"Cursed, you’ll be all cursed" - The Execution of Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master of the Knights Templar in 1314

18 March 1314, Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, was burned at the stake in front of Notre Dames in Paris, marking the end of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon.
“Pape Clément! Chevalier Guillaume de Nogaret! Roi Philippe! Avant un an, je vous cite à paraître au tribunal de Dieu pour y recevoir votre juste châtiment! Maudits! Maudits! Vous serez tous maudits jusqu'à la treizième génération de vos races!" (“Pope Clement, knight Guillaume de Nogaret, King Philip, before a year will have passed, I summon you to God’s court! Cursed, you’ll be all cursed, until the thirteenth generation of your races will have disappeared!“ alleged curse of Jacques de Molay)

A late 19th century lithography, illustrating the end of Jacques de Molay

An ambitious foreign policy costs money. And Philip le Bel of France was notoriously ambitious and thus notoriously broke. Crowned in 1284, the "Iron King" was consequently knee-deep in debt with every institution that practised moneylending by the end of century. The Lombards, the Jews and the Knights Templar who had established a banking system across Europe and were simply filthy rich. The worst kind of debtor, however, is an absolute monarch and consequently, the Jews were expelled from France in 1306, the Lombard bankers in 1309 and it was about time that the Templars were finished off, too. Since their original role to protect the pilgrimage routes in the Holy Land was obsolete when the last Latin outpost in Palestine fell in 1291, the merging of the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller was at issue since decades and nobody really liked the Templars on account of their haughty demeanour anyway. Thus, Philip had favourable conditions for his move against them, but since they were answerable directly to the Pope, this was not enough by far to eliminate them and their IOUs. Conspiracy, homosexuality and blasphemy was, though, and the King of France made his move on Friday, October 13th, 1307. 

Marius Granet (1777-1849):
"Ordination of Jacques de Molay in 1265 as a Knight Templar, at the Beaune commandery" (1843)

Many Templars lingered in Paris when Philip’s trap was sprung, since the negotiations over the merging of the orders were in full swing, the order’s Grand Master Jacques de Molay among them, unsurprisingly, since the Templars’ headquarters, the Temple, now in Rue Dupetit-Thouars in the 3rd arrondissement, destroyed in 1808, was in Philip’s capital. Lead by the King’s chief hatchet man, Guillaume de Nogaret, the huge treasure of the order was confiscated and all Templars present arrested, along with those in other parts of France. The charges de Nogaret brought forward were more or less ridiculous, most were grounded on the order’s secret initiation rituals and the claims were that the novices had to spit on the cross and repudiate Christ and the church, worship an idol called Baphomet, strip and kiss other mens’ behinds and whatnot. De Molay and many others confessed, under torture, of course, and when papal delegates arrived from the new Apostolic See at Avignon, they were presented more or less with a fait accompli, especially since they were refused to see the prisoners.

15th century depiction of Jacques de Molay's execution

The new pope, Frenchman Clement V, in Avignon and in office since 1305 after his predecessor, not exactly Philip’s friend, had been poisoned by de Nogaret, tried to intercede several times, but ultimately knew on which side his bread was buttered and agreed to the persecution, most other European countries except England and Portugal arrested their Templars as well and in 1310, 54 unrepentant knights were burned at the stake. After two more years and legal hither and thither, de Molay finally changed his mind, withdrew his confession for good and was burned at the stake together with the preceptor of Normandy, Geoffroy de Charnay. Allegedly, de Molay cursed King, Pope and House Capet on his execution pyre. Philip le Bel died in November 1314 from a hunting accident, Clement V was killed already in April of the same year and the legends and conspiracy theories about the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon began to sprawl in earnest – to this day, while Friday the 13th, is considered an unlucky day ever since and the Curse of the Knights Templar is still at work. At least in Western superstition.

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