Knights Templar: St.Mary’s Church – Sompting

St.Mary’s Church of Sompting in West Sussex was originally of Saxon origin, and taken over and expanded by Templars.  The last remaining example of ‘Rhinish Helm’ style.  Some Saxon elements have survived, including high windows and stone plaster strips.  Here Saxon meets Norman forces, Templars meet Hospitaller’s.  Each holy order having its own surviving chapel.

The original church dates back to around 960 AD.  The church and land were given to the ‘Order of the Knights Templar in 1154.  The Templars commenced a building program; a new nave and chancel was built, using the original Saxon plan.  They added north and south transepts, which were separate from the main church, and they were designed to function as private chapels, for use by the order.

The south transept was built in 1180, and was built lower than the rest of the building, to accommodate a small chancel and sacristy.  Located on the west wall, one finds an arch of an original Norman window, and an abbot carving on the east wall.  It is believed the south door leading to this chapel was originally higher to admit banners.  The Norman font that stands in this church, stands on a modern-day pillar, and to the right one finds a piscina.

Knights Templar: Balantrodoch Preceptory

The Templars had a large number of estates in Scotland, and the 1185 inventory of Templar properties only applied to England, and the inventory which should have taken place after their arrest, never took place in Scotland.  In 1312, the Pope decreed the suppression of the Templars, but King Edward II locked in conflict with Scotland had no intention of enforcing it.

In 1153 King David I of Scotland (1124-1153), granted the knights Templar a parcel of land, to the south of Edinburgh.  Here upon this site, the Order of the Knights Templar established a Preceptory at, and so was born; Temple Church, Temple Mid-Lothian.  This Preceptory became the greatest centre of the Templars in Scotland, where upon they administered their Scottish sites, for the lifetime of the Order, across Scotland.

A gift from a Scottish King carried much weight, as others followed in his footsteps in granting them lands.

King Malcolm IV of Scotland (1153-1165) donated a complete homestead within every burgh throughout his kingdom of Scotland.

William the Lion (1165-1214) gave to the Knights Templar, the barony of Maryculter which comprised of 8,000 acres.

It is said Alexander I – II & III along with Robert I & II, James I – III & IV went on to increase Templar Estates from the Royal Exchequer.

Members of Scotland’s nobility, bestowed gifts upon the “Order” which included much lands.

With the Order of the Knights Templar suppressed in 1312, Templars were outlawed, and their lands and buildings were supposed to pass into Hospitalliers hands, whose Scottish seat was at Torphichen in West Lothian.  The Pope’s orders were seldom followed, as was the case here.

The old Templar Church continued to serve the people of the parish for many centuries, until it fell into ruin in the 19th century.

The ruined church is located to the west of the village, in the South Esk valley, which runs alongside the River Esk.  It is believed the church dates back to early 14th century, and still standing within, one can find late gothic tracery, with animal carvings at the end of the mouldings, located above the old windows.

The original church had a round nave, like many Templar churches, a look alike of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  The church roof has long since gone… with some walls still remaining.  The west end was the entrance to the church, with the altar at the east end.  Surprisingly the carved piscina had survived, with old niches carved into the walls, where once would have housed tombs, but these are long gone now. 

Gravestones in the old graveyard bearing the symbols of carved skull and crossbones, one associated with death and the Knights Templar.  Masonic symbols can be found; the trowel denotes the symbol of a builder.  An egg timer = the passing of time, plus the classic compass and set square.

Village Headstone: John Craig Outerston, a farmer who died in 1742 is shown wearing Sunday best clothes with his children.

A solitary preceptory arch stands in a field to the eastern part of the village, once the main entrance to a former   stands Templars Manor House.

One event which involved William a preceptor and Templar of Ballentrodoch and his wife Christiane of Esperston.

William gifted the family home to the Templar Order in return for renting the said property, thus creating a life without financial hardships.

William suddenly died, his wife Christiane was penniless, and now the family home belonged to the Templar Order.  Which led to a Templar preceptor casting poor Christiane and her children from the former family home.  As she clutched at the door, her fingers were cut off by a sword at the hands of a Templar.

A distraught and homeless Christiane went to Newbattle Abbey where Edward I was staying and pleaded her case to him, and he so ordered her property be returned to her.  Not long after, war broke out and she found herself evicted once again. Richard her son, pleaded her case to Brian de Jay of the Templar Order.  Her property was once again returned to her, in return for her son acting as a guide for Welsh troops under the command of Brian de Jay.  It was nothing more than a trap, for Richard was murdered by Welsh troops by order of Brian de Jay.

At the Templar Trials, Brian de Jay was accused of acts of heresy, even though he could not answer the charges, having been killed at the ‘Battle of Falkirk.’  One Thomas Tocci de Thoroldeby claimed he had referred to Christ as being a mere man, and not a God.

Local legends has it that some of the Templar Treasure from Paris made its way to Scotland, and was hidden by Templar Knights at Balantrodoch.

The saying goes: “Twixt the oak and the elm tree.  You will find buried the millions free.”

Wikipedia Images:
Balantrodoch Chapel
Preceptory Arch

In Search of the Knights Templar by Simon Brighton.

Knights Templar and the Scottish Sanctuary

Scotland had always been an important location for the Order of the Knights Templar.  The political landscape in Scotland at that time, made it a particularly suitable sanctuary, following the attack against the Templars by King Philip Of France and the Pope.

With the death of King Alexander III of Scotland in 1286, the ancient line of Celtic kings came to an abrupt end.  For there was no brother, sister or children, and his only heir was Margaret: The Maid of Norway, who died on route to Scotland, leaving Scotland with no King or Queen.

The land of Scotland lay in dispute by possible successors, each prepared to take up arms and fight for Scotland’s crown.  The infighting continued, until it was agreed to ask for help from King Edward I of England in choosing Scotland’s new king and ruler.

However, King Edward I had other ideas, he took advantage of the situation by lending support to John de Balliol, one of the contenders for the Scottish throne and kingdom.  In return Edward demanded of Balliol his support, thus he became a vassal of the English King and paid homage for his Scottish Kingdom.  The Scots were not fooled, and he was unpopular and gained the title “Toom Tabard.”  The translated version being “Empty Gown” for he had become the puppet of King Edward I.  Edward had no respect for Balliol, and often publicly humiliated him.

In 1296, John de Balliol refused King Edward’s call for Scottish warriors to fight side by side with English forces against France.  Edward responded the only way he knew, by marching on Berwick, deposing Balliol and exiled him to France.

So, it came to pass, King Edward I of England claimed direct rule over Scotland, without the spilling of any English blood.

Edward ordered that the “Stone of Scone,” a symbol of Scotland’s Independence, that which Scottish Kings were crowned upon was moved to Westminster Abbey.

In the May of 1297, William Wallace killed the Sheriff of Lanark, for the murder of his wife.  This was an affront to the English King; Edward I and punishment was demanded.

William Wallace received much support from rebel Scottish forces, leading to the Battle of Stirling Bridge on the 11th September 1297, where battle hardened English forces were defeated by the Scots.

Edward made peace with the French, leaving him free to sort out William Wallace, whom he defeated at the Battle of Linlithgow in 1298.  Wallace evaded capture and fled to France seeking military support from Edward’s old enemies.  King Philip the Fair, commended Wallace in his cause, in letters sent to Pope Clement V, and support came from the Moray family, they who were linked to Templars and Freemasons.  In 1303 Scots and English clashed at Roslin, which led to Scottish victory thanks to the Templar Knights led by a St.Clair.  William Wallace an outlaw against the English crown created hell for seven years before being betrayed by one of his own.  He was arrested, found guilty, hung, drawn and quartered in London of 1305.  Wallace’s body parts were hung in; Newcastle -On-Tyne, Berwick, Sterling and Perth.

Only two Scots had an undisputable claim upon the Scottish throne; Robert the Bruce the 8th Earl of Carrick and John Comyn.  Robert worked with Edward I, but it wasn’t long before John Comyn informed Edward, that Robert the Bruce was scheming against him.  News reached Robert, that his life was in danger, forcing him to take direct action.

With John Comyn a favourite of the Pope and Edward I, he rose the Battle Standard for the growing Celtic revival which existed in his own ranks.  It was a calculated gamble.  Comyn had been lured to Dumfries Franciscan church, and Robert attacked him on the altar steps and Robert refused aid to a dying man.  Edward and the Pope condemned such an act on holy ground, and Scottish patriots read it as a defiance of the English.  On the 10th February 1305 Robert the Bruce was excommunicated by the Pope.  In 1306 Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scotland by Countess Buchan at Scone.

King Edward I of England died in 1307 and succeeded by his weak and homosexual son Edward II and crowned on the 28th February 1308.  King Philip sprung his trap on the 13th October 1307, arresting Templars across France and seizing their treasures.  He had been foiled, much of the Templar treasure had disappeared, as a Templar fleet slipped anchor the previous night laden with treasures.

Part of the Templar fleet is said to have headed to Argyll and the Firth of Forth in Scotland, where they sought sanctuary.

In March of 1314, Jacques de Molay last Grand Master of the Knights Templar and Geoffrey de Charney were burned at the stake in Paris.

On the 6th November 1314, the Scots greatest victory over the English took place at the “Battle of Bannockburn.”  English forces were over powering the Scots until the intervention of warriors carrying the battle flag of the Templars, ensuring victory for the Scots, led by Sir William St.Clair, Grand Master of the Scottish Templars.

This great victory was the stepping stone to Scotland’s Independence.  For the next fourteen years the Scots fought the English, when in 1328 England formally recognised Scotland as a free nation… Scotland had gained their Independence, and much blood had been spilt.

These Templars who had fled France had been granted sanctuary in Scotland.  This land whose king, Robert the Bruce had been excommunicated by the Pope, had turned Scotland into pagan lands, thus any Christian ruler could mount a crusade against these heathens.  In 1317 Pope John XXII tried to impose a truce between the English and Scots, Robert the Bruce responded by capturing Berwick.  Papal Scottish relations reached an all-time low, when the English lied to the papal court, by claiming Scottish forces were attacking English forces.  In 1320, the Popes response was to send two papal legates to serve further notices of excommunication against Robert the Bruce.  On the 6th April 1320, the Declaration of Arbroath was published by Scottish Barons in reply to these charges.

Based on the words written in the Declaration of Arbroath, the senior Lords of Scotland were Templars.  They would act more like a president than a king.  One of the Templars who signed this document, was one Lord Henry St.Clair of Rosslyn.

An interesting thought, some hundred years before the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath, the Magna Carta was signed by King John under persuasion by a group of armed lords which included Templar Knights.  To this day, it be the only document of the English constitution that can be compared with the Bill of Rights of the United States, that which was inspired by the Masons.

In the October of 1328, Pope John XXII released Robert the Bruce from a ban of excommunication, and on the 3rd June 1329, aged fifty-five; Robert died.  Robert was succeeded by his son King David II aged five, and Lord Randolph of the Moray family was appointed as Regent until the boy came of age.  Before Robert the Bruce died, he had vowed to return to Jerusalem and fight the mighty Saracen, and as a mark of respect, his embalmed heart was taken by Sir William de St.Clair and Sir James Douglas on a final crusade to Jerusalem, they lost their lives on route at the Battle of Andalusia.  Bruce’s heart failed to reach the city of Jerusalem, and was returned for burial at Melrose Abbey.  Sir William de St.Clair was buried at Rosslyn.

Once Scotland was recognised as part of Christendom, the Templar’s chose to disappear from sight, becoming a member of the secret society, now that the Vatican had the power to prosecute its enemies.

A new secret Order of the Templars was created.  So it was, by the time Scotland had reached agreement to pay homage to the Pope, Templars of Scotland had become invisible.  Of course they still existed if you knew where to seek them out… one place being the St.Clair family.

Knights Templar: Saddlescombe Farm and Preceptory

Knights Templar: Saddlescombe Farm & Preceptory

The Order of the Knights Templar were originally founded with the express purpose of protecting Christian pilgrims on route to the Holy Land, following the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders.  A Christian Army in the employ of the Pope, doing God’s work.

Saddlescombe Farm, some four miles north-west of Brighton was given to the Templars in the 1220’s by Geoffrey de Say, the 5th Earl of Warenne.  William de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey added a grant of forty shillings rent from Lewes.  Around that time Simon le Counte gave them the churches of Southwick and Woodmancote along with its tithes.

The Order of the Templars turned it into a Preceptory, it was here where profits from farm and other Templar properties in the area would be collected and used for the knight’s adventures overseas.

The Order of the Knights Templar, were a religious order, and Saddlescombe Preceptory would have been run by monks, for no knights would have lived here at that time.

Alan Trenchmere granted them land in Shoreham, upon which the Templars built a chapel which passed to the Carmelite Friars of Shoreham.  One Theobald de Englescheville granted them the Manor of Compton in Berwick.  In return all that was asked of them was to provide a chaplain to celebrate the souls of their donor: King Henry III and Queen Eleanor.

The 1308 survey of the Templars Preceptory consisted of much property bestowed upon them by those believing in the Order, was passed to the Order of the Hospitallers.  The Earl of Surrey was granted permission to use land and buildings for himself and his illegitimate son Sir Thomas Nerford up until 1397, when Saddlescombe was restored to the Hospitallers.

Knights Templar: Denny Abbey

From the time of St. Augustine’s mission to England in AD597 to the reign of King Henry VIII, monasteries formed an important facet of both religious and secular life in England.  Monasteries were built to house communities of monks, canons and priests, living a common life of religious observance under a systematic form of discipline.  It is believed some seven hundred monasteries were founded in England.  They belonged to a wide variety of different religious orders, each with its own philosophy.  As a result, basic appearance and layout differ slightly, but they all possess the basic elements; church, accommodation and work buildings.

Monasteries were woven into the fabric of medieval society, acting as centres of worship, learning, charity, they also held large areas of land, immense wealth and political influence.  Many monasteries acted as the centre of a wide network which included; parish churches, alms houses, farming estates and tenant villages.

Some 225 religious houses belonged to the “Order of Saint Augustine.”  The Augustine’s were not monks, but communities of canons or priests, who lived under the rule of Saint Augustine.  From the 12th century they undertook work in parishes, running alms houses, schools and hospitals, whilst preaching in parish churches.  It was from the churches; they received the bulk of their income.

Denny Abbey is a monastic priory complex, home to three religious orders between the 12th and 16th centuries.  It is the only property in England which was transferred from Benedictine to Knights Templar.

Denny Abbey in Cambridgeshire:

As a knights fighting life came to a close, what would happen to him?  An English Knight, would retire from active service, returning home, to the land of his birth, and seek refuge in one of the “Order’s Hospitals.” He would swap the dusty heat of the Holy Land, for the biting winds of the Cambridgeshire Fens. 

Denny Abbey would carry on its monastic traditions, caring for the sick and elderly Knights Templar.

Excavation of the site, revealed Templar graves containing bodies riddled with degenerative diseases and arthritic conditions.  It is believed the repetitive training a knight had to endure was responsible.

A grave located outside the west-door had a pewter chalice and a round lead disc, bearing a geometric cross, denoting he be a Templar priest buried with his remains.

In 1159, Monks of the Benedictine Order, built the first church on this site, as a dependent priory of Ely Cathedral.  In 1170, they passed it across to the Order of the Knights Templar.  Denny was listed as the first building in Cambridgeshire.

Around this time, foundations were laid for a preceptory, ten miles to the south at Great Wilbraham.  Its duties were to provide Denny Abbey with fresh food, in return Denny paid forty shillings a year, for a priest.

When the Templar’s took over the church from the Benedictines, one of their first builds on the site, was a retirement home for the elderly knights.

With the end of the Order of the Knights Templar in 1308, came their arrest.  Few valuables were found in the 1308 inventory; silver chalices, bowls and silk cloths.

Less than a dozen knights were found at Denny Abbey, and one was found to be insane, two were crippled.  They were taken to Cambridge Castle, where they remained until the 30th September 1309, when they were passed over to the Constable of the Tower of London, except for William de Mawringges who had died in captivity.

William de la Forde, the preceptor of Denny, claimed he had been a Templar for some forty-two years, and witnessed as many as a hundred brothers admitted to the order. 

One of the members; Robert the Scot had been a member of the Knights Templar on two separate occasions.  First time was in Syria some twenty-six years earlier, around 1283 but left for some two years, before going to Rome for confession and absolution, and thus resumed Templar life at Nicosia in Cyprus.

The remaining Templars from Denny did penance at “All Hallows Church” close to the Tower of London, and were later returned to the Fens and admitted into local religious houses.

The Templar settlement at Great Wilbraham functioned as a hospital for the Order of the Knights Templar, with the Manor House being gifted to the Templars by Peter Malauney in 1226.

The church was dedicated to St. Nicholas and dates back to the 13th century.  Built by the Templars or developed from a pre-existing Saxon Church.

In 1313 following the suppression of the Knights Templar, it passed into the hands of the Hospitallers.  The site was later acquired by the Franciscans who established a nunnery upon the site.  They built a church, refectory, accommodation for nuns and guests.

The buildings were acquired by Mary de Valence, the Countess of Pembroke and founder of Pembroke College in Cambridge.  Under her direction the Order of the Franciscan Nuns, the Poor Clares from Waterbeach occupied the site until the Dissolution of the Monasteries, then Denny Abbey was turned into a farmhouse.

The grounds of Denny Abbey contain traces of outbuildings.  Under the lawn to the east, foundations of the original church lie, along with transepts and nave.

Normally Templar churches and chapels lie east to west, but in this case it is more north-east to west.

Knights Templar: Temple Church (Cornwall)

As one gazes across Cornwall’s Moors, an ancient land, a desolate land.  England’s Moors, remote outposts of the Templar’s, when the true wilderness still existed.  They made their mark here, though much of their presence has been erased by time, and knights lie in unmarked graves.

Temple Church its proper name is “Church of St. Catherine, built in a valley at the foothills of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall.  This tiny 12th century church, founded by the “Order of the Knights Templar.”  They who offered protection and hospitality to journeying pilgrims on route to Rome and onto the Holy Land.

Pilgrims journeyed from Wales and Ireland, taking the land crossing across Cornwall’s Moors, on route to the port of Fowey, and make their sea crossing to the continent.

Friday the 13th October 1307 was a bad date for the Templars, for King Philip IV of France and the then Pope Clement V ordered mass arrests of the Knights Templars in France and across Europe.  On the 11th May 1310, fifty-four Templars were burnt at the stake near Paris.  In March of 1314, Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Templar and Geoffrey de Charney were burnt at the stake in Paris.

With the Order of the Knights Templar disbanded and their wealth and property passed to the Knights Hospitallers also known as the Order of St. John.  In 16th century Tudor England, King Henry VIII disbanded all religious houses during the “Dissolution of the Monasteries.”

Temple Church gained a dark reputation in 16th century England, it became known as a place where weddings were performed, without banns being read or marriage licences being granted.  These illicit elopements came to an end in 1744 when Temple Church/Church of St. Catherine came under episcopal jurisdiction.

In 1584, the writer John Norden described it as a lawless church, one with no rules: Suicide victims could be buried on consecrated land, a practice which was not permitted elsewhere in England.  It was not until 1823 a statute was passed making it legal for suicide victims to be buried on consecrated ground.

Knights Templar: 12th Century Almourol Castle Legend…

Early in the 12th century, the Lord of Almorolan was an Arab emir.  The emir’s daughter fell in love with a Christian knight.  She began sneaking him into the castle each and every knight, so they could spend time together.

The knight was just using the girl, and he opened the castle gates, so his fellow knights could gain access, without spilling blood, and capture the Castle.

Almorolan, and his heart-broken daughter embraced each other, and threw themselves from the castle’s parapets into the river below.

Knights Templar: Castle of Almourol – Haunting

The Donna Beatriz Legend:

Donna Beatriz, daughter of Dom Romiro, a 9th/10th century Visigoth warrior.  It is said he killed a Moorish woman and her daughter over a cup of water.  He took an eleven-year-old boy prisoner.  Dom Ramiro had no idea who this young boy was; the son of the woman he had murdered.  The boy became page to Dom Ramiro at Almourol, where he lived with his wife and daughter.

The boy wanted revenge for the murder of his mother.  With revenge in his heart, he poisoned Dom Ramiro’s wife, and watched over her, until she was dead.

Dom Ramiro was off fighting, and his daughter Beatrix and his page fell in love, as revenge turned to desire.

However, Dom Ramiro returned, bringing with him a fellow knight, to whom he had promised Beatriz’s hand in marriage.

The Moorish boy told Beatriz of her father’s cruelty, and admitted his murder of her mother.  She was not fazed by the events, and the young couple vanished, destination unknown.

Dom Ramiro died of remorse… It is said, each and every year, on the day of St. John.  Beatriz and the Moorish page would appear on the castle keep, which rises above the river.  It is here, they will renew their curse, which will hang over the castle until Judgement Day!

Knights Templar: Castle of Almourol

The Castle of Amourol; situated on an island in the middle of River Tagus.  Together with the castles of Tomar – Zezere – and Cardiga they formed the so-called Tagus Line.  The defensive line of fortifications along the river, controlled by the Knights Templar.

Little remains of the original structure, which consisted of three levels, which has under gone many alterations over the centuries.

The castle adopted the innovative design of the time; the watchtowers and keep, appearing in the 12th century after the Castle of Tomar, principle defensive redoubt of the Templars of Portugal.  The high walls were protected by nine circular watchtowers.  They have irregular shapes, due to uneven terrain.  Inside stone gates connect to different castle parts.

It is believed the castle was built on the site of a primitive castro lusitamo, and conquered by Romans during the 1st century BC.  Exact construction dates unknown, yet Castle Almourol existed prior to the beginning of the Kingdom of Portugal.  Rebuilt by Alans, Visigoths and Moors.  The castle was seized from the Moors in 1129, by Portuguese forces.  Alfonso Henriques the 1st King of Portugal gifted it to Hualdim Pais, Master of the Templars, and reconstruction commenced in 1171.

The castle lost its role as the “Order of the Knights Templar” was dissolved, and it was abandoned and fell into ruins.

William Shakespeare: Freemason or Not?

William Shakespeare; considered by many to be one of England’s finest writers.

In Freemasonry, the number 3 is important, so is the letter T, which has three points, and the word for the number 3 begins with the letter T.   

William Shakespeare’s monument located in Westminster Abbey, emphasises the number 3.

  • Three line inscription at the top.
  • Three books in the middle.
  • Three heads at the bottom.

The inscription upon the monument was written by Alexander Pope (Poet) and an active Freemason at the time.