Early on Friday the 13th, October 1307, the French Templars were arrested by the officials of King Philip IV and their property was confiscated by royal representatives and later granted to the other great military order, the Knights Hospitaller. The first attempt at redistribution of wealth I suppose, only in a more brutal way than modern Democrats would have it. This event also led to the arrest of Templars everywhere, but "ground zero" for this mass arrest was France. This gave rise to the saying, “Friday the 13th, unlucky for some.”
The Templars were then arrested, tortured, charged with serious heresies, and brought to trial. Today, 701 years later, many believe the confessions were false and extracted by torture by the Inquisition. Edward II of England never banned the Order from his dominions and the king of Portugal had the Order change its name. The Vatican too, 7 centuries later, changed their story.
Seven centuries after the secretive medieval order the Knights Templar was destroyed under charges of heresy, the Vatican's Secret Archives has unveiled a book confirming their innocence. ABC News, Oct. 2007In March 1314, the leaders of the Templars finally came before the papal representatives and were sentenced. Grand Master Jacques de Molay and Geoffroi de Charney, the Preceptor of Normandy, continued to protest their innocence. But, that very evening, King Philip IV ordered them burned at the stake on an island in the Seine.
This is my favorite part. It is said that before de Molay died he cursed both Philip and Pope Clement, summoning both of them to appear before God before the end of that year. Pope Clement V died a month later and Philip IV was killed in November during a hunting trip. The curse would seem to have been fulfilled.
What's interesting is that no one ever seems to ask what the political back drop to the Knights Templar story was during the 12th century. To do that, one should really back up and look at events that led to political and military life in the early 1300's.
The greatest threat to western civilisation prior to the Knights Templar came from the forces of Islam, militant and victorious in the centuries following the death of their leader, Muhammad, in 632. By the 8th century, Islamic forces had conquered (for those who protest that Islam has never been a militant or offensive religion) North Africa, the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and most of Spain. Islamic armies established bases in Italy, greatly reduced the size and power of the Byzantine Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire) and besieged its capital, Constantinople. The Byzantine Empire, which had preserved much of the classical civilization of the Greeks and had defended the eastern Mediterranean from assaults from all sides, was barely able to hold off the enemy. Islam posed the threat of a rival culture and religion, which neither the Vikings nor the Magyars had done. Yes the Vikings and Magyars were happy to rape, pillage and plunder and then either "assimilate" or be gone.
In 1144, the Muslims recaptured Edessa. The city of Edessa had guarded the back door of the Christian Frankish holdings, which were mostly near the coast. This loss marked the beginning of the end of a viable Christian military bastion against Islam. In 1187, the Muslim ruler Saladin inflicted a major defeat on a combined army at Hattin and subsequently took Jerusalem. The situation had become dire. After the disappointments of the Third Crusade, Western forces would never again threaten the real bases of Muslim power. The Fourth Crusade was a disaster that Venice orchestrated to open Constantinople up to trade and didn't even touch it's intended purpose to threaten the Muslim powers. With the fall of ‘Akko (Acre) in 1291, the last remaining outpost for Christians, the mainland was lost to Muslim power.
Were the Knights the "scape goats" for this 1291 military defeat? Did they see defeat coming and take precautions not to let certain "things" fall into the hands of Christian's enemies and a rival religious order set on world domination? If these "things" were treasure or religious relics, it would seem reasonable the Knights would not want them falling into the hands of the enemy to be corrupted or destroyed or used against Christiandom.
Believe what you will about the Knights Templar and their Friday the 13th, one thing is clear.