Today we must recognize that the foundation of the Templar house of Masdéu in the Roussillon remains cloaked in mystery.  Its creation is “ex nihilo” but there is no document, or any solemn act, or dedication of a church, or information contained in other files which allow us to know the exact date of its creation.

We can only note a certain number of facts. 

During the summer of 1131 a Templar of Provence, Hughes Rigau, was sent on a mission by the founder of the order, Hugues de Payens, to go to the Roussillon where he sought to recruit Father Bernat of Perpignan. Both men then went to Barcelona where they obtained the support for the order from the count of Barcelona, Ramon Berenguer III. Ramon Berenguer later became a Templar. During a second mission, on October 5, 1132, Hughes Rigau received the first donation to the Order on the territory of Banyuls dels Aspres. It was a man (Arnau de Contrast ) and the farmhouse where he lived.

 A second donation was collected by Father Bernat on June 29, 1133. It was Villemolaque, the land on which the Templars would build their house. Indeed, on May 24, 1137, Ermengau de Só in his will, indicated that he wanted to be buried at the house of Masdéu. Less than five years after their first appearance the Templars thus have a house, a cemetery and a church in the Roussillon. 

How in so little time did they create the network which enabled them to penetrate the Roussillon? With which men and which values and which methods allowed it? And why? How did Hughes Rigau of Provence know Hughes de Payens?

 Scholars have researched where the very first foundations and creations of the Templars took place. They are in the Champagne area of France (home of Hughes de Payens and others associated with the early Templars), as well as the following areas: Spain (1126-1130); the Languedoc (Toulouse, Douzens, Carcassonne, 1128-1133); and in Provence (Richerenches 1136). 

They were therefore well represented in the old Languedoc area early on.  

There were two other institutions present in Languedoc/Occitania at this time. Firstly, the church of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem had been ’staffed’ by Augustinian canons installed there in 1099 by Godfrey de Bouillon. Godfrey, the legendary figure of the First Crusade, had taken his own priests with him to the Holy Land during the First Crusade. Once Godfrey became Advocatus of the Holy Sepulchre he installed his priests there as guardians of the tomb of Christ.

    The historian Murray reports that several identified monks went with Godfrey to Jerusalem. These included Louis of Toul, Adalbero of Luxembourg, who was Archdeacon of Metz and probably Baldwin, later Archbishop of Caesarea. There is evidence for monks with Godfrey as William of Tyre relates that the ‘duke took with him a group of monks who celebrated the divine offices for him during the expedition’

The religious house that Godfrey back in his home lands was most closely associated with was the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Hubert, of which he was also advocate.  So why do I mention this?  Because the monks installed by Godfrey had an almoner of the Order in the Lauraguais.  According to Selwood, the priests of this Order were drawn to Occitania because of the possible revenues and the strong pilgrimage traditions [the pilgrimmages would include the legendary Mary Magdalene who allegedly came to France, as well as Lazarus and other bibilcal characters].  In fact, a bull of Pope Honorius II (Habitantes in domo Domini (1128)) confirmed to the Prior, William of the Holy Sepulchre, around 60 churches with their dependencies as well as two hospitals and various other properties in Occitania.  For our interests here we note that Hughes Rigau, while a Templar, between the years of 1133-1134 also accepted gifts as an official of the Holy Sepulchre on behalf of the Knights Templar.  

 According to E.B Léonard, in “Introduction to the handwritten cartulaire of the Temple” (pages 14-18 and 23-29) the dignitaries of the Temple, between 1130 to 1170, were not, strictly speaking, part of a hierarchy in the Order of Templars. There was only one Master and the brother knights. During a very short time, however, between 1130 to 1133, the community of the Holy Sepulchre (sic) and Knighthood of the Temple appear to nevertheless have had a common Master in the person of Hughes Rigau. Rigau had links that stretched back to the earliest formation of the Templars, if indeed we can say that Godfrey de Bouillon and his knights and priests on the First Crusade, installed at the Holy Sepulchre, later formed the Knights Templar. 

Did Rigau meet Hughes de Payens on Crusade? This is important. In 1133, as a representative of the Temple order, Rigau receives the donation of the castle of Douzens.

The noted founder of the Templars came from the town of Payens about 8 miles north of Troyes. Hugh of Champagne was Hughes de Payens Lord in about 1113. He famously joined the Templars in 1125 and was one of the greatest landowners in Champagne and one of the most powerful lords of the twelfth century (in France). Barber thinks that Hughes de Payens ‘took the cross’ after the death of his wife in the company of this Hugh of Champagne. In fact, the family connections of the early Templars were inexorably linked to the families who patronised the Cistercian Abbeys. These groups were seen as 'reforming spirituality' at the time and may have been the means whereby the Templars were able to gain so much land and support very early on.

Hughes de Payens was born in a town on land owned by the Count of Champagne and all the sites associated with the early Knights Templars in France were on land owned by this Count. The Counts role, therefore, in Templar history is elusive and suggests an earlier date for the Templar creation.

When Rigau negotiated the sale of the caves of Aiguilhe he had with him a ‘seneschal of the Temple’ called Brother Robert. Some have speculated that this may have been Robert de Craon, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar after Hughes de Payens. How did Rigau know these men to be so closely associated with them and the earliest Templars? Speculation suggests that Rigau was in fact the Grand Master of the Order of the Templars at some point between Hughes de Payens and Robert de Craon.

The method of garnering support for the new Order consisted in sending some itinerant brother, as in the case of Rigau, to traverse Provence, Languedoc, Roussillon and Catalonia to research the local support which could then become the focal point of fixing a Templar presence. Among those which were carrying out this research, between 1131 and 1150, were Hughes Rigau and the Catalans Hugh de Bedors and Pere of Rovira. It is they who recruit the first Templars in the Rousillon, Pere Bernat, Bernat de Peralada, Arnau de Contrast and Arnau de Sornià. This period finishes when, in about 1150, a first organization of the commandery gives a title to Arnau de Sant Cebrià, “minister” of the goods of Masdéu in Roussillon. If recruitment (with the search for donations) were the principal task of these first brothers, the surprise comes from the identity of the first two recruited people: a peasant and a woman. The peasant is Arnau de Contrast who, five years after being given as a ‘gift’ with his farmhouse became a Templar and receives donations for the Temple. All the family of Arnau later join with him in the Order. A woman, Azalaïdis de Nyls, of which the formula of joining the Temple can be compared to a kind of religious entry. The act which gives an account of her joining the Order is dated July 29, 1133 and it has a description of the ceremony which took place. The importance of the Order at this time, shown by the number and qualities of the witnesses and by the religious value of the formulas used, show the impact of the early Temple on the company of its time. It seems bizarre given the fact that the Temple had humble and obscure beginnings.

One sees that the Temple is not only a militia which fights the Infidels but a group who also have the spiritual values to be able to be valid intercessors with heaven and God. These values allow the Order to associate the faithful, both peasant and noble men and women alike, with the life of the commandery. Elsewhere the success of the system of the donations and the fellow-members, already used by other religious orders, could not be explained without this religious dimension to Templar activity. One can, however, understand it through perusal of burials and in wills. Among this extremely heterogeneous group are people associated with the Temple
- who are of the nobility, that is the “militate” that have a special place. They are omnipresent in the charters of Masdéu and they constitute almost the totality of the fellow-members. It is with them especially which makes it possible, by their liberalities, to constitute the bases of the real inheritance of the commandery.

The last two counts of Roussillon, Gausfred and his son Girart, never entered the confraternity of the Temple but were particularly generous: they donated grounds in Perpignan, Mailloles and Villeneuve (1149), then especially the “castrum” of Palau, by the will of Girart, in 1172. The Templars are also favoured by the king Alfonso who takes them under the protection of his peace and truce of 1173, and the Temple carried out a vast campaign of draining ponds around Nyls and in Bages.

The commandery at Masdéu constitutes an entity which concentrates on the essence of activity; it is also a religious centre, with its own church and its cemetery, a place for reception and of retirement of the confreres, a centre for private documents received. Marketing of the products of the countryside via the market of Perpignan leads to the construction of the district of Saint Mathieu.

A more famous Templar house opened by Hughes Rigau is that of Douzens. The archives of the Douzen commandery are available in publication. From this following list we can see our interests:

[May 20, 1130] - Guilhem Ermengau gives to Hugues de Payen and to the knights of the Temple what they have inside the limits placed by Ermengau de Coursan with Peiois” (Peyrolles?). PUBLISHED: ALBON, general Cartulaire…, n° XXXII, p. 24.

Joined together with the monastery of Sainte-Marie of Alet, Guilhem Pierre de Villarzel and his son give them to the militia of the Temple “the honour” which they had in the “villa” and the soil of Douzens, except for the clerks, of the church and the strongholds that the knights hold of him. PUBLISHED: ALBON, general Cartulaire…, n° LVII, p. 42.

[1133, March 26 - 1134, March 18]. - Alet, abbey of Notre-Dame Guilhem d' Alaigne gives in freehold to the militia of the Temple, in the “villa” of Pauligne, Pierre Oto with his castle, his sons, his brothers and all that belongs to them. PUBLISHED: ALBON, general Cartulaire…, n° LV, p. 41.

[1133, March 26 - 1134, March 18]. - Alet, abbey of Notre-Dame , Arnaud confirms with the militia of the Temple between the hands of Hugues Rigau the gift that he had made for him of a man of Pomas, named Arnaud de Missègre with his casal and his children. The possession of this man had been disputed by the abbot of Saint-Hilaire who on sentence of the abbot of Notre-Dame d' Alet, Raimond, and of conciliation board, had given up the man and his goods.

B. Copy of XIIth century, Cartulaire of Douzens, n° 185. (Under the date of 1134). PUB LISHED: ALBON, general Cartulaire…, n° LVI, p. 41, according to the cartulaire C.

[1133, March 25 - 1134, March 24], Pierre Rainard, with the assent of his brother Guilhem, gives to the militia of the Temple a field pertaining to his freehold to the soil of Névian. PUBLISHED: ALBON, general Cartulaire…., n° LVIII, p. 42.

[1132 (N. St.), January 30]. The count Guigues - with the approval of his father Guigues [III], count d' Albon, of his mother the Countess Mathilde and his wife Countess, sister of Guillaume count de Bourgogne, gives the brothers of the militia, in the soil of Avalon, the “manse” of Auger of Villard-Benoit with his holding and his men, the condamine of Villard-Black and the vine of Villari Nenc. PUBLISHED: ALBON, general Cartulaire…, n° XLIII, p. 32.

[1132?], December 28, Hugues Riguad and Guilhem Solomon, brothers of the Temple, buy in Etienne Pezugie and Guilhem Multe the caves (crote) of Aiguilhe to Puy, with the houses and gardens while depending for 800 pennies melg., with the confirmation of Armand, abbot of Séguret, which had of them the eminent rights and which gives up the incomes of them.

PUBLISHED: ALBON, general Cartulaire…, n° LI, p. 39. The marquis d' Albon goes back to this act of 1132, while being based on the episcopate of Humbert, bishop of Puy since 1128, archbishop of Vienna about 1145. This dating remains very hypothetical.

[1132, C. December 28?] By decision of conciliation board sitting in plaid, the vine known as Jamba with Chausson, held by Guigne de Gradibus, is an obligation in kind to pay for the knights of the Temple to the canons of Notre-Dame of Puy the annual service whose was burdened the house known as of the Caves with Aiguilhe to Puy, bought by Hugues Rigaud, brother of the Temple; crosses will be planted to mark the obligation weighing on this vine.

Carcasses (the region of Carcassonne) and Razès (1169). In the charter of donation of Les Bernots and Esperaza, Bonet de Rennes (Bonetus Redas) is mentioned as "frater Templi". So Pierre de St Jean and Bonet de Rennes were both Templars. They were both the sons of Guillaume d'Oth (Guilhaume Othonis), lord of Rennes. He belonged to the family of the lords of Niort (or Aniort) from the upper Aude river valley, the same family the lords of Albedun (Le Bezu) belonged to. Let us remember that Bernard Sermon of Albedun became a Templar in 1151. By then the Order asked him to administer its possessions in Esperaza. A famous dispute took place between Bernard Sermon and the Order in later years.

As you can see, the local lords were family-related and maintained a very close relationship with the Templars.

Hughes Rigau, friend of the founder of the Knights Templar Order, Hughes de Payens, lived in Provence and was recruited very early on via his links with the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. His activity allowed a Templar commandery to spring up almost immediatly and he moved in the circles of the Grand Masters of the Temple. From the surviving documentation we can see some activity in the Rousillon and in the area of the Razes 1130—1160. This enabled the early Knights Templar to get land around in the area and build up their power base there.

The interesting point for discussion would be why these founders of the Templars were in the area of Rousillon so early after the Orders initial foundation? Out of all of France it was Champagne and the Rousillon and Provence that these founders commenced their work, to build it up into the powerful force that the Templars became. Its been cited that this was because of the strong pilgrimage traditions in these areas.

    Why were they not more interested in their lands in Jerusalem? Why was Europe just as important to them? Simply to gain money to be able to equip themselves to fight the Infidel?  We will perhaps always ask the question, were they working to a desired plan, or was it all haphazard and just opportune that these areas were targeted first? I may reiterate:   ‘Less than five years after their first appearance the Templars thus  have a house, a cemetery and a church in the Roussillon. How in so little time did they  create the  network which enabled them to penetrate the Roussillon? With which men,  and which values, and  which methods?  And why?’

Bibliography and sites of interest: 
Les premiers Templiers en Roussillon.
PUBLISHED: ALBON, general Cartulaire…, n° LII, p. 39. Act dated by the marquis d' Albon according to the precedent. cartulaires/index.php?page=douzens-actes-du-cartulaire_C

Carrying the speculations further there are interesting coincidences around the early Templars and their activities in the region of the Razes. Below is a rough timeline of Templar activity:

Master Hugues de Payen - First Grand Master

[1129, November 28], 
Pierre Bernard and his wife are given to the Temple with their “honour”, to nourish them and dress them, and decide that their children will not have the pleasure of this honour that if they accept the same state of life; in this case, the brothers of the militia would have them like their own children.

1130 May FRANCE 
A charter mentions Hugo de Pagani (Hugues de Payen) and the militia, to which Guillhem Armegau donated the land "Pierois" (Peyrolles?).

Installation of places that will later become the Commandery of Mas Deu.

Templar houses in Carcassonne and Brucafelm and Douzens are mentioned.

Bernard Canet, his wife, Raina, and their son Bernard Almeric Barbaira Galburgis, along with his wife and their sons William and Aimee, William Chabert Arnaud and Raymond Armegaud and their mother Beatriz, give the Templars, via their representative Hugues Rigau, the Castle of Douzens. In addition, William and Aimee Barbaira Charbert donate their person to the Knights Templar.

1135 May 
Death of Hugues de Payen, First Grand Master. Master Robert Craon elected - Second Master

Creation of the future Commandery of Sainte-Marie-des-Cours, between Mas des Cours and Fajac. It is the headquarters of the Order for the area corresponding to the current department of Aude. There is named a Pierre Redas, an important member of the Knights Templar. His name is Pierre de Saint Jean, "probably” related to Saint-Jean de Carrière, near Montlaur.

February 28 
Donation to the Knights Templar by Pons and Guilhem de Redas of various goods in the villa and the land of Esperaza including a mill and several fields.

Creation of the domaine of Richerende.

Pierre de Redas becomes a Templar and calls himself Pierre Saint Jean.

Pierre de Saint Jean is the Assistant Commander of Douzens. The Knights train at Douzens (the old farm).

Roger 1 of Beziers, brother of Raymond Trencavel I, due to ill health, yields to the Temple, the property he owns at Campagne-Sur-Aude, a small village which has a fort. In exchange for these assets the Templars still have to pay the debts on those parcels of land to Bernard Sermon, a member of the powerful local family of Aniort.

Potential disposal of the land, by the Aniorts, of "Val Dieu" and "Coume Sourde".

Pierre St. Jean is the Magister Domus of Dozenc (Douzens).

Election of Bernard Blanquefort. Under his command in the Languedoc, German soldiery were sent to the Razes to perform work connected with their job without being able to communicate with the local populations about the nature of their work. This means, at minimum, they found something or were given permission to do something to earn a "profit".


This time line I translated from the following website: .

Looking at the timeline above its interesting to see the coincidences. The earliest points of interest for the earliest Templars were the Champagne area and the Rousillion/Languedoc area.

After the Council of Troyes (1118/19) Hughes de Payens headed for Occitania. Why? Hughes Rigau was already in the Aude area and may even have attended with Hughes de Payens. Rigau was working with the family of the Trencavels. In 1132 the Templars in Occitania (Rigau?) met with the Trencavel clan whereupon they were given extensive lands.

The Blanchefort/Blanquefort family donated land (Arnaud, Bernard and Raymond de Blanchefort) and estates at Pieusse, Villarzel and Esperaza. These Templars in Occitania were also given land by the Aniort family around Bezu and Campagne-Sur-Aude. The activity
is all very interesting. Again: How in so little time did they create the network which enabled them to penetrate the Roussillon? With which men, and which values, and which methods? And why?’

I think perhaps studies should be made of Douzens, Mas Dieu and Richerende and the other Templar estates. One may discern a pattern developing? And as no scholar has satisfactorily ascertained what Bertrand de Blanquefort was doing when he imported the German miners perhaps studies of the early Templar houses and environs can elucidate just what the miners were doing, 28 years after the Templars first received their official recognition and Rule?