The History Channel has been running a programme which puts forward a theory that runs something like this: The Templars were supressed. They fled to Scotland. They sailed to America with the Holy Grail they had found in the Temple at Jerusalem. They mutated/bonded/merged with the Freemasons. Their descendants were the Founding Fathers. The Holy Grail is hidden in the United States.
OK – take issue if you think that’s a crude synopsis but it’ll do for me. So – let’s go through this theory in two or three blog installments because it’s a humdinger to get through.
This theory has been around for a while and it often starts by denying that the Templars were set up as faithful servants of the church to protect pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. No, runs this counter-argument, they were set up by descendants of the priests from the Temple of Jerusalem scattered throughout the Roman Empire and beyond after the Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus put down the Jewish rebellion in CE 70.
Nursing their grievances for hundreds of years and intent on reclaiming what they had lost in Jerusalem, they formed the Knights Templar and successfully retook the Temple in the holy city as their headquarters. I think it’s fair to say that those who advocate this view are a little sketchy on the evidence front. Is there anything that proves the original founding knights thought they were descended from Jewish high priests? No. And why would Pope Eugenius and Saint Bernard have so enthusiastically backed the Order if its intent ran counter to their interests? All explanations welcome.
The theory tends to accept at face value that the Templars were heretics as charged during the trials of the Templar leaders in Paris at the start of the fourteenth century. The French king dragged up the familiar charge of ‘sodomy’ used to discredit any enemy in those days – as I described in another blog. But in this theory, the Templars were gnostic heretics and, as famously accepted by Dan Brown, they knew that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had got down to it and the descendants of Jesus lived amongst us.
I do think the Templars came in to contact with the heresies that continued to circulate in the east. Remember, Christianity was nowhere hammered in to an orthodox doctrine for five hundred years after the death of Christ. And when the Templars were in Jerusalem, there would still have been followers of Nestorianism, gnosticism and those who believed John the Baptist was the messiah. Unlike the west which bowed to the diktat of Rome, the east was a mess of conflicting views over the nature of Christ and the Trinity. Even Islam was seen as essentially a heresy of Christianity or Judaism.
Anyway, one of the families that claimed descent from the priests of Jerusalem and had joined the Templars were the St Clairs or Sinclairs. In their book – Templars in America: From the Crusades to the New World – Tim Wallace-Murphy and Marilyn Hopkins claim that Earl Henry Sinclair (also descended from the Vikings, who got to America as you know) made the journey to the eastern seaboard of what is now the United States. With that, he was the first Knight Templar to set foot in the New World.