Look What We Found!

Look What We Found!

A dog's head, uncovered in a crumbling old stone wall, may seem like a rather random find, but don't like the missing ears and fire-blackened muzzle deceive you. Because what at first sight looks little more than a piece of rubble is in fact a most remarkable link back to the founder of our Order, and thence to St. Patrick - the founding Saint of Christian Ireland.

Unveiling the battered ancient hound exclusively on last night's Templar report, Brother Jim Dowson explained the full significance of the find: 

We already knew that the stones of the old walls in our completed Chapter House, and those in the equally ancient little building now being restored as the Mary Magdalene Chapel, were taken from the post-Reformation ruins of the nearby Cistercian monastery. This is the Order founded by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who provided Sir Hugh de Payens with the Templars' Rule and played a key part in the establishment of our Order of the Poor Knights.

Back in 1620, the Scots-Irish planters urgently needed stone to build a defensive wall around their vulnerable new settlement and, as staunch Calvinists, they had no compunction or sentimentality in using the disused monastery as a quarry.

Incredibly, in doing so they gifted us this wonderful glimpse back to the men who first built the monastery, not just the skilled craftsman who carved the sculpture, but also the architect who included it in his master plan and the Abbott who signed it off and gave it the go-ahead.

And it gets even better. The Abbey was erected in the site of the very first Christian church in the whole of Ireland, a much smaller and simpler affair, which was built in person by St. Patrick and his earliest converts. The legend of St. Patrick has always featured dogs. Having escaped from slavery after having a dream in which his sheepdog told him of a boat he could get to freedom, the young Christian Briton quickly established a rapport with the boat's main cargo - a pack of Irish wolfhounds being exported for sale on the continent.

The ship was wrecked off the coast of Gaul (modern France), and the ship's pagan crew taunted Patrick that his God seemed to have abandoned him (and them) to starve on the inhospitable and wild coast. the lad prayed all night and, early the next morning, saw a herd of wild pigs emerge from the forest. He set the dogs to hunt them down and, once the amazed crewmen had eaten their fill of pork, they became St. Patrick's first converts.

From then on, St. Patrick was always closely associated with the Irish wolfhound - they often feature on St. Patrick's day parades. So the distinctively long snout of our stone dog is no accident. It is clear that he was carved to adorn the exterior of the Cistercian monastery, for the specific reason that it was built where it was to celebrate and commemorate St. Patrick.

This means that there could literally be no more fitting place in the whole of Ireland for our Chapel - which when formally inaugurated will be the first new Knights Templar place of worship for more than 700 years.

The restoration of the Chapel building is now in full swing. With most of the internal fixtures and fittings already bought or donated and safe in storage, we just need one last big push to finish it quickly and well - to the greater glory of God.