothing more than a puppet king to his people.
The Templar’s had created their own state in France, located within King Philip IV’s own borders. Philip could no longer stand by watching these Templar’s wealth grow day by day.
During a mass uprising in 1306, King Philip IV accepted the offer of shelter, from the Templar’s. What he was to discover were rooms full of treasures? The King became so envious of their wealth; he devised a plan, spreading false rumours, which would lead to their downfall.
On the 12th October 1307, Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knights Templar, was one of the guests at the funeral of Catherine de Courtenay, the wife of Charles de Valois and sister-in-law of Philippe IV.
On the 13th October 1307, the King’s men sent forth to arrest all members of the Knights Templar and seize their assets.
Captured knights were tortured, and brought to trial on false accusations, rumours and slander, and those found guilty were burnt at the stake.
On the 22nd March 1312, the Papal Bull ‘Vox In Excelso’ issued by Pope Clement V, dissolved the Order of the Knights Templar.
On the 2nd May, the Papal Bull ‘Ad Providam’ issued by Pope Clement V, ordered that all assets, property and land to be turned over to the Hospitallers.
Over the next two centuries, the Hospitallers enlarged the church, filled in the ditch around the fortress, and replaced the drawbridge with a stone bridge.
On the 18th March 1314, Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, was burnt at the stake, on false charges of heresy.
Jacques de Molay’s last words were to his God, claiming Pope Clement V and King Philip IV, his accusers should join him… thirteen months later, his accusers had died.
The Order of the Hospitallers stayed in the ‘Enclos du Temple’ until the days of the French Revolution, and were eventually disbanded by Napoleon in the 19th century.
By the early years of the 17th century, the area known as Marais, had become an aristocratic neighbourhood of Paris. The Palace of the Grand Prior of the Temple had become the court of the illegitimate sons of royalty. Philip the Duke of Vendome, grandson of Henri IV and mistress Gabrielle d’Estree, led a life of debauchery, along with literary and artistic brilliance.
The Comtesse de Boufflers mistress of Horace Walpole, reigned supreme over the court. It was here the ten-year-old Mozart performed in the drawing room, playing the harpsichord.
On the 13th August 1792, the drawing room played host to a dinner where all the guests were the Royal family and their retinue. They were the prisoners of the Commune of Paris. Following the meal, the royal couple, two children and King’s sister were locked up in the Tower of the Temple, and the other women transferred to the Prison of La Force.
King Louis XVI and his Queen; Marie Antoinette were imprisoned at the Temple, awaiting their execution at ‘Place de la Revolution;’ King Louis XVI on the 21st January 1793 – Queen Marie Antoinette on the 16th October 1793.
The seven-year-old Dauphin, was taken from his parents, and locked in a cell, until his presumed death in June of 1795. His body was buried at Sainte Marguerite Cemetery. As far as anyone was concerned, the body in the grave should have been King Louis XVII (1785-1795), the body of the ten-year-old boy. In 1894 his remains were dug up, and examination of the body, proved without doubt, the remains were those of an eighteen-year-old boy. So what happened to the young King, the last of an ancient regime?
French and Austrian authorities did an exchange, the French Princess Royal for five Republican prisoners.
In 1796, the Temple became a state prison, and in 1805 was bought by royalists. On the 16th March 1808, Napoleon ordered its destruction.
In 1823, the Palace of the Grand Prior became the Benedictine Church of the Perpetual Adoration of the Holy Sacrament. In 1853, Napoleon III ordered its destruction, and with it, the last remnant of Knights Templar died…