Member of a religious military order of knighthood established during the Crusades. At its beginning (circa 1119), the group consisted of eight or nine French knights who devoted themselves to protecting from Muslim warriors those on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They were given quarters near the site of the former Temple of Jerusalem, from which they derived their name. Taking vows of poverty and chastity, they performed courageous service, and their numbers increased rapidly, partly because of the propagandistic writing of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, who also wrote their rule of life. They flourished for two centuries, expanding to other countries, growing in number to 20,000, and acquiring vast wealth and property. By 1304 rumours, probably false, of irreligious practices and blasphemies had made them the target of persecution. In 1307 Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V initiated the offensive that culminated in the Templars' final suppression in 1312, including the confiscation of all their property and the imprisonment or execution of many members; their last leader, Jacques de Molay (1243–1314), was burned at the stake.
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Templars' Park, formerly the home-park of Maryculter House, was purchased by the City of Aberdeen Boy Scouts' Association in December, 1935. The following year, it was opened by Baden-Powell as a Camping Ground for Scouts and in over 70 years of its existence, Templars' Park has been visited by thousands of boys, and more recently girls, from a great many countries.
Templars' Park is one of most interesting Camping Grounds in the country. It has a long and fascinating history and is rich in legendary lore. Templars' Park provides excellent facilities and, on account of its location on Royal Deeside, makes an ideal centre from which to explore the valley and make expeditions to the Grampian and Cairngorm Mountains.
Between the years 1221 and 1236, Walter Bisset of Aboyne founded a Preceptory for the Knights Templars on their Culter property and here, in 1287-88, the Templars built a chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Sometime before this date, a church was built on the Durward's lands on the north bank of the river and this was dedicated to St. Peter. Hence today, there are two adjacent parishes separated by the River Dee—Peterculter in Aberdeenshire and Maryculter in Kincardineshire. Very little documentary evidence has survived of the Templars' activities at Maryculter but in the Trial of the Templars held in the Abbey of Holyrood, Edinburgh, in November, 1309, the name of William de Middleton of the "tempill house of Culther" is recorded.
The ruins of St Marys, the 13th century chapel built by the Knights Templars, lie within the old parish kirk-yard near Maryculter House. Originally a Gothic structure of considerable refinement, it is now a fragmentary ruin, the only architectural feature extant being the piscina built into the south wall. It was used as the parish church until 1780.
The Maryculter property of the Knights Templars, extending to some 8,500 acres, was eventually conferred upon the Knights Hospitallers. Both the Templars and the Hospitallers proved to be excellent landlords at Maryculter, their combined laird-ship extending over three centuries. When the Knights Hospitallers finally abandoned Maryculter in 1548 there were only six knights and a chaplain remaining in residence.
Although the Knights of St. John were in possession of Maryculter for over two centuries, little tangible evidence survives. The barrel-vaulted basement of the adjacent old House of Maryculter is said to have formed part of the Preceptor's Lodging.
In 1811, Maryculter was acquired by General the Hon. William Gordon of Fyvie, a son of the second Earl of Aberdeen. The Gordons remained at Maryculter until 1935 when the Estate was broken up, the home-park being purchased by the City of Aberdeen Boy Scouts' Association.
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