Following the First Crusade in the Holy Land, the Order of the Knights Templar was formed by nine French knights with Hugh de Payens as its Grand Master.
The members of the Order, retained their warrior status, whilst adopting vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The aim of the knights was to protect pilgrims on route to Jerusalem. They wore a white mantle with a red cross.
In the year 1231, King Henry III of England was anxious, about what would happen to his body after death. London Templars, bankers to the English king, agreed to take care of this matter. The king granted the Templars with his own Manor of Rothley… The Templars established a Preceptory at Rothley, aimed at controlling their interests as Lords of the Manor. Rothley comprised of a hall, as its living quarters with an adjoining Chapel for devotions.
The beginning of the end of the Knights Templar came in 1291, with the loss of Acre, and their escape to the island of Cyprus.
The Order of the Knights Templar now had no role, whose only allegiance was to the Pope. Yet the King of France, saw them as a threat to his kingdom. In his eyes they had to be put down.
In 1307, King Philip IV of France, in defiance of the Pope issued orders for the arrest of all Templars in France, and in 1308 Edward II of England followed suit, arresting Templars on English soil, but under protest. Templars were charged and tried on dubious charges and their leader, the Knights Templar Grand Master; James de Molay was burnt at the stake, in the shadow of the Eiffel tower. The Pope abolished the Templar Order in 1312, transferring their possessions to the Knights of St.John of Jerusalem, also known as the Hospitallers. A non-military order, established in Italy by Amalfi merchants who gave hospitality to pilgrims, and they brandished a white cross on a black robe.
For their kindness to sick and wounded during the First Crusade to the Holy Land, many a warrior bestowed to them; estates. They were called the Knights of the Hospitallers, and had been established in England of 1100. In 1313, they took possession of Templars belongings including the Preceptory at Rothley.
In 1351 manorial rights of Old Dalby, Rothley and Heather formed a Commandery under a Commander or Preceptor, who lived in Old Dalby and Rothley Temple, which was also the home of and run by the Hospitallers.
In 1291 the Knights of St.John were expelled from Palestine, and retired to Cyprus. In 1309 they conquered Rhodes, and were driven out in 1522. They held a base in Malta, and took the name; Knights of Malta. In 1798 were driven out of Malta by Napoleon, and their Order was divided into different nationalities, called tongues. In Paris of 1814, the dormant English Tongue was revived. Their charter had been re-granted by Mary Tudor in 1557, in 1878 Queen Victoria granted them a new charter, bringing to them a new life; “Hospital of St.John of Jerusalem” in England. To-day we know it better as the “St. John’s Ambulance Brigade.”
The knights of St.John held the Manor and Rothley from 1313-1540, when there possessions were lost to the crown, during the “Dissolution of the Monasteries.” Humphrey Babington became lease holder in 1540, and in 1544 the lease passed to Thomas Babington. From 1565-1845 Babingtons were the Lords of the Manor of Rothley. It was during this time, much changed as alterations took place, turning the former temple – Preceptory into domestic use.
Images relating to Knights Temple Chapel:
Cross-Legged Templar effigy: In 1790 an effigy of a Templar was discovered in Rothley churchyard and re-sited within the church in 1829. During the Church’s restoration of 1876, was placed in the crypt of the Knights Templar Chapel, under a shroud with a red cross.
Rothley Font: A 17th century font, discovered in a farmhouse, was returned to the church during its restoration of 1895.
Roof Timbers: The roof timbers consist of 13th and 15th century beams, and divided into four bays.
Heraldic Shield: An heraldic shield on marble disc, believed to be part of a Jacobean Tomb can be found within Rothley Church.
Rear Entrance: Located near the rear entrance, one would find a Jacobean Reading desk.