On March 18, 1314, Jacques de Molay was burnt at the stake near this site on Ile de Cite in the middle of the Seine in Paris. Up to the moment of his untimely demise, he was the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, a powerful religious organization established during the Crusades.
The Knights Templar had amassed a great deal of wealth and influence and thus became targets of retribution, both by the ruling classes of France led by King Philip IV and the Catholic Church headed by Pope Clement V.
Trumped up charges of sodomy and blasphemy were brought against the religious order, and Molay and several other Knights were arrested and made to confess to these crimes. They were most likely tortured by Inquisitors hired by the pope. The French king himself had borrowed a great sum of money from the Knights Templar and saw this as an opportunity to confiscate the massive amount of wealth and land they possessed. Each man had a reason to find the incarcerated parties guilty, and thus the Knights were doomed to fail.
Continuing to protest his innocence even while on the smoldering pyre, Molay is said to have shouted out a curse on both the king and pope. He reputedly swore that neither men nor their descendants would live beyond one year and one day from this injustice. And, it is true that both Pope Clement V and King Philip IV died within a year of the execution, though it would take another 14 years to wipe out the lineage of the king.