From the shadowy Caynton Caves of Shropshire to the numerous claims that the Holy Grail (supposedly spirited away from Jerusalem by the Knights Templar during the Crusades) has been found, there’s been no shortage of Templar “discoveries” these days.
The latest news regards a series of stunning, 800-year-old carvings found inside a cave in a small English town—but can we actually know the Knights met here?
Originally uncovered by accident by a group of workmen in 1742, the cave was dug into the chalk bedrock under the junction of a Roman-era road, now known as Ermine Street, in the town of Royston (North Hertfordshire). Cylindrical with bell-shaped upper parts, the cave measures 17 by 25.5 feet.
After its initial discovery, the cave remained open to anyone who dared to climb through it, and the walls bear witness to these amateur archaeologists. Along the lower panels of the wall are names, scratched in by visitors. Today, James Robinson (the gatekeeper) is the only person who holds the keys to unlocking this cave’s secrets.
The carvings that line the walls include portrayals of four patron saints: Christopher, Katherine, Lawrence and either Saint Michael or George. Others depict Calvary scenes with John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary, as well as a group thought to be the Holy family. While uncertainty surrounds the identity of the figures in the rest of the carvings, they are believed to show Mary Magdalene, rows of martyrs and/or saints, Richard I (Lion Heart) and Queen Berengaria and either King William of Scotland and King David.
Near a damaged section of the wall, two figures stand very close together, an image some believe may be an ancient Templar symbol of two knights riding a horse. Others have suggested that the shape of this magical, underground lair was modeled after the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, establishing another connection to the Templars. The cave’s website finds other ties the church in Jerusalem, citing a large panel to the left of St. Christopher that is said to portray the Holy Sepulchre, with a figure of Christ awaiting resurrection.