To understand why the Knights Templar based themselves in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, the mysterious biblical figure of Joseph of Arimathea is worth knowing. He was, according to the Gospel of John, a secret disciple of Jesus – a rich Jewish merchant who may even have been the great uncle of Jesus.
One blogger has noted that he would have to be the great uncle as being uncle would have meant he had the same name as Jesus’ father. Hardly likely two brothers would both be called Joseph. Another source stipulates that he was Mary’s uncle and so that problem is solved.
Joseph was an unusual choice for a disciple given that apparently, he was a Pharisee – the class of priest that gets a particularly bad write-up in the New Testament. You’ll perhaps remember that the Pharisees were deemed to be total hypocrites – moral on the outside, but corruption within.
It was Joseph who would provide a tomb for the body of the crucified messiah and also the shroud in which he was wrapped. The gospels claim he got permission from the Roman governor Pontius Pilate to take the body away. This begs the question how exactly he got in front of the governor to put forward this request and why it was accepted. Was he a very senior figure in local Jewish society? Did he bribe the governor?
Some have poured scorn on the idea of Jesus being removed so quickly noting that it was far more likely the Romans would have left the body of a trouble maker like Jesus to rot in public for a while on the cross and not allowed something as civilised as a tomb burial. But of course he had to be buried in order to be resurrected. And given that resurrection was supposed to be bodily – not just the soul – the idea of Christ’s body being pecked to bits by crows was never going to be very palatable.
More importantly for the Templars, Joseph was believed to be the man who collected some of Christ’s blood in a chalice as he hung on the crucifix. That chalice we know as the Holy Grail. It’s then claimed that Joseph travelled to England to spread the gospel. He arrived in Glastonbury – known as Avalon at that time – and baptised 18,000 people in one day at the nearby town of Wells. The Holy Grail was hidden away, maybe placed in a well that to this day is known at Glastonbury as the Chalice Well.
At this point I should also point out that it was widely believed in the Middle Ages that Joseph had brought Jesus as a youth to England before returning to the east. It’s even asserted that Jesus worked as a farm hand or a miner during his stay.
So with Joseph you have a lot of associations with important and sacred relics:
The holy shroud in which Jesus was buried
A chalice used to collect his blood that may also have been held by Christ at the Last Supper
The tomb of Jesus
Joseph also possessed the lance that pierced Christ’s side according to some accounts
Were the Knights Templar established to protect these relics from being found or stolen? Or they were lost for centuries and the Templars were desperately looking for them under the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem? If they found these relics, did that account for the Templars’ sudden wealth and power? These and many more theories have circulated for centuries and at the centre of it all is a rather enigmatic figure of whom we really know very little: Joseph of Arimathea.
Not far from where I work in central London, a large building looms running along nearly an entire street. This imposing edifice is Freemasons’ Hall – the HQ of the United Grand Lodge of England. Built in the 1920s, its construction meant the loss of a row of eighteenth century houses but it’s certainly a fine art deco building, listed for protection by the government. In the immediate vicinity, are two or three pubs where I’ve often seen Freemasons having a drink – you can spot them a mile off. And there are several regalia shops selling all the gear you need to be a mason. I thought I’d take a few snaps today and share them with you. As you know, many Freemasons believe their order is the continuation of the Knights Templar. I’ve touched on this claim before and will deal with it again in other posts – but in the meantime, enjoy a few views of Freemasons Hall.
Some investigators believe the Templars were using a network of Neolithic caves throughout the UK for religious/mystical purposes. Royston is a bell shaped cave, man made or shaped with a ventilation hole. Some believe the symbols carved on the wall bear an uncanny resemblance to Templar images seen at their properties throughout Europe and the Middle East. Others that the strange inscriptions in the cave at Royston are a form of hieroglyphic text that the Templars discovered in outremer – an ancient form of writing long forgotten.
Let’s just look at what those who oversee the cave today say is in there: a carving of Saint Christopher near the entrance, the dog head saint carrying Jesus; Saint Katherine, revered by the Order is nearby, Saint Lawrence complete with gridiron that he was brutally martyred on top of and a figure with a sword who could either be Saint George or more likely, Saint Michael the Archangel. He is pointing to the apostles, the smallest of whom is the traitor Judas (author of a gnostic gospel as well all know).
Richard the Lionheart has been identified with his queen Berengaria of Navarre whose crown is above her head but not on top of it, as her status as crowned queen seems to have been disputed. The poor woman also had to contend with the Lionheart’s alleged preference for chaps over the ladies. All good fun with the squires and knights no doubt.
There is a figure that looks almost Celtic in its crude simplicity who was wrongly credited as King William of Scotland – mainly because a ‘WR’ is scrawled on him. More likely to be Saint David. Unfortunately, the cave is covered in the grafitti of idiots who have seen fit to leave their names there – as if posterity would remember them on account of that act of vandalism.
If Royston is a Templar creation, it does beg the question of whether the Templars had other similar cave-like places of worship. Caves have always been mystical places seen as bringing worshippers closer to the subterranean Gods but as the Templars, like all Christians, worshipped as sky god, it’s hard to see what the significance would be.