Based on material from First Templar Nation by Freddy Silva. ©2014. No unauthorized reproduction or sharing please.
In 1159 the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, placed a mysterious seal on a charter that awarded the Knights Templar one third of his new, hard-won territory — an extraordinary move for a new monarch. On this strip of land the Templars would erect they most famous and lasting monuments: the Mother of All Churches dedicated to Mary Magdalene, and a rotunda with no door; visitors accessed the interior of the building via a secret chamber used for the investiture of new knights, or to administer the inner brotherhood’s most secret rite, the ‘raising of the dead’.
The king’s seal contains an anagram and reveals why the Templars were awarded this territory and why they patiently waited forty years to receive it. Secret societies love their symbols because, just like parables, to the casual viewer they convey one message while to the initiate of the Mysteries they conceal another. At first sight the seal with its scrambled letters form the word PORTUGAL. To the esoteric reader it reveals something altogether deeper, an added R, PORTU-GRAL. But to an initiate it reads, in Portuguese, POR TU O GRAL: “Through You The Grail.”
Is it possible the Templars inherited one-third of Portugal under unusual circumstances and there deposited their most famous artefact?
To understand how we got to this point we must first return to the moment when the Templars became an official order. In 1118 a new king of Jerusalem was chosen, Baudoin de Bourcq. Barely had Baudoin gotten used to his newly appointed seat when he received a visit from Hugues de Payen and Godefroi de Saint-Omer, as though the two proto-Templars were presenting their credentials. Whatever Hugues and Godefroi pitched the new king it sold him, and soon after, a small, close-knit group of knights moved into premises on Temple Mount to became officially known as the Knights Templar.
This is the official historical record. But new evidence shows that, seven years earlier, the Templars were already present and materially active in another land two thousand miles to the west, and through their intervention, this secret endeavour became their greatest accomplishment — the creation of Europe’s first independent nation-state.
It’s the close of the 11th century. There is no France, no Spain, and the German states are largely under the tutelage of the Holy Roman Empire. After riding west to help the Castilian king reclaim his lands from the Moors, a knight named Henri of Burgundy inherits the Atlantic port city of Porto Cale and its surrounding territory — the small county of Portucale — whereupon Henri changes his name, in Portuguese, to Count Dom Henrique. He had barely time to enjoy his new status when he was asked to set sail for Jerusalem, arriving just after its conquest by Crusaders. Little did Dom Henrique know that his decision to sail to Palestine would mark a pivotal moment in the history of his newly-acquired land, for the people he’d meet in Jerusalem would one day shape the destiny of his tiny territory.
On his second voyage to Jerusalem in 1103 Dom Henrique’s arrival coincided with that of two proto-Templars: Hugues de Payns and Count Hugh de Champagne. Originating from the same Duchy, it is likely that both Hugues and Dom Henrique got to know each other over the next three years, especially as both men shared the vision of a temporal new kingdom accountable only to God.
Traveling with Dom Henrique was another man of French parentage, Pedro Arnaldo da Rocha, born in Santarem (in what is today Portugal), whose family, the la Roche, were supporters of the burgeoning Cistercian Order. In time, its abbot Bernard de Clairvaux would become the Templars’ main benefactor.
Young Pedro Arnaldo’s presence in Jerusalem was opportune, arriving as he did shortly after the first king of Jerusalem installed members of the secretive Order of Sion in the abbey on its namesake hill. To say he made a favorable impression is an understatement, because by 1116 Pedro Arnaldo resurfaces as a full member of the Order, his signature inscribed on an original document from the Abbey de Notre Dame du Mont de Sion, in which he is addressed in Latin as Prior Petrus Arnaldus.
Such a position imbued Prior Arnaldo with immense political leverage. The abbey had established close ties with the knights and monks in the nearby church of the Holy Sepulcher, affording the prior direct access to two individuals living there — Hugues de Payns and Godefroi de Saint-Omer. That relationship was revealed on July 19, 1116 when a document signed by both Prior Arnaldus and Hugues de Payns declares “good relations are assured between the two Orders.”
In the relationship between the Order of the Temple, the House of Burgundy, the Ordre de Sion and the incipient Portuguese kingdom, Arnoldo da Rocha would prove to be the lynchpin. He was Portuguese by birth, his friendship with Count Dom Henrique granted him favor within the Portuguese court, and through his family’s status, connections with the nobles and ecclesiasts in and around the Portuguese city of Braga, many of whom were of Burgundian heritage. But Portuguese chroniclers give Prior Arnaldo even more credit. They cite him as a key founder of the Knights Templar in the county of Portugale, if not one of the original Templars in Jerusalem: “Arnaldo da Rocha, who was a Templar knight, was one of the first nine originators of this illustrious Order of the Temple in Jerusalem,” wrote the historian Alexandre Ferreira in 1735, quoting a 17th century source, Manuel de Faria e Sousa. And Sousa would have been in an excellent position to know, for he was himself a Templar knight.
Prior Arnaldo da Rocha as one of the original Templars is both provocative and explosive because it brings into sharp focus an unsettling proposition: were there really only nine original Templar knights? Or was this number merely a talisman, the kind of flourish employed by secret societies throughout that period? We may never know for certain; however, it is categorically stated in the Cistercian chronicles that the original Templars consisted of “Hugues and Godefroi and nine other knights,” raising the original core group of proto-Templars to eleven.
In 1114 Count Dom Henrique passed away in his adopted homeland. Back in Jerusalem, the Order of the Temple was still in its embryonic stage, yet sources claim the Templars by this time were already present in Portugale: “After D. Affonso VI married his daughter to Count Dom Henrique, they [the Templars] always came to his aid, and did not stop doing so even after the death of his son.” An independent German source also states categorically that the proto-Templars forged a working relationship with Count Dom Henrique: “The acquisition of an important property, such as that of the castle of Souré, which was given to them [the Order of the Temple] by Count Henrique in 1111 proves that these knights had already rendered some services, and that he was convinced of their usefulness.”
Such a donation places the proto-Templars firmly in the county of Portugale a full seven years before their official date on Temple Mount. And it wasn’t the only documented property they were awarded in that period. Shortly before he passed away Dom Henrique signed another document providing them with a residence in the city of Braga, described as being ‘beside a Templar hospital’, which would be the hospital for the poor founded by the city’s Archbishop Payo Mendes, “annexed to the main houses he had earlier donated to the Templars in the hermitage.” These acts of goodwill from an archbishop seem unusual until one discovers Payo Mendes’ second, secret job was that of Prior of the Knights Hospitaller, the sister organization to the Templars.
But Payo had a third job. He was mentor to the late Dom Henriques’ son, Afonso.
Continue to part II
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