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Torture and Confession in the Templar Interrogations at Caen, 28–29 October 1307
By Sean L. Field
Speculum, Vol. 91:2 (2016)
Introduction: A number of recently restored documents concerning the 1307 arrest and interrogation of the French Templars were exhibited in 2011 at the Archives nationales in Paris, and digital images of five of these documents were simultaneously made available online. The result has been not only a renewed fascination with the affaire des Templiers in France, but the opportunity for scholars around the world to access digitally these long-neglected original manuscripts.
Popular attention in 2011 understandably centered on the restoration of the massive roll (Paris, Archives nationales J 413, no. 18) preserving the notarized confessions of 138 Templars who were incarcerated in Paris; new scrutiny of this precious record will surely advance scholarship beyond what has been possible when working from Michelet’s venerable edition.
But the dossier of newly digitized documents actually opens up particularly exciting possibilities to study events in Normandy. The two extant documents (J 413, nos. 22 and 23) from the bailliage of Rouen have recently been reedited and subjected to new analysis, and this article now focuses on an even more revealing dossier of three documents pertaining to the neighboring bailliage of Caen. Perhaps more clearly than anywhere else in the documentation of the “Trial of the Templars,” these acts reveal how royal agents extracted confessions from the Templars in the weeks following their arrest.
Top Image: Detail of a miniature of the burning of the Grand Master of the Templars and another Templar. From the Chroniques de France ou de St Denis, BL Royal MS 20 C vii f. 48r