Was Jacques De Molay really the last Grand Master of the Templars?

In 1314, on an island in the middle of the river Seine in Paris, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar – Jacques de Molay – was burnt at the stake. His agonising death ended an incredible two centuries old order of warrior monks – brought down by a money grabbing French king and a craven, gutless Pope. The Templars were no more.

Or is that really the truth?

Not according to an awful lot of people out there. Ever since De Molay breathed his last, rumours and stories have abounded to suggest the Templars continued in some or other guise. One of the most curious is that De Molay verbally appointed another Grand Master before he was executed. This was a man called Johannes Marcus Larmenius.

In February, 1324 – ten years after the death of De Molay – Larmenius, a Templar born in Outremer, issued a charter claiming that he was the rightful Grand Master. But now in his seventies, the old man wanted to transfer this onerous responsibility to younger shoulders. He proposed that the next Grand Master should be Franciscus Theobaldus – who was still in charge of a Templar institution of some sort in Alexandria, Egypt.

Bernard
Palaprat – charlatan or Templar Grand Master?

This began a phase of underground activity in the history of the Templars. Grand Masters continued to be appointed but very much out of the public eye. That was until a chap called Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat revealed the existence of the Larmenius Charter, in the year 1804, that included his name as the latest of 22 successive Grand Masters.

Needless to say there was some scepticism about Palaprat’s extraordinary boast that he owned a ‘charter of transmission’ – as he termed it – written by Larmenius and naming him as the current Grand Master. But Palaprat was not to be dismissed so easily. He produced the sword of Jacques De Molay and some of his charred bones. Everything he said was true – how dare anybody question him!

At a time when France has experienced a revolution; a century of Enlightenment thought; the undermining of traditional church and royal authority and the emergence of the Freemasons – it’s perhaps not surprising that somebody like Palaprat emerged. He was feverishly mixing bits of the Templars with gnosticism, Freemasonry and an unswerving loyalty to Napoleon. It was an eclectic hodge-podge that suited the times.

The French revolution of 1789 had briefly replaced Catholicism with a cult of the Supreme Being. Now, Palaprat used his status as Grand Master to launch a new Templar order and later what was termed a Johannite church. His religion had its own version of the bible, loosely based on the gospel of John, and a belief that Jesus had been initiated into ancient Egyptian rites.

Few believe the Larmenius Charter was authentic or that he even existed. Today, the document can be viewed in London as a curiosity.

 

 

The Johannite heresy and the Knights Templar

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ
John the Baptist baptizing Christ 

We tend to regard Christianity as a ready made religion with in-built concepts like the Trinity, the divine and human natures of Christ co-existing and the redeeming of sins through the great example of the crucifixion.  But all these concepts were hotly fought over in the early centuries of Christianity.  The Trinity was seen as a lapse in to polytheism, the human nature of Christ was spurned by Gnostics while the idea of a purely divine messiah was rejected by the Ebionites.  And the idea of God in the form of his Son being actually crucified was rejected by others who still called themselves Christians.

One variant of Christianity – or offshoot – even denied that Jesus Christ was the saviour.  Indeed he was seen as either a lesser figure to John the Baptist or an outright imposter.  Far from blazing a path for somebody to come after him, John was the redeemer and the baptism of Christ was the act of a superior bestowing a gift to an inferior.  Incredibly, there are still people adhering to this view in the Middle East today.

When the Templars were in ‘outremer’ – the Holy Land and crusader territories in the Levant – they undoubtedly encountered many of the eastern variations on Christianity.  Unlike the west, religion was disputed and debated over much more vigorously in the east.  From the legalisation of Chrisianity under Constantine to the Middle Ages, the clash of views resulted in murderous feuds between patriarchs in Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople.

Most Christians, though, would have outrightly condemned the Johannites or ‘Saint John Christians’ as the Portuguese called them when they encountered such people in the Arabian gulf during their sixteenth century age of navigation.  But it’s been conjectured that the Templars, far from condemning this obviously heretical view – embraced it.  Thus the head of the creature called ‘Baphomet’, said to be held by the Order, was the head of John the Baptist.  Look at the similarity between the two words – Baphomet and Baptist – say supporters of this view.

This rather gnostic veneration of John the Baptist as a great teacher – a view sometimes called Mandaeism – was the great secret of the Templars, it is alleged.  A proponent of this theory is Lynn Picknett and here she is explaining it in more detail.