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Vatican Releases 800-Year-Old Knights Templar Trial Record


Vatican officials have presented a new volume called "Trial Against the Templars". The new publication is an expensive limited edition of the proceedings of the 1307-1312 papal trial of the mysterious medieval crusading order of warrior-monks who were accused of heresy. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

Secret Vatican City archive documents detailing the heresy trials of the Knights Templar are to be sold for the first time.

Eight-hundred copies of the document are being published and being sold for more than $8,000 each, except one copy that is being presented to Pope Benedict XVI. Libraries and scholars from around the world have already reserved most of the volumes being published.

The reproductions of the documents are printed on synthetic parchment with a replica of the original papal wax seal. Each leather-bound edition provides details of how members of the wealthy medieval order were tried by the inquisition before Pope Clement V between 1307 and 1312.

Many of the members were tortured and burned at the stake for sexual misconduct and alleged initiation ceremonies.

Presenting the new volume in the old Synod Hall in the Vatican, officials stressed the historical significance of the volume and made clear there are no new documents.

The Prefect of the Vatican's Secret Archive, Monsignor Sergio Pagano, said there are no discoveries, all the documents were already known. The original artifact, he said, was discovered in the Vatican's secret archives in 2001 after it had been improperly catalogued for more than 300 years.

Vatican secret archives researcher Barbara Frale says the documents allow for a better interpretation of the trial.

She said the parchment shows that Pope Clement V initially absolved the Templar leaders of heresy, but pressured by French King Philip IV he later reversed his decision and suppressed the order.

The Knights Templar was a powerful and secretive group of warrior monks during the Middle Ages.

Their secrecy has given birth to endless legends, including one that they discovered the Holy Grail. Recently, they have been featured in films including The Da Vinci Code - based on Dan Brown's work of fiction; and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

A French knight, Hugues de Payns, founded the order after the First Crusade of 1099 to protect pilgrims on the road to Jerusalem. Its headquarters was Jerusalem's Temple Mount, which lent the order its name.