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For years, residents in the western England county of Shropshire were unknowingly walking right over a hidden space, even though its entrance was in plain sight. As early as 2002, a series of secret caverns were discovered, and archaeologists speculated that they might have been used by the Knights Templar, a Christian military group that was active for about 200 years starting back in the 1100s.
Since then, people’s imaginations have run wild. After all, on the surface, the hole in this picture looks like nothing more than a simple entryway into an animal burrow.
But in reality, these holes lead to something far more mysterious and beautiful:
During the Crusades about 700 years ago, the Knights Templar and religious pilgrims used caverns similar to this one in order to stay hidden as they traveled to Jerusalem. Such caves also served as a secret place of worship for the travelers. When speculation about the caves’ origins were still running wild, IFLScience.com explained that the Knights Templar often built caverns such as this in a classic, circular shape, so as to match the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, also known as the supposed burial location of Jesus Christ.
Since the caverns were first uncovered, a few people have been given permission to visit the historic site for study, and to take photographs. Michael Scott of Birmingham, England, had the chance to capture some incredible images after seeing an online video.
“I traipsed over a field to find it, but if you didn’t know it was there you would just walk right past it,” Scott told Metro.Co.UK. “It’s probably less than a meter underground, so it’s more into the field than under it. Considering how long it’s been there it’s in amazing condition; it’s like an underground temple.”
Who Were The Knights Templar?
Many people know the name of the Knights Templar from Dan Brown’s novel “The DaVinci Code,” or the popular movie based upon the book, starring Tom Hanks. This special military order was created during the Crusades in order to protect pilgrims traveling from Western Europe to Jerusalem. According to History.com, “a French knight named Hugues de Payens founded a military order devoted to protecting these pilgrims, calling it the Poor Knights of the Temple of King Solomon (later called the Knights Templar).” A few years later, the Pope gave his formal endorsement of the Knights Templar.
After years of struggle, the Knights Templar left Jerusalem and relocated to Paris, France. After running into trouble with King Philip IV, many of the Knights Templar were arrested and tortured. In 1312, Pope Clement V disbanded the Knights Templar.
Despite being formally dissolved nearly 700 years ago, some believe the Knights Templar simply went “underground,” and that the order still exists today. Fictional works such as Brown’s only fuel continued interest in their history.
What’s The Truth About These Caverns?
Though it’s fun to contemplate the possibility that these caverns were used by this secret order, in actuality, they’re likely only a couple centuries old. Archaeologists have surmised that they were, in fact, created as a folly in the mid-19th Century. Follies (from the French word for “foolishness”) were decorative constructions that were often not what they first appeared to be. For example, some follies were built to look like medieval towers, ruined castles and even crumbling temples.
After scientists discovered this particular series of caverns, visitors often came to the caves for their own exploration of the ancient tunnels. Unfortunately, the area had to be closed down in 2012 because vandals had begun to paint graffiti on the walls and dump garbage into it.
Renewed interest in the caves has certainly sparked renewed speculation as well. Whatever their origins, however, these caverns are undoubtedly beautiful.