The Knights Templar
The Knights Templar were formed in 1118 by Hugh de Payens in order to protect the road to Jerusalem. They were a combination of monk and soldier, similar to the Knights Hospitaller formed earlier to treat the sick from the crusades. Both orders spread quickly throughout Europe and it is probably in the reign of David I that both were endowed lands in Scotland. The Knights Templar were granted lands near Drumchapel:- Temple (hence the name, at Anniesland), Jordanhill (named after the middle-eastern land by the Templars) and the surrounding woodland that became known as Knightswood; parts of Knightswood are named North and South Templar. Both Sides of the burn states: ‘Most of Knightswood estate was a detached portion of Jordanhill estate though much had an ancient and honourable history of its own. The name commemorates the Knights Templar who had been granted these lands and the wood for their services in the crusades.’
As the fighting in the middle-east worsened, Cyprus became the headquarters of the order. The master of the Scottish templars answered to the English master; who answered to the French master; who answered to the Cypriot grand master. National patriotism came second to the templar vocation, and the templars became a wealthy international agency skilled in banking and shipbuilding. Scottish knights were often found in other European countries and English knights often ran the Scottish templar bases.
The history of the Knights Templar is intertwined with the Wars of Independence between Scotland and England, of stories of Wallace and Bruce. Sir William Wallace is said to have killed Brian le Jay, the English master, and John de Soutre, the Scottish master, after the battle of Falkirk. Yet, the Templar knights are reputed to be present at Bannockburn fighting alongside Bruce. Their switching of allegiance is a story worthy of recount.
King Philip IV of France, ‘the fair’, became in need of money. He disliked the Knights Templar for a number of reasons:- When he was younger they had refused him entry to become a knight; he owed them money; and the Templars sided with Pope Boniface VIII when Philip was in dispute with the Pope. Boniface later died in 1303, and after the short papal reign of Benedict XI, in 1305 a French cardinal based in Avignon became Pope as Clement V. He was to prove a puppet of the French king.
Meanwhile, in Scotland, Robert the Bruce killed Comyn in a church at Dumfries. For this sin, he was excommunicated by Clement V just 6 weeks after his coronation as King of Scots in 1306. The Scots cause looked weak, ruled by the English, with an excommunicated King with only a guerrilla army of support. But under Bruce’s leadership the Scots started gaining the upper hand.
In October 1307, Friday 13th – hence the superstition surrounding the date and the phrase ‘Unlucky for some’ – Philip IV had every French templar knight that he could arrested. He brought against them charges of denying Christ, sodomy, and worshipping an idol called Baphomet. Through torture he obtained confessions but many knights chose to die rather than lie and impune their order. These confessions he presented to Clement V who issued a bull ordering the templar knights be arrested in every country and their property seized.
Edward II now clung to power in Scotland. He arrested the Scottish templars and they were tried at Holyrood on 17th November 1309. Due to the resistance of the Scottish army, the court returned a not proven verdict but the order was ‘abolished’ in 1312. In reality, the Templar Knights were merged with the Hospitallers, and the master of the combined order sat in the Scottish Parliament as the Grand Prior of the Hospital and the Temple.
Fleeing knights from France and elsewhere sought sanctuary. Scotland, its king excommunicated by the Pope and in need of trained soldiers, became the obvious refuge. Tradition states that Bruce himself was a Templar Knight. Thus the Templar’s switch of allegiance to the Scots side against the English, and their reputed presence at Bannockburn. The defeated Edward II seized the Templar property in England in the following year, strong circumstancial evidence of their helping the Scots.
The order began to take on a more Scottish character than before and more Scottish knights are found in its membership. The knights acted as clergy in many parishes until the reformation. Families such as the Sinclairs, Hamiltons and Montgomerys all have strong Templar associations. It comes as no surprise then to find Hamiltons in possession of many lands around the area of Drumchapel, Law, Cochno and the rest of the Lennox, considering the close proximity of the Knights at Temple, Jordanhill and Knightswood. Montgomerys are found as priests of St. Mary’s Chapel, Drumry – probably as a family concern from Gilbert, the first priest noted, but certainly from Thomas Montgomery to the last priest Bartholomew Montgomery.
The name of the church hints at Templar origins. The dedication to the Virgin Mary is a common one among templar churches; Helen Nicholson’s The Knight’s Templar: A new history notes that the Virgin Mary was seen as the patron and lady of the order. Graham Hancock in his The Sign and Seal reveals why. He notes that the Virgin Mary is symbollised both with the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant, both of which the Templars are linked:-The knights were originally based in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem which once held the Ark of the Covenant; and traditionally the Knights Templar were the guardians of the grail. The grail is also linked with King Arthur and brings us back to Nennius’ eighth battle..
The eighth battle was in Guinnon fort, and in it Arthur carried the image of the holy Mary, the everlasting virgin, on his shield, and the pagans were put to flight on that day, and through the power of Jesus Christ and the power of the virgin Mary there was great slaughter
Thus it may be that through both the Templar origins and the local history of Arthur that the church was so named. It may even have started as a templar church.
Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, sailing to North America in 1398 – well before Christopher Columbus – adds further glamour to the Templars. A ancient stone found in Nova Scotia with the 14th century etching of the Sinclair crest and map of the coast seem to back this claim. Legend has it that Freemasonry was to evolve from Scottish Templars.