Sunday, October 14, 2012

Friday the 13th of October 1307 and the end of the Knights Templar


Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in most parts of the world. The origins of the connection between the number thirteen and ill fortune are many but the most common stemming from another Christian source, the Last Supper, at which Judas Iscariot was said to have been the thirteenth guest to sit at the table. (Judas later betrayed Jesus, leading to His crucifixion, and then hanged himself). This Christian symbolism is reflected in early Western references to thirteen as an omen of bad fortune, which generally started to appear in the early 18th century and warned that thirteen people sitting down to a meal together presaged that one of them would die within the year.
Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable[1] has entries for "Friday, an Unlucky Day" and "Thirteen Unlucky". Interestingly it says "Friday the Thirteenth: A particularly unlucky Friday”. Now it would stand to reason that if a black cat crossed my path on Friday the 13th then it would be considered more unlucky than if it hadn’t!
But it seems that Friday the 13th was indeed unlucky for the Knights Templar in 1307. It was on this day that King Philip IV of France ordered Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay and scores of other French Templars to be simultaneously arrested. 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"][2].
Wikipedia mentions the events of the arrests, charges, and dissolution of the Knights Templar as follows[3]:


The Background: In 1305, the new Pope Clement V, based in France, sent letters to both the Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay and the Hospitaller Grand Master Fulk de Villaret to discuss the possibility of merging the two Orders. Neither was amenable to the idea, but Pope Clement persisted, and in 1306 he invited both Grand Masters to France to discuss the matter. De Molay arrived first in early 1307, but Pope Clement was delayed for several months. While waiting, De Molay and Clement discussed charges that had been made two years prior by an ousted Templar. It was generally agreed that the charges were false, but Clement sent King Philip IV of France a written request for assistance in the investigation. King Philip was already deeply in debt to the Templars from his war with the Englishand decided to seize upon the rumors for his own purposes. He began pressuring the Church to take action against the Order, as a way of freeing himself from his debts.

The Event: On Friday, October 13, 1307 (a date sometimes spuriously linked with the origin of the Friday the 13th superstition) Philip ordered de Molay and scores of other French Templars to be simultaneously arrested. 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"]. The Templars were charged with numerous offences (includingapostasy, idolatry, heresy, obscene rituals and homosexuality, financial corruption and fraud, and secrecy). Many of the accused confessed to these charges under torture, and these confessions, even though obtained under duress, caused a scandal in Paris. All interrogations were recorded on a thirty metre long parchment, kept at the "Archives nationales" in Paris. The prisoners were coerced to confess that they had spat on the Cross : "Moi Raymond de La Fère, 21 ans, reconnais que (J'ai) craché trois fois sur la Croix, mais de bouche et pas de coeur" (free translation : "I, Raymond de La Fère, 21 years old, admit that I have spat three times on the Cross, but only from my mouth and not from my heart"). The Templars were accused of idolatry.After more bullying from Philip, Pope Clement then issued the papal bull Pastoralis Praeeminentiae on November 22, 1307, which instructed all Christian monarchs in Europe to arrest all Templars and seize their assets.

The Aftermath: Pope Clement called for papal hearings to determine the Templars' guilt or innocence, and once freed of the Inquisitors' torture, many Templars recanted their confessions. Some had sufficient legal experience to defend themselves in the trials, but in 1310 Philip blocked this attempt, using the previously forced confessions to have dozens of Templars burned at the stake in Paris.With Philip threatening military action unless the pope complied with his wishes, Pope Clement finally agreed to disband the Order, citing the public scandal that had been generated by the confessions. At the Council of Vienne in 1312, he issued a series of papal bulls, including Vox in excelso, which officially dissolved the Order, and Ad providam, which turned over most Templar assets to the Hospitallers.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 March 18, 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 pëché. Il va bientot arriver malheur à ceux qui nous ont condamnés à mort" (free translation : "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.With the last of the Order's leaders gone, the remaining Templars around Europe were either arrested and tried under the Papal investigation (with virtually none convicted), absorbed into other military orders such as the Knights Hospitaller, or pensioned and allowed to live out their days peacefully. By papal decree, the property of the Templars was transferred to the Order of Hospitallers, which also absorbed many of the Templars' members. In effect, the dissolution of the Templars could be seen as the merger of the two rival orders. Some may have fled to other territories outside Papal control, such as excommunicated Scotland or to Switzerland. Templar organisations in Portugal simply changed their name, from Knights Templar to Knights of Christ – see Order of Christ (Portugal).
The modern day fallacy debunked
The problem with ascribing the origin of the superstition to this event is that this event was not a big deal to most of the world at the time (except to the Knights Templar of course!). Some scholars are now convinced the stigma is a thoroughly modern phenomenon exacerbated by 20th-century media hype.[4]


Bibliography
[1] E. C. Brewer and J. Ayto, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Orion Books Limited, 2007.
[2] C. G. Addison, The History of the Knights Templars. Cosimo, Inc., 2007.
[3] “Knights Templar,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 12-Oct-2012.
[4] “Why Friday the 13th Is Unlucky,” About.com Urban Legends. [Online]. Available: http://urbanlegends.about.com/cs/historical/a/friday_the_13th_4.htm. [Accessed: 13-Oct-2012].

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