The year was 1314 and before the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, was burnt at the stake in front of a huge crowd. After two hundred years of crusading, it was all over for the Order of the Temple.
It was all over for Jacques de Molay and the Knights Templar
The glory years for the Templars were far behind them, back in the 12th and 13th centuries. By the start of the 14th, it was clear that Jerusalem was unlikely to be reconquered from the Saracens and that the last Christian strongholds taken from Islam in the early crusades were now back in Muslim hands.
This rather left the Knights Templar with a diminishing lack of purpose. It also left the wealth they had raised from all over Europe to fund their activities sitting in their preceptories with nowhere to go. Unfortunately for the Templars, the king of France Philip IV had a very clear idea where the money should go – into his coffers!
Templar money pays off royal debts
Philip had debts – big debts. He’d already had a go at fleecing the merchant classes, the church, the Jewish community and then his attention turned to the Templars. The king owed them money and had no intention of paying them back. Far from it, he was going to raid the Temple’s assets. In order to do that, he rounded up the Templar leaders, tortured them and extracted lurid confessions to damn the order’s good name for eternity.
The arrests and imprisonments took place in 1307 and it would be another seven years before the king rewarded himself with the ultimate Templar scalp – executing the last Grand Master. The shameful deed occurred on March 18th, 1314 – a day of indisputable infamy.
The curse of Jacques de Molay
De Molay couldn’t seem to make up his mind whether to confess or not. Either path led to the scaffold anyway. After seven dreadful years in a prison cell, the old man was going to burn for his alleged crimes. So, he went out with a bang – or so the story goes.
While being painfully incinerated, De Molay shouted out: “I call upon you, Philip, King of France, and Boniface, Pope of Rome, the one in a year and three days, the other within a year, to answer before God for the crimes done me and my brethren.” The only problem with this story is that Boniface had already been dead for over a decade. If the reference is supposed to be Pope Clement, then he did die in the same year Jacques de Molay burned.
Furthermore, his body was being kept in a church that was hit by lightning and set on fire. By the time the pope’s body could be rescued from the inferno, it was charred beyond recognition. You get what I’m saying here. The curse had been implemented!
As for King Philip – he also obligingly died within the time limit specified by the alleged curse.