Were the Knights Templar really the guardians of the Holy Grail?


500px-Galahad_grailFor 800 years, people have been thrilled by the idea that the Knights Templar were the brave guardians of the Holy Grail. But is it actually true?

The Templars were formed in 1118 ostensibly to protect pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. But, many believe, that wasn’t their real mission. It was no accident that they chose to be based on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in what we now call the Al Aqsa mosque. When the holy city was under crusader control, the mosque was taken over by the Templars and renamed the Temple of Solomon. Because that’s what they believed it actually was – the site of the biblical king’s palace.

grail2The knights called themselves the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon – or Templars for short. They began digging furiously under the temple to find sacred treasure. It’s widely assumed they discovered the Holy Grail and became its guardians. Their mission had then been accomplished and they were to be the eternal keepers of the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper.

When the Templar order was crushed in 1307 by the King of France and his puppet Pope Clement, the Grail was believed to have been spirited away. Did it end up in Paris and then on to Scotland and even the United States where one rather far-fetched theory has the sacred chalice being melted down into the torch of the Statue of Liberty? Or was it whisked off to Portugal where the Templars were protected by the king? Could it be located at the Templar bastion of Tomar in central Portugal?

In the period that the Knights Templar existed – 1118 to 1307 – there was an explosion of Grail related stories. They often involved the Court of King Arthur and extolled the virtues of chivalry and risking all for divine glory. The association of the Grail with the Knights Templar wasn’t established at first – it evolved even into our own time.

The idea of the Grail may be rooted in pre-Christian folklore, particularly Celtic references to magic cauldrons – much loved by witches as you know.  The cauldron became a cup with magical powers.

holy-grail-2A 12th century poet Robert de Boron made the link between a cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper with Joseph of Arimathea who was said to have used the same cup to collect blood from Christ’s body on the cross. Joseph then takes the cup to Britain where it ended up at Glastonbury. Joseph is a character who pops up in the gospels as a wealthy Jewish merchant and maybe a relative of Jesus who arranges for his burial. Successive early Christian writers developed him further and Robert de Boron stuck him firmly in the Arthurian legend.

The Grail had its theological uses for the medieval church.  As a cup of Christ’s blood it reinforced the central act of the Catholic mass where the wine in the chalice becomes, literally, the blood of Christ. This would explain the symbolism of Christ sharing the cup at the last supper and then the same vessel being used to collect his blood at the crucifixion. Wine + turning to blood + chalice = Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation – the turning of wine to blood in the mass.

goodfriday-neuschSo how do the Templars come to be its guardians? Step forward German medieval teller of chivalrous tales Wolfram von Eschenbach. In the first decade of the 13th century he wrote Parzival – effectively a new take on the already existing legend of King Arthur. Parzival arrives at Arthur’s court, goes off on a quest to find the Grail, which he discovers in a castle owned by the Fisher King and guarded by…the Templeise.

This brotherhood of knights is indeed chaste and prayerful, like the Templars. They do battle with heathens to protect the Grail, though it’s a stone and not a cup. The stone, incidentally, confers eternal youth and heals people of ailments.  But there is no mention in the Parzival tale of these knights being in any way monastic in nature and their symbol is a turtle dove and not the Templar cross.

However, the die was cast. Templars. Guardians. Holy Grail. There was no going back now. Templar historian Helen Nicholson believes that this story and others that arose afterwards gave the Templars some very good PR in German speaking medieval Europe.

Wolfram von Eschenbach is an interesting fellow. He seems to have been influenced by French literature and knowledge coming from the Muslim world. Wolfram’s aristocratic patron – Hermann, Landgrave of Thuringia – had been on crusade in the Middle East and both men seem to have been unusually fascinated and sympathetic to the Islamic world.

Wolfram also gained knowledge, he claims, from the Moorish libraries of Toledo in Spain. Toledo had been conquered from the Muslims by Christian armies in 1105. Scholars from all over western Europe descended on its famous libraries translating texts from Arabic that included long lost ancient Greek works and studies on everything from geometry to music and astrology. Like the Templars, Wolfram was somebody who imbibed the wisdom and philosophy of the medieval Muslim world via different routes.

To shore up his claim that the Templars were the guardians of the Grail, Wolfram also mentions an elusive character called Kyot of Provence as a cast iron source for his tale. Chrétien of Troyes got the Grail legend details wrong in his King Arthur story, Wolfram alleges, whereas Kyot of Provence is spot on. And the Templar connection is completely true. Problem is, nobody can find any shred of evidence for the existence of this chap Kyot of Provence.

It’s almost like he never existed.

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2 thoughts on “Were the Knights Templar really the guardians of the Holy Grail?

  1. The Templars, The Shroud,
    The Veil and the Mandylion

    Article © 1999 Chev. John Ritchie KGOT.

    From research material collected by the Late Chevalier Jamie E. Craik of Assington K.G.C.T. 1959.

    In 944 AD a Byzantine army besieged Moslem occupied Edessa. The Christian general offered the city’s Moslem Emir a huge sum of money, the freeing of 200 Moslem captives and the promise of perpetual immunity for just one thing… the Mandylion. After considerable haggling the Emir agreed and so the Mandylion was taken to Constantinople where it remained for two and a half centuries as the most sacred object in the imperial collection of relics. At Constantinople it was kept in strict seclusion with no public expositions and was seen only occasionally by monastic -artists, monks who were regarded as good enough and received the privilege of reproducing the holy relic as a new icon copy, this was done under conditions of great secrecy. These copies passed into the Orthodox Church and became the standard icons of Christ, both in Greece and later Russian Orthodox Church. A few garbled 12th century accounts speak of the full length image of Jesus on the Mandylion, and it said that someone at that time may have undone the Trellis work mounting and unfolded the Mandylion, this would explain the sudden new references to a shroud in the Imperial collection.

    On the 12th of April 1204 AD the Fourth Crusade captured and looted Constantinople and in the confusion the Mandylion disappears, the sacking is described by Gunther of Paris, for three days the pillaging raged.

    Then on the 16th of April Count Baldwin of Flanders was crowned the first Latin Emperor in the Cathedral of St. Sophia. Andre Grabar, the internationally famous Byzantine art historian, states, that it is uncertain what happened to it. Icons in Rome and Genoa have claimed to be the original Mandylion, but are undoubtedly later copies.

    Sir Steven Runciman, the distinguished Art historian, favoured a “Sanctum Toellam” which was preserved in St.Louis’ Sainte Chapelle, Paris, until the French Revolution when it was destroyed by a mob.

    This identification also appears unlikely, the reason being that this Toellam attracted no interest in the West, in considerable contrast to the mere memory of the faithful, on tens of thousands of Eastern Orthodox icons right up to the present day.

    This would indicate that the Mandylion was so sacred and important that its memory has existed in the East for over a thousand years and its image has been accurately and faithfully copied by countless monk Artists down through the ages.

    The Paris Toellam was possibly a copy looted from the Temple in Paris after the arrest of the Templars.

    There is then, suggested evidence that the Mandylion and the Shroud are one and the same or are they?, There is a third object entry, the Vale of Veronica, which is also said to be the Mandylion, references to this object abound, there is a very clear and specific carving in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland which depicts this mysterious object.

    Is the Veil of Veronica, the Mandylion or are all three the same sacred object.

    This is what we hope to decipher. However, some explanation is necessary for the missing century and between the cloths disappearance as the Mandylion from Constantinople in April 1204 AD and its reappearance as the Shroud in the possession of the French family of de Charney during the 1350’s. The most likely possessors of the Mandylion would appear to be the Order of the Knights Templar, they were the first troops into Constantinople in1204, they knew of the imperial collection, are were in fact the body guard to Count Baldwin of Flanders, so it would have been very easy for them to obtain the Mandylion and other relics during the sacking.

    The Knights Templar were aware of the significance of religious relics and were partially responsible for the huge 13th century trade in these items. Perhaps, the most significant factor, was the rumour that throughout Europe, at secret Preceptory meetings the Templars worshipped a mysterious bearded male head, called Baphomet. Described in some accounts as a” plaque” and by the more malicious as an “idol”. The word plaque would suggest a flat , rather than a three dimensional object.

    In the year 1307, the rumour was used as an excuse by the French King Phillip the Fair, to arrest all the Templars in France on charges of heresy, thereby enabling him to try to lay his hands on the Order’s vast property and wealth. It must also be remembered that Phillip owed the Templars a great deal of money, which he had borrowed from the Temple. He also wished to devalue the coinage of France and as the Templars had set the Gold and silver standards in 1265 where all coins minted weighed the same irrespective of their country of origin, similar to a modern ECU. However, whatever the origins of this plaque, the original never fell into his hands, much to his great annoyance. What is clear, is that every Templar Preceptory had a copy of this “head”, and one of these came to light in England in 1951,during the demolition of an outhouse at Templecombe Somerset, the site of a long vanished Templar preceptory. This was a curious panel painting covered with dust but clearly depicting a bearded male head of the type referred to in the confessions forced from the Knights Templar under torture by Nogaret and Philip’s other agents. Today this Templecombe panel hangs in the church of St. Mary. Templecombe, its resemblance to the face on the Mandylion is unmistakable. If the Mandylion was indeed the “idol” possessed by the Templars one further clue indicates its fate. In Paris on the 14th of March 1314 AD. The last two dignitaries were burned at the stake on an island in the Seine, by King Philip and his cohorts. They proclaimed their innocence of the heresy with which they had been charged, to the end. One was the Grand Master of the Order, Jacques de Molay, and his companion in death was the Master of Normandy, Geoffrey de Charney. Did this Geoffrey de Charney manage to smuggle the Shroud or the Mandylion to members of his family or perhaps both?. And was it thus, that it came into the possession of another Geoffrey de Charney only one generation later, who we know to be the first certain owner of the Shroud. This of course depended upon a genealogical or family link between the two aforementioned. A very substantial link has been proved, which to my mind makes the sequence of events unquestionable. In addition certain episodes concerning the de Charney family and the Shroud makes fascinating evidence, as I will relate. The second Geoffrey de Charney was killed at the battle of Poitiers fighting against the English.

    The Templars, The Shroud,
    The Veil and the Mandylion

    Article © 1999 Chev. John Ritchie KGOT.

    continued from part one

    During his lifetime he had distinguished himself in the service of the first Valios King of France Philip VI, and had been given the accolade, he became a knight of St.Denis.

    This was also the period, when the young Scottish Lords and knights with their exiled king David Son of Bruce, created the Garde Ecosse the Scottish bodyguard to the Valios Kings of France. A Balliol was on the Scottish throne sponsored by his gracious feudal superior. Edward the Third of England. David the second had paid dear for Scotland’s Sovereignty.

    Geoffrey de Charney Kt. was buried in the chapel of St.Denis with great honours. Shortly before his death he had founded a church at Lirey, near Troyes, which he clearly intended as a shrine for the Shroud, although this was never revealed during his lifetime. He probably intended to make a full public account of how he came to possess the Shroud, his reputation for gallantry and high standing with the King of France would have made this possible. Unfortunately he was killed before he was ready to make these revelations. Subsequently his widow and his son (another Geoffrey de Charney) carried out his wishes and made a weekly public exhibition of the Shroud in the church at Lirey. They were soon attacked by two French Bishops who accused them of forging the Shroud and perpetuating a fraud upon the public, and ordered them to cease expositions of the Shroud. Then a most incredible thing happened. The Pope of that time and the Cardinal Papal Legate both ordered the Bishops concerned to hold their peace and remain silent on the matter, under pain of undisclosed disciplinary measures. The Bishops obeyed and lapsed into dismayed silence. Were the Pope and the Legate privy to secret knowledge and evidence pertaining to the origins of the Shroud? They were obviously aware of the importance of the Shroud; Geoffrey de Charney’s widow and his son (also Geoffrey de Charney) continued to display the Shroud once a week but, remained silent about its provenance. However, the accusations of fraud and forgery continued from various sources. So Madame de Charney and her son decided that it was necessary to place the Shroud into the hands of someone powerful enough to ensure its safety. They decided upon the Duke and Duchess of Savoy to whom they were distantly related.

    The Duke was immensely wealthy, powerful and was influential in Rome, principally because he was related to the Pope. They were both devout Christians.

    The combination of all these factors were irresistible and in due course the ducal family of Savoy, became the heritors of the Shroud, which is now lodged in Turin Cathedral. King Umberto of Italy, as the descendant of the Duke and Duchess and as head of the Royal House of Savoy, is the present legal Heritor of the Shroud. Many will dispute the authenticity of the Shroud, but a great deal of faith has been invested in this image.

    We have been discussing the Turin Shroud, which only very recently was saved from a disastrous fire in the Cathedral. Now I would like to turn your attention to the Mandylion. If the Mandylion and the Veil of St.Veronica is one and the same sacred object, then as I have previously stated there is a strange reference within Rosslyn Chapel. The reference is a sculptured tableau on top of a pillar cornice, which includes a headless figure holding up the veil with the image of Christ. It has been suggested that the head was removed from the figurine by some later desecrator however it is difficult to tell since there was a cement wash applied in the nineteenth century. The other figures within the group have yet to be identified but more than a few suggestions have been promulgated, but no firm conclusions have been drawn. However the reference to the veil is unmistakable. Veronica stands holding up a sheet with the bearded head image clearly visible on the centre of held sheet.

    Why has this strange subject found its path into Rosslyn’s cornucopia of historical carvings ?,since very few had knowledge about the Veil, at the time of Rosslyn chapel’s construction in 1440-50.

    One explanation for the carving being in Rosslyn could be that Sir Gilbert Hay who had spent many years as a learned scholar at the French court, became tutor to William Sinclair who built the chapel, this is only one explanation there are others. Some no doubt, would have us believe that like every other missing historic relic, it is stored in the vault.

    Rosslyn Chapel has many such references, after all it is the only building in the world which can be said to be a mediaeval book in stone, unfortunately it was written in a code with the symbolism of the period. Although many knowledgeable people and authors alike, believe that they may have translated paragraphs or passages, the chapters and the book as a whole remains an enigma to us, an enigma which may in time give us its key. For the present we have the reading abilities of a three year old child.

    To return to the principle subjects of this piece, it was normal in the Mediaeval period for Kings princes, bishops, religious bodies and individual churches to acquire sacred Christian relics ensuring for these churches and monasteries and other groups a fruitful source of revenue from continuous visitations of pilgrims with their donations for blessings and other benefits. The holier the relic the greater the distinction and power of the possessor and of course the greater the revenue. It was quite common for religious groups to steal relics from each other and such conduct was recorded throughout the Medieval period. There was also a widespread traffic in forged and bogus relics, at time there were enough slivers of the True cross to build a fair sized boat, and enough nails which were said to have secured Christ to the cross, to have held this boat together. Christians of all ranks were filled with burning desire to possess such relics, and King Philip La Belle was no exception, indeed his avarice surpassed most of the European monarchy.

    What can be said with certainty is that the Shroud is not the Veil of Veronica ,the Vale was the cloth said to have be given by Veronica to wipe the sweat from the Living Christ on his way to Calvary, whereas the Shroud was said to be the winding sheet of the crucified Christ. The difference here is highly significant, the Veil is not a death mask it is an effigy of the Christ the mortal, the miracle maker in torment for the sins of man. The, Shroud is the death mask of Christ before the resurrection, and is a full body image.

    There has been much speculation about the authenticity of the Shroud, but very little scepticism or speculation about the Vale of Veronica. It is my considered view that the Veil of Veronica and the Mandylion are one and the same, and that the Templar image of the head may be from the same source. Other sources suggest it is possible that the Baphomet head is that of the beheaded John the Baptist, archives sources tend to favour this theory, since the Templars excavated at the Temple mount and John was said to have been beheaded there, by Herod .The probable connection is therefore established.

    There have been several books written recently by authors such as Chris Knight and Robert Lomas, who state in the “Second Messiah” that the shroud was blanket or sheet of Jaques de Molay which received it imprint, due to the fiendish torture perpetrated on him by Phillip La Belle and his henchman, Nogaret.

    Well, that is their theory and it makes an interesting story. However Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince would have us believe that Leonardo da Vinci was the manufacturer of the Shroud in their book “Turin Shroud in whose image” Neither discuss the Mandylion or the Veil of Veronica in any detail, which I believe is a great mistake considering they are inextricably linked.

    So books are written, speculative theories are promulgated, symbolistic stones are carved and we are asked to make quantum leaps of belief.

    Perhaps we Templars have the key to this mystery, in our history, and possibly this could have contributed to our persecution.

    One thing is certain, the one person to know the truth was Mary Magdalene, and this is why the Temple held her in a position of great reverence.

    Quaere Verum ,Pax Vobiscum

    Chev.John Ritchie KGOT,Militi Templi Scotia. SMOTJ. OSMTH.

    Non Nobis, Non Nobis Domini Tua Deum Gloria.

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