ARCHAEOLOGISTS turned up in force to examine the history of Bisham Abbey last month.
About 20 enthusiasts were told of the little-known fact that the existing building once home to the Knights Templar is actually a manor house as opposed to an abbey.
However, as John Laker, of Archaeology In Marlow, insists: “The house is still of immense interest, with parts of it dating back over 800 years.”
The tour was led by historian Anne Daracott, of Maidenhead, an expert on Bisham Abbey.
The house has had a number of famous inhabitants, including the Knights Templar, and remained in the ownership of the Earl of Salisbury’s family for a number of generations.
The building was even used as a jail for dignitaries such as Elizabeth I who was imprisoned there by Queen Mary.
The original hall of the Knights Templar is still in existence, as is one of the most impressive dovecots in the country dating to the 16th Century.
Remains of the original abbey, which was thought to be attached to the house, have not been discovered.
in Bucks Free Press
During a dawn raid, 12 burly officers accused pub workers of hiding the supposed cup Jesus Christ drank from at the last supper
Police hunting for the stolen Holy Grail were left red-faced when all they found was a wooden salad bowl.
The team of 12 officers accused pub workers of hiding the missing ancient relic, thought by many to be the cup Jesus Christ drank from at the Last Supper.
Police and a dog handler locked all the staff inside while they searched every inch of the 15th century pub on their quest.
But after an hour the only thing they found that looked like the missing medieval cup was a wooden bowl used to serve salad to customers.
Shocked landlady Di Franklyn said: “I was amazed to see so many police – they said they had been given information that this Holy Grail had been shown off by someone here.
“But if somebody had stolen something as priceless as the Holy Grail I don’t think it would be on show in my pub.
“But the police were taking the information very seriously because there were so many of them including a police dog handler.”
Legend has it that the cup has healing powers and was named after the vessel that Jesus drank out of during the Last Supper.
Staff at the Crown pub in Lea, Herefordshire, were not allowed to leave the premises during the search and a policeman stood guard during the early morning raid.
Bemused Di, 54, said: “I have been shown a picture of the missing cup – if it had been here we would have thrown it on the fire because it is not whole any more.
“The only thing here that looks like it is an old salad bowl.”
The cup is said to have been brought to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea, the founder of a religious settlement in Glastonbury during the mediaeval period.
The grail then came into the possession of a group of Somerset monks who later fled with the cup to Strata Florida Abbey, near Tregaron in in Ceredigion.
For centuries the historic cup was kept at Nanteos Mansion in the village of at Rhydfelin near Aberystwyth.
But it was stolen while being cared for by Fiona Mirylees, from Weston-under-Penyard, Herefordshire, whose family once owned the mansion in Wales.
Police said the cup went missing after it had been loaned to a seriously-ill woman because of its healing powers.
When the fragile dark wooden cup was stolen, sometime between Monday July 7 and Monday July 14 – the remaining pieces were not taken.
West Mercia Police officers said the raid was carried out after they “received intelligence” that the stolen cup had been seen in the pub.
A spokesman said: “We were told it was still there and so executed a search warrant to try and find it.”
THE SEARCH for a legendary medieval hospital built by the Knights Templar will resume this weekend as archaeology enthusiasts get to work in a Marlow park.
On Saturday and Sunday, members of Marlow Archaeological Society will re-open the dig in Rookery Park, which last year uncovered evidence of a building dating back to the 17th century.
The history hunters made the discovery of a cellar dating back to around 1660 while looking for the remains of a farmhouse built a hundred years later.
A hospital constructed by the knights after the medieval crusades in the 14th century is rumoured to lie somewhere in Marlow.
And with no record of a building on the Rookery Park dig site from before 1770s, members hope they can start answer some of the burning questions raised by their dig last year.
Society member Doug Courtney said: “We are trying to get further with this older building that no one was expecting to find.
“We are trying to get dating information, what we have found we have dated approximately, but we want to find the rest of the cellar.
“Unfortunately, the new cycle path in the park has destroyed much of the evidence. But it could be quite interesting bearing in mind the Knights Templar hospital that could be in the area. Wouldn’t it be great if we found it?”
Mr Courtney said the group hopes to carry out more work elsewhere in the park, with surveys set to be carried out in the near future.
And members are urging new volunteers to get it on the act over the bank holiday weekend for just a £3 day membership for insurance reasons.
He said: “We are keen to encourage new members to grab a trowel and have a go – they don’t need to have experience.
“Anyone can come along, get down on their hands and knees and start digging with the rest of us. Most of the remains are only a few inches below the ground.”
in Bucks Free Press, by Peter Grant
In 1565, being on the small island of Malta in the Mediterranean meant the possibility of war. The Ottoman and Christian empires were scrambling for position. Frequent raids on trade routes and territory battles were commonplace. For the Knights of Malta, war was business as usual. Little did any of them know that their preparations for war in the spring of 1565, and the way they fought through the summer, would define the outcome of one of the greatest territorial battles in medieval times. Jean Parisot de Valette, grandmaster of the Knights Hospitaller (later to be known as the Knights of Malta), was given the terrifying honor and opportunity to lead the knights.
They did their research: War took a long time to get off the ground in 1565, and Valette, a seasoned and dynamic leader, knew this. He sent his spies into Constantinople (not Istanbul) in the fall of 1564 and received intelligence well in advance that the Ottomans were amassing a force and planned to assault the Mediterranean. Although historians are unclear on the exact number, it is estimated that more than 48,000 men in 193 ships launched from Constantinople to attempt to take territory, including Malta. The Knights of Malta: 500 strong.
They prepared: Valette’s response to the intelligence was immediate and focused action. He created coastline garrisons and started recruiting fighters from the civilian population. Training commenced for the civilians while crops were harvested early or destroyed on the majority of the island, preventing the presence of easy supplies for the enemy forces. He became an active voice in his community, quickly rallying allies and uniting dissenters in the population. By May, as the Ottoman fleet made landfall on Malta, he had grown his force to over 6,000 men.
They picked their battles: As bombardment started on Malta from the Ottoman invaders, the knights patiently waited to engage the enemy. More than 100,000 cannonballs fell on Malta during the summer of 1865. Civilians and knights took refuge. At St. Elmo, a courageous force of 1,500 men would hold their positions despite overwhelming odds while under siege. St. Elmo, a strategic fort in the harbor, would hold for sufficient time to allow the knights to call for reinforcements from Europe to Malta. Although all 1,500 defenders were killed during the fight for the fort, taking St. Elmo cost the Ottomans more than 6,000 men, and nearly a month of the summer. (War was a seasonal business back then.)
They leveraged their advantages: As the Ottomans shifted their attack to St. Michael/Birgu, Valette was careful to take account of their strategic advantages. On receiving intel that the Ottomans were building siege towers, a crew of engineers and knights tunneled out under the wall of the city and destroyed the apparatus. When the Ottomans broke through the walls of the city, Valette rallied a small force of 100 men, and with focused attacks, he drove the Ottoman force through the narrow streets of Birgu and out. Valette was 70 at the time. In each case in which the Ottoman forces overextended themselves, Valette took full advantage and committed only necessary responses, eventually causing complete desperation among the Ottoman forces.
They knew when to strike: As the Ottomans loaded their artillery back onto ships in preparations to leave, reinforcements pressed the retreat, further decimating the Ottoman fighting force, pushing them onto their ships and ensuring that Malta would be uncontested in the near future. Though about a third of the knights had perished and only about 600 men able to fight remained, the knights had inflicted more than 35,000 casualties on the Ottomans. Malta would not fall until the invasion of Napoleon some 200 years later.
Courage is rewarded: Valette’s efforts during the siege of Malta were recognized widely. Money began pouring into the island to strengthen the knights. With this sudden growth in resources, Valette founded the current capitol of Valletta, and strengthened Malta as a strategic defensive position for Europe.
History teaches many lessons, and the student of history begins to see patterns that would otherwise go unnoticed. For the business owner or the business banker, defining and using these key lessons can put us in good company.
In: Vail Daily
By: Ben Gochberg, commercial lender and business finance consultant.
Leonor de Aquitania (Poitiers, 1122- Fontevraud 1204) fue una mujer “excepcional”, longeva y “fascinante”, amada por unos y odiada por otros, pero para todos sin discusión el mejor ejemplo del importante poder que algunas mujeres ejercieron en la Edad Media, en contra de las creencias populares.
Así lo atestigua la investigadora científica del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) Ana Rodríguez, en “La estirpe de Leonor de Aquitania” (Crítica), una obra en la que trata de entender el contexto en el que se movieron las mujeres de la época y explicar cuáles eran las relaciones entre mujeres y poder en los siglos XII y XIII, según cuenta en una entrevista con Efe.
Para ello, Rodríguez se fija en Leonor de Aquitania, una noble medieval francesa miembro de la casa de Poitiers que, por matrimonio, llega a ser reina consorte de Francia y, tras su divorcio de Luis VII, reina de Inglaterra al casarse con Enrique II.
La fuerza inicial del personaje procede, según la investigadora, del hecho de ser propietaria, por herencia de su padre, del condado de Aquitania, un lugar “estratégicamente situado” desde el punto de vista geográfico y “de una importancia tremenda” entre los reinos de Francia e Inglaterra.
Este hecho la convierte en “un peón fundamental” en la construcción de las relaciones familiares y de poder en la época medieval, al ser capaz de mantener ese poder durante seis décadas, un hecho “absolutamente excepcional” en la época.
“Todo eso, amparado con una estrategia permanente en las complejas relaciones con sus esposos e hijos, la hizo mantenerse en el juego político sin estar nunca al margen del mismo”, según Ana Rodríguez, quien afirma que, al final de su vida, Leonor de Aquitania se convierte en “la guardiana de la memoria de su familia”.
“Con estrategias variadas y cambiantes y alianzas con diferentes poderes, e incluso con sus esposos e hijos”, Leonor de Aquitania tiene el mérito de saber “gestionar” ese poder territorial que le es transferido por su padre, convirtiéndola en “toda una superviviente”, una mujer que vive 82 años y que, a su muerte, “ha enterrado a todo el mundo”, hasta el punto de que solo la sobreviven dos de sus diez hijos.
Pero fue precisamente su capacidad para ejercer un poder “para el que en principio, como mujer, no estaba legitimada”, el que la hizo ser detestada por los cronistas franceses e ingleses de la época, todos ellos eclesiásticos y en estrecha relación con los miembros más poderosos de la corte, para los que Leonor “siempre fue un peligro” y una mujer “que fascinó a todos, para bien o para mal”.
“Para ellos fue una especie de mujer que llevó el pecado a todo el que se cruzaba con ella”, según Ana Rodríguez, quien considera que el principal problema con el que se topó fue el de ejercer un poder que, “por la propia concepción del mismo en la Edad Media, no era legítimo”.
Según la investigadora, las mujeres de la sociedad medieval podían transmitir el poder y ejercerlo de ciertas maneras, “pero eso nunca tenía una legitimidad similar a la de los hombres”, y recuerda que “formaba parte de la normalidad” que todos los reyes tuviesen una esposa legítima, para darle hijos legítimos, y también amantes.
Para Ana Rodríguez, la última gran “misión histórica” de Leonor de Aquitania, que habla también de “su gran fortaleza”, fue la de cruzar los Pirineos y viajar, con 80 años, hasta Castilla para escoger entre sus nietas, las infantas de Castilla, a la que se convertiría en esposa del futuro Luis VIII, eligiendo a Blanca, una de las reinas más célebres y hábiles políticamente de Francia.
Dos años después de la elección de Blanca como futura reina de Francia, Leonor de Aquitania falleció en la abadía de Fontevrault, lugar en el que durante ese tiempo se dedicó “a construir la memoria de la familia” y los sepulcros que hoy todavía se pueden ver.
in La Razón
Por: Concha Carrón./Efe.
Although the Catholic Church strayed from exorcisms during Pope John Paul II, the practice has received renewed focus in recent years. Information has recently hit the news that Mother Teresa actually underwent an exorcism. Even the venerable Pope John Paul II performed exorcisms. According to the Italian news channels, he attempted an exorcism on a 19-year-old girl.
Compared to previous years, exorcisms are growing at an alarming rate in the United States. There are ten official exorcists known to be working in the United States. A decade ago, there was just one. These exorcists report experiencing supernatural behaviors like wounds, levitation and unusual scars.
For a Catholic exorcism, the ritual is planned out in advance and takes several hours to finish. It involves sacred objects, holy water and the cross. To carry out the exorcism, priests use a manual that was recently updated by Pope John Paul II in 1998.
In early July, the news began reporting on Pope Francis’ stance on exorcism. He has recently given his support to priests who exorcise demons. Altogether, there are 250 priests who are a part of the International Association of Exorcists. Pope Francis has stood out from previous popes due to his focus on personifying Satan and his works. Video footage from 2013 shows Pope Francis praying over a boy in a wheelchair. Within moments, the boy exhaled and slumped deeper into his chair. Although the incident was downplayed by the Vatican, further reports showed that Pope Francis used a prayer to rid the boy of evil.
Dealing with exorcisms is not new for Protestants and Catholics. In the United States, there are more Protestant exorcists than there are Catholic exorcists. Many Protestants who believe in exorcisms believe that it is a natural way to deal with evil. Unfortunately, the techniques used by some Protestant ministers has resulted in death. In 1997, a 5-year-old girl was forced to swallow ammonia and vinegar that ultimately killed her.
Not so long ago, casually throwing the Knights Templar into polite conversation was a litmus test of mental health. One of Umberto Eco’s characters in Foucault’s Pendulum summed it up perfectly. He declared that you could recognise a lunatic “by the liberties he takes with common sense, by his flashes of inspiration, and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars”.
But all good things come to an end. The enigmatic medieval monk-knights are no longer a fringe interest for obsessives. They are now squarely mainstream. And as 18 March 2014 draws closer, Templarmania is going to be ratcheted up several more notches.
Everyone loves an anniversary, and this is going to be a big one. It will be exactly 700 years since the legendary Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master of the Templars, was strapped to a stake in Paris and bonfired alive. For centuries after de Molay’s execution in 1314, everyone wanted to sweep the ashes of the whole dreadful affair under the carpet. The official line was that the Templars, the former darlings of Christendom, had fallen from grace. Power had gone to their heads, and they had degenerated into something unspeakable (for a medieval order of monks, at any rate): spitting and urinating on crucifixes, worshiping idols, and finding sexual release with each other.
King Philip IV “the Fair” of France had personally overseen seven years of inquiry into the order’s suspicious practices. Based on the information it unearthed, he was convinced that he had exposed something rotten in society. The world, he was sure, would be better off without their sort — so he moved to have the Order stamped out. In the end, faced with Philip’s sustained pious outrage, the yellow-bellied pope of the day (a stooge who owed everything to Philip) had little alternative except to close the Templars down on the basis their reputation was irreparably shot. Philip then spent the next few years getting his hands on the Templars’ vast wealth, which he justified as compensation for having financed the enquiry to expose their dreadful sins.
For the following centuries, no one really spoke of the Templars. They were an embarrassment, and the less said about them the better. It was as if they had never been.
An attempt to rehabilitate them came first from a Scottish Freemason in the early 1700s, but his views did not spread wider than the royal Jacobite court where he presented them. A century later, the Order’s traditional reputation as depraved deviants re-emerged, but this time as the arch-villains in books – most famously in Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. But fast-forward to 2013, and for some reason the Templars are everywhere. Promotional stands in bookshops buckle under the weight of credulity-busting Templar plots. Bug-eyed computer gamers, cloaked in the Templars’ iconic white robes and blood red crosses, slash and parry through historical adventures of derring-do. Cruise-ships of sightseers descend on original Templar buildings. And in central London, you can now even unwind with a pint in The Knights Templar pub.
Yet the increasing popularity of the Templars is something of a mystery, because it is hard to see how or why the modern world identifies with the Order at all. The Templars were medieval monk-knights, the crack troops of the Crusades – so effective and feared on the battlefield that Saladin once famously executed all captured Templars for fear of ever having to face them again. As a sideline to fund their wars, the knights experimented with international finance. They proved so talented at it that they were soon richer than Europe’s leading kings, whom they dutifully bankrolled.
They were, by anybody’s standards, then or now, a startling bunch: one only the medieval world could have conceived of. It is difficult to imagine what a modern equivalent would be. Perhaps a massive international army of chaste militant Christian zealots who also happened to own most of the world’s investment banks? It is hard to see how such a modern group would be remotely popular with the public. So what do people see in the Templars?
Darker interests focus on the Templars as the rallying point of a network of violent European white supremacism – a lodestar of racial hatred around which extremism can gravitate. The appeal of the Templars to extremists is probably inevitable. The Templars were founded during the Crusades, which can hardly be described as a time of religious and cultural tolerance. But the Templars are always full of surprises, and the historical record shows that even in that climate, the Templars’ sworn mission was in fact to protect pilgrims and the vulnerable. Nowhere in the over 600 provisions of their medieval Rule does it ever refer to anything approaching a mandate for ideological murder of people holding a different faith.
The extremists’ vision of the Templars as a kind of proto-SS ethnic extermination squad is simply ahistorical. The evidence does not bear it out. For instance, take Usamah ibn Munqidh, an adventurous 12th-century Syrian nobleman, diplomat, and poet. He recorded that when he used to visit Jerusalem, the Templars, who were his friends, would let him into their headquarters in the Temple of Solomon (the al-Aqsa mosque), where they would clear a space for him to pray. On one occasion, a nameless European knight repeatedly seized him, and spun him so he was facing East, ordering him to pray as a Christian. The Templars quickly intervened and ejected the knight, before explaining apologetically to Usamah that the knight was fresh off the boat from Europe and new to the ways of the Orient.
Accounts like this have spawned a growing camp of people who look to the Templars’ spiritual side, and see in the Order a fascinating enigma. The idea that the Templars had an alternate spirituality, perhaps even a slightly mystical one, is, interestingly, not a New Age invention. People were saying it before the Templars were closed down. The poet-knight Wolfram von Eschenbach, writing sometime between 1200 and 1225, gave the German people their first Holy Grail epic: Parzival. In it, he described how the Grail was kept at the castle of Munsalvaesche, guarded by a company of chaste knights called Templeise. This is the earliest association between the Templars and the magical supernatural, and predates The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail crowd by at least seven-and-a-half centuries.
The other ancient association of the Templars with the supernatural is perhaps better known, but sadly more garbled. It was reported by medieval chroniclers that as the flames of the funeral pyre began to lick at Jacques de Molay, he prophesied that within a year the king and pope (who had together effectively destroyed the Templars and condemned him to a heretic’s death) would meet him before God’s celestial tribunal, where they would be judged for their corruption. Although both men died within the year, the story of Jacques de Molay’s “curse” seems to have been embellished from his actual words, which may have been a simpler threat that God would avenge his unjust death.
Nevertheless, versions of this legend are widespread, and have long added to the Templars’ mystique. Although all King Philip’s public statements on the Templars were steeped in a viscous piety and an endlessly-repeated desire to act as the Church’s protector, the reality was the magnetic opposite. His “inquiry” was, in fact, a brutal persecution, which involved seven years of barbarous incarcerations, horrific tortures, and multiple burnings at the stake. Philip was not remotely motivated by religion, despite his sanctimonious flannel. His coffers were filled with nothing but dust and air, and he urgently needed eye-watering sums of money to fuel his appetite for European wars. At the same time, pope-baiting was high on his list of hobbies, and he clearly felt that destroying the Vatican’s invincible army would be a distinct milestone in his effort to position France as the dominant power in Europe.
Unsurprisingly, it was fashionable for many years to see the Templars as the wholly innocent victims of Philip’s squalid politics. Philip was indeed shameless in the way he hurled as many charges at the Templars as he thought were necessary to whip up public outrage and disgust. He was an experienced master at the all-important game of spin, having garnered support against the previous pope using the identical charges of heresy and homosexuality. It had worked magnificently on that occasion – his men even kidnapped the elderly pope, and when the old cleric died of shock, Philip insisted on a posthumous trial to prove the trumped-up charges against the dead pope. So there is no doubt that Philip was a gifted bully – a spectacularly unscrupulous manipulator with no concern at how much blood needed spilling for him to get his way.
However, there are always twists in the tail when it comes to the Templars, and it seems Philip may have found a tiny ember of genuine Templar heresy, which he deftly fanned into a fire big enough to consume the Order. A detailed reading of the complicated sequence of confessions and retractions made by both the rank-and-file knights and the leaders of the Order leaves little doubt that the Templars were up to something. King Philip’s allegations of them worshipping a head that could make trees flower and the land germinate were plainly fabricated, and no evidence of anything remotely related was ever unearthed. Likewise, his accusations of institutionalised homosexuality proved to be invented. But many knights, including Jacques de Molay and some of his most senior lieutenants, did openly admit, at times with no torture, that new members of the Order were pulled aside in private after their monastic reception ceremonies and asked to deny Christ and spit on a crucifix. None of the knights could give an explanation why this was done. They said it had simply always been a tradition, and that the new brother usually complied ore sed non corde, with words but not the heart.
After so many centuries, we can only guess at the bizarre ritual’s significance. It may originally have been a character test to get some idea of how the new recruit might react if captured and subjected to religious pressure. But no one can say for sure. Nevertheless, it does clearly demonstrate that the Templars were subversive when they wanted. In fact, the clearest evidence that the Templars were not all they seemed is largely unknown, even among Templar experts. But it is potentially extraordinarily important. It takes the form of an original Templar building, still standing, nestled in a quiet corner of green countryside. Inside, it contains an enigma that may yet cause experts to revisit the entire question of the Templars’ religious beliefs.
It is not Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, which has no Templar connections at all, having been built a century and a half after the Order was suppressed. Instead, it is a small mid-12th-century chapel in the village of Montsaunès, set in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, on one of the principal medieval highways leading from France into Spain. It was in a critical location. The fight to wrest Spain back from Islam was in full flow, and Montsaunès was on a strategic defensive line. Surviving medieval charters prove beyond doubt that the chapel was unquestionably built by the Templars, then occupied and maintained by the Order for 150 years. It was the heart of one the Order’s great European commanderies (fortified monasteries), although nothing else of it survives.
The reason for its importance to the question of Templar spirituality is immediately apparent the moment you enter the ancient building. The whole interior is painted, as most medieval churches and cathedrals were. But the Templars’ chosen decorations for this particular chapel were not saints, bible scenes, and the usual range of religious imagery. The surviving frescoes are a bizarre collection of stars and wheels, rolling around the walls and ceiling in some mysterious, unfathomable pattern. Interspersed among them are also grids and chequer-boards, painted with equal precision – but also with no apparent sense or meaning. There is nothing remotely Christian about it. The overall effect is calendrical and astrological, with a whiff of the Qabbalistic. It is like some strange hermetic temple, whose meaning is obscured to all except initiates.
The conclusion of the few experts in medieval art who have looked at the frescoes is that they are unlike anything else they have ever seen. They are “unknown esoteric decoration”. Anyone studying the startling paintings quickly realises that they transcend the small French commune where they remain unnoticed, 850 years on. They demand answers. What did they mean to the Knights Templar? Why did they paint them so meticulously? And what prompted them to put them in their chapel, the building at the heart of their spiritual life, which they entered to pray in nine times a day?
We simply do not know the answers. But the chapel at Montsaunès is proof, in its own enigmatic way that the religious life of the Templars was not as straightforward as we have perhaps come to believe. As Umberto Eco’s lunatics, and a growing swathe of more ordinary people, prepare to mark the anniversary of Jacques de Molay’s death, there will be discussions about individual freedom and the abuse of power, about political show trials and miscarriages of justice, and about Europe’s transition from theocracy to autocracy. But there will also be time to think again about what knowledge went up in flames with Jacques de Molay, and to the grave with the other knights.
The little-known chapel at Montsaunès reminds us that there is much we still do not know about the Templars, who increasingly baffle us the more we discover about them.
Dominic Selwood’s new thriller The Sword of Moses features the Templars, Montsaunès and a number of the themes discussed in this article.
in The Telegraph
by: Dominic Selwood
Dr Dominic Selwood is a former criminal barrister, novelist and historian with a passion for the less visited corners of the archives. He is the author of the crypto-thriller, The Sword of Moses (2013), and the textbook on the Knights Templar, Knights of the Cloister (1999). He tweets as @DominicSelwood