If you are interested in Christian legends, such as the Holy Grail or the Shroud of Turin, one group from the past will invariably be mentioned; the Knights Templar. During the Crusades, the Templars made for themselves a legacy of great achievement and discovery. Although they were ultimately disbanded, tried as heretics, and tortured, they claimed to be the most devout and flawless knights to take part in the Crusades to the Holy Land. The Templars were called heretics due to accounts of their beliefs, such as the accusation that they worshipped a severed head as sacred, specifically that of the devil Baphomet. This head, however, was probably the image of Christ's face on a cloth, variously called the Mandilion, the Veil of St. Veronica, or the Shroud of Turin.
One very important question regarding the Grail Legend is, "Where did the story begin?" Although sources for the legend range from Celtic to Oriental, the classical version of the story began in the time of the Crusades. One of the first mentions of the Grail was in 1204 in the chronicles of a French monk named Helinandus. He stated the Grail was the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper. The more well known texts begin with "Perceval", by the French cleric and poet Chretien de Troyes, born about 1135 while the Crusades still held Jerusalem. He was patronized by Countess Mary of Champagne, daughter of King Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine. They lived in a kingdom of courtly love and chivalry, much like that outlined in the Arthurian tales. Mary's husband, Count Henry, died one week after his return from a trip to the Holy Land.
Another Grail author, Wolfram von Eschenbach, stated that Chretien derived the story of the Grail from a provincial cleric named Kyot, probably Guyot de Provins, a supporter of the Templars.
"Wolfram's authority, Kyot or Guyot de Provins, was said to have lived in Jerusalem and at the court of Frederick Barbarossa, as well as being an initiate of the Templar mysteries..." *
In several Grail romances, including "Parzival" by Eschenbach, the knights of the Grail are identified, directly or indirectly, as the Templars, wearing white surcoats with red crosses. Eschenbach portrayed the Grail as being a sacred stone, like the Philosopher's Stone; more of a Gnostic or Muslim view of the legend.
Not coincidentally, the power and acclaim of the Templars gained them a place in the legend of the Holy Grail and other relics.
"The Templars were also named as the keepers of the Grail in the anonymous romance "Perlesvaus", but now they were crusaders against pagan Islam. The Grail was the chalice of Christ's blood, not a mystic stone, which might also signify "vas Hermetis" o r the Philosopher's Stone of the alchemists, capable of transmuting all to spiritual harmony. There was no peace or compromise with Muslim chivalry or faith in the "Perlesvaus". Its French author claimed that it was based on a Latin book written by a monk of Glastonbury; but its detailed accounts of weapons and armour and military strategy, as well as its praise of the Knights of the Grail protecting their sacred secret in their mantles embroidered with red crosses, suggested that the writer was a member of the Templar Order. The Grail was described as the Eucharistic chalice of the Last Supper brought over to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea; but that was its final and fifth form as seen by King Arthur after attending a sacrament given by hermits. The blee ding lance was also the lance of Longinus, which pierced Christ's side on the Cross and was rediscovered by the Crusaders at Antioch. Also visible was the bloody sword that had cut off the head of St. John the Baptist, revered by the monastic knights." *
One's immediate instinct is, as is usually the case, that the group with the money and power control the writing of history. However, there is evidence which may promote the idea of the Templars being closely linked to the Grail and the other relics. T o examine this link, it is necessary to understand the importance of a city conquered by the Crusaders; Constantinople, today called Istanbul, Turkey.
"What was certainly true was that Constantinople was held by the Crusaders to possess more holy relics than the rest of the Christian world. By a long and elaborate process of international bribes, saintly King Louis the Ninth of France arranged for th e Byzantine Crown of Thorns in its sealed casket to be redeemed from Venice and to be enshrined in Paris within the miracle of the building of the Sainte Chapelle. Even when the Treasury of the basilica of San Marco was gutted by fire in 1231, the most ho ly of the looted relics were providentially spared by the flames." *
This is not difficult to believe. History states that the rulers of this ancient city scoured the known world for Christian artifacts, not the least of which was said to be the Holy Rood, or the true cross of Christ. In Scotland, the Templars, specific ally the St. Clairs, were the traditional guardians of holy relics such as a portion of the True Cross, a sacred stone, and several sacred apocryphal scrolls which are said to be hidden somewhere inside Rosslyn Chapel, built by the St. Clair family.
"Rosslyn Chapel is the Third Day of Creation in stone. It is a rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon carved within its luxuriant friezes of plants and leaves and flowers. It was also built as a Chapel of the Grail with the Knights of the Grail buried in its vaults. In my quest to decipher this secret, I had to search for what the Grail was meant to be before I could discover it at Rosslyn. Its myth also derives from the time of the Crusades." *
A particularly important link between Rosslyn Chapel and the Grail legend turned out to be a small, obscure tombstone, almost hidden in a dark corner of the Chapel.
"In the case of the chalice on the tombstone of Sir William de St. Clair at Rosslyn, the cup encloses an octagonal rosy cross with the flower signifying Christ's blood in the centre. It is one of the earliest representations of that symbol, held to be part of the Gnostic revelations or secret Gospels known to the Knights of the Order of the Temple of Solomon [The Templars] and later to the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, which considered the heart of Jesus to be the temple where the life of the world dw elt as well as a rose and a cup. It also suggests a connection between the Templars and the Cathars, before their destruction in the Albigensian Crusade. The Cathars were also Gnostics, who were much influenced by the troubadour Courst of the Langue d'Oc, particularly by the seminal knightly romance epic, the "Roman de la Rose", and the later Grail romances. In these, the Templars riding with their red cross were the keepers of the secret of the rose within the chalice. The Grail on the St. Clair tombston e also explains why the Grail is still held to be within the Apprentice Pillar in Rosslyn Chapel, a pillar built especially to enclose it. If Templar relics did reach Rosslyn, a communion cup or chalice within it might have been called the Grail, and left with the St. Clairs for security. The present Knights Templar of Scotland possess a jeweled communion cup of the Middle Ages, which may descend from the Templar treasure carried to the Firth of Forth. And as the guardians of the Holy Rood, the St. Clairs might well have been thought worthy to guard a Holy Grail." *
So, what is the point of this treatise on the Knights Templar and Rosslyn Chapel? My point is this. IF one suspends their immediate disbelief, and imagines that the Grail might exist, the means by which the legend came down to us is via the exploits of the Knights Templar. Rosslyn Chapel in Lothian, Scotland was built by the St. Clair family based on the sacred geometry of the Templars, such as the 8-pointed Maltese type cross. Beneath Rosslyn Chapel are buried several Templar Knights. Rosslyn Chapel i s filled with mysterious and symbolic carvings which are said to detail where the secret Templar treasure is hidden. Inside the Apprentice Pillar, there is also said to be a metal chalice; possibly the Grail. Although this is unlikely, Rosslyn was the sit e of heavy Templar activity, and the home of the Templar St. Clair family who were guardians of holy relics. If the Grail existed, it may have come there at some point, even if it isn't there now. But no matter what lies under or in Rosslyn Chapel, it is a shrine both to God, and to the endless quest, started a thousand years ago, to find the Holy Grail.
* Quotes taken from "The Sword and The Grail" by Andrew Sinclair, (a book I HIGHLY recommend!)