On this day October 13, 1307
Agents of King Philip IV of France launched a dawn raid, simultaneously arresting many members of the Knights Templar, and subsequently torturing them into “admitting” heresy.
On Friday, October 13, 1307 Philip ordered de Molay and scores of other French Templars to be simultaneously arrested. The Templars were charged with numerous heresies and tortured to extract false confessions of blasphemy, which, though obtained under duress, caused a scandal in Paris.
After more bullying from Philip, Pope Clement then issued the papal bull Pastoralis Praeeminentiae on November 22, 1307, which instructed all Christian monarchs in Europe to arrest all Templars and seize their assets.
Pope Clement called for papal hearings to determine the Templars’ guilt or innocence, and once freed of the Inquisitors’ torture, many Templars recanted their confessions. Some had sufficient legal experience to defend themselves in the trials, but in 1310 Philip blocked this attempt, using the previously forced confessions to have dozens of Templars burned at the stake in Paris.
With Philip threatening military action unless the Pope complied with his wishes, Pope Clement finally agreed to disband the Order, citing the public scandal that had been generated by the confessions. At the Council of Vienne in 1312, he issued a series of papal bulls, including Vox in excelso, which officially dissolved the Order, and Ad providam, which turned over most Templar assets to the Hospitallers.
As for the leaders of the Order, the elderly Grand Master Jacques de Molay, who had confessed under torture, retracted his statement. His associate Geoffrey de Charney, Preceptor of Normandy, followed de Molay’s example and insisted on his innocence. Both men were declared guilty of being relapsed heretics, and they were sentenced to burn alive at the stake in Paris on March 18, 1314.
De Molay reportedly remained defiant to the end, asking to be tied in such a way that he could face the Notre Dame Cathedral and hold his hands together in prayer. According to legend, he called out from the flames that both Pope Clement and King Philip would soon meet him before God.
Pope Clement died only a month later, and King Philip died in a hunting accident before the end of the year. With the last of the Order’s leaders gone, the remaining Templars around Europe were either arrested and tried under the Papal investigation (with virtually none convicted), absorbed into other military orders such as the Knights Hospitaller, or pensioned and allowed to live out their days peacefully.
Some may have fled to other territories outside Papal control, such as excommunicated Scotland or to Switzerland. Templar organizations in Portugal simply changed their name, from Knights Templar to Knights of Christ