For most of the citizens that live in the Western world, the number 13 has been a portender of bad luck that should be studiously avoided. Haven’t you noticed that in many hotels of supposedly sophisticated cities, there is never a floor No. 13? Or a seat No.13 in a bus or train? Or a cafeteria bill that ends with it? It never happens.
Across many cultures the number 13 has been a sign of pending or actual bad luck. The striking similarity of the assignment of blame for bad deeds in so many cultures might be related to the fact that they used the solar-lunar calendar to mark the time. There are approximately 12.41 lunations per solar year, which results in 12 true months and a smaller 13th month—its odd, out-of-sync image marked it as “weird.”
A major social event of the Middle ages seared the memory of Friday the 13th in the collective memory of all the European civilizations we inherited in the Americas. Philip IV, king of France, was extremely envious of the generalized prestige and vast wealth of the Templar Order that had fought in the Crusades to liberate Jerusalem. Its Grand Master, Jacques de Morlay, had joined the ranks of the warrior priesthood in 1265 and had fought valiantly in the Syrian campaign. When Saladin retook the Holy City from the Christian armies in 1291, he moved with all his staff to Cyprus.
The King of France was desperate to secure fresh funding for his treasury, for which he engaged the help of the Pope Clement V to rob the Templars of their wealth. Jacques de Morlay was summoned to the Vatican to supposedly discuss a crusade with the Roman Curia, but it was a vile set-up to round up all the Templar top brass. On October 13, 1307 they were all arrested under the orders of the king and brutally tortured to extract a confession of fabricated debauchery and theft in their ranks. Based on a partial confession by the victimized Morlay, the Pope demanded that all Templar members should make a similar confession; they initially did to protect their leader, but they recanted it when the Pope emissary came to investigate personally.
The machinery to crush the order and steal their wealth was already unstoppable. In 1309 and 1310, Morlay appealed directly to the pope who blatantly ignored him. In March 1312, the church deconsecrated the Templar Order and two years later a papal commission of three cardinals “corroborated” the criminal charges against Morlay and his superior staff; that same day they were all burned at a stake in public. Some onlookers later said that before dying Morlay cursed the treacherous king and foretold that he would die without a male heir. That prediction did come true.
These series of events provoked great commotion in the continent, searing a date in their collective memories. The Templars were arrested on Friday the 13th, 1307. That date corresponded to the old Julian calendar that was widely used at the time. It had been proposed by the administration of Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. after extensive consultation with the Greek mathematicians and astrologers; it was progressively replaced by the Gregorian calendar, promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.
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