1 Corinthians 1:10
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
We should start by going back to the Holy Scriptures. We should seek inspiration in the words that were written for our reconciliation. It’s true, many in the last twenty centuries have rendered these words empty as sea-shells washed away on a distant beach. No worth inside, no pearl or food. Shells that mirror the empty cavities of desolated hearts. But we owe it to ourselves to pick up the shell and bring it up to our ears. What was once empty, if we listen carefully and close our eyes, has the whole ocean inside: water, wind and foamy waves, millions of shiny scale fishes, an infinite number of living forms and signs of life and wonder, pearls and reefs, color, light and refraction. To the listening ear, no shell is empty, no heart is void. We should start then, by going back to the Scriptures and be sure to listen. And listen well.
Colossians 3:13-14Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Templar Unity is probably one of the most compelling objectives that has emerged in the Templar movement since the Internet and Social Media connected everyone in a single world-reaching network, regardless of country, obedience, templar branch or family. Everyone talks with everyone else and many start wondering why are there so many different groups, when so much is common, so much is shared.
A good friend and Brother, a few weeks ago, during one of our international events, gave me a quick peak of his mind: “What’s ‘ point? Uhu? What’s t’point?” he said in his eastern European broken English while he waved his hands in the air. “What’s point? Uhu?” Indeed, Naned, what is the point of it all? Why are we so many and so few? So noble, spiritual, altruist and utterly divided? So compassionate and merciful but driven apart by fraternal misunderstandings?
I want to write a little about Unity in Templar groups. The last few months have been full of hopeful news and unprecedented events that should transform the Order in the next couple of years. It’s important then to provide some context and help the readers of the Templar Globe understand the challenges ahead, given that many are members of one of the many branches of the Order.
Let me remind you that this article has a point of view: the one of Luis de Matos, myself, Member of the OSMTHU, Chancellor of the Magisterial Council of our branch, and dedicated knight for over 25 years.
THE TEMPLAR LEGACY
This recent movement towards Unity is restricted to one of the five major expressions of the modern Templar Order. I will address these as a whole, under the term “Templar Legacy”, that we can characterise as follows:
1 – Orders that are direct descendants of the Templar Order suspended in 1310
This is a very controversial subject, however there are very few with such a strong claim and impact in history as the Order of Christ in Portugal, whose Caravelas brought forth the Discoveries age in the 15th century. The Order of Christ was reformed and later extinguished in the 19th century and any attempt to follow their trail up to the 20th century is generally fruitless.
2 – Templar Strict Observance
The Order appeared in the 18th century (1753, Baron Von Hünd) and it can be traced as the first of the revivals, over 400 years after the original Templar Order had been suspended. As in all modern Templar Orders (except “1” above) there is no historical link to the original group. In 1778 the TSO became the inner Order of Freemasonry in Europe after the reform known as The Rectification of Wilhelmsbad, and all Templar ramifications within Freemasonry (including the Templar Degrees and Grand Encampments of the United States) derive from this line.
3 – Ordre du Temple de Fabré-Palaprat – Ordre Soverain et Militaire du Temple de Jerusalem (OSMTJ or OSMTH)
It has been one of the most successful revivals of the Templar Order, at one stage being recognized by Napoleon as one of the Orders of the Empire. In the early 19th century it sought the recognition of the Order of Christ (see “1” above), but with no success. It’s within this Order that the OSMTHU works. And it’s within it that Unity between the many groups is being discussed at the moment.
4 – Templar Orders founded after 1960
There is a large number of Orders that were founded within a movement that may be called of “New Age” or “Age of Aquarius”, mainly steaming from groups very close to the Ancient and Mystical Order of the Rosicross (AMORC) in France and the United States (Ordre Renouvé du Temple, Militia Crucifera Evangelica, Ordre des Veilleurs du Temple, Ordre Souverain du Temple Initiatique, etc.). They are very fragmented while not keeping any concept of provenance for the most part.
5 – Spontaneous Templar groups
There are many groups that use the Templar name, without any connection to any of the afore-mentioned groups or lines. They frequently appear from thin air, with a self-appointed leader, an imaginative concept of what “secrets” the Templars are supposed to have kept, varying from the inoffensive to the extreme (including some extreme right variations emerging in the last few years).
THE PALAPRAT FAMILY
The Fabré-Palaprat revival dates from early in the 19th century. As with all Templar related subjects, it’s very controversial and a long running discussions tends to debate weather or not the Larmenius Charter (please google it!) is a fake document and if Palaprat had legitimacy to claim the continuous line of Templar Grand Masters since the middle ages. We are not going to address that complex subject at the moment. For the OSMTHU, our position is simple, and we can summarize it in two statements:
1 – No, in 1800, apart from the Order of Christ, there were no surviving lines of Orders, heir to a Templar legacy, including Fabré-Palaprat’s. So, he had no claim to the Templar Order. Likewise, we are not the historical Templar Order.
2 – Yes, his Order is legitimate. He was well in his right to revive it. If you don’t think so, don’t bother me with your arguments, go and talk to Pierre de Coubertin and tell him the Olympic Games have to shut down because they are not legitimate. And the athletes used to compete naked, so it clearly is not the same!
UNITY? WERE WE APART?
Yes, the OSMTJ/OSMTH (the Palaprat revival) has been split for over 70 years. There are now four main branches of the Order. The original group survived until the 1940’s under the following leadership:
1804-1839 Bernard Fabre-Palaprat (Grand Master)
1839-1840 Sir William Smith (Grand Master)
1840-1850 Edward VII. d’Angleterre et George V. de Hanovre (Grand Master)
1850 Narcisse Valleray (Regent)
1866 A.G.M. Vernois (Regent)
1892 Joséphin Péladan (Regent)
1894 Secretariat International des Templiers
1934 Conseil de Regence – Joseph Vandenberg
1935 Theodore Covias (Regent)
1935-1945 Emile Isaac Vandenberg (Regent)
During the Second World War the communication between groups was difficult. International coordination had been sparse between 1850 and 1939, with Regents and Secretariats instead of a Master. By the start of the war, Priories were national entities, very much autonomous, working on their own with very little international reach. Fearing the impact of the war, Regent Vandenberg decided to place all important documents in the hands of a diplomat residing in Bruxelles, member of the Order, because Belgium was surely out of reach of German forces and an Embassy would be a safe place. As we now know, Bruxelles was not safe, so when the Diplomat had to return to his home country, he took all the documents to safety with him. That was Antonio de Sousa Fontes, from Porto, Portugal.
By the end of the war, Vandenberg requested the documents back to reorganize the ruling body, but he died in a car accident before his orders were followed through. That placed Antonio Sousa Fontes as custodian of the Regency documents, which he refused to surrender, appointing himself as Regent. That was not accepted by most of the Priories that had worked under Vandenberg in Europe and the Prior of Switzerland, Baron VonLupreccht, declared the autonomy of his Priory, in which he was followed by several others (including Scotland and England). This gave way to the Autonomous branch of the Order, also called IFA (international Federative Alliance) until 1999, today called OSMTHU.
That is our group. The one that has brought you The Templar Globe in the last 12 years.
Since the 1940’s the Priories have been working in autonomy, cooperating in many projects and subjects and growing as time went by. There were limited contacts with other groups (including Antonio Fontes OSMTH) because communication was sparse and mainly by letter. In the 1980’s the Priories created a Federation (IFA) to help improve cooperation and in the 1990’s the IFA helped the other branches reach their goals. Talks were held with the OSMTJ group and what would become the OSMTH (also sometimes called “the Atlantic Obedience”), in Tomar, Lisbon, Madrid, London, Salzburg, Turku among others. In Tomar the historic “Protocol of Tomar” was signed in 1996. Although Unity was not achieved at the time, the signers and their branches remained in close contact, cooperating in a non-official capacity for many years.
In 1999 the OSMTHU has elected Fr+ Fernando de Toro-Garland as Master, followed by Fr+ Antonio Paris. This is the list of Masters:
1945 – 1987 Autonomous Priories
1987 – 1999 International Federative Alliance
1999 Fernando de Toro-Garland (Master)
2004 Antonio Paris (Master)
2006 Luis de Matos (Interim Master)
2018 Antonio Paris (Master)
At this point, following the “Declaration of Arraiolos“, the OSMTHU is once again committed to unite the Templar world. The declaration was signed during the Pentecost of 2018, in the same exact day Fr+ Fernando Fontes passed away. We were not aware of that fact when we were preparing the Declaration. Being the head of the OSMTH – Regency, the death of Fr+ Fontes precipitated change (as we shall see ahead) and the desire of many groups that had split from his branch to start talking.
2) OSMTH – REGENCY
This is the second branch that originated from the Second World War situation. It is also referred to as OSMTH – Porto.
When Antonio Fontes decide to take up the Regency of the Order upon the death of Vandenberg, without significant opposition since VonLuprecht maintained the autonomy status that prevailed before the war (with other Priories), the Order de facto had two branches: the OSMTH Fontes with its seat at Porto and the Autonomous branch (that became the OSMTHU) with his main seat at Zurich.
The OSMTH – Regency proceeded, creating Priories and expanding the number of Templars that had no knowledge of the WW2 events. In 1960 Antonio Fontes died and his son, Fr+ Fernando Fontes, took over the branch of the Order and the titles of Regent and Grand Master. This created the problem that became the de facto running argument for the splits and crisis that overtook the OSMTH – Regency over the next 60 years: the fact that Fernando Fontes hadn’t been elected as Master and the way he run the Order as a personal asset inherited from his father. This was in stark contrast to how the Order was created or run up to that moment. In all fairness, all those accepted into the Order during that period seem to have had no problem with the setup when they requested to be knighted. It was only later, when their ambitions of status and degrees were eventually cut short by the Grand Master that complaints started to arise.
After the 60’s there was no connection between the OSMTH and the OSMTHU, having evolved in parallel without great awareness of each other’s work.
The Regency group had the following leaders:
1945-1960 Antonio Sousa Fontes (Regente)
1960-2018 Fernando Fontes (Regente e Grão Mestre)
2018 Susana Fontes (Regente) e Albino Neves (Grão Mestre)
By 1970 there was a growing opinion within the OSMTH that Fontes had to call elections. Some fringes wanted to replace him, but others just wanted to provide the legitimate act that would confirm his position not as an inheritance (that could be put into question), but as properly an elected Grand Master. Plans were put in place to hold the election in Tomar, but when the time came, Fernando Fontes refused to be subjected to an electoral procedure, saying that he was the Grand Master and no election could add anything to that fact. This would cause the first major split, that created the third large branch of the Order, as we will see.
Since the elections had been called and Fernando Fontes did not attend the meeting, a number of Priors decided to hold them anyway, creating the split that becomes the OSMTJ, based in Switzerland, led by Master Zdrowjewski. This is their line of Masters:
1970-1989 General Antoine Zdrowjewski
1989-1994 Georges Lamirand
1994-Today Dr. Nicolas Haimovici Hastier (Regent)
Currently the Order is headed by Fr+ Nicolas Haimovici Hastier (one of the signers of the “Protocol of Tomar”)
In the 90’s, history repeated itself. A large group of Priories, lead by the very serious and well organized American Priories, with a mostly military membership (that included the Secretary General of the Group, the then Col. Ronald Scott Mangun, later signer of the “Protocol of Tomar”), offered Fernando Fontes the opportunity to be elected as Grand Master in elections in which he would be the sole candidate. Initially he accepted, but as the time of the election came closer, he resisted the idea. During the meeting in Paris in 1995 the group became offended by the absence of the Grand Master to his own election and decide to declare autonomy. That’s when the new branch was formed.
4) OSMTH – (aka “Atlantic Obedience”)
Between 1995 and 1998 talks were held with the OSMTHU (AFI) and the OSMTJ. In 1998 the group was stable and took the step to elect its own Master, a former member of the OSMTHU as Prior of England.
1998 Sir Roy Redgrave (Master)
2005 James Carey (Master)
2009 Patrick Rea (Master)
2013 Robert Disney (Master)
2015 Patrick Rea (Master)
2018 [New Master] (Master)
These four branches of the original OSMTH of Fabré-Palaprat represent among them over 2/3 of all Palaprat related Priories in the world.
There are still many Priories and smaller organizations that work alone or in a close group that should be counted. A new Ordre du Temple claims to have re-established the Joanite Church of Palaprat, but the provenance is not verified, with many splits after a few short years of activity indicating leadership issues. Apart from the four main branches quoted, that show consistent work, many years of history and a clear provenance, there is still some work to be done with the fragmented branches that seem to appear and disappear every year with a short presence on the Internet followed by oblivion.
For the first time in over 70 years, the several groups have invited each other to visit and talk about “unity of mind and thought”. An international joint group with members of the largest groups is now being set up and will start talks in 2019. Even if Unity is still a step too far, convergence and cooperation seem to be on the horizon.
We tell everyone we are ecumenical. And we are. However we had the tendency of excluding other Templars. Most of us know members of all the branches, talk to them, have close friendships that have lasted for many years, but when we put our mantles on, we have been requested to turn our backs on them because they were “not templars” like us.
We are required to take care of the poor, the feeble and the needed, but we have been advised to neglect the brother and sister that identify as Templars because we are not on the same branch. That had to stop. The first steps have been taken. We expect to bring you interesting news in 2019!
During the Pentecost Celebration of 2018 of the Priory of Portugal of the OSMTHU. brothers from the OSMTH, Grand Prior of Portugal, Fr+ Antonio Andrade and his Chancellor Fr+ Fernando Castelo Branco, visit with Prior Fr+ Vinko Lisec from the OSMTHU. Prior Fr+ Luis de Matos and Master Antonio Paris were hosting.
Ceremony of OSMTH – Porto in Castelo de Vide, October 6, 2018; Three branches of the Order represented: OSMTH, OSMTHU, OSMTH – Regency (Porto)
Left to right: Fr+ António Andrade, Prior of Portugal of OSMTH (“Atlantic Obedience”); Fr+ Rui Herdadinha, Commander of Arraiolos of Priory of Portugal of OSMTHU; S+ Susana Sousa Fontes, Regent of the OSMTH – Porto; Nenad S. Davidovic, General Magistral Advisor in the Magnum Magisterium OSMTH Porto and the Great Prior of Serbia and of New Jerusalem
Ceremony of OSMTH – Porto in Castelo de Vide, October 6, 2018; Three branches of the Order represented: OSMTH, OSMTHU, OSMTH – Regency (Porto)
Ceremony of OSMTH – Regency Porto in Castelo de Vide, October 6, 2018
Left to Right: Unidentified, Fr+ Miguel da Fabiana, Priory of Portugal OSMTHU; Unidentified, Fr+ Luis de Matos, Prior and Chancellor of the OSMTHU Magisterial Council; S+ Susana Sousa Fontes, Regente OSMTH – Porto; Fr+ André Cardoso, Secretary General of OSMTH – Porto; F+ Luis Fonseca, Commander of Lisbon Chagas, OSMTHU; Prior of Toledo of OSMTH – Porto; Fr+ Victor Varela Martins, Commander of Lagos, OSMTHU; S+ Blanca, Prior of Galicia, OSMTH – Porto; Fr+João Pedro Silva, OSMTHU; S+ Susana Ferreira, OSMTHU; Fr+ Ricardo Salum, Head of Feytorias, OSMTHU; Fr+ Rui Herdadinha, Commander of Arraiolos, OSMTHU.
Ceremony of OSMTH in Torres Novas, October 27, 2018
OSMTHU delegation arrives in Torres Novas. Fr+ Victor Varela Martins, Commander of Lagos and S+ Sandra Oliveira
Ceremony of OSMTH in Torres Novas, October 27, 2018
OSMTHU delegation, left to right: Fr+ Victor Varela Martins, Commander of Lagos; Fr+ Luis de Matos, Grand Prior of Portugal and Chancellor of the Magisterial Council; S+ Sandra Oliveira; S+ Paula Mateus, Preceptor of Porto; Fr+ Paulo Valente, Commander of Sintra; S+ Susana Ferreira; Fr+ Rui Herdadinha, Commander of Arraiolos; Fr+ João Pedro Silva; Fr+ Luis Fonseca, Commander of Lisboa – Chagas and Fr+ Ricardo Salum, Head of Feytorias
Ceremony of OSMTH in Torres Novas, October 27, 2018
The delegation enjoying the day.
Ceremony of OSMTH in Torres Novas, October 27, 2018
Two Priors of Portugal (Fr+ Antonio Andrade OSMTH and Fr+ Luis de Matos OSMTHU) greeting just before the opening of the ceremony.
Ceremony of OSMTH in Torres Novas, October 27, 2018
Prior of Portugal OSMTH, under Master Fr+ Patrick Rea, Fr+ Antonio Andrade, opening the National Chapter in the Alcaidaria of the Templar Castle of Torres Novas. In attendance Fr+ André Cardoso, Secretary General of Master Albino Neves, and a large number of Knights and Dames of the OSMTH – Regency and Fr+ Luis de Matos, Chancellor of the Magisterial Council of the OSMTHU under Master Antonio Paris and his delegation of the Priory of Portugal.
Type “Holy Grail” into Google and … well, you probably don’t need me to finish that sentence. The sheer multiplicity of what any search engine throws up demonstrates that there is no clear consensus as to what the Grail is or was. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of people out there claiming to know its history, true meaning and even where to find it.
Modern authors, perhaps most (in)famously Dan Brown, offer new interpretations and, even when these are clearly and explicitly rooted in little more than imaginative fiction, they get picked up and bandied about as if a new scientific and irrefutable truth has been discovered. The Grail, though, will perhaps always eschew definition. But why?
The first known mention of a Grail (“un graal”) is made in a narrative spun by a 12th century writer of French romance, Chrétien de Troyes, who might reasonably be referred to as the Dan Brown of his day – though some scholars would argue that the quality of Chrétien’s writing far exceeds anything Brown has so far produced.
Chrétien’s Grail is mystical indeed – it is a dish, big and wide enough to take a salmon, that seems capable to delivering food and sustenance. To obtain the Grail requires asking a particular question at the Grail Castle. Unfortunately, the exact question (“Whom does the Grail serve?”) is only revealed after the Grail quester, the hapless Perceval, has missed the opportunity to ask it. It seems he is not quite ready, not quite mature enough, for the Grail.
But if this dish is the “first” Grail, then why do we now have so many possible Grails? Indeed, it is, at turns, depicted as the chalice of the Last Supper or of the Crucifixion or both, or as a stone containing the elixir of life, or even as the bloodline of Christ. And this list is hardly exhaustive. The reason most likely has to do with the fact that Chrétien appears to have died before completing his story, leaving the crucial questions as to what the Grail is and means tantalisingly unanswered. And it did not take long for others to try to answer them for him.
Robert de Boron, a poet writing within 20 or so years of Chrétien (circa 1190-1200), seems to have been the first to have associated the Grail with the cup of the Last Supper. In Robert’s prehistory of the object, Joseph of Arimathea took the Grail to the Crucifixion and used it to catch Christ’s blood. In the years that followed (1200-1230), anonymous writers of prose romances fixated upon the Last Supper’s Holy Chalice and made the Grail the subject of a quest by various knights of King Arthur’s court. In Germany, by contrast, the knight and poet Wolfram von Eschenbach reimagined the Grail as “Lapsit exillis” – an item more commonly referred to these days as the “Philosopher’s Stone”.
None of these is anything like Chrétien’s Grail, of course, so we can fairly ask: did medieval audiences have any more of a clue about the nature of the Holy Grail than we do today?
Publishing the Grail
My recent book delves into the medieval publishing history of the French romances that contain references to the Grail legend, asking questions about the narratives’ compilation into manuscript books. Sometimes, a given text will be bound alongside other types of texts, some of which seemingly have nothing to do with the Grail whatsoever. So, what sorts of texts do we find accompanying Grail narratives in medieval books? Can this tell us anything about what medieval audiences knew or understood of the Grail?
The picture is varied, but a broad chronological trend is possible to spot. Some of the few earliest manuscript books we still have see Grail narratives compiled alone, but a pattern quickly appears for including them into collected volumes. In these cases, Grail narratives can be found alongside historical, religious or other narrative (or fictional) texts. A picture emerges, therefore, of a Grail just as lacking in clear definition as that of today.
Perhaps the Grail served as a useful tool that could be deployed in all manner of contexts to help communicate the required message, whatever that message may have been. We still see this today, of course, such as when we use the phrase “The Holy Grail of…” to describe the practically unobtainable, but highly desirable prize in just about any area you can think of. There is even a guitar effect-pedal named “holy grail”.
Once the prose romances of the 13th century started to appear, though, the Grail took on a proper life of its own. Like a modern soap opera, these romances comprised vast reams of narrative threads, riddled with independent episodes and inconsistencies. They occupied entire books, often enormous and lavishly illustrated, and today these offer evidence that literature about the Grail evaded straightforward understanding and needed to be set apart – physically and figuratively. In other words, Grail literature had a distinctive quality – it was, as we might call it today, a genre in its own right.
In the absence of clear definition, it is human nature to impose meaning. This is what happens with the Grail today and, according to the evidence of medieval book compilation, it is almost certainly what happened in the Middle Ages, too. Just as modern guitarists use their “holy grail” to experiment with all kinds of sounds, so medieval writers and publishers of romance used the Grail as an adaptable and creative instrument for conveying a particular message to their audience, the nature of which could be very different from one book to the next.
Whether the audience always understood that message, of course, is another matter entirely.
in theconversation.com by Leah Tether
The Bible offers a pretty comprehensive answer to the question ‘WWJD?’: what would Jesus do? But, as Christians observe Easter and the Last Supper another question arises: what would jesus drink?
To answer this question, the location and timing of the final meal that Jesus had with his disciples before he was crucified is key. And three of four of the accounts of Jesus’ life in the Bible – known as the Gospels – suggest that it took place on the last Thursday celebration of Passover in around AD 30, Father Daniel Kendall, Professor of Theology and Scripture at the University of San Francisco told wine app Vivino.
“Unlike John the Baptist, Jesus drank wine,” explains Father Kendall, adding: “From the descriptions it was most likely a Seder meal. Since it was and is the most important of Jewish feasts, wine would have been part of the festivities.”
While grape varieties may not have been named and identified as they are now, wine had been made in this part of the Middle East since around 4000 BC.
Archaeological evidence suggests that around the time of the last supper, rich, concentrated wines were popular, says Dr Patrick McGovern, Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and director of Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia.
In Judah more specifically – near Jerusalem where the Last Supper is said to have taken place – archaeologists have found a jar inscribed with: “wine made from black raisins”. This means that winemakers may have used grapes dried on the vine or in the sun on mats to create sweet, thick drinks. At sites nearby in the region, jars labelled “smoked wine” and “very dark wine” have also been found.
While it was common to water down wine at the time, there was a taste in Jerusalem for rich, concentrated wine, according to Dr McGovern.
Spices and fruits – including pomegranates, mandrakes, saffron and cinnamon – were used to flavour such wines, and tree resin were added to help preserve them. So, the wine drank at the Last Supper, then, might resemble the mulled wine some of us drink at Christmas.
Today, comparable bottles would include Amarone, which is made in Northern Italy with grapes dried on straw mats.
While it’s unclear exactly which wine Jesus drank at the last supper, Dr McGovern jokes: “If someone can find me the Holy Grail and send it to my lab, we could analyse it and tell you.”
in The Independent
The planning was meticulous. Signed and sealed, laden with accusation and instruction, the letters were sent by the king to local authorities throughout his realm. They were to act exactly one month later, simultaneously and at the crack of dawn — on a Friday the 13th, as it happened. The targets were unaware of what lay in store, their leader even spending time with the king and seeming to enjoy his favor. The hour came, and armed men launched their surprise, summarily carrying off hundreds to the king’s dungeons, and many ultimately to their deaths. It was a performance reminiscent of a Stalinist purge or Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives.
The year was 1307, and the month was October. The king was Philip IV of France. And his victims were all members of the order of “the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Jerusalem,” better known as the Knights Templar — or simply the Templars. Over a period of two centuries, this charitable and military order of Crusaders had grown in power and wealth. At a stroke, and with the acquiescence of a weakened pope, Philip destroyed the order, imprisoning its leaders and burning many at the stake. “God will avenge our death,” said James of Molay, the last Grand Master, as he faced the flames on an island in the Seine.
And, in a way, God has. The Templars live on in popular culture — from the video game “Assassin’s Creed” to Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” Philip IV does not.
Dan Jones, the author of well-regarded histories of the Plantagenets and the Wars of the Roses, obviously gives no credence to the conspiratorial fantasies that have been spun around the Templars over the years. No, they do not guard the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail, and never did. No, a surviving remnant does not protect the identities of the descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdelene. No, the order does not secretly run the world — that’s the Trilateral Commission or maybe Skull and Bones. In “The Templars,” Jones relegates this curious afterlife to an epilogue. His aim is to present a gripping historical narrative, and in this he succeeds.
The raw material is rich. Founded by a French knight in 1119, after the successful First Crusade, the Templars began with a mission to protect throngs of pilgrims now traveling to the Holy Land. The members of the order wore white robes with a distinctive red cross, embraced personal poverty and lived according to a regime codified by the great Cistercian abbot Bernard of Clairvaux. A papal charter was followed by a papal decree granting the Templars an exemption from taxes and local laws, effectively creating a transnational entity whose members could go anywhere. As Jones describes it, the order comes across as a combination of Blackwater, Goldman Sachs, Kroll International, FedEx, Fort Knox, Bechtel and, well, the Red Cross.
The financial acumen of the Templars was considerable. In the post-“Da Vinci Code” era, visitors to London often make their way to the Temple Church, between Fleet Street and the Thames, built in the mid-12th century. The circular nave — typical of Templar churches — is the oldest part of the structure and was used as a repository by English nobles and by the Crown itself. “By the 1240s,” Jones writes, “the order was providing diverse financial services to some of the richest and most powerful figures across Christendom.” The Templars “guaranteed debts, ransomed hostages and prisoners of war on credit, and could arrange very large loans — such as the one made in 1240 to Baldwin II, the emperor of Constantinople, and secured by his very own fragment of the True Cross.”
The order’s military record was mixed. In 1187, an army of Templars and others, under King Guy of Jerusalem, was surrounded and slaughtered by the sultan Saladin in his successful campaign to restore Palestine to the Muslim fold. Saladin had played his hand skillfully: stopping up wells even as he enticed the Christians farther into the searing flats; pausing long enough to allow dehydration to take its toll; then moving in for the kill. Some 200 Templars were captured, and Saladin beheaded them all.
That was an unhappy episode, but the Templars had another century of influential life in front of them, until that Friday the 13th in 1307. Philip IV was pious, paranoid, unscrupulous and mercurial — and deeply in debt to the Templars. It was all too easy to manufacture charges of heresy, blasphemy and sexual depravity: urinating on the cross, having sex on the altar — the usual allegations. The power and secretiveness of the Templars only fueled the charges. The decisive blow was struck in France, but within a few years the Templars were extinct throughout Christendom, except in the popular imagination.
“The themes of the Templar story resonate powerfully today,” Jones observes. He rightly does not pontificate about this and draws no specious parallels, but the reader can’t help recognizing familiar territory. There is the preoccupation in the West with what we now call the Middle East. Religions collide and atrocities abound. Cries of “Allahu akhbar” pierce the din of battle. The power of states is threatened, or seen to be threatened, by unaccountable forces with global tentacles. Information is unreliable and easily manipulated, allowing conspiracy theories to take root and spread.
Nothing is left of the Templars except words on parchment and ruins in stone. An older crusading order with certain similarities, the Knights Hospitaller, does still exist, after a fashion — its genetic progeny are the Knights of Malta. They have a palatial headquarters on the Aventine in Rome. They have a papal charter and enjoy quasi-sovereign status. They can issue their own passports. They maintain diplomatic relations with a hundred countries. And, like the Templars, they do not rule the world.
By Cullen Murphy in The Washington Post
MODERN authors don’t have to look far for inspiration. Often, it’s right there on their shelves in learned tomes of history.
Some of the stories are truly fantastic. Others are simply amazing examples of human behaviour.
Dr Katie Barclay of the Adelaide University school of History and Politics says she finds the use of history in popular modern fiction fascinating.
“These are clearly engaged with much of the historic literature, particularly for the medieval period,” she said. “And, as a historian, you watch it, and you’re constantly thinking ‘yeah that’s good’, and ‘no, that wouldn’t happen’, except it’s fantasy so you can’t get annoyed!”
Dr Barclay points out that history and fantasy have had a long and close relationship: The first novels were called “histories” and purported to be based on real events.
“They often were,” Dr Barclay said, “at least to the level that they featured real historical characters if re-imagined to suit the sensibilities of the era”.
And such “re-imagining” is central to the history-fantasy link. The same story is often retold in different ways over hundreds of years, with each incarnation pitched at the tastes and expectations of a new generation, she said.
“But the most inspirational tales for modern writers and audiences are not necessarily those based on the most outlandish stories or supernatural events, but those that relate to unexpected human relationships.”
Here’s just a sample of some of the most eye-catching historical sources you may recognise in popular books, films and television shows.
CAUTION: There are some Game of Thrones spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.
SCOTLAND’S ‘RED WEDDINGS’
The “Red Wedding” episode from Game of Thrones had fans in shock, with several characters cut down. However there is a precedent — clan-based slaughter in the north of Britain.
“The Scottish ‘Red Weddings’ linger in the historical imagination because of what it says about betrayal and loyalty and human relationships, and because they wiped out whole families, not just because they are bloody,” Dr Barclay said.
The brutal slayings, while not weddings, were regarded as particularly heinous as they breached strict moral codes of hospitality.
In 1691 a terrible betrayal saw most of the key members of clan MacDonald massacred.
The Scottish clans had been summoned to produce a signed document swearing allegiance to King William of Orange. The MacDonald clan, delayed through a series of misfortunes, delivered their oath several days “too late”.
Several months later, a troop of 120 men under the king’s Captain Robert Campbell arrived at the MacDonald’s estates in Glencoe and claimed shelter from the harsh weather.
Hospitality was duly offered, but, after a fortnight of enjoying the MacDonalds’ food, drink and card-games, the soldiers slew about 40 of the clan as they slept in their beds in what would become known as the Glencoe Massacre. The 40 or so women and children that escaped died of exposure.
An earlier, similar, massacre has gone down in history as “The Black Dinner”.
In 1440 the young Earl of Douglas (traditionally called the Black Douglas), 16, and his younger brother David were invited to dine at Edinburgh Castle with 10-year-old king James II.
The story goes that the young nobles were getting along like a house on fire, enjoying food, entertainment and each other’s company until deep into the evening. Suddenly, legend has it, the severed head of a black bull was dropped on the dining table.
The two Black Douglas boys were dragged outside, given a mock trial, and beheaded.
The young king was not likely to have been to blame. The Chancellor of Scotland, Sir William Crichton, had issued the invitations as he felt the Black Douglas clan had grown too powerful.
THE REAL DRAGON SLAYER
If “Smaug” the dragon from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit gets your blood racing, imagine what impact the real thing would have had on medieval Europe.
The only encounter with a “dragon” recorded in history happened on the Mediterranean island of Rhodes in the 1340s. The question is, what was the beast really — a crocodile? A giant lizard?
According to the Order of St John’s archives, the beast had established a lair to the south of the fortified city of Rhodes. There, it had begun preying on the local livestock and maidens.
Several Knights Hospitaller are said to have set out to prove their valour by tackling the dragon. After they failed to return, the Order’s Grand Master firmly ordered a stop to such expeditions.
One, however, ignored the order. The French knight Dieudonne de Gozon decided to take on the beast personally. He gathered as many descriptions as he could of the animal from the country folk who had seen it and built a scale model.
He then trained his dogs to attack the creature and practised angles from which he could attack it with his sword and lance.
Once confident, he sallied forth into the countryside and slew the dragon. He was then summarily expelled from the Order for disobedience.
But the public outcry from the peasants about how poorly their hero had been treated soon saw “the Dragon Slayer” restored to the Order and he ended up becoming Grand Master himself in 1346.
“The Rhodes story is not the only crocodile as dragon story going around,” Dr Barclay said. “There is one for St George too — only the crocodile got to Essex! We don’t really know if it was a crocodile, that’s just what a 19th Century scientist thought when he saw a skull in Rhodes that they claimed belonged to the dragon. Given that selling relics was big business during the medieval period and there was 600 years for a ‘dragon skull’ to go missing, decompose (or never exist in the first place) and be replaced with that of a crocodile by an entrepreneurial relic salesman, we don’t really know the truth here. Maybe there really was a dragon!”
HISTORY’S HORRIBLE FAMILIES
There is a reason why the likes of the Tudors keep appearing in books and on our screens. Many were truly awful people from absolutely horrible families.
“Games of Thrones is fascinating,” Dr Barclay said, “not just because of the gruesome deaths and sex, but because these are families defending lineages, committing incest, being wiped out in a single generation.
“We get behind the families because of their relationships to each other, not just because they have dragons.
“Wendy Moore’s Wedlock (a tale described by The Independent as a “misery memoir” of how Georgian Britain’s worst husband met his match; it is “crammed with corrupt surgeons, questionable chaplains, fallen women and gossips”) is also fascinating because of the manipulative and abusive relationship between husband and wife. Then there was Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire — which became the movie The Duchess — a story about a dodgy threesome.”
There is also the true story of James Annesley, the heir to the estate of Anglesea. He was abducted as a child in the 1730s and sold into slavery in the Caribbean. He managed to escape in his late teens and returned to Britain to discover his uncle had inherited his estates. He won the first trial, but died during a drawn-out 10-year appeals process. This inspired stories such as Memoirs of an Unfortunate Nobleman, Peregrine Pickle and The Wandering Heir.
The magic of a glittering, all-dominating sword is a powerful icon of hope and victory. In the case of magic swords, it may be an idea burnt onto our cultural heritage by history.
Some say the legend of Excalibur could have been born from the impact a high-quality Roman sword would have had if it had survived into the Dark Ages of Britain. Such a refined, well-made and strong weapon could indeed win almost magical status among its enemies.
This is likely what happened some centuries earlier, as the Bronze Age collapsed before the onrushing Iron Age. The new grey metal swords cut through bronze as if it was butter. Whole armies could fall in the face of a smaller band of iron-equipped men.
Iron’s impact was not just felt on the battlefield. The entire economy and social structure of Europe was turned on its head as it shifted away from bronze to the tougher, easier, more common metal.
Even the story of pulling Excalibur from the stone may be a cast-back to a long-forgotten time. Bronze blades were cast in moulds of stone before being pulled out and polished.
Iron was to experience a similar revolution when the refinement of steel emerged. It’s an arms race that has never ended. And each age would most likely have had its own “Excalibur”.
But such magic-history links are rare, Dr Barclay said.
“The ‘magical’ element of fantasy allows us to set aside our practical concerns (’that wouldn’t happen’) and go with the story (‘it isn’t real, so that’s fine’), despite the fact that what drives the story could often happen without the magical elements,” Dr Barclay said.
THE BLACK WATCH
The romantic notion of a band of outcast warriors living on the fringes of civilisation who have taken a binding oath to protect the ignorant and ungrateful people they left behind is a common one.
It was no less popular when it was a reality.
The Knights Templar are well known for their supposed mystical secrets and the staged trial that accused them of such. But their real purpose also has passed into legend.
In the early 1100s, a small band of knights resolved to police the roads of the newly captured Holy Land for pilgrims making the dangerous journey from Europe.
To save their souls and prove their devotion the knights adopted the rigid rules and lifestyle of monks, with the added responsibility of protecting Christendom from all its enemies.
The idea spread like wildfire: Soon every second son in Europe was clambering for permission to win glory (and a secure lifestyle) within a rapidly expanding network of farms, forts and fleets all designed to feed equipment, knights and soldiers to a distant chain of castles protecting Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
Many other Orders sprung up, imitating the idea: The Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights were among the largest.
However, the trials and tribulations of the hot and volatile Holy Land soon caused the chivalric dream to lose much of its gloss. As such, many in the later ranks of the Templars were drafted from “grey knights” who had committed crimes or lost the support of their lords. In return for their service, these warriors were promised the limited freedom the Order offered — as well as a chance to fight, pursue a career and save their souls.
WINTER IS COMING
In fact, it’s already been. Several times.
We’re talking weird seasons that last for years — not the typical annual event.
In 536AD a 10-year winter kicked off in the Northern Hemisphere. Scribes in Europe and Asia reported bitterly cold conditions that seemed to never end. The sun was darkened, they said, and remained “small” even into the depths of summer.
Famine, war and plague quickly followed as crops failed and hungry hordes started streaming south.
Tree rings and ice core samples have since confirmed these events and tied the decade-long winter to the eruption of a supervolcano in El Salvador. But many academics consider that is in itself not enough to explain the duration of this winter. Some say Earth may have also passed through Halley’s Comet’s dusty tail.
Another unusual winter struck Europe in 1816. Known as “The Year without Summer”, hunger once again quickly swept across Europe as crops shrivelled up.
This event has been tied to the 1815 super eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. The dust in the upper atmosphere from this eruption produced an average 1C drop in temperatures worldwide.
From Game of Thrones to The Narnia Chronicles, myth continues the reality.