Council of Vienne
1311-1312 A.D.

part three

For document sources noted, see Abbreviations


    1. 1 DEC 1312
    2. Licet dudum - 18 DEC 1312
    3. 31 DEC 1312
    4. Licet pridem - 13 JAN 1313

    [5].{2} Our redeemer, the only-begotten Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, loved so much the daughter of Zion, the holy Land, that he chose her as his inheritance and his own patrimony. He therefore, clothed with our flesh, honoured her with his presence and consecrated her by the shedding of his precious blood. But we mourn and bitterly lament that so noble an inheritance of our redeemer has been turned over to strangers and laid low by the frenzy of the Babylonian persecutor, trampled underfoot by the feet of the defiled. She is dishonoured by the vile grasp of the unclean Saracens, faithless enemies of the christian name. She has been occupied and wretchedly retained, the christian people have been savagely slaughtered. To the insult of the creator, to the outrage and sorrow of all Christendom, the name of Christ is horribly blasphemed by the filthy and detestable conduct of the enemy. This sad region therefore weeps under the lash and repeatedly laments to the vicar of Christ about this intolerable persecution. Wounded by her disgrace, she pleads with christian princes and the catholic people. She uncovers her wounds to those from whom she awaits the work of the healer. She demands liberation from those for whose salvation the author of salvation bore within her borders the suffering of the cross. All this and more besides, which the mind cannot fully conceive nor the tongue tell, rose to our heart and roused our mind as soon as we were called by divine favour, though unworthy, to the summit of apostolic dignity. We gazed tenderly at the doleful state of the holy Land and we applied ourselves to think out remedies by which, with the aid of heaven, that Land, freed from the enemy's criminal hands, might see, after the darkness of so many tribulations, the bright times of longed-for peace

    For this and other holy works acceptable to God, to be advanced by his almighty power, we convoked a general council in the city of Vienne{3}. Then, together with our brothers the cardinals of the holy Roman church, the patriarchs, archbishops, bishops and other prelates and our beloved sons in Christ the illustrious kings Philip of the Franks and Louis of Navarre, who were present at the council, as also some other eminent men and the procurators of the remaining absent prelates and of chapters, convents, churches and monasteries, assembled at the council, we held a long, complete and careful discussion on bringing aid to the holy Land. At last we resolved, with the council's approval, to succour the holy Land by a general crusade. Intending to use our apostolic power zealously to this end, and having duly weighed all we have said, we judged, with the approval of the sacred council, that a tithe should be imposed by our apostolic authority on all ecclesiastical revenues and incomes throughout the world. Only the persons and places belonging to the Hospital of saint John of Jerusalem and the other military orders were to be exempted. The tithe was to be collected and paid for six years to be reckoned from 1 January last, in fixed installments, as we should find best, and to be directed to helping the holy Land and opposing the infidels and the enemies of the catholic faith.{4}

    But actually we reflected of late that our letters concerning the imposition, collection and payment of the tithe had not reached you by I January, nor could easily do so in a short time, on account of the great distance of those parts from the Roman curia. Wishing, then, to consult your ease and convenience, we have decreed that the six years are to begin in your region on I October next. We therefore ask, admonish and earnestly exhort you, also commanding you strictly by apostolic ordinance in virtue of obedience, to pay without difficulty the tithe for six years beginning from I October. The tithe is to be paid in the customary way, namely for the first half of the first year on 1 October next, and for the second half on I April immediately following, and in the same way for each of the remaining five years. Each of you is to pay it in full from your ecclesiastical revenues and incomes. If you fail to pay the tithe within the above periods, each of you automatically incurs sentences similar to those pronounced for nonpayment by you or by the suitable and trustworthy persons delegated by you to collect the tithe in your cities and dioceses.

    Furthermore, you are to collect the tithe from our beloved sons, the abbots, priors, deans, archdeacons, provosts, archpriests and other prelates of churches, the chapters, colleges and convents of the Cistercians, Cluniacs, Premonstratensians, of saint Benedict and saint Augustine, of the Carthusians, Grandmontines and other orders, and other non-exempt secular and regular ecclesiastical persons, in your cities and dioceses, that is, each of you in each city and diocese. The priors, preceptors, masters and other persons and the places of the Hospital of saint John of Jerusalem and of the other military orders are to be the only exceptions made. The tithe is to be collected by you or by other suitable and trustworthy persons delegated by you for this service in each of your cities and dioceses. It is altogether our wish and command that you should delegate such persons. We entrust to them and command them by this document to claim and collect it in full by our authority, in each of the cities and dioceses where they are delegated, from our beloved sons the abbots, priors, deans, provosts, archdeacons, archpriests and other prelates of churches, and the exempt chapters, colleges and convents of the above-mentioned orders, in your cities and dioceses. Only the priors, preceptors, masters, persons and places of the Hospital of saint John of Jerusalem and of the said other military orders are to be excepted.

    The tithe is to be claimed and collected in full from the ecclesiastical revenues and incomes, by our authority, in the customary way according to the years and periods mentioned above. The delegates are to collect it from both the exempt and the non-exempt: each is to hand over and assign it for each period to the person among you by whom he was delegated, without delay or as soon as he conveniently can. You are to compel them by ecclesiastical censure, without any appeal, to give you an account of the money claimed and collected from the aforesaid non-exempt persons, as well as to hand over and assign the tithe claimed and collected from both the exempt and the non-exempt. Public instruments are to be drawn up and other due precautions taken concerning the handing over and assigning of the tithe. In this way, when needed, it can be established how much, from whom, when and for what period the delegates received the money and how much, when and for what period they handed over and assigned it to each of you.

    The money which has been duly claimed and collected by you and your delegates from the exempt and non-exempt persons and has been handed over to you, including that which has been claimed and collected by your delegates from the said exempt persons, as mentioned above, and also the money which you will pay from your own revenues and incomes, is to be put away by each of you, together with your cathedral chapter, beneath the church or even elsewhere, as you think best, in some more becoming and safe place. Here, at your expense and that of the chapter, you will have it guarded carefully and faithfully, to be consigned by each of you to our delegates as and when shall seem good to us, for the business of the holy Land and the service of the faith.

    In order that you may more easily and effectively collect this tithe, we grant by this document full and unrestricted power to each of you to constrain by ecclesiastical censure directly or through your delegates, disregarding any appeal, the abbots, priors, deans, provosts and other aforesaid non-exempt persons, in your cities and dioceses. We grant the same power to your delegates, in each city or diocese for which they have been delegated, with regard to the abbots, priors, deans, provosts and other aforesaid exempt persons. This power may also be used to constrain any opponents and rebels. In addition, we grant full and unrestricted power to you to absolve in your cities and dioceses, after satisfaction has been made, the aforesaid non-exempt persons, and to your delegates regarding the aforesaid exempt persons who, because of non-payment of the tithe in due time, are bound by sentences of excommunication, suspension or interdict; also to dispense from irregularity contracted by celebrating divine worship or taking part in it while bound by one or more of the above sentences. In order that you and your delegates may have a reward for the labours undertaken, we enjoin on you the above things in remission of your sins.

    The tithe is to be paid even if the apostolic see has granted an indult to you or some of you, or to the abbots, priors and other aforesaid exempt or non-exempt persons, or to anyone else, that you are not obliged and compelled to pay, or that you cannot be laid under interdict, suspension or excommunication by apostolic letters which have not made full and express mention of this indult and its tenor word for word, or of the names of your orders, localities and persons. The same applies to any privileges, indulgences, exemptions and apostolic letters which have been granted generally or specially in any form of words by the said apostolic see to any dignities, orders, places or persons, and of which and their whole tenor there should be made in our letters word for word, special, full and express mention. Consider, besides, that in these duties you are engaged in God's business, and that you are acting in the sight of him who sees all. You will therefore be obliged to render an account to him and to us; we intend to use all diligence in this matter. You will receive due reward from both him and us. You should therefore act prudently and carefully, not only to avoid the danger of punishment and confusion, but also to gain the glory of praise and well-deserved reward.

    It is our wish also that each of you oblige the persons delegated by you for collecting the tithe, to swear that they will be diligent and careful in their work and to use this formula: "I swear . . . by you, lord . . ., who am delegated by the authority of the apostolic see and by the same see itself to claim, collect and receive a tithe of all ecclesiastical revenues and incomes from all exempt and non-exempt ecclesiastical persons in your city and diocese, that I will faithfully claim, collect, receive and guard this tithe which has been imposed by the apostolic see for the business of the holy Land and of the catholic faith. Only the priors, preceptors masters and other persons and places of the Hospital of saint John of Jerusalem and of the other military orders are excepted. I shall not give way in this to any person, of whatever dignity, status or condition, whether from entreaty, fear, gratitude, favour or any other cause. I shall restore and consign the full tithe to you at your order. I shall render a final and integral account concerning everything in detail, namely to you regarding what I have claimed, collected and received from non-exempt persons, and to the delegate or delegates of the holy see regarding exempt persons. If you lay down your office in this matter, I shall do the same according to the orders of your successor. So may God help me and these holy gospels of God."

    Given at Avignon on 1 December in the eighth year.

    [6]. For future record. Not long ago, in the general council at Vienne, we transferred, with the approval of the sacred council, the property, rights, privileges, indults, immunities and liberties of the former order of the Temple to the order of the Hospital of saint John of Jerusalem. For the sake of greater peace and concord between prelates of churches and other clergy on the one hand, and the brothers of the order of the Hospital on the other, as also for other justifiable reasons, we suspended, in the last session of the council, all the privileges granted to the Hospital by the apostolic see, and with them as a necessary consequence the privileges of the former Temple, which should be thought of as belonging to the said Hospital and transferred to it. We excepted the privilege of exemption, if they had any. We wished these privileges to be suspended at our good pleasure. There are some, however, who assert on insufficient grounds that the suspension of these privileges of the Hospital does not extend to the privileges of the former order of the Temple. Although there is not the faintest reason for such an assertion, we wish to remove from their minds the slightest doubt that it was our intention, by the said suspension of the privileges of the order of the Hospital, to suspend the privileges of the former Temple, which have become by the transference those of the Hospital itself. We declare therefore by our apostolic authority and decree that these, like the other privileges of the Hospital, are and remain suspended.

    Indeed, before the suspension, it was said in general by some of our brothers cardinals of the holy Roman church, to many of the prelates assembled at the general council, that there would be a suspension of the Hospital's privileges until everything that was still uncertain among the said prelates and other clergy, with regard to concord, lawsuits and disputes, had been completely settled. We observed, however, that if it was necessary to await the end of all these lawsuits and disputes, one little case might generate grave prejudice against the Hospitallers, and great loss might result from the continuing suspension of their privileges. We reflected that this might provide material for many misrepresentations. In the last session of the council, therefore, wishing to obviate such greater dangers, we judged it fitting to make known orally, clearly and openly, even for a third time, so that each and all might clearly understand, that we wished the said suspension of the privileges of the order of the Hospital to continue until we willed otherwise. We intend with the Lord's help to consider what is good for both sides and to make provision for both prelates and other clergy on the one hand, and the Hospitallers on the other, so that neither will have reason for complaint but both will receive due satisfaction. Let nobody therefore ...

    Given at Avignon on 18 December in the eighth year.

    [7]. For an everlasting record. Not long ago, under the Lord's providence, we held a general council at Vienne, at which we suppressed the former order of the Knights Templar of Jerusalem. We granted, attached and joined the Templar possessions, with the approval of the sacred council, to the order of the Hospital of saint John of Jerusalem, for the help of the holy Land; with the exception, for certain reasons, of their property lying in the kingdoms and lands of our beloved sons in Christ, the illustrious kings . . . of Castile, . . . of Aragon, . . . of Portugal and . . . of Majorca, outside the kingdom of France, which we reserved for our disposal and that of the apostolic see until we made other arrangements. Then, in the same council, we made some sound provisions for furthering the cause of the holy Land and others by which quarrels, scandals and discord might be prevented, and continuous peace and concord be established, between prelates of churches and other clergy on the one hand and the brothers of the Hospital on the other. We also made provision on other points relating to the reform of the order of the Hospital.

    Actually, business has pressed upon us. It is like an ocean pouring into the apostolic see. The waters of care constantly harass our heart. We have not been permitted until now, and are still not permitted, to put into execution the arrangements we desire. In order that the fruit of such sound proposals may not perish through oblivion or pressure of business, but rather may be gathered up, by the Lord's will, at the opportune time, we have had the headings of these projected decrees inserted into the present document. Their drift is as follows. We wish that the transfer of property of the former order of the Temple to the order of the Hospital may, by our provision, be of advantage to the holy Land. We also wish that quarrels, scandals and discord be prevented between prelates and other clergy on the one hand and the brothers of the order on the other; that lasting concord be established between them; and that the order and its members be reformed, if and as this seems good. We have therefore made three special provisions regarding the order of the Hospital.

    The first has to do with the holy Land. We shall have an exact and careful enquiry made into the past and present possessions of the order of the Hospital and their exact annual value. We shall wish to know fully the annual value of each old and new house of the order, and how much this represents each year in terms of assistance to the holy Land. On completion of this valuation, and taking into account the necessary local expenditure, we shall oblige the order to maintain continuously in the holy Land a certain number of brothers and knights. These brothers and knights are to labour effectively and strive to win the holy Land and keep it, as far as God grants. We shall arrange and provide that very few brothers of the order remain on this side of the sea. These shall be only those required to govern the houses of the order and those who are old, sick or unfit for war. The young and the strong, who are able to fight, shall be required to go and stay overseas so that the holy Land may have its needs met. The order will thus pursue the purpose for which it was instituted, as is only right and fitting. In this way it will not reserve for itself great wealth or many persons of quality. Rather, the order will lose all occasion for pride or the prosecution of idle enterprises, since the brothers and knights who drag their feet on this side of the sea will be far fewer than before. The property remaining behind will also be heavily and more than usually burdened as a result of our above-mentioned provisions.

    We cannot impose on our successors the continuation of the above policy. Yet, in order to make this course of action possible and easier for them, we shall have the annual value of each house registered exactly in the Roman curia, and also the service which it will be able to provide each year for the holy Land, and the fixed number of brothers and knights required to stay overseas. We shall arrange that the registered material be kept permanently with the papal registers under our bull. Further, that there be no lack of carefulness or caution in this matter, we shall send the registered material under our bull to all christian kings to be permanently kept by them in order that if it should happen -- though may it not -- that this ordinance is not observed by the Hospitallers, the kings themselves, being informed in the above manner, may more quickly and fully know where the observance of this ordinance has ceased. As a result, they will also be moved to take care that it is observed.

    Secondly, in order to establish tranquility and peace, as was said above, between the churches with their prelates and the order of the Hospital, we shall see that all the privileges of the order are fully shown to us. And although we have no intention whatsoever of taking away its exemption, if the order has such, or of granting exemption, if the order has none, we shall altogether take away any privileges, if such there be, which are odious or provide matter for quarrels, discord or scandals. If we happen to find areas of uncertainty which it is not advisable to remove, we shall clarify. In addition, we shall delegate in each province two of its prelates and one of our clerics or another cleric to provide more fully for concord, giving them full and unrestricted powers, so that simply and easily, and without the din of a court of law, they may hear and settle or make peace between the parties in all disputes and cases that have arisen or might arise for any reason between the aforesaid order and the churches and any ecclesiastics with regard to churches, tithes, first-fruits, procurations and any property or rights whatsoever. This is to include questions concerning the property and rights of the former order of the Temple. The parties may be summoned or not as they wish; charges may be laid or not, as they please. Before or after the delegates' decision there can be no appeal. Whatever they do or decide shall altogether be regarded as done or decided by us.

    We shall also grant to them the power of regulating the procurations owed by the order to the bishops in different places so that, when and as seems good to them, they are converted into an annual payment as money to be paid by the order to the bishops. The bishops, on receiving such payments, are bound to visit at their own expense, at a time suitable for them, the places making them. If this regulation does not seem useful, the bishops will receive on visitation the procurations owed to them by the churches of the order, if these are able to pay them. If a church cannot pay the full procuration, the above delegates will make an estimate of the amount payable to the bishop as the procuration for that church. We shall also ordain that all churches which have annexed to them the cure of souls and belonged to the order of the Hospital on account of any right of the Temple, or even on account of any other rights which belong or shall belong to the Hospital, shall be subject in all spiritual matters to their diocesans, notwithstanding any privilege of exemption. Indeed, in order that everything decreed above may be fulfilled more quickly and without evasion on the part of the order, and that our good will may appear to everyone, we suspend entirely from now all the privileges for long granted by the apostolic see to the order, except for the privilege of exemption, if possessed, and we wish them to remain suspended at our pleasure.

    Thirdly, concerning the order of the Hospital itself, we shall be making decrees regarding its regulation and reform. We shall be seeing and examining carefully the rules, statutes, form of government and progress of the order itself and of its members. We shall approve and confirm what is good. We shall clarify doubtful points that we find in need of revision in the order itself and in its personnel, both head and members. We shall restore the norm of truth, justice and regular observance with the equilibrium of reason and equity, to the advantage and welfare of the order and for the help of the holy Land. In this way the order itself will be preserved from decay and kept in a healthy and prosperous condition.

    The prelates of France, after the above intentions had been explained to them, petitioned that we should take away the privilege of exemption, if the order of the Hospital possessed it, or at least suspend such exemption, just as we have decreed the suspension of the order's other privileges. These prelates also declared that, as long as the unlettered and simple brothers of the order remain under the care of their simple priests, and the prelates themselves are unacquainted with the brothers' deeds and consciences, they can be in grave danger of losing their souls through having the privilege of exemption, if they do in fact possess it. Our reply is that because of shortness of time we are unable here to formulate a full and determinate decree. As soon as we can conveniently do so we shall with the Lord's help decree and provide in this matter. Also, as these prelates earnestly petitioned us, it is our will and decree that just as individual catholic kings shall receive in writing the valuation of the order's revenues and the other relevant information, so each province ought to have and shall have the same document.

    Also, in accordance with the petition of these prelates, we decree and determine that the compositions pending or made within the last ten years, which were extorted from churches and ecclesiastics through fear of the order of the Hospital and the order of the former Temple, do not disadvantage or harm the said churches and ecclesiastics in any way, and that if two prelates and a non-prelate delegated by us cannot reach agreement, then whatever is decided by one of the prelates and the non-prelate, or decreed by them by way of composition or agreement, shall have effect and full validity. Also, we wish to be as gracious as possible to the said prelates. Therefore we shall allow the two prelates delegated by us to raise in ready money the procurations of their dioceses while absent, and we shall have the non-prelate provided for in money from the property of the former order of the Temple. We shall also decree in accordance with the petition of the prelates of France, that Hospitallers who publicly receive excommunicated persons or those under interdict or notorious usurers for ecclesiastical burial, or for solemnizing their marriages or having them solemnized or permitting them to be solemnized in their churches against the law, or for administering the sacraments to outside parishioners or permitting this in their churches, incur automatic excommunication. And we strictly forbid the Hospitallers to trouble anyone unduly by use of apostolic letters. We shall also decree, in accordance with the petition of the same prelates, against the building of new churches or chapels, the erecting of bell-towers and the making of cemeteries; we shall provide adequate laws on these subjects to be observed by the Hospitallers.

    Given at Avignon on 31 December in the eighth year of our pontificate {5}

    [8]. For an everlasting record. Some time ago, in the general council held at Vienne under the Lord's inspiration, we suppressed the former order of the Temple for certain good reasons as explained in the letter of suppression. After long and careful deliberations with our brothers and the whole council, we bestowed on the order of the Hospital of saint John of Jerusalem, on the Hospital itself and on our beloved sons, the master and brothers of the Hospital, in the name of the Hospital and of the order of these men, who as the Lord's athletes expose themselves unfailingly to the danger of death in defence of the faith and have borne and still bear heavy loss overseas, the house of the Knights Templar and their other houses, churches, chapels, oratories, cities, castles, towns, lands, granges and all their other movable, immovable and self-moving property, together with all the members and rights and all that belongs to them, beyond and on this side of the sea and in all parts of the world, which the former order and its master and brothers had and comprised at the time when the master himself and some of the brothers were arrested as a body in the kingdom of France, namely in October 1308.

    The property includes that which the Templars had of themselves or through others, and anything belonging to them in any way, with all their rights, privileges, indults, immunities, liberties, honours and charges. We donated and united all this forever to the Hospital and incorporated it into the Hospital, with the approval of the sacred council and from the fullness of our apostolic power, for the help of the holy Land. However, whatever rights belonged to kings, princes, prelates, barons, nobles and any other Catholics, before the arrest of the master of the former order of the Temple and of some other brothers, were to remain. We excepted from the said donation, union and incorporation the property of the former order of the Temple in the kingdoms and lands of our beloved sons in Christ, the illustrious kings ... of Castile, ... of Aragon, ... of Portugal, and ... of Majorca, lying outside the kingdom of France, which we reserved with good reason for the disposal of the apostolic see.

    See Part Four of the Council of Vienne

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