Friday 13 is considered an unlucky day in the Western World with various reasons suggested for this belief. One of these is the amazing story of a Western Christian Military order called the Knights Templar, an exclusive organisation that existed for some 200 years during the Middle Ages.
The roots of the order went back to France during the Crusades in the 12th Century with the formation of a group of nine French knights designed to protect pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. They set up their headquarters on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and became known as the Knights Templar.
From this small beginning the order grew in numbers and power with chapters spreading from France into England, Scotland, Spain and Portugal. They were given Papal patronage from Pope Innocent II in 1139 and provided with the freedom to move across national borders and immunity from taxation.
They became a powerful force of “warrior monks” renowned for their fighting ability, gradually accumulating massive wealth through various commercial dealings –considerably enhanced by their tax free status.
And it was this power that worried King Philip IV of France – fears of a strong and independent army, massively wealthy and with the ability to move around Europe with impunity. He decided to break their power and on Friday 13 October 1307 he ordered the arrest of many French Templars on charges of heresy, and this was followed by torture and execution, including burning at the stake. Many believed that the heresy charges were “trumped up” in order to justify Philip’s action – and for his confiscation of their tremendous financial assets.
In 1312 the order of the Knights Templar was officially dissolved by Pope Clement V, and was gradually dismantled, beginning in France and then across to England, Scotland and Spain. The day the arrests began, Friday 13, developed a reputation of bad luck – a popular belief that still exists today in much of the Western world.
Image: Two Templars burnt at the stake, from a 15th Century French manuscript courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.