The Legend Quest – Holy Grail – Ashley Cowie

Roslin or Rosslyn Chapel - geograph.org.uk - 1...
Roslin or Rosslyn Chapel 

Being aired on Syfy is the breathless series Legend Quest where ‘archaeological explorer’ Ashley Cowie charges round discovering mysteries. In the episode I’ve just watched, he fixed his gaze on the Holy Grail and the Knights Templar.

OK – let’s take his thesis from the top. The Holy Grail, he says, is the cup Jesus drank from at the Last Supper and then his blood was caught in it during the crucifixion and taken to England by Joseph of Arimathea. It’s not, as Dan Brown, said the bloodline of Jesus – no, it’s a real cup. The descendants of Joseph were the Knights Templar who were then suppressed by the Pope because they became too powerful. They fled to places ‘outside papal control’ including Switzerland and Scotland.

The Holy Grail, Cowie says, was taken to Scotland – Rosslyn chapel to be precise and it was looked after by the Sinclair family. Unfortunately when Cowie shows up, Rosslyn is having repairs done and he can’t get in. So he chats to a latter day Scottish Templar, an amiable old chap, who rather amusingly is subtitled! I’m assuming the view was that Americans would find Scots impossible to understand.

In 1446, Sinclair built Rosslyn and the Grail was definitely there says Cowie who has done ‘fifteen years of research’ there. Hidden in a painting of a rather dandified Templar he’s spotted a staircase that gives a clue as to where the Grail was held in the church. He leads the programme producer to the oldest part of the chapel – an eleventh century window. And Cowie has noted a carving there.

The carving, he says, is a section of a medieval map. He sees a cup sitting on top of a tower with a line representing the meridien – the Rose line – and he makes out a short horizontal line that is obviously the equator. Diamond shapes are lozenges representing the Sinclair family. And then Cowie imposes this scribble onto a map of the world and a star shape sits over north east America.

The star is known as La Merica – which was a star to lead Templars to peace and away from their enemies. The star sits over America. It’s called La Merica.  And so…guess where the Grail went. Yep – the New World. The United States.

William Brewster, a Pilgrim elder, went to Rosslyn three weeks before the Mayflower set sail in the seventeenth century. A descendant of the original Sinclair gives Brewster the Grail to take to America.

So Cowie flies off to Provincetown. He goes to investigate the Pilgrim Monument which – Cowie finds – bears a close resemblance to the carving on the eleventh century window at Rosslyn. Though the Pilgrim Monument was built in 1910 – centuries later – by Theodore Roosevelt. Aaaah – but Roosevelt was…..a Freemason!!

The Sinclairs of Rosslyn, Cowie points out, founded the Freemasons. So – Cowie believes he must investigate other Freemason structures built in the US . And he’ll get clues to the Grail. Off to Bunker Hill then to look at a big obelisk. Needless to say – it also resembles the Rosslyn carving. But stranger follows – because this obelisk is the second monument built on the site. The first monument built in 1794 – a model of which is located inside the obelisk is…a pillar with a cup on top – that looks even more like the Rosslyn carving. Cowie is aghast.

And he’s convinced that the original monument at Bunker Hill contained the Holy Grail. The more recent monument, completed in the mid-19th century doesn’t house the Holy Grail but – it’s a clue! Why isn’t it at Bunker Hill – because power shifted in the new United States. And so we leave Boston for Washington DC to gawp at the Washington Monument.

Freemason clues are all over Washington DC including the White House. But it’s the obelisk that enthralls Cowie who ‘must get inside’. He can’t get a permit to film but ‘that won’t stop him searching inside’. And he bravely enters. Without the crew. He returns and looks at ‘every stone’ and finds nothing – not a single clue. The Grail isn’t there.

But then Cowie notes something – the coloring of the stone changes half way up. The official reason that construction of the Washington Monument stopped during the American Civil War and then resumed doesn’t convince Cowie. He thinks this points to the possibility that the Grail was there. A local expert agrees. The Grail was whisked away from the capital during the war for its safety.

Clues needed. Map of Washington DC shows a direct line from the Scottish Rite Temple to the monument. Take the Freemason symbol and rotate it a bit and you hit the Capitol building. Cowie stares at the dome and hey presto – there a clue on top. A statue! A female statue! Representing freedom. Built by a freemason, Thomas Crawford. Is she pointing to the Grail?

Now – given that the obelisks in Boston and Washington are actually representations of the pillars that flanked the doors of the temple of Solomon – Cowie says we need to find the mid-point, what lurks in the doorway as it were, which turns out to be New York. And the female statue is actually pointing us at the Statue of Liberty off Manhatten. Freedom – liberty – it makes sense!

There’s a flame of enlightenment on the model of the top of the model of the original monument in Boston and this is mimicked by the torch carried by the Statue of Liberty. Trouble is – this lady was built by the French. Not a problem it turns out when you consider ‘liberte’ is freedom in French!

The original torch apparently came years before the rest of the statue was assembled – giving Freemasons time to instal the Grail within. It’s been replaced but the original is on display in the entrance lobby. Cowie has to get close. He does. Maybe they melted it down into the tip of the flame.

The ‘Grail Trail’ therefore leads us here to this new land of America. From the Templars through the Sinclairs and Brewster and into the torch of the Statue of Liberty. It’s the ‘perfect destination’ Cowie says. Melted down and now in the original torch in the lobby.

As my partner said – hard to believe the masons would have destroyed the cup held by Jesus – but if Cowie is to be believed…that’s exactly what they did.

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The Knights Templar today – who and where are they?

English: Cross of the Masonic Knights Templar ...
English: Cross of the Masonic Knights Templar as used in independent Templar Masonry

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.

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 17.20.54The most notable Templar organisation is OSMTH – the Knights Templar International registered in Switzerland and recognised by the United Nations as having Special Consultative Status. It describes itself as a ‘network of education professionals’ who undertake humanitarian work. There are male and female members and it believes in a ‘cosmopolitan society’. OSMTH (Facebook page here) is clearly a Christian organisation and allied to the Catholic church.

In the United Kingdom, its representative branch is The Grand Priory of Knights Templar in England and Wales. My information may be out of date but I believe the Grand Priory sponsors a charity called Medical Aid for Iraqi Children – which would indeed be in keeping with the pilgrim protection ethos of the Templars and the medical work of the Knights Hospitaller.

The Freemason version of the Knights Templar – which claims direct descent from the original order – is The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta. Interestingly, I found that some of the lodges in this order are relaxed about saying that no evidence exists to prove a link to the Knights Templar but that they follow the Templar rule and live according to their philosophy.

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.

logoThe 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 ARMS GPUSA_tiny_graywhich, 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.

The Ancient and Noble Order of Knights Templar is registered in Jerusalem and it also does charitable work while not claiming a direct link to the original Templars.

If you believe the Templars were guardians of gnostic secrets – for example that God was indeed a Goddess (and my forthcoming book Quest for the True Cross will touch on these beliefs) – then the Ancient Gnostic Order of Knights of the Temple will be for you. The International Order of Gnostic Templars might also be worth a look.

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.

And here is the book promo trailer!

London – the filthy medieval city revealed

If you live outside the United Kingdom – you may have missed this BBC series on Filthy Cities.  Literally – how filth molded many of our modern cities. This episode was about London and how after a big rise in the population up to the 1300s, the city finally drowned in its own horrific waste. Watch and enjoy!

Shriners – the fez wearing Freemasons

Logo of the Shriners of North America
Logo of the Shriners of North America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve always associated the Shriners with Laurel and Hardy in the movie where they have to go to a convention and they’re both wearing a fez.  That might have been a Shriner convention because that’s the required headwear for this society within the Freemason order.  With nearly half a million members in the United States, they are little known outside the US and, correct if I’m wrong, claim a kind of bond/link/influence from the Knights Templar.

Founded in the 1870s by two Freemasons who were watching some kind of theatrical Arabesque in New York after a masonic gathering at the Knickerbocker Cottage (a favourite Masonic haunt of the time) and decided to form an exotic sounding organisation called the Ancient Arabian Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (AAONMS – not the catchiest acronym ever).  Members are allocated to Shrine Centers – or Temples – and engage in a distinct set of rituals which includes using the Arabic greeting for ‘hello’ to each other.

As an accepted society within the Masons, you have to be a fully fledged Freemason – and a Master Mason at that – to be able to join.  It’s not possible to be a Shriner and not a Mason.  This is like a subset within the Masons – not a venn diagram overlap.  Officers within the Shriners are called a ‘Divan’ and the top dog is called a ‘Potentate’ assisted by a ‘Chief Rabban’.

As I say, they’re completely invisible on the European side of the Atlantic but in north America, expect to see them on parades in dinky cars and replete with the fez when they meet for their Imperial Council Session.

The Shriners Hospitals for Children have a budget of over three quarters of a billion dollars and were originally set up during the polio epidemics of the early twentieth century.  They now cater for a range of childhood disorders.

There is no real link to the Knights Templar of old but through the Masons, a link to the existing Knights Templar of the Masonic variety.