*creepy organ music intro * Boo, today it’s Friday the 13th and I bet that those of you who are a tad superstitious have already prepared your lucky charms and what not. The question is though, how and where did it all begin?
Before I write anything here, I always conduct a huge research on the topic, and I make sure that all the information provided is checked and double checked. I was certain I knew why this day has been associated with bad luck, but while researching I came across many articles by historians who debunked what I thought I knew. Damn, that was a tough one… Since apparently there’s no historically proven origin of this superstition, I have decided to stick to the story I knew, which is a strong candidate anyway, and to be honest, an awesome story! I just need to make clear that it might not be the answer to the question.
So, let’s go back to the infamous Knights Templar, aka “Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ”, who weren’t so poor, and for some, no soldiers of Christ either. This Catholic military order was founded in 1119, and disbanded in 1312. What started as a simple way to protect the pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land, became a huge, powerful organization, both in the military but also in the financial sector. Apart from their contribution to the crusades and the building of fortifications, they invented the first banking system, allowing them to gather enormous wealth. As protectors of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, they were considered guardians of sacred secrets.
Everything was going smoothly, until they lost said temple. The problems had started a bit earlier though. There were ongoing feuds with other Christian orders like the Teutonic Knights and the Knights Hospitaller, which lead to their weakening, and the eventual loss of Jerusalem in 1187. They kept moving from place to place, losing more and more ground of the Holy Land. The only thing that kept them relevant was their considerable financial power.
It’s this time, when the mighty fall, that rumors start spreading. Some claimed that they worshiped a demon called Baphomet, and some others that they worshiped a severed human head. The belief that this head belonged to John the Baptist, didn’t help them a bit. There was also another party, claiming that their knowledge of the sacred secrets of the temple of Solomon was dangerous for the whole Christendom. The truth is, that King Philip IV of France was in considerable debt, and that his buddy, Pope Clement V was afraid of their financial power.
On Friday, 13 October 1307, King Philip ordered the simultaneous arrest of all Templars, and the seizing of their fortune. Under horrible tortures, some of them admitted to committing heresy, worshiping demons, indulging in homosexual practices, and financial fraud. When sentenced to burn at the stake, many retracted their confessions, and some even dared to go on trial. Some managed to survive the burning, and either joined other orders, or were allowed to retire.
Their Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, burned at the stake in 1314. It was March 18th and while dying, he cursed the King and Pope. His words in a free translation I found where “God knows who is wrong and has sinned. Soon a calamity will occur to those who have condemned us to death”. Both the King and the Pope died in the following months.
It’s this curse that supposedly haunted this date. As you saw, it wasn’t on a Friday the 13th, although their arrest was. From now on, feel free to be spooked on March the 18th!
First published: 13/10/2017