Commemoration of the 709th anniversary of the death of Jacques de Molay

On March 18, 2023 we commemorate the 709th anniversary of the death of the last official Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay. However, according to Alain Demurger and others the most probable date of the execution was March 11, 1314.

De Molay, born between 1244-1249, was put to death in Paris by the King of France. He was the 23rd and last Grand Master of the Knights Templar although at the time he was simply indicated as the Master from Outremer. He lead the Order from April 20, 1292 until it was dissolved by order of Pope Clement V in 1307. What is known of his last moments?

Though little is known of his actual life and deeds except for his last years as Grand Master, he is the best known Templar, along with the Order's founder and first (Grand) Master, Hugues de Payens (1070–1136). Jacques de Molay's goal as Grand Master was to reform the Order, and adjust it to the situation in the Holy Land during the waning days of the Crusades.

As European support for the Crusades had dwindled, other forces were at work which sought to disband the Order and claim the wealth of the Templars as their own. King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Templars, had De Molay and many other French Templars arrested in 1307 and tortured into making false confessions. When De Molay later retracted his confession, Philip had him executed as relapsed heretic by burning upon a scaffold on the Paris Ile des Juifs in the river Seine. According to canon law, the king did not have that right as the Templars were subject to only the Pope. Today a plaque commemorates the event.

According to Aubert de Vertot (1655-1735), following tradition which means more myths than facts, the last words of De Molay were as follows:

 "It is only just, that on such a terrible day, and in the last moments of my life, I should discover all the iniquity of the lie, and make the truth triumph.

I declare, therefore, in the face of heaven and earth, and I confess, though to my eternal shame, that I have committed the greatest of all crimes; but it was only by agreeing to those which are so blackly imputed to an order which the truth now obliges me to acknowledge as innocent. I only made the declaration required of me in order to suspend the excessive pain of torture and to bend those who made me suffer it. I know what torments were inflicted on all those who had the courage to revoke such a confession. But the dreadful spectacle presented to me is not capable of making me confirm a first lie by a second, on such an infamous condition: I willingly renounce life, which is already only too hateful to me. And what would be the use of prolonging sad days that I owe only to calumny?

Source text; quote De Molay translated from French source;  Illustration top: Jacques de Molay Grand Master of the Templars, section of a painting by Fleury-François Richard, 1806, Musée des Beaux-arts de Lyon, 2014; picture Xavier Caré / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA; bottom: the Death-site plaque of Jacques de Molay on Isle des Juifs, Paris Wikitree

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