mardi 12 février 2019

A lesson in history...

Today it seems that all history has to be finite.  So much history from the epochs of days gone by has been dramatised on film and television, that the graphic portrayal, be it Shakespeare’s plays, Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, The American Civil War or the Alamo, has become the reality of historical events.

To our modern minds these portrayals, even to the script contents and location settings represent almost indisputably, the truth, Gerard Depardieu represents the French Revolution, John Wayne, the all American cowboy and a host of actors being the living truth of the history of England, the world.

However, as much as has been revealed by modern science in the realms of archaeology, it has to be understood that the greater part of what all but the learned see as the detail of history is often, to a greater extent, literally garnished with imagination, supposition and speculation applied generously to the merest traces of factual substance.  When I was at school; long, long ago: the Middle Ages were often known as "The Dark Ages", our history master being reluctant to recognise modern history as starting much before the Tudors. 

"Please Sir, why are they called the Dark Ages Sir?" 

Sir would answer that, "As little was written at the time, to be referred to as an actual history of the period in times to come, almost all knowledge was confined to the Parish Registers, monastic records, church archives and hand-me-down legend that could never be substantiated."

To know all that we can know, will always contain a heavy slice of guesswork; we have to read between the lines of the facts that can be proved, adding conjecture with romanticism and arrive somewhere down the line of "maybes" at a suitably plausible dramatisation of probabilities.

Knights Templar in their chainmail and white surcoats emblazoned with the red splayed cross, the logo of the order. The Knights Hospitalier, their white, eight pointed cross dramatically displayed against sheer black. Gregorian chants, Brother Cadfael, The Da Vinci Code and the clash of sword against sword.  The hiss of blazing crossbow bolts being let loose and flying on their deadly path towards enemies unseen as you hammer on the door to take shelter within.

Wonderful stuff, wild imagination, the thrill of boy's own comics and perhaps just a grain or two of truth long lost in the annuls of time.  After all, their was Bernardus de Villaribus (Bernard de Villars) and his men snatched away on Friday 13th 1307 to be incarcerated at Limoges, to be later transported to Clermont-Ferrand and finally to Paris to stand trial for acts against God and the King.  FACT.

Who and how many came in the name of the Protestant Church to wreak slaughter on the inhabitants of La Roche St Paul?   How much blood flowed?  What became of the corpses of the monkish Knights, Brothers and villagers?   Did anyone survive that day in 15-- and what year was it actually?   Ah!  But FACT.

Later, perhaps in 1588 or 1589/90. When the Knights Hospitaliers came home to repair the damage; modernise and improve the ruined remains of the gutted Commandery and let their lot then be supervised from the mother Commandery at Condat, what did that day bring?  TRUE.  But.

When did they leave for good?   Who turned the key in the lock at that final moment and was the removal van there waiting with its engine running? Where did they go?  Driven out or of their own volition?  To foreign parts or to Condat first before a greater gathering of the clan and then, off to pastures new or was it a final last stand against the generals of the thrusting young emperor ?

We build our stories on a mere thread of evidence and exciting they are too but not history.   No more than historical drama.


Historically we know..... The house now standing here, on its bare hillside, was built over a spring and against an enormous gism of pure white quartz by the Knights Templar on land given around 1140 as a donation to their cause and in support of the Crusades by Guy Flamenc de la Roche Saint-Paul, Seigneur du Château de Bruzac and Overlord of St Paul la Roche at the time.
The first Knights Templar arrived in the Périgord in 1138, by invitation of the Bishop, so this was an early and important site, rapidly becoming one of the most important Commanderies in the Périgord.

We know that the Commandery was laid to siege in 1143 over contested rights of ownership of the land. With Guy Flamenc with his friends, The Knights Templar against Adhémar IV (1110-1148, 12th Viscount) and his brother Guy (1113-1148, 13th Viscount), Co-Viscounts of Limoges along with their ally Bozon II (1110-1143), 8th Viscount of Turenne and brother-in-law of Adhémar IV who had married in 1134 his sister, Margaret (1119-1202).  We know that Bozon II was killed by an arrow and the frightened Co-Viscounts of Limoges lifted the siege in December 1143.

Dispute of ownership was then set aside and as archives reveal, heavy horses were reared on the lands, to be driven south and embarked on a voyage to the Holy Land.
We know that "Templars" and its small adjacent Garconnière (literally a "boy tower" or "bachelor pad") is on the route of pilgrimage to Saint Jacques de Compostela.

We know that Richard the Lionheart passed by (but how close we know not !) around the time of his attack on Chalus which resulted in his death.   How close did he come?  Did he perhaps stop at the Commandery to take fresh horses?   Bed down for the night even, before the final 15 mile push to Chalus?

We do not know, it is doubtful that we ever will.   It is possible; it is not improbable but it is a romantic notion and that it will remain, not history.  
Merely a wonderfully imaginative, inspiring, historical fiction.

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