The idea that the Knights Templar got to America is tantalising. But is it true? One piece of evidence often cited is the so-called Newport Tower. It’s an intriguing structure that some think is a medieval tower while others counter, it’s a 17th century windmill. Both can’t be right!
Newport Tower – built by the Knights Templar?
It’s claimed by some that Newport Tower on Rhode Island is a Templar construction. Others say that it’s just a seventeenth century (or later) mill that gives the impression of being a ruined castle. There’s even similar mills in England.
If it was Templar, this would be a pre-Christopher Columbus structure built by Europeans. Aside from the fact that would upset a lot of people for being overly Eurocentric – it would also distress a lot of serious Templar historians who reject completely the idea that the Templars ever got anywhere near America.
What is the case for the Newport Tower?
The pro-Templars argue that the tower is older because it turns up on a sixteenth century map drawn up by the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano. He was apparently sent on a mission by the French king Francis I who had watched Spain and Portugal hog the New World for a while and was now determined to tear a chunk off for himself.
The intrepid Italian was commissioned to explore the north American coastline and if possible, find a way through to the wide ocean that lay beyond, the Pacific.
Nobody had any idea how wide and vast north America was at this stage. Verrazano stalked the coast from the Carolinas upwards mooring at what would eventually become New York and mistaking the Hudson estuary for a lake. Well, give him a break – Florida was believed to be an island by Spanish explorers early on – easy mistake.
Does “Norman villa” = Newport Tower?
He sailed on to Narragansett Bay near Long Island and met some of the native Americans. This is where people get very excited because on his map there is a place described as “Norman Villa”. Aha! So, there was a Norman villa there – say the supporters of the Templar theory. And the Newport Tower is on his map.
LEARN MORE: How to find your Knight Templar ancestors
Newport Tower – 12th century medieval?
Then there is the argument that the tower resembles northern European medieval structures in Scotland and Scandinavia. The Orphir Round church on Orkney is cited. But it also bears a striking resemblance to some 17th century windmills in England.
In 1848. a local antiquarian in Newport analysed the mortar in the Newport Tower with similarly aged buildings in the area and the material looked very similar. He concluded the tower was only 300 years old and not the 700 or 800 years it would need to be if it was contemporary with the Knights Templar.