The Vatican is reproducing copies of the investigations of the trial of the Knights Templar, almost 700 years after they were suppressed by papal edict. The trial into the alleged misdeeds of the Knights Templar took place in Rome between 1307 and 1312. The document, known as the Chinon parchment, shows that Pope Clement V found the Templars not guilty of heresy, but guilty of other lesser infractions of Church law which lead him to disband the order. The Knights Templars were originally formed to protect Christians in the Holy Land during the early Crusades. They wore a distinctive white mantle decorated with a red cross, and as time went by, became very wealthy, owned property all over Europe and the Middle East, and started up a primitive international banking system. The Vatican's Secret Archives, one of the world's great repositories of historical documents, is selling a limited edition of 800 numbered copies of the Chinon parchment. It is printed on synthetic parchment, comes complete with a reproduction of the original papal wax seal, and is packaged in a soft leather case together with a scholarly commentary. Both the Vatican's Secret Archives, and its adjoining Library (at present closed to scholars while it undergoes restoration) are housed in Renaissance buildings not far from the Sistine Chapel. Together, the two collections of books, manuscripts, and letters cover tens of kilometres of shelf space, much of it underground for security reasons and to protect the archive against fire. The official archives of the Holy See were systematically organised for the first time only in the 17th Century. In the early days of the Church, popes did preserve manuscripts concerning their reign. But the fragility of papyrus documents used before the invention of paper, and the frequent changes of residence of popes before the 11th Century, means that most of the earliest Church archives have been lost. Among other treasures from the Archive, sometimes shown to VIP visitors, are letters from King Henry VIII of England to Anne Boleyn, his future wife and correspondence between Lucrezia Borgia and her father, Pope Alexander VI. There are no immediate plans for the publication of any of these unique documents.
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