In the close vicinity of the Templar city of Tomar, Portugal, one of the most evocative Templar Castles in the world can be found: Almourol. Situated in a small island in the middle of the Tagus river, overseeing both margins and guarding secret Templar routes from all enemies, Almourol is the subject of legend.
In late 2018 the Municipality of Vila Nova da Barquinha opened right in the center of the village, the new Centro de Interpretação Templária (Templar Interpretation Center), a place where the Templar Order and its continuation in the Order of Christ (of Discoveries fame) is celebrated with dedicated exhibitions, conferences, a comprehensive library and multimedia displays available to the public to explore.
The Center had the major backing, apart from the Municipality and the Portuguese Army that currently has jurisdiction over the Almourol castle, of researcher, philosopher and historian Prof. Manuel J. Gandra, the most respected authority in Templar studies in Portugal – not only because of his strong academic background, but also because he has been the most prolific and consistent author on the theme in the last 25 years. The Center and Prof. Gandra’s work have been fully endorsed by the OSMTHU, that plans to promote a few cultural events in 2019 and 2020 and associate the Order to this beacon of Templar history that merits the attention and collaboration of the Templar world.
The Templar Globe is preparing an interview with Prof. Gandra about the TIC. Meanwhile, please take a look at a video about this remarkable place.
A substantial part of the ceremony of adoubement is conducted privately, only accessible to members of the Order. The act of adoubement itself, however, is public. It becomes a commitment not only to the Order but also to the world. Having this in mind, it’s not easy to describe the complete ceremony as it is conducted in the priory of Portugal, since it strictly follows Tradition, starting just moments before sunset, leading to a night long vigil where the future Knights and Dames are led to contemplate their life and prepare to partake of a new quality, that is both physical and spiritual, that could change their lives.
It is preferable, therefore, that we let images and quotes fill the gaps of what is customary to make public and what is deemed as more suitable to keep reserved and personal.
“Once they have installed themselves in this holy house with their horses and their weapons, clean it”, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Ex Occidente Lux
“Colors are light’s suffering and joy”, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Lux in Flamma
“Danger or victory depends on the disposition of heart”, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
“This is, I say, a new kind of knighthood and one unknown to the ages gone by. It ceaselessly wages a twofold war both against flesh and blood and against a spiritual army of evil in the heavens.”, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Spero in Fide
Post Tenebras Lux
“Go forth confidently”, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
“If some perhaps find my work unsatisfactory or short of the mark, I shall be nonetheless content, since I have not failed to give you my best.”, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
All photos were taken by members of the Order, including Novices, Squires, Knights and Dames. For a full credit list, please visit our Facebook Group.
The Order has the following new Knights and Dames: Catarina Silva, DTJ; Cristina Vargas, DTJ; Filipe Silva, KTJ; Inês Ferreira, DTJ; João Gonçalves, KTJ; Jorge Amador, KTJ; Jorge Cravosa, KTJ; Pedro Bernardo, KTJ; Vera Reis, DTJ. The Order also received new Novices and Squires.
After the Benedictio Militis and the Pentecost Mass, the Order joined the Idegeo [Association] of Professor Manuel J. Gandra‘s celebration of Pentecost in Arraiolos. The Portuguese traditional Império do Divino Espírito Santo, in preparation for the Third Age announced by Joachim of Fiore or the Fifth Empire (of the Holy Spirit) referred to by poet Fernando Pessoa and many others, is comprised of an Auto, with the Parade and Coronation of the Child King, followed by the Bodo do Império, a popular feast and meal shared between all the participants as the anticipation of an era of the universal fraternity of mankind. This is the second year that the Priory of Portugal supports and attends these celebrations as part of the annual calendar.
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Master Antonio Paris with Fr+ Luis de Matos, Chancellor and GP Portugal
The solitary Knight is often depicted in old chivalry tales as the perfect image of wisdom and valour. Indeed, each Knight and Dame of the Templar Order today should aim to live up to that expectation. But the Order becomes stronger when two or three meet in person and work towards our goals That is why the OSMTHU has long established the habit of adding to the already satisfying lunch or dinner event – a moment of friendship and joyful conviviality – a new moment of learning and sharing of ideas and experiences. And that moment is the Conference or Round Table.
The Council Meeting
Friday was a peaceful day in Arraiolos. The beautiful village in the Portuguese region of Alentejo was the perfect setting to the Magisterial Council meeting Master Emeritus Antonio Paris promoted. But no rush. No worries. Life is taken lightly here in Alentejo. After everyone arrived at the Pousada of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, an old convent restored to it’s glory and opened to the public as an excellent hotel, it was time to find a place to have a light meal. Commander Rui herdadinha was already waiting, with a full afternoon of leisure in mind: typical local food, a walk to the Arraiolos castle, a stroll down the narrow streets of the village, famous for its rugs and tapestries.
Master Antonio Paris, Sister Patricia Oyarzun, Fr+ Leslie Payine, Seneschal and Prior of England and Wales
In the late afternoon the Council met, welcoming two of the visiting Order leaders so that the discussion could be broader and more informed. Master Paris lead the meeting, in which he announced his intention of resuming his Office (see the news and details here), working for unity in the Templar world. Fr+ Luis de Matos, Chancellor and Interim Master and Fr+ Leslie Payne, Seneschal were also present, with invited guests Sister Patricia Oyarzun and Fr+ Vinko Lisec, Prior of Croatia.
The discussions were extensive and working plans for the next two years were laid out and analysed. That day the Declaration of Arraiolos was drafted, to be signed in the following days.
Master Antonio Paris, analyzing a draft of the Declaration
Masterly organized by Commander Rui Herdadinha, with the precious help of Fr+ Filipe Beja, Director at the Pousada, the Gala Lunch was a great opportunity for Templars from all over Portugal and members of foreign delegations to meet each other, exchange views and experiences, talk about their templar projects and ambitions (we’re involved in projects such as the Portuguese Templar Santiago Way, the Feytorias Project, a research project, of which more will be known shortly) and generally having a great time.
Present at the Lunch was the full leadership of the Portuguese Order, including Fr+ Luis de Matos, Prior General, Fr+ Luis Fonseca, Commander of Lisbon and In Ecclesia Bishop Christophorus de Lusignan, Fr+ Paulo Valente, Commander of Sintra, Fr+ Victor Varela Martins, Commander of Laccobriga, Fr+ Rui Herdadinha, Commander of Arraiolos and Sister Paula Valente, Preceptor of Porto, as well as Novices, Squires, Knights and Dames of the Priory.
Visiting delegations were composed by Master Antonio Paris, Fr+ Leslie Payne, Seneschal and Grand Prior of England and Wales, Fr+ Vinko Lisec, Grand Prior of Croatia with Fr+ Lovro Tomasinec and Sister Paricia Oyarzun, currently Cabinet Secretary to the Council. Finally, the Lunch was further honoured by the presence of Fr+ Antonio Andrade, Prior General of Portugal of the OSMTH and his Chancellor Fr+ Fernando Castelo Branco.
The opening session of the Conference took place in the Arraiolos Library on Friday night, with the presence of a representative of the local Municipality authority, the speakers and Commander Rui Herdadinha.
On Saturday the main session opened at 3pm, under the general theme “Conflict and War- The Concept of Just War in the 21st Century”. Messages were sent by Priorires and Templar authorities that were not able to be present, from all over the world. These messages were read and will be added to the Proceedings in order to be published later in the year as a compilation book on the subject.
The Commander opened the session thanking all those who contributed with papers and messages to the Conference, introducing Master Paris who reminded everyone of the history of the Just War concept, including the contribution of Saint Agustin and Saint Ignatius.
Fr+ João Pedro Silva talked about Spiritual Chivalry, bringing up some of the main tenants of the Order, followed by Fr+ Luis Fonseca, Commander of Lisbon who read a passage from the “City of God” by Saint Agustin, commenting on it.
Finally Fr+ Vinko Lisec, with the aid of Fr+ Lovro Tomasinec on the translation, told about his personal experience of war, reminding everyone that Croatia was torn between conflicting armies just a few years ago, when Yugoslavia broke apart. His account of the current refugee situation in his country, as well as of the disappearance of a national citizen in Egypt, kidnapped and used as ransom bargain by extremist groups, threatened to be beheaded in a video and since in an unknown location, had everyone gripped.
The session was brought to a close at the end of the afternoon. After a short visit that the Library of Arraiolos merited, as one of the oldest public buildings in town, having served as the Mala Posta (old Royal Postal Service of Portugal), it was time for group photos.
Some of the attendees then rushed to nearby coffee shops and terraces to get some water or a cold beer that would help to bring solace to a hot sunny afternoon in Alentejo. Others formed smaller groups debating the theme of the day and preparing for the evening’s ceremonies. After all, in less that one hour, the National Chapter was due to open in the Convent.
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NEXT: Pentecost – The Ceremony
As “Jornadas Templárias para o Conhecimento Ecuménico” decorreram nos passados dias 13, 14 e 15 de Abril/2018, em Lagos, no Algarve.
As Jornadas constituíram-se de um “Trivium”:
A – Integrando um conjunto de actividades, constituindo-se de uma “Feira de Cultura Regional”, com área expositiva da Ordem dos Templários, feira-do-livro, artesanato, doçaria regional e conventual; que decorreu no Armazém Regimental nos dias 13, 14 e 15.
B – Assim como, no dia 14, sábado, realizaram-se as Jornadas do Conhecimento propriamente ditas, no Auditório do Edifício da Câmara Municipal – Lagos Séc.XXI, entre as 09:30 e as 18:30, com um conjunto de palestras, por Dignitários convidados, que abordaram o tema proposto na perspectiva da corrente doutrinária, filosófica, sociológica, espiritual ou religiosa que professada por cada um dos ilustres convidados.
Cada prelecção durou até 40 minutos, em que o orador respectivo expôs a sua comunicação dentro do Tema escolhido para este Ano – Esperança e Caridade. As comunicações não foram sujeitas a período de perguntas nem a contraditório, procurando-se a construção de um Conhecimento Ecuménico, pelo reconhecimento e aceitação da diferença, a partilha de realidades, a abertura pelo entendimento a diferentes Verdades.
A abertura dos trabalhos decorreu com uma actuação musical, pelo Grupo Coral de Lagos, com trechos medievais dos Séc. XIV e XV.
As Jornadas Templárias tiveram entrada livre a Toda a Comunidade e Organizações. Todos foram muito bem-vindos.
A Organização esteve a cargo da Comenda de Laccobriga e contou com o alto-patrocínio da OSMTHU – Priorado Ibérico da Ordem do Templo, o apoio da Associação Lagoriente – Al-Gharb, da Associação Grupo Coral de Lagos, do Exército Português, da Junta de Freguesia de São Gonçalo de Lagos e da Câmara Municipal de Lagos, assim como o apoio de diversas Organizações da Sociedade Civil nacional.
Objectiva-se a elaboração de um resumo das comunicações das Jornadas, bem como a elaboração da Acta das Jornadas Templárias, com o objectivo final de publicação deste conhecimento e a divulgação do mesmo junto de diversos Organismos da Sociedade, assim como a sua difusão dentro da Ordem do Templo.
Foram convidados oradores representantes de Confissões Religiosas, de Instituições étnicas e convidados da sociedade civil, nomeadamente:
Igreja Católica Romana, Maçonaria Regular, Judaismo, Peregrinos de Santiago, Entidades de Solidariedade Social, Templários e Investigadores Académicos.
Considerando-se que este é um tema central, quer no ternário das virtudes teologais: Fé, Esperança e Caridade; quer na constelação mítica e histórica da identidade portuguesa; eis então o motivo primeiro da escolha do tema para esta primeira edição das Jornadas Templárias para o Conhecimento Ecuménico. Pelo que a Comenda de Laccobriga da OSMTHU deseja, desta forma, poder inculcar a semente em Todos aqueles que, durante este dia, buscaram o conhecimento ecuménico, a aceitação e a partilha, caminhando para um mundo melhor, mais fraterno, de paz, em que os valores crísticos sejam a bandeira que possamos elevar bem alto.
C – No dia 15, domingo, pela manhã, decorreu uma cerimónia solene, interna à Ordem mas aberta a todos os Irmãos de todos os Ramos Templários; chamamento que, de forma fraternal, teve eco e que, nesta celebração eucarística da Igreja Joanita Templária, a Egrégora saiu reforçada, os Irmãos preencheram os seus corações e cumprimos mais uma etapa deste Caminho para a missão a que nos haviam incumbido.
Arrolamos aqui também, outra trindade, entre o Infante Henrique de Sagres, el-Rei Dom Sebastião e a Rainha Santa Isabel de Portugal. Ainda que vindos por caminhos diferentes, encontrar-se-iam ao centro, fundindo, num só, dois aspectos complementares da espiritualidade portuguesa. Pelo caminho de Sebastião vinha a esperança no resgate espiritual e temporal do povo português. Pelo de Isabel, a universalidade do amor, aspecto central no impulso da dádiva e da caridade. Teríamos, então, a Esperança e a Caridade. E, de Henrique, o Navegador, temos esta bela terra de Laccobriga, capital de antanho do Reino do Algarve, sede deste caminho para Ocidente em busca do Oriente, herdeira do entreposto marítimo na demanda da Jerusalém.
Resta-nos, agradecendo a participação de todos, a Todos convidar e vincular para as segundas Jornadas Templárias para o Conhecimento Ecuménico, a realizar em 2019, em Lagos. Juntai-vos a Nós neste desígnio que a Todos nos envolve.
No nobis Domini, no nobis, sed Nomini Tuo da Glóriam
A Todos Vós, meus irmãos, Boas Jornadas.
+ Dr Luis de Matos, Prior Geral do Priorado Ibérico O::S::M::T::H::U::
+ Prof. Manuel Gandra, Apresentação do Livro: Alquimia
+ Dr Joaquim Jorge, Presidente da AMAYUR – Ayurveda
+ Dr Jaime Ramos, Presidente da Fundação A.D.F.P.
+ Pe José Manuel, Pároco da Praia-da-Luz
+ Drª Isabel Quirino, Psicóloga, Peregrina dos Cam. de Santiago
+ Ms Susana Karina, Tese Mestrado – Memórias de Santiago
+ Prof. Manuel Gandra, Filósofo, Investigador e Autor
+ Dr Luis Fonseca, Deputado Mestre em Portugal do G:.P:.R:.D:.H:.
Come and celebrate Pentecost in a Templar way.
The 18 – 20 May 2018 the Priory of Portugal will host a three day event that includes Conferences, Debates and a full Adoubement Ceremony with Vigil and Pentecost Benedictio Militia.
Templars from any branch of the Order are invited. Most activities (except the Vigil and short private section of the ceremony) are opened to the public, subject to pre-registration. All are welcome. More details (place, times, registration, etc.) upon request.
Request your invitation today.
Q: Who is organizing this Event?
A: The Priory of Portugal of the OSMTHU
Q: Who is the OSMTHU?
A: A branch of the Palaprat Templar Order (1804) that is organized in Autonomous Priories since 1945. You can check the provenance here: https://templarsosmthu.wordpress.com/structure-and-provena…/
Q: Is this the Templar Order of the Middle Ages or a (the) right descendant lineage of that Order?
A: No. There is no such thing. The history of the Templars is fascinating, but one thing is sure: after over 900 years of its foundation and 700 years after its suspension, no single group can make such a claim with any degree of truth. There were pockets of survival at the time and we do study what became of the Order and its project across Europe, but any claim of continuity from any group should be regarded with extreme caution.
Q: So, why are you using the Order’s name and symbols?
A: For the same reason that we still have the Olympics today. For the same reason modern Universities, Academies and other Institutions draw on their Greek and Roman predecessors: the spirit is alive and the values they stood for are still valid and very much in need in today’s world. There is no linear historical flow, but the spiritual connection and ideals can be mastered and put to use. Our Order has been doing so for over 200 years and our branch for over half a century. It’s not likely we’ll stop now!
Q: Is this connected with Freemasonry?
A: No. Freemasonry is a fraternal Order that has no direct link to the 1804 revival of the Templar Order by Palaprat.
Q: I have joined the Templars in a branch different from yours. Can I attend the event?
A: Yes. We accept Registration to the Event by every Knight or Dame that can attest affiliation to a Templar inspired Order, such as OSMTJ, OSMTH, OCMTJ, OSTI, OCE, OVDT, CBCS, KT, OSMA, etc.
Q: But I am not active at the moment. Can I still attend?
A: Once Chivalry is duly transmitted, it remains active in oneself if the values are kept. We don’t want to know about current membership status in any Order. Membership is a private matter for each individual. We only need to validate that Chivalry was transmitted so that we can open the access to the private part of the ceremony to those who wish to attend it.
Q: I am not a member of any Templar Order. Can I attend?
A: The general public can Register and attend the Event. The only exception is part of the Vigil (that starts around 9pm on Saturday and ends around 8am the next morning). New Knights and Dames need to be secluded and in silence and meditation during that period. The ceremony ends with the doors of the church opened to the public and the celebration of Mass and Eucharist at 9am on Sunday.
Q: Apart from the Ceremony, what else will take place?
A: There will be a Conference and Debate on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, with several guests speaking on “Conflict and the Notion of the Just War”. There will be a Gala Lunch on Saturday where attendees, members and invited guests, will network and get to know each other. The start of the Vigil, around 6pm and up to 9pm will take place in the church and will be opened to the public. Doors close at 9pm and only Knights and Dames may remain then. Doors will reopen at 9am on Sunday allowing the public to witness the completion of the Ceremony and Mass. In all, there are three days of conferences, debates, talks and ceremonies.
Q: I’m not a member of a Templar Order. Can I become a Knight (or Dame) during the Event?
A: No. The Pentecost Benedictio Militis is a ceremony that closes a cycle that was opened when the members that are going to be Knighted were received as Novices quite a while ago. The Order is not accepting novices during Pentecost.
Q: Where will the Event take place?
A: It will take place In the country of Portugal, in a small medieval village relatively close to the capital, Lisbon.
Q: Why don’t you disclose the location?
A: To avoid unwanted attention in a very special spiritual occasion, the location is only disclosed to Registered participants. The Event will take place in a village conveniently accessible from the main Portuguese airport, featuring good accommodation and historically rich surroundings.
Q: What language will be used during the Event?
A: Portuguese and English.
Q: How much does it cost to attend?
A: Further information should be requested via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The planning was meticulous. Signed and sealed, laden with accusation and instruction, the letters were sent by the king to local authorities throughout his realm. They were to act exactly one month later, simultaneously and at the crack of dawn — on a Friday the 13th, as it happened. The targets were unaware of what lay in store, their leader even spending time with the king and seeming to enjoy his favor. The hour came, and armed men launched their surprise, summarily carrying off hundreds to the king’s dungeons, and many ultimately to their deaths. It was a performance reminiscent of a Stalinist purge or Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives.
The year was 1307, and the month was October. The king was Philip IV of France. And his victims were all members of the order of “the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Jerusalem,” better known as the Knights Templar — or simply the Templars. Over a period of two centuries, this charitable and military order of Crusaders had grown in power and wealth. At a stroke, and with the acquiescence of a weakened pope, Philip destroyed the order, imprisoning its leaders and burning many at the stake. “God will avenge our death,” said James of Molay, the last Grand Master, as he faced the flames on an island in the Seine.
And, in a way, God has. The Templars live on in popular culture — from the video game “Assassin’s Creed” to Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” Philip IV does not.
Dan Jones, the author of well-regarded histories of the Plantagenets and the Wars of the Roses, obviously gives no credence to the conspiratorial fantasies that have been spun around the Templars over the years. No, they do not guard the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail, and never did. No, a surviving remnant does not protect the identities of the descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdelene. No, the order does not secretly run the world — that’s the Trilateral Commission or maybe Skull and Bones. In “The Templars,” Jones relegates this curious afterlife to an epilogue. His aim is to present a gripping historical narrative, and in this he succeeds.
The raw material is rich. Founded by a French knight in 1119, after the successful First Crusade, the Templars began with a mission to protect throngs of pilgrims now traveling to the Holy Land. The members of the order wore white robes with a distinctive red cross, embraced personal poverty and lived according to a regime codified by the great Cistercian abbot Bernard of Clairvaux. A papal charter was followed by a papal decree granting the Templars an exemption from taxes and local laws, effectively creating a transnational entity whose members could go anywhere. As Jones describes it, the order comes across as a combination of Blackwater, Goldman Sachs, Kroll International, FedEx, Fort Knox, Bechtel and, well, the Red Cross.
The financial acumen of the Templars was considerable. In the post-“Da Vinci Code” era, visitors to London often make their way to the Temple Church, between Fleet Street and the Thames, built in the mid-12th century. The circular nave — typical of Templar churches — is the oldest part of the structure and was used as a repository by English nobles and by the Crown itself. “By the 1240s,” Jones writes, “the order was providing diverse financial services to some of the richest and most powerful figures across Christendom.” The Templars “guaranteed debts, ransomed hostages and prisoners of war on credit, and could arrange very large loans — such as the one made in 1240 to Baldwin II, the emperor of Constantinople, and secured by his very own fragment of the True Cross.”
The order’s military record was mixed. In 1187, an army of Templars and others, under King Guy of Jerusalem, was surrounded and slaughtered by the sultan Saladin in his successful campaign to restore Palestine to the Muslim fold. Saladin had played his hand skillfully: stopping up wells even as he enticed the Christians farther into the searing flats; pausing long enough to allow dehydration to take its toll; then moving in for the kill. Some 200 Templars were captured, and Saladin beheaded them all.
That was an unhappy episode, but the Templars had another century of influential life in front of them, until that Friday the 13th in 1307. Philip IV was pious, paranoid, unscrupulous and mercurial — and deeply in debt to the Templars. It was all too easy to manufacture charges of heresy, blasphemy and sexual depravity: urinating on the cross, having sex on the altar — the usual allegations. The power and secretiveness of the Templars only fueled the charges. The decisive blow was struck in France, but within a few years the Templars were extinct throughout Christendom, except in the popular imagination.
“The themes of the Templar story resonate powerfully today,” Jones observes. He rightly does not pontificate about this and draws no specious parallels, but the reader can’t help recognizing familiar territory. There is the preoccupation in the West with what we now call the Middle East. Religions collide and atrocities abound. Cries of “Allahu akhbar” pierce the din of battle. The power of states is threatened, or seen to be threatened, by unaccountable forces with global tentacles. Information is unreliable and easily manipulated, allowing conspiracy theories to take root and spread.
Nothing is left of the Templars except words on parchment and ruins in stone. An older crusading order with certain similarities, the Knights Hospitaller, does still exist, after a fashion — its genetic progeny are the Knights of Malta. They have a palatial headquarters on the Aventine in Rome. They have a papal charter and enjoy quasi-sovereign status. They can issue their own passports. They maintain diplomatic relations with a hundred countries. And, like the Templars, they do not rule the world.
By Cullen Murphy in The Washington Post
Tom Cullen Knightfall Interview:
Did you have to do any extra training or had you already known how to use the sword?
Tom Cullen: “In drama school in the UK we do a lot of fight training, and so I’d done a lot of sword training prior. And,I found that I had the propensity for killing people, ironically. (Laughing) So, I’d actually done extra exams and had some practice while studying in drama school but that was about eight years ago. I hadn’t swung a sword in about eight years, so it was all very new in many respects.
The stunt team that we had was led by an amazing Frenchman, Cédric Proust. He is a top stuntman and fight choreographer. He really put us through it and we had a great swordsman called Roman. The entire team wanted us to be at a very, very high level. Every day on set they would drill us and I did about three months of physical training beforehand to get myself and my body ready for the fighting portion of my character and the series.
We also did a two and a half week boot camp where we would walk in the morning and do some circuit training and then do fighting in the afternoon. Later, we’d go horse riding and do some more sword training and then we would go to the gym. When it came to the actual filming, because there were a lot of fight scenes I was filming 14 hours a day doing scene work and then I’d have to do my fight training either on my lunch breaks or on the weekends. Any kind of second in the day that I did have I would fill it by going up to the stables and ride.
Working on Knightfall was a full-on experience because the team wanted it to look authentic and real, and when you watch the fights they are absolutely incredible. I’m so proud of all of the actors who’ve participated in the battles because we’ve really done a great job. The stunt guys have really trained us well and they’re epic battles and muddy and gruesome. And they feel very real, which I think is something I’m very proud of.
There is an incredible battle sequence in the final episode which is the biggest thing I’ve ever been involved in. We had like 400 guys on a battlefield fighting for about two weeks. It’s epic and amazing. And the real geek, nerd in me – because I am one – just can’t believe that I’m in it. I’m extremely proud of it.”
How much research did you do?
Tom Cullen: “Whenever I have done a historical piece, I think it’s imperative that you have to bathe yourself in as much literature to understand the world as much as possible, so that when you get onto the set, the world is just vibrating inside you. I wanted to know as much about the Crusades and about the politics at the time. Not just the politics in Europe or in the Middle East, but also Mongolian politics because they had a huge influence.
You just need to immerse yourself in the world and know everything that these men would have known, understand every single permutation and the political permutation that is affected where they are at this point and what drives these men and women to do the things that they do. I think that’s something that you have to do, otherwise it’s just lazy and in a way unforgivable because at that point that’s where you make mistakes.
You take history for granted and history should never be taken for granted because it’s essential for us furthering ourselves as a society and as a culture, because the one thing that history teaches us is that it’s cyclical. And so, yes, I read a lot and we had a fantastic historian on set. His name is Dan Jones. He’s just released an amazing book that you must read called The Templars which is on the New York Times Bestseller’s List. It’s brilliant. He was there on hand at all times feeding into us and making sure that what we were portraying was as accurate as possible. Anything that would come up in the script that we didn’t know, we would use him as a source of knowledge and he would say, ‘Go and read this, go and read that,’ or just tell us because he’s a real fountain of knowledge.
And that wasn’t just the access that put me in the world of the Knights Templar. […] The costume design, the art direction, the production design, makeup, etc. it was all so dense and real that you feel like you’re right in it as soon as you turn up on set. It’s just all there for you, you know, and you can really immerse yourself into the world.
The days we spent on set were amazing. We filmed on the biggest sets in Europe at Barrandov Studios. They built Medieval Paris. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. In the show, I have to do this shot where I’m riding down this nearly 200-meter long street that they built. And there are 350 extras and each extra has a job, each extra has a name. And it’s live, real world and you just forget that the cameras are there because it’s so extraordinary.
Our costume designer, Diana Cilliers, was amazing. I remember the first time we did our screen test, which is where you put on the costume in front of camera and you kind of like pose and walk around so they can see what it looks like on camera with the makeup and the hair and all of that kind of stuff. I remember putting the costume on, the chainmail and everything, and it weighed 50 pounds which was like an insane amount of weight. I struggled to walk down the corridor to get to the studio to do the screen test.
I was like, ‘Guys, why is the costume so heavy? How are we supposed to move and fight in this?’ And the answer was that Diana tried out lighter material such as plastics and other materials but they just didn’t look authentic. And so they put us in the most authentic costume that they could and we just had to deal with it. We got bigger and we got stronger, and so very quickly we were able to run and jump, get on horses in the 50-pound costumes and do everything that we needed to do to play our parts. But, you know, you can see the difference in the way that the costumes move and the way that your body moves in them. It’s just authentic and I think it makes for a very real experience when watching the show.”
Can you talk about Landry’s relationship with Godfrey, played by Sam Hazeldine?
Tom Cullen: “So the relationship that Landry has with Godfrey runs throughout the entire first season. And so in episode one, Godfrey is Landry’s surrogate father. Landry was an orphan and Godfrey essentially took him in and saved him from this orphanage. And so because of the promise Godfrey saw in him, Landry became a Templar at the age of 11 which is very, very, very rare.
One of the Templar rules is that you must become a Templar of your own volition because it’s such a monastic lifestyle where you do things like eat your food out of the same bowl as another man. There’s no vanity, there’s no possessions. It’s completely monastic. And so it’s very rare for a young boy to join the Templars like Landry did.
So, Godfrey becomes Landry’s father and as the season goes on, in episode one there is a truth revealed to Landry about Godfrey that he didn’t know. And Landry, like a classic hero that we all know, as the protagonist, he hunts and searches for the truth at all costs. He is like a boar who gets physically beaten, emotionally beaten and he just gets back up by himself and charges towards the truth.
Godfrey is pivotal in that circle of truth that Landry is striving towards and it isn’t a very easy journey for Landry to go on throughout the first season. But, it’s a very satisfying journey for the viewers. Every time the scripts would come in there would be a new revelation and it would be a new shock and a new turn and it was very cool to read and really fun to play. I hope that the audience enjoys it as much as we enjoyed making it.”
Is any particular theme or aspect to Knightfall you think will really resonate with the viewers?
Tom Cullen: “Yes, sure. I think what I’m very proud of in the show is that you can kind of look at the show objectively from the outside having not seen it and say, ‘Oh, this is about guys swinging swords and that’s what the show is about,’ but the show is so much more than that. The show is about politics. We have a lot of stuff that takes place in the French Court at the time, dissecting and breaking down the politics and the machinations of political interplay, which I just love that kind of stuff.
It has a fantastic central spine through the show; an amazing love story which I’m surprised at how strong and moving that story was as we were filming it. It kind of grew into this thing that we had no idea it would become. The show talks about revenge and betrayal, brotherhood, loyalty, faith, humanity and mortality. I think that it raises really big questions about who we are whilst at the same time being really kind of fun and entertaining. So, that takes you on a really wild journey.
And, so I truly believe the show has something for everybody. I think that it is by no means a gendered show. I think that women would love it as much as men will love it and that is something I’m really proud of, too. It has fantastic, strong female characters. They are actually probably stronger than all of the male characters and they’re just as complex and rich as the male counterparts, and it’s very moving. I’ve watched the last episode three or four times now and I’ve shed many tears every single time. It’s a great rollercoaster.”
What do you like about the medieval time period?
Tom Cullen: “I’ve always been obsessed with the Medieval time period because I think it’s a time that we can look back on and learn from. And, actually, 800 years isn’t that long ago and that this is the time really when the world that we live in today was created and formulated. We’re still feeling the repercussions of the actions and choices the people made in the medieval period today.
It’s also a period that is grimy and dirty and dangerous. The line between life and death is so thin, it’s really interesting to learn about. And I think that’s a fantastic place to make a drama in. It’s a very rich world since life and death was so next to each other, and it’s world rich in terms of human wants and needs. Nowadays our lives are reasonably comfortable for certain people, especially in America. We typically don’t have that kind of life and death threat every single day where we are going to drop down with scurvy or have to go into battle.
So, our choices aren’t as drastic. But if you have a lifespan of 35 years, every choice you make is loaded. And so I think that the world of the Medieval period is one of very high octane and people making life and death choices every single move. And that, for me, is an exhilarating period of time to make a drama in.”
How do the scenes in Knightfall resonate in your own life? How do you draw on your own life to play the part of Landry?
Tom Cullen: “That’s such a good question. On the paper, it isn’t necessarily very easy to draw on myself, and I think that I like to work as an actor from the places of truth instead of drawing on myself as an empathetic being. Well, I’ve had some experiences personally that I put it into Landry but not many. I worked in an empathetic way, anyway where I try and put myself into the character’s body and some kind of lose myself as much as possible. And so my thoughts and my character’s thoughts were somewhat separate as opposed to my own.
I don’t really like to draw on my own experiences. I feel that’s confusing and muddied and I don’t think it’s very healthy. So, it wouldn’t have been very healthy for me to continue working in that way and it’s not why I’m an actor. But the themes that were very resonant with me in the show, that resonated with me as a reader and as a viewer and as an actor, are ones of brotherhood and loyalty, love and lust, and denying one’s own happiness, complexity in relationships with a father and feelings of abandonment. All of that stuff really resonated with me.”
Do you believe that because Landry became a Templar at such a young age that’s why he was able to rebel against that part of his vow and enter into a romantic relationship?
Tom Cullen: “I think that when we first meet Landry at the top of episode 1 he is 20, and he is brash and young. He is a maverick, incredibly cocky, and is kind of emboldened by the fact that he has God on his side and he thinks that he’s invincible, which I think a lot of 20 year-olds think, regardless of whether they have God on their side or not. I know I certainly felt like that.
But what we see at the top of episode one is his entire life flipped upside down when they lose Acre, the last Templar stronghold in the Holy Land and they lose the Holy Grail. And so we flash forward 15 years and when you’ve been brought up as a as a warrior, and that’s all you know, everything you know, it’s a tough reality to deal with. He’s like a caged animal, unable to fulfill what he thinks is his only purpose and duty which is to fight.
And so when we meet him, he is this very, very complex, pulled apart guy in episode one. He is battling with his humanity and he is secular yet he is also still mentally devout. He is very loyal to his brothers, his family, yet he is lying to them. He is having an affair with a woman yet he is a monk. He is the bravest, most fearless warrior, yet he’s starting to feel a sense of his own mortality. I think that’s why he kind of falls in love with this woman. It’s not that he’s doubting God or that he’s doubting the Templars or religion, but that he’s doubting himself. He is in a conflict, in a battle with himself, which are the stories that I love to watch where your hero is so full of contradiction and battle and personal complications. And throughout the first season, we see him work through that and battle through that and try and find out who he really is. It’s an awesome journey for me to play and to take viewers on.”
Did you discuss what would happen moving forward with the series, where it might go in seasons two, three or four? Were you given an idea of Landry’s entire arc beyond the first season? And if so, to what degree does that influence your approach to the character? How much are you able to build into the character as the series goes on?
Tom Cullen: “We love the show and we really hope that we can continue making it for as long as possible because we’re a real family and we’re very, very proud of it and we love making it. There’s also still a lot of the Templar history that has yet to be told. We have an idea of where the show will go and where it will take us. But what actually happens is that while you’re making a show, it becomes this dialogue that happens between the writers, the actors, directors, the costume designers, the art director, the production designer, makeup artists, etc. where you’re constantly kind of feeding into this pot which is the show. It evolves and changes and moves in ways that you would never expect it to.
It’s like a living organism but that surprises you. And so though we have an idea of where this is going, actually the truth is that we don’t in many respects. We have the structure of history and what actually happened which we have to stay with but in terms of the characters, and their fuels and wants and needs and how they navigate their way through that history is something that we’re constantly being surprised by with the characters. And that’s a really exciting place to work with.
And especially as an actor, I don’t want to know where the character is going because in life I have no idea what I’m doing tomorrow or how it’s going to pan out. I can only be in the present and I can only make choices in the present, and so that’s what you want your characters to do. And so the writers actually withheld scripts from us and didn’t tell us what was happening later in this first season so that we could be surprised in the moments whilst we were making the episode, which is a really fantastic and authentic way to work. And then once we get the script, we kind of talk about them and collaborate on them.
Dominic Minghella is an incredible showrunner. He is a force of nature and an amazing man and a brilliant writer, and he really values the actors’ input. He is always very good at fielding ideas and whether he takes them or not is up to him, but it feels like a very collaborative process where everybody is feeding into it and we all have ownership over the show and that’s really exciting.”
in showbizjunkies.com by REBECCA MURRAY