This is a tale of the Knights Templar, a nail from the crucifixion and the holiday island of Madeira. It’ll stretch your credulity to breaking point. But I’ve done that a few times already so here goes!
The Knights Templar collected many sacred relics – bits of dead saints and items associated with the life of Jesus. Those relics linked to the death of Christ are called Passion relics and one of them, a nail driven through the flesh of Jesus, is claimed to be in modern Portugal.
A crucifixion nail once owned by the Knights Templar?
In 2010, a nail reputed to be from the crucifixion was found on the island of Ilheu da Pontinha in Portuguese owned Madeira. It was contained in an ornate box next to three skeletons and three swords, one with a religious symbol. The nail was smooth suggesting that it had been handled many times in the past.
The theory that emerged was that the Knights Templar had brought this sacred relic to Madeira and three of the order’s knights had been buried with it. It is true that the Templars had a significant base in Portugal with their headquarters in the town of Tomar.
Possibly not from the crucifixion or owned by the Templars
The Bad Archaeology website, which specialises in debunking what it says are false claims, pointed out that it’s very hard to date nails, most of which looked pretty much the same until the 19th century. It also pointed to the inconvenient fact that Madeira, located in the Atlantic some distance from Portugal, was discovered a hundred years after the Knights Templars were suppressed.
A prominent Portuguese archaeologist working at a major excavation on Madeira at the time the nail was discovered derided the claim that it came from the crucifixion. He said it dated to construction work in the 17th or 18th century.
Ilheu da Pontinha has a colourful reputation among the Portuguese as the tiny island has attempted to declare independence from the rest of Portugal in the recent past as this news report details: