The graves of the Knights Templar, a mysterious holy group that appeared in the 12th century, have been found at a church in an English village. This discovery is considered one of the most important of its kind in the country.
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The medieval order, which had chapters in different parts of Europe, including Britain, was famous for its involvement in the Crusades and its status as a powerful and wealthy religious group during the Middle Ages.
Historian Edward Spencer Dyas uncovered eight graves of Knights Templar at St. Mary’s Church in Enville, Staffordshire, in a way similar to how it happens in Dan Brown’s book “The Da Vinci Code” and its movie version.
In Dan Brown’s novel and the film with Tom Hanks, Professor Robert Langdon searches beneath Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, looking for treasure connected to the Knights Templar.
Mr. Dyas now thinks that St. Mary’s might be one of the most important Templar churches in the nation due to its connections to the greatest knight of the Middle Ages in England.
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Who Were The Knights Templar?
The Knights Templar emerged as a mysterious holy group in the 12th century.
This medieval order gained fame for participating in the Crusades and being among the Middle Ages’ most influential and wealthy religious groups.
Combining the roles of knights and monks, the Knights Templar were devoted Christians with the duty of safeguarding pilgrims heading to Jerusalem.
In 1129, the Pope officially acknowledged the Knights, and by 1180, about 600 of them were present in Jerusalem, Tripoli, and Antioch.
As the 12th century ended, the number of Knights Templar grew into the thousands, acquiring substantial land, castles, and spoils from battles.
They even provided financial support for Henry II during his crusades.
William Marshal, the 1st Earl of Pembroke, was a jouster, warrior, and diplomat, who also held the role of de facto king twice. He was the inspiration behind the character Lancelot in the medieval stories of King Arthur and played a part in drafting the Magna Carta.
Marshal passed away at the age of 73 in 1219. He was interred at Temple Church in London after becoming a member of the Knights Templar just before his death.
In the stained glass windows of St. Mary’s church, various coats of arms are displayed, including one belonging to Hugh Mortimer of Chelmarsh, who was married to the Marshal’s granddaughter.
The reason for the presence of numerous Templar graves at the village church isn’t entirely clear, but it’s believed that Templar members associated themselves with churches dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin.
The church, situated on the outskirts of the Black Country, was constructed in the early 12th century, a time when the Templars were establishing Preceptories, a form of monastery, across Britain.
Among the graves unearthed, each features a Templar cross enclosed within double circles, following the typical Templar design.
One of the graves also displays a Crusader cross, indicating that the knight was both a Templar and a member of the ancient military order of Crusaders.
At the bottom of the same grave, there’s another Templar Cross, a variation of the Jerusalem Cross, indicating that the unknown knight had previously been associated with the Templar Order at Temple Mount, Jerusalem.
“I believe these discoveries make Enville one of the most nationally important churches in the country,” said Mr. Dyas.
“That’s due to its close links with William Marshall, who is considered one of the greatest warriors England ever produced. But there is a mystery of why an European Templar is buried at Enville and why they were secretly so prominent there.”
Mr. Dyas’ investigation revealed that St. Mary’s was constructed by Roger de Bermingham, a priest whose family possessed all of Enville’s land, including Morfe, a medieval royal forest in the neighboring Shropshire area.
“Although records are missing it is clear the de Bermingham family built the Norman church at Enville, using Templar financing,” he added.
“Henry de Morfe, who held land owned by the de Berminghams, sold part of Morfe Forest to the Templars at this time, and the de Berminghams instated Roger de Bermingham as the first priest of St Mary’s Church, Enville.”
For these reasons, Mr. Dyas holds the belief that the church was “under the patronage of the Templars.”
As part of his investigation, the historian received permission to explore the crypt beneath the church to uncover additional clues about its Templar origins.
Combining the roles of knights and monks, the Knights Templar formed a distinctive group of devoted Christians. They had the responsibility of ensuring the safety of pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem.
However, even though the crypt had never been illustrated or photographed previously, the examination didn’t yield any additional proof, as mentioned by Mr. Dyas.
Blending knightly and monkish qualities, the prosperous medieval organization consisted of committed Christians assigned to safeguarding pilgrims en route to Jerusalem.
In 1129, the Knights received official recognition from the Pope, and by 1180, their number had reached around 600 across Jerusalem, Tripoli, and Antioch.
Towards the close of the 12th century, the ranks of the Knights Templar had grown to thousands. They amassed substantial lands, castles, and spoils acquired from battles.
They even funded Henry II’s crusades.
What Were The Crusades?
The Crusades were a series of religious wars that occurred between 1095 and 1291. During this time, Christian conquerors sought to take control of the near East.
While the Crusades were led by nobles, there is limited information in historical records about the common soldiers who journeyed to, lived in, and perished in the near East.
Pope Urban II initiated the First Crusade (1096–1102) to support the Christian Byzantine Empire, which was under attack by Muslim Seljuk Turks.
The result was the capture of Jerusalem by Europeans in 1099, prompting a swift unification of Muslims against the Christian intrusion.
Muslims regained firm control over Jerusalem by 1291, a status that persisted until the twentieth century.
The Crusades paved the way for various religious military orders of knights, including the Knights Templar, the Teutonic Knights, and the Hospitallers.
These organizations defended the Holy Land and ensured the safety of pilgrims traveling to and from the region.