Not many people know the origins of Friday the 13th.
The Knights Templar formed one of the most important and most well known international organizations in the Middle Ages.
The Knights Templar had been formed in 1118 to protect Christians from Muslims in the Holy Land. They were among the best soldiers of their era. They also ran Europe’s first international banking system.
The Knights were good at both fighting and finance. They were bankers with swords.
Christian pilgrims headed for the Holy Land could deposit their funds with the Knights Templar in Europe. The way to Holy Land was dangerous and so the pilgrims were given coded statements of their finance. When they got to their lodgings along the way, their coded statement would be “debited” each time to pay for the accommodation. This early form of credit card saved the need to carry cash.
The Knights were often the first into a battle and the last to leave. They had to be tough because the Muslims were determined to get back the Holy Land.
At dawn on Friday October 13, 1307, under the orders King Philip IV of France, a well-planned operation was unleashed to seize every Knight Templar in France. The arrest warrant started with the phrase : "Dieu n'est pas content, nous avons des ennemis de la foi dans le Royaume", "God is not pleased. We have enemies of the faith in the kingdom". Estimates of the number of knights involved vary from about 2,000 up to 15,000. Only 20 escaped.
Various allegations were made against them dealing with heresy, blasphemy and immorality. Virtually all were tortured to death to make them agree to “confessions”. Many were executed. All of their assets were taken by the king and so it was a very profitable operation.
As for the leaders of the Order, the elderly Grand Master Jacques de Molay, who had confessed under torture, retracted his confession. Geoffroi de Charney, Preceptor of Normandy, also retracted his confession and insisted on his innocence. Both men were declared guilty of being relapsed heretics, and they were sentenced to burn alive at the stake in Paris on 18 March 1314. De Molay reportedly remained defiant to the end, asking to be tied in such a way that he could face the Notre Dame Cathedral and hold his hands together in prayer.
According to legend, he called out from the flames that both Pope Clement and King Philip would soon meet him before God. His actual words were recorded on the parchment as follows : "Dieu sait qui a tort et a péché. Il va bientot arriver malheur à ceux qui nous ont condamnés à mort", "God knows who is wrong and has sinned. Soon a calamity will occur to those who have condemned us to death".
Pope Clement died only a month later, and King Philip died in a hunting accident before the end of the year. His final words were a curse on the French king and the pope. Coincidentally, the pope was dead within a month and the king died in a hunting accident nine months later.
However they did not all disappear. Some went underground and their influence continued. For example the Masons may be descendants of some of the Knights who were based in Robert the Bruce’s Scotland (the Scottish Rite of the Freemasons). Some of the Templar symbols and rituals have been incorporated into Masonic rituals. The legend of the Knights Templar has continued to live on over the centuries.
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