This Christmas, relax by the fire with a historical adventure that will transport you back to the Middle Ages and a time of battle, adventure and danger. Join my Templar hero William de Mandeville as he searches for the True Cross, the most holy relic of the Knights Templar, stolen by the Saracens!
See him team up with a Syrian mercenary Pathros and an English urchin Nicholas as they travel across the known world to find the lost treasure. They will encounter corrupt and murderous clerics, barbaric crusaders, a sadistic sultan and the beautiful Orraca – who will fall in love with William but….how that love will be tested!
In the United States, it’s available as an e-book or paperback via Amazon – click HERE.
It’s also stocked by Abe Books in the US – click HERE.
In the United Kingdom, Waterstones is retailing the book for £2.99 – click HERE for more details.
Europe’s leading publisher Bertelsmann has just published Quest For The True Cross through its Euromedia imprint in the Czech Republic. Three hardback copies arrived for me in the post today – very exciting! Unfortunately, I don’t speak a work of Czech though I can make out what’s going on vaguely. So – for you Czech speakers, a great Templar day!!
A rather quaint term for prostitutes in medieval London was the ‘Winchester Geese‘. The reason being that the brothels that served Londoners on the south side of the Thames, in the district of Southwark, fell under the Bishop of Winchester. Far from being displeased by the presence of these licentious houses, the good bishop taxed them with gusto – as recorded in the court rolls.
You can still see remains of the 12th century Winchester Palace today in Southwark. The bishop took his title from the city of Winchester, which had been the capital of England during the Saxon and early medieval period. London, however, emerged as the top city and the bishop’s most impressive residence was what we see a sad remnant of today. Southwark cathedral, which was part of a large complex of religious buildings, is still there – though heavily restored. There is also the notorious Clink – the bishop’s prison, which continued to serve as a criminal lock up till the eighteenth century. Worth a visit!
But back to the ladies! They plied their trade and unfortunately, on occasion, contracted and spread venereal disease. Syphilis, in particular, was a killer in those days. In fact, a Saxon graveyard has just been unearthed in Ipswich, Suffolk and among three hundred skeletons, many been found bearing clear signs of the disease. Getting a dose of the clap was referred to as being ‘bitten by a Winchester goose’ or getting ‘goose bumps’. The humour, no doubt, intended to detract from the sometimes dire consequences.
Medieval attitudes to prostitution seem to be mixed. Sex was clearly for procreation but these fallen ladies seem to have been viewed as a way of preventing good Christian men falling into even worse practices – like sodomy or masturbation (seen as mortal crimes by the church). From Saint Augustine onwards, there’s a tradition of fulminating tracts about the evils of sex in quite prurient detail. So, prostitution was a kind of safety valve for wicked desire and it had the added benefit of filling the bishop’s coffers.
When these geese died, they had the final indignity of being buried in unconsecrated ground. The Cross Bones graveyard in Southwark has been preserved by local residents and a little memorial set up to commemorate the Winchester Geese. Below are some medieval ladies of the night I encountered this year at medieval fairs in Obidos and Santa Maria da Feira in Portugal
Just to be clear that I’m not affiliated to any particular Templar group but I’m aware that many groups visit this site and I hope it’s a place where dialogue and exchange of ideas and experience can take place. But for those of you unfamiliar with today’s Templar scene – it might be worth taking a closer look.
There are many people claiming to be Templars today from the Far Right to Mexican gangsters. Clearly, these have little to do with the original Templars. For example, the mass killer Anders Breivik called himself a Knight Templar during his trial in Norway. But a medieval Knight Templar would scratch his head and wonder what a child killer acting on his own and murdering indiscriminately has to do with a group of knights fighting in the Holy Land.
Here is the Sussex lodge and the East Anglia lodge in England. Members of this masonic organisation must be proposed by two other masons and must be Royal Arch Masons. As of late 2011, here are a list of lodges in the Netherlands.
On the subject of Royal Arch Masons – there is an organisation for Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests and you can click here to visit the United States website.
The Militia Templi is a lay organisation of the Catholic church founded by Count Marcello Alberto Cristofani della Magione in 1979 under the direction of the Archbishop of Siena. It tends to reject the form of mass adopted after the 1960s Vatican II council in favour of the older Tridentine Mass. They follow the Templar rule laid down by Bernard of Clairvaux and their “Protector” at this time is the Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert, located in New Mexico, USA. The global headquarters is in Italy at the Castello della Magione in Poggibonsi.
The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem is a Florida based organisation which, in its own words, “seeks to emulate the chivalric and charity traditions of the original Templars; its members apply themselves energetically and selflessly to Christian charitable endeavors”. This organisation is ecumenical but strictly Christian and is not associated with Freemasonry. It’s campaigned for the rights of Iraqi Christians and given donations to the Franciscans, Lutherans, Armenian Patriarchate, Greek Orthodox and Anglicans in Jerusalem – all of whom are involved in running different historical sites (see blog posts here on my visits this year to Jerusalem).
The Grand Commandery of Knights Templar, based in London, advocates research in to the medieval period – much as we do here – and a life of spirituality. Mark Borrington is the current Grand Master and Graham Craddy is the Seneschal.
Facebook has thrown up a huge number of Templar related organisations including the French Ordre du Saint Esprit Templier and the Portuguese Os Cavaleiros da Cruz Azul. Some are just interested in Templar history, others are very Catholic in outlook and some groups seek the restoration of monarchy in Europe and so on.
Finally – and I was dreading this – I have blogged before about the far right and its pseudo-Templar nonsense. AOTK is the organisation to avoid in my view. Though it claims to have never been linked with Anders Breivik – a man who killed children as young as fourteen – he asserts that he had links with various organisations and defence leagues. I’m hoping this is a murky political underworld that most of you have no wish to make contact with.
To truly immerse yourself in the world of the original Knights Templar – purchase my Templar adventure Quest for the True Cross on Amazon.