Wikipedia - The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, also known as the Order of Solomon's Temple, the Knights Templar or simply the Templars, were a Catholic military order recognized in 1139 by the papal bull Omne datum optimum. The order was founded in 1119 and was active until about 1312.
The order, which was among the wealthiest and most powerful, became a favored charity throughout Christendom and grew rapidly in membership and power. They were prominent in Christian finance. Templar knights, in their distinctive white mantles with a red cross, were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades. Non-combatant members of the order, who formed as much as 90% of the order's members, managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom, developing innovative financial techniques that were an early form of banking, building its own network of nearly 1,000 commanderies and fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land, and arguably forming the world's first multinational corporation.
The Templars were closely tied to the Crusades; when the Holy Land was lost, support for the order faded. Rumours about the Templars' secret initiation ceremony created distrust, and King Philip IV of France – deeply in debt to the order – took advantage of the situation to gain control over them. In 1307, he had many of the order's members in France arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and burned at the stake including the last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay. Pope Clement V disbanded the order in 1312 under pressure from King Philip.
The abrupt reduction in power of a significant group in European society gave rise to speculation, legend, and legacy through the ages.
Jacques de Molay (c. 1243 – 18 March 1314) was the 23rd and last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, leading the Order from 20 April 1298 until it was dissolved by order of Pope Clement V in 1312. Though little is known of his actual life and deeds except for his last years as Grand Master, he is one of the best known Templars.
Jacques de Molay's goal as Grand Master was to reform the Order, and adjust it to the situation in the Holy Land during the waning days of the Crusades. As European support for the Crusades had dwindled, other forces were at work which sought to disband the Order and claim the wealth of the Templars as their own. King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Templars, had Molay and many other French Templars arrested in 1307 and tortured into making false confessions. When Molay later retracted his confession, Philip had him burned upon a scaffold on an island in the River Seine in front of Notre Dame de Paris in March, 1314. The sudden end of both the centuries-old order of Templars and the dramatic execution of its last leader turned Molay into a legendary figure.