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Our Namesake – Jacques DeMolay

The namesake of the Order of DeMolay was  born in  Vitrey, Department of Haute Saone, France in the year 1244. At  the age  of 21, DeMolay joined the Order of Knights Templar.

The Knights Templar was an   organization sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church in 1128 to guard   the road between Jerusalem and Acre, an important port city on the   Mediterranean Sea. The Order of Knights Templar participated in the   Crusades and earned a name for valor and heroism.

With  many nobles and princes  sending their sons to join the Knights Templar,  the Order also became  very wealthy and popular throughout Europe.

In  1298, Jacques DeMolay was  named Grand Master of the Knights Templar, a  position of power and  prestige. As Grand Master however, Jacques  DeMolay was also in a  difficult position. The Crusades were not  achieving their goals. The  non-Christian Saracens defeated the  Crusaders in battle and captured  many vital cities and posts. The  Knights Templar and the Hospitalers  (another Order of Knights) were the  only groups remaining to confront  the Saracens.

The  Knights Templar decided to  reorganize and regain their strength. They  traveled to the island of  Cyprus, waiting for the general public to  rise up in support of another  Crusade.

Instead  of public support,  however, the Knights attracted the attention of  powerful lords, who  were interested in obtaining their wealth and  power. In 1305, Philip  the Fair, King of France, set about to obtain  control of the Knights  Templars. They had been accountable only to the  Church. To prevent a  rise in the power of the Church, and to increase  his own wealth, Philip  set out to take over the Knights.

The  year 1307 saw the beginning  of the persecution of the Knights. Jacques  DeMolay, along with hundreds  of others, were seized and thrown into  dungeons. For seven years,  DeMolay and the Knights suffered torture and  inhuman conditions. While  the Knights did not end, Philip managed to  force Pope Clement to  condemn the Templars. Their wealth and property  were confiscated and  given to Philip’s supporters.

During  years of torture, Jacques  DeMolay continued to be loyal to his friends  and Knights. He refused to  disclose the location of the funds of the  Order and he refused to  betray his comrades. On March 18, 1314, DeMolay  was tried by a special  court. As evidence, the court depended on a  forged confession,  allegedly signed by DeMolay.

Jacques  DeMolay disavowed the  forged confession. Under the laws of the time,  the disavowal of a  confession was punishable by death. Another Knight,  Geoffrey de Charney,  likewise disavowed his confession and stood with  Jacques DeMolay.

King Philip ordered them  both to  be burned at the stake that day, and thus the story of Jacques  DeMolay  became a testimonial to loyalty and friendship.