Friday, December 4, 2009

Templar Tarot Deck

Author Stephen Dafoe and artist Allen Chester have published a new deck of Tarot cards, based on Knights Templar history and imagery. Templar Tarot: the Journey.

From his Dafoe's website:

Unlike any other tarot deck, the Templar Tarot deck features two sets of Major Arcana cards taken from the original art of American artist Allen Chester. The significance of the art is interpreted by Stephen Dafoe, renowned Templar historian and Canadian author. Dafoe draws on his vast knowledge of the Templars and related traditions to see the mystical messages that Chester has captured in the art. As with the first edition of the Templar Tarot, this tarot deck will also be a limited edition. This is a perfect deck for those that use tarot as a meditation tool.

Available from Dafoe's website or the publisher, Inspire By Design.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

AP: Experts find rare Crusader-era murals in Syria

Archeologists in Tartous, Syria have discovered rare Crusader murals depicting heaven and hell. The al-Marqab Citadel in Tartous, about 150 miles northeast of Damascus, is thought to be where England's Richard the Lionheart landed at the beginning of the Third Crusade before traveling to Jerusalem to do battle with Saladin.

Story from the Associated Press today:

Archaeologists have discovered two Crusader-era murals depicting heaven and hell in a medieval church on Syria's coast — a rare find that could reveal new information about the Christian knights who battled Muslims for control of the Holy Land hundreds of years ago.

Experts are now renovating the 12th century paintings, which were discovered last year by a joint Syrian-Hungarian team excavating an old Crusader fortress on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean in the eastern city of Tartous.

The murals, which measure about 8 feet (2.5 meters) high and 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) wide, were hanging on either side of the altar of a 12th century chapel inside the al-Marqab Citadel and had accumulated thick layers of dust and dirt, archaeologists said.

The panel depicting hell shows people being tortured inside a wheel covered with knives and others being hanged and burnt, said Marwan Hassan, head of the Department of Antiquities in Tartous. The one portraying heaven includes saints surrounded by light colors.

Hassan said the Crusader murals were important because they were the first ones found in the Middle Eastdepicting heaven and hell.

Read the rest here.

Other details in an article from the Global Arab Network.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October 13th Interview with Stephen Dafoe

On the occasion of the 702nd anniversary of the October 13th arrest of the Templars in France, catch Brother and Sir Knight Stephen Dafoe's interview in the Innsmouth Free Press today.

And if you haven't read them, I highly recommend both his books, Nobly Born, about the medieval Order, and The Compasses and the Cross, about the Masonic Templars.

Poke around the Innsmouth Free Press site, as they have done a whole series of articles about the Knights Templar as part of an entire "Templar Week." And for more books about the Knights Templar, see here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

French Knight Templar Property For Sale

Own your own Templar home. According to a press release by the Sextant French Property Network, this renovated medieval home was originally built by the Knights Templar.

It is set in a 28.8 acre land and comes with a pond, natural spring and various outbuildings including a barn and a bread oven. The property offers 450m2 of living space, comprising on the ground floor: entrance, 34m2 lounge with a fireplace, dining room with a fireplace, 18m2 kitchen with free standing units, 2 bedrooms, bathroom, wc, dressing room and a laundry room. On the first floor there is a 42m2 lounge, 23m2 bedroom, 28m2 bedroom, 2 bathrooms, 36m2 bedroom and a 15m2 room in the tower. The house also has a cellar and a boiler room. Electricity, mains water, broadband, septic tank, wood and oil heating connected.

This house is full of charm and character with original French ceiling (plafond a la francaise), exposed stones, fireplaces and beams. The property is accessed by a magnificent stone porch way leading into an interior courtyard. Located only a short drive from Bergerac.

See the listing here. A paltry $1.25 million (US) and it's yours.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Possible Knight Templar Relic

Various sources are carrying this UPI story:

LEEDS, England, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- A piece of painted wood found at a rummage sale is a priceless 1,300-year-old Knight's Templar relic, a British antiques dealer says.

Martin Roberts of Leeds, England, acquired the piece in a swap for a pine chest and six Victorian glass handles, the Daily Mail reported Monday.

He showed it to other dealers who concluded the 10-inch by 4-inch piece was most likely from a tabernacle used by the Knights Templar to carry religious items, the Mail reported.

"It's a door or a lid, and there may well be a museum out there exhibiting the other half of the box it came from," Roberts said, adding the piece is to be sold by the auction house Christie's in London in December. Roberts said he has no idea how much money the piece will bring.

In 2007, Roberts bought an antique for $83 that turned out to be an Egyptian artifact. He later sold it for $50,000, the Mail said.

The Knights Templar, among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders, existed for about two centuries in the Middle Ages.

According to another account in The Independent:

The former professional golf player astonished experts who insisted on wearing gloves to examine his latest find when he told them that he had driven around for two weeks with the tabernacle on the dashboard of his van.

“When I touched it, it sent shivers through me,” he said yesterday. It was initially checked out by a dealer in Doncaster who suggested the polychrome cartoon images could be of St George and the Dragon. But he now believes it is more likely to be a Roman stabbing a Turk – a reference to the Crusades as well as a priest carrying a cross. A second expert suggested that its origins could be traced back to the Orthodox Church between 700 and 1200.

The door was found at Masham, North Yorkshire, close to Middleham Castle, the former home of Richard III which dates back to the time of the Norman Conquest. One theory is that it may have fallen into the possession of one of the influential residents that inhabited the castle, known as the Windsor of the North.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Book: Fraternal Regalia I - Knights Templar

My very good friend, and the current Eminent Commander of Indianapolis' Raper Commandery No. 1, Carson Smith, eats, sleeps, and breathes the Masonic order of the Knights Templar. When John D. Hamilton's book, The American Fraternal Sword, came out earlier this year, depicting more than 600 swords in full color, he described it as "Templar porn."

Comes now a new book by Michael C. MacDonald that I'm afraid is going to keep Sir Knight Carson up all knight reading under the covers with a flashlight: Fraternal Regalia I: Knights Templar - A Collectors Guide to the Orders, Degrees, Activities, Uniforms, Swords, Regalia, and Collectible Souvenirs of the Commandery of the Knights Templar of York Rite Freemasonry. It covers Knights Templar regalia and collectibles from 1800 to 1930.

The book is not yet available on Amazon, but is for sale on Ebay. To quote from the listing,
Hardbound 8/12 x 11. 230 pages! Over 500 high quality B&W photos and illustrations! Many period cabinet photos illustrating the various uniforms, regalia and activities of the Commandery of the Knights Templar! 51 swords illustrated from period regalia catalogs! 19 swords illustrated in detailed pictorials! Black Uniform and White uniforms described in detail! Price Guide Included! This book describes - Masonic Lodge Structure - York Rite Structure - Order of the Red Cross - Order of the Knights of Malta - Order of the Knights Templar - Ritual regalia - KT Rank & Insignia - The White Uniform - The Black Uniform - Fatigue uniform - Hats - Sashes - Swords & Daggers - Conclave Medals - Officers Jewels - Parade & Drill Teams - Mounted Commanderies - Symbology - Triennial Conclaves - Souvenirs - Pilgrimages - Badges - Ribbons - Jewelry

The book is sponsored by the Internet Sword Collectors Association.

The price is $59.

Thanks to Mark Tabbert for the heads up.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Templars and Mysteries of the Mystic Lamb

A fascinating article by Patrick Bernau on the Socyberty website about artwork in a Belgian cathedral by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck, known as the Ghent Alterpiece, or The Mystic Lamb.
It seems that two panels of the composition (called a polyptych) were stolen in 1934 (known as "The Just Judges" and "St. John the Baptist"), and have never been found.
Bernau asks why would a Flemish cathedral painting from the 1400s feature a Knight Templar, a century after their dissolution?
And why did someone steal the panel?
And how did the Nazis get involved?

Bernau has written a book on the painting, Mysteries of the Mystic Lamb, so far only available in Dutch.

Read on...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Vatican Says Knights Templar Protected Turin Shroud

Vatican researcher Barbara Frale, who rediscovered the Chinon Parchment that showed the Knights Templar were absolved of wrongdoing by Pope Clement V, is in the news again with a new discovery. Frale has found a document that makes the case that the Knights Templar found and protected the famed Turin Shroud, and that it was the source of allegations that the Templars venerated the head of a bearded man. This allegation was part of the accusations of heresy brought against the Order.

According to an article in the today,

Barbara Frale, a researcher in the Vatican Secret Archives, said the Shroud had disappeared in the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, and did not surface again until the middle of the fourteenth century. Writing in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Dr Frale said its fate in those years had always puzzled historians.

However her study of the trial of the Knights Templar had brought to light a document in which Arnaut Sabbatier, a young Frenchman who entered the order in 1287, testified that as part of his initiation he was taken to “a secret place to which only the brothers of the Temple had access”. There he was shown “a long linen cloth on which was impressed the figure of a man” and instructed to venerate the image by kissing its feet three times.

Dr Frale said that among other alleged offences such as sodomy, the Knights Templar had been accused of worshipping idols, in particular a “bearded figure”. In reality however the object they had secretly venerated was the Shroud.

The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth that appears to have been used to wrap the body of a man who had been crucified, and ghostly images appear of a man with a bearded face. In spite of almost immediate pronouncements by the Catholic Church that it was a fake, the faithful believed that the image was of Jesus, and continue to do so today. Chemical analysis and carbon dating techniques used in 1988 provided results that the markings were paint and that the cloth dated from the 14th century, but those results were almost immediately called into question. The Shroud is, today, the property of the Vatican, which has always refused to declare it to be the authentic image of Christ.

The Knights Templars have been implicated in the Shroud’s history before this announcement by Barbara Frale. First, it was in the possession of the family of Geoffrey de Charney, Templar Preceptor of Normandy, who was burned at the stake along with Grand Master Jacques de Molay in 1314. Geoffrey’s nephew, Geoffri de Charney, apparently had the Shroud, and upon his death, his widow, Jeanne de Vergy, first displayed it in public in 1357.

Author Ian Wilson has claimed in The Shroud of Turin: Burial Cloth of Jesus? that the Templars may have found the preserved head of Jesus, and that the Shroud was used to wrap it up in. In which case the Shroud really does authentically reveal the face of Christ.

Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight, on the other hand, claim that the Shroud, in fact, displays the face and features of none other than Jacques de Molay. They make the argument in their book The Second Messiah that the last Grand Master of the Templars was tortured before his execution, and the Shroud displays the blood of his wounds and the long hair and beard that fit his description. Further, using the carbon dating results from a 1988 test of fabric from the Shroud which place its origin between 1260 and 1380, the time frame fits the period of de Molay’s imprisonment and torture. They conclude that the Shroud was wrapped around de Molay after he bad been brutally worked over, but was still alive.

A completely different theory should interest fans of The Da Vinci Code. Clive Prince and Lynn Picknett’s book, Turin Shroud: In Whose Image? makes the claim that the image was actually a hoax created by none other than Leonardo Da Vinci himself, using a primitive photographic chemical process and a pinhole camera.

For more, see The Templar Code for Dummies.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Templar Tactical: Training For Battle

Guernsey County, Ohio residents are up in arms over a new police and paramilitary training camp that will open this summer 80 miles east of Columbus. Templar Tactical is building a 200 acre facility for training police, military, and private defense companies. It will include multiple shooting ranges, a shooting house, an apartment building with a movable floor plan and breakable windows and doors, a helicopter landing pad, and more. It will not be open to the public.

According to an article in the Columbus Dispatch, Templar Tactical's CEO Bill Janson got the idea for the company while working for a private defense contractor in Iraq.

“The name was selected because of the dual role of the Knights Templar during their time,” Janson said. “First off, they were fierce warriors, which speaks to our military market, and later they assumed the role of protectors, which is indicative of our law-enforcement officers.”

Fighting a war in the MIddle east also comes to mind...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Last Weekend of Dummies Month

Excuse the intrusion of crass economics, but March is officially "Dummies Month," and there are just a couple of days left.

Buy one or two Dummies books on any subject (not just ours) before March 31st, 2009, and get $5 direct from the publisher. In addition, the Wiley folks will also send along another $5 mail-in rebate form for any Dummies book purchased in June, July or August 2009.

Obviously, we like you to take this opportunity to scoop up our books: Freemasons For Dummies, The Templar Code For Dummies, and Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies. But there are more than 1,300 Dummies titles out there, and they are all part of this offer.

You can download a pdf of the rebate form here.

Do it now before the government nationalizes the book business...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New Knights Templar Movie: Ironclad

A new movie is in production about the Knights Templar. Ironclad is being directed by Jonathan English and is based on the very real story of England's Rochester Castle. From the Internet Movie Database listing:

It is the year 1215 and the rebel barons of England have forced their despised King John to put his royal seal to the Magna Carta, a noble, seminal document that upheld the rights of free-men. Yet within months of pledging himself to the great charter, the King reneged on his word and assembled a mercenary army on the south coast of England with the intention of bringing the barons and the country back under his tyrannical rule. Barring his way stood the mighty Rochester castle, a place that would become the symbol of the rebel's momentous struggle for justice and freedom.

The film is rumored to star Megan Fox, Paul Giamatti, Robert Carlyle, Bob Hoskins and Richard Attenborough. It is due in theaters in December 2009.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

George Smart's Knight Templar Timeline Now Online

George Smart, author of the indispensable book, The Knights Templar Chronology: Tracking History's Most Intriguing Monks, has posted a revised 2nd edition of his timeline of Templar history on his website at

The book is available as well for those of us who demand a more tactile relationship with our research material.

695th Anniversary of the Death of Jacques de Molay

March 18th is the 695th Anniversary of death of Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ, the Knights Templar.

He was born in the eastern French village of Molay in 1244 or 45. Almost nothing is known of his early life, but he joined the Templars at the age of 21 in 1265, and served 42 years as a warrior monk.

In 1291, the Holy Land fell back into the hands of the infidel, and would never fully return to Christian rule. The Templars and the Knights Hospitallers fell back to the coastal city of Acre, which was quickly lost. Both orders subsequently went to the island of Cyprus. The Templars remained here, while the Hospitallers later took the island of Rhodes. That too would be lost eventually, and the Hospitallers eventually settled in Malta, where they became known as the knights of Malta. In spite of the modern Masonic orders that unite these two orders of knights, they were bitter rivals for the wealth and favor of Europe and the Church.

Jacques de Molay was elected Grand Master in 1293 at the age of 47. Immediately he set off to England, France, Aragon and Italy to drum up support for a new crusade to the Holy Land, as well as to fend off a growing call for merging the two orders of knights. Politiucally, the Templars were regarded as the men who lost the Holy Land, and monarchies were becoming distrustful of them. France in particular was feeling overrun with returning, aging knights, who still were free from any kind of taxation or even civil laws, by virtue of Papal bulls that held the order above anyone but the Pope.

King Phillip IV of France and his personal henchman Guillaume de Nogaret had been in severe conflict with the then-reigning pope, Boniface VIII. The pope had declared that the king of France had no right to tax Church property, and the king had, obviously, disagreed. De Nogaret kidnapped an important French bishop, and the pope had come out swinging over it. He issued a papal bull proclaiming that kings must be subordinate to the Church, and that popes held ultimate authority over both spiritual and temporal matters on earth. To make sure they got the message, Boniface excommunicated Phillip and de Nogaret. Phillip answered his challenge by sending the brutal, devious and bad-tempered de Nogaret at the head of an army to meet up with Italian allies and capture the pope. Boniface was indeed kidnapped and held for three days. After literally being beaten to a pulp, he was released and died a month later. The French king had proved just who was subordinate to whom, and he didn’t mind a little papal blood on his hands. Pope Boniface’s successor, Pope Benedict XI, lasted only a year in office, poisoned, it was said, by de Nogaret.

But there had been diplomatic difficulties to suffer for killing two popes. Consequently, King Phillip decided it would be easier to just buy one. He began procuring cardinals, pulling strings behind the scenes until the number of French cardinals in the Vatican’s College of Cardinals was equal to the Italian ones. They then obligingly elected his handpicked candidate, Bertrand de Goth, making him Pope Clement V. The city of Rome was in turmoil, and the safety of the Vatican was in question. So, it didn’t take much to convince the new French pope that his life would be in serious danger by living there. Clement obliged by staying in France, having his ceremony of investiture in Lyons. He remained in France, eventually moving the Holy See to the city of Avignon (which was actually owned by the King of Sicily at the time) in 1309, right on Phillip’s back door step, where he built a new papal palace. Catholics often refer to it as the “Babylonian Captivity.” Nowadays it’s usually called the Avignon Papacy or the Great Schism.

Clement had everything Phillip wanted in a pope: he was puny, weak, new in the job, and owed everything to his French king. Now was the time for the boldest move of Phillip’s reign – the arrest of the Knights Templar.

Jacques de Molay left Cyprus to head straight for a meeting with the new Pope, and he had high hopes for success, especially since they were countrymen. He couldn’t at this point have known of the dark forces that were assembling against him behind the scenes. In June of 1307, de Molay rode into Paris at the head of a column of his knights, with a dozen horses laden with gold and silver, to begin the financing the new Crusade. For the next several months, Phillip treated the aging Grand Master with interest and diplomacy, and de Molay believed he and the Order were at a new turning point.

The circumstances of the arrests on October 13th, 1307, and seven years of trials of the Templars are well known to most of us, but we are most concerned with the last Grand Master tonight. By 1314, both the pope and public opinion had abandoned the Knights Templar. The four senior Templar officers in Phillip’s custody had been waiting in prison for seven grim years. All of them were old, the youngest being Geoffroi de Charney, who was almost 60. Jacques de Molay was in his 70s, and had spent four years in solitary confinement.

The four men were finally led onto a platform in front of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral to hear the charges and make their public confessions. The charges were read, and two of the men accepted their fate of perpetual imprisonment and were led away.

But Jacques de Molay, and his trusted follower Geoffroi de Charney, did not follow suit. Weakened with age and imprisonment, de Molay shouted in a voice that startled the assembly that he and the Templars were innocent of all the charges. They were returned to their cells at once, while Phillip called together his council and quickly pronounced sentence, using the insane logic of the Inquisition; if they had recanted their confessions, then they were considered “relapsed heretics,” and the penalty was the stake.

Late that afternoon, de Molay and de Charney were led to the place of execution, which was a tiny isolated island adjacent to the Isle de la Citè, called the Ile-des-Juifs, the “Island of the Jews.” The condemned men could see Notre Dame Cathedral in the east, but the site was not chosen for their view. Rather, it was chosen so that King Phillip could enjoy the entertainment without leaving his palace just across the River Seine.

Each man was stripped down to his shirt and tied to the stake. Jacques de Molay, with unbelievable courage, asked not only that he be turned to face the Cathedral, but that his hands be freed, so that he could die at prayer. His request was granted. The two men were roasted alive by the Inquisitional method that began slowly with hot coals, so that their agony could be prolonged as much as possible. It was dusk on March 19th, 1314.

When the Pont Neuf was built, the Île des Juifs was joined to the rest of the Île de la Cité, and today there are not one but two plaques near the bridge to commemorate this event. According to legend, Jacques de Molay did not go to his God in silence. Instead, he died defiantly shouting his innocence and that of the Templars, calling on King Phillip and Pope Clement to meet him before the throne of God in one year’s time, where they would all be judged together. Creepily enough, both men, relatively young, would be dead within the year. One month after the death of de Molay, Pope Clement V, age 54, died, it was said of cancer. Phillip the Fair, age 46, would die in a hunting accident probably brought on by a stroke. He died on November 29th.

A non-Masonic order of modern Knights Templar claim deMolay appointed a successor to himself secretly, and the order survived the centuries. Masonic Templars make no such claim, but the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem tells the tale that DeMolay’s skull and leg bones were pulled from the ashes and secretly buried with the document of succession, called the Larmenius Charter. Others claim that during the French revolution, as King Louis XVI’s head was chopped off by the guillotine, someone rushed up from the crowd and proclaimed, “Jacques De Molay, Thou art avenged!”

The gruesome death of Jacques de Molay is the last act of the Templar story. At least, the last act of the accepted, scholarly story of the Knights Templar that is told, in names and dates, between the covers of the history books. But in reality, his death is only the beginning. It’s the beginning of the myth of the Knights Templar, which is the maelstrom around which an endless stream of fact blended with speculation swirls, unabated.

(Adapted from The Templar Code For Dummies)

National Geographic's "Secrets of the Knights Templar"

The National Geographic Channel will rerun its program about the Knights Templar in the week before Easter. Secrets of the Knights Templar will air Monday, April 6, 2009, at 9 PM ET/PT, as part of a pre-Easter lineup purporting to explore the "secrets" of Christianity.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Book: "The American Fraternal Sword"

"Are we knights?"
"Do you want to be?"

Remember in National Treasure when young Benjamin Gates finds grandpa's Knight Templar sword in the attic? That scene gets repeated in real life every day in dozens of attics and basements. They can be from the Masonic Knights Templar, the Knights of Pythias, the Catholic Knights of Columbus, the Grand Army of the Republic, or a bumper crop of other fraternal groups who jumped on the drill team bandwagon after the Civil War ended. When the war ended, the military uniform and sword suppliers went looking for new business, and like Harold Hill selling band uniforms in The Music Man, they created a craze for marching and sword drilling in parades. Men returning home from the war sought the camaraderie and the trappings of military life (made far more enjoyable by not having people shooting at them anymore, and knowing they could go home at the end of the day). Thus, the fraternal sword came to be a treasured possession for literally hundreds of thousands of men across the US, from the 1860s up through today (albeit in much smaller numbers these days). Some were plain, some were ornate, but all were the symbol of a modern knighthood, and a tradition of honor and chivalry.

A new book has just been published that will make identifying that long hidden fraternal sword simpler. The American Fraternal Sword: An Illustrated Reference Guide by John D. Hamilton, Joseph Marino and James Kaplan. According to the website, it contains more than 900 color photos, showing almost 600 different swords, arranged by organization, with a directory of manufacturers, organizations and their insignia. Pricey ay $79.99, but absolutely invaluable for collectors, dealers, and your Templar commandery.

John D. Hamilton was the curator at the Scottish Rite's National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts for many years, and he is the author of "Material Culture of the American Freemasons."

Thanks to Mark Tabbert for the heads up on this.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

March is Dummies Month

Pardon a shameless bit of capitalistic promotion, but it's one that ultimately helps you. March is officially "Dummies Month," and the good folks at Wiley Publishing have a regular program every year at this time. Buy a Dummies book or audio set and get a $5 rebate (up to two per family).

That means you can buy one or two Dummies books on any subject (not just ours) between March 1st - 31st, 2009, and get $5 smackers each delivered to your majestic manse's mailbox direct from the publisher. In addition, the Wiley folks will also send along another $5 mail-in rebate form for any Dummies book purchased in June, July or August 2009.

Now obviously we would like you to take this opportunity to plunk down your hard-earned pelf and procure our books: Freemasons For Dummies, The Templar Code For Dummies, and Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies. Think of it as an economic stimulus package. We do have a poodle to support, after all. But there are more than 1,300 Dummies titles out there, and we would certainly understand if you already own ours...

You can download a pdf of the rebate form here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Barbara Frale's "The Templars: The Secret History Revealed"

Just tearing into the long-awaited English translation of Barbara Frale's 2004 book, The Templars: The Secret History Revealed (2009, Arcade Publishing). Frale, a staff historian with the Vatican Secret Archives, is credited with rediscovering in 2001 the Chinon Parchment, the record of the papal investigation into the charges against the medieval Order, and the subsequent pardon to them granted by Pope Clement V.

The brief foreword by Umberto Eco has the following priceless remarks: "No other subject has ever inspired more hacks from more countries throughout time than the Templars. . . The only way to determine if a book on the Templars is serious is to check if it ends in 1314..."

Only complaint so far is that it does not have a translation of the Chinon document itself.