HUGh of PAYNS, or Hugh of PAYEN
the founder and first Master of the Order of the Temple
Many people have written about the history of the Templars. Many authors, eager for sensationalism and money, have published so many fantasy thesis on the birth, the life and the death of the famous Order.
All the books about the Templars quote the name of the founder. Some, the least serious, spread the most fantastical hypotheses and even deny accurate facts.
Even if a handful of people firmly believe that our character is from Italy, Spain, Languedoc, La touraine, La Haute Provence, Le Forez, Le Vivarais or Avignon – all serious historians agree that Hugh of Payns was from Champagne.
The expression Hues de Paiens de les Troies – quoted by Guillaume de Tyr in his History of things done overseas – shows chearly he was from a place close to the town of Troyes in Champagne. There was a Hugh of Payns who lived in Champagne at this time.
The village of Payns – located 12 km from Troyes on the Seine riverside – has been known since the IX century. Hugh of Payns is the first Lord mentioned in the texts. His last name and some subsequent facts make us think he was born in Payns and was from a family who settled in that place after the Franque conquests. Was he a descendant of the Carolingian Hildemar who sold a part of his territory to the Champenoise Montieramey Abbey in 820 ?
Hugh of Payns belonged to the earl of Champagne’s court as he is quoted as a witness in at least five documents issued by the earl between 1085/90 and 1113. We don’t know if he took part in the first crusade but we are sure he went to the Holy Land several times accompanied by the earl and that he settled in Jerusalem for good.
A charter dated from 1170 – 34 years before Hugh of Payns’s death – mentions Elisabeth of Payns – Hugh of Payns’s wife. Thanks to this document we know the name of the founder of the Templar’s wife.
Hugh of Payns and Elisabeth of Chappes got married between 1108 and 1114. Elizabeth, after doing her duty to give birth to heirs, will have certainly been persuaded by her husband or by the reason of state imposed by the earl of Champagne to accept the only solution the canon law offered her – to retreat in a convent. This was the only inescapable condition for Hugh of Payns to join a religious order.
Thanks to the annals of Saint Colombe of Sens Abbey, we know that a “Thibaud of Payns, son of Hugh – first Master of the Temple of Jerusalem” was elected abbot in 1139. We assume Thibaud would have been born between 1108 and 1114. Then, he would have been abbot between the age of 25 and 31. In 1140, the abbot participated in the theologist Bernard de Clairvaux’s condemnation. Then, in 1142, he decided on the reconstruction of the church dedicated to Saint Colombe and laid the foundation stone. In 1146, he left his prosperous monastery and left for the second crusade looking for the same ideal as his father, which proved to be a source of difficulties for his monks.
Reading the charters enables us to learn of the existence of Gibuin – Vicomte of Payns (Gibuinus vicecomes) and Guy Bordel (Guido Bordellus) in the years 1142-46. It seems that Gubuin succeeded Hugh of Payns at the head of the domain and that Gui Bordel left to go to the Holy Land for the second crusade. We have been able to make many assumptions about the Payns family but we can’t go into them here. After these people’s death the Payns family remained active in this region and documents mention them until the beginning of the XIV century, the date when its members didn’t own the domain of Payns anymore.
(Translater: L. Coutelas)