Historic Cornish Templar Church

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Historic Cornish Templar Church

The church of St Catherine, in the hamlet of Temple is part of the parish of Blisland, in Cornwall, at the far south western point of Britain. It stands on the site of what was the earlier Templar chapel and formed part of the medieval Preceptory of Trebeigh. The name Trebeigh comes from the ancient Cornish language (a version of Welsh) and means 'Little Village'. It is certainly a pretty little place today, and a visit to this ancient Templar site is much recommended.

The story goes that pilgrims travelling from Ireland wanted to avoid sailing around Land's End so would travel up the Padstow estuary to Wadebridge, and then overland to the Fowey river and thence down to the south coast before taking a fresh ship to France. Padstow was an important port and Fowey probably the busiest harbour on the South coast, from which many travellers from the West Country would have embarked for Europe.

Maybe this is why the Templars built their church and refuge on the moor to accommodate travellers who passed over this wild stretch of country on their way to the Holy Land. The church stands on the site of the earlier Templar chapel and when the Order was suppressed it was turned over to the Knights Hospitaler. The church became famous as a place where marriages could be performed without banns or license similar to Gretna Green, from the 16th century until recently. In 1753 such marriages became illegal and after this point, the Temple church lost its congregation and fell into serious disrepair. No services were held for nearly a century

In the 1850s a fund was started for its restoration. The new plans followed as closely as possible those of the original Templar church. The ancient tower arch was kept and wherever possible, relics and other stones were used. The base of the old Norman font is preserved in the inner doorway, and various stones bearing the engraved crosses of the Templars and the Hospitalers can be discovered in the fabric of the building. The church contains several references to its links with the Knights Templar, including a cross pattée in the east window and a depiction of a mounted knight in the north window of the church tower.

A flavour of the area and its life comes across in this charming little video of the church, village green and ancient local pub on a May Day celebration a few years ago. Among other things, there's probably the most unlikely cover of the Creedance Clearwater Revival classic Bad Moon Rising that you'll ever hear!


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