Knights of Templar: The First Bankers

The other day, a customer asked about the origin of Friday the 13th and its reputation for being unlucky. Although there is no documentation of the superstition before the nineteenth century, the source is generally attributed to a notorious event on Friday, the 13th of October, 1307. This was when the leader of the Knights Templar, a medieval religious and military order, was arrested and burned at the stake in Paris.  

According to Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia (available with your DPL card),  "The order developed from a small military band formed in Jerusalem in 1119 by two French knights, Hugh des Payens (1070?–1136) and Godfrey of St. Omer (1061–after 1120); its aim was to protect pilgrims visiting Palestine after the First Crusade."

In 1129, after receiving the endorsement of the Pope, the sect recruited new members, and financial support poured in from other areas of Europe. Templars wore white robes emblazoned with a red cross, and were known for being fearless warriors and living by a strict code of conduct.    

The order set up an efficient banking system, since they regularly transported money and goods from Europe to Palestine, and are also credited with creating mortgages.  They amassed great power and wealth, but eventually, after the failure of the final Crusade, the protection of Palestine was no longer necessary.   

Their assets eventually created envy, particularly from King Philip the Fair of France, who was determined to seize the riches and crush the order.  He arranged for the arrest of the Knights' "Grand Master," Jacques de Moley, on charges of Satanism and blasphemy -- which he confessed to, probably under torture, but later recanted, just before being burned at the stake.  

Bowing to extreme pressure from King Philip, Pope Clement issued an edict officially dissolving the order in 1312.  The Knights Templar faded into obscurity, only to eventually be revived in legends, comic books, and even an Indiana Jones roleplaying game. And, of course, everyone who has Paraskevidekatriaphobia, or a fear of Friday the 13th, can thank the Knights and the not-so-fair King Philip.

More about the Knights Templar:

Ironclad:  Battle for Blood (DVD, 2014)

The Iron King by Maurice Druon (2013, c1955)

Secrets of the Knights Templar : the Hidden History of the World's Most Powerful Order, by Susie Hodge (2013)

The Heretic, by Joseph Nassise (CD Book, 2012)

Questions? Ask Reference Services or call 720-865-1363 today!

 

Written by Lisa on May 18, 2017

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