18 March 1314 – Jacques de Molay
The last man to lead the Medieval Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay from Burgundy was cooked slowly from the bottom up today in 1314.
The Frenchman was burned at the stake along with a mate for, well, we’re not really sure what for.
Phillip IV, King of France, wanted to stop the inextricable rise of the Church as he fancied raking in all the power for himself, and the only way to do that was to target the Knight Templar.
The organisation was backed by the Catholic Church and they were tasked with guarding the route between Jerusalem and Acre – a port on the Mediterranean. They were also heavily involved with the Crusades where they’d earned enormous respect.
But all these deeds in the name of God didn’t go unrewarded. Thanks to their patron, the knights were filthy rich and had some real clout which Phillip wanted a piece of so the scheming monarch saw to it that they were slung in jail.
In 1307, hundreds of the knights were captured and tortured to try and get them to confess to erroneous crimes but of course the Order was loyal to the last. Sadly though, their benefactor wasn’t.
Phillip was also working on Pope Benedict, who ultimately condemned them allowing the king to seize the knights’ assets.
Despite seven years of torture, de Molay stayed loyal and wouldn’t disclose a thing. But his silence as the head of the Templars rendered the organisation defenceless and slowly, the Knights Templar fell apart.
When all else failed he was tried on trumped-up charges and the prosecution engineered a confession complete with his forged signature. Naturally, he denied all knowledge of any wrong doing but was sentenced anyway, along with another knight, (some say it was Guy of Auvergne, while other sources say it was Geoffroy de Charnay) to be burned at the stake.
There was no hanging around either. The execution took place that very day when they were shipped off to the Île de la Cité in Paris where a smouldering stake awaited them. They were strapped back to back and De Molay, aged about 65-ish, even asked that his hands be left free so he could pray.
De Molay’s last words were: ‘Let evil swiftly befall those who have wrongly condemned us – God will avenge us.’ And eerily, within a year, King Phillip was dead.