Now I knew that the execution of king Louis XVI during the French revolution has always been construed by some as the final vengeance from the grave of Jacques De Molay against the kings of France for his own execution 450 years before. Far fetched of course. But there is a Templar related twist in the final days of Louis XVI’s life.
Because prior to his death on the guillotine, he was imprisoned in the old Templar fortress – part of the large preceptory that had once dominated the Marais district. This area of Paris, close to Notre Dame, still retains its medieval charm not having been reshaped by Baron Haussman in the nineteenth century – as happened to most of downtown Paris. I much prefer the atmosphere in this part of the city to the bourgeois predictability of the spokes radiating from the Arche de Triomphe.
The Templar house in Paris was hugely important to the Order because it sat on vast amounts of gold bullion – a fact that didn’t escape the kings of France. But they lent money from Paris across Europe to other important people. With so much wealth, the building was an impregnable one replete with thick walled towers.
Other royal prisoners included Marie Antoinette and Louis XVII, the short lived boy king who died rather mysteriously at the age of ten. Foul play, of course, has always been suspected.
It must have looked incredible and one can only imagine how it would dominate the Marais today. Many European cities still had huge castles at their centre until the nineteenth century when they were demolished. I suppose these austere and forbidding buildings were seen as oppressive and a reminder of the bad old feudal days.
Napoleon demolished the Templar house in the first decade of the nineteenth century – it took quite a while apparently to take the thing down. He was worried that Bourbon royalists would converge there regarding it as a kind of pilgrimage site. That was the last thing he was prepared to tolerate and so in went the wreckers.