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from Rosslyn Chapel
OF THE TEMPLE PRECEPTORY AT TEMPLE
it has been restored over the centuries, the church at Temple,
roughly five miles from Rosslyn, is the only existing Templar
property in Scotland. It is situated in a valley, next to the
river. The Knights Templar first came to Scotland in 1128 during
the reign of King David I, whom Hugues de Payens visited as part
of his international recruitment drive. De Payens made a very
favourable impression on King David, to the extent that he later
surrounded himself by Templars and appointed them as “the
Guardians of his morals by day and night”. As a result of
this Royal favour, through gifts from both the King and his Court,
the Templars acquired a substantial property holding in Scotland.
There were two major Preceptories at the time: in Midlothian,
there was Ballantradoch, also known as Balintradoch or a number
of other spellings, but now renamed Temple, which was regarded
as the main Preceptory and the administrative headquarters of
the Order in Scotland; the other was at Maryculter in Aberdeenshire,
on the southern bank of the River Dee.
centre at Temple was opened in 1129. It is alleged that Hugues de Payens
was married to Catherine St. Clair, whose family had given the land
to the order. However, there is no evidence for these allegations. The
Sinclairs were not present in the area at this time and it is known
that Ballantrodoch was donated by King David I himself.
the Battle of Falkirk, where King Edward defeated William Wallace, the
king’s archers stayed at Temple and were assisted by the Master
of England and the Preceptor of Scotland. Edward’s march to Falkirk
had been under Templar command. But despite this allegiance to the English
king, the Knights Templar suffered a similar fate to their French brethren.
the Templars were rounded up in France in 1307, Scotland itself was
not affected; but then the area south of the Firth of Forth, where Rosslyn
is situated, belonged to England at that time. This fact is often neglected
and it is frequently assumed that the Scottish borders were then as
they are now, and that the Knights Templar of Temple were affected by
Upon receiving the Papal Decree, Edward ordered all Templars to surrender
themselves at Holyrood Palace. Two Knights were arrested, Walter de
Clifton and William de Middleton while a third, Thomas Tocci, surrendered
voluntarily. None of them were of fighting age, or Scottish by birth,
but all were residents of Temple, the Templars’ Scottish headquarters.
They were tried in 1308 by an ecclesiastical court, presided over by
William de Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews. The Knights Templar were
prosecuted by John Solario, the papal legate to Scotland. During the
trials, both Henry St. Clair and his son William were called as witnesses.
Researcher Mark Oxbrow points out that this evidence is at odds with
the popular accounts, which state that the Sinclairs were the Knights’
protectors. The evidence suggests nothing of the kind. In fact, the
Sinclairs stated that they felt the Knights Templar were of no good,
for “if the Templars had been faithful Christians they would in
no way have lost the Holy Land”.
In spite of such testimony, which was after all merely the Sinclairs
airing their personal prejudice against their neighbouring knights,
the verdict was that the accusations were not proven and the Knights
were released. Acceding to French pressure, in 1312 Edward did abolish
the Templars in both England and Scotland. Any Scottish Templars under
arrest were confined to the Cistercian Houses.
Two charters show that members of the Seton family, staunch Catholics
and esteemed friends of the Sinclairs, were Masters of the Knights Hospitaller
in 1346 and were in control of Temple. As in most countries, the Hospitallers
were granted many of the former Templar lands, although North of the
Firth of Forth, Robert the Briuce was reluctant to grant them that privilege.
Despite the fact that the ban did mean the end of Temple’s association
with Templars, one legend has it that treasure of the Knights Templar
was removed secretly from Paris, to be hidden in Temple. A local legend
states: “Twixt the oak and the elm tree/You will find buried the
millions free.” French legends about the Templar treasure apparently
also state that the treasure was taken to Scotland, with the knights
landing on the Isle of Mey, the first island they would encounter in
the Firth of Forth. Geographically, this would take them to the mouth
of the river Esk, which could take them on to Rosslyn – though
this is theory, since seafaring ships would find it virtually impossible
to reach that far inland. A route over land would definitely have been
the outside walls of the church at Temple remain standing. In
1989, Dr. Crispen Phillips discovered a wall and a set of steps
running north-south at right angles to the church. Subsequent
excavations showed there was at least two feet of dressed stonework
above the foundations revealing steps and the foot of a doorway.
On all four sides, it is surrounded by graves, many of which show
the familiar “skull and bones”-motive. This design
has been linked to masonic degrees, but in truth, the motive is
quite common, and was a “memento mori”: a reminder
of death, expressing the knowledge we must all die eventually.
THE HOME OF SIR WALTER SCOTT
is the house that Sir Walter Scott built for himself. It is situated
on the banks of the River Tweed and contains an impressive collection
of relics, weapons and armours. It cannot come as a surprise that
a writer of Scott's fame had a famous library, containing over
nine thousand rare volumes. Scott’s love for Rosslyn Chapel
is expressed in one room, where carvings from the chapel have
been reproduced. It should be stressed the room is not a replica
of the chapel; instead, the decoration of the room is based upon
the decoration of Rosslyn chapel.
AISLE: THE DESTROYED HOSPITAL
Aisle is all that remains of the medieval hospital of Soutra.
It is here that excavations have uncovered details of how medicine
was practiced in one of the biggest and most famous hospitals
in Europe. Situated along Dere Street, which connected Newcastle
to Edinburgh (the route of the A68), it was a medieval highway,
whereby the hospital functioned both as a hotel, first aid, spiritual
retreat and hospital. Archaeological discoveries on the site have
revealed the use of hallucinogenic substances, used during the
treatment of patients, particularly as anaesthetics. The small
remaining building is in itself not worthy of a visit, but the
views from the Aisle over the Lothians, the Pentland Hills and
the coasts of Fife are spectacular - weather permitting.
|How to get there
Soutra Aisle is situated along the A68, just South of Fala.
From the Edinburgh direction, turn right where it is signposted.
From the Lauder direction (south), shortly after a long descent,
turn left where it is signposted. Climb the hill, with signposts
to Soutra Aisle and car park. The car park is about fifty
metres beyond the Aisle and can take approximately eight cars.
There is disabled access to this site.
BALM WELL: ST CATHERINE'S SACRED WELL
it that a pilgrim let fall a drop of oil used to embalm St. Catherine
of Alexandria that he was carrying to Queen Margaret from Mount Sinai.
Where the drop fell, a spring welled up. There are coal deposits in
the area and these are most likely linked to the water in the well which
has an oily balm on its surface. This is a black tarry substance which
was an effective ointment for some skin complaints and was also used
to relieve the pain of sprains, burns and dislocations. As well as treating
eczema, it was alleged that this well was used for treating leprosy,
Robert the Bruce being one of its patients. This speculation is based
on the assumption that Liberton is derived from “Leper-Town”,
but this is known to be incorrect. There is also no evidence to suggest
that there was a leper colony near here or that lepers are connected
with the well.
Because of its dedication to St. Catherine, one of the patron saints
of the St. Clairs, it is believed they held this well in special reverence.
Apart from the St. Clairs, this healing well was a place of pilgrimage
for many Scottish monarchs. In 1504, James IV visited it and left an
offering. In 1617, on a visit Scotland, James VI (and I of England)
ordered that the well-house and steps be built, so that access to the
balm was easier. In 1650 Cromwell’s troops demolished the well.
Over 200 year later, in 1889, the well-house was once again carefully
rebuilt. Inscription belongs to Lord Prestonfield.
a chapel to St. Catherine (known as St. Catherine of the Kaims) stood
nearby. But in the early 19th Century, this was rebuilt as a house,
and is now The Balm Well restaurant.
|How to get there
From Roslin, follow the A701; cross the City Bypass at Straiton
Junction. The Balm Well is situated on the A701, Howden Hall Road,
opposite Mortonhall Crematorium. Streets in the immediate vicinity
have Balm Well and St. Catherine's in their name.
was excerpted from the book.]