In 1307, the Knights Templar were rounded up, imprisoned and tortured under secret orders issued by the King of France. The trials of top Templars would last for years and lead to many being burnt at the stake including the last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay. He was incinerated in public in front of Notre Dame cathedral.
A string of scandalous accusations were made against the Knights Templar to justify smashing the order. I recommend Malcom Barber’s detailed account of The Trial of the Templars if you want to learn a lot more.
Here were some of the most noteworthy charges:
- New entrants to the Templar order had to deny Christ, the Holy Virgin and the saints
- Templars were told that Christ was a false prophet and there was no hope of receiving salvation through belief in him
- Knights were ordered to spit on a crucifix and even urinate or trample on it
- The order worshipped a head of some description, possibly that of a cat or with three faces or an idol called Baphomet
- This idol was encircled with cords, which the Templars then wore around their waists
- The Knights Templar rejected the sacraments of the Catholic church
- It was thought that the Grand Master and other leading Templars could absolve sins even though they were laymen and not priests
- New entrants were kissed on the mouth, the navel, the stomach, the buttocks and the spine and homosexuality was encouraged
- The Templars were only interested in financial gain and pocketed donations for their own use
- Chapter meetings and initiations were held in strictest secret with only Templars present and those that revealed any details to people outside of the order would be punished with imprisonment or death
A short film from the Smithsonian includes a reenactment of what the alleged initiation ritual looked like.