Month: September 2007

Rosslyn Chappel – Splendour on a Transylvanian scale

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Rosslyn Chapel is surely Britain’s most extraordinary building, with a richly carved stone interior of such barbaric splendour that, if you were shown pictures of it without any clue as to location, you might guess it to be somewhere completely alien – Moldavia, perhaps, or Transylvania. In fact, the chapel is located in the prosaic hinterland of Edinburgh’s bypass: to reach it you must run the gauntlet of car dealers, Ikea and other temples of modern consumerism, until you turn into the lane leading to the village of Roslin.

Whether spelt Roslin – as the village and its neighbouring glen are – or Rosslyn, as the chapel and ruined castle are, the name derives from the Celtic ross (promontory) and lynn (waterfall) that are such picturesque features of the glen; although those of New Age mystical bent hold that the chapel lies on the Rose Line, a major European ley line.

The chapel’s roof is currently shrouded by a canopy on scaffolding to allow its stones to dry out very gradually. Ironically, the building has suffered more from Ministry of Works “conservation” measures in the 1950s than from five-and-a-half centuries of Scottish weather. The stones were coated, inside and out, with an impermeable magnesium fluoride solution, thus trapping water containing salts and pollutants inside them. A walkway in the scaffolding allows visitors to look at the roof close up; and the shrouded exterior only adds to the visual impact of entering Rosslyn’s astonishing interior.

Scarcely a square foot of stone remains uncarved – and, doors apart, the entire building is of stone. I have never seen elsewhere a church roof without supporting timbers, but Rosslyn’s is of solid stone, barrel-vaulted and divided by ribs into five compartments, each decorated with carved flowers or stars. Another idiosyncratic feature is that although the choir is lined with Gothic arches, set apart from the medieval norm only by their curious carvings, the aisles to either side have horizontal transoms, as used in Babylon and Egypt before the arch was invented. In fact, these apparently structural crosspieces are merely decorative, masking conventional arches: clearly, an intentionally backward-looking style statement by the chapel’s 15th-century builder, the third and last St Clair Prince of Orkney.

Also more prosaically known as Sir William from his Scottish barony, St Clair was essentially buying his way into heaven – or rather, shortening his time in purgatory – by building a church, as many of his contemporaries among the Scottish nobility did when they began to feel death approaching.

Rosslyn Chapel, as it stands, is only a fraction of Sir William’s intended collegiate church, designed to be a secular foundation for the propagation of learning. The building was to have been cruciform, with a tower at its centre, and the existing chapel is merely its choir (with a baptistery added in 1880-81).


The foundation stone was laid in 1446 and work continued for 38 years until Sir William died, but by that time the choir was still unroofed and only the foundations for the nave had been laid. Sir William’s perfectionism made its completion in his lifetime unrealistic. His masons were handsomely paid (£40 a year for the master mason) and were given purpose-built houses (thus founding the village of Roslin), but in return they had to work from carpenters’ carvings, submitted for personal approval by Sir William, before work could begin on carving any of the chapel’s thousands of figures, bas-reliefs and motifs. The masons nonetheless managed to introduce one major mistake into the decoration of the south aisle: charity appears among the seven deadly sins on one architrave, while avarice is among the seven virtues on the other.

The bizarre nature of many of the carvings makes it worth peering closely to find every piece. However, you can hardly miss the green men, because there are 103 of them. It is not uncommon to find one green man in a medieval church, but according to Mike Harding’s book on the subject, Rosslyn Chapel is unique in having so many.

At Rosslyn Chapel, even the Judaeo-Christian imagery may seem strange to modern eyes: Moses, for example, sports a large pair of horns. This is attributed in the guide booklet to a mistranslation of the Hebrew queren, which “can mean either horn or ray of light”, but I am not sure that such a distinction is necessary – my Holman’s Bible Dictionary says simply that for the ancient Jews, the horn was an “emblem of power, honour or glory” (Michelangelo’s Moses in the Vatican is also, albeit more discreetly, horned). Other carvings to look out for include the Dance of Death, or Danse Macabre, pairing people of all degrees with their skeletons; and Lucifer, upside-down and heavily bound.

There is a hoary legend attached to Rosslyn’s most famous piece of carving, the apprentice pillar: when the master mason was confronted with the design, he felt the need to improve his knowledge of carving by travelling to Rome. While he was away, his apprentice dreamt that he had completed the carving himself, and on waking, set to work. The master mason arrived home to find the pillar completed, and was so inflamed with jealousy of his apprentice’s skill that he killed him with a mallet blow to the head. This tale strikes me as a classic reworking of an earlier legend: the murder, by a blow to the head, of the master mason in Solomon’s temple at Jerusalem.


The pillar’s swirling vines emanate from the mouths of eight dragons around its base – probably the eight dragons of Neifelheim, which supported Yggdrasil, the great tree binding heaven, earth and hell, in Nordic myth. There are also motifs associated with the Templars, and by extension (though this strikes me as anachronistic) with modern “speculative” freemasonry, which was founded in the early 18th century.

Most intriguing to me are the “Indian corn” (maize) motifs around one window in the south aisle. Maize is an American plant, unknown in 15th-century Britain, so is there truth in the story that Henry, first Prince of Orkney, sailed to Nova Scotia in 1398 with Antonio Zeno, the Venetian navigator, as claimed by Zeno’s great-great-great grandson in 1558? According to the younger Zeno’s book, Prince Henry and his comrades spent a winter with the Micmac Indians before setting sail again and being blown by storms to the Massachusetts shore.

A Micmac legend of the man-god Glooscap, who came from the east in a ship and taught them to fish with nets, is still current (present-day Micmac make pilgrimages to Rosslyn Chapel). There are two curious pieces of corroborating physical evidence to support it: a canon, identified as 14th-century Venetian, dredged up in 1849 from Louisburg harbour on Cape Breton island, Nova Scotia; and a rock carving at Westford, Massachusetts, accurately depicting a 14th-century armoured knight – whose shield device matches that of Prince Henry’s shipmate, Sir James Gunn of Clyth, who allegedly died there.

Rosslyn Chapel underwent centuries of neglect after its creator died; his son merely roofed over the chapel as it stood and buried his father within, but the stone structure survived even Cromwellian troops’ use of it as a stable.

The 18th-century vogue for “sublime” scenery, particularly when filled with romantic ruins, brought artists, poets and even royalty to visit Roslin Glen, its chapel and castle. The roll-call of visitors includes Dr Johnson, Wordsworth, Robert Burns, Turner and Queen Victoria. Rosslyn Chapel today remains the burial place of Sir William’s family, who became earls of Rosslyn in 1801, and the present (7th) earl created a charitable trust in 1996 to oversee and fund the ongoing restoration.

Rosslyn basics
Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Midlothian (0131 440 2159 Open: Monday-Saturday, 10am- 5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. Candlelit services: Sunday, 10.30am and 5pm. Refreshments; gift shop (Roslin Rambles leaflet is recommended for exploring Roslin Glen).

Adjacent to the chapel grounds is College Hill, originally built as an inn for visitors to the chapel and now a Landmark Trust property sleeping six, which makes a charming base for exploring the Lothians, Border country and Edinburgh. Three-night weekend breaks, midweek breaks and full-week bookings available (01628 825925,

By Anne Campbell Dixon in

Rothley Temple and the Chapel of the Knights Templar

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There is a vast amount of documentation about the Manor and Soke of Rothley and what follows is a fragment of history to show how Rothley Temple, or Rothley Preceptory, and its Chapel, all now part of the Rothley Court Hotel, features in our village history. Who were the Knights Templar and what is their connection with the St. John Ambulance Brigade that we know today?

An Order was started during the first Crusade in 1118 by nine French Knights called ‘Poor Knights’ as they depended on alms due to their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Their poverty is shown on their seals by two Knights riding one horse.

The aim of the Knights was to protect pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem and wage war against infidels in defence of the Cross. The King of Jerusalem, Baldwin ll, gave them the use of part of his palace and the abbot in the nearby convent gave them a piece of land near the gate of the Temple of Jerusalem and, from this, the Knights took the name of Templars. They wore a white mantle, with a red cross added in 1166. Their patroness was the Virgin Mary and the Head of their Order was termed the Grand Master.

The Templars soon became famous for their feats and the sons of the nobility joined their ranks. This gave them land and riches and they became known for their wealth, not poverty.

They first came to England around 1140 and established themselves in Holborn , London, at Old Temple. In 1185 they moved to Fleet Street where you can still visit the Temple Church, which survived the Great Fire of London, and Middle Temple Hall of the Inns of Court.

The Templars erected buildings known as preceptories on some of their estates and in 1231 one was built in Rothley when King Henry lll granted them the Manor and Soke of Rothley in that year. We still have a portion of their domestic buildings and Chapel as part of the Rothley Court Hotel in Westfield Lane. Henry lll thought highly of the Order of Templars and entrusted his body to them on his death although he was buried in Westminster Abbey.


Mr Nicholls, the County Historian, found this incomplete effigy in Rothley Churchyard in 1790 after it had been removed from inside the Church, which usually happens when space is needed for another monument. He arranged for this important piece of history to be replaced in the Church but it was not re-sited until 1829. However, when the Church was restored in 1876, it was again removed and placed in the crypt of the Chapel of the Knights Templars. (The crypt is the entrance hall to the Chapel, not an underground crypt.)

History repeated itself in 2004 when Brian Verity, the Archaeological Warden for Rothley, read the account of the effigy and decided to track it down. The moss-covered pieces were lying outside the Chapel as rockery stones and Brian spotted what appeared to be a flattish piece of stone with a crossed leg. It was indeed part of our Cross-legged Templar and other important pieces were then found nearby.

With the permission of the new manager of the Rothley Court Hotel the pieces were removed to Brian’s garage for cleaning and then restored to the Chapel where it now lies. It is hoped that it will soon be safely resting on a specially constructed plinth under the East Window. The leaden tablet affixed to the wall of the crypt details the return of the effigy to the Church in 1829.

When you are a wealthy Order it brings enemies and in 1307 Philip 1V of France issued orders for the arrest of all the Templars in France and, in 1308, Edward ll arrested all the English Templars. Proceedings were taken against the Templars and in 1312 the Pope entirely abolished the Order and transferred their possessions to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, known as the Hospitallers. The Order was not originally military as it was established in Italy by Amalfi merchants to give hospitality to pilgrims and their badge was a white cross worn on a black robe. Their kindness to the sick and wounded of the first Crusade made them very popular and they were endowed with estates. They were called the Knights of the Hospital, Hospitallers, or Knights of St. John from their patron saint. The Hospitallers had been established in England in 1100 and their Grand Commander in England took the possessions of the Templars in Rothley in 1313.


In 1351 the manorial rights of Old Dalby, Rothley and Heather were formed into a Commandery under a Commander, or Preceptor, who lived in Old Dalby and the Rothley Temple land was rented out for farming.

After expulsion from Palestine in 1291 the Knights of St. John retired to Cyprus. In 1309 they conquered the island of Rhodes but were driven out in 1522. They were then allowed to have their base in Malta and were commonly called the Knights of Malta instead of the Knights of Rhodes. They were driven out of Malta in 1798 by Napoleon and their Order was divided up into different nationalities, each called a Tongue. In 1814 at a meeting in Paris the dormant English Tongue was revived to continue as a voluntary institution. Their Charter had been re-granted by Mary Tudor in 1557 and never revoked and, in 1878, Queen Victoria granted a fresh Charter reviving the medieval Corporation of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in England. Today we know it as the St. John Ambulance Brigade.

The Knights of St. John held the Manor and Soke of Rothley from 1313 to 1540 when their possessions passed to the Crown. Humphrey Babington became the lessee in 1540 and his son, Thomas Babington, took over the remaining part of the lease on his father’s death in 1544. From 1565 to 1845 the Babington family were the Lords of the manor and Soke of Rothley and during this time the buildings were converted from the Temple, or Preceptory, to domestic use. How fortunate that the Babingtons retained the Chapel of the Knights Templar which we can see today although from old drawings we can trace some alterations.

Visitors are welcome to the Chapel of the Knights Templars adjoining the Rothley Court Hotel, Westfield Lane, Rothley, Leics. Please ask at the Reception.


13th Century Templar Chapel

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Two weeks ago I visited relatives in Melton Mowbray. My interest in European history is no secret to them. A surprise treat was lunch at Rothley Court Hotel and a pre-courtesy guided tour of the historic Mansion.

The most impressive element is the continuous recorded history beginning with a mention in the Doomsday Book of 1086, although originally a Roman villa existed on the site. I dwell on the Templar Chapel.

The Holy Order of the Knights Templar, founded in 1118 by Hugh de Payens, with the aim of protecting pilgrims visiting the Christian shrines of Jerusalem, began acquiring property in England.

The Order possessed a house in the City of Leicester and in 1203 was granted land at Rothley by John de Harecourt and the Manor House by Henry III in 1228. The Order built their chapel here, which today still stands as an annexe to the current Manor House.

Plan of the chapel and recorded notes on features of architectural and historical interest were amplified. A fine doorway, in the Early English style, now facing a new open space, is the entrance to the adjacent tower. The ground floor ceiling of the tower is vaulted with ribs supported on 4 corbels. The tower is thought to have been 3 stories in height indicating that the tower was built after the chapel.

The doorway into the chapel is in Early English style flanked by Templar paintings of an unknown artist. The building is lit by 7 windows on the west; north and south walls, all of similar design consisting of long narrow lancets with trefoil heads and splayed jambs surrounded by roll moulding and are the original work of the Templars.

The large east window is of a different design due to alterations in 15th century. The window contains beautiful heraldic stained glass relating to the Babington family.
In the S.E. corner of the chapel is an exceptional example of a rare feature – a double piscine, where the altar vessels were washed after the celebration of the Eucharist. Illegible, black, Gothic scripts exist on a section of wall plaster. No translation is available.

Year 1312 brought the suppression of Knights Templar and the property passed to Knights Hospitaller, the Knights of St. John in 1313. The dissolution of the monasteries in England in 1540 included Rothley Temple.

After periods of leasing the manor was purchased by the celebrated Babington family and the preceptory was converted into a country residence, keeping the chapel intact. Babingtons remained Lords of the Manor for almost 300 years. The motto (translated ‘Faith is All’) was reputedly said to Henry V on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 by Thomas Babington, a squire on the King’s personal staff. The Babington families were buried in the chapel.

In the 18th century, William Wilberforce drafted his ‘Treaty for the Abolition of Slavery’ whilst staying at the Court.

In 1893, Frederick Merttens purchased the Manor, the House and the Chapel and he restored the dilapidated house and chapel. He added the South and Kitchen wings and created a splendid Billiards Room together with the Lodge, Entrance Gate and Stables.

Subsequently ownership passed to Clive Wormleighton, a member of the modern Order who became Preceptor of Leicester in 1974. He converted the Manor House into a Hotel and Restaurant in 1960. The Hotel houses a beautiful tapestry in the reception area and two original stained glass windows, depicting knights can be seen at the main staircase. The Early English Style furnishings present a stately realm.

Once you cross the Hotel’s coat of arms of the celebrated Babington family, and sit at dining table, the feeling is that of an honorary guest in a regal dream.

By Carmelina Grech




The story of Rothley sewn into a tapestry in 1999 and displayed in the Parish Church.

The tapestry was completed in 1999 by members of the Bradgate Sewing Circle, with historical information by the late Rodney Offley.

Capital letters are used in this text to denote characters and features to be seen in the tapestry.

The green ground and the blue stream of the Tapestry reflects the Domesday name of Rothley RODOLEI, ‘a clearing in the woods by a stream.’

High status ROMANS settled in the area and the SAXON CROSS in the churchyard is evidence of continuing Christian British settlement after the Romans. The Domesday Book of 1086 records there being a priest in the village, part of a manor under the control of a Norman King. The NORMAN LADY worshipped in the original early NORMAN CHURCH , which retains the classic tub-shaped NORMAN FONT.

In 1231 the Manor of Rothley was given to the Templars, the military monastic order formed to safeguard the pilgrimage routes to Jerusalem.

The TEMPLAR KNIGHTS wore the red cross and had the emblem of the TWO KNIGHTS ON ONE HORSE to show their poverty.

The order built a Preceptory and Chapel as ROTHLEY TEMPLE, now known as the Rothley Court Hotel.

When the Pope supressed the Templars in the 14th century the Manor was given to the charge of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, the Hospitallers, whose EMBLEM features their beginning in the period of the Crusades.

The Hospitallers continued the development of the Manor and Soke of Rothley as an agricultural community which provided a rich source of income to support the work of the Order.


In 1405, the Vicar of Rothley, RICHARD KILHAM, was elected Prior of LEICESTER ABBEY and in 1520 notable Rothley citizen ROBERT VINCENT was the Ranger in charge of the DEER kept in the park at Bradgate.

In 1534 Rothley landowner WILLIAM KINGSTON was given the SEAL OF OFFICE as Constable of the TOWER OF LONDON during which period Henry VIII’s wife ANNE BOLEYN was beheaded. While at Leicester Abbey CARDINAL WOLSEY fell mortally ill and died in William Kingston’s arms. After the Manor of Rothley was confiscated by the King at the Reformation it was eventually purchased by THOMAS BABINGTON in 1565, son of Humphrey, last of the local Hospitaller Knights.

The Lords of the Manor exercised control of the use and transfer of land within the Manor and Soke and drew some income from the produce of the MILLSTONES in both the Wind and Water Mills. The first Village School was created out of TWO COTTAGES in Town Green Street by the philanthropy of BARTHOLEMEW HICKLING for FOURTEEN BOYS in 1683. He endowed the annual prize of a HOLY BIBLE for the child who best performed a reading from the Gospels.

Between each arch are featured the emblems of organisations associated with the Village. From left to right the Cross of the Hospitallers, the Mothers’ Union, Rothley School, Rolls Royce, who had a turbine blade factory where Whatton Oaks is now, the Scouts, the Women’s Institute, The Royal British Legion, Rothley Lions, the new Great Central Railway Company and the Bradgate Sewing Circle.

The Babington family held the Manor for almost 300 years until the death of Thomas Babington in 1837. Thomas went to St. John’s College, Cambridge, at the same time as WILLIAM WILBERFORCE who together later were to work very closely as members of Parliament in the campaign to halt the SLAVE TRADE and for the eventual emancipation of the slaves.

Indeed, the MP Thomas Babington operated as the unofficial parliamentary private secretary to Wilberforce for several years. In 1800 his nephew THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY was born at Rothley Temple, later to become Lord Macaulay, the man of letters and the author of the definitive ‘Whig’ History of England.

In the early Victorian period many Rothley people earned their living at home making hosiery as FRAMEWORK KNITTERS. Honoured on the WAR MEMORIAL on Cross Green are the Rothley men who lost their lives in the two world wars, the number of poppies commemorating each name engraved on the stone. Rothley’s development proceeded apace after ROTHLEY STATION was opened in 1901.

The view of OUR WORLD seen from manned space vehicles returning from the moon, the world we must look after for future generations, as shown by the CHILD AT THE COMPUTER, looking forward to the future with the new technology they will grow up with.


[More on the Templar Church tomorrow]

Most Popular Posts – August

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Dear readers,

We have had more visiors in August than June and July put together! Thanks! It shows the great interest from members of the Order and readers at large.

Just in the last 48 hours we have had visitors from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Holland, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malta, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Phillipines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, UK, United States (coast to coast), Uruguay and Venezuela!

Now, once again we publish the table of the most read posts during August. Be sure to check the ones you haven’t read yet and explore even further the resources we have now in our Blog. In the table you’ll find the present position of a post and the position it occupied last month in brackets. Hope you enjoy. Keep clicking!





1. (7) A Portrait of Faith

2. (-) Tomar – Last redoubt of the Knights Templar

3. (-) Knights in white sashes

4. (10) Ark of the Covenant

5. (-) Turks expel Cyprus abbot from historical monastery

6. (4) Templar Chronicles II – Alcobaça 1

7. (2) World Watch V – Cult of Combat

8. (-) FINDING MY RELIGION I – Tau Malachi

9. (-) Gloucestershire’s Ley Lines

10. (-) New Da Vinci theory


Español (Castellano)

1. (1) Hasta los nazis buscaron el Santo Grial

2. (2) Notre Dame y los alquimistas – Cuatro claves para recorrer Paris

3. (3) El Arca de la Alianza

4. (4) Midi-Pyrénées, trazas y trazos

5. (9) Sintra – Jugando con el tiempo

6. (5) El Templario en la Actualidad

7. (8) Ponferrada, ciudad de los Templarios

8. (10) Templarios en el camino

9. (6) El rastro de los templarios

10. (-) Los Templarios en Tierra Santa




1. (2) Des croisades au roi de fer

2. (1) Sur le chemin des Templiers

3. (4) La Loire de relais en châteaux

4. (3) Un ordre bâtisseur qui créa le compagn

5. (5) La croisade, premier choc des civilisations

6. (-) Le son des Templiers

7. (7) L’ordre du Temple, histoire et mythes

8. (6) Le point de vue des Arabes

9. (9) La chute du Temple

10. (8) Attention vendredi 13 !




1. (2) 1312: Dissolução da Ordem dos Templários

2. (1) Edição portuguesa divulga documento secreto

3. (10) Trancoso – Terra de Templários, Terra de Profecias

4. (5) A Paixão de Cristo em Malta

5. (-) Pisar a Estrela Que Dá Acesso ao Céu

6. (8) EUA: Alunos luso-americanos descobrem presença Portuguesa

7. (7) Sarcófagos encontrados em Jerusalém podem conter tumba de Jesus

8. (6) Malta guarda sepultura lendária

9. (4) Charola de Tomar vai ser recuperada

10. (-) Esqueletos Templários Enterrados no Jardim



10 Other Posts You Should Read (no particular order)

1. The Templar Castle of Almourol (Video) [Portuguese/English Subtitles]

2.Finding My Religion IV – Dustin Erwin on how and why he became a member of the Freemasons [English]

3. Stairways to heaven – Templars in Portugal [English]

4. Pisar a Estrela Que Dá Acesso ao Céu [Português]

5. A Minnesota Mystery: The Kensington Runestone[English]

6. Letters remain the holy grail to code-breakers [English]

7. Priory of England and Wales – Annual General Assembly in Llandudno, June 2007 [English]

8. Papal Diplomacy – God’s Ambassadors[English]

9. Rennessence Internet Radio Station Launched [English]

10. My Bedroom Window Over Jerusalem V – What I Fear About My Belief [English]

Templar Chronicles III – Alcobaça 2

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I’m Luis de Matos, Chancellor of the OSMTHU and Editor of the Templar Globe.


Last April I presented our readers with the account of one of my family outings to Alcobaça, a Cistercian Monastery closely connected with the Portuguese Templar heritage, and told you a little bit about this beautiful village and its medieval history. I finished the article by promising to write about the two royal tombs we can find in the church, reminding you that the story behind such noble residents is one of great significance and singularity. A story that deserves to be told. You can find those posts here: Templar Cronicles I; Templar Chronicles II – Alcobaça 1. If you haven’t read them yet, it is a good starting point for today’s post.

The story that deserves to be told involves the forbidden love of Prince Pedro I and Maid Inês de Castro. Prince Pedro I was born in 1320, while his grandfather King Dinis (the one who harboured fleeing Templars in the newly created Order of Christ) was still ruling Portugal. Pedro was born in the city of Coimbra, the first born son of the future King Afonso IV and Queen Beatriz of Castille.

King Dinis had been a man of intellect and culture. Poet and Troubadour, he married Isabel – later canonized as Saint Isabel for her Miracle of the Roses -, a Princess from the Languedoc who introduced the cult of the Holy Spirit in Portugal, still present in several forms in Tomar, Sintra and the Azores. King Dinis called all sorts of wise man and artists to the kingdom coming from all parts of Europe, including some from the Arab kingdom of Al-Aldaluz (today Cordoba and Granada). He founded the University of Coimbra in 1290 and sponsored sea explorations, medical research and other sciences while maintaining a good friendship with the heads of the two main chivalric Orders in Portugal, the Order of the Temple which enjoyed total freedom of movement in the country and owned extensive land along the Tagus river, and the Order of Aviz, that had been founded by the founder of Portugal, King Afonso Henriques, over 100 years earlier.

The drama of Pedro and Inês takes place during that hiatus of time (1314 to 1385) between the moment the Templars had been suppressed and were reforming in special places in Europe (of which Scotland is the better known example and Portugal the lesser explored mystery), and the moment both the Order of Christ and the Order of Aviz were ready to be called to a higher duty in 1385 when its Master and son of Pedro I became King John I of Portugal, starting the second Dynasty and marrying Filipa of Lancaster, whose offspring are still remembered as the great explorers of the seas under the white flag with RED cross of the Order of Christ, which had as a great luminary the unavoidable Prince Henry the Navigator (or Infante Henrique de Sagres). King John I, illegitimate son of King Pedro I, was placed under the care of the Order of Christ, under Master D. Nuno Freyre de Andrade after he was born, having later been raised to Master of the Order of Aviz before the crisis in succession catapulted him to kingship as John I. In fact, it was the same Peter I that re-established Tomar as the seat of the Order of Christ – as it had been the seat for the Templars in Portugal – transferring it from Castro Marim where it had been placed temporarily by King Dinis.


Cross of Aviz


I – From the Templars to the Order of Christ

1307 Templars arrested in France. Many escape to Scotland. Many escape to Portugal where they are protected by King Dinis

1309 All Templar possessions and knights in Portugal are declared under the personal protection of King Dinis.

1312 After the Council of Vienna, the Order is dissolved by the Pope

1314 Jacques de Molay is burned at the stake in Paris. Pope Clement V dies.

1314 / 16 Vacancy in St. Peters throne, with the Cardinals resisting to elect a successor to Clement V.

1316 Pope John XXII is finally elected, choosing Avignon as his seat.

1317 King Dinis applies near the newly elected Pope in Avignon for the recognition of the Order of Christ, formed with the former Templar Knights and owner of all Templar possessions in the realm of Portugal.

1319 The Order of Christ is approved by Pope John XXII. D. Gil Martins, Master of the Order of Aviz is the first Master of the Order of Christ and the new Order is put under the spiritual guidance of… the Cistercian Monastery of Alcobaça. The seat is Castro Marim.

II – Order of Christ and Order of Aviz time of preparation for taking power

1320 Prince Pedro I is born

1325 King Dinis dies. King Afonso IV comes to the throne.

1336 Prince Pedro marries Constança, forced by his father

1336/55 Pedro and Inês love story and tragedy.

1357 King Afonso IV dies. Pedro I becomes King of Portugal. John, illegitimate son of King Pedro I, is born and taken under the care of the Order of Christ. The Order of Christ returns to Tomar and takes the former Templar castle and convent as its seat. This concludes the passage from the Templars to the Order of Christ, both in temporal and spiritual terms. Its now time to strengthen the Order of Aviz.

1364 When D. Martin de Avelar, Master of Aviz, dies, D. Nuno Frey de Andrade, Master of the Order of Christ and tutor of the young illegitimate Prince John, travels to Chamusca to meet King Pedro and request from him that he appoints his own son Master of Aviz. So, by appointment of King Pedro I, and the intervention of the Master of the Order of Christ, Prince John (of only 7 years of age) is designated Master of the Order of Aviz. This act consummates the move to take power on the part of the survivals of the Templars. Prince John’s tutorship is still held by the Master of Christ until he becomes of age, although the education in arms was undertaken in Aviz.

1367 King Pedro I dies. His son D. Fernando comes to the throne.

1383 King Fernando dies, leaving no male heir to the throne. For two years Portugal is in turmoil as the menace of losing independence is imminent with the King of Castille plotting to acquire the throne by marriage. A growing wave of support claims that John, Master of Aviz, should become the new King. This movement is supported and encouraged by the Order of Christ.

1385 John, son of Peter I, Master of the Order of Aviz, becomes king by popular acclamation, supported by the majority of the Portuguese noble houses and foreign kings, such as Richard II from England. This inaugurated the Dynasty called of Aviz. Under the leadership of Nuno Álvares Pereira, with the Order of Aviz and the Order of Christ on each side, the Portuguese King John I, Master of Aviz, defeats a far stronger army sent by King John I of Castille in a deadly battle in Aljubarrota, just a few miles off Alcobaça. In effect the Order of Aviz takes the throne.

1387 Forging an even stronger relationship with England, King John I of Portugal marries Filipa of Lancaster, sister of the soon to be King Henry the IV of England.

Part III – The Outcome

1400’s Led by Henry the Navigator, first from Sagres and then from the Convent of Christ in Tomar, the Portuguese start the great era of Discoveries.

This has been a short account of the influence of the Order of Christ and the Order of Aviz during the preparatory post-Templar 14th century in Portugal.

Both orders, Templars / Aviz, were the true backbone of the nation in Medieval times. That work was reinforced, as we have seen, after the Templars gave way to the Order of Christ. The fact that John, long before he would be in a position to be acclaimed as king, was placed under the care of the Order of Christ and later appointed Master of Aviz, openly protected by the Master of Christ and by another Order of Aviz hero, Nuno Alvares Pereira, clearly shows the importance of both Orders in Portuguese historical events. The protection of both Orders given to the rise of a new dynasty, the Dynasty of Aviz with King John I, is in many ways similar to the protection given by the Templars at least after 1126 to the first dynasty, the Dynasty of Bourgogne with Afonso Henriques. Different players, but the same pattern altogether.


Nuno Alvares Pereira, companion of John I, with the Cross of the Order of Aviz

However, there are reasons to believe that deeper secrets are hidden under the political relevance of the Order of Aviz and the Order of Christ / Templars along Portuguese and hidden European history. In an article published in 1982 Portuguese researcher and author Olimpio Gonçalves, a leading authority on this subject, makes a few valuable points. Those who look deeper into history and look for the signs of what lies beneath – the reasons for the apparent reason – understand that the Soul of the Lusitan nation, later embodied in Portugal, is “tutored” – so to speak – by 3 Orders, of which the red cross of the Order of the Temple (reformed by King Dinis into Order of Christ, maintaining the distinctive red colour and initiatic mandate…) and the green cross of the Order of Aviz, form the two visible pillars that stand vigilant guard to the orb inside, so beautifully expressed in the national flag adopted in 1910.



To the latter observation of Olimpio, we add that the same colours are also associated with the Masonic degrees of Scottish Master of Saint Andrew (of the Scottish Rectified Rite – survival rite of the Strict Observance) and Scottish Knight of Saint Andrew (29th degree of the Scottish Rite of 33 degrees). The cross of Saint Andrew ( X ), patron of Scotland, is a particularly important symbol to meditate upon here, since in the Templar context it is indissolubly connected with the greek cross of Christ ( + ), both valuable keys to understand the octagon and the eight sided Templar buildings (Tomar, Segovia, London, Paris, etc. – Mosque of Omar) and the so called occult Orders (such as the Priory of Sion or whatever real Order could have existed instead, playing the real role supposed for this 20th century fabrication). In this context, studying the Scottish survival of the Temple – with Skye, Rosslyn and Henry Sinclair, and ignoring Portugal with Sintra, Tomar and Henry the Navigator, is to simply look at the reflex of a broader light. Both lines are complementary and one would not survive without the other. I hope to be able to elaborate a bit more on this later.


Apron and Jewel of Scottish Master of Saint Andrew (Rectified Rite)


Apron, Sash and Jewel of Scottish Knight of Saint Andrew, 29th degree AASR

The period between 1307 and 1385 is then characterized by preparatory work by the Order of Aviz and the Order of Christ which would both take centre stage in the political and scientific events that would follow soon. This preparatory work was undertaken in total discretion and very few documents prepare us for the flourishing years to come. The total eclipse of the Templar fleet and maps would give way to the Portuguese Discoveries, started early in the 1400’s, with vessels carrying the Cross of Christ to far away lands.


By 1307 Portugal – with extensive help of the Templars – had already a stable territory, most of which conquered to the Moors in the course of the Iberian Crusades. The south and west were nothing but a great opening to the vast and unknown Atlantic Ocean, full of legends and promises of hidden treasures. To the north it was divided from Galicia (a province of the Kingdom of Leon) by the Minho river and the border with the kings of Castille to the east was well defined since the times of the first Portuguese kings down to the south, where in the Algarve the fortress of Castro Marim (first seat of the Order of Christ) on the west bank of the Guadiana river, guarded the country from any foolish attempts that could have been made by the taifas (kingdoms) of the Moors of the Al-Andaluz. It would take the united Spanish kingdoms, under Isabel la Católica, almost 200 years more to conquer Granada in 1492 and close their side of the story as far as war with the Arabs was concerned.

Marriage between heirs to the throne of Aragon, Castille, Leon and Portugal were a common way to forge alliances and keep peace between Christian kings. However, there was always the danger that a king might die without male descent and another nation, by marriage, unite under a foreign country two territories. That had been the primary source of concern for the Portuguese crown since the early days. Falling under the crown of Castille would bring open war with the Moors again to a country that had been in relative peace for decades, in a favourable environment to see the flourishing of sciences, teaching, arts and commerce. Even Rome was far away on the horizon, many times neglecting this remote kingdom. The Portuguese kings had helped Castille in some battles against the Moors, especially when national borders might be at peril (Badajoz, Seville, Salado, etc.), but for the most part the time of the Reconquista was a thing from the past and smaller scale military warfare was only used in squabbles against neighbouring Christian Kingdoms. There were Arabs, Christians and Jews living side by side in the major Portuguese cities. Indeed some of the funding for the early Discoveries came from Jewish hands, showing how close the Order of Christ had come to that community. Unity with Castille would shake the Lusitan project from top to bottom and would throw a blanket of darkness and inquisitorial perusal into the practices, livelihood and teachings of a vast segment of the population. That “catastrophe” (interpreted by philosophers and poets as “catharsis”) only befell the nation centuries later, within a set of circumstances that are also of great interest for the students of Templar/Order of Christ history.


King Afonso IV

Amidst this prevailing fear, it was King Afonso IV’s primary concern to find a suitable bride for Prince Pedro I, future king. The choice fell on Princess D. Branca, granddaughter of King Sancho IV of Castille. However, by the age of 14 the Princess was very feeble and Prince Pedro absolutely refused to go ahead with this political marriage. His father then selected another suitable bride, D. Constança Manoel, daughter of one of the most noble lords of Castille, Leon and Aragon. However, Pedro rejected the bride as well, furious for not having been consulted on such a personal matter and not happy that she had already been rejected by King Alfonso XI of Castille before him. This choice wasn’t approved by Alfonso XI either. The intervention of the Master of the Order of Aviz was fundamental and, although Alfonso eventually accepted to have his former bride marry the Portuguese prince by means of a power of delegation, he held her prisoner in a tower in the city of Toro, preventing her from attending her own wedding. After a couple of years of active animosity, peace was finally signed in Seville and Constança travelled to join her husband in Coimbra. However Pedro was full of energy and passion for life, a great lover of hunting and not a very devoted husband. For a long time he didn’t pay attention to his duties as heir to the throne and led a life of pleasure, neglecting his wife that his heart never accepted.

One day his attention was captured by the fairest of the maids of his wife Constança. The ravishing beautiful Inês de Castro became the centre of his obsessive attention, causing scandal in the kingdom and severe misunderstandings with his father, King Afonso IV. It became such an important problem that Afonso IV was forced to retire Inês de Castro to a lonely and distant castle in the far away inaccessible lands of the Portuguese border. But if he thought that this would be enough to turn off his son’s love flame, he was in for a surprise. Pedro and Inês started to correspond with the help of intermediaries that would bring back and forth their love pledges and passionate writings. Pedro, like his grandfather King Dinis was a bit of a poet himself. It became a case of an impossible love. And the more impossible and distant, the more maddening and absorbing it got to restless Pedro. His duty to the nation – to have offspring – was being fulfilled with Constança, but his heart was fully united with Inês and the physical separation was unbearable.

In 1354 Constança died after having given birth to Prince Fernando (later to become King after his father, closing the Bourgogne Dynasty with his early death with no male heir). To great astonishment of the nation and repudiation of King Afonso IV, Pedro sees himself as a free man now and releases Inês from her exile, bringing her to openly live with him in an adulterous relationship, without marriage, establishing themselves first away from the agitated life of the court, but shortly after in the very city of Coimbra.


Pedro and Inês de Castro

The majority of Portuguese lords are not happy with the situation. Inês has two Spanish brothers that Pedro, to spite his enemies and his father, supports and advances politically. One of them even makes it as Constable of the Kingdom and Alcaide-Mor of Lisbon. As their love develops and the influence of the Spanish entourage of Inês grows, so their enemies become more and more suspicious and decide to warn King Afonso IV that the independence of the nation is at peril if nothing is done, since being followed in throne by his son Pedro, he could marry Inês, have offspring and then there would be little to prevent a full scale invasion from the Spanish kingdoms. To complicate matters even further, the Black Plague enters in Portugal and causes a wave of death of an unprecedented scale, causing famine and economical and political crisis. Many rush to condemn adulterous Inês as the cause of such misfortune and see the stubbornness of the Prince that didn’t want to lead the life of a heir to the throne with the nation’s best interests in mind, following instead his foolish passion, punished by Providence with the Plague.

Early in 1355 King Afonso IV is a divided man. He’s torn between reasons of state and his love as a father. Pedro declines all of his father’s suggestions of suitable brides to marry. Advisers of the King say that the reason might be that Pedro married Inês in secret. The only way out of the problem, they say, is to suppress Inês de Castro. His advisers eventually win and the King gives permission that the crime be carried out. Taking advantage of the fact that Pedro was an avid hunter, they prepare a trap to kill Inês while Pedro is away. It is said that the day Pedro was leaving for his hunting trip a great black dog leapt from amidst his dog pack and viciously run to attack Inês with fearful eyes of fire. The prince’s men were petrified and could not react, but Pedro, with one stroke of his sword decapitated the horrible dog whose blood stained fair Inês’s dress. Everyone became gloomy and the sense that grave things were close by was unmistakable. However Pedro decided to hold his departure no longer and bids a last goodbye to Inês.


Soon after Pedro leaves, King Afonso’s arrives with his men. Inês feels the danger and gathers her daughter and two sons and runs to the gardens. It’s in front of the Fonte das Lágrimas (Teardrop Fountain) that Inês pleads for the life of her children and says in her defence that her only sin is the undying love for Pedro. The King is inclined to use clemency, but three lords that were with him persuade the monarch that they should not back away from the mission. Shaken in his heart, Afonso spares the children, but allows for the lords to mercilessly behead Inês de Castro. To this day the Fountain spring is tainted in red.

Pedro was far away, hunting in the woods, in blissful ignorance of the tragedy.

Fernão Lopes, royal registrar, says about D. Pedro: “The hand of one that harms writes in sand, but the one who is harmed carves in marble and such was the case with D. Pedro.”

In Templar Chronicles IV – Alcobaça Part 3 we will finish the Pedro and Inês tragedy, we will understand why Pedro was known as “The Justice Bearer”, we will tell you about his relentless revenge and will look closely to their tombs since then in the Monastery of Alcobaça, face to face, each in one arm of the transept of the beautiful Cistercian church, so that when the Final Judgement comes and they are resurrected, each other will be the first person that each lover will see. To the end of the world…

To finalize for today, here is a chart detailing how the Order of the Temple survived as Order of Christ in Portugal under the protection of the Royal House and of the Order of Aviz, and how both Orders stood as two of the three secret pillars acting behind the courtains of history that lead to the Age of Discoveries with Prince Henry the Navigator, stepping in, in key moments.


Gonçalves, Olímpio, Revista Graal, Comunidade Portuguesa de Eubiose, 1982
Lopes, Fernão, “Chronica Delrey Dom Pedro deste nome o primeiro e dos Reys de Portugal o oytavo”, edição do Padre José Pereira Bayam, Lisboa 1735
Monteverde, Amilio Achiles, “Resumo da Historia de Portugal”, Lisboa 1844
Pina, Ruy de; “Chronica de Elrey Dom Afonso o Quarto”, Lisbon 1653

Text and Photos by Luís de Matos (c) 2007. Chart (c) Luis de Matos 2007