Page 26 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • April 15, 2009 October 13, 1307, and continued until the Grand Master of the Templars, Jacques De Molay, was burned alive after he recanted a confession extracted under torture and denied that the Templars were blasphemous and corrupt. While he was burning, De Molay shouted that the Order was innocent and called on the Pope and the king to stand before him for judgment at the Throne of God within a year. Pope Clement V and King Philip IV died within a year of De Molay’s execution. Clement V, a timid old man, had tried to exonerate the Templars before De Molay was executed, but had been overruled by King Philip IV. His death was not unexpected. However, when the robust King Philip fell from his horse and died of complications at 34, France held its breath. During the days of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, an ambitious Flemish knight named Gerard de Ridefort arrived in the Holy Land and placed himself in the service of Count Raymond of Tripoli. Raymond promised Gerard the first eligible heiress, along with her estate. When the Lord of Botrun died, Gerard expected to marry his orphaned daughter and take over the lands that came with her, enabling Gerard to live as a semi-independent noble. Instead, Raymond gave the heiress of Botrun to Pilvano, an Italian merchant who literally offered the girl’s weight in gold to Raymond. Gerard, disgusted, was in the process of wrecking his health with debauchery when he was taken up as a protégée by Eudes of Saint Armand, Grand Master of the Knights Templar. When Eudes was captured and refused ransom, as was his Templar vow, Gerard, who hated Raymond, was elected as the new Grand Master of the Templars. Raymond expected to be elected the next Crusader King of Jerusalem when the two surviving heirs, a leprous but brilliant teenager and a sickly child, died of natural causes. When the legitimate heirs died, Gerard backed a power play by Guy of Lusignan, the handsome but empty-headed husband of one of the old king’s daughters. Guy got the Kingdom into trouble without any help from Gerard, but when the Crusaders marched off to battle the forces of Saladin, the squabbling and divided command cost them the victory and led to a catastrophe at the battle of the Horns of Hattin. The Christians not only lost the battle, the army, and the control of Palestine, but they lost the true cross, said since the time of Constantine to have been the cross of the crucifixion and carried into battle as an infallible emblem of victory. Saladin, as a devout Muslim, would have recognized Jesus as a major prophet, but he saw the cross as an idolatrous image, not to mention a threat to future victories. He reportedly buried it under a doorway in Damascus so people would walk over it. The Templars and the rival Order of Hospitallers, knights pledged to refuse ransom, were all beheaded after the Muslim victory with one exception: Gerard de Ridefort. The Grand Master seems to have realized he was vital to saving what was left of the kingdom, and voluntarily disgraced himself by pledging the surrender of a couple of Templar garrisons that could not be held in any case. He also pledged never to carry a sword against Islam again as long as he lived. Once back in Christian country, he got around this oath by hanging his scabbard from the pommel of his saddle and urging other Christian warriors who had taken the same oath to use the same evasion. Gerard could not hold Jerusalem, which surrendered on good terms while he was still in custody. Saladin was more chivalrous than many crusaders, and did not want trouble with the Kingdom of France or the German Empire. In the end, Saladin had to fight England, France, and Germany at the same time in the Third Crusade, the one with Richard the Lion-Hearted. Gerard was one of the first casualties: he regrouped the Christian armies at the massively fortified city of Acre on the Mediterranean seacoast, and held onto Acre so Christian reinforcements from Europe would have a place to land. Then, perhaps in shame, he threw away his life. During a night attack in which the surviving Templars attempted to kill Saladin, the knights were thwarted by tripping over tent ropes in the dark and the assassination failed. Gerard refused to withdraw. He ordered his men to retreat and died fighting to cover them. Medieval gossip long held that Gerard had deliberately betrayed the Crusades. When the Arabic chronicles were translated centuries later, the real traitor turned out to be Raymond of Tripoli. Gerard de Ridefort, his nemesis, was revealed as a consistent enemy of militant Islam and a headstrong, somewhat unscrupulous hero, but not at traitor. The Templars of the post-Crusade era, however, smarted under the shadow of Gerard’s reputation as a loser and possible traitor, and they probably concocted the ritual of showing preference for the shroud to assuage their shame over losing the true cross and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. First lesson: Not all Muslim leaders are evil monsters, even when they do not agree with us. We should seek out the better individuals among them and work for peace and understanding. Second: If the shroud was Baphomet, and the Mandylion of Edessa, we have a solid piece of evidence that the resurrection took place. We should all act accordingly. The shroud and the Templars Two recent news reports may be related to the future of America. The Vatican reports new evidence that the Shroud of Turin, believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus, was sheltered by the Templars, an order of medieval knights who were also monks and the toughest warriors of the later Crusades. The second bit of news is that the number of Americans who identify themselves as Christians is 76 percent, down 10 percent since the previous survey. The study indicates that 1.2 percent of Americans identify themselves as Jews and 0.6 per cent identify themselves as Muslims. With allowances for other religions, that means that about 20 percent of the population has beliefs that are vague or have no beliefs at all. The news from the Vatican could change some of the unbelief. If the Shroud of Turin is genuine, it not only offers a portrait of Jesus, but also confirms that the resurrection took place. The blood on the shroud has long since been confirmed as type AB, and the image of a man, too accurate to have been painted in the Middle Ages, is believed to have been produced by dehydrative oxidation. In other words, some sort of flash scorched the shroud without setting it on fire. Pollen recovered from the shroud confirms that it was once in Palestine, an area off-limits to Western Christians at the time any forgery would have been made. The one stumbling block to acceptance on a purely scientific basis was a radiocarbon test reported in 1988 that dated the shroud at around 1380 A.D. This test has since been challenged because the portion of the shroud that had to be sacrificed for the test was not typical of the rest of the cloth. A subsequent test is said to have shown that the shroud was of a date compatible with the crucifixion. The Vatican story, if correct, indicates that the shroud was in the custody of the Knights Templar as early as 1204 A.D., which certainly unseats the 1380 date of the radiocarbon test. The story also suggested that the shroud is the Mandylion of Edessa, a sacred cloth that can be traced to late ancient times, and is reputed to have been made without human hands. The Vatican story, based on research by Barbara Frale, a scholar at the Vatican Secret Archives, says the Templars, who would have acquired the shroud during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, kept it in custody for more than 100 years. Frale notes that unpublished documents appear to solve the mystery of the shroud’s missing years, and added that a linen cloth similar to the shroud is described in those records. Ian Wilson has long suggested the shroud was the mysterious object called Baphomet, used by the Templars in a secret ritual that was exposed after considerable torture when the Knights Templar were destroyed by the King of France with the leery consent of the Pope between 1307 and 1314. The ritual was described at the trial of the Templars as a form of blasphemous idolatry. According to Frale, the new evidence comes from the account of a 1287 Templar initiation rite of Arnaut Sabbatier. This young Frenchman said he was taken to a secret place, where he was shown a long linen cloth that included the figure of a man, and was told to kiss the feet of the image three times. The account came from the Trial of the Templars, which began with the arrest of the French Templars on Friday, Letters to the Editor Dear Editor: I have observed the issues that have come before the Franklin Lakes Board of Education. This board oversees a $25 million budget on behalf of our district’s taxpayers. We are obligated to look closely at the candidates who, if elected, will have the task of making sure that money is spent wisely. I have two children in K-8 and am aware of the curriculum matters that have been put before this board. I am compelled to support the candidates who have adequately stepped up on these matters. In this election, there are two candidates who sufficiently address the issues: Kathie Schwartz and Margaret Bennett. Kathie is committed to our community and an independent on the board. Margaret is a well-known advocate connecting economics with process. The choice is simple. We need representatives who have instituted ideas, questioned expenditures and have been present and vocal on the way our district is managed. There are a lot of issues at hand. I look at candidates who will, I believe, will provide oversight, action, and results. In this economy we must elect the candidates who have supported their candidacy with evidence on how they will appropriately represent the interests of the taxpayers and the children of our district. On Election Day, I am voting Kathie Schwartz and Margaret Bennett. Roberta Haselkorn Franklin Lakes Dear Editor: In just days, voters in Franklin Lakes will have the opportunity to decide whether the Franklin Lakes School District and Ramapo Indian Hills Regional High School District budgets merit a yes vote. Both districts are adding new administrative positions. Endorses Schwartz and Bennett New articles describing the budgets report the same claim to fame by school administrators in both districts, namely that the proposed budgets increase spending by a smaller percentage that the state cap allows. Granted, the percentages of the increases are modest. However, the dollar increases are in the million dollar category and are significant. The additional administrative positions and proposed increase in spending lead me to conclude that the district administrators and the boards of education are following the first two laws of British writer C. Northcote Parkinson, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for completion,” and “Expenditures rise to meet income.” Both laws have stood the test of time. I plan to vote no on both budgets. Defeat of the proposed budgets will result in little or no change in the education of children. Defeat of the proposed budget will send a message to the education bureaucracy that taxpayers expect better stewardship of our tax dollars. Yes, both budgets were defeated last year. There were great lamentations by school administrators and some board of education members that the sky was falling. The town councils reduced the budgets by finding errors in the budgets and inappropriate accounting. The reductions were totally painless except for some bruised egos. Tom White Franklin Lakes Dear Editor: I would like to thank the girls from the Midland Park Girl Scout Troop 145, Troop 134, and Troop 465 for all their hard work that went into this year’s Easter Egg Hunt. It was a great success thanks to your help in putting it all together! Lori Dent, Recreation Director Midland Park Egg Hunt was a success Expects better stewardship