Friday 13th – unlucky to be a Templar

Two Templars burned at the stake, from a Frenc...

Two Templars burned at the stake, from a French 15th century manuscript (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, the story has it that on this day – Friday 13th – the order went out from the King of France to arrest all Knights Templar including the Grand Master Jacques de Molay.  King Philip (the Fair or ‘le Bel’ in French) was heavily in debt to the Templar Order who had been bankers to the French monarchy for two hundred years.

By the year 1307, their raison d’etre – the Crusades – had crumbled in the east with the loss of Jerusalem and most of the territories conquered in the eleventh century.  So they were a diminished power though still wealthy enough.

In effect what Philip did was to kill his bank managers and free himself of his overdraft.  Ah, haven’t we all imagined that scenario?  Tortures and forced confessions followed and this is where we get most of the stories of sodomitic practices between knights, spitting and urinating on the crucifix, kissing on the base of the spine, worshipping goats’ heads, etc, etc, etc.  The end result was the burning at the stake of the Grand Master about seven years later.

One thing to note is that there doesn’t seem to be much written evidence that this Friday the 13th superstition existed before the 19th century.  However, 12 is a number that crops up in many religions and one more suggests an unncessary and possibly malign surfeit.  Contrary to what some people think – Judas Iscariot was not a 13th apostle.

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