Other than a few unsuccessful raids on the Syrian and Egyptian coasts, after 1291, the Templar Order deteriorated into one of bankers and moneylenders. A series of verbal attacks was launched against all military orders, the Templars in particular, suggesting they no longer had a purpose for existence since they failed to take steps to regain the Holy Land. Nothing came of these attacks until a renegade Templar, Esquiu de Floyrian, made specific charges of blasphemy, idolatry and sodomy against the Order to Philip the Fair (Philip IV) of France.”
(for previous discussion on the origin of the Templar Order see: http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/the-knights-templar/
This was the beginning of the end for the Templars. On Friday the 13th (and this is the reason the day is said to be unlucky, or so I understand), Philip of France arrested all of the Knight Templars in Paris and confiscated all of their money. “King Philip’s audacious plan was to arrest every Templar in France, charge them with heresy, and exact immediate confessions from them by torture before Pope Clement V or anyone else could protest on their behalf. By making the charges religious in nature, Philip would be seen not as an avaricious thief, but as a noble servant of God.
Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knights Templar, had been called to Poitiers, France, for the purpose of discussing with the new pope a new crusade to retake the Holy Land. For almost two years, he shuttled back and forth between the pope and King Philip, essentially stamping out various diplomatic fires, such as the proposal to merge all the military orders.
In June 1307, de Molay rode into Paris at the head of a column of his knights, with a dozen horses laden with gold and silver, to begin the financing of the new Crusade. For the next several months, Philip treated the aging Grand Master with interest and diplomacy, and de Molay believed he and the Order were at a new turning point. He didn’t know how right he was.
The end began at dawn on Friday, October 13, 1307. The sealed order to Philip’s bailiffs had gone out a full month before. It was accompanied by a personal letter from the king, filled with lofty prose about how heart-rending it was to be compelled to do his duty, while detailing frightening accusations against the Templars. The letter would have had an eye-popping effect on the king’s men, and their secrecy was undoubtedly assured. The sealed arrest order was not to be opened until the appointed day.
At this time, France was the most populous nation of Europe, even including Russia. And it was no tiny country either; France took up more than 40,000 square miles, an enormous area to cover from the back of a horse. Yet Phillip IV managed to carry off a stunning piece of work. Hundreds of the king’s men simultaneously opened letters all over the country ordering them to converge on every Templar castle, commandery, preceptory, farm, vineyard, or mill.
It was shockingly effective, instantly chopping off the head of the Order. Philip obviously had a hit list of the most important knights to nab. Accounts differ wildly, but the most respected ones agree that 625 members of the Order were arrested in the first wave. These included the Grand Master; the Visitor-General; the Preceptors of Normandy, Cyprus, and Aquitaine; and the Templars’ Royal Treasurer.” http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/king-phillip-iv-pope-clement-v-and-the-fall-of-th0.html
For an extensive history see: http://blog.templarhistory.com/category/history/
For another map: http://www.templiers.org/commanderies.php