Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday the 13th

Friday the thirteenth is considered the unluckiest of days in many superstitions, unless you were born on Friday the thirteenth in which case it is your lucky day.

The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia or paraskevidekatriaphobia, a specialized form of triskaidekaphobia, a phobia (fear) of the number thirteen.

Some say that the arrest of Jaques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knights Templar, and 60 of his senior knights on Friday, October 13, 1307 by King Philip IV of France is the origin of this superstition. That day thousands of Templars were arrested and subsequently tortured. They then 'confessed' and were executed. From that day on, Friday the 13th was considered by followers of the Templars as an evil and unlucky day.

As the story goes .... King Philip IV of France was known as an uncommonly handsome man. He was called Philip le Bel, the Beautiful, an ironic epithet for a king of Gothic pitilessness. Because of the French king's constant financial problems, relations between Paris and Rome had degenerated into a ludicrous state.

King Philip IV had exhausted all the usual medieval methods for balancing the books. He had stolen property, arrested all the Jews, and devalued his currency. As a last resort, he tried to tax the church.

Pope Boniface VIII was a fat and dissolute pontiff. One contemporary described him as "nothing but eyes and tongue in a wholly putrefying body . . . a devil." Philip the Beautiful openly referred to him as, "Your Fatuity." But Boniface knew the rules of the game as well.

In retaliation for France's new fiscal arrangements, the pope issued a dictum forbidding the taxation of the clergy. So the Beautiful closed French borders to the exportation of gold bullion, cutting off Rome's trans-alpine money supply. To rub it in, he arrested the bishop of Pamiers and charged him with blasphemy, sorcery, and fornication.

In retaliation the pope issued a bull condemning the arrest and revoked some of the Beautiful's papal privileges. The Beautiful burned his copy of the bull in public. The pope delivered a stinging sermon filled with ominous warnings that the church was a creature with one head, not a monster with two. The Beautiful issued charges, in absentia, against the pope himself, alleging blasphemy, sorcery, and sodomy.

The pope excommunicated the Beautiful. He compared the French to dogs and hinted that they lacked souls. His nuncios leaked a rumor that the pontiff might well excommunicate the entire country.

The peasants were stirred by such threats and the Beautiful quickly grasped that revolution was a better future to them than excommunication. So he acted fast, dispatching an army to Anagni, where the pope was staying. He placed the eighty-six-year-old pontiff under house arrest.

The locals managed to save him, but a month later Boniface passed away. Some allege he succumbed to shock at the outrage; other sources say that he beat his head against a wall until he died.

After a pliable pope assumed office, the Beautiful returned to his economic problems. His wife died in 1305, and since he no longer would have to kiss a woman's lips, he applied for membership in the Knights Templar.

The permanent knights of the Paris Temple may have suspected that his intentions were less than pious and did something almost unspeakable: they blackballed the king.

The following year, the grand master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, returned to Europe from the Mediterranean in a show of luxury. He was accompanied by sixty knights and a baggage train of mules laden with gold and jewels. Around that time the Beautiful was more desperate than ever to solve his messy state finances: he tripled the price of everything in France overnight.

Open rebellion broke out in the streets. Rioters threatened to kill him. As a result Philip fled to the Parisian temple and begged the knights for protection. It was all very humiliating.

In the fall of 1307, the Beautiful arranged a state action impressive even in these days of data highways and rapid deployment teams.

On September 14 he mass-mailed a set of sealed orders to every bailiff, seneschal, deputy and officer in his kingdom. The functionaries were forbidden under penalty of death to open the papers before Thursday night, October 12. The following Friday morning, alert to their secret instructions, armies of officials slipped out of their barracks. By sundown nearly all the Knights Templar throughout France were in jails. One estimate puts the arrests at two thousand, another as high as five thousand. Only twenty escaped.

The initial charges were vague - "A bitter thing, a lamentable thing, a thing horrible to think of and terrible to hear, a detestable crime, an execrable evil, an abominable act, a repulsive disgrace, a thing almost inhuman, indeed alien to all humanity, has, thanks to the reports of several trustworthy persons, reached our ear, smiting us grievously and causing us to tremble with the utmost horror."

What followed was so foul, according to folklore, that Templar sympathizers cursed the day itself, condemning it as evil - Friday the thirteenth - whose reputation never recovered.



At 2:10 PM, Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

crossing fingers ,,so far so good! a great friday da 13th...Bwwwahhh!

At 2:12 PM, Blogger Brooke said...

Thanks for the history!

At 7:09 PM, Blogger nanc said...

i always try to run over a black cat while driving under a ladder on friday the thirteenth. i've never been very lucky at it...

At 4:24 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

My cousin Jack had the worst bad luck. It dogged him until the day he died--when he choked on a piece of grilled steak and died of cardiac arrest. But Jack always said, "My luck is so bad the rest of the year that Friday the 13th is my lucky day."


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