Knights Hospitallers: The Maltese Cross

The Maltese Cross was officially adopted by the Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St.John in the year 1126.

It consists of eight points, which denote the eight obligations of the knights:

  • To live in truth.
  • Have faith.
  • Repent one’s sins.
  • Proof of humility.
  • Love justice.
  • Be merciful.
  • Sincere and whole-hearted.
  • Endure persecution.

Some years later, the eight points of the cross, came to represent national groupings, of the noblemen who were admitted into the brotherhood.

  • Auvergne
  • Provence
  • France
  • Aragon
  • Castille and Portugal
  • Italy
  • Baviere (Germany)
  • England, Scotland and Ireland

The current symbol of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta is the Maltese Cross.

Knights Templar: St.Mary the Virgin Church

St.Mary the Virgin Church – Nave – Welsh Newton

In the 13th century, the Church of St.Mary the Virgin, in Welsh Newton was built, consisting of a nave, chancel and tower, with the porch being added in the 14th century.

St.Mary the Virgin Church and Graveyard – Welsh Newton

St.Mary the Virgin was a Knights Templar Church up until 1312, and with the end of the order passed into the hands of the Knights Hospitaller.  In 1540 at the height of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, so ordered by King Henry VIII, the Knights Hospitaller saw their possessions seized, and never be returned.

One of the church’s greatest possessions has to be the 1320 Rood Screen, built from stone, displaying a decorated ball flower.  Her roof dates back to the 16th century, and much of its original roof remains to this day.

St.Mary the Virgin Church – Font

The churchyard covers two acres, surrounded by a fine stone wall, added in 1866.  The preaching cross, comes complete with medieval steps and stone sockets, complete with modern shaft.  To the west of the cross, lies the grave of Saint John Kemble.  Within the church and graveyard many Templar Knights and Hospitaller graves can be found.

The grave of the martyred Catholic priest can be found within the gravestones.  Despite harsh anti-Catholic laws, persecution depended upon sympathies of local landowners.  From 1622 a Jesuit College existed in the area, and worshippers at Dingestow observed sixty Catholics marching past on route to Mass.

In 1678 Titus Oates concocted lies that there was a Jesuit conspiracy to murder the king.  William Bedloe also laid out false information concerning Catholics living in the area.

One who suffered much from the prevailing hysteria was John Kemble, born a Catholic at St.Weonards, some five miles north of Welsh Newton, and studied for the priesthood at Douai English College.

Ordained in 1625, and served as a Catholic priest for more than fifty years, based at Pembridge Castle, gaining much respect from Protestant admirers.

In 1651, his nephew Richard Kemble saved the life of King Charles II at the ‘Battle of Worcester.’

In 1678 as anti-Catholic furore came to a head, John Kemble dismissed warnings that he could be prosecuted for his beliefs, he just declared to those listening, that he would be prepared to die for his Christ.  Father Kemble was staying at Pembridge Castle, when he was arrested on the 7th December 1678.

In 1679 he was sentenced to be hanged for being ordained and a practising Catholic priest, which was seen as an act of treason.  The eighty-year old Kemble was strapped backwards upon a horse, and taken to Newgate prison in London to answer.  Here he tried to gain his freedom, by disclosing Titus Oates plot to assassinate King Charles II.  Then forced to walk back to Hereford.

On the 22nd August 1679, the Catholic priest was dragged to Widemarsh Common, where he declared upon the scaffold, that he be prepared to die for his beliefs, and forgave his enemies.  First, he was executed upon the scaffold, before being drawn and quartered. 

John Kemble Cross and Grave

His body rests in St.Mary the Virgin graveyard in Welsh Newton.  One of his hands can be found at St.Francis Xavier Church in Hereford.

John Kemble was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929 and Canonized on the 25th October 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

Knights Templar: The Fall of Acre

Acre in Holy Land

Acre had long been the most important sea port, which was well fortified, built on a peninsula and protected by the sea, with walls dotted with twelve towers.

From 1191, was the headquarters of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller.  A strong medieval force of Teutonic Knights and Knights Templar were also located in the sea-port.

On the 28th May 1291, the Order of the Knights Templar, surrendered their fortified city of Acre to the Mamlukes, which had been under constant siege.

The loss of Acre was more than a defeat, for it had been captured by Richard the Lionheart on the 12th July 1191, and become home to Templars and Hospitallers.

Losing Acre marked the end of an era, they had lost their headquarters in the east, and the Templar Grand Master; Theobaud Gaudin in battle.  William de Beaujeu next elected Grand Master of the Knights Templar, from Sidon, the Templar Fortress some sixty miles north of Acre.

Beaujeu’s new Grand Master of the Order, left the island for Cyprus, and sought out assistance for his brethren.  As much as he tried, no help came, and on the 12th July, they were forced to abandon Acre and join fellow comrades on Cyprus.  On the 14th July, Christian forces left Acre by sea in the dead of night bound for Cyprus.

Pope Nicholas IV, with a heavy heart, heard of the Christian defeat at Acre, and sought a plan should be drawn up, to take back the Holy Land.  Sadly, before anything could be put in place, Pope Nicholas IV died.

Templar Survival

French Templar

By order of the Vatican, Templar Assets were passed to the Hospitalliers around 1312.

One wonders what happened to Templars who avoided capture and persecution.  Some were said to join the Knights of Malta.  Large numbers were said to have joined the “Order of the Holy Sepulchre under Vatican rule.  Others joined the “Order of the Teutonic Knights” and the “Franciscan Order.  Whilst others sought refuge in Scotland, offering their sword to Robert the Bruce, in his battle with the English to achieve Independence for Scotland.

King James II of Spain negotiated with the Pope and Vatican, that the Dynastic Order of Montesa be permitted to take over some of the Templar assets in 1317.

Portugal’s Knights Templar were found not guilty of their charges, and changed their name to the “Knights of Christ” and permitted to retain their assets.  Later they would merge with the Spanish Crown dynastic Order.

12th century Knights Templar of Portugal, played their part to create the Rosicrucian Order around 1407.  The Portuguese Templar Headquarters – Convent of the “Order of Christ,” features three artefact’s; a rose positioned central on a cross within an initiation room dated 1530.  This provides evidence that Templars joined the Rosicrucian’s.

From 1804 orders were initiated by Napoleon Bonaparte I, with zero links to the Templar Order. Archaeological inspiration was received from Egyptian expeditions with links to documents held in the Vatican’s Secret Archives.  Using military force, stole copy of the Chinon Parchment which would vindicate the “Order of the Knights Templar.”

Hereditary and cultural Templars independently continued to influence the development of Europe, evidence by Templar advancement in Switzerland and Scotland.  The Knights Templar had successfully survived as an underground network, for centuries and through to the present day.

Knights Templar: Templecombe

Templecombe

The village of Templecombe according to the Domesday Book consisted of two estates:

  • Abbas Combe Manor: The Benedictine Nunnery of Shaftesbury, founded in 888 AD by Alfred the Great, whose second daughter Ethelgeda was its Abbess.
  • Abbas Combe included the 12th century St.Mary’s Church, which extended northwards, along the north-south route through the parish. The Abbey at Shaftesbury was its parent house, the major convent in England at the time.  Temple Combe included the Templar preceptory buildings, laying along the same route.  By the 1830’s the two settlements were linked by buildings along the main road.
  • Temple Combe Manor: This estate was originally held by the Earl Leofwine then passed to Bishop Odo of Bayeux and confiscated in 1088.
  • In 1185 the manor was held by Serlo Fitz Odo, who passed it to the Knights Templar. In 1307 the Templar Order was suppressed, and the estate passed to the Crown.  Templar lands and property passed to the Knights Hospitaller in 1332, and retained by them until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
  • Following the “Dissolution of the Monasteries” ordered by King Henry VIII, the Manor passed to William Sherrington, and later purchased by Richard Duke around 1563. Much of the Templar Preceptory building was demolished, providing stone for a new Manor house.

The Preceptory served as an administrative centre for Templar lands in the south-western parts of England and Cornwall.  History tells us, that men and horses were trained in the area, before heading off on Crusades in the Holy Land.

In 1338, an inventory was taken of the Manor, showing it consisted of 368 acres, used for supporting cattle and sheep.

By 1700, it had become the seat of Sir William Wogan, who sold it to Peter Walter of Stalbridge Park, and in the early part of the 19th century passed to the Marquess of Anglesey.

In 1942, during the Second World War, the Templecombe railway line was bombed, and on that day thirteen people lost their lives, and others were injured.  The Parish Church, Congregational Church, two hotels and sixty houses were damaged.

Wikipedia Image