Darker interests focus on the Templars as the rallying point of a network of violent European white supremacism – a lodestar of racial hatred around which extremism can gravitate. The appeal of the Templars to extremists is probably inevitable.
Selwood also discusses a fascinating aspect of Templar culture about which I know nothing but which really ought to be showing up in crazy Templar conspiracy theories if the speculators did anything close to real research. According to Selwood, a Templar chapel called St. Christophe at Montsaunès, near the French border with Spain, contains astonishing frescos unlike anything else in medieval art. The walls and ceiling are covered in stars and solar wheels, reminiscent of cabbalistic designs, the Hermetic rites, or astrology.
There is nothing remotely Christian about it. […] What did they [the symbols] mean to the Knights Templar? Why did they paint them so meticulously? And what prompted them to put them in their chapel, the building at the heart of their spiritual life, which they entered to pray in nine times a day?
Some of the symbols bear a resemblance to Near Eastern iconography, and the star-spangled vault recalls the star-covered ceiling of Unas’ pyramid in Egypt, though obviously there is no direct connection. If I were pressed to guess, I would think that the designs were inspired by geometric Islamic mosque decoration. Standard texts on Islamic art state that ceiling beams found near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the Knights Templar had their Holy Land headquarters, were decorated with six-pointed stars. Several of these beams can be seen in the Al-Aqsa museum today. They may have been used in an earlier phase of the Al-Aqsa mosque, or perhaps another Islamic building. As I understand it, they are different from the wooden beams currently claimed to be from the first or second Jewish Temple.
Other medieval texts refer to ceilings, now lost or painted over, that contained a “panel of stars,” “the choir of stars,” or other astronomical symbolism, particularly in areas influenced by Islam, such as the Sicily of Roger II. Simon Cahn discusses them in Some Cosmological Imagery in the Decoration of the Ceiling of the Palatine Chapel in Palermo, his doctoral dissertation. The floor of the Palatine Chapel, an Islamic-influenced medieval Christian church in Sicily, is covered in six-pointed stars much like the Templar chapel’s ceiling.
Given that the St. Christophe chapel was built near what was then the mountainous pass to the Spanish border as part of the Reconquista effort, utilizing and adapting Islamic motifs and “re-Christianizing” them seems to be a decent explanation for what is going on here.
It’s a fascinating ceiling that could support all sorts of crazy claim about the Templars and sacred astronomy, yet my review of the Templar conspiracy literature turns up nothing about the chapel. I am sure it will quickly take its place after appearing in the Telegraph. I’m always interested in seeing some historical oddity I’ve never seen before, and this ceiling is one of the more interesting puzzles I’ve come across recently. Better yet: It really exists and is actually a real Templar mystery!