For centuries the Knights Templar have become immortalised in legend and mystery, entwined with Freemasonry and have always been a source of fascination for me. Imagine my delight at finding a Knight’s Templar Tower just a few miles up the road in Askeaton – home to historical graveyards, a medieval friary and churches, the Desmond castle and of course, the Limerick branch of the Hellfire Club.
Saint Mary’s Church dates back to 1827, however a much earlier construction dates back to the 13th century, where just the tower of the Knights Templar construction remains. The Knights Templar arrived in Ireland officially with Strongbow and the Normans and were here for around 150 years.
Much of their work and assets were clandestine and very little indeed was documented, however they did have a good bit of property in Munster. Their true strength lay not in military matters, but finance and banking. The Knights Templar had a world network of moneylending and holding and transferring the money of the rich, as well as handling taxes from Ireland to England and a network of small holdings generating income in Ireland. They were too successful however, and King Philip the Fair of France owed them ridiculous amounts of money. Not willing to pay, he joined forces with Pope Clement V to accuse the Knights of heresy and bring about their downfall.
The coordinated arrests of the members of the Knights Templar across France took place on Friday 13th October 1307. And thus one of the main origins of the Friday 13th superstition began! The following year these arrests, accusations and land seizures spread across Ireland and the demise of the Knights Templar really took hold. In a few short years, they were erased from the Irish way of life, however their legacy very much remains.
The graves are much older than the 1827 church, with one headstone having the inscription 1641 and others so worn with the passage of time and the elements that they are blank markers of those sleeping beneath. The largest grave is the ‘Famine’ mass grave, an epitaph in memory of those who lost their lives in the Great Hunger. On the pathway nearest the church, lies the Irish poet and nationalist, Aubrey de Vere, who’s home was at Curraghchase, a favourite Limerick haunted location of ours!
All photos and content Ann Massey/IPI