Pope Clement V gave the green light to the destruction of the Knights Templar in 1307. He was complicit in the wiping out of the order in line with what King of Philip of France desperate wanted. So, how did the King of France come to exert so much power over the pope? Why was he able to boss him around make him crush the Knights Templar?
The answer is that the Pope was no longer living in Rome at this type. Instead, he had been forced to flee to the French city of Avignon. I visited in 2017 and the papal palace built in the Templar period still dominates the main square.
Pope Clement – hammer of the Knights Templar – a Pontiff in exile
In the fourteenth century, the papacy was forced to move out of Rome and take up residence in France. That put a pope like Clement firmly within the grasp of the French king.
Clement V was the first pope to be based in Avignon. He built a palace that still dominates the city centre. It was Clement who would bend to the will of the King of France, Philip, and ban the Knights Templar. He was the pope who sent out orders to all the Christian rulers of Europe to round up the knights and seize their assets.
The immediate successors of Pope Clement continued to reign from Avignon and enlarged the palace but by the end of the 1300s, the papacy had returned to Rome. By which time of course, the Knights Templar had been destroyed.
Gradually, the huge Gothic pile that had been erected began to decay. Decorations were ripped out and ornaments spirited away. The French revolution resulted in some damage inspired by anti-clericalism and then in the nineteenth century, the building became a barracks with a false floor installed.
Repairs were undertaken and some pseudo-Gothic additions, imaginings of what the palace would have looked like at its height. Regardless of all the indignities the palace has suffered, it is still a glorious sight today. I visited Avignon as well as nearby Arles and Nimes this year. Some images of the palace for you to view below.
But as you do – remember that it was from this medieval residence that Pope Clement snuffed out our beloved Knights Templar.