At this spot Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Order of the Temple, was burnt [at the steak] on the 18th of March 1314.
According to historical records, Jacques de Molay was born in 1244 in northeastern France. The exact place and date is unknown and 1244 is even debated at times. It is said the he was born in an area today called Vitrey, Department de Haute-SaÃ´ne, the small village of MÃ´lay in Bourgogne (100 miles northwest of Haute-SaÃ´ne, current population is 120), BesanÃ§on (in Haute-SaÃ´ne), and Rahon, Jura (halfway between Haute-SaÃ´ne and Bourgogne). They're all within about a hundred mile area though. He is also referred to as James of Molay, Jacobus Burgundus Molensis, Jacques DeMolay, de Molai, and de Melaye. From what we know he was born of noble blood but was very poor. Little of his childhood is known except that the neighborhood he lived in had a Commandery of the Knights Templar. He, or his family was probably raised in a village called MÃ´lay, that would have been considered their home, but we have no way of knowing whether the modern day MÃ´lay is the same village.
According to the custom of the time, a boy would live until he was 7 with his mother, then become an apprentice with a knight to learn the ways of knighthood, then, upon reaching the age of 14, would become a squire. A young man in mediÃ¦val times didn't have many options, and DeMolay was given the opportunity to join the Knights Templar and did so at the age of 21 in 1265 at Beaune in the diocese of Autun. This was a very honorable and noble path for a young man to take at the time
As a Templar he fought in Syria then went to England. DeMolay quickly went up through the ranks. He was appointed Visitor General in Britain, and not too long after the prestigious position of Grand Preceptor of England. He was appointed 23rd Grand Master of the Knights Templar sometime after the death of Theobald (or Tibald) Gaudin (The 22nd Grand Master) in 1295 and the year 1298. While his time of appointment is unsure, it is known that upon hearing the death of Gaudin, which could have been months after the fact, he went to Cyprus (owned by the Templars at the time, and was their headquarters). DeMolay became Grand Master at a rather untimely period of the Crusades. All the strong points and major cities of the Crusades had fallen back into the hands of the Muslim inhabitants and the outlook was bleak.
The Templars were not very strong. The Saracens had defeated them many times. They lost many people and weapons, and in addition to this the public was looking at them more and more suspiciously. Nasty rumors were circulating about them, and the public was losing confidence in them because of their repeated defeats and weakening force. So while DeMolay was at Cyprus he wanted to build up his arms and men to fight against the Saracens and win back the Holy Land. While he was trying to build up the Templars, he was summoned to Paris, France in 1306 or 7 to speak with Pope Clement V about starting a new crusade and to discuss the quarrels between the Templars and the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (Knights Hospitaller).
At least that's what the Pope said. King Phillip IV (the Fair*) of France was behind the summons as well as Clement V's institution as pope. Phillip was set out to destroy the Templars and seize their riches and was looking for anything he could get to further weaken public support and crush the Templars forever. King Phillip, the most powerful monarch in Europe, who was appointed king when he was 16, had extravagant plans, but he spent lavishly and had no money. He minted more money so his wealth would grow but devalued all the money that already existed. DeMolay and the Templars, an autonomous ruling body seen as equals with kings and popes, had masses of wealth, yet they all took vows of poverty and only spent money on fortification, food, weapons, or horses. They received hordes of gifts, estates, and manors. Not only this they created an elaborate banking system and profited immensely from it. Their banking system is actually the basis of all of modern practices. * in the original French the Fair is meant in appearance, he was quite a handsome conspirator. Pope Clement V Bertrand de Got Elected to the papacy June 5 1305.
King Philippe IV le Bel
Upon the summons, DeMolay marched into France with a brigade of 60 fellow Templars. He spoke with Clement V. One thing he brought up were the rumors that were circulating about the Templars. He was a concerned Grand Master and didn't believe them himself but wanted them to be officially investigated to disprove any wrongdoing. He brought this up with the Pope and asked him to investigate.
Phillip began to circulate nasty rumors and literature about the Templars, especially in regards to the accusations DeMolay brought up. Not too long after the summons on Friday, the 13th of October Phillip ordered the arrest of all Knights Templars. He captured hundreds of Templars and Jacques de Molay. According to historical records of those who interrogated DeMolay, 11 days later he confessed under torture to denying Christ, trampling and spitting on the cross, but denied allegations of homosexual conduct, which, according to the Templar Rule of Order, would strip one of his knighthood in the Templar order. It is doubted whether this is true or not. While in all following interrogations DeMolay ardently denied every point and was taken aback when they brought up his previous "confession," letters were sent out to Templars claiming they were from DeMolay saying that he confessed charges and that the Templars should go along with him. So one can't really know whether it is true or not.
For the next 7 years DeMolay underwent perpetual imprisonment, interrogation, and torture. In March of 1310 DeMolay appealed for a personal judgment from the pope. In March of 1312 Clement V officially withdrew his endorsement from the Templars and on May 22nd 1312 Clement dissolved the order by officially revoking all church endorsement and institution of the Templars at the Council of Vienne, but did not condemn them.
On March 18, 1314 a commission of 3 cardinals condemned DeMolay and his comrade Geoffroy de Charnay (Guy of Auvergne, Preceptor of Normandy), who stood up against the charges with DeMolay, to perpetual life imprisonment but DeMolay, in his 70s at the times, once again retracted his confession defiantly in the face of papal power and because of that Phillip the Fair had them burnt at the stake that afternoon at Ile de la CitÃ© on the Seine River near the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Denying a confession was punishable by death at the time. Before he died it is said that he cursed both Phillip and Clement, sommoning them before God, the Supreme Judge before the year was over. DeMolay's last words were said to have been "Let evil swiftly befall those who have wrongly condemned us, God will avenge us." A month later Clement V died, and Phillip died that November.