©Provincial Priory of Kent
The Commanderie At Arville
Route des Templiers
One evening planning one of our trips over France I happened upon a coach tour headed Templar and Cathedrals of Medievel France, and one particular stop which I thought might be of great interest. The description however was almost a throw away line simply stating “today we travel to Arville and visit a Templar Commanderie”, and continued to say that Arville was not very far from Le Mans.
So map and camera in hand we made hasty arrangements to stay with some friends who live in Southern Normandy, about a 2 hours drive from Le Mans, and took the opportunity of a nice sunny day to take the day trip to see the Commanderie
It transpired that the Commanderie is a completely restored/preserved complex of the ORGINAL Templar buildings complete with a museum. The museum being an historic walk-through journey, to the Holy Land, complete with full Templar History and representations of the various stages a Knight or Pilgrim might pass through. One of the displays shows a replica map which starts in London and departs England from Dover stopping twice on the journey first at Rochester and also at Canterbury.
The reference to Rochester, I feel, can only refer to the, now English Heritage, site of Templar Manor at Strood, Kent and it’s complexes. A site I am sure most of my Brother Knights in Kent are familiar with.
The Commanderie was founded by the Templars by the early 12th century, and is a unique monument and one of the best preserved Commanderie in France.
I think we are all mostly aware of the Templar history, but just in case a short précis:
After the crusaders had captured Jerusalem in July 1099, western Christians flocked in the Holy Land for pilgrimage. However their safety was not assured. To protect them, nine French knights led by Hugues de Payns created in 1118 a religious militia which was to become later the Order of the Temple. The members of the Order are monks and soldiers and were governed by and obeyed a rule rafted by a council gathered at Troyes cathedral in France in January 1128.
The Templars settled in Arville towards 1128 or 1130 on a woody estate of 2500 acres, given at their disposal by Geoffroy III, Lord of Mondoubleau. The Commanderie became a farming centre, a recruitment centre, a training base for the knights waiting for their departure to the Holy Land, and a place of worship. The Templars lived here until their arrest, decided by Philippe IV (le Belle), King of France, who accused them of heresy, on Friday 13 October 1307.
After the abolition of the Order of the Temple, the Commanderie became the property of the Order of the Hospitalers, later renamed Order of Malta by the 16th century. They remained as the owners of the site until the French revolution in 1789.
In later years the whole area including the Commanderie site was sold and bought by farmers. In 1979, some of the buildings were purchased by a union of local towns that undertook the restoration of the buildings and the organization of visits. In 1999 these towns of the Perch Hills created the History Centre/Museum of the Chivalry Orders which presents in an interactive way the epic of the crusades and the life of the Templars.
The Commanderie undertakes local education and also hosts various fetes through the year and I understand that they hold a medieval festival mid July where the townspeople turn back time in full costume of the period.
Following are some of the many photos that were taken on the day, which I hope conveys the magic of the place