In This Chapter
● Digging for Templar treasure
● Discovering medieval hiding places
● Looking for secrets in plain sight
Let’s cut to the chase.
This chapter is the real reason you picked up this book. You aren’t buying for a second that the Templars only had some lofty spiritual treasure, or that the bloodline of Christ was the most valuable thing they were hiding. You know the Templars fled France with a whopping wad of swag, lucre, and pelf. There’s just gotta be a buried treasure somewhere — there’s just gotta! And all you need is a map and a shovel. So, in this chapter, we list ten places that the Templars are alleged by various sources to have stuffed their loot.
Please obey all No Trespassing signs, and remember that if you’re caught packing explosives, we’re not bailing you out of some foreign jug.
Rosslyn Chapel (Roslin, Scotland)
This is it. This is the Mother of All Hiding Places. We discuss Rosslyn Chapel throughout this book, and it’s the location of the big finish of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. The Chapel is the focus of a huge spectrum of speculative scrutiny, and every year brings a new theory — or five — about what its thousands of peculiar carvings really mean, what’s hidden in its columns, and what’s buried in its crypt. Never mind that, so far, all that’s been found in its floors are dead Scotsmen.
There’s an old legend rattling around that if you stand on a special spot in the chapel and blow a particular note on a special horn, the secret passage will open and the treasure will be revealed. It hasn’t happened yet.
If you’re a careful reader, you’ll notice that we also include Rosslyn Chapel in the list of possible locations of the Holy Grail in Chapter 16. It’s all there.
Oak Island Money Pit (Nova Scotia, Canada)
This tiny island off the coast of Nova Scotia has been the subject of speculation since the discovery of a mysterious hole in the ground in 1795. So far, no one has reached the bottom, and manmade barriers have been struck regularly enough during the troublesome excavation that those involved have been convinced a massive treasure is just beyond the next layer. Although speculation has raged for more than two centuries about what’s at the bottom, nothing of serious value has ever been found. Still, enthusiasts have claimed that the pit hides pirate treasure, lost Spanish gold, bizarre otherworldly deposits from UFOs, or, most important for our discussion, Templar treasure.
Author Steven Sora has speculated that the pit is the hiding place of Templar treasure, moved to Nova Scotia by the Catholic Sinclair family from its underground vaults in Rosslyn Chapel in 1545 to keep it out of Protestant hands. Seems like a lot of effort and expense, but who are we to argue with a zealous fascination with treasure?
So much of the area has been churned under by major excavations in the last 100 years that the original opening to the pit has been bulldozed and lost. Since its first discovery, at least six people have been killed while digging for the treasure that always seems to be just beyond the next scoop of mud. In spite of recent hopes that the Canadian government would turn it into a tourist destination, the pit portion of the island was sold recently to a U.S. drilling company for $7 million. In 2006, a group of Michigan investors said a new expedition would begin soon.
We discuss the Oak Island Money Pit extensively in Chapter 7.
Temple Bruer (Lincolnshire, England)
About 200 miles due north of London is the village of Lincolnshire. Nearby stands Temple Bruer, built by the Templars between A.D. 1150 and A.D. 1160. It was reputed to be the second richest preceptory in England, second only to London’s. Temple Bruer was passed to the Knights Hospitallers in 1312 when the Templars were suppressed, and was dissolved as a Hospitaller preceptory in 1540.
Like many Templar preceptories, Temple Bruer featured a circular church, patterned after the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The church itself no longer stands, nor do most of the other buildings of the compound, apart from a tall tower that has been rebuilt several times. But an excavation from the 1800s revealed some lurid and tantalizing finds.
The Reverend George Oliver, Doctor in Divinity, Vicar of Scopwick, and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in Edinburgh, was a respected historian of the Victorian era. In 1837, he made an excavation of the Temple ruins and was shocked by what he found. Dungeons were uncovered, with the remains of corpses that had been beaten, tortured, and burned. Labyrinths of tunnels and vaults were everywhere, and there were more that hadn’t been excavated.
Recent speculation has placed Temple Bruer at the center of a five-pointed star (or pentagram) made up of intersecting lines drawn from other significant churches. If this design is truly based on an intelligent design of sacred geometry and not just wishful thinking, the significance could be that there is something far more important than old bones buried in undiscovered vaults hidden under the Bruer heath. Could it be the Templar treasure?
While we’re still in England, there’s another location that has stirred up controversy in the last few years. The Templars had another preceptory in Hertford, at Temple Chelsin in nearby Bengeo, and recent discoveries of tunnels beneath the town have drawn international attention. Tunnels connect the dungeons of Hertford Castle with the County Hall, and other locations.
The story goes that the Templars literally went underground in Hertford after their suppression, and that they continued to meet secretly beneath the town for centuries. Even today, rumors fly of secret, mystical Templar groups meeting in these subterranean passages, including a short-lived group from the 1940s and 1950s called the Knights Templar of Aquarius.
The tunnel network is extensive, and many of the vaults seem to have been sealed up in the 1800s. Rumors abound of secret, booby-trapped vaults that may be hiding the Holy Grail, or, you guessed it, the vast Templar treasure. King Edward II imprisoned many of the local knights, and was desperate to find their hoard of gold and silver. He never did. Maybe it’s still there, waiting for you.
Bornholm Island, Denmark
Buried treasure is almost always on islands, so here’s another one to weigh anchor at. Located in the Baltic Sea, this Danish island lies smack-dab between Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and Poland. Its obviously strategic position has made it the object of military tug of war for centuries, and it played a vital tactical role to the Nazis in World War II.
For a little place, Bornholm Island has a large number of medieval churches — 15 in all, and 4 of them are of a distinctive round shape, a favorite design of the Knights Templar.
Speculative authors Erling Haagensen and Henry Lincoln have postulated that the churches on Bornholm Island were, in fact, built by the Knights Templar. And more important, when they are aligned with other important archeological sites — Rennes-le-Chateau in France, in particular — it becomes clear (to them, anyway) that what the Templars built was a colossal network of astronomical observatories. Haagensen and Lincoln laid all this out in their book, The Templars’ Secret Island, with a bewildering array of maps and geographical plotting that show the churches arranged in the pattern of a five-pointed star (or pentagram). But what if all those lines aren’t pointing at the round churches? What if those lines get followed back to the center and the churches themselves point to a position that hides the Templar treasure?
Here’s a tantalizing tidbit of Templar treasure temptation: Nearly 3,000 pieces of stamped gold ingots depicting a strange human figure have been found on the island, and no one can definitively say where they came from or who they depict.
Behage indromme mig den skovl!
Ever since Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln published Holy Blood, Holy Grail in 1982, a stream of tourists have made their way to the tiny, out of the way, and hard-to-get-to village of Rennes-le-Chateau in southwestern France, on the trail of the Templars, the treasures of King Solomon, the Holy Grail, Mary Magdalene, and the Priory of Sion. In 2006 alone, the little hamlet was choked with more than 100,000 tourists. We talk more about this intriguing little village in Chapter 11, but suffice it to say, there’s enough here to keep the average treasure hunter busy for quite some time.
Stuck between the Pyrenees Mountains in the south and the Cevennes Mountains in the north, the rugged countryside around Rennes has seen its share of bloody battles and rapidly changing landlords. One version of the story says that the Cathars who lived in the area actually had the treasure of Solomon’s Temple, and the Templars moved in and took it from them.
Ruins from long-gone castles are everywhere, so you’ll have plenty of places to dig. Just don’t get caught. Between Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code, the town has been plagued by late-night digging and impatient, would-be Indiana Joneses setting off explosives to blast their way into what they believed were the secret hiding places of a vast fortune.
The best news for Templar treasure hunters is, thanks to the incredible highspeed TGV train system in France, you can get from Paris to this formerly isolated neck of the woods in just two hours.
Chateau de Gisors (Normandy, France)
This incredible fortress in Normandy has been tied to the Templars in a variety of sources, most notably in Gerard de Sede’s book, The Templars Walk Among Us. Gisors Castle was built in the 11th and 12th centuries, and located about 40 miles northwest of Paris, in an area once known as the Norman Vexin. Built by the English who temporarily owned the property for a while, it was at the center of a struggle between King Henry II of England and Louis VII of France.
In 1158, the castle was handed over to the Templars for a while as neutral observers to keep the peace between the two kings. The castle later fell into the hands of the French and became a royal prison. It was reputed to have been the final prison of Grand Master Jacques de Molay in 1314.
The castle is an unusual round design that seems to rise up out of a coneshaped mound of earth. Much of the building is underground, and a complex warren of subterranean tunnels and rooms exist. So it seems that an explorer back in 1946 claimed to have been doing some unauthorized digging down in the dungeon and struck pay dirt: 19 stone coffins and 30 metal boxes.
The story reemerged in the 1960s, and local authorities were compelled to do some digging of their own. They found nothing — or so they say. Modern authorities strongly discourage treasure hunters who are convinced that the Templar treasure is hidden at Gisors. The authorities say nothing is there. Who do you believe?
Okay, it’s a small country, but it gets big when you’re standing there with your shovel in your hand, trying to decide where to dig. As authors Alan Butler and Stephen Dafoe lay out in their book, The Warriors and the Bankers, Switzerland just appeals to common sense as the real haven for fleeing French Templars. It was close, it was friendly, it had lots of places to hide in, and in later years, it became world-renowned for international banking. Even its flag features the Templar Cross, in Templar colors, albeit in reverse: a white cross on a red field.
Switzerland was not a country, per se, in the days of the Templars. It was largely a smattering fiefdoms and dukedoms. But if you had to pick a spot to start digging, one town in particular jumps out with a suitably Holy Land-like, Templaresque name: Sion. High up in the Alps, it is the modern-day capital of the canton of Valais, and its medieval buildings are unique. Two enormous castles, both built around A.D. 1300, stand up on two opposing peaks in the middle of town: the Chateau Valere (home of the world’s oldest playable organ, installed in 1390) and the ruins of the Chateau de Tourbillon.
If the treasure isn’t there, you may be out of luck. Switzerland is known the world over for its strict laws of preserving the secrecy of its banking customers, and if somebody found it before you, you’ll probably never know who it was.
Trinity Church (New York City)
If you saw the 2004 movie National Treasure, then you already know that Nicolas Cage has beaten you to the treasure. In the opening scene of the picture, a montage shows the building of Solomon’s Temple, the Templars’ discovery of its riches, their voyage across the Atlantic, and the revolutionary War-era Freemasons who protected the treasure. (We haven’t spoiled anything yet — they do all this in the first two minutes of the movie. But stop now if you haven’t seen it before, because we’re about to ruin the end for you.)
In the end, the vast treasure of the Templars gets found at the bottom of a pit with an ingeniously designed 18th-century elevator, underneath Trinity Church in New York City. Trinity Church has an unusual history, and it sits on some of the most valuable real estate in the world, at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street, surrounded by massive skyscrapers and the New York Stock Exchange. With room in the church for just 550 members of its congregation, how have they been able to hold out for so long — since the 1600s — against what are undoubtedly lavish offers to sell the place? We know how — they’re really financed by the Templar treasure. And all that loot underground in such close proximity to Wall Street and the center of commerce for the free world can’t possibly be a coincidence.
Don’t go digging in the adjacent graveyard — Alexander Hamilton is buried there, and he’ll haunt you. He was the first Secretary of the Treasury and the biggest promoter of the U.S. government starting a national bank. With Templar gold perhaps?
Washington D.C.’s Rosslyn Chapel
We think we know what has become of the Templar treasure. It has never made sense that a group as shrewd as the fabled Knights would go roaming the countryside with trunks of gold and silver and burying it in a hole somewhere, any more than Donald Trump or Goldman-Sachs would. Theory after theory has been concocted about locating the Templar’s treasure, but to no avail. Many such conjectures involve so-called “sacred” locations and convoluted claims of bizarre astronomical or geometric calculations, star charts and other such stuff and nonsense. Well, we’ve discovered the treasure. We know where it is, we know what it is, and it is hiding in plain sight.
Many books have been published over the years connecting the Freemasons mysteriously with Washington D.C., including Chris’s own Solomon’s Builders. But most people don’t know that there is a neighborhood due west of, and across the Potomac from, the White House, called Rosslyn. It is named after the famous chapel in Scotland, and it is part of a larger bit of sacred geometry of its own.
The Freemasons and the Templars are bound together in legend, and maybe even by a few facts (see Chapter 8). And everybody knows that the Freemasons were somehow involved in the building of Washington, D.C.
If you believe that, drag out your map of Washington, D.C., and start connecting the dots. Start at the White House and draw a line north up 16th Street to Rock Creek Park. Like the Rose Line in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, the 16th Street meridian is believed by some researchers to be of mystic and spiritual origin — so much so that several “secret” societies and literally dozens of churches are built along it.
Follow 16th Street to the entrance of Rock Creek Park. It is a little known episode of history that, in the 1860s, there was a brief notion of the city planners to build a new presidential mansion at what is now Rock Creek Park,
because of the noise, smells, and general yuckiness of the swampland around the existing White House. The tradition of the original White House prevailed, the president’s residence stayed put, the swamp got filled in, and Rock Creek Park is now a beautiful, rustic recreation area for D.C. residents. But, nevertheless, here are two potential White House spots located at either end of the “sacred” 16th Street meridian.
Now for the really clever bit. Draw a line straight west of the White House, just across the Potomac to the Rosslyn Metro station. Draw another diagonal line from the Rosslyn Metro stop up to the entrance of Rock Creel Park. Voila! Sacred geometry! A right-triangle that connects the two White House locations with a neighborhood named after one of the most enigmatic Templar locations in the world, Rosslyn Chapel!
So what, you say? Here’s what. Just across the street from the Rosslyn Metro Station is another Rosslyn Chapel. And like its Scottish cousin, it is one of the most peculiar churches anywhere in the world. More important, its underground vaults hold a modern-day Templar treasure, one of the most valuable riches on Earth.
The Arlington Temple United Methodist Church is located at 1835 N. Nash Street, dead center in Rosslyn. And its treasure? It seems that the church elders decided in the 1970s that it would be good fiscal planning to have a steady income, so when the building was constructed, it was designed on top of a gas station. Its underground tanks hold several thousand gallons of gasoline, and with oil prices at what they are today, this modern-day Rosslyn Chapel has it made.