ROYSTON CAVE Melbourn Street, Royston, Hertfordshire, SG8 7BZ.



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Knights Templar

Knights TemplarThe Knights Templar were a religious and military group, often described as warrior monks, originally formed in about 1118 to to protect pilgrims to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. At first they called themselves "The poor fellow soldiers of Jesus Christ" but in recognition of their service to Jerusalem they were given a former mosque known as The Temple of Solomon and hence acquired the name - Knights of the Temple of Solomon. They quickly assumed an important role in the Crusades and the freeing of Palestine. The Templars enjoyed royal patronage and became a wealthy and influential pan-European, but secretive, organisation. Within fifty years the Order owned some 7000 manors in Europe and had acquired vast financial resources. They were prominent in farming, accepted valuables for safe deposit or transit and even maintained a fleet of ships for commerce and to provision their forces in Palestine. The principal centre of the Templars in England was The Temple at Holborn but any place name containing the word "Temple" had Templar associations. There were at least five main classes of brothers within the Order from the highest noble knights to labourers and artisans. All served The Grand Master but were attached locally to a province in the charge of a Grand Preceptor or Grand Prior. There were many local Templar connections, churches in Whittlesford and Cambridge and properties in Baldock, Shingay, Temple Cressing in Essex and elsewhere, as well as unidentified property in Royston. The Templars connection to the tale of the search for the Holy Grail is well documented.

By the end of the 13th century the Templars had fallen into disrepute and were accused of heresy leading to their persecution. It is also possible that the Church and Kings throughout Europe wished to lay claim to Templar lands and wealth. In France fifteen thousand members of the order were imprisoned in 1307 and many were subsequently executed by burning. A number of Templars were held in the Chateaux de Chinon in the Loire valley where in the dungeons they carved signs similar to some seen in the Royston Cave. The persecution followed quickly throughout Europe but delays by Edward II in England allowed many Templars to escape to Scotland or possibly go underground. The order was finally suppressed by Pope Clement V in 1312. It is believed that some of the Templar rituals survive in Freemasonry.

Image on this page reproduced with thanks to the Grand Priory of Knights Templar in England and Wales

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