"One of the most nationally important discoveries" in England has shed light on the historical presence of the Knights Templar, a secretive Catholic knight order founded in the early 12th century.
Historian Edward Spencer Dyas uncovered eight graves at St. Mary’s Church in Enville, Staffordshire, that he believes belong to members of the Templar Order, the Daily Mail reported.
The Templars, initially endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church, fought in the medieval Crusades and provided protection to pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem. Notably, about 90% of the Templars were non-combatants who established a comprehensive economic infrastructure in Europe and played a crucial role in the development of early banking practices.
The graves discovered at St. Mary's Church feature Templar crosses within double circles. One of the graves has both a Crusader cross and a Templar Cross, suggesting that the knight buried there had served in the Templar Order in Jerusalem.
Dyas has emphasized the national importance of these discoveries due to their connections with William Marshal, who is regarded as one of the greatest warriors England has ever produced. Marshal has been depicted heroically in pop culture, including serving as a direct inspiration for the main character in the Heath Ledger film "A Knight's Tale."
Dyas noted that one of the stained glass windows in the church displayed a coat of arms belonging to Hugh Mortimer of Chelmarsh, who married the granddaughter of Marshal. Marshal, who served as the 1st Earl of Pembroke and helped draft the Magna Carta, was referred to as the “best knight that ever lived” by Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1207 to 1228. Marshal was also invested into the Templars on his deathbed.
Dyas believes that St. Mary’s Church was built by Roger de Bermingham, a priest whose family owned all the land in Enville. He suggests that the de Bermingham family, who had connections to the Templars, built the Norman church at Enville with Templar financing.
"Although records are missing, it is clear the de Bermingham family built the Norman church at Enville, using Templar financing," Dyas said. "Henry de Morfe, who held land owned by the de Berminghams, sold part of Morfe Forest to the Templars at this time, and the de Berminghams instated Roger de Bermingham as the first priest of St Mary’s Church, Enville."
St. Mary’s Church was built in the early 12th century, a time when the Templars were establishing preceptories, or provincial communities, across Great Britain.