Some believe that this originates from the date that the Knights Templar were arrested and their assets seized under the orders of French King Phillip IV on Friday the 13th, 1307. The Knights Templar name was derived from their first headquarters established in Jerusalem as Temple of Solomon in 1120 in the captured Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount which was allegedly built upon the ruins of Solomon’s original temple.
The Knights Templar were formed to protect Christian Pilgrims on their journey to Jerusalem and started with nine knights including Godfrey de Saint-Omer and André de Montbard. Their emblem of two Knights riding a single horse represented their poverty compared to other rival Knightly Orders such as Hospitaller and Teutonic . They lived on donations from Christian nobleman and Kings and were granted special privileges by the Church. Quickly their Order grew in size and assets. The likely high point of their military crusades was the defeat of Saladin’s army of 26,000 at the Battle of Montgisard with a few thousand soldiers led by 500 Templar Knights with their fierce attacks in full armor mounted on horses in 1177.
Over the years, the Knight Templars influence grew far away from the battlefield with administration, castles and estates in France and England. They developed one of the first banking systems so that travelers could make a deposit at the local Templar and receive a coded letter that when delivered to another Templar site allowed them to receive funds less a donation. This allowed travelers to avoid being robbed of gold or other riches by bandits when traveling.
As leadership changed, so did the Knights fortune. The Knights Templar rode across a desert in full armor with no rest to reach the Battle of the Horns of Hattin in 1187 where they were defeated soundly by Saladin when Muslim forces recaptured Jerusalem. Their military influence waned to non-existent as their financial position rapidly grew. While the Knights took an oath of poverty, the wealth the Order controlled was vast.
King Phillip the IV persuaded the new Pope Clement who had moved the Catholic Curia to Avignon France and under Phillip’s influence to investigate alleged crimes of the order so as to avoid paying the huge debt he owed the Knights Templar from financing his war with England. The Knights were accused of Satanic and Pagan like rituals and Heresy.
And so, on the morning of Friday the 13th, 1307 began the destruction of the order with the arrests and torture of the Knights culminating with Grand Master Jaques de Molay and Geoffroi de Charney, Preceptor of Normandy, being burnt at the stake in Paris on March 18, 1314 after recanting their earlier confessions. Jaques de Molay allegedly screamed through the flames that “God knows who is wrong and has sinned and a calamity will occur to those who condemned us to death”. Pope Clement died within a month and King Phillip died of a hunting accident within a year.
The Great Fortune of the Knights Templar was never found and legends abound with most featuring escapes with Treasure by the surviving Knights to England, Scotland, and North America.