Timothy H. Darnell, 32°
Atlanta, Georgia

This last of a three-part series retells the life of Jacques DeMolay, Martyr of Masonic Chivalry, and namesake of the International Order of DeMolay.

The Nightmare Of Horror
Now that matters had gone so far, the personal safety of King Philip the Fair lay in the utter destruction of the Knights Templar. In May 1308, he had such control of the Church that the Pope withdrew his suspension of the powers of the Inquisition in France and ordered an examination into all charges against the Templars.

Knights were thrown into damp cells and cold dungeons where many died from exposure. Hundreds of them were tortured, and many confessed guilt to escape the rack. Sixty-seven were burned at the stake in France. A nightmare of horror spread over Europe.

By now, Jacques DeMolay was almost 70 years old. Wrecked by a lifetime of battles and hardships, brokenhearted at what seemed to him a monstrous ingratitude on the part of his countrymen, betrayed by King Philip and Pope Clement V, both of whom he had considered to be friends, he was in no condition to endure the dungeon and torture chamber.

DeMolay was brought before several royal and papal commissions and urged to renounce the Order. On March 2, 1310, he demanded a trial by Clement himself, arguing that since the Templars were under the Pope’s own care, the Pope alone had the right to try them. It was his only defense.

In April 1311, Pope Clement, now completely defeated in any effort he may have made to defend the Order, came into a formal agreement with Philip and issued an official announcement, a Papal Bull, condemning the Templars. On April 3, 1312, with Philip sitting at his right, Pope Clement preached a sermon condemning the Order. That same month, he issued an order transferring Templar property into other hands. A great portion went to the various sovereigns, with Philip claiming the lion’s share. The Order was destroyed, its houses were closed, its land was distributed, and its treasuries were expropriated.

DeMolay Becomes A Martyr
On December 22, 1313, more than six years after the first arrest of the Knights Templar, Pope Clement commissioned a number of judges to determine the fate of DeMolay and three of his knights: Godfrey de Goneville, Guy of Auvergne, and Hughes de Peralde. These commissioners of doom built a public platform and a pulpit in front of the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Surrounded by a throng of people, the four men were brought out early on the morning of March 11, 1314. A bishop preached a long, rambling sermon about the great things happening in that day and age, and then the commissioners read a number of documents, among them a report of DeMolay’s interrogation six years before in which he made a forced confession under torture.

The commissioners proclaimed the men’s sentence: life in prison. Two of the knights accepted their sentence without question, but not Jacques DeMolay who, after hearing his false confession, stood and denounced it along with the other charges against the Knights Templar. Guy of Auvergne stood with him. According to the legal customs of the day, this was a retraction of confession and punishable by death. Word was immediately sent to Philip, and, ignoring all due process of law, he ordered the two prisoners burned at the stake that very evening on the small island of Seine.

At sunset, DeMolay and Guy were taken to the stake. The accounts of what happened next are confusing, but every detail seems to confirm that DeMolay was firm and brave in his final hour. When the soldiers came to tie his hands, he said in a strong, loud, and clear voice: “Gentlemen, let me join my hands a little and make my prayer to God. It is truly time for it, for I am going to die immediately. God knows that I have not deserved my torture. Misfortune will soon come to those who have condemned us. God will avenge our death upon our enemies. I die with that conviction. For you, gentlemen, turn, I pray you, my face toward the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ.”

“Then,” said Godfrey de Paris, the poet, a witness of the scene, “they granted him his request, and death took him so sweetly in that attitude, so that all marvelled at it.”

Within the year, Pope Clement V died, abandoned by his own friends. Indeed, his body lay unburied for some time. Shortly thereafter, as if pursued by the same furies, Philip died a violent death. His three brothers also died soon thereafter, thus ending the branch of Philip’s family on the French dynasty.

Historians differ violently upon the validity of the charges against the Knights Templar of medieval Europe. The most thorough examination was made by American historian Henry Charles Lea who concluded that, while a few individual Templars may have been guilty of crime or theft, the Order itself was guiltless. And though Jacques DeMolay may have weakened under torture and made a false confession, his deep conviction of his innocence strengthened him at the stake, allowing the old warrior to die like the hero he truly was.

The charges of murder and theft, not to mention those of witchcraft and devil worship, made against the Knights Templars of yesteryear should remind Freemasons of today that the forces of falsehood and greed are never far away. Indeed, much of those evil rumors and charges made against DeMolay and his knights should ring familiar in the ear of the thoughtful Freemason.

To counteract such charges today, we should open our Lodges, Temples, and other Masonic buildings and allow modern society to witness our unselfish deeds for the benefit of others. Only by so doing, can we prevent another day of infamy, one that occurred almost 1,000 years ago, when Jacques DeMolay, Martyr of Masonic chivalry and namesake of the International Order of DeMolay for young men, perished amid the flames.

The information for this article was taken from Jacques DeMolay by H. L. Haywood, 1925, Order of DeMolay, Kansas City, Mo. Part I of this series was published in the January 1998 Scottish Rite Journal and Part II in the February Journal.

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