Scotland

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 glasgowlive.co.uk by Gillian Loney

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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