“The secret of the Holy Grail can be found in Royston Cave,” said Mr Houldcroft.
It is a bold claim – but the 83-year-old has looked after the cave for 17 years, so is entitled to know its secrets.
“People often ask me about the whereabouts of the Holy Grail and have many different ideas about what the Holy Grail is – be it an artefact or a cup or a bowl,” he said.
“But the Holy Grail is the bloodline of Jesus Christ and carvings in Royston Cave show that the Knights Templar believed in this secret heresy and offered prayers to Jesus’s offspring.”
Carvings on the cave wall depict two adult figures and a child which, according to Mr Houldcroft, most visitors assume to be Joseph, Mary and Jesus.
“Five years ago, I began to have suspicions about a carving depicting the holy family and after my suspicions were confirmed by other experts, I have kept it quite quiet – until now,” he said.
“It is a most significant set of carvings, indicating that users of the cave believed in the bloodline of Jesus that, then as now, was regarded as heretical,” Mr Houldcroft said.
“The notion that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child, Sarah, was a widely accepted legend in the Middle Ages and the Knights Templar were giving expression to a myth that they had heard about in Jerusalem about the bloodline of Jesus.
“The carving acknowledges and implies a prayer for the longevity of the bloodline of Jesus.”
The curator has written a manuscript detailing the exciting secret and is seeking a publisher.
“I have told a few people who have showed an interest in that area of the carvings about it, but I think it is about time people knew about the significance of the cave and the true meaning of this carving,” Mr Houldcroft said.
The curator said that the carving’s significance had been spotted by priests and scholars familiar with the heresy and the accompanying pagan symbols.
“Royston Cave features the only carving in the world to depict the bloodline of Jesus.
“It makes the cave even more important – it is unique in the world,” he said.
About the Royston Cave
The Royston cave is a small artificial cave in Royston in Hertfordshire, England. It was almost certainly used by the Knights Templar, who are also thought to have founded nearby Baldock. It is open to the public in the summer months.
Royston Cave is a circular, bell-shaped chamber 8 metres (26 feet) high and 5 metres (17 feet) in diameter with a circumferential octagonal podium. The origin of this chamber is unknown. This cave is unique in Britain – if not the world – for its numerous medieval carvings on the walls. They are mostly of pagan origin, but some of the figures are thought to be those of St. Catherine, St. Lawrence and St. Christopher.
It is speculated that it may have been used by the Knights Templar before their Proscription by Pope Clement V in the 1312. They held a weekly market at Royston between 1199 and 1254 and travelled there from their headquarters at Baldock, some 15 Kilometres to the southwest. They would have required a cool store for their produce and a chapel for their devotions, and a theory speculates that the cave was divided into two floors by a wooden floor. Two figures close together near the damaged section may be all that remains of a known Templar sign, two knights riding the same horse.
Although the origin of the cave is unknown, the story of the rediscovery is very well known. In August 1742 a workman dug a hole in the Butter Market in order to get decent footings for a new bench for the patrons and traders. He discovered a buried millstone and dug around the curious stone to get the object out of the way. So he found a shaft leading downwards into the chalk.
At the discovery the cavity was more than half-filled with earth. The rumour was, that there must be a treasure buried beneath the soil inside the cave. Several cartloads of soil were removed, until bedrock was reached. The soil was discarded as worthless, it did not contain anything more than a few old bones and fragments of pottery. This is rather unfortunate, as today’s archaeology could be able to solve some of the secrets of this place!
The location of the cave is also very interesting: Melbourn Street, once called Icknield Way or Via Icenia, was first used during the Iron Age, possibly 2000 years ago by an ancient tribe of Celts called the Iceni. The most famous Iceni was Queen Boudicca (died 60 AD). At a later date the Icknield way was Romanised by Caesar. It runs from near Falmouth towards East Anglia. – the modern day A505 between Royston and Baldock, follows the route of the Icknield way, until it meets the Royston Bypass.
Today the entrance is not by the original opening, but by a passage dug in 1790 and it is still possible to appreciate the sculptures which are almost as good today as when they were completed, possibly 800 years ago.
It is thought that the sculptures were originally coloured, but little trace of this is visible now. For the most part they represent scenes of religious significance, amongst them the Crucifixion and various saints. St Lawrence is depicted holding the grid iron on which he was martyred. A crowned figure holding a wheel is thought to be St Catherine and large figure with a staff and a child on his shoulder represents St Christopher. A figure with a drawn sword is thought to be St Michael or possibly St George. Another possibly religious symbol is the depiction of a naked woman known as a Sheela Na Gig. This figure is normally found on 11th-13th century churches so its inclusion with religious symbolism is not out of place.
The fact that these sculptures are of uncertain antiquity adds to their interest and offers visitors a chance to speculate on their origins. There are number holes, sometimes directly beneath the sculptures, which were thought to hold candles or lamps which would have illuminated the carvings.
Some theories suggest the cave may originally have been a Neolithic flint mine.
Drawings from Joseph Beldam’s book “The Origins and Use of the Royston Cave”, 1884.