Kilmartin Stones in Scotland

Sir Knight David P. McCash

One of the fascinating periods of
Templar history is the order’s
legacy in Scotland. The persecutions
that took place between 1307
and 1314 left surviving groups of Knights
Templar removing themselves from the
hands of their persecutors. One place
of refuge was to be found in Scotland.
Even though historians agree that the
supporting documentation is miniscule,
the “legends and traditions” are there.
What about physical evidence, the empirical
witness that would substantiate
the “legends and traditions?”
In the western part of Scotland, in
the heart of Argyll is a small village
named Kilmartin. Within and immediately
around the Kilmartin area there
are “eight hundred historic monuments.”1
The parish church at Kilmartin
has an adjacent graveyard that contains
a collection of early Christian and medieval
carved stones. In the graveyard,
there are row after row, close to eighty,
weathered flatstones or grave-slabs that
are used for covering
a gravesite. Some
of these grave-slabs
contain decorative
motifs, clan devices,
and Masonic symbols.

The most telling
of the grave-slabs are
the ones that contain
no markings or names except an incised
imprint of a real, life size, straight sword.
A plaque at the church indicates that
the earliest flatstones or slabs at Kilmartin
date to around 1300. It was a custom
of the time to take the deceased man’s
sword and lay it upon a flatstone and
outline the sword and chisel the outline
into the stone. The plaque also indicates
that “most” of these grave-slabs were
the work of sculptors from the 14th and
early 15th centuries.
The “Bailie” of Kilmartin and Loch
Awe from the year 1296 on, was Sir Neil
Campbell, an ally and brother-in-law of
Robert the Bruce. It is assumed that the
earliest graves at Kilmartin were the men
that served under Sir Neil’s command. It
is the belief of Michael Baigent and Richard
Leigh, the authors and researchers
of the book, The Temple and The Lodge,
that these grave-slabs at Kilmartin that
contain only a straight sword likeness on
the stone are those of Templar knights.
They are familiar with known Templar
sites that are found in
England, France, Spain,
and the Middle East
along with burial sites
that are accepted to be
those of Knights Templar.
They write, “those
graves displayed the
same characteristics as
knight templar 11
the graves in Kilmartin. They were invariably
simple, austere, devoid of decoration.
Frequently, though not always,
they were marked by the simple straight
sword. They were always anonymous.”2

After the fall of Acre in 1292, Robert
the Bruce became Earl of Carrick. Robert
the Bruce wielded power in
Scotland during the period that
the order of the Temple was being
suppressed elsewhere. Robert
the Bruce’s career extended
through the period of Philippe
IV’s orders in 1307 to have all Templar
knights arrested in his domain in France
to the period of the battle of Bannockburn
in 1314, just after Jacques de Molay’s
It needs to be remembered that outside
of papal power and authority itself
over Christian monarchs, “the most
powerful, most prestigious, most apparently
unshakable institution of its age”
was the order of the Temple. At the time
of King Philippe of France, the order was
already two hundred years old and one
of the pillars of Christendom in the West.
It wasn’t until 1312 that the order of the
Temple was officially dissolved by papal
decree. It can be shown that Philippe’s
power subverted the papacy at that time,
and it must be considered that Philippe
wanted all Templar knights arrested because
of his fear of military retaliation
against him for his arresting and torturing
of the leading knights of the order.
For the purpose of this article, it isn’t my
intent to list reasons why Philippe and
papacy moved against the order. What
is important is the effect that Philippe’s
power and the papacy had upon the order
and where it sought refuge.
When Philippe sent an envoy to King
Edward II of England, soliciting his help to
seek out, arrest, interrogate, and imprison
Templar knights within his dominion,
Edward sent a letter to the kings of Portugal,
Castile, Aragon, and Sicily stating
that Philippe’s envoy, “dared to publish
before us…certain horrible and detestable
enormities repugnant to the Catholic
faith, to the prejudice of the
aforesaid brothers, endeavoring
to persuade us…to imprison all
the brethren…” Edward then instructed
them to, “…turn a deaf
ear to the slanders of ill-natured
men, who are animated, as we believe,
not with the zeal of rectitude, but with a
spirit of cupidity and envy…” 3
Shortly after this, Edward received a
papal bull sanctioning and justifying the
arrests. It will be shown later why Edward
was under obligation to obey papal edicts.

Edward then reluctantly ordered all sheriff’s
to arrest Templar knights within their
respective domains. As key members were
arrested, many others took the opportunity
to mix into the English population or to
leave the country. Even though Edward arrested
some members of the order, it took
papal inquisitors arriving in England for
Edward to issue another order to officials
in Ireland and Scotland to arrest the Templar
knights within their dominions. This
indicates that Edward had knowledge that
more Templar knights existed who had
not been arrested as of 1309 when these
papal representatives arrived in England.
There are letters sent by Edward to his
sheriffs indicating that after some of the
Templar knights were placed under arrest
within corresponding castles, they were
allowed to freely walk about. Even though
Edward formally rebuked the sheriffs for
allowing them to do so, it was the papal
inquisitors who wanted to torture them
to extract confessions of wrong doing that
12 january 2015
they asserted was unwarranted.
Interestingly, Robert the Bruce in
1306, before the persecution of the Templar
knights began, was excommunicated
from the church of the Holy Roman Empire
and would remain so for the next
twelve years. In 1304, Bruce’s father died,
leaving Robert with a direct claim to the
throne. John Comyn, Bruce’s rival, was under
English control and thus papal edict.
Bishop Lamberton in 1299 returned from
Rome and was appointed as third guardian
over Scotland. Lamberton supported
Robert the Bruce in becoming king and
on 10 February 1306, at the church of
the Grey Friars in Dumfries, Robert the
Bruce stabbed John Comyn with a dagger
before the high altar and left Comyn
on the stone floor of the
church to bleed to death.
Comyn’s death was not
immediate, and monks
who hoped to save the
life of Comyn carried
his bleeding body off to
safety. When Robert the
Bruce learned of this,
he “returned to the church, dragged him
back to the altar, and there slaughtered
Historians believe that Robert
the Bruce’s act was in defiance not only
against English influence and power in
Scotland but against the church in Rome
itself. The papacy reacted swiftly and excommunicated
Bruce from the church.
The two greatest ecclesiastical authorities
in Scotland, Bishop Lamberton and
Bishop Wishart of Glasgow, supported
Bruce when he then laid claim to the
throne. Six weeks after Comyn’s death,
at Scone, Bishop Lamberton crowned
Robert the Bruce king, performed a mass
for the new monarch, paid homage, and
pledged fealty to the new king.
Because the papacy ceased to recognize
Robert the Bruce, it was impossible
for the pope to exercise his will over
Robert the Bruce’s dominion in Scotland.
As the suppression of the order of the
Temple spread from France to the rest
of Europe, Scotland became a place of
refuge for Templar knights under Bruce’s
protection from the edicts of the pope
and Catholic monarchs.
One historian records these events in
this way, “The Templars…found a refuge
in the little army of the excommunicated
King Robert, whose fear of offending the
French monarch would doubtless be
vanquished by his desire to secure a few
capable men-at-arms as recruits.”5
The geopolitics of the time put pressure
on the King of England
to gain control over
Scotland, and the persecution
of Templar knights
coerced the surviving
remnants to seek refuge
from their inquisitors.
Robert the Bruce in Scotland
needed soldiers and
supplies to help in resisting the power of
the papacy as manifested through Edward’s
vassalage in England and would
welcome such refugees as the Templar
knights. The events in history that gave
the papacy in Rome so much power in
England arose from the embroilment between
King John and Pope Innocent III a
hundred years earlier.
During King John’s reign in England
from 1199 to 1216, a power-play between
Rome and the English throne led
King John to issue a letter of concession
to Pope Innocent III. When it came to
the election and installation of Stephen
Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury,
the pope accused King John of “impi-
knight templar 13
ous persecution” and trying to “enslave”
the entire English church. From 1208
to 1214, the pope imposed an interdict
wherein no religious services were to be
performed in England. When this didn’t
have the desired effect, the pope then
excommunicated King John. In 1213 King
John gave in to the pressure of Rome
and issued his concession, essentially
making England a fiefdom of Rome. In
this concession, King John writes that he
does, “offer and freely concede to God…
and to…the holy Roman church,
and to our lord Pope Innocent
and to his Catholic successors, the
whole kingdom of England and the
whole kingdom of Ireland, with all
their rights and appurtenances, for
the remission of our own sins and
of those of our whole race…receiving
and holding them, as it were a
vassal,” and that England will “perform
and swear fealty for them to
him our aforesaid lord Pope Innocent,
and his Catholic successors
and the Roman church.” This concession
would then put succeeding kings of England
like Edward I and Edward II under
obligation to do the bidding of Rome
when it came to persecuting the knights
of the Temple.
When King Edward I died in 1307, Robert
the Bruce continued his operations
against the English. In fact, for the following
seven years after Edward I’s death, the
Knights Templar were being sought after
on the mainland of Europe and in England.
In 1309, the parliament at St. Andrew’s
officially recognized Robert the Bruce
“King of the Scots,” sovereign over all of
Scotland. Only the pope in Rome and Edward
II in England refused to recognize it.
In fact, it was Edward II’s intent to bring
Scotland under his dominion. Another
historian records, “In 1309 when persecutions
began, an inquisition was held
at Holyrood, only two knights appeared,
the others were legitimately occupied in
the fighting, having joined Bruce’s army,
which was marching against the English.”6
In 1314, Edward II was determined to
subdue Scotland and place the Scots under
his dominion. Edward led his forces
to an area about two and half miles from
Stirling Castle to engage the Scottish
forces in what ultimately would win the
Scots their independence. This conflict
is known in history as the Battle
of Bannockburn. This battle fully
engaged the Scottish forces against
the English. When both forces were
weakened and exhausted, English
chroniclers record that a “fresh
force” appeared, lined up behind
the engaged Scottish forces with
banners waving in the air.
After a full day of fighting, the
combat left the English and Scottish
forces battered. This “fresh
force” of mounted Knights Templar,
dressed in their white mantles with a
red blazoned Templar passion cross
on their chest and their black & white
Beauseant banner waving overhead,
must have been an unwanted sight for
the English forces to see. As it has been
shown, King Edward II was reluctant to
pursue and persecute these Christian
soldiers that were known as Knights
Templar. Because of necessity, these
Templar knights sought refuge in Scotland,
and it became the last place for
them to make their final stand against
the Holy Roman Empire that was now
engaged against them. Perhaps King
Edward’s conscience got the best of
him, and he decided not to participate
in slaughtering soldiers of Christ. King
14 january 2015
Edward and about five hundred of his
knights retreated off the field, leaving
the king’s foot soldiers to follow suit. In
doing so, the English left their belongings,
supplies, money, and equipment.
As a Christian Monarch, King Edward
II nobly retreated as a true guardian of
the faith.
As another historian has written,
Templar knights indeed did ally themselves
with Robert the Bruce, specifically
at the battle of Bannockburn, “we
are told…they ranged themselves under
the banners of Robert the Bruce and
fought with him at Bannockburn…Legend
states that after the decisive battle
of Bannockburn…Bruce, in return for
their eminent services, formed these
Templars into a new body.”7
This battle
would determine Scottish independence
for almost two hundred ninety years.
After the official dissolution of the
Temple by papal decree in 1312, the
lands owned by Templar knights, along
with their preceptories, were given to
the Knights Hospitaller of St. John. Half
a year after the battle of Bannockburn,
King Robert the Bruce “issued a charter”
to the Knights Hospitaller, “confirming
all their possessions in the kingdom.”8
It wasn’t until ten years after the battle
of Bannockburn that Pope John XXII
finally acknowledged Robert the Bruce
as monarch over Scotland. Before Robert
the Bruce’s death in 1329, he requested
that after his death, his heart be removed,
placed in a small casket, then taken to Jerusalem
and buried in the Church of the
Holy Sepulchre. Sir James Douglas and
four other knights embarked for Jerusalem
for that purpose. Sir James Douglas
carried the small casket of Robert the
Bruce’s heart around his neck as he and
his small contingent travelled to Jerusalem.
In Spain these knights joined with
King Alfonso XI of Castile and assisted
him in a campaign against the Moors of
Granada. During this campaign, these
knights were surrounded, and the chronicles
record that Sir Douglas took the casket
with Bruce’s heart and flung it into
the attacking hordes and shouted: “Brave
heart, that ever foremost led, Forward!
as thou wast wont. And I shall follow thee,
or else shall die!”9
All the knights died in
this conflict except for Sir William Keith
who couldn’t participate in the battle
because of a broken arm. After the battle,
he was able to retrieve the casket containing
Bruce’s heart from off the battle
field and to retu