2 May 2014

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 1 May 2014, Historical Walking Tour

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740a. Section of Grand Jury Map of Cork City, 1811

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 1 May 2014

Historical Walking Tour of Ballintemple”


The first of three walking tours I wish to present in early summer takes place on Sunday, 4 May and is of Ballintemple (2pm, meet inside Ballintemple graveyard, opp. O’Connor’s Funeral Home, Boreenmanna Road, two hours, free). Ballintemple as a settlement hub is one of the earliest in the city that came into being. Urban legend and writers such as Samuel Lewis in 1837 describe how the Knight’s Templar had a church here, the first parish church of Blackrock: At the village of Ballintemple, situated on this peninsula, the Knights Templars erected a large and handsome church in 1392, which, after the dissolution of that order, was granted, with its possessions, to Gill abbey. At what period it fell into decay is uncertain; the burial ground is still used”. The graveyard is impressive in its collection of eighteenth century and nineteenth century headstones. It has a series of low uninscribed gravemarkers in its south east corner. There are also many inscribed headstones with smiling faces with one inscribed with ‘Remember Death’. The graveyard remains an undiscovered corner of the city with much of its family histories unresearched and unpublished.

The earliest references to the Knight’s Templar church are shrouded in myth in Ballintemple. Perhaps all is known a rough date of dissolution. Michael J Carroll’s book “The Knights Templar and Ireland” describes some of their background in Europe and in Ireland. The Knights Templars or The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon were one of the most controversial organisations in medieval European history.  Formed in the early 12th century in obscure circumstances they were shrouded in secrecy for their 190 year history.  Their initial aim was to break with traditional non violent ethos of religious orders and take up arms to protect the recently captured city of Jerusalem. They also vowed to protect Pilgrims visiting holy sites in the Middle East.  They became famous initially due to their military exploits but during the crusades but in 13th century they gained more fame and in some cases notoriety for creating a medieval Banking empire.

The Knights Templars are said to be in Ireland before 1177, the Anglo-Norman invasion.  In time it is reputed that they gained lands in Clontarf in Dublin, Carlow, Louth Kilkenny, Sligo and several other locations where they built houses or preceptories.  By 1308, they possessed Irish lands worth over £400 per annum. They had tenants on their lands who ploughed, planted crops, created pastures, cut down trees and cleared wooded areas.  The right to cut down a forest was a special privilege granted by the English King at that time, so the Templars had special privileges. Workers were paid in goods or in kind for their work but later were paid two pennies per week.

In the main base in Dublin, the Templar master was an officer of the English crown and one of the auditors of the Irish exchequer. He sometimes acted as mediator in disputes between the Anglo-Normans and the Irish chiefs. He travelled to London once a year to make a full report to the English Master of the Temple at which time proceeds of the various estates were handed over. The high respect that Templars were held in resulted in circa 1220, the government of Henry III giving instructions to the English Viceroy of Ireland that all taxes, duties and income from Ireland should be handed over to the Templars and Hospitallers. They were also required to take up military posts if called upon.

The Templars could not partake in warfare against other Christians – so avoided war with Irish Chieftains. They were free from many legal customs. They were free from military duties and Irish feudal customs. They were immune from customs to support infrastructure, free from export duties, free from all tolls at every market, bridge, roadway and sea, free from tolls for their own markets. They had complete criminal and civil jurisdiction over their tenants and vassals and the power to punish those found guilty of carrying out a criminal act against them. They had use of pits and the gallows.

Their dress in peace consisted of a long, white robe, having the cross of St. George on the left shoulder, and worn after the manner of a cloak or mantle; a cap, turned up, such as heralds call a ‘cap of maintainance’, covered the head; and the staff or abacus of the order, having at its extremity an encircled cross, was borne in the right hand. Their dress in war did not differ materially from that of the knights of that period, except the distinctive cross, the badge of the order being emblazoned on the cuirass, and the Agnus Dei was displayed on their banners.

Their superior, elected for life, chosen by the order and styled the grand master, took rank as an independent prince. Immediately under him were the preceptors or priors, each ruling over his peculiar district, and subject to the grand master and the statutes of the order. The number of the knights’ companions were unlimited; they were each attended by two esquires, who were usually candidates for admission into the order, into which none were enrolled but those who could prove their nobility of descent for two generations.

More on the walking tour…


739a. Grand Jury Map of Cork, 1811 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

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