Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Today in Gay History

March 18, 1314

Jacques de Molay
Burned at the Stake

On Friday October 13th, 1307 King Philip the Fair de Valois of France had 140 French Knights Templar and Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Order, arrested.

He likely did this because he owed them money and thought they had become too powerful. What followed was a classic case of power politics between the Catholic Church hierarchy in France, the Papacy itself, and the King.

They were tortured, and confessed to heresy, sodomy, cannibalism and other crimes. More than a hundred of them were then burned to death within a year of their arrest. 51 more were burned in 1311.

de Molay was not put to death until March 18, 1314, but recanted his confessions. The Papacy was complicit, having ordered the disbanding of the Knights Templar in 1308.

During forced interrogation by royal agents on October 24, Jacques confessed that the Templar initiation ritual included "denying Christ and trampling on the Cross". He was also forced to write a letter asking every Templar to admit to these acts. Under pressure from Philip IV, Pope Clement V ordered the arrest of all the Templars throughout Christendom.

The pope still wanted to hear Jacques de Molay's side of the story, and dispatched two cardinals to Paris in December 1307. In front of the cardinals, de Molay retracted his earlier confessions. A power struggle ensued between the king and the pope, which was settled in August 1308, when the king and the pope agreed to split the convictions. Under this agreement, the pope, and not the king, was to judge Jacques De Molay.

The cardinals sent by the pope sentenced the Temple dignitaries Jacques de Molay, Hugues de Pairaud, Geoffroy de Charney and Geoffroy de Gonneville to life imprisonment. Realizing that all was lost, Jacques de Molay rose up and recanted. Along with Geoffroy de Charney, he proclaimed his order's innocence, before challenging the king and pope to appear before God before the year was out. Philip, apparently unamused at de Molay's notion that he should be judged by God within the year, ordered both to be burned at the stake. On the eve of 18 March 1314, Jacques de Molay and Geoffroy de Charnay were taken to the Isle des Juifs, now incorporaed into the Île de la Cité, where they were executed. The image above is a contemporaeous rendition of the two being immolated on the isle in the Seine.

Apparently the Pope “absolved” De Molay and other top Templars in 1308 according to“lost documents” found in the Vatican in recent years. In 2002, Dr. Barbara Frale found a copy of a document which explicitly confirms that Pope Clement V absolved Jacques de Molay and other leaders of the Order in 1308.

Maybe they were "sodomites" or not, but the Knights Templar, and Jacques de Molay in particular, were certainly scapegoated by power plays between the Church and The State. Shades of modern times. Le plus ça change, etc.


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