October 13, 1307: Philip IV orders the arrest of Templar Knights across France.
On this day, the king of France (with the blessing of Pope Clement V) ordered the arrest of hundreds of Templars, to whom the king owed a tremendous debt. While financially well-off, the Order had gone into decline as Europe lost interest in the Crusades, leaving the organization as a whole aimless and unstable. The knights who were arrested were charged with a series of claims, ranging from plain heresy to demon worship, desecration of the cross, and homosexuality. There was no proof to substantiate any of these claims, and in fact the charges were more or less the “standard” claims made by the king to discredit any “inconvenient” groups and individuals; whether there was any shred of truth to Philip’s charges or not, hundreds of Templars subsequently confessed under torture. While Pope Clement V attempted to secure actual trials for the knights, Philip intervened and had many who had confessed burned at the stake.
At the 1311-1312 Council of Vienne, the Knights Templar was disbanded, and their property was confiscated. In 1314, the last Grand Master of the Templars, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake on an island on the Seine. As he died, it is said that he cursed both the king and the pope, and sure enough, Clement and Philip died within nine months of Molay’s execution.
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