Jacques De Molay

JACQUES DE MOLAY
LAST GRAND MASTER KNIGHTS TEMPLAR

BY Lorne Pierce 32 degree
Past Assistant Grand Chaplain A.F.& A.M. Ontario

Foreword By

D.G. McIlwraith 33 degree
Sovereign Grand Commander A.A.S.R. for the Dominion of Canada

1943

FOREWORD

It is, I think, a fair assumption that most of us who have received
the Consistory degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite
have felt a passing curiosity as to the identity of "the
illustrious personage represented by the initials," whose martyrdom
is re-told in the Thirtieth Degree.  But very few, I am sure, have
come away with the urge to turn back the pages of Masonic history
to discover who and what he was, and why his memory is revered
nearly six hundred and fifty years after his death.

In the succeeding pages Ill .'. Bro .'. Lorne Pierce has painted a
vivid picture of the growth of a great Order and of the death of
its last Grand Master.  Once again he has made a valuable and most
interesting contribution to Masonic education, which should meet
with peculiar appreciation among our Brethren who have received the
chivalric and philosophic grades.

I commend it to all Consistories of our jurisdiction as an aid to a
clearer understanding of the historical background and teaching of
the Thirtieth and Thirty-second Degrees.

D.G.McILWRAITH.

Jacques de  Molay LAST GRAND MASTER KNIGHTS TEMPLAR

1.

The origin of knighthood is lost in the dim past. In early England
a knight seems to have been a youth who attended a member of the
court; it was a position of honour and of service and might lead in
time to Royal recognition and rank.  In Germany the early knight
may have been regarded much in the same way, a disciple. In both
countries the knights were obviously ambitious and high-spirited
youths as one might expect.  It was in France, however, that the
idea of chivalry arose, and this conception quickly spread
throughout Europe.  Some knights had made themselves useful to
Earls or Bishops, that is the principal landlords and magnates and
military chiefs of the realm, and might be classed as superior
civil servants in times of peace, becoming leaders of the armies,
both secular and religious, in times of war.  There were, of
course, many foot-loose knights wandering about Europe in quest of
adventure, but on the whole a knight was a responsible link in the
Feudal chain reaching from the king to the peasant. In time the
ideal of chivalry came to prevail, and the high honour accompanying
it seems to have derived from prehistoric Teutonic custom. The
candidate had to submit to a rigorous investigation of his
character and qualifications.  Then the community turned out to
welcome him with fitting ceremony and investiture with sword and
shield, with belt and sword, or with gilt spurs and collar, usually
by the knight's father or some exalted personage. In time t hose
who had fought against the Saracens became pree minent, and were
accorded rank and dignity independent of birth or wealth.

The Knights Templar, or Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the
Temple of Solomon, was one of the three out-standing military
orders of the Middle Ages in Christendom.  The brotherhood was
founded, about 1118, by Hugues de Payns, a nobleman residing near
Troyes, in Burgundy, and Godefroy de St. Omer (or Aldemar), a
Norman knight.  Their original purpose was to protect pilgrims to
sacred places, more especially those who sought the Holy Sepulchre.
At first there were eight or nine Knights Templar.  They b ound
themselves to each other as a brotherhood in arms, and took upon
themselves vows of chastity, obedience and poverty according to the
rule of St. Benedict.  It is also recorded that they pledged
themselves to fight against ignorance, tyranny and the enemies of
the Holy Sepulchre, and "to fight with a pure mind for the supreme
and true King." Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem, assigned them
accommodation in his palace, which stood on the site of the T emple
of Solomon. In this way their name, Templars, was der ived.  At
first the knights wore no uniform or regalia, nothing in fact save
the cast-off garments that were given to them in charity.  It was
the poverty, sincerity and zeal of the order in its first years
that endowed it with importance.  They sought out the poor and the
outcast, the excommunicated as well as the unwanted, and shepherded
them within their fold.

Hugues de Payns, accompanied by several of his knights, returned
home in 1127 for the purpose of securing adequate ecclesiastical
sanction for some of the special privileges which the order had
usurped.  Among the very special privileges was immunity from
excommunication, which threatened a good deal of trouble.  Bernard
of Clairvaux, the greatest abbot of his day, received Hugues de
Payns, and not only praised the Knights Templar, but went much
further.  The future St. Bernard did not attend the Council of
Troyes in 1128, at which the Rule of the Temple was drawn up, but
he seems to have inspired it - the constitution, ritual, discipline
and very core of the order.  Finally there got abroad the idea,
that in the rule of the order there existed a "secret rule," and a
legend speedily grew up around this "lost word." In time this was
the undoing of the order.  The whole Rule of the Temple was
probably never written out, its more essential parts bein g
conveyed by word of mouth, by symbol and sign, and protected by
proper safeguards.  The point of importance was, that the order now
had ample acknowledgement and authority, and from this moment
onward power and treasure flowed into its hands in an unending and
broadening stream.

II

The Templars and the Crusades are forever associated in history and
legend.  The Templars, in an astonishingly short time, spread over
Christendom.  They had thousands of the fattest manors in the
Christian world. They became the bankers of the age, the money
exchange between Europe and the East, the trust company of the
time.  They provided loans to princes, dowries for queens, ransoms
for great warriors, safety deposit vaults for the treasure of
emperors and popes.  Their chapters were the schools of dipl omacy
of the time, training grounds for prospective rulers, colleges in
commerce and finance, sanctuaries for all who needed protection,
high or low.  It was inevitable that they should attract to
themselves the envy of the less fortunate orders and guilds.  In
time, in fact before the death of St. Bernard, in 1153, they had
not only received the tribute of kings and cardinals in the form of
lands and treasure, but they freed themselves from the n ecessity
of paying tax, tithe or tribute to any power, prince or pope, which
privilege they claimed as defender of the Church.  This was enough
to bring upon themselves the inevitable reckoning for overreaching
ambition, but they went further, very much further.  They not only
claimed exemption from excommunication, but claimed exemption from
all papal decrees except those specially aimed at them by name, and
they owed allegiance to no power or authority on earth except their
own head, the Bishop of Rome.  They had become a separate social,
economic, political and re ligious order, cutting across and
transcending kingdoms, principalities and archdioceses, with only
the Vice-gerent of God superior to their Grand Master.  The
enormous powers of the Knights Templar were bound to be challenged
by the popes as well as kings who demanded loyalty within their
realms.  The order found itself in increasingly compromising
situations, the victim of treachery on the part of kings and
princes of the Church, or the instigator of trickery and subterfuge
on i ts own part to preserve its powers.  The King of France,
Philip the Fair, set out to unite the Hospitallers and the Templars
into one grand order, The Knights of Jerusalem, the Grand Master of
which was always to be a prince of the royal house of France.  The
Grand Master of the Knights Templar invariably was Master of the
Templars at Jerusalem, and in Cyprus after the loss of the Holy
Land to the Turks.  He came in time to live in a sumptuous manner,
befitting his great wealth and vast powers.  In th e field, during
the campaigns, he occupied a great tent, round, with the black and
white pennant flying above its high peak, bearing the red cross of
the Templars.  Regional Grand Commanders were accorded similar
honours and no one took precedence over them except the Grand
Master, when he was present.

We know little concerning the initiation ceremonies of the Knights
Templar.  Probably there was some cleansing ritual, robing in
white, the all-night vigil and Holy Communion, gilt spurs, sword or
other gift of honour, and finally the oath and accolade.  Certainly
the order was a Christian institution.  Their war-cry - Beauseant!
- also inscribed on their banners and pennants, pledged loyalty to
their friends and promised terror to their foes.  Likewise both a
prayer and a pledge were the well-known words:

Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam.


Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name be the glory.

III

Jacques de Molay was the twenty-second and last Grand Master of the
Knights Templar.  He was born about 1240 at Besancon, in the Duchy
of Burgundy, and was of noble but poor family.  He was admitted to
the order of knighthood, in 1265, at Beaune and proceeded shortly
to the Holy Land, under the Grand Master William de Beaujeu, to
fight for the Holy Sepulchre.  Jacques de Molay remained in the
Holy Land for many years, for he was still with the order in
Jerusalem when, about 1295, he was elected Grand Master upon the
death of Grand Master Gaudinius - Theobald de Gaudilai.  After the
loss of Palestine by the Templars, de Molay took his few remaining
knights to the Island of Cyprus.  In 1305 he was summoned to a
conference with the Pope, Clement V, who stated that he wished to
consider measures for effecting a union between the rival Templars
and Hospitallers.  A long and bitter feud had existed between the
two great orders.  However, both had agreed not to accept
disciplined members who might desire to transfer their allegiance
from one order to the other.  Also, in battle, it was permitted
members who became hopelessly separated from the main body of one
order to rally under the cross of the rival order if near.

Jacques de Molay, accompanied by sixty knights, made a royal
progress westward.  He called upon the Pope who consulted him
regarding a further Crusade, and de Molay requested an
investigation into charges that were already being openly made
against the order.  Finally he arrived in Paris with kingly pomp.
Philip the Fair, King of France, suddenly arrested every Knight
Templar in France, October 13, 1307, de Molay and his sixty friends
among them.  They were brought before the University of Paris and
the ch arges read to them.  De Molay spent five and a half years in
prison.  Of those arrested, one hundred and twenty-three knights of
the order "confessed under the torture of the Inquisition." Some
confessed that at the initiation ceremonies they had spat upon the
Crucifix.  When the Grand Master's turn came he likewise confessed,
apparently to bogus charges prepared beforehand by the Inquisition,
fearing torture, but he denied the charges of gross practices
indignantly, and demanded audience with the Po pe.  Th e Pope
himself believed the Templers were guilty, at least on some of the
counts, but he resented the intrusion of Philip in what he regarded
as his own special precinct, in spite of the fact that he largely
owed his papal tiara to Philip.

Many retracted their confessions regarding their indignity to the
Crucifix, only to be burned at the stake.  Many who returned to
their homes throughout Christendom, recanted, but the Inquisition
followed them and they burned.  Despotism, naked and cruel, without
scruple or any capacity for shame, had broken loose upon the world.
It was a new and bloody technique that proved vastly effective in
the hands of tyrants - both secular and religious.  Civilization
was to hear a good deal about this arbitrary rul e, this summary
and vindictive totalitarianism, without conscience, hungry for
power, wholly wicked, completely mad. In 1311, Clement and Philip
became reconciled, which prepared the way for the final act in the
tragedy.  The next year, at Vienna, the Pope condemned the order in
a sermon while Philip sat at his right hand.  Later the inevitable
occurred; the Knights Templar were broken up.  Much of their
treasure was given to the Knights of St. John, but Phil ip the Fair
and Clement V reserved land and treas ure, castles and Abbeys for
themselves and their friends.

No full hearing seems to have been given to all the charges, or any
comprehensive judgment handed down on the order as a whole.
However, in 1314, Jacques de Molay, whose fear had made him a
pathetic figure, and whose craven "confessions" contrary to the
oath of his order had sent hundreds to their death, again
confessed, again recanted his confession, again confessed, each
time shrinking miserably in stature both as a man and Grand Master
and having humiliation and utter disgrace heaped upon him for his
pa ins.  Finally, after the long imprisonment and tragedy and
sorrow of it all, he was led out upon the scaffold in front of
Notre Dame in Paris, in company with his friend Gaufrid de Charney,
Preceptor of Normandy.  The papal legates were in attendance and a
vast multitude of people filled the square.  He was to confess by
arrangement and hear the legates sentence him to life imprisonment.
Jacques de Molay finally atoned.  Instead of confessing he
proclaimed the innocence of the order.  King Philip the Fa ir did
not hesitate or consult with the Pope's legates; he had de Molay
burned forthwith, "between the Augustinians and the royal garden."
Guido Delphini was burned with them, and also the young son of the
dauphin of Auvergne.  With his dying breath Jacques de Molay
shouted to the multitude that King and Pope would soon meet him
before the judgment seat of God.  The common people gathered up his
ashes, and before many days it was as de Molay had for etold, Both
Clement V and Philip the Fair were dead.

IV.

The immortal Dante maintained the innocence of the Knights as did
many another famous contemporary.  Today it is generally admitted
that the Inquisition went to the poor knights in prison, told them
that their officers had confessed to spitting upon the Crucifix,
and then wrung from them "confessions" by the most brutal of all
institutions.  The confessions are all discounted.  The evidence
against them was from their rivals, the Dominicans and Franciscans
and others, all worthless.

The Order had long held the Turk in check, and kept alive the dream
of a united Christendom.  It had given to the world the idea of the
chivalrous man as a religious man, the servant of his state not
ashamed to own his God.  It had paved the way for the large part
laymen were to play in the religious life of the nations.  It was
the school of diplomacy and commerce, of international finance and
opinion.  Those who destroyed the order opened the way for Turkish
conquests in the West.  They also made known th e horrors of
despotism, of trial by pogrom and purge, which kindled again in the
wicked days of St. Bartholomew's and in the mad days of the French
Revolution - the cult of cruelty, that ran its course even in the
New World with witch huntings and burnings, and that is not yet
dead. It has been said that the thirteenth of October, 1307, was a
day of humiliation for the whole race. If the world remembers, and
recovers its sense of shame, its capacity for indign ation, it may
not have been in vain.
 
The Middle Ages were past, and deep rivers of Christian blood had
flowed for two hundred and fifty years, before the Turk was
expelled from the Spanish peninsula.  Under Don John of Austria the
Mediterranean states, organized into a league, sent an armada of
two hundred ships against the Turkish fleet that had sailed
westward from Cyprus and Crete.  Christian met Saracen off Lepanto,
October 7, 1571, broke the naval power of the Turks forever and set
barricades to their western expansion to this day.  Thus was
October 13, 1307, at last avenged.  Nearly every European state and
noble family was represented.  There was also present a humble
Spaniard who had his arm shattered but who lived to write a book,
with his one good hand, the novel Don Quixote, that laughed the
last dregs of a corrupt and bogus chivalry out of Europe.  He died
in 1616, the year our Shakespeare died, and an era ended.  The era
of the common man followed; a new day had dawned.

THE SCHOOL OF CHIVALRY

There are, if I may so say, three powerful spirits, which have from
time to time moved over the face of the waters, and given a
predominant impulse to the moral sentiments and energies of
mankind.  These are the spirits of liberty, of religion, and of
honour.  It was the principal business of chivalry to animate and
cherish the last of these three. And whatever high magnanimous
energy the love of liberty or religious zeal has ever imparted, was
equalled by the exquisite sense of honour which this institutio n
preserved.

Valour, loyalty, courtesy, munificence, formed collectively the
character of an accomplished knight, so far as was displayed in the
ordinary tenor of his life, reflecting these virtues as an
unsullied mirror. Yet something more was required for the perfect
idea of chivalry, and enjoined by its principles; an active sense
of justice, an ardent indignation against wrong, a determination of
courage to its best end, the prevention or redress of injury.

EUROPE DURING THE MIDDLE AGES,

HENRY HALLAM