Famous Last Words
Jacques de Molay
March 18, 1314
“Let evil swiftly befall those who have wrongly condemned us – God will avenge us.”
Molay (sometimes spelt Molai) was the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar. His execution was the result of a long path between the King of France and the papacy, and the king’s attempt to avoid repaying his debts.
King Philip IV of France had had an unfavorable history with the Church, including attempting to place his authority higher than that of the Pope’s and taxing the clergy. With the former issue, Pope Boniface VIII had attempted to excommunicate the king. In retaliation, Philip had the Pope abducted and charged with heresy and, though he was ultimately rescued, the elderly Pope died of shock soon afterwards. Boniface’s successor Pope Benedict XI died a year later, possibly from poisoning at Philip’s order.
Philip had borrowed a great sum of money from the Templar, with no intention of repaying his debt. In 1307, Philip used rumors of immoral behavior within the Templar to have Molay and 60 other knights arrested. Under torture, Molay confessed to some of the blasphemy charges against him but steadfastly denied the charges of sodomy. The current pope, Pope Clement V, was said to have been swayed by the king. Though he listened to Molay’s side of the story, he was not absolved of his charges.
After being held prisoner and tortured for 7 years, Molay and 3 other knights were burned at the stake. Molay’s final words were said to be a curse directed at Pope Clement and King Philip. Both the pope and the king died within a year of Molay’s martyrdom.