Fewer than twenty miles from my old stomping grounds of Droitwich Spa, in the small Staffordshire village of Enville, a dedicated amateur researcher who’s been on the case for more than three years has uncovered eight graves dating from the thirteenth century and believed to be those of members of the Knights Templar order.
Enville’s St. Mary’s church has no documented history of connections with the Templar order, although the Knights dedicated themselves to the Virgin Mary and were responsible for the construction of a number of churches bearing her name during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries when the church was built. Local researcher Edward Dyas believes that the connection may be more subtle than that, as he claims to have noticed–in the stained glass windows of the church–the coat of arms of Hugh Mortimer of Chelmarsh (about ten miles from Enville), the man who married the granddaughter of the most famous Knight Templar of all: William Marshall, First Earl of Pembroke, and “England’s greatest knight.”
The graves believed to be those of the Knights Templar all feature the Templar cross in the center of a circular design typical of the Order.
At least one of the graves features a cross indicating that its inhabitant was also a Crusader, and another has a stone icon indicating that it marks the grave of a man who was a member of the Middle Eastern order at Temple Mount, Jerusalem.
The Knights Templar (founded AD1119) were a Catholic military order of men who professed the monastic virtues of ‘poverty, chastity, and obedience’ while taking on a military role defending Christian pilgrims and holy sites in the Middle East. Over time, and largely due to their importance during the Crusades, at which time Baldwin II gave his palace–The Temple of Solomon–over to them, hence the formulation “Order of the Knights of the Temple of Solomon,” or just “Templars,” the Templars became increasingly powerful both financially and politically. Eventually, and perhaps inevitably–they fell afoul of of The Powers That Were, and were–falsely, it’s now believed–accused of many improprieties and heresies. Early in the 14th century, the King of France ordered the arrest of all French Knights Templar, many of whom were subsequently tortured to obtain spurious confessions and were then burned at the stake. On April 3, 1312, Pope Clement V officially cancelled (to use a modern term) the Order.
But their legend lives on.
One of those legends has to do with the Templar motto. Some believe it’s:
(God Wills It)
But that–pace those who have expropriated the phrase–is not exclusive to the Knights Templar. It was a chant of Christian warriors from the First Crusade. Facts matter. Evidence matters. For my own part, I like to think that an honest-to-God Templar, were I ever actually to meet such a one, would be less concerned about whether or not God was on his side, than he would be about whether or not he was on God’s side. (The difference may be too subtle for some of you, but it’s important.)
Another legend has to do with the belief that the Templar motto is:
In hoc signo vinces
(In this sign, we conquer)
This is better (and I am a rabid fan of the Cross and of St. George), but still–it’s nothing to do with the Knights Templar. Its origin, in the fourth century AD, is as follows:
The bishop Eusebius of Caesaria, a historian, states that Constantine was marching with his army (Eusebius does not specify the actual location of the event, but it is clearly not in the camp at Rome), when he looked up to the sun and saw a cross of light above it, and with it the Greek words “(ἐν) τούτῳ νίκα” (“In this, conquer”),a phrase often rendered into Latin as in hoc signo vinces (“in this sign, you will conquer”).
At first, Constantine did not know the meaning of the apparition, but on the following night, he had a dream in which Christ explained to him that he should use the sign of the cross against his enemies. Eusebius then continues to describe the Labarum, the military standard used by Constantine in his later wars against Licinius, showing the Chi-Rho sign. The accounts by Lactantius and Eusebius, though not entirely consistent, have been connected to the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (312 AD), merging into a popular notion of Constantine seeing the Chi-Rho sign on the evening before battle.
So what, exactly, is the actual motto of the Knights Templar? This:
Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed Nomini tuo da gloriam
(Not for us, My Lord, not for us, but to your Name give the glory)
IOW, no single member of the Order deserves unique recognition or applause for his actions, all of which are done quietly and only for the glory of God.
Total team players, those Templars. On God’s team, and no-one else’s.
I’ve met a very few such people in my life. Actual saints, they might be. I can count their number on the fingers of one hand.
And then I’ve met some poseurs who have–obviously falsely–claimed such an honor. (To use a modern term again, we might deem their behavior “stolen valor.”) If you were to ask me the difference between them, I think I’d tell you that it can be easily measured by the amount of time each man spends talking about himself and his own prowess (in whatever sorts of terms), versus the amount of time he spends engaged in concerns about, with, and for, his fellow man.
Pretty simple, really.
I’m a huge fan of the amateur researcher, perhaps as most recently demonstrated in this post from four months ago about Richard III. Many of the details in the above OP came from recent news articles, although some of those details were dredged up, fully-grown, like Athena from the head of Zeus, just because I’m a history nut with a special interest in the medieval. Here are some of the contemporary sources which delivered the goods and the above images:
There’s a great deal more to unpack regarding local history in some of these articles, and some equally fascinating details that have nothing to do with the Knights Templar. I intend to keep digging.