A History Lesson
The year of our Lord 1307 was a tumultuous time in the annals of history. King Philip IV of France conspired to dissolve the Order of the Knights Templar. Denied entrance to the Order, and in debt tothe Templars for an enormous sum of which he was unable to repay, Philip the Fair plotted to destroy the order and seize the vast wealth and property it possessed. In connivance with Pope Clement V, the Templars were accused of heresy, sorcery, and sexual perversion. The Templars were hunted, arrested, and tortured in an effort to gain confessions.
Of an estimated two thousand Knights Templar, many were killed or committed suicide as a result of the Inquisition. It is believed that only a handful of Templar mariners, the sea captains, were able to escape persecution by sailing for England, where torture had been outlawed. Seeking the protection of Edward II, the English Templars were spared the fate of their French brother knights. After their order was banned by papal decree in 1312, the surviving Templar mariners formed the Order of the Brethren of the Coast and swore allegiance to the Crown.
It is rumored that, even today, descendants of the Templars serve in silence.
Tools of the Trade
The spyglass was used by mariners to magnify the view and spot land or an incoming ship that might not have been visible to the naked eye. It was also named the ‘bring-em-closer,” for obvious reasons.
A backstaff was used to measure the altitude of the sun by the projection of a shadow. Sailors kept the sun to their backs, hence the name “backstaff”, and observed the shadow cast by the upper vane on the horizon vane.