'Unexplained and Unexplored': Did Henry Sinclair and the Knights Templar flee to Nova Scotia a century before Columbus?

They went from a group of men appointed to provide safe passage to pilgrims from bandits to become those that were hunted — persecuted on the orders of the Pope after their power became too strong. But did some of them start over in North America?

                            'Unexplained and Unexplored': Did Henry Sinclair and the Knights Templar flee to Nova Scotia a century before Columbus?

The Knights Templar have fascinated historians for decades. Their rise to power as protectors of Christians as they made their journey to the heart of the Holy Land in Jeruselum after the Europeans recaptured the city after the First Crusade in 1099 was remarkable.

They went from a group of men appointed to provide safe passage to pilgrims from bandits and marauding highwaymen who slaughtered them in masses to become those that were hunted — persecuted on the orders of the Pope after their power became too strong.

Who were the Knights Templar?

In 1119, the French knight Hugues de Payens approached King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and proposed creating a monastic order for the protection of these pilgrims.

They were granted a space in the Temple Mount in the captured Al-Aqsa Mosque which was believed to be the Temple of Solomon. They were first called the Poor Knights of Christ or the "Templar" knights.

Circa 1150, Knights of a religious military order known as Knights Templar or Knights of the Temple. The order was founded in 1118 to protect Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Their "Poor" status, however, did not last long. Eager to help the Holy land, wealthy men pooled in money and land and it landed right in the Knights' lap.

Then in 1139, their status was even more elevated after Pope Innocent II's papal bull Omne Datum Optimum order exempted them from being obedient to any local laws. They could pass through borders as they pleased, did not pay taxes and only had to answer to the Pope. 

It was in the 1300s that the real problems begin for the Knights. It is believed that King Philip IV of France owed a great deal of money to the Templars from the wars with the English and he decided to push his agenda against the men. 

He is said to have begun pressuring the church to take action against the order, as a way of freeing himself from his debts. They were accused of fraud, homosexuality, idol worshipping and the like.

Then on the King's persuasion, in November 1307, Pope Clement instructed all Christian monarchs in Europe to arrest all Templars and seize their assets. They were said to have been tortured in captivity. 

Their fabled voyage to Nova Scotia

Henry I Sinclair, the Jarl of Orkney and Lord of Roslin was a Scottish and a Norwegian nobleman at the time and was believed to have been a Knight. He is said to have led the Knights away from Europe to North America 100 years before Columbus did. 

1314, Jacques de Molay (c. 1244 - 1314), the 23rd and Last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, is lead to the stake to burn for heresy. He is shouting to Pope Clement and King Philip that they will face 'a tribunal with God' within a year. They both died soon (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This week explorers Justin Fornal and Emiliano Ruprah use the Zeno map to track down if they had indeed settled in North America and had taken with them the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail.

They use the Zeno map as guidance that leads them to believe Nova Scotia, which translated means New Scotland, could be the place where Henry Sinclair took his ship and his people. 

The Zeno, a map of the North Atlantic was published in 1558 in Venice by Nicolo Zeno, a descendant of Nicolo Zeno, of the Zeno brothers.

The friendship with the Miꞌkmaq tribe

 A trip to the Queen's County Museum and a meeting with historian Evan Pritchard reveals some evidence of what may have gone down on the shores of Nova Scotia at the time when the alleged trip met the tribe in 1398.

Pritchard points out through photographs that the Miꞌkmaq people, who were a nomadic tribe and the indigenous people of the land wore clothing that seemed very influenced by the Templars — pointed hats being the most noteworthy.

Before the fabled arrival of Sinclair, there is no record of them wearing such garments. Another noteworthy similarity was the flag.

The tribe's flag was a red cross with a moon and a star on each side on top that is astonishingly similar to the Templars. Before their arrival, there was no sign of a flag, Pritchard informs.

Miꞌkmaq people wore pointy hats similar to the Templars, in this photo dated 1865 (Wikicommons)

The tribe was nomadic, so they followed the animals towards the south during winter. The investigators follow the migratory patterns for geese, the birds they hunted that leads them to Cape Forchu, a Canadian fishing community, and headland in Yarmouth County.

What they find there seals their belief. They find two relics carved in stone, with possible glaring connections to Sinclair. 

Along with local historian and Miꞌkmaq tribe expert Tim Sock, they take a look at the Overton stone that sits just meters away from the shore where they allegedly landed and features a carving of a moon and feather, the tribe's symbols and a large Templar cross. A bond had been forged between them. 

'In hoc signo vinces'

They then move to Westford, Massachusetts, where there is a fabled grave of a Knight. David Brody, another local historian shows them etchings that were found locally that strongly resemble a sword and he says that there used to be a helmet and armor that were weathered through the years.

Just two miles towards where the sword pointed at, another engraved rock called the Boat stone had been found. It has what looked like a 13th-Century ship, with symbols of an arrow and the number 184.

The investigators think that the most possible explanation could be that it meant to show something 184 yards away, a popular way of measurement of distance at the time, 2 feet being a yard.

Unfortunately, there was no way of knowing which side the arrow originally pointed to so they had their work cut out with an area of 400 feet to explore.

Newport Tower and Channing Statue, Tauro Park, Newport Rhode Island USA. Summer, 2016 (getty Images)

An exploration leads them to what experts believe was a temporary settlement of the Sinclair ship's residents.

The episode also explores the connections between Sinclair's home town and the Newport Tower, both looking eerily similar, Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano's map that showed a potential castle that could have belonged to the Knights and a stone slab that says "In hoc signo vinces" that roughly translated to "in this sign you will conquer" — which is on the logo of the Knights Templar.

Catch the next week's episode of 'Unexplained and Unexplored' every Sunday at 10 pm ET only on Science Channel and anytime on Science GO.

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