Da Vinci Decoded: Vatican Publish Knights of Templar Papers

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Get ready fans and foes of Dan Brown: The Vatican has “discovered” a cache of documents from the Knights Templar. For those of you who were spared the bad movie and worse prose (via AP):

The military order of the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon was founded in 1118 in Jerusalem to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land after the First Crusade. As their military might increased, the Templars also grew in wealth, acquiring property throughout Europe and running a primitive banking system. After they left the Middle East with the collapse of the Crusader kingdoms, their power and secretive ways aroused the fear of European rulers and sparked accusations of corruption and blasphemy.

The documents in question “reproduces the entire documentation of the papal hearings convened after King Philip IV of France arrested and tortured Templar leaders in 1307 on charges of heresy and immorality,” which includes “a 14th-century parchment showing that Pope Clement V initially absolved the Templar leaders of heresy, though he did find them guilty of immorality and planned to reform the order, according to the Vatican archives Web site.”

AP continues: “Historians believe Philip owed debts to the Templars and used the accusations to arrest their leaders and extract, under torture, confessions of heresy as a way to seize the order’s riches.”

Okay, this is all juicy stuff but what I love best is this:

Only 799 copies of the 300-page volume, “Processus Contra Templarios,” – Latin for “Trial against the Templars” – are for sale, said Scrinium publishing house, which prints documents from the Vatican’s secret archives. Each will cost $8,377, the publisher said Friday. An 800th copy will go to Pope Benedict XVI, said Barbara Frale, the researcher who found the long-overlooked parchment tucked away in the archives in 2001.

The Da Vinci Code book was published in 2003. The movie came out in 2006. So the entire stupid “is the Da Vinci Code right or wrong” industry could have been, I dunno, at least arguing over the facts for the past four years had only the Vatican released this earlier.

And, though this isn’t strictly relevant, before he became Pope Benedict, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, known until 1908 as the Holy Office of the Inquisition.

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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