Knights Templar Church, Dover

History of Knights Templar Church

Standing on the Western Heights above Dover are the stone foundations of a small chapel, which has been linked to the Knights Templar. 

An artist's impression of a Knight Templar in the uniform of the order, as depicted in an engraving of the 17th or 18th century
An artist's impression of a Knight Templar in the uniform of the order, as depicted in an engraving of the 17th or 18th century © English Heritage

The Knights Templar were a military and religious order founded in the 12th century, during the Crusades, to protect pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land and to defend the holy places there.

They became rich and powerful but increasingly unpopular, and the order was eventually suppressed in 1312.

The port of Dover, the chief departure point for pilgrimages to the Holy Land, was an obvious place for the Templars to have held property, but they are believed to have left the town before 1185 and their links to this particular site are tenuous.

An alternative interpretation suggests that the building was a wayside shrine on the Dover to Folkestone road.

Knights Templar church from the west
Knights Templar church from the west © English Heritage

Description

The chapel, built in the 12th century, had a circular nave 10 metres (33 feet) in diameter and a rectangular chancel.

The form mirrors that of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and it is this association that has suggested the link with the Templars. Their most complete church, though much restored, is the Temple Church in London.

The buried foundations were discovered in the early 19th century during the construction of the Western Heights military defences. Only the flint and mortar core of the foundations and a small area of stone facing survive.

Note

The text on this page is derived from the Heritage Unlocked series of guidebooks, published in 2002–6. We intend to update and enhance the content as soon as possible to provide more information on the property and its history. 

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