Friday the Thirteenth 8/13/21

History with Richard Bleil

FINALLY. Friday the Thirteenth. The first since I’ve moved in.

If all is going as planned (as I write this it’s August 6, we we’re about a week out), I am flying my Knights Templar flag at my house. Chances are that nobody will get the reference. It’s an inside joke for anybody who knows history very well, especially the history of the Templar Knights.

The Knights Templar were the second military arm of the Holy Mother Church, because every legitimate church should have its own military, right? Founded in 1119, their mission was to protect the lands to Jerusalem after the first crusades in 1096. They were called on to fight the Muslims in the second crusade in 1144. In all there were five holy crusades.

The first military arm were the Knights Hospitallers. While the Knights Templar were burdened with protecting the pathway to and from the holy lands, the Knights Hospitaller were charged to accompany pilgrims on their holy quest through often hostile lands to keep them from harm. Founded in 1070, the Knights Hospitaller fought the first holy crusade, but the church turned to the Knights Templar afterwards.

Between the crusades, the Knights Templar built a series of fortresses and fostered relations with the Muslims in the area. They had to, in fact, in order to trade for the goods and services they needed to maintain the strongholds. They also developed the very first practical international banking system. A pilgrim could deposit money in Rome and withdraw in Israel. This did necessitate the transport of money, leading to a series of secret rituals for identification of friends and including both physical acts and passwords.

The Knights Templar grew in their notoriety, wealth and lands. Originally they were housed in the ruins of King Solomon’s fortress and had taken vows of poverty, but that didn’t last. One of the earliest Knight Templar coins depicted two knights riding one horse, a symbol of their impoverished roots. Each knight was also a monk and had taken vows of charity, chastity and purity, but as wealthy landowners became aware of the knights Templar, they would often send their sons to join to be trained in the ways of combat and earn their honor. In addition, they often fought for other kings including the King of France in their wars. The happy landowners would pay for their sons to join and often reward the Knights Templar with lands as gifts. Towards the end, the Knights Templar had amassed a fortune and numerous lands, including their own navy. Unfortunately, they also accumulated monies owed to them, including a very large sum owed by the King of France for their mercenary work in their wars.

The final crusade ended in 1291. The earlier crusades had all been successful, but at increasing cost because Rome did not want to replenish the knights and fortresses that were lost. The final crusade failed, which was a great embarrassment to the church that had been claiming that no army can lose if they have God on their side. To lose a Crusade meant that God had abandoned them by their own logic, and that, of course, could not stand.

In 1312, still reeling from the loss, Pope Clement V issued sealed papal orders to all of the kings in Europe with specific instructions that they not be opened until October 13, a Friday. The orders came under pressure from King Phillip of France who had such strong hold over Pope Clement V that during his tenure the seat of the Church had been moved from Rome to France in King Phillip’s lands. The King had exerted considerable pressure to have Pope Clement V anointed leading to this uncomfortable relationship.

The orders directed the kings to immediately round up all knights Templar, and seize their lands and holdings including the Templar Navy claiming the order to be guilty of heresy. Eventually they were to be tried and executed. King Phillip was looking forward to gaining considerable wealth from the seized knights holdings but failed. The lands were taken, and certainly the money owed to the Knights Templar could be declared null and void saving France considerable money, but the gold seized was inconsequential, and not a single Templar ship was captured. Nobody knows how the did it, but the Knights Templar largely vanished. Well accustomed to moving in secret, and probably having been tipped off, a conservative estimate puts the number of captured Knights Templar at less than twenty percent, most of whom were elderly knights retired from fighting and too feeble to flee.

So, every Friday the Thirteenth, I like to fly my Knights Templar flag (yes, I actually am a Knight Templar) just for those few brothers who might understand the reference.

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