Jacques de Molay
JACQUES DE MOLAY
The last grand master of the templars; b. Molay (Haute-Saône), France, between 1243 and 1254; d. Paris, March 19, 1314. About 1265 he entered the order of Knights Templars at Beaune. Hardly anything is known about his life prior to his promotion to the rank of grand master in 1298. In 1307 he was called to France by clem ent v, who had decided to unite the Templars and the knights of malta under a common authority. Molay rejected this project, which he believed would be detrimental to the property and independence of his order. He obtained permission from Pope Clement V to conduct a study of the order's moral condition, but it is not known whether this study was made. It seems probable that Clement, by so acting, attempted to prevent King philip iv the Fair's resolve to arrest De Molay, to institute proceedings against the order, and to seize its wealth. The menace became real on Sept. 22, 1307, when Nogaret, an enemy of the Templars, was put in charge of the royal chancellery. Lulled into a false sense of security, Molay was arrested on Oct. 13, 1307. During the trial, presided over by William of Paris, the inquisitor and confessor of the king, the grand master pleaded guilty and, in his own name and that of his confreres, begged those present to obtain for him papal absolution and royal pardon. He soon retracted, however, and at a national council assembled in Tours (May 1308) the Templars were condemned and declared deserving of death. Despite a rather weak intervention by Pope Clement V, whom the king visited in Poitiers, the trial reopened in Paris, on Aug. 8, 1309. The case dragged on, and five years later, on March 19, 1314, a commission of cardinals delivered the sentence of life imprisonment. At this point, Jacques de Molay again retracted violently. That same evening, without further reference to the commission, the king had him burned as a relapsed heretic together with his codefendant, William of Charni, on a small island near the Île-dela-Cîté. A violent man of little culture and subtlety, Jacques de Molay was overcome by events in the ruthless struggle of the French crown against the Catholic Church. Present evidence leaves no doubt that he was innocent of the charges brought against him.
Bibliography: p. dugueyst, Essai sur J. de Molay (Paris 1906). p. violet, Les Interrogatoires de Molay (Paris 1909). a. trunz, Zur Geschichte des letzten Templermeisters (Freiburg 1920). w. schwarz, "Die Schuld des Jakob von Molay, des letzten Grossmeisters der Templer," Die Welt als Geschichte 17 (1957) 259–277. a. posch, Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche, 10 v. (Freiburg 1957–65) 5:843–844. g. bordonove, Les Templiers (Paris 1963).