Knights Templar Fan Art

The Knights Templar Downfall At The Hands Of A French King

The Dark Ages weren’t magic. They were unforgiving. It was a time for kingdom divisions and assertions of power for lands. But Kings and Queens weren’t the only sources of power. So were the Church and their most powerful Order, the Knights Templar.

What Do We Know Of The Knights Templar?

I am an ancient history nerd. My favourite era is the Iron Age and the Dark Ages. Because of my passion for history, the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise from Ubisoft became an obsession of mine. Their accuracy and storytelling are compelling, and so are their villains. 

The Assassin’s Creed might not be real in history—or maybe it is, and it’s all part of the conspiracy!—Joking aside, the assassins aren’t real, but the Knights Templar were and still exist to this day. Most of what we know about them comes from conspiracy theorists or fiction. In fact, the most accurate depiction of the Order comes from Assassin’s Creed and the History Channel series, Knightfall.

King Philippe IV Le Bel de France
King Philippe IV Le Bel de France

The Knights Templar Order came to life in 1108 in Jerusalem. The Knights Templar has many names, including The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon. Some know them under the Order of Solomon’s Temple, the Knights Templar, or the Templars. The fact is that it remains a military faction under Catholicism. It is one of the wealthiest military organisations under Western Catholics.

The operation of the Templars was active from 1108 to 1312. But I said members still exist! Well, they are the descendants of those who carried the mantle. The brotherhood and military service under the Church underwent dismantlement over seven hundred years ago. Now, those who are left are the ones who inherited the title from their ancestors. There is no underground brotherhood of the Templars!

How Did One King Provoke The Church?

Under the reign of Philip IV, France expanded and flourished, but it cost a lot to many nations. He wasn’t also without his failures and carried a heavy debt he owed to the Templars. King Philip held the epithet The Fair. It depends on what meaning of the word you agree upon. Officially, The Fair translates to Le Bel, which would mean ‘The Beautiful,’ in terms of appearance. In my opinion, one can be beautiful to look at and still an arsehole!

After a monumental failure on his part and having the dwellers of Paris revolt against him, Philip found a way out of his wrongdoing. He imposed taxes on the clergy of France, going up one-half of their annual income. 

His decree caused mayhem among the Catholic Church and all of its members. It reached the papacy itself, begging for the involvement of Pope Boniface VIII. Their only way out of it was to issue a papal bull. This is a type of public decree ordered by the Pope of the Catholic Church. Its power could be threatening and overwhelming, even for a king.

Following the call of the French Catholic Church, the Pope sent a decree forbidding the transfer of any church property to the French Crown. He ordered so according to what they agreed upon in 1296.

King Philip acted upon the act, but by 1297, Boniface granted King Philip’s taxation of the clergy in case of emergencies. However, King Philip had bones to pick with the Church.

How To Make An Enemy Of The Church

It was in 1301 that the Bishop of Pamier suffered his arrest for treason under the orders of King Philip. Following the arrest, Pope Boniface sent for all his French bishops to return to Rome and question Philip’s actions. 

The Pope called his bishops, and King Philip responded by assembling other bishops, nobles and the upper-class bourgeois of Paris to turn their backs on Pope Boniface. 

Donation faite par Philippe Le Bel aux Chapelains et Marguillier
Donation faite par Philippe Le Bel aux Chapelains et Marguilliers de la Sainte-Chapelle. Paris Février 1286. Cote AE/II/293

The Pope didn’t know that by creating this assembly, Philip ensured the support of those who became a council. It would develop into a government. It appeared as a measure of professionalism on Philip’s part.

In 1302, the Pope had no choice but to abandon the decree of declaration of papal supremacy. But King Philip wanted more than Boniface’s word and sent his favourite and closest agent, Guillaume de Nogaret, to put Boniface under arrest. Because of Philip’s powerful support, Pope Boniface had no choice but to fall back.

Despite Boniface escaping King Philip’s grip, he died some time afterwards. Following the death of the Catholic Pope, the French Archbishop Bertrand de Goth gained the support of the Church to become Pope Clement V. With recent events, Pope Clement V moved the official seat in French territories and, therefore, under French control.

What About The Knights Templar?

Although the Knights Templar is a religious military Order with the primary goal of protecting Christian pilgrims, banking was also a hobby. Because of a considerable debt to the Knights Templar, Philip had to find a way to pay his debt without breaking the bank or causing chaos in France. This happened by the end of the thirteenth century.

Knights Templar

The banking took place because of the decrease in Crusades, and their presence waned. The Knights Templar weren’t the military power they once were, and in some European countries, the Templars weren’t a necessity any longer. 

Some countries even chased them away if it did not kill them. One of the last kingdoms they could remain under was France. Sadly for them, King Philip had no intention of paying his debt back.

King Philip IV The Fair made it clear that he had no problem pushing back against the Pope if he had to. History shows that Philip desired the ultimate power to rule over one and all. That included the Church. The Church had authority, and King Philip wanted it. The Church wasn’t without its faults, but King Philip wasn’t a stranger to it either. 

The Templars were a mighty military army and took many vows, such as celibacy and no alcohol. They devoted their lives to the Church alone and acted to protect it with their lives. Were the Templars brainwashed? There is a possibility. They were soldiers, but most of them were drones acting under the orders of their master, who himself answered directly to the Pope, which remained an unquestioned authority.

How To Bring The Templars To Their Knees

A resentful complaint against the Knights Templar reached King Philip’s ear, and he used it to his favour. He made his move against the entire organisation since it was now in French territory. 

While the main reason for Philip’s move was to remove his debt, he had other ulterior motives to attack the Order. There was alleged depravity, the proclamation of French control over a crippled papacy, and replacing officials for Templars in French finance. 

Knights Templar
Knights Templar

The Capetian King, a function that put the title above the Pope, stepped in to confront the allegations. The Capetian King claimed the esoteric grounds of the papal theocracy for itself. After all, the Templar’s case was the last process of appropriating these grounds.

All of it pointed back to the rift between King Philip and Pope Boniface VIII. The Capetian King had to involve himself as the Templars’ trial meant either the beginning or the end of a papal theocracy.

The Torture Of Templars

WARNING!!! SENSITIVE TO GORE, DO NOT READ!!!

At daybreak on Friday, October 13th, 1307, King Philip IV ordered the arrest of hundreds of Templars. In no time, the Templars were in French dungeons where torture awaited them to confess the atrocities among the Order.

Because Templars only answered their Pope, creativity was an asset to have them speak against their brotherhood. Some of their torture included weights attached to their genitals, while others had their arms tethered behind them as the tormentors suspended them from the ceiling, resulting in the dislocation of their shoulders.

“Their legs were fastened in an iron frame, and the soles of their feet were greased over with fat or butter; they were then placed before the fire, and a screen was drawn backwards and forwards to moderate and regulate the heat.”

Addison

Those are only examples of what the Templars had to go through after their arrest. King Philip was not taking his word back when he declared he wanted them all in his dungeon. But the most horrifying torture the Templars went under was fire torture.

We Must Remember How Terrifying The Knights Templar Were

There is a reason Assassin’s Creed made the Knights Templar their greatest villain. Those knights weren’t like any other found in their time. Often the Templars would become an apprentice after a trauma, orphan boys, thieves, or people without hope. 

Others made a choice or were under recommendation, but their great numbers relied on people who would see the Order as their home and their masters as the ones who saved them.

Was the Knights Templar a cult? Simply put, it all depends on an individual’s view of religion. The Order was a religious military force. Their reputation was tremendous and preceded them. If they were to find and bring the grail back onto Catholic soil, they had to be the best.

They were an ancient form of military, in shape, skills, and mental-wise, comparable to the Canadian JTF2. But like a military organisation, the Knights Templar had their own tribunal and laws to follow. They were a brotherhood, and ranking was an important part of their discipline. They would learn the Holy Bible by heart and obey their master without question.

Knights Templar
Knights Templar

Why did King Philip want to end the brotherhood of the Templars? Perhaps he feared they could recover and become unstoppable like they once were. After all, the Church didn’t lose its absolute power in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. So, dismantling their most impressive military was of great importance to the king of France, who was quite significant himself.

The Templars underwent severe training, separated in stages until they became brutal warriors. They were the most advanced force in numerous notorious battles of the Crusades. Their reputation had the Battle of Montgisard when they answered the call of Christian forces. The Christian soldiers were critically outnumbered, but the Knights Templar defeated the army led by Saladin, a great Muslim commander.

This is just one of many examples of the discipline and training Templars would go under to achieve victory for the Church.

The End Of The Knights Templar Era

King Philip used his pawn, Pope Clement V, to end the Order. Despite the Pope’s wish to keep the trial fair and clean, Philip used the assertion of some Templars who surrendered to torture. Following those confessions, those accused faced the fire at the stake before a crowd. Many Templars refused to speak as they were only answerable to their Pope.

Ubisoft — Assassin's Creed — Unity
Ubisoft — Assassin’s Creed — Unity

King Philip had to act fast, knowing that the Church could amass more than enough proof for a proper defence against the king. Despite a military force, we must remember the Templars are a brotherhood comprising knights answering to the Pope.

“King Philip, no punishment is too heinous for the great evil you have inflicted upon the Temple. I curse you! Curse you to the thirteenth generation of your blood! You shall be cursed!”

―Jacques de Molay to Philip IV of France at the former’s execution, 1314

It was in March 1314 that King Philip had the last Grand Master of the Templars, Jacques de Molay, burned at the stake. The same went for Geoffroi de Charny, Preceptor of Normandy. Their account of the event is troubling and quite disturbing. It is hard to read when so much hate transpires through the words when mentioning King Philip.

The Account Of The Last Templars To Burn At The French Stake

Jacque de Molay, Geoffroi de Charny, Hugues de Peraud, and Godefroi de Gonneville‘s last moments happened on a scaffold in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral. They spent the last seven years in jail only to receive a sentence from which the people they fought for and obeyed couldn’t save them.

Cathédral Notre Dame de Paris
Cathédral Notre Dame de Paris

The sentence delivered by the cardinals, in combination with the Archbishop of Sense, among other prelates, asked for life in prison. They’ve agreed to regard the confession concerning the Templars’ offences to be the truth. They disregarded the torture forced upon them to admit their perversion. Maybe the Church wanted to reach peace with King Philip by doing so and chose him over their brothers.

The sentence emitted by the Church would bring an end to the conflict. But to the dismay of the prelates and the crowd present for the verdict delivery, de Molay and Geoffroi spoke.

Fire

Both Templars admitted guilt not for the crimes the Crown accused them of, but for betraying the Order to try to save their lives. It was part of the Knights Templar’s oath never to put one’s life over another or the Church. By speaking those words, they confirmed their crimes belonged to the brotherhood and not the royal court of France.

The confession of the Templars had the cardinals retired to deliberate according to the recent development on the case. Sadly, the judgement would carry on without them. The news reached King Philip IV and rendered him frantic. He called upon his council, and the matter was closed within seconds.

In other words, King Philip acted above the Pope’s authority despite the Knights Templar belonging to the Catholic tribunal. He declared both Templars were not escaping their judgement and didn’t require further involvement with the Church.

On a small island, a stake was built by sunset on that same day. It was for the last of the Templars. Near the palace garden, de Molay and de Charny slowly burned to death. The Templars refused pardon offers and bore their torment with such poise that they ever since have the titles of Martyrs. People collected their ashes and relics to cherish.

Is It Coincidence Or Karma For The Lies Of A King?

A month had passed after the death of the last Templars when Pope Clement V died of an illness we now know as lupus. Eight months following the horror of the death of two devoted Knights Templar, King Philip had a cerebral stroke while hunting and some time later passed away. However, other historians mention the king broke his leg, and the infection from the injury killed him.

The death of King Philip reached as far as the German kingdom, and everyone spoke of it as retribution for the destruction of the Templars under false accusations. 

Ubisoft — Assassin's Creed — Unity — King Philip IV Le Bel de France
Ubisoft — Assassin’s Creed — Unity — King Philip IV Le Bel de France

A legend came about following those two deaths that de Molay cited the names of Philip and Clement before God’s tribunal. It gained popularity among French people: The tribunal of God.

Pope Clement V supposedly cried tears of remorse and guilt on his deathbed for his crimes: the poisoning of Henry VII, the Holy Roman Emperor, the ruin of the Knights Templar, and Beguines.

Tomb of Philippe le Bel in Basilic Saint Denis in France
Tomb of Philippe le Bel in Basilic Saint Denis in France

Another quite intriguing conclusion to a bloodline. The throne went down to Philip’s sons rapidly as they all died young without male heirs. The male bloodline of King Philip IV officially died in 1328, and they passed the throne down to his brother, the House of Valois.

Are You A Templar Or An Assassin?

Reading the account between King Philip IV and the Knights Templar makes it hard to choose who is the hero and the villain. While the brotherhood suffered corruption, those often took place at the top of the food chain, the Pope and his council. The Order itself acted upon their demands and followed a strict code of honour.

Maybe not all Templars followed their vows or oaths—there are descendants to this day—but to bring an end to an entire creed without a fair trial is bold. It is not a genocide, but the number of Templars was tremendous and could easily rival the European Witch Hunt. The torture, the unfair trials, the greed, the stake, everything is reminiscent of it.

Knights Templar Fan Art
Knights Templar Fan Art

Was King Philip IV somehow cursed following the death of the two last Templars? The Earth took care of his punishment. The atrocities King Philip committed required a price, and the cost was more than he anticipated. He may have brought some good to France, but his evil side was just as equivalent, if not worse.

More on the Knights Templar will clarify the gothic era they lived in and the inspiration they became for an entire video game franchise turned to movie and novels, as well as their legacy.

The OCD Vampire,
Lex

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