(CNN) — They had been often called the keepers of the Holy Grail, a typically mysterious band of non secular warriors whose exploits throughout Europe and the Middle East have impressed modern-day conspiracy theories and film plots.
But, like all nice vacationers, the Knights Templar of medieval instances ultimately wanted someplace to lay down some roots, wash their socks, polish their armor and perhaps construct a couple of castles or cathedrals.
Famous examples of those 13th-century Gothic and Romanesque constructions might be discovered all around the UK, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
Lesser identified are the spectacular chapels and fortifications they constructed in western Poland, the place the Knights Templar and different crusaders colonized land and set about weaving their very own mythology into the idyllic rural panorama.
A visit into the West Pomeranian area and the villages of Chwarszczany, Myślibórz and Rurka — shut to the border with Germany — is an journey into an ignored vacation spot the place historic secrets and techniques are nonetheless being uncovered.
And, in accordance to not less than one native legend, it’s right here that the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus Christ drank from on the Last Supper and that later held his blood, might nonetheless be hidden.
The street to Chwarszczany, a village misplaced amongst fields and forests, is little utilized by anybody however those that stay there. The village itself is a set of pale homes with fewer than 100 residents who preserve chickens and develop tomatoes in the summertime.
Farms are specified by a dominated grid, the homes inbuilt a standard German type, testomony to the geopolitical upheavals which have affected the area over the centuries.
Archaeologists assume there is a secret tunnel entrance beneath the chapel in Chwarszczany.
Courtesy Małgosia Krakowska
It’s right here that the Templars established a spot of worship.
Constructed of purple bricks on a base of granite, the chapel of Saint Stanislaus was inbuilt 1232 on a secluded spot.
The chapel is laid out in accordance to the Rule of the Templars, an intricate codex that the knights obeyed underneath concern of banishment from the brotherhood. The constructing’s look is defensive, its tall partitions constructed to stand up to assault, in addition to the ravages of time.
It’s nonetheless in use as a spot of worship, though Sunday mornings in Chwarszczany are quiet affairs, usually seeing about 30 parishioners collect contained in the chapel in non-public prayer and Roman Catholic companies. On the partitions are two restored frescoes.
Discoveries are nonetheless being made right here that shed new gentle on the lives and deaths of the knights and their acolytes. Among the finds beneath the chapel’s sanctuary are the our bodies of among the knights themselves and a attainable clandestine passageway.
Przemysław Kołosowski, an archeologist working to protect Chwarszczany’s medieval heritage, says that in excavations in 2019, researchers found extra fortifications and a graveyard utilizing floor penetrating radar.
“Our GPR has detected gothic crypts with the remnants of Templar knights beneath the chapel,” Kołosowski tells CNN Travel. “According to legends and medieval documents, there was a well in the vicinity of the chapel. Rumor has it that the well served as an entrance to a secret tunnel. This still requires an exhaustive archeological investigation”.
Indiana Jones inspiration
The “Holy Grail” chalice used as a prop within the film “Indian Jones and the Last Crusade.”
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP through Getty Images
The Knights Templar have lengthy fascinated historians and archeologists, partly due to the shadowy facets of a few of their practices.
Founded in Jerusalem within the 12th century to shield Holy Land pilgrims, the order turned a robust drive throughout Europe, having fun with papal privileges, tax breaks and lavish donations whereas additionally accruing legendary standing.
They’re stated to have grow to be the protectors of the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant, a chest stated to comprise remnants of the 10 Commandments — tales which have impressed plots within the Indiana Jones films and Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.”
“The Knights Templars are always involved,” wrote Italian creator Umberto Eco, in his guide “Foucault’s Pendulum.”
That definitely appears to be the case within the 12th and 13th centuries in Europe. In western Poland, landowners determined to preempt that involvement by inviting the knights to settle in what was then often called the Pojezierze Myśliborskie area.
When journey is feasible, the few guests who make it to this bewitching nook of northern Europe have a few lodging choices, thanks to native taverns Oberża Templum and Komandoria Chwarszczany, which are actually attempting to appeal to historical past aficionados and medievalists, significantly from neighboring Germany. (Oberża Templum Chwarszczany three B; +48 792 241 731. Komandoria Chwarszczany Pokoje Gościnne, Chwarszczany 3B.)
Political energy struggles
About 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Chwarszczany, one other Romanesque-style constructing owes its existence to the medieval order.
The Chapel of the Knights Templar in Rurka is a tough stone constructing that dates from about 1250, constructed within the architectural type of the German Saxony area.
Sitting in a secluded woodland spot, the Rurka chapel was bought into non-public palms in 1999 and is closed for renovation.
Heading additional northeast, after 25 minutes of driving, vacationers will attain Myślibórz, a decent group of slim streets and surrounded by woods and 4 lakes.
It’s an idyllic spot, however the scene right here is stolen by the city’s remarkably preserved fortifications, which look immediately just about as they most likely did through the Crusades.
Myślibórz’s defensive structure supplies a glimpse into what life was like through the instances of the Templars, when communities lived underneath concern of warfare and political energy struggles.
Historical paperwork place the Templars in Myślibórz from about 1238, when the land across the city was granted to them by native aristocrat, Duke Władysław Odonic.
“Back in those days, the appearance of Knights Templar on this soil was a popular trend,” Marek Karolczak, a neighborhood historian, tells CNN Travel. “This is the time of Crusades. Local rulers wanted to strengthen their power by inviting military orders to settle on their land and build commanderies.”
In medieval Europe, commanderies had been the smallest administrative models of land and property ruled by a army order.
“The research shows that there were three commanderies on this territory: in Myślibórz, in Chwarszczany and in Rurka. The distance between them was approximately four hours by horse,” says Karolczak.
Swamp secrets and techniques
The fortifications round Myślibórz had been constructed within the 13th and 14th centuries. The city has maintained its medieval city planning, with a sq. within the center. Around this market there’s an 18th century Rathaus, or city corridor, and housing.
Even immediately, the primary entrances to the city are through two medieval portals, the Pyrzycka Gate and the Nowogródzka Gate, had been constructed on the flip of the 13th and 14th centuries. Modern roads permit automobiles to enter the city by means of the gates.
Within the fortifications stands a stone brick cylindrical tower topped by crenelated battlements.
Visitors ought to ask a couple of secret underground tunnel that runs beneath the city from the big church positioned available in the market sq. to the Dominican monastery which, in accordance to Karolczak, was initially the situation of the Templar Knights fortress.
After the Templar Knights had been expelled from Myślibórz on the finish of 13th century, their legendary treasure disappeared.
Karolczak says that in accordance to native lore, the treasure was sunk by Templars themselves in a close-by lake.
“The legend says that Templars, under cover of darkness, sunk a wooden box with golden coins and the Holy Grail,” he says.
“The lake, which used to be located near the village of Świątki — also owned by the Knights Templars — has dried out and the treasure has either been stolen or lost forever in the swamp.”