Thursday, May 19, 2016

DeMolay Memorial in Paris, France


Recently I was asked by one of our DeMolay families how to find the DeMolay Memorial in Paris France, so they could visit it on their vacation this summer.  And once I did the research, Dad Berry thought it was a good read, and would make a good blog post, so, here ya go!

Far from authoritative, this is a combination of my recollections and a lot of help from Google Maps, Google Earth, and Google images.  Interestingly, neither Sam nor I had a camera on this excursion—not sure why—but I have no photos of our entire trip to England and France in 2000!  Pre-cellphone era, so, no selfies!

First of all, there is no Memorial Grave, or heroic statue erected to the memory of Jacques DeMolay.  He was, after all, considered to be a lapsed heretic by the Catholic Church for over 700 years.  Additionally, there is a story (apocryphal?) told by John Robinson in his history of the Knights Templar, called DUNGEON, FIRE AND SOWRD, that after the burning, the “ashes had taken on a mysterious, even sacred aura.  During the night people of Paris swam out to the island to put bits of cinders in the mouths, then swam back with the conviction that they were taking home holy relics.”  Unfortunately, Robinson only provided a bibliography with his works, and didn’t footnote citations of sources for these claims, hence my qualification of it as being of dubious origin. But the idea of creating a memorial to a “heretic” in the shadow of the great cathedral may not have been well received, but it was, ultimately, permitted.

Here is what you are looking for.  This is the plaque that was commemorated during the Order of DeMolay’s 50th Anniversary Pilgrimage to Paris in July of 1969. 

It is located on a support wall of the bridge called Pont Neuf, at the far end of Isle de la Cite, far from where the Cathedral of Notre Dame stands. Pont Neuf, which means “New Bridge” is actually the oldest standing bridge across the river Seine that cuts through the city of Paris.  Much more detail can be found in the Wikipedia article at

Not being a French language student, my command of the language is limited to some food items, so it opened my eyes when I understood the relationship between Crème Brulè, and the burning of Jacques DeMolay!

On the map below, it is at the upper left hand corner of the picture.  The Cathedral of Notre Dame is in the lower right.

The next picture is an aerial shot of that portion of the island, and on the bridge, to the left of the label “Pont Neuf” you will see a large square courtyard.   

In the center of the courtyard is a large equestrian statue of King Henri IV.

Google Maps errantly labels this as the “Memorial du Jacques DeMolay.”  It is close by, but this is a benign good reason why you can’t believe everything you read on the internet!

But, you have to find this statue of Henri IV to get where you want to go.

Here is a photo from behind the statue, taken from across the river.

Where you want to go is BEHIND and BELOW the horse.  Looking at the photo below, trace back from the statue to the edge of the courtyard, and then look down the wall that leads to the lower level where you can board the boats.  You will see two door-like openings in the wall… and in between them, about 10 feet above the steps, is a small bronze plaque commemorating the burning place of Jacques DeMolay—almost as far away from the cathedral as it could possibly be put! 

But how do you get down there? (It has been 16 years since I was there, and my memory of how I eventually found it is a little shady—it took Dad Williamson and I nearly an hour to find it, and I thought I knew where I was going!)  

In the photo below, look at the street lamp to the left, located at the back of the courtyard, behind the statue.  This is positioned at the top of a long flight of steps that leads to the lower level. 

The image below is taken from inside the steps leading to the lower level, and I it will bring you through one of those openings on either side of the plaque.

A word of caution: 

This is an OK place to go in the daytime, but it had a reputation for being a gathering place for some unsavory activities in the evening, regardless of how well-lighted the area seems to be.  I doubt much has changed in 16 years… best avoid it after dinner time, just to err on the side of caution.
You can clearly see the plaque in the center, below:

(Note: I apologize for the size of the next two photos, but, in order to see the detail, I felt that posting them at their original size would be helpful to you.)

The group picture that follows is of a DeMolay International Pilgrimage there in 1979.  Don't look for me-- I am not in the photo.  I had just gotten married, and although my wife has always supported DeMolay and my activity with it, she didn’t want to honeymoon with a bunch of DeMolay kids!  But I DO recognize a lot of people in the photo from around the country.  I didn't come to Pennsylvania until 1981, so I didn't know a lot of people back then.  I can only recognize one of our Pennsylvania brothers in it, but there may be others. (If you recognize anyone from Pennsylvania, please share that information!)

Lastly, at the bottom of this post I have included a scan of a page of the September 1969 CORDON magazine (a monthly magazine about DeMolay that was published consistently from the 1950s until the late 1970s.)  It includes a description of the dedication of the plaque and the events following, during the 50th Anniversary European Pilgrimage.

Edit: 12:11 AM, 5/25/2016

Upon reading this blog post, "Dad" Tom Moberly, (left) friend, mentor, co-worker at DeMolay Headquarters from 1979-1981, long-time DeMolay "full-timer" in Northern California, and inductee in the DeMolay International Hall of Fame, sent me a copy of the map he used, from National Geographic, to give people directions to the memorial plaque.  He noted that he was present at the dedication in 1969.  He wrote, "I was there with over 500 of my very close friends, standing in the rain before we headed to the l'Hotel de Ville (City Hall) for a reception (See invitation, below, if you can read French!) with lots of French pastries and real champagne!"

Tom related that he was also privileged to go back for the 700th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of DeMolay on March 18, 2014.  He remembers commenting that "I can still smell the smoke" and nobody reacted, as if they either didn't understand or didn't have a sense of humor.

For Katie, Jake and family... happy hunting!

    "Dad" Thomas R. Labagh
    Executive Officer

Post Script:
"The directions worked perfectly!"  (Jake found the plaque, and Katie sent this as proof.)

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