Thursday 10 April 2008

26th October 2007 - The Knights Templar

As it is Friday it is history lesson day! lol Today was the last walk of the season and was entitled "The Knights Templar"

It was after the first Crusade that the Knights Templar were founded in 1119 by a French Knight Hugues de Payens, to protect the pilgrim route and the various religious sites in Jerusalem. Their full name was The Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, or "Templar" knights. The Order, with about nine knights, had few financial resources and relied on donations to survive. Their emblem was of two knights riding on a single horse, emphasizing the Order's poverty.

The Templars' impoverished status did not last long. A nephew of one of the founding Templars Bernard de Clairvaux, spoke for them and in 1129 at The Council of Troyes, the Order were endorsed by the Church and this meant they became a favoured charity across Europe. Now the Templars were given huge sums of money and land, and they built their round churches everywhere - they were round in honour of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Their shields began to bear a red cross on a white shield. This was the origin of the flag of St. George.

We met as usual at Holborn Tube station - the weather was mild (about 18C) and sunny - a lovely autumnal day. We walked along High Holborn and our first stop was outside Southampton Buildings. On this site the first Grand Master, Hugue de Payens built the first Temple Church (or Old Temple) in England to raise money in 1128. Although by this time they were a wealthy order they decided to build on this site as it was cheaper, being outside the then City walls of London. In the 19th century when they were demolishing a building on the site, they discovered during excavations, the remains of the medieval church and other buildings. More recently when a new lift (elevator) shaft was being sunk in the current building the workmen discovered more remains of the church.

In 1161 the Templars' numbers had increased considerably so they decided to move to a new site . they sold the site to the Bishop of Lincoln, who founded Lincoln's Inn and Lincolns Inn Fields. Importantly, a document of sale was drawn up which still survives to this day. It stated that on the site of the Old Temple, stood a church, a cemetary, stables, a kitchen, a bakery, a brewery and a garden. Although not mentioned it is believed there was also a hall and a dormitory. The buildings survived until 1595 when they were demolished.

We then walked back to Chancery Lane and stopped opposite the Knights Templar Pub

This pub is named after the general association with the Templars rather than with anything to do with the actual site, although our guide Aly believes it is so named because of it's proximity to our next Site at Bell Yard

On this site stood the Bell Hostel, owned by the Templars, where guests could stay. The surrounding lands were used as a training ground for Templar Knights before they travelled to the Crusades.

It was at this point of the walk my ears really pricked up as you will see! In 1177 the Templars prestige was increased by victory over the Saracens, but just ten years later, the beginning of their decline came with the Battle of the Horns of Hattin. On 4th July 1187, the then Grand Master, Gerard de Ridefort, led his knights, whom he believed to be invincible as they had God on their side, into the desert from Jerusalem, without access to water or shade. Facing him was none other than Saladin whose men were supplied with water. There was only ever going to be one outcome - the knights and their soldiers were decimated. (Any of this begin to sound familiar? Replace Guy de Lusignan's name with that of Gerard de Ridefort and I'm sure you will know what we are talking about! Hint: Kingdom of Heaven ) This terrible defeat was made worse by the fact that de Ridefort, instead of committing suicide, as he was honour bound to do by the rules of the Templars, did nothing. The surviving templars were demoralised - why should they stick to the laws if their Grand Master did not. He subsequently lost control of Jerusalem to Saladin. The Templars began to lose their prestige, their wealth and their privileges began to cause resentment - they were seen as privileged people and people questioned their positions. It was at this point that Aly mentioned "there was a film that came out about 3 years ago about the Crusades.." "Oh Kingdom of Heaven" I said "a wonderful film!" - "Yes that's correct - how did you know?" Errr, well..... only one of my favourite films! lol

In the early 1300s King Phillip IV of France and the Knights Templar fought over money and the King decided to put them on trial. In 1312, the Order was dissolved by Pope Clement V.

As a matter of interest, on 25th October this year, the Vatican put up for sale 800 copies of the Templars Trial documents. The 800th was presented to the Pope - the other 799 were snapped up very quickly at a cost of 5900 Euros each!

Anyway, I digress - back to the walk. We then proceeded to the end of Chancery Lane, across Fleet Street, and down Middle Temple Lane to The Temple Church.

The Templars moved to their new site in 1161. They began building the new church in 1166 and it was completed in 1185, and a grand ceremony to officially dedicate the church was attended by Patriarch Heraculus of Jerusalem and King Henry II of England.

Temple Church is one of the few remaining round churches in England. Currently under renovation it is not possible to go inside at present, but is well worth a visit if you get the chance. Part of The Da Vinci Code was filmed here. Inside the church there are two parts - the round end is the original part of the church; the roof is supported by 6 Pirbeck marble columns and there are nine full size effergies of Templar Knights. There is also a little wooden door which leads to a penitential cell - when a Templar was to be punished he was put in here - the cell was not large enough for a man to stand yet it was impossible to sit down. The knight was left to starve to death. The rectangular Chancel was added to the main church about 50 years after the original church was built.

The magnificent Norman Door is seen below. Women would leave unwanted babies and children outside this door in the hope that the Templars would take them in and care for the children, which they always did. The children were given the surname of 'Templar'. Atop a handsome stone pillar in the area next to the church is the symbol of the Templars showing them as 'Poor Knights'

In an inventory in 1308, (the document still surviving today) it is shown that together with the church, there was a Cloister Court on the south side, together with cellars, stables, kitchens, a brewery, dormitories, a garden and an orchard, together with guest rooms for the Knights. The buildings were decorated colourfully, with carpets hanging on the walls as well as on the floors.

King Edward II took control of the Church when the Templars declined and he gave the site to the Knights Hospitallers who were the forerunners of the St. John Ambulance Service, who do such great service at public events.

The buildings were then handed to two Law colleges which eventually became the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple.

Well that is the end of the walk but I thought I would just add a few photos of Lincoln's Inn Fields which was looking lovely in her autumnal hues.

All photos (except The Knight Templar at top of page) copyright Orlicat . Please do not post these pictures elsewhere


sasika02 said...

The Knights of Templar, as most people have heard of through such movies as The Kingdom of Heaven, Da Vinci Code, and Indianna Jones, and the last Crusade, is now coming to life.

Skull and Bones

Unknown said...

The nights templer are still around they just don't declare it, there a secret society.

Unknown said...

The nights templer are still around they just don't declare it, there a secret society.