HUGUES DE PAYNS MUSEUM
and secrecy are a heady combination and humans just can’t get enough
of the mysteries of secret societies that seem to operate in the dark shadows
of politics and religion, from the DaVinci Code’s reliance on the
mostly made up ‘Priory of Scion” to the involvement of the
Freemasons in America’s founding. Many of these fictional or imaginative
conspiracy theories originate with the very real history of The Order of
the Knights Templar and a piece of that mysterious history can be found
in a small town in central France near Troyes.
Secrets of the Knights Templar in Champagne
The Knights Templar, officially known as "The Order of the Poor Brothers-in-Arms of Christ for the Protection of the Temple of Solomon" was founded in 1128 by the Catholic Council of Troyes. The first Templars were a small group of 9 medieval knights dedicated to religious piety, chastity and poverty, led by a minor nobleman from the Champagne region of central France who had served in the First Crusade, Hugues de Payns (various spellings - Hughes de Payens or Pagens). The original intent of the order was to protect the safety of Christian Pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. The Templars were promoted and supported by local French cleric Bernard of Clairvaux ( see Saint Bernard Chatillon-Sur-Seine) as head of the Cistercian monastic order in Champagne and Burgundy whose writing was central to instigation of the Second Crusade. Over time the idea of chastity and poverty faded as the Templars became a great economic power through their handling of a medieval version of a banking system, passing money through the order by means of the travels of its knights and Cistercian monks and network of monasteries (see Abbey Fontenay) between Europe and the Holy Lands. The Templar order was brutally crushed in a swift power play by French King Phillip the Fair (see Dijon), when all of it’s order was arrested on the ever-since unlucky night of Friday 13th, 1307. Many were tortured, executed and its Grand Master Jacques de Molay, burnt at the stake, bringing us the word "immolation".
About 5 miles to the west of the Champagne region capital of Troyes (see Troyes Medieval City), the still very small town of Payns is marked by a water tower with the curious artwork of a medieval Templar Knight with red cross on white. Of course, this is the hometown of local boy who made it big, Hughes de Payens who became lord of this village in 1113. As any small town would, Payns has established a museum dedicated to its local hero. So much of the Knights Templar story emanates from the Champagne and Burgundy regions of France where the sect began, and any tourist of France with an interest in this fascinating historical mystery may find a visit to this otherwise very quiet little town a worthwhile stop. The Musee Hugues de Payns is only open from 3pm to 6pm from May to September on the first Sunday of the month. On display are miniatures, an illuminated map, archeological artifacts and relics. I have to admit, when I stopped at this unique little museum, it was closed, so the Templar secrets contained within remain a mystery, but perhaps the next visitor can unearth its dark truths. For more Templar drama, the Museum Di Marco in nearby Troyes offers an exhibit of illustrated texts of the Trials of The Templars (Les Proces des Templiers).
The village of Payns is located along the Aube River and a drive along Route 9 passes several ancient village churches. Perhaps not a destination to plan all by itself, a unique and curious stop on a French countryside journey. The Abbey Clairvaux is east of Troyes and Abbey Paracalet from the legend of Heloise and Abelard to the west (see ). The town of St. Sulpice has a beautiful 12th Century church and the Chateau Barberey Saint Sulpice is a mile east of Payns and at €2, very cheap to visit. Just don't come during the two hour French at lunch time. © Bargain Travel Europe
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