This Carved Cavern Might Have Been A Hideout For The Knights Templar

Little is known about the cave as there's little documentation of its existence from the Middle Ages. Bill Hails/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Take a look inside the little-known Royston Cave, a carved underground cavern that many speculate could have been used by the Knights Templar around the time of their dissolution and persecution in the 14th century.

The Royston Caves lay under a nondescript junction in the town of Royston in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom. The caves are thought to have dated back at least 800 years ago and once served as a basement-like room beneath a larger building that no longer stands.

After you enter through a long and narrow passageway, the cavern opens up to a larger room with intricate drawings carved into the chalk walls. The carvings depict all kinds of religious and military imagery, including the crucifixion of Christ, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, figures from the Bible, and numerous knights with shields and weaponry.

Bill Hails/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Due to this symbolism and its date from the Crusades, some historians believe this could be a hideout for the Knights Templar. This order was a team of elite Catholic soldiers who served under the Pope as the most feared and skilled warriors of the Crusades. Despite being immensely powerful and wealthy (perhaps too powerful and wealthy) in the late 13th century, their fortunes quickly dwindled under Pope Clement V, who disbanded the order in 1313 and unleashed a campaign of arrests, tortures, and executions.

The Templar's story has remained strong in the public's imagination due to legend, conspiracy theories, Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code, and simply because it's an awesome story.

The Knights Templar's connection to this cave is up for debate, however. Historic England notes that “the function of the cave has also raised considerable speculation… given the complete lack of documentary evidence for its existence.” Although the difficult access and elaborate decoration suggests it had a ritualistic purpose, it's unusual for a religious building to avoid documentation. This could suggest that the den was kept secret from wider society.

Historic England also says that many people argue “a group from the order, which was quite prominent in the locality, used the cave as a place of worship and perhaps a refuge in which to avoid persecution during the widespread suppression which followed the edict of Pope Clement V in 1314.” It's also notable that the carvings bear a strong resemblance to artwork in the Tour du Coudray in the Castle of Chinon, which is where many Templars were confined after 1307.

Either way, it's an undoubtedly fascinating sight with an even more interesting backstory.

Bill Hails/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

[H/T: Cambridge News]

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