On 17 July, UK viewers finally got to watch Knightfall – the History channel’s multi-million dollar drama series about the Knights Templar and their quest for the Holy Grail. A thrilling adventure set in medieval France partly based on fact but lots of fun story telling thrown in as well.
Buried – follow the Templar treasure trail!
But even more exciting – on the 24 July, History starts to air an accompanying documentary series called Buried where two intrepid history experts will follow the trail of Templar treasure from the Holy Land to Portugal and possibly the New World – for which read, the United States.
In the third episode of Buried, I appear in Portugal investigating some mysterious caves in the Templar citadel of Tomar. This was great fun to film last summer and swelling with pride to finally see it hit the TV screens in the UK. Make sure you tune in because it’s well worth the watch!
If you’re in the United Kingdom on 30 June, 2018 then make your way to the Bradford Literature Festival in the county of Yorkshire – where the mysteries of the Knights Templar will be revealed.
Tony McMahon and Professor Helen Nicholson
I’m sharing a platform with Professor Helen Nicholson, a globally recognised expert on the Templars and author of several amazing books on the subject. She has recently written a well received work on the everyday life of the Templars, an angle you may not have explored previously.
Click HERE to get your tickets to The Knights Templar at the Bradford Literature Festival!
Is there any link at all between the Knights Templar and Freemasons? I have recently been filmed for an episode of The Curse of Oak Island – Specials – Season 7, episode 2. I was asked to comment on the links between the Masons and Templars.
As you know, the Knights Templar were in existence between their founding in 1118 and their destruction in 1307 – a period of nearly two hundred years. The Freemasons as we know them today are largely a construct of the 18th century though with roots going further back.
How far back and whether they link to the Knights Templar is the big question. Freemasons seem to vary between those that are quite happy to state an explicit and firm link and those who say it’s part of the masonic mythology but not to be taken too literally.
Templar infiltration of the Freemasons?
The linkage between the Freemasons and Knights Templar is difficult to prove but there’s no shortage of theories. One goes that after they were suppressed by Pope and the King of France, the Templars infiltrated stone mason guilds.
These were then refashioned to embrace Templar ideals and rituals. In effect, the masons and Templars over time became one and the same thing.
Freemasons came to full public view in 1717 with the foundation of the Grand Lodge of England. The organisation’s website traces the history of the order back to the stone masons of the Middle Ages who built Europe’s great cathedrals and not to the Knights Templar. It doesn’t recognised the aforementioned merger of masons and Templars.
The website cites evidence of people becoming Freemasons throughout the seventeenth century such as a gentleman called Elias Ashmole in 1643. Then in the eighteenth century, grand lodges were formed in England, Ireland and Scotland and the order grew significantly to include top politicians and establishment figures. But as its lodges spread throughout government and business, the conspiracy theories proliferated.
From the eighteenth century to the present day, there were Freemasons happy to state that their rituals and organisation were directly descended from the Templars. Equally, there have always been Freemasons irritated by these claims. However, the creation of an occult mythology around masonic activity was largely created by Freemasons and not their detractors.
Baron Gotthelf and the Knights Templar – Freemasons link
The prominent eighteenth century Freemason Baron Karl Gotthelf von Hund was forever hammering home the link between masonry and the Templars. The baron founded The Rite of Strict Observance within Freemasonry, as series of degrees through which members would pass including the degree of “knight”.
Michael Haag details in his book The Templars that a crusader connection was first expounded by Andrew Michael Ramsay, a Jacobite who headed up the French Grand Lodge around 1737. He said in a speech that the crusaders had wanted to create a global spiritual confraternity. While attempting to rebuild the Temple of Solomon, he believed they had developed secret signs and rituals to protect themselves from Saracen infiltration.
When the crusades collapsed, these spiritual crusaders left the Holy Land and returned to their European homes setting up the first Freemason lodges. But these were neglected over time and the secrets forgotten. Only in Scotland was the flame kept burning.
Holy Blood Holy Grail – and the Knights Templar – Freemasons connection
The authors of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail in 1982 wrote about the alleged flight of Knights Templar to Scotland when the order was suppressed by the King of France in 1307, repeating an old claim that they participated in the Battle of Bannockburn against the English.
They claimed to have discovered “what seemed to be” a Templar graveyard in Argyllshire with 13th century Templar gravestones and eighteenth century Masonic gravestones. The authors asserted that the later stones had mixed motifs suggesting a fusion at some point between the Templars and Freemasons.
The alleged link between Freemasonry and the Templars has often been used to damage the reputation of masons. Stephen Knight authored The Brotherhood in the early 1980s claiming a link to the Templars and arguing that Freemasons were running the United Kingdom.
Knight had also written a book on Jack the Ripper claiming that his murders were part of a conspiracy involving masons and the Royal Family. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it influenced the later work From Hell by Alan Moore.
John Robinson’s 1989 book Born in Blood claimed that Knights Templar fleeing arrest and torture in England and Scotland formed a secret society of mutual protection that eventually revealed itself as the Freemasons.
The symbols and rituals we associate with the masons in fact dated back to the Templars. He credited this secret society with the Protestant Reformation and included among its members the first US President George Washington.
I’ve been busy filming with the History channel in the Portuguese town of Tomar for a thrilling new documentary series about the Knights Templar. It’s called Buried: Knights Templar and the Holy Grailand is presented by Mikey Kay and Garth Baldwin.
This will accompany the new Templar drama Knightfall about to grace your TV screens.
Buried follows the Templar quest for the Holy Grail and I caught up with the team in Tomar, the headquarters of the Knights Templar in Portugal.
Tomar, in central Portugal, was on the frontier between the Christian crusader kingdoms of northern Spain and Portugal and the Islamic caliphate to the south. This is when cities like Lisbon, Seville and Cordoba were ruled by emirs. But slowly, the crusaders and Templars conquered the whole Iberian peninsula.
One Muslim army tried to storm Tomar and the cost of much blood, the Knights Templar held the city and pushed them back. One gate where a very vicious struggle took place between Knights Templar and Muslims is still called the Gate of Blood.
I’ve visited this town many times, dominated by its Templar fortress. It’s a hugely atmospheric and enigmatic place. Nowhere I’ve been to in the world captures the essence of the Templars like Tomar.
After the Knights Templar were crushed in 1307, the Portuguese simply rebranded them as the Order of Christ. And this is why we wondered in the programme whether Tomar could have been a safe haven for Templars worldwide? And could their treasure have been buried there?
Together with the team, we set out to unearth some Templar secrets and you can find out how we got on later in the autumn – or Fall for my American followers!
In July 2016, I filmed for the first time for the programme Forbidden History – then presented by Jamie Theakston. The production crew came round to my house and filmed in my study to talk about the Knights Templar.
This was season four, episode four of Forbidden History.
We barrelled through some of the theories about the Knights Templar that most excite people. The idea that they held clandestine initiation ceremonies where lewd kisses where administered to different parts of the body (a real accusation at their trial).
The supposed flight with all their treasure after the arrest warrants were served on the knights in 1307 (not verified).
Then in our Forbidden History filming we turned to the various theories on where the Templar treasure could have been hidden. Was it taken to Scotland? Was it spirited away to Portugal? Did it include the Holy Grail or any other sacred relics?
I pop up about seven times in this edition of Forbidden History talking about buried treasure, pagan rituals and the trial of the Knights Templar. It’s a great fun watch and so try and catch it on any number of channels internationally.
Simply search for “Forbidden History” and the episode “Dark Truths of the Templars” presented by Jamie Theakston. And my face will pop up!