The Enigma of Temple Church in Scotland

Many legends abound about the Knights Templars. One Scottish site associated with this intriguing institution is the old church in the village of Temple. How did the Templars find themselves in such an idyllic, out-of-the way place so far from the burning desert winds of the Crusades?
Surrounded by steep-banked hills, the ruined sandstone kirk nestles on the banks of the South Esk River, lined now with trees bent over to form a tunnel of twisted trunks.
Parts of the original 13th century building have morphed into newer additions of stonework which the brain registers, then ignores. As the stone wears, so does the atmosphere become more malleable, holding an imprint of long-forgotten chants and psalms: they still weave their old magic and I catch the unmistakable echoes of spent grief on the wind. Weathered grave stones lie toppled here and there – testament to the faith of long dead occupants. A sad place indeed! I had many questions but there were few answers on the day of my visit. I would love to have known more about the people who lived and worked here – their lives, passions, hope and dreams. All gone now. A cemetery holds its secrets close forever…
But what of Temple’s known history?
In 1129 Hugh de Payns, one of the original Templars, approached King David I who granted the group land for a grange at Balantrodoch – now known as Temple, in southern Scotland. This land was given as a reward. For what, you might ask?
Under the aegis of the Pope, the Templars were a religious and military order of knights whose mission was to escort pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem to offer protection from bandits and warlords. As they developed into the early bankers of the time, their power grew to threaten royal schemers, ultimately leading to their violent suppression by King Philippe of France in 1307.
By 1312, King Edward II had abolished the Templars in England and Scotland and as southern Scotland was generally under English rule, their assets were absorbed into those of a rival group, the St John Hospitallers, whose principal preceptory was at Torphichen to the west of Edinburgh.
Robert the Bruce, as Scotland’s king, was under edict at the time, excommunicated for his part in the murder of John Comyn, so he was unlikely to have enforced this royal edict from France, or the Pope, and certainly not at the request of his enemy, Edward II!
What happened to the Templar treasure removed from France in the dead of night is a mystery – though some believe it was brought to Scotland, the galleys landing either in the far west or perhaps much closer to Temple on the east coast.
The lack of recorded facts has led to the creation of an illusory tapestry which intrigues and delights conspiracy enthusiasts. But over time, a local legend has evolved, offering its own suggestions.
If you look…
“Twixt oak and the elm tree
You will find the millions free”.
Good luck!

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4 thoughts on “The Enigma of Temple Church in Scotland

  1. Susan Abernethy says:

    Looks lovely Jeanette. Such mystery!

  2. Elspeth says:

    Stories in stones in every direction even though they look so quiet and untroubled now.
    Thanks for the great photos.

  3. Jo Woolf says:

    Really lovely! This is one place I have been wanting to visit for ages, together with the Preceptory at Torphichen. There’s so much mystery about the Knights Templar, but from what I’ve seen and read, I am convinced that many of them landed in western Scotland.

  4. diaspora52 says:

    I agree and would love to get to Torphichen to see what’s there. More pieces of the puzzle Jo!

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