From the dawn of Christianity, faithful believers have traveled from the length and breadth of Europe to the Holy City of Jerusalem, to renew and affirm a lifelong faith in scripture.
The Rashidun Caliphate captured the Holy City in 637, following a long siege. Except for an 88-year period following the first crusade in 1099, the Temple Mount in the old city has been under Islamic administration, from that day to this.
Nevertheless, the number of these pilgrims increased over time. Many suffered robbery and even murder at the hands of Muslim fanatics, who considered it their Islamic duty to kill the “Infidel”.
The French knight Hugues de Payens approached King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1119, with a proposal. He would create a monastic order of warrior knights to protect these pilgrims, to be headquartered in a wing of the recaptured Al Aqsa Mosque, built on the ruins of the Temple of Solomon.
They were monks and they were warriors, “Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon”. For 200 years, these “Knights Templar” provided for the safe passage of Christian pilgrims.
The original nine knights of the order lived up to the “poor knights” part of their name, relying on financial donations for their survival. So destitute were they that their emblem showed two knights riding a single horse.
That would change.
In time, the Templars gained favored charity status, their new-found wealth helping them to found an early banking system. Pilgrims to the holy land could deposit gold coins in Paris and take them out in Jerusalem, or vice-versa. The knights Templar achieved vast wealth in this manner, at their height running over 800 castles, every one of which ran as a full service banking institution, financing military campaigns and shoring up the treasuries of Kings.
Following what must have seemed a never ending series of wars with the English King, Philip IV of France found himself deeply in debt to the Templars. In 1307, he needed to wriggle out of it.
It was Friday the 13th of October that year, when Philip sent out his arrest warrant. Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay and scores of other French Templars were simultaneously arrested. Charges included everything from obscene secret rituals to financial fraud. “Confessions” were extracted by torture.
Under pressure from the French King, Pope Clement issued the bull “Pastoralis praeeminentiae” on November 22, instructing Christian monarchs throughout Europe to arrest Templar officials and seize their assets.
Thousands of knights fled to areas outside Papal control. Some were burned at the stake, or absorbed into the rival Knights Hospitaller. Within a couple of years, the order had ceased to exist.
Some will tell you that’s where the Friday 13th superstition began. Others say it goes back to the Friday when Eve offered Adam that forbidden apple, or the Friday crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Ancient Egyptians and Chinese believed the number 13 brought good luck, but some actually fear Friday the 13th. It’s called “Friggatriskaidekaphobia”.
People in Spanish-speaking countries will tell you it’s the 13-part that brings bad luck, but for most, it’s Friday. At least one psychotherapist asserts that 21 million Americans are afraid of Friday the 13th.
Smithsonian Magazine reports that fear of the number 13 costs the United States a Billion dollars a year in absenteeism, train and plane cancellations and related commerce on the 13th of the month.
FDR avoided dinner parties with 13 guests. In France, there are professional 14th party guests called “quatorzieme“. I wonder how you get that job.
Who knows, maybe thirteen really is bad luck. There are 13 steps leading to the gallows, where the condemned meets the 13 knots of the hangman’s noose. The guillotine’s blade falls 13 feet. Diana hit the 13th pillar at Place d’Alma. Tupac was shot on Friday the 13th, and Fidel Castro was born on one.
So knock on wood, and cross your fingers. Watch out for black cats. Don’t look at the full moon through a pane of glass, and be sure throw salt over your shoulder. You’ll be fine.