The Knights Templar, also known as The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, were a Christian military and hospitality order popular in the Middle Ages. They financed several crusades and offered hospitality to fellow pilgrims far from home; the financial surety they offered to pilgrims was an early form of banking. Around 1135 Bernard de Clairvaux, a French Cistercian abbot, wrote “A Templar Knight is truly a fearless knight, and secure on every side, for his soul is protected by the armour of faith, just as his body is protected by the armour of steel. He is thus doubly armed, and need fear neither demons nor men.” They became less popular as the Crusades proved unsuccessful in reclaiming the Holy Land, and monarchs started envying their wealth.
In 1302, under Clement V, the papacy was moved to France. Historian Charles G. Addison noted in his The History of the Knights Templar, “Of the ten new cardinals then created nine were Frenchmen, and in all his acts the new pope manifested himself the obedient slave of the French monarch.” He continues:
“On the night of the 13th of October , all the Templars in the French dominions were simultaneously arrested. Monks were appointed to preach against them in the public places of Paris, and in the gardens of the Palais Royale; and advantage was taken of the folly, the superstition, and the credulity of the age, to propagate the most horrible and extravagant charges against the order. . . They [were] accused of burning the bodies of the deceased brethren, and making the ashes into a powder, which they administered to the younger brethren in their food and drink, to make them hold fast their faith and idolatry; of cooking and roasting infants, and anointing their idols with the fat; of celebrating hidden rites and mysteries, to which young and tender virgins were introduced, and of a variety of abominations too absurd and horrible to be named.” (Chapter 9)
He comments: “The character of the charges preferred against the Templars proves that their enemies had no serious crimes to allege against the order.”
Twelve days of imprisonment was followed by torture under the Grand Inquisitor. Feet were literally roasted; teeth were pulled. One hundred forty Knights Templars were tortured; thirty six knights died proclaiming their innocence. Some confessed under the torture, living the rest of their lives as cripples. Others were burned at the stake.
The order of the Knights Templar was dissolved (setting up plenty of room for conspiracy theories and adventure novels seven centuries later. . .)
Fridays have been unlucky every since Christ was crucified. The superstition linking Friday the 13th to misfortune is often tied to that unlucky day in October 1307, although some folklorists claim a variety of sources for this folk belief, mostly originating in the 19th or 20th Centuries.
Some people are said to stay home completely on this day. I have also seen humanist and atheist groups claiming Fridays the thirteenth as their own holiday to counter irrationality.
I prefer to be more positively focused. Go ahead and avoid broken mirrors and black cats—it’s all in good fun. But as you go about your business today, remember the Knights Templar. Pray for their souls if you’re so inclined. Or find a good history to read.
More about the Knights Templar
Templar History looks like a fun site
Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland, from the BBC