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Busting The Myth of Friday the 13th And The Knights Templar

Fake news has been rampant and was the weapon of choice of leaders even during the medieval times.

The origins of superstitions can be hard to trace. There are often several theories about how they started, which makes it hard for people to know whether it’s fake news or not. Friday the 13th is one such example.

For those of you who don’t know, the fear surrounding Friday the 13th has many origins. Some attribute the origins to the Code of Hammurabi, one of the world’s oldest legal documents. The Code has omitted a 13th rule from its list. Others claim that because ancient Sumerians believed that the number 12 is a perfect number, the one that followed is non-perfect and evil.

And then there’s that fateful day that saw the fall of a fearsome group of legendary Christian warriors—the Knights Templar.

The Knights Templar

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An illustration of members of the medieval military order the Knights Templar (c. 1119-1312 CE) (Photo from World History Encyclopedia)

Founded around 1118 as a monastic military order devoted to the protection of pilgrims who are travelling to the Holy Land, the Knights Templar were one of the richest and most influential groups of the Middle Ages. The group received lavish donations from Europe’s royalty following the capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade.

They set up their initial headquarters on the Temple Mount and recruited western, Christian warriors who took an oath to live quasi-monastic lives devoted to the principles of chastity, poverty and obedience, and wore iconic uniforms of black or white robes emblazoned with a red cross.

At the turn of the 14th century, the Knights Templars had castles, churches, and banks throughout Western Europe. This amount of wealth eventually led to their downfall on October 13, 1307, Friday.

Fake news and accusations

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The Knights Templar escort Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem in an illustration from around 1800. (Photo from Universal History Archive/Gettyimages/National Geographic)

The Templars continued to enjoy lavish wealth and protected the Kingdom of Jerusalem until the French King Philip IV decided to roll up the Templars and appropriate their wealth. Of course, this was because France was running low on funds and the monarchy was in a troublesome budget deficit. (Read: 3 Instances Where Leni Robredo Stood up to Fake News Attacks)

The methods used to bring down the Templars were chillingly efficient– fake news and political destabilization. More than a year prior to the Friday the 13th arrests, the king’s ministers had interviewed disgruntled former Templars and compiled a small yet questionable misdeeds.

“The standard accusation against your political enemies in the early 14th century was to accuse them of being involved in heresy or magic,” says Helen Nicholson, a medieval history professor at Cardiff University in Wales. The Templars were accused of spitting on the cross, denying Christ, participating in homoerotic induction rituals, and worshipping false idols.

The Templars were condemned en masse as having disgraced the French flag and the country. Their crimes, wrote the king, were “horrible to contemplate, terrible to hear of.” (Read: UP Students, Professors Find Ghost Facebook Accounts Under Their Names)

After several years of repeating the medieval fake news and as members of the Templars rot in jail, a council of the Church concluded, in 1312, that the Templars’ name had been so blackened that they ought to be disbanded and retired.

Conspiracy Theories

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Historical Reenactment: Templar Knight Wearing Helmet with Visor, Crusades, 13th Century, Detail (Photo from Art.com)

This anti-climactic end to one of Europe’s most established and elite group of religious soldiers were boring so people resorted to various theories as to why the Templars were ended.

One common myth is that “the Templars were created by this organization called the Priory of Sion to excavate in Jerusalem and find information about the bloodline of Christ,” says John Walker, a history professor who is writing a book about Knights Templar myths.

Another theory is that the Templars were protecting some sort of treasure or may have found the Holy Grail or some heretical secret (that is feasted upon by fiction writers such as Dan Brown). There were some who say that after their disbandment, the Templars became the Freemasons, a rumor which was interestingly started by the Freemasons themselves.

Pseudo-history and fiction

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The burning of Templars (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Though some of these conspiracies have been around for a long time, several have just sprung up recently. In fact, Walker isn’t sure where they came from before they were popularized in the 1980s pseudo-history book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

So, yes, the Friday the 13th theory in connection to the Knights Templar were made up by pseudo-historians and fiction writers who wanted a glorious and mystical ending to ancient and medieval history. (Read: 3 Miraculous Events in History That Are Attributed to Mama Mary)

After all, the Knights Templar are more interesting as protectors of an ancient secret rather than single men who gave out loans. But the truth of the matter is this: greedy leaders have always been there and they make false accusations to support the downfall of a chosen enemy. And sometimes, people will make stories around it to explain how a phenomena, in this case, Friday the 13th, is more than a superstition but more of a fact in history.

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