Knights Templar ghosts walk among Bristolians

Charles 8 Comments

Posted by Richard Rawlinson

I’ve just seen a Templar knight in Bristol, walking the streets in helmet, chain mail and white tunic with red cross. This is not uncommon in a city with a rich Templar history, reflected by the station name, Temple Mead, and a Weatherspoon pub called Knights Templar.

I’m not sure if he was a ghost or a man in fancy dress, just pretending to be a member of the monastic military order founded in the 12th century to protect pilgrims to Jerusalem. Paranormal Site Investigators (PSI) have reported many apparitions, especially at the HQ of Avon Fire and Rescue, built over a Knights Templar temple. Interestingly, the sightings are invariably accompanied by the sound of Gregorian chant.

Next year is the 700th anniversary of the death of Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, who was burned at the stake on 18 March 1314 after the former darlings of Christendom had fallen from grace.

King Philip IV of France was the main catalyst for their downfall, torturing them into confessing heretical religious practices and the crime of finding sexual release with each other.

Philip’s motives were dubious. He was broke and the Order of Templars was rich. As well as being holy monks and crack soldiers, another dichotomy of the Templars was they were pioneering bankers, so talented at finance that the Order was richer than monarchs, who it then dutifully bankrolled. Philip owed the Order money but needed plenty more to fund his appetite for European wars. By persecuting the Templars, he could clear his debt, grab some booty, and, at the same time, strengthen France’s position by destroying the Vatican’s formidable army.

Some later historians have also had it in for the Templars, portraying them as a proto-Nazi ethnic extermination squad. But the Templars’ recorded mission was to protect pilgrims and the vulnerable, with no mandate in their book of 600 rules for ideological murder of people holding a different faith.

The Crusades was hardly a time of religious and cultural tolerance. Perhaps the Templars did overstep the mark by modern standards. Perhaps they did lose support in powerful places because they got too big for the boots.

But the ghosts down Bristol way are a chivalrous bunch.


  1. Charles

    Interesting post!
    By way of not much, one of my (v. strong) funeral helpers has Knight’s Templar tatoos over most of his body; he is a stickler for ‘honour’ – and calls himself ‘old school’ in that particular department of deportment.

    1. Charles

      James, your funeral helper may even be a proper modern-day ‘Templar’. These orders do exist today as charity fundraisers who enjoy whacky ceremonial. For some reason, people think this is my thing (must be because I enthuse about incense and the lace of ecclesiastical vestments). In reality, I’m far less clubbable. I was once invited to a masonic dinner (I went along out of curiosity with no intention of joining). I was also invited to a ceremonial dinner (in Bristol) or the ‘Military Order of the Collar’ where they all wore cloaks and swords, and ‘knights’ lined up to be slapped across the face by the ‘master’ as part of their ‘pledge of honour’. I got the giggles and won’t be asked back.

  2. Charles

    Interesting stuff, thanks. The Temple Church in Bristol was built on the ruins of the old oval church of the Knights Templar; a school was set up there in the 18th (I think) century, and that school merged with St Mary Redcliffe school to make St Mary Redcliffe and Temple school. Fascinating how the name stil rings around the city, 700 years later. The Templar’s churches were all round or oval, I believe, after the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
    Should you be in Bristol, St Mary Redcliffe is just about the most beautiful church you could hope to see anywhere. People often think it’s Bristol Cathedral..

    There, I’ve told you things RR already knows perfectly well! Maybe he should write a really good historical novel about the Templars? (As opposed to Dan Brown-type stuff.)

    1. Charles

      Tim, my novel on the go at the moment is The Sword of Moses by Dominic Selwood. It’s a modern day thriller featuring the Templars heavily, and, yes, better than Dan Brown. It’s particularly apt as I’m currently in Jordan (Holy Lands). Nice to have a book about the Crusades by my hotel bed in this neck of the woods!

  3. Charles

    PS Tim, the oval foundations of the old templar church can indeed be seen at Bristol’s Temple Church of today. There was a second Templar temple on the site of the fire station. That be where the ghosts be (Bristol accent).

      1. Charles

        Tim, you’d certainly think the order was made up by Monty Python. It’s full name (I jest not) is the Grand Priory of the English Tongue of the Military Order of the Collar of St Agata dei Paterno. 🙂

    1. Charles

      The Knights Templar in Bristol were very wealthy.Some say that they hid their treasures in Redcliffe caves.My own theory is that they buried their treasure near to Lower Knowle Farmhouse, which was the manor house for Bedminster and Redcliffe at that time.

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