black cats and Friday the 13thORIGINS

The fear of Friday the 13th has a long history, and black cats have always been associated with the day as a bad omen.  The superstition revolving around this day may have started in the Middle Ages and is of course associated with Christianity.  At Jesus’s last supper there were 13 apostles on the 12th day of Nisan, the day before his crucifixion on Good Friday (the 13th). Domenico Ghirlandaio’s representation of the Last Supper (1480), painted for Dominican Monks, who  as inquisition judges, played a large part in causing the deaths of many so called witches and their loving cats. The fresco, shows Christ and the apostles sitting on one side of a long banquet table. While Judas, separated from all that is good, sits opposite Christ on a three legged stool, perhaps representative of the trinity, a lone cat, symbolic of Judas’s treason and the influence of evil, intently watches to his right.


cat in Domenico Ghirlandaio Last Supper

The Last Supper
Domenico Ghirlandaio
Fresco, 1480
Monastery San Marco, Florence



Pope Gregory IX on June 13th, 1233, issued a papal bull, “Vox in Rama,” wherein the church proclaimed the cat a vessel of the Devil.

One of the five accusations against the Knights Templar, a religious and military order formed in the 12th century to guard and protect the Holy Land, was that they worshipped a black cat, which appeared during their ceremonies.  Consequently, St. Dominic and the Dominicans would declare the black cat the embodiment of Satan, and they would be at the forefront of the Inquisition.  From now on the church would use any association with cats as a tool to discredit those who threatened the power and control of the papacy by labeling them witches and/or heretics


Knights Templar, Black Cats and Friday the 13th


On Friday, October 13, 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrests of hundreds of Knights Templar.


The Devil Appears to St. Dominico of Calerueja Folio 313 Le Miroir Historical 1400-1410, cats in middle ages art

The Devil Appears to St. Dominic of Calerueja Folio 313, Le Miroir Historical 1400-1410
Le Miroir Historical


To this day black cats have been associated with the devil and Friday the 13th. Unfortunately, people still believe in these superstitions and black cats are the least likely to be adopted from rescue shelters.


black cat and Friday the 13th


Amazingly 17-21 million people are affected with parakevidekatriaphobia a fear of Friday the 13th, which makes it the most feared day in history. Those fearful of this day cancel airline flights, business meetings, and any other important activities. Statistics also indicate that there is an increase in accidents up to 52 percent on Friday the 13th. God forbid a black cat cross your path on this day.

But are people’s suspicions all wrong? Interestingly enough quite a few bad events have occurred on Friday the 13th. Are they just coincidental?

  • Nathan Bedford Forrest was born on July 13, 1821 first grand wizard of the KKK
  • Sam Patch, a daredevil, died jumping off Niagara Falls on November 13, 1829
  • German bombing of Buckingham Palace, September 13, 1940
  • Murder of Kitty Genovese in NYC, March 13, 1940
  • On July 13, 1951, the state of Kansas was flooded with over 25 inches of rain.
  • Bangladesh cyclone killed more than 300,000 people on November 13, 1970
  • Disappearance of Chilean Air Force plane in the Andes, October 13, 1972
  •  October 13, 1989, the US stock market had a mini crash
  • Murder of rapper Tupac Shakur, September 13, 1996
  • A 13-year-old boy in Suffolk, England, was struck by lightning. The lightning reportedly hit at 1:13, or 13:13 in military time on August 13, 2010
  • On September 13, 2011, while walking home from work Jennifer De Carlo ducked into an alleyway to avoid a black cat crossing her path only to come upon a rabid dog the cat was running away from.
  • Sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, January 13, 2012.
  • A film editor accidentally deleted the middle third of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on November 13, 2015.


Want to know more about the cat in literature, art and history? Then Revered and Reviled is the book for  you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats.

Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats







Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2019 Laura Vocelle


  1. Hi, Laura–I, for one, love black cats, and I had a queen that produced one all-black kitten in every litter. And the black cats were among the friendliest and snuggliest (is that a word?) cats I have ever owned. Yes, I have heard from rescue centers that the black felines are hard to adopt out.

    You are pretty rough on the Church (in Revered and Reviled, at least), but in ages when science was in its infancy, people were desperate to find causes for bad luck and calamities, so they often picked on an innocent bystander. Happened in Europe, Asia, Africa, and famously in Salem, Massachusetts (where the witches were all mercifully hanged, not burned).

  2. Michael Grant says


    I’d love it if you wrote a book about cats in the lives of saints or cats and saints.

  3. Michael Grant says

    For a start, there were 12 apostles at the Last Supper, not 13. St. Mathias was chosen after Pentecost to replace Judas who had killed himself. Many saints have kept cats. St. Philip Neri in Rome was well known for his love of cats.


  4. Quite a few bad events have occurred every single day in the annals of creation.

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