Freemasonry is
Royston Cave a Templar refuge?

Each day people journey along busy Melbourn Street in the town of Royston in Hertfordshire, England, many oblivious to the fact that beneath a section of the street is a man made bell-shaped cave dug from the chalk strata.

Royston Cave locationRoyston Cave lies unassumingly beneath Melbourn Street in RoystonThe origins of the cave are shrouded in mystery but there is speculation that the cave was perhaps a secret meeting place of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, better known as The Knights Templar.

There is no doubt that there was a strong Templar presence in the district. By the end of the 12th Century, Templars had extensive holdings in Hertfordshire and had established the market town of Baldock, just 13 kilometres from Royston. For almost two centuries, from 1119, the Templars were a powerful and wealthy force functioning under the patronage of the Popes of the time. During the 14th Century the patronage was withdrawn, several Templars arrested and the Order victimised. Royston Cave might well have been their secret meeting place.

RC St ChristopherThis figure may be St ChristopherThe cave was possibly abandoned about the time of the Templars demise in the 14th Century until it was accidentally rediscovered in 1742. It is speculated that the cave, which has a circumference of around 5.5 metres and a height of around seven metres, was modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the city which was the international headquarters of the Templars.

The United Kingdom has its share of Templar sites perhaps more notably Temple, a central part of the City ofLondon named after the Knights Templar Church at this location and Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, believed to be a possible repository of Templar Wealth.

Perhaps the most intriguing relic left by the Templars in England could be the man-made bell-shaped Royston Cave. Original access to the cave was through a narrow vertical shaft extending approximately four metres from ground level. In 1790 a sloping tunnel 22 metres in length was dug to facilitate easier access.

RC KingDavidA figure believed to represent King DavidWhat is notable about the cave is carvings in the chalk walls forming a frieze stretching around the circumference of the cave. The frieze occupies a space from ground level to approximately the height of a tall man. Carvings related to Christian religion and paganism as well as graffiti are displayed in the frieze.

Some similarities of the carvings at Royston have been seen at known Templar sites in France, strengthening the belief that Royston Cave is a former Templar site.

Interpretations of the carvings have changed since the cave was discovered but there is wide agreement that some represent carvings of Saints while others represent events in Christian history.

RC St GeorgeThe sword and cross on this figure may indicate a likeness of St GeorgePerhaps the most interesting carving is of a man with arms upraised to the heavens, believed to be King David. Such a drawing is said to illustrate Psalm 69 on an ancient document. Psalm 69 begins with ‘Save me, Oh God’ and is thought to refer to the Templars’ plea regarding their victimisation by the Pope. A few might see the similarity to a masonic sign.

Another is regarded to be a carving of St Christopher, the patron saint of travellers. Tenuously, in this location, the carving is thought to have Templar connections given the duties of the Templars to provide protection for those participating in the Crusades.

The patron saint of England, St George, has been identified in another carving. He is depicted with an upraised sword and a cross on his chest. It perhaps could equally be that of a Templar but given the amount of graffiti in the cave, the cross could have been added at a later date.

Elsewhere in the frieze are other scenes from Christian origins and pagan symbols which add to the mystery of the cave.

RoystonCave carvings illustrationsIllustrations of Royston Cave carvings from Joseph Beldam’s book The Origins and Use of the Royston Cave, 1884When the cave was rediscovered it contained debris which was excavated in search of buried treasure. The fill was ‘scattered to the four winds,’ preventing archaeologists from dating the origin of the cave and perhaps its usage. Royston cave was in private ownership until it was leased by the Royston Town Council in 1964. Now it is a designated Historic England site to ensure its significance to English history is not lost.

Much research and debate is still being carried out about the origin and use of the cave but with the absence of verifiable evidence, speculation and supposition is used to support particular points of view.

Whatever its origins, the mystery underpinning the cave and its possible link to the Templars adds to its allure.

The cave is managed by volunteers of the Royston and District Historical Society and is open for viewing on public holidays and weekend afternoons during spring and summer.

Article extracted from Freemason magazine, March 2017, pages 22 to 23.

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