The Grand Master of the Knights Templar was the spiritual, political and military leader of the order. He ran the order from Jerusalem, then Acre, Cyprus and the final years from France.
Jacques de Molay was born in 1244 in Franche-Comte, a region within Burgundy, France and related to the Lords of Longwy. Around 1265/66 entered the Order of the Knights Templar at the Preceptory of Beune, according to his Chinon confession, and was received by Humbert de Pairaud.
In 1291 fought at the siege of Acre which fell to the Saracens, and some two years later was appointed Grand Master of the Order, taking up his new post in 1293.
De Molay pushed for recovery of the Holy Land, and to this end visited Rome, Paris and London in 1294, gathering support for a new Templar force. He sought an alliance with the Mongols and Arwad. He purchased six war galleons from Venice with invasion in mind and re-established a Christian foothold in Syria. However, his proposed operation was a failure.
In 1306 Jacques de Molay was summoned from Cyprus by Pope Clement V to meet with Fulk de Villaret, his opposite number in the Hospitallers, to discuss plans for a new Crusade and proposals to amalgamate the two orders. De Molay conceded that there were some advantages, but on the whole, it was a bad idea as such rivalry existed between the two orders. Fulk de Villaret Grand Master of the Hospitallers agreed with Jacques de Molay, that such a merger was doomed to failure.
The Grand Masters of Knight Templar and Hospitallers agreed a large force could be successful in re-establishing the Christian kingdom in the Holy Land.
Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knights Templar travelled next to Paris. For on the 12thOctober 1307 he acted as pallbearer to Queen Catherine of Valois funeral.
On the 13thOctober Jacques de Molay Grand Master of the Knights Templar along with 5,000 French Templars were arrested by order of King Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V, charged with blasphemous crimes and heresy. He underwent interrogation and torture by Royal agents of the crown in the Templars own dungeons in the Paris Temple.
Finally, he confessed on the 24thOctober to some accusations; spitting on the cross and denial of Christ. However, he would never confess to homosexual practices.
On the 25thOctober, Jacques de Molay had to make a public confession to the masters of the University of Paris, and urge his followers to do likewise.
Jacques de Molay, Raymbaud de Caron, Hugues de Pairaud, Geoffroi de Charney and Geoffroi de Gonneville were moved to Chinon Castle. It was here they confessed to three Cardinals sent by the Pope, who bestowed absolution upon them. All except Raymbaud de Caron returned to Paris to testify before the Papal Commission.
Within months, Jacques de Molay retracted his confession which had been obtained through torture. He was held in captivity before being brought before lawyers, theologians and the public on the 18thMarch 1314, to hear his sentence, one of never-ending imprisonment.
Jacques de Molay supported by Geoffroi de Charney stunned their prosecutors by making a passionate last-minute defence of the Order of the Knights Templar.
The rebellious Templars were flung back into jail to await their sentence. King Philip IV in a rage ordered that these two Templars be condemned to death, burnt at the stake as heretics before the day was out, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
According to the Chronicler; Giovanni Villani friars and holy men gathered up the ashes of these two Templar martyrs, and carried them away for burial in holy places.