Did The Templars Find The Ark Of The Covenant?
Article by Patrick Byrne
Author of the Lost Secrets of Freemasonry
To answer this question we must attempt to peer back through the historical mists to try and determine whether anyone - let alone the Templars - could have found the Ark. The first issue, however, is whether the Ark could have been sufficiently well hidden so as to avoid being destroyed or plundered during the final sack of the temple by Titus in AD 70. The Bible provides us with a clue to the answer. The last time that the Bible mentions the Ark is in 2 Chronicles 35:3 when King Josiah ordered that it should be returned to the temple.
"Put the Holy Ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build; it shall not be a burden upon your shoulders."
We can date this event to around 623 BC and a number of conclusions can reasonably be drawn from this record.
1. The temple priests had moved the Ark to safe keeping during the preceding turbulent times and the Holy Ark was returned to the temple because there is no reference to the fact that it was not, and that would have been an important event.
2. Those in authority, including King Josiah, were well aware that the Ark had been safely hidden until the time that he ordered it to be returned to the temple. The fairly off-hand manner in which this event is dealt with indicates that it was not unusual to hide the Holy Ark during periods of crisis.
3. Whatever and wherever the hiding place was, it had successfully protected the Ark between 950 BC when Solomon built the first temple and 623 BC when King Josiah gave his direction to the temple priests. The effectiveness of the hiding place is demonstrated by the knowledge that it remained a secret on at least four occasions when Jerusalem was over-run during those 327 years.
Having shown that the Ark could have remained hidden during the periods of Roman and later Muslim occupation leads to the next question of why would the Templars search for the Ark? The Knights Templar were conceived in the French city of Troyes - pronounced trois meaning three - which was the capital city of Champagne. At the same time that the Templars were being considered, the man who would become Saint Bernard during his own lifetime was beginning his monastic career with the Cistercians. The Cistercians monks were - at that time - heavily involved in deciphering Hebrew texts. The link between the two strands was Hughes, Count of Champagne. Hughes began his adulthood as a monk before taking on the mantle of Count. He first visited Jerusalem as a pilgrim in 1104 and only a few years later nine of his vassals returned to found the Knights Templar quartered in the Al Aqsa mosque on Temple Mount. Stories abound that the Templars spent the first 10 years or so of their existence digging under Temple Mount. Captain Wilson, Lieutenant Warren and a team of Royal Engineer found strong support for these rumours. In 1867, they re-excavated the area and uncovered tunnels extending vertically, from the Al Aqsa mosque, for some 25 metres before fanning out under the Dome of the Rock which is generally thought to be the site of King Solomon's temple. Crusader artefacts found in these tunnels attest to Templar involvement.
Elsewhere on this Web Site, the strong connection between the Knights Templar and the Freemasons is explored.
The earliest written copies of Masonic ritual state unequivocally that the ancient masons found the Ark of the Covenant hidden in a cave under the site of King Solomon's temple.
"In pursuance of your orders, we repaired to the secret vault, and let down one of the companions as before. The sun at this time was at its meridian height, the rays of which enabled him to discover a small box, or chest, standing on a pedestal, curiously wrought, and overlaid with gold: he gave the signal of ascending, and was immediately drawn out. We have brought the ark up, for the examination of the grand council."
To complete this particular aspect of the enquiry it only remains to say that there is indeed just such a cave underneath the al-Sakhra - the rock outcrop covered by the Dome of the Rock mosque; which is believed to be the site of Araunah the Jebusite King's threshing floor.
Having shown that the Ark could have been hidden and that it could have been found by the Templars it only remains to ascertain whether there is any more evidence to show that they did so. We can start with the fact that in 1125 Count Hughes gave up all his worldly wealth and travelled to Jerusalem to join the Templars under their Grand Master, Hughes de Payens, who had previously been one of the Count's vassals. Around this time Payens visited Europe and not only received Papal approval for the order of Knights Templar - with considerable help from Bernard, but as he travelled he had huge tracts of land settled on the order as gifts from kings, princes and other nobility. Furthermore, hundreds if not thousands of men signed away their worldly goods in order to join the fledgling order. The Templars may not have found the Ark but they had certainly gained possession of something of immense religious importance.
The many written works histories of the Templars make frequent mention of their "treasure." As the Holy Land finally fell to the Muslims in 1291 mention is made of a Templar knight by the name of Tibald Gaudin as having carried the "treasure" away. The clear inference being that they placed money above people. The fact is however that on arrival at Sidon, Gaudin was elected the next Grand Master. There would have been ample financial reserves held at Sidon, just as there was at every other preceptory; it simply does not make sense to consider that the newly arrived Gaudin would have warranted such promotion simply because he brought some gold with him. If, on the other hand, he had saved the Ark of the Covenant then promotion would have been a small reward.
The theme of the Templars saving their "treasure" at times of greatest threat recurs shortly before their arrest by King Philip IV, when it is said that they spirited away the Paris temple treasure in a hay wagon. King Philip managed to arrest some 2000 Templars who were placed in chains at various establishments throughout Paris and the rest of France for nearly 5 years. The hostelries and boarding houses that put up the prisoners were paid for the upkeep, of their Tempar prisoners, from funds held at the Paris temple. These expenses would equate to perhaps as much as $50 million in today's money and it is therefore absurd to suggest that the Templars made off with the Paris gold immediately before their arrest. It is clear that the Templar "treasure" was something of an entirely different nature, and the Ark of the Covenant fits the bill in every respect.
We will never know the answer to this mystery for sure until the present guardians of the Ark declare it and subject it to scientific examination. The full story is told at http://www.1two3.fsnet.co.uk/