The nine knights who founded the Knights Templar petitioned the Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1119 to establish their headquarters in what had been the Al Aqsa mosque – before the crusaders seized the city in 1099, putting an end to four hundred years of Muslim rule. The knights believed that the Al Aqsa was actually the Temple of Solomon. It stood, as it does today, on the Temple Mount – which had previously been home to the vast temple of the Jews of the Old Testament. The Babylonians and later the Romans had destroyed that temple and any vestige of its magnificent past.
This does beg the question why the Knights Templar, who derived their name from this holy site, were so keen to be based there? The answer many have advanced is that the Templars were not so much interested in the mosque above ground as the treasure they thought might lurk below. Those who give credence to this argument point to the warren of tunnels underneath the Temple Mount – or Haram al-Sharif as Muslims call it. Surely, they argue, the Templars were scrabbling around for something down there?
Could it have been the fabled wealth of king Solomon? If they had discovered those riches, that could account for the very rapid financial growth of the Templar order and its position as a major banking power as well as military force. Or did they uncover sacred relics under the temple of Solomon? Some minds have raced in the direction of the Ark of the Covenant, the shroud of Jesus and the head of John the Baptist. Note that during the trials that ended the Templar order in 1307, they were accused of worshipping a head – some say that of a cat, others a three-faced god and yet others – John the Baptist.
There is a theory that when the crusaders took Jerusalem in 1099, they discovered ancient secrets that had to be guarded – kept secret maybe. The Templars were specifically founded to keep these secrets under lock and key – away from the eyes of the faithful. What could be so terrifying to the church that it needed to set up an order of military monks? Some allege it was the Holy Grail – which was neither a platter nor a cup but the relics of Mary Magdalene who had married Jesus and borne him a child after his crucifixion. Those of you who have read the Da Vinci Code will know that the child was a girl and established a divine blood line to the present day.
And if – just if – the Templars really had found great treasures under the Temple of Solomon and spirited them away – what happened to this treasure? Well, in 1307 when the king of France decided to shut down the Templars and seize their money to clear his debts, knights were seen scurrying out of the great Temple building in Paris with carts groaning under the weight of large sacks. They made their way to the port of La Rochelle and the treasure, Templar knights and the Templar fleet of ships were never seen again.
This is a Templar jewel – something everybody should visit. It’s the burial place of the Templar grand masters of Portugal – a church in the town of Tomar built in the very century that the order was formed by Hugh de Payens. Every Templar Grand Master from Gualdim Pais onwards was interred in this modest church until the Templars were suppressed by order of the pope. It’s difficult to find the graves of all the masters and a simple plaque indicates the remains of Pais – a legendary figure in his own lifetime who fought the Moors alongside the first king of Portugal.
These are photographs I took there in August this year.
According to Legend Quest, the Templars then took the Ark to their stronghold in Siena in Italy. The “evidence” is that there’s a double headed eagle carved into the church at Lalibella and one carved into the wall of this church in Siena. Marcellus Cristofani – an Italian noble and Knight Templar grand master – says the Ark is no longer in Siena – but might be in Chartres cathedral in France. So – Legend Quest packs its bags for Chartres.
In the doorway to Chartres – they find a carving of the Ark of the Covenant. A pretty small carving, but there it is. So off we go down the nave to find more clues. The Marian veil – most revered shrine of Chartres – is contained in a reliquary that looks like…the Ark. Nearby is the famous maze inlaid into the floor of the cathedral. At its centre is a stone that appears to have once supported something or has something hidden beneath it – one or the other.
Wonder what it could be? Well, it’s obviously the Ark!
Underneath the maze – Legend Quest believes there must be a secret corridor – and lo and behold there is one (well, I think it’s secret). And there’s some stairs that lead up towards the floor directly beneath the maze. The dark tunnel tapers off but…the end is blocked. Hmmm…bummer. But this just proves that underneath the maze the Knights Templar buried the Ark for its safekeeping and to guard its power. Possibly anticipating somebody like Hitler and the Nazis coming after it to use the Ark’s power for diabolical reasons.
Just in case you don’t get that point – an animated cartoon re-enacts the famous final scene in Indiana Jones when the Nazis are all incinerated by the rays of the Ark after foolishly opening it.
So – what do I think of all this? Oh c’mon – do you really have to ask?