Uncovering Templar church ruins with links back to the sixth century still hidden beneath the grounds at Glasgow Airport

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This historic gem dating as far back as the sixth century is attracting lots of interest – and it’s in the unlikeliest of places.

Fly in to Glasgow Airport and you’re likely to see the bright lights of the city to the east, the runway below – certainly a glimpse of the River Clyde winding its way through the city.

What you won’t notice as readily is a piece of history dating back to the sixth century – and the community digging deep to learn more about it. 

On a grassy patch of Glasgow Airport, right below the flight path, lies the ruins of the old All Hallows, a Templar church replaced by nearby Inchinnan Parish Church in the 1960s.

It’s now the site of an archaeological investigation, led by Inchinnan Historical Interest Group and with help from local schoolchildren.

The site is believed to be the burial place of St Conval, an early Christian saint who is said to have floated over from Ireland on a stone (more on that later) – and the earliest settlement dates back to 597 AD.

The first stone-built church, St Conval’s, dates to about 1100 – some 20 years before Glasgow Cathedral – on land then gifted by David I to the Knights Templar.

The medieval building was deemed dangerous in 1828 and replaced with a Gothic-style church, which was built around in the late 19th century to form a third church building, dedicated as All Hallows.

The foundation stone of the replacement church, in Inchinnan, was laid on November 19, 1966, with the old site making way for Glasgow Airport – although much of the old All Hallows was moved, including stunning stained glass windows, the organ and the pulpit.

The All Hallows site remained overgrown until early 2017, when Inchinnan Historical Interest Group gained help from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Environment Scotland and others – including a £4,500 grant from Glasgow Airport’s Flightpath Fund.

Bill McCallum, of Inchinnan Historical Interest Group, told Glasgow Live: “We wanted to research the former site, to see if there was any evidence left of the previous buildings and, if so, what? We also knew from old maps that there were some houses around about, so we set out to find any evidence of habitation around the church in earlier days.

“We were fortunate enough to find a variety of things. Coming upon the 1904 church wasn’t a problem, but getting below that was a little difficult – but we got through and found evidence of the church demolishes in 1828.

“We’ve found a lot of stained glassed thought to be from the middle ages and they’re currently being examined by a specialist. We also found some rubble which we think is the earlier church but have not yet been able to prove that.

“it was important to use to involve the community too, and a number of local schools participated in the project.

“I think it gives people a better understanding of where they came from, from a linear point of view – but it also gives them a better appreciation for the fact that Inchinnan has been a very important area of Scotland for many, many years.”

While the archaeological dig uncovered lots of finds at the site, there was a surprise at the current church too – one which could help put the place on the tourist map and link it to another important place within the city boundary.

PhD student Megan Kasten, an expert on the Govan Stones, was asked to take a look at Inchinnan’s historic stones and unveiled her findings this month.

Using digital photography techniques on the ancient stones, Megan has revealed that one – thought to be medieval in date – was originally carved much earlier, and possibly commemorated an important person in the Kingdom of Strathclyde.

The discovery means that Inchinnan has four large carved stones characteristic of the same group of sculpture known as the ‘Govan School’ of carving.

Megan said: “This new addition is really exciting – we have few historical records for this time period, so each new discovery increases our understanding of the connections between important medieval sites like Inchinnan and Govan.”

Dr Sally Foster, lecturer in heritage and conservation at the University of Stirling and chair of the National Committee on Carved Stones in Scotland, added: “The discovery of a previously unrecognised example of the ‘Govan School’ of early medieval sculpture is a wonderful example of the untapped potential of Scotland’s carved stone resource.”

Work to find out more about the mysterious Inchinnan stones is ongoing, but the archaeological dig at All Hallows has stopped – for now.

The Historical Group hope to continue their work soon, if funding is available, and dig even deeper into the history of such an important site, right under the modern flight path many of us know so well.

Doctor Heather James, lead archaeologist from Calluna Archaeology, added: “It has been great seeing the community and professionals working together to discover so much more about our fascinating heritage throughout this project.”

in by Gillian Loney

Prior Bryant Jones – Conference – Dighton Rock (Video)

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Fr+ Bryant Jones, Prior of the United States OSMTJ sent us the link to his Conference at the Dighton Rock Museum. I hope you enjoy.

Rosslyn Chapel restoration underway

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Work is getting underway to preserve one of Scotland’s most famous and important chapels.

Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian starred in the blockbuster Da Vinci Code and has seen a massive increase in visitor numbers since.

But thanks to a botched repair job in the 1950s the roof is crumbling and has been sealed off for some time.

The Rosslyn Chapel Trust is looking to secure a further £1 million to ensure that a £9 million restoration can be completed within the next year.

Work is set to start next month on a brand new roof for the chapel, restoring the building to its former beauty.

It is famous for the intricate carvings that line the walls of the small chapel, and the rumoured connections to the Knights Templar.

Work has already begun on restoring the stained glass windows in the main body of the building.

By Cara Sulieman

How crusading Templars gave Bruce the edge at Bannockburn

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Bannockburn has long been heralded as Scotland’s finest victory over the Auld Enemy.

The battle has been celebrated in verse and song ever since Robert the Bruce defied the odds to send King Edward II’s army “hameward tae think again” in 1314.

However, a historian now claims the credit lies not with the Scots but with a band of Templar knights from overseas.

Robert Ferguson, an American lawyer, says a new “statistical analysis” shows that a significant number of Templars arrived in Scotland from other parts of Europe and that they tipped the balance in Bruce’s favour.

The King of France ordered the arrest of any Templars in his country in 1307 – seven years before Bannockburn – and Pope Clement later ordered all European monarchs to follow suit.

Ferguson claims, citing a statistician he hired for his research, that at least 29 battle-hardened knights and sergeants would have ended up in Scotland, based on 335 avoiding capture, and that they influenced Bruce’s tactics. And he argues that the real figure could even be as high as 48.

He said Bruce progressed with unusual speed from small encounters with the English to a full-blown battle at Bannockburn with properly armed men.

Ferguson says he has built up a convincing case from the circumstantial evidence that is available.

“Given the battle plan that is commonly accepted for Bannockburn, I believe that the Templars were necessary,” he said.

“The existence of Templars at Bannockburn follows a consistent line of facts.

“There is now good evidence that a number of Templars, if not most of them, were aware that they were going to be arrested, and they escaped. There’s only two places they really could escape to, Portugal and Scotland.”

Ferguson’s new claims are made in his book The Knights Templar And Scotland, which will be published in the new year by The History Press.

Ferguson is a Californian attorney, a former professor of astronomy, and a former vice-president of his local Clan Ferguson Society. His book comes with an endorsement from Raymond Morris, laird of 14th century Balgonie Castle in Fife, who claims to be the “Grand Prior of the Scots” Templars.

“Every Templar should read it,” said Morris.

There are several Templar groups in modern Scotland.

“I’ve got about 150 people in America of Scots ancestry,” said Morris.

But Ferguson’s claims were met with scorn yesterday by historian Helen Nicholson, who teaches medieval warfare at Cardiff University and is an expert on the Templars.

It has been claimed before that Templars took part in the battle, and Nicholson said Ferguson’s theories drew on discredited Victorian historical fantasies.

Nicholson said the idea was “hardly more credible” than old claims that the kingdom of Scotland was founded by the Egyptian princess Scota, and that Ferguson’s theories reheated an old slur on Bruce’s achievements.

“The myth is being used to show that Robert the Bruce was a weak man who couldn’t win his own battles, rather than the inspirational military leader that he was,” she said.

“I think that the Scots should be fighting this myth.”

Nicholson, author of The Knights Templar On Trial, bluntly said claims of Templars fighting at Bannockburn in 1314 were “rubbish”.

“There are no records of any French-speaking knights appearing in Scotland in the early decades of the 14th century in a country where French speakers would certainly be noticed.” she said.

“The story has an unpleasant result for the Scots, because it makes out that Robert Bruce was incapable of defeating the ‘all-powerful’ English, without the help of foreigners.”

The Templars’ main fighting force was wiped out at the Fall of Acre in 1291, she said. By 1307, any left with fighting skills would have been in Cyprus.

“Bruce’s battle plan at Bannockburn would have followed best contemporary practice which, as the Templars also did the same, would have meant that there were some elements in common. This does not mean that Bruce had actually met any Templars.”

The Templars rose to prominence as knights of the Crusades, guarding revered sites and castles in the Holy Land.

But on Friday, 13 October, 1307, King Philip IV of France, heavily in debt to the order, ordered the arrest of its Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and other French Templars. Many confessed to numerous sins under torture, and Pope Clement made his order the following year.

The writer Dan Brown drew heavily on Templar stories in his 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code, which was later made into a film, claiming that the order built Rosslyn Chapel, near Edinburgh, and guarded many secrets there with their lives.

By Tim Cornwell

1836 chapel painting revives Holy Grail quest

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An unusual painting has emerged that seems to present fresh evidence of the fabled history of Rosslyn Chapel.

The figure of a Templar knight is shown standing in front of a staircase at the back of the Midlothian chapel, which features in Dan Brown’s best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code.

Symbologist Ashley Cowie believes that the staircase may lead to long-lost vaults or chambers housing Templar treasure – including the Holy Grail.

The pastel painting, entitled Templar Knight at Roslyn Chapel by the Scottish artist RT McPherson, is dated 1836 and remained in private ownership until its auction at Shapes of Edinburgh four years ago.

The modern order of the Scottish Knights Templar commissioned Mr Cowie, 36, to analyse the painting for evidence of Rosslyn’s links to the Templar legend.

Mr Cowie said: “There is a growing amount of scientific evidence from excavations and scans which seems to point to the existence of these chambers, so there is every possibility that this stairwell did exist and that it was once the entrance to the chambers.”

in The Scottsman
By Rhiannon Edward

Ancient crypt could hold key to mystery

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As Kilwinning is thrown into the spotlight with speculation that it could be the final resting place of The Holy Grail, historian Jim Kennedy, who has compiled an in-depth guide to the history of the town, (…) talks about what lies under the tunnel.

The Abbey was the traditional burial place of the Earls of Eglinton in medieval times and later, it seems unlikely that this powerful family would have allowed the destruction or loss of access to their memorials at the rebuilding of the parish church or at any other time.

The 10th Earl, killed in a dispute with a local excise man, had been buried here in 1769 to the great grief of his mother, Susanna and brother Archibald, who succeeded him and oversaw the rebuilding of the parish church a few years later with the addition of the Eglinton Aisle.

A vault, used in 1861 for the interment of the 13th Earl lies at present beneath the parish church towards the west.

The other lead coffins there were recorded as The Countess Susanna, 1782; 12th Earl, Hugh, 1812; Hugh, 1817; Earl Archibald, the Countess Theresa, 1853 and Countess Adela, 1860.

Timothy Pont, writing at the end of the 16th century, was impressed with the memorials he saw at the Abbey, seemingly, still intact: “The founder thereof Sr Richard Morwell layes interrid under a tome of Lymestone, of old polished work, with this coate cut on the stone without aney superscriptione or Epitaphe. Heir, also were the Lords Montgomery and Earls of Eglintoune interred.”

That there was a place of burial under the old church is evidenced by an entry in the session register: “1731 to workmen for lifting the stone of the burial places.” There is also an account in 1859 of alterations being made to a series of vaults beneath the church.

Mr Pont writes: “The burial place of the noble house of Eglinton is in chambers situated under the present church and must have originally been part of the crypt of the old abbey. Before the late Countess died the vaults were in the state that they had been left in by the old iconoclasts but the present earl has caused these sepulchral relics to be protected. He has also caused several alterations to be made to the interior of the vaults which have altered the appearance.”

There is a final and fairly definite clue in the building contract of 1773 for the new parish church where the contractors were to take down the old walls except 15ft of wall opposite to the aisle to be built to the new church by the Earl of Eglinton. At this precise location at the Tironensian Abbey of St Dogmaels, there is a narrow stair contrived in the thickness of the wall leading down to an extensive early 13th century crypt, so this stipulation, and that no effigies or memorial slabs have ever been found around the site or in town buildings, is a good indication that such a crypt, which would be a great archaeological treasure, still exists below the church.

Holy Grail could be in Kilwinning

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KILWINNING could rival Rosslyn Chapel as a major tourist attraction in the wake of claims it is the final resting place of the Holy Grail.

The Irvine Herald can reveal an historic archaeological dig is to take place in the town’s Abbey grounds.

The project is to be carried out by Irvine Bay Regeneration after actor turned historian, Jamie Morton, a recognised expert on Freemasonry, revealed the artefact used by Christ at The Last Supper could have been hidden in the town by the Knights Templar.

He based his theory on historical documents he has uncovered and the town’s close connections with The Masonic Order.

Mr Morton has compiled the evidence in his latest book, the foreword of which is being written by members of The Mother Lodge in Kilwinning. The 29-year-old author said: “Historians have been searching for a Templar haven where the members sheltered after their downfall.

“Several places have been pinpointed but all of them are false, I have found that Kilwinning and nearby Irvine had the highest concentration of Templar Knights in Scotland.

“The Templars were Europe’s bankers and when they were destroyed, none of the material was returned, it disappeared, so it is possible that it is in Kilwinning or Irvine.”

One leading member of the Lodge said he hoped the findings would bring the importance of Kilwinning to Freemasonry to the rest of the world.

He said: “It’s great for the town and while I can’t claim to be an authority on the topic of the Holy Grail, it certainly has shown just how important Freemasonry is to the world.

“I am interested to know what lies beneath this street as there are wells underneath the surface, who knows what’s buried there?”

Jim Miller, spokesman for the ancient Abbey Tower, welcomed the findings.

“It’s great news for the town as people will be coming from all over to find out more about Kilwinning’s connection to the Holy Grail.

“We have a number of artefacts in the Tower but I’m afraid I don’t know the whereabouts of this particular cup.

“I know there are people who follow the Grail Trail and travel all over the world, you just have to appreciate how popular Rosslyn Chapel became following the Da Vinci Code claims so we should be expecting a lot more people in the town.”

Kilwinning is thought to be the resting place of the Holy Grail after information was found to suggest The Templars had a major presence in the town.

And he rubbished the claim that Rosslyn Chapel, near Edinburgh, was where the Grail was hidden.

“There were no Templars in Rosslyn as the building was constructed after the Templars were destroyed, while Kilwinning Abbey was built shortly after the Templars were created – Rosslyn Chapel is an enigma, a beautiful building but nothing to do with the Templars.”

Rosslyn Chapel was saved from certain closure as its visitors shot up from 30,000 to over 120,000 a year with the release of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code book and subsequent Hollywood film starring Tom Hanks.

Now, the search is on as Holy Grail trailers who travel the world looking for evidence about the cup – said to have mystical powers – are expected to invade Kilwinning on the hunt for the Holy Grail.

Hot spots where it could be include:

l The Mercat Cross outside the original Mason’s Howff in the Main Street. It is said in Kilwinning folklore that the cross is believed by some to have been part of the original wooden cross on which Jesus was crucified.

l The Abbey Church grounds. The Tower already has a feasibility study for an archaeological dig approved and Irvine Bay Regeneration have also talked of making the town an open dig to draw tourists.

l The Mother Lodge – the new lodge was built next to the Abbey Church and Tower, could this be standing on top of the Holy Grail?

l The Main Street itself – it has already been the subject of an archaeological dig by Irvine Development Corporation. Could it be hiding the Christian chalice?

If Mr Morton’s theory is proved, Kilwinning could hold the keystone to re-writing history and give the Main Street a boost with the tourist trade.

by Lorraine Howard, Irvine Herald

The real deal

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Some hotels’ claims to a colourful historical past may prove tenuous, but David Knight can’t help but be impressed by a country house which dates back, in part, to the 13th century and the Knights Templar.

Men in white tunics and women in white dresses are threads which are interwoven in the past and present of Maryculter House Hotel, near Aberdeen.

Many country hotels like to trade on their historic past, with varying degrees of authenticity, but Maryculter House has something right from the top drawer.

As soon as you see the 1225 date engraved above its entrance you realise it has something different from the rest.

It sits in a charming, secluded spot alongside the River Dee which also happens to be the ancestral home of a Scottish contingent of the famed Knights Templar.

These were fearsome fighting Christian knights with various strongholds around Europe spanning two centuries, who fought in the Crusades and protected pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land.

A mere 80 knights once challenged an army of 26,000 Saracens to a scrap on the road to Jerusalem – and eventually won, according to my research.

Apart from their fighting prowess, they were also distinguishable by their white robes and vivid scarlet crosses. You feel their presence everywhere here, and it is not every hotel which can list in its range of activities the chance to stand in a field at midnight in the hope of seeing a knight’s ghost charging past on horseback.

With a surname like mine, I wondered if I, too, might have had ancestors who were Knights Templar. Very fanciful, I know, and on checking the meaning of names, I discovered that the name, Knight, was also granted to domestic servants or soldiers in the pay of real knights. My lot probably had the contract for cleaning the gents for the Knights Templar.

They are now outnumbered here by an equally formidable and unstoppable force also dressed impeccably in white – an army of brides.

With more than 100 weddings a year, Maryculter House is up there with the best around Aberdeen for staging nuptials.

It is easy to see why: it is beautifully picturesque and the River Dee ripples just feet away from the actual place where couples tie the knot under an arch outside, weather permitting.

The views in both directions down and upriver take some beating. You can see the attraction for wedding pictures with such an idyllic background.

It is not compulsory to get married before you stay here, of course. It has plenty to offer everyone else as well.

Apart from being pretty to look at, the Dee also offers up its bounty of fish and the hotel boasts its own beat with various packages tailored to the fishing fraternity.

Golf abounds everywhere in these parts, of course, and from some of the rooms, you can gaze across the river and see golfers ambling up and down Peterculter golf course.

From the South Deeside Road, it is possible to drive past and not actually see the hotel as it is tucked away from view. New sections have been added over the years, but at its centre, the architecture remains distinctly mediaeval.

Its showpiece is the residents’ lounge, set in an ancient hall dating back to 1225 which would not look out of place in any castle, with huge exposed stone walls and a beamed ceiling so high it almost disappears from sight.

It is a perfect room in which to relax with a drink in its luxurious leather sofas and soak up the historical atmosphere. The knights’ stables were supposedly beneath this very room.

The rooms were nicely appointed and, for my wife and I, there was a view across the Dee which ran just past our window. A 32in flat-screen TV and a walk-in stone-floor shower were other pleasurable extras.

We sampled room service and ordered ham and cheese croissants. These proved to be quite a sumptuous affair with deep, delicious fillings, tomatoes and cucumber dressed in a tasty balsamic sauce and accompanied by crisps.

Outside, and opposite the reception, there are the remains of a large Knights Templar chapel and cemetery, which is well worth a visit. From its gates, we could spot deer in the distance.

It’s an ideal base to strike out for other activities and visits in the area, but this is also a great place just to get away from it all, relax and do nothing in particular, or perhaps some walking, eating and drinking in very pleasant surroundings. That would be perfect.

Maryculter House also offers one luxury city dwellers crave – peace and quiet. There is no traffic and no noisy drunks outside, as often happens around city hotels. We were there for only 24 hours, but felt our batteries had been recharged by the time we left.

The Priory restaurant offers an excellent a la carte menu choice, with special theme nights now and again such as murder-mystery dinners, wine-tasting and mediaeval banquets.

Gourmet menus are offered on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, at £32.50 a head when we visited, and that was a superb special treat. Various discounted room offers also accompany a number of the meal options. A good selection of meals and snacks is also served in the Poachers Pocket bar.

A full traditional breakfast awaits guests in the morning in a dining-room just off the bar.

The staff were friendly, helpful and very approachable throughout our stay, but we gave one special attraction a miss. There is a field nearby where, legend has it, a knight rides out at midnight and a ghostly Saracen woman can be seen floating about the woods.

I decided to stay safe close by the bar.

It is said that the Knights Templar were not allowed to retreat in battle, even against ridiculous odds, which probably explains why their life expectancy was so short.

Maryculter House Hotel is a special retreat of another kind which even the knights would have had trouble resisting.

Maryculter House Hotel, South Deeside Road, Maryculter, Aberdeen. Phone 01224 732124, or visit http://www.maryculter

Historian says 18th century cove was a drinking den

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IT has been steeped in mystery for hundreds of years.

The labyrinth of rooms and passageways in Gilmerton Cove have been surrounded by tales of witchcraft, secret rituals and theories that it was once used as a chapel for the medieval Knights Templar.

Now a local historian and genealogist claims he can finally reveal the origin of the cove – as a drinking den and Edinburgh’s first man-made tourist attraction.

According to John Rennie, most of the common theories behind the cove’s existence can now be discounted with evidence that it was not created until the 18th century and appears to have attracted customers from miles around.

Mr Rennie, 77, from Liberton, was a guide at the cove around three years ago and has now discovered the earliest written evidence of its existence.

The information, which was found in the minutes of a meeting of Liberton Kirk Session on May 7, 1725 – Gilmerton was previously part of Liberton Parish – reveals that the cove was dug out of rock by an 18th Century blacksmith from Gilmerton, George Paterson, between 1719 and 1724.

This means the cove could not have been used by either the Knights Templar or the Covenanters, as had been suggested.

Mr Rennie, a member and guide at Liberton Kirk, said: “The Knights Templar predates the cove by several centuries – at least 300 years – and by the time the cove had been built, the Covenanters had become obsolete.”

He added: “George Paterson had visitors from Edinburgh and further afield to see his cave so it’s clear to me that he built it as a visitors’ centre serving alcohol. It’s pretty clear that it was a licensed premises.”

The minutes make it clear that the cove was one of many legal drinking dens at the time in Gilmerton, and state that Mr Paterson was compelled to appear before Liberton Kirk Session charged with supplying people with alcohol on the Sabbath.

He was warned that if anyone was caught drinking in the cove on the Sabbath again, he and his wife would be banned from attending Liberton Kirk.

Mr Rennie also disputes speculation that the cove was used as a blacksmith’s shop because the forge inside the cove is too small and shows no signs of having been used.

He added: “The vast majority of the tales told regarding the cove have no foundation.”

Margaretanne Dugan, owner of tour company Rosslyn Tours, which operates tours of the cove, said: “John’s theory is interesting, although Gilmerton had 24 drinking establishments at the time, and if he is correct, then it seems an awful lot of effort has gone into creating the underground cave for a sly whisky on the Sabbath Day.

“Also, the markings throughout the cove indicate a tool much earlier than the 1700s was used.

“Queen Margaret’s Cave at Dunfermline has the exact same tool markings dating back 1000 years.

“We also have Masonic marks and a carving of a cat at Gilmerton Cove.

One thing is for sure – the cove is mysterious and a definite must-see.”




THERE are many theories surrounding the use of Gilmerton Cove.

These include speculation that the cove was used as a chapel by the Knights Templar and the Covenanters.

It is also believed that the cove was linked by tunnel to Craigmillar Castle. However due to the distance between them – around two miles – and the fact that a valley lies between them, this theory has also been discounted by many.

Witches are said to have used the cove while another theory is that the cove may have been a blacksmith’s shop.

The man said to have built the cove, blacksmith George Paterson, is thought to have had a separate shop – as well as a house – next to the cove. But neither building exists today to prove this theory.


Spoon-bender buys Scottish island

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Celebrity spoon-bender Uri Geller has bought a tiny Scottish island he believes has links to the pyramids at Giza and the Knights Templar.

Geller paid £30,000 for The Lamb, an uninhabited lump of volcanic rock in the Firth of Forth.

He claimed he felt a “strong instinctive urge” to buy it after reading it was for sale.

The self-proclaimed “mystifier” said he is convinced the island is one of the most significant sites in the UK.

The Lamb is the middle of three rocky islands – the others being Craigleith and Fidra – which are said to mirror the layout of the pyramids at Giza, in Egypt.

The island covers an area of just 100 yards by 50 yards.

Geller said: “I am fascinated by the connection between the pyramids and these islands.

“The connection has been known for centuries – you can read about it in a 15th century manuscript called the Scotichronicon by Walter Bower the Abbot of Inchcolm.

“So when I heard Lamb Island was for sale I felt a strong instinctive urge to buy it – and the more I delved into the history and the archaeological lore which surrounds it, the more certain I became that this is one of the most significant sites in Britain.”

The owner of the island is unlikely to gain planning consent to build on it as it is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area and has a colony of seabirds.

There are no landing facilities on the island, and access can only be gained by chartered boat – which can be hazardous as landing is only possible on the rocks.

The island was sold by Brazilian-born internet entrepreneur Camilo Agasim-Pereira, who owns the Barony of Dirleton.

He had been bequeathed it in 2002, but had never set foot on it.

The asking price was £75,000, but a figure of just £30,000 was settled on after negotiations.

“This island has links not only to the pyramids, but to King Arthur, King Robert the Bruce and to the ancient Kings of Ireland too,” Geller added.

“It might seem forbidding, and it is certainly uninhabitable, but it is one of the keystones to British mythology, and I am thrilled to be its owner.

“I might need a helicopter, but I am determined to set foot on my island soon.”

in BBC Online

Welsh claim to origins of the Holy Grail

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THE allure of the Holy Grail has fascinated writers and ensnared knights for more than 1,000 years.

From Malory to Monty Python, the eternal chalice – said to be the very cup from which Jesus drank at the last supper – has become enshrined as one of popular culture’s most spiritual icons.

But while Scotland has been given the credit for being the Grail’s final resting place – thanks largely to Dan Brown’s hugely-successful novel The Da Vinci Code – a new book by a Welsh academic says Wales’ claim to the relic is stronger.

Since The Da Vinci Code was published in 2003 it has sold more than 60 million copies and been made into a blockbuster movie.

It has also led to hundreds of thousands of visitors making a pilgrimage to Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh, which the book claims is the Grail’s final resting place.

But Grail expert Dr Juliette Wood of Cardiff University, a New York-born Welsh convert, said theories linking the Grail to Scotland were relatively new.

“Wales’ associations with the Grail stretch back to the 14th century,” she said.

Dr Wood, who specialises in Welsh folklore and Celtic literature, dismisses Brown’s assertion that the Grail was discovered by the Knights Templar who buried it beneath one of the pillars of Rosslyn Chapel.

“Stories in the past century have tended to romanticise the Knights Templar as some kind of special forces of Christianity but in reality they were simple soldiers, admittedly brave, but ultimately they followed orders,” said Dr Wood, who is also secretary of the Folklore Society in London.

“Dan Brown’s book has certainly revived interest in the Grail but when it talks about masonic involvement and the Knights Templar, it goes too far.

“The story about Rosslyn Chapel’s links with the Grail is only about 20 years old.

“Wales’ link is much stronger. Wales has Arthurian romances which refer to the Grail, but Scotland doesn’t have that. There are a number of Holy Grail romances written in Scotland but there has not been anything found in Gaelic.”

Dr Wood said possibly the strongest association Wales had with the Grail came from the story of Peredur the Son of Evrawc, which appears in the Mabinogion.

“There are strong links between Peredur and the Knight Percival from the King Arthur romances.

“The two are not the same but there are strong similarities between them,” she said.

“The story of Peredur of Wales is that he sets out on a quest to find the Grail.

“In a castle one night, it appears not as a shining beacon, but in the form of his cousin’s head, floating on a platter or dish in a pool of blood.

“Peredur then avenges his uncle by slaying the nine witches of Gloucester.

“What happens to the Grail after the death of the witches however is a mystery, it appears to disappear into the mists of time.”

Other theories which link the Grail to Wales include an ancient Celtic myth surrounding the Nanteos Cup, a sacred life-giving cauldron, thought to have been the basis for many Grail stories.

More recently a theory was put forward by former Western Mail journalist and bard, Owen Morgan, who claimed the Grail was not an object but the beautiful landscape of Wales.

Many further meanings have been devised for the Grail, which has been linked to the Celts and King Arthur, the eucharistic rites of Eastern Christianity, ancient mystery religions, Jungian archetypes, dualist heresies, Templar treasures and even the alleged descendants of Christ and Mary Magdalene.

The common thread running through all the stories is the assumption that the Grail legend has a single source with a meaning that is concealed in the romances themselves.

“I think the enduring fascination of the Grail is its elusiveness, it’s like a puzzle no-one yet has solved and people see it as a challenge, just like the ancient knights,” said Dr Wood, who left New York at the age of 23 to learn Welsh, but ended up staying.

“I saw a postcard in a shop in Aberystwyth depicting the Nanteos Cup and I became hooked on the Grail legend and its associations with Wales ever since.”

Eternal Chalice: The Enduring Legend of the Holy Grail (I.B.Tauris, £18.99), is out now

Da Vinci Code link nets chapel £1.3m

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Rosslyn Chapel has chalked up a £1.35m surplus due to the stream of visitors who came to see the building in the wake of the Da Vinci Code film.

The 15th-century Scottish church, which featured in the controversial hit movie, saw the number of visitors climb from just 30,000 a year in 2000 to 120,000 in 2005/06 and 176,000 in 2006/07.

The cash is being ploughed into speeding up a planned £12.75m renovation of the building and a revamped visitor centre.

But the managers of the attraction, entrance to which costs £7 for adults and £5 for children, believe that Da Vinci Code fever has peaked and that annual visitor numbers are due to fall by about 20,000 a year.

They believe that the number of visitors in 2007/08 will fall to 155,000 as the effect of the film wears off – although numbers are still well above the annual target of 80,000.

Colin Glynne-Percy, the director of Rosslyn Chapel, said: “We think it’s clear now that the initial interest in the aftermath of the film has peaked. If you look at the figures for the August bank holiday, they were 31,000 in 2006 and 29,000 in 2007.

“We did achieve the aim of getting visitor numbers up and we want to make it an essential destination for visitors to Scotland.”

He explained the takings were being used to speed up a major series of works to the building.

Glynne-Percy said: “The money raised may only be used for the upkeep of the building. The renovations will be completed within five years. Without the extra money, they would have taken considerably longer. Several years longer.”

The chapel features in both the Da Vinci Code book and the film. It emerges in the film as the ultimate location of the Holy Grail.

Among Rosslyn’s many intricate carvings are a sequence of 213 cubes or boxes protruding from pillars and arches with a selection of patterns on them. It is unknown whether these have any particular meaning.

Many people have attempted to find information coded into them, but as yet no interpretation has proven conclusive.

By Murdo MacLeod

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

Knights Templar

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THE KNIGHTS Templar were a monastic military order formed during the 12th century European crusades to the Holy Land. The Knights Templar became mythologised as guardians of spiritual secrets, such as the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail. Eventually, the wealth the order accumulated put them on a collision course with royalty and Rome.

In 1118 Hugh de Payen and eight companions, under the protection of St Bernard of Clairvaux, visited Jerusalem with a letter of introduction to King Baudoin I of Jerusalem. They announced their intention to found an order of warrior monks whose aim was to protect pilgrims on the road to the Holy Land. The new order took vows of poverty and chastity, and the king granted them quarters within the Temple of Solomon – hence their name Knights of the Temple, or Templar.

Whilst in Jerusalem, in addition to fighting and protecting pilgrims, the knights also excavated under the Temple of Solomon. In the 19th century the Palestine Exploration Fund re-excavated these tunnels and found various Templar items.

Evidence of digging has led to many theories of what they found – the most populist version being that they located the Ark of the Covenant. Champions of this theory point to the pillar at the Templar Cathedral at Chartres, which depicts the Ark in transport. Less prosaic interpretations suggest they found scriptural scrolls, treatises on sacred geometry and details of ancient Judaic-Egyptian wisdom.

De Payen and the knights returned to France in 1127. A year later at the Council of Troyes, the Knights Templar gained legal autonomy, putting them beyond the reach of bishops, kings or emperors and making them responsible to the Pope alone.

They were gifted land by pious aristocrats to finance their rapidly growing order. Their wealth grew as they developed commercial interests in mines, quarries and vineyards. They had a fleet that outshone the largest state. But what the Knights Templar did most was build. The classic round Templar church, founded on octagonal geometry, is still regarded as the most obvious example of their building, but many observers see Templar influence in the vast gothic outpouring that occurred throughout the next hundred years.

They set the gold and silver standard for coin weight, and introduced the “note of hand” – a kind of 12th century credit card. Christians at the time were not allowed to charge interest on money, but the Templars got round this by charging “rent”. The order quickly became the richest bankers in Europe, lending to kings, princes and influential people across Europe.

King Philip IV of France (1268-1314) was one monarch among many who was heavily in debt to the Knights Templar. The death of the Pope gave the King an opportunity to bribe the incoming Catholic leader and initiate enquiries against the order. They were charged with heresy and on a Friday the 13th, in October 1307, Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, and 60 of his senior knights were arrested in Paris. Across Europe thousands of Knights Templar were taken into custody. But when King Philip raided the Templar treasure house he found it empty and the fleet gone from Larochelle.

Anyone found sheltering a Templar was under threat of excommunication. At the time Scotland was already excommunicated for Robert the Bruce’s involvement in the murder of John “Red” Comyn. Since Robert the Bruce could not afford to turn away wealthy and powerful allies in his struggle against Edward I, it is not too fanciful to suppose that Scotland may have welcomed the homeless knights. French Masonic ritual seems to indicate that Scotland was designated as the place of refuge for the Templar treasures. It is certainly a matter of fact that their land in Scotland was never seized but was transferred to the Knights of St John for safekeeping.

Some accounts even hold that the Knights Templar may have fought at Bannockburn. After that they apparently disappeared. Some commentators think that they never truly vanished but went underground. Some think they were quickly assimilated into different orders, such as the freemasonry. They started to re-emerge in the 18th century and today the movement is pan-global.

An international body, Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymilitani, which has an enormous membership in Europe and America, monitors the increasing number of Templar organisations.

The international order tries to focus on the less fanciful of Templar interpretations. For many people, however, the appeal of the Knights Templar will always be the lure of Templar Gold, The Ark of the Covenant, pre-Columbus journeys to America and, of course, the Holy Grail.

Knights Templar in Scotland

1128 – Hugh de Payen, a relative by marriage to the St Clairs of Roslin, travels to Scotland where he stays with his relatives. The Templars are granted land – which becomes their headquarters in Scotland at Ballontrodoch – now Temple.
1203 – The sack of Constantinople. Important relics looted and fall into Templar hands. The Orkney Crusade saw Scottish Templar families, including the Sinclairs, join the crusade.
1307 – 11 October, two days before the arrest of many Templar Knights, it is recorded in French Masonic history that the Templar ships leave at midnight from La Rochelle, probably heading to Scotland.
1311 – Bishop Lamberton of St Andrews gives the Templars his protection.
1314 – Possibility that Knight Templars fought at Bannockburn.
1790 – Alexander Deuchar revives the order in Scotland in an attempt to re-start a new chivalry.


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Churches back plan to unite under Pope

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Radical proposals to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope are to be published this year, The Times has learnt.

The proposals have been agreed by senior bishops of both churches.

In a 42-page statement prepared by an international commission of both churches, Anglicans and Roman Catholics are urged to explore how they might reunite under the Pope.

The statement, leaked to The Times, is being considered by the Vatican, where Catholic bishops are preparing a formal response.

It comes as the archbishops who lead the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion meet in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in an attempt to avoid schism over gay ordination and other liberal doctrines that have taken hold in parts of the Western Church.

The 36 primates at the gathering will be aware that the Pope, while still a cardinal, sent a message of support to the orthodox wing of the Episcopal Church of the US as it struggled to cope with the fallout after the ordination of the gay bishop Gene Robinson.

Were this week’s discussions to lead to a split between liberals and conservatives, many of the former objections in Rome to a reunion with Anglican conservatives would disappear. Many of those Anglicans who object most strongly to gay ordination also oppose the ordination of women priests.

Rome has already shown itself willing to be flexible on the subject of celibacy when it received dozens of married priests from the Church of England into the Catholic priesthood after they left over the issue of women’s ordination.

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