The hidden world of the Knights Templar: Stunning images show mysterious carvings etched into a Hertfordshire cave by warrior monks 800 years ago
- The ancient cave in Royston was used by the same religious order that fought in the Crusades
- Carvings appear to show pictures of four patron saints as well as scenes with John the Baptist
- And an ancient Templar symbol etched into the cave walls reveals two knights riding a horse
- Cave was first discovered by accident in 1742 by workmen who found a shaft down into a dark cavern
Stunning 800-year-old carvings have been found inside a Knights Templar cave under a crossroads in a small English town.
The carvings appear to show pictures of four patron saints as well as scenes with John the Baptist and Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The ancient cave was once used by the same religious order that fought in the Crusades and were made famous by the popular Dan Brown book The Da Vinci Code.
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In the book, the Templars find and hide the Holy Grail somewhere in the UK.
The cave was dug into the chalk bedrock under the Hertfordshire town of Royston, which sits close to the Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire border.
The cave has cylindrical lower parts topped with bell-shaped upper parts totalling 17 feet (5.2m) across and 25.5 feet (7.8m) high, and lies on the junction of a Roman road, the Cambridge News reports.
One of the carvings shown in the images from photographer Keith Jones shows two figures close together near a damaged section of wall.
This was once a Templar symbol that showed two knights riding a horse.
The carvings found in the chalk cave also include four saints.
The patron saint of travellers St Christopher was found below the original entrance of the cave holding a staff and with the infant Jesus on his shoulder.
St Katherine, the patron saint of weavers, can be seen high up on the west edge of the cave while St Lawrence, who was martyred on a gridiron, also has a carving.
The fourth saint carving appears to show St Michael or St George, the patron saint of England, wielding a sword which points to the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.
Other carvings around the cave include Calvary scenes with John the Baptist and with Mary.
One shows a group believed to be the Holy Family, though uncertainty surrounds the identities of figures in the remaining carvings.
The official website for the cave says that the large panel on the left of St. Christopher ‘represents the Holy Sepulchre having a damaged figure of Christ awaiting the resurrection above the large niche on the left’.
It continues: ‘Mary Magdalene, or an angel on the right-hand side sits on the stone rolled away from the entrance.
‘The dove and the hand above may represent the Holy Spirit. The niche below probably held a lamp.
WHAT THE CARVINGS SHOW
– Two figures close to a damaged section of wall believed to show a Templar symbol showing two knights riding a horse.
– Calvary scenes with John the Baptist and Mary, mother of Jesus.
– A group believed to be the Holy Family is shown in another scene.
– The cave also includes carvings of four saints:
1) St. Christopher, patron saint of travellers
2) St. Katherine, patron saint of weavers
3) St. Lawrence, who was martyred on a gridiron
4) Either St. Michael or St. George, patron saint of England, wielding a sword which some believe points to the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ
– Experts believe that other carvings show: Mary Magdalene; rows of martyrs; Richard I (Lion Heart) and his Queen Berengaria; either King William of Scotland and King David.
‘The long row of figures below includes both men and women and although none can be identified those marked with crosses are possibly saints and those with hearts may be martyrs.
‘The two small figures below St. Katherine may be (although this is by no means certain) Richard I (Lion Heart) and his Queen Berengaria whose crown is shown floating above her head as she was never actually crowned Queen.
‘Beneath St. Lawrence is a figure with upraised arms that has been variously identified as King William of Scotland and King David.’
The cave was first discovered by accident in 1742 by workmen who removed a millstone to find a shaft down into a dark cavern about 2 feet (60cm) wide and 16 feet (4.8m) deep.
The workmen found toeholds cut into the chalk to create steps and records state that a small boy was the first sent down to investigate the tight shaft.
The domed ceiling lay just a foot below the surface of the road.
It was complete and partially tiled back then but is now bricked and grilled.
A chimney or air vent was found in the cave which is now named the East Shaft.
Investigators found decaying bones and a skull alongside fragments of a drinking cup and a small piece of unmarked brass.
Early visitors entered the cave down ladders through its original ‘north entrance’ but a new entry point was built in 1790 by bricklayer Thomas Watson.
Mr Watson cut a 72 foot (22m) long tunnel between the Town House and the only place in the cave wall not covered with carvings.
The Cave was Grade One listed by English Heritage in 1964 and leased by Royston Town Council who installed the railings and lighting.
Visitors once cut their names into the lower part of the cave but in recent years steps have been taken to prevent anyone touching the ancient carvings.
The Knights Templar was a religious order that fought in the Crusades.
The order’s full name was the ‘Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon’.
It was founded around 1119 by French nobleman Hugh de Payens along with eight of his companions in Jerusalem.
The group of knights originally protected Christian pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land against attack from brigands and Saracen pirates after the crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099.
They gradually transformed into a chivalric order of warrior-monks who fought bravely in the Crusades.
The history of the Templars in England began when Mr de Payens travelled to the country in 1128 to gather men and money for the Crusades.
King Henry II (1154–1189) granted the group land across England where they built several churches and other headquarters.
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