The Knights Templar was founded in 1118 to protect tourists headed for Jerusalem. It was founded by a small band of monks. Eventually they gained possession of the Ark of the Covenant. They hid it in order to keep it safe.
The Templars swore allegiance to the Pope, but their beliefs were not completely orthodox. They believed that Jesus Christ had conceived three children with Mary Magdalene. They believed that Jesus moved to France after the crucifixion. They believed that Jesus’s and Mary Magdalene’s children married into royalty. This would make members of French royalty have a devine bloodline. The Knights Templar dedicated themselves to protecting the lives of the descendants of Jesus. They became known as the Merovingians.
When the Templars weren’t busy doing that, they created a financial empire with vast holdings. The Templars created the first international banking system.This enable pilgrims heading off to the Holy Land to deposit money with a local branch. The pilgrims would then get a letter of credit which was redeemable just about everywhere along their route.
By the 14th century, the Knights Templar were Europe’s dominant religious order. They had more than 7,000 members.
King Philip IV of France owed the Templars a lot of money. He did not want to repay this money. He and Pope Clement V came up with a plan. In 1307, the Pope called Jacques de Molay, the group’s Grand Master, to Paris. They were supposed to start negotiating merging the Knights Hospitallers with de Molay’s group. This did not happen. Instead, Molay and his staff were arrested by King Philip. They were then turned over to the Inquisition.
Some of the Templars escaped to Portugal. There they enjoyed the protection of its king for a few years. Others were rumored to have fled to Switzerland and Scotland. However, there is no documentation of this.
The Pope disbanded their organization in March 1312. A Papal Bull was announced that accused the Templars of having fallen “into the sin of impious apostasy, the abominable vice of idolatry, the deadly crime of the Sodomites, and various heresies.”
In March 1314, Jacques de Molay was sentenced to life imprisonment. This was done by the Inquisition. The sentence was announced during a public ceremony at Notre Dame cathedral. Molay had received leniency in exchange for a full confession. However, Molay suddenly retracted his confession before anybody could stop him:
“I confess that I am indeed guilty of the greatest infamy. But the infamy is that I have lied. I have lied in admitting the disgusting charges laid against my Order. I declare, and I must declare, that the Order is innocent. Its purity and saintliness have never been defiled. In truth, I had testified otherwise, but I did so from fear of horrible tortures.”
Molay and Geoffroy de Charnay were burned alive three days later rather than spending life in prison. They were taken to the Isle of Javiaux in the Seine, not far from Notre Dame. They were slow roasted over a pile of hot, smokeless charcoal. It took hours for them to die. After the died and were burned, their ashes were collected for relics by Augustinian monks.
The Church was able to take possession of the assets belonging to the Templars after while.
Today, the Knights Templar is the name of a branch of Freemasonry.