The Sovereign Military Order of
the Temple of Jerusalem

Priory of St. James

February 2009

Prior: Matthew Gaasenbeek III

Greetings Fellow Dames & Knights:

This is the first issue of St James’ Priory’s Newsletter which will be published six times a year (alternate months you will receive a letter from our Prior).  This  is your vehicle in which to share news, pictures,  jokes, book reviews, travel to Templar sites, upcoming events of interest to other members, and just about anything else you can think up.

Please send all offerings to Alastair at and In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this inaugural issue.



Nola, Alastair, William & Harold, Your Editorial Team

Investiture of the Priory of St James


On Saturday the 25th of October 2008, God blessed us with a beautiful day to welcome nine new members into our Priory and two on behalf of the Grand Prior of Canada, H.E. Sir Ronald Matthewman, who invested them.  This year the postulants were provided with a good deal of information before the Investiture and were expected to prepare themselves for the day with pray, study and meditation:  that they would be ready to take on the responsibility of membership within the Order. 


Following the service we adjourned to dinner at the Royal Canadian Military Institute for a reception and dinner.  At the dinner a number of members were table hosts, each one ensuring that at least one new Templar joined them.  Both veteran and new members enjoyed the opportunity to get to know each other better and to learn of the many new talents that have been added to our Priory.


It is always difficult to enumerate the many talents and time given to such an event without forgetting someone or misallocating the credit, however, special credit must go to our Past Prior, Sir George MacNeillie, whose experience was essential to the smooth running of the day, to Sir Alan Williams, the Master of Postulants, to Sir Michael Willson who produced the invitations and programmes which have become a hallmark of our Priory and to Dame Dai Gaasenbeek who organized the dinner at the Royal Military Institute which followed and ensured an appropriately festive conclusion to the solemnity of the great Church of St James. 


The pictures from the investiture, which tell the tale far better than does this prose, are to be found on our website at,



U.S.A. Grand Priory Investiture

Dame Sheila Disney &
Chev. William Upper

Chev. William Upper and his wife, Linda, represented Canada at the Militum Christi navigum MMVIII:  the first Grand Council Meeting, Grant Convent Investiture and Change of Command at sea in over 717 years.  The Uppers flew from Ottawa to Fort Lauderdale and boarded the Royal Caribbean cruise ship for a memorable and historic event.  During the cruise Major General Robert C.G. Disney, Grand Prior XV was honoured for is two year term as USA Grand Prior.  Witnessing the change of command from Prior XV to the new Grand Prior XVI HE Col (Ret'd) Chevalier Wayne J. McGrath, GCTJ CMTJ was an honour.  This takes place every two years in the USA where the Prior is elected for a two-year term but this was the first time at sea. Other differences noted included their awarding of awards for Legion of Merit, appreciation plaques, meritorious service awards and the Distinguished Service award.  Knights and Dames were also elevated to the Dignity of Grand Croix, along wth inductions into the National Order of merit and the Grand Commander of the Order of Merit:  all VERY impressive.  Ports of call included Key West and Puerto Plata were a variety of sites were visited:  from the shoreline by a coral reef to a visit to Ernest Hemmingway's home.  Chev. William was extremely proud to make a presentation of a Canadian flag and see it dead centre on stage for all the ceremonies.  Such a trip serves as an eye opener to the breadth and depth and variety of other national priories and proved personally inspirational for our Registrar and demonstrated aspirations for the years to come. 

Fiuggi, Italy 19 - 22 November 2008

A grand cocktail reception launched the Convent in Fiiggi, Italy.

Unfortunately, the following day there was nothing planned (other than an evening harp concert) for those who were not numbered among the fourteen Grand Priors who met in camera throughout the day.

However, Templars being a friendly lot, by dinnertime the various hotels in which we were accommodated had become home to groups of Templars from various priories throughout the world meeting, learning and thoroughly enjoying themselves.    At the Relais Le Felci they were from the Mexican Grand Priory.  Drinks and cookies turned into cocktails which turned into a delicious dinner with a roaring fire.

Finally, down to work and into a fascinating debate on changes proposed for our coat of arms.  The  Americans want to retain the Crown, insisting it represents our sovereignty. 

While the British,  NATO and the Belgians (who presented an alternative design)
had very persuasive arguments against the inclusion of a crown.

The ultimate decision was to change the crown to that of a 14th century drawing of the King of Jerusalem’s imaginary crown, but make it from iron rather than gold. 

Discussions then turned to the international newspaper and web-news options.  In future, there will be two issues of the magazine which may be provided on a disc for each Grand Prior to decide how to disseminate.  The Editor however, is concerned about losing control of the quality of printing but postage costs dictated the decision.

Romania made an impressive presentation on charitable works under the title of Many Nations, One Priory.  The Grand Priors were back in seclusion and the session was poorly attended because many were unaware of this unofficial option.  The topics ranged from pairing gifted students with slow learners to increase acceptance of their needs to Model UN Assemblies and archaeological digs on Templar Sites in Israel from an Italian professor.

Saturday brought more discussions during the Annual General meeting but confirmed the decisions of he previous day.

The meeting was relatively short and formal but there was insufficient time to receive the reports from all the Priories. 

and the National Priories, including the Italian Time Line Project

Business completed, every adjourned to robe for the evening in their finest and boarded the buses at 3:30 for the Church and Investiture, where the surprise highlight was our own Grand Prior officiating at the blessing of the marriage of Grand Marshall Simon Comte de Saint Claire and his beautiful bride.

The Wedding Blessings given by Our Grand Prior, the Rev’d
Chev. Ronald Matthewman

Then back to the hotel where the final grand reception & banquet brought to an end the 2008 Convent hosted by Italy.  Now it’s on to Toronto in 2010...


The exciting news from Membership is that they are planning a tour of Templar Castles in France.  The focus of the tour would be to encourage current and potential members to walk in the footsteps of Templar history.  If you are interested in joining this great adventure, contact Chev. Edward Rayment at 905-465-2810 or or visit the home base for the tour at

The Membership Committee has set a goal of 25 new Knights and Dames and are confident that this can be done if members will forward their recommendations of men and women who have the necessary qualities to enhance our membership.  The Committee has new Postulant Application forms which may be obtained from Chev. Edward or the Prior.  Feel free to make the first advance or the Committee will contact potential Templars for you.


Is looking forward to a Spring garden Party, a summer day in the County at the Prior's farm and a new locale for the Investiture dinner . . . more details to follow.


The International Scene

  • A visit to the frequently updated OSMTH site is always worthwhile in keeping up with the international scene. 

    There are two Grand Magisterial council meetings in 2009.  These are business meetings, unlike the International Convent which we will be hosting in Toronto 23-25 September 2010.  However, if you have an interest in visiting these countries, you may well be able to tie your interests in with one of these meetings and have an opportunity to see Templar Sites.

    Sofia, Bulgaria is the host from 23-25 April 2009.  If you are interested, contact

    From 22 to 24 October 2009, the Knights Templar of Portugal will be hosting an international business meeting and promise tours to many sites associated with the Templars in their country.  One of them is now an UNESCO historical site at As more news arrives about the meeting in Portugal, we’ll pass it along.  Meeting Templars from other countries is a great way to understand how vast the operation is and how many lives are touched for the better because of this organization which joins us all together. 

  • Our Templars do get around.  Dame Barbara Bowles-Davis is off to six weeks in Thailand as part of a Medicine without Borders mission.  We look forward to an evening of adventure stories from Dame Barbara on her return.  This is not her first trip of mercy... for years she has been travelling to South and Central America bringing health care to those who most need it.

The Quest for Freedom from Religious Persecution

Throughout our history we have fought for the free passage of Christians to our holy sites and protected them against bandits and hostile lands.  In the 21st century, our mandate is broader.  Our Order internationally defends the value of Freedom of Religion in a world divided by religious differences and where professing one’s faith may threaten one’s life.  To that end, we intend to provide our membership with information on the world’s trouble spots:  where people are dying for their faith.  On the level of a Priory, or even the Grand Priory, we do not take individual positions in these matters. That is left to the representations of the Order by the International Commander who speaks for all of us, thereby ensuring that there is one strong and firm voice, backed by thousands of Knights and Dames. However, as private individuals, some members may wish to voice their opinion on this sorry state and will find these postings in our Newsletter of interest and assistance.

Check out this website if you find the subject of interest:



Dame Joanne Davies

‘Teacher, I have kept all these (commandments) since my youth.’ Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’
-Gospel of Mark

What did he lack? He was obedient and successful and was rewarded well with possessions. But possessions are not enduring rewards, these can be let go. Love holds fast. Jesus loves him even with all his misunderstandings, hearing his hope and desire. Jesus loves him for his desire to understand how to please God, hoping to be a good person. Jesus loves him so he teaches him that love's rewards are love itself. Love is the goodness of God. Jesus calls this man to love as he calls all of us. Our call is to seek to follow and live as Christ, with deep love, giving what we have to our world, sharing our bread and shelter, and releasing others to the freedom to love.

Dear Christ, our guide to peace and justice, our light to love. We wrap ourselves in the mantle of your call, drawing our hearts to bring your hope to our actions. Giving God, we thank you for the number of our days, may we live well in our world, offering what we have, knowing this way is the receiving of love. In the presence of the Holy Spirit we rejoice in the journey we have been given. Amen.


Convent 2010

Dame Anne Matthewman has been busy checking out the hotel facilities in Toronto in preparation for the 2010 Convent.  Final quotes and facilities are currently being tallied.  Expect to find out where we will be playing host to the world in our next issue.

Committee Memberships

Every Dame and Knight is expected to contribute both time and finances to the success of the Priory.  Being a member of a Committee is one of those responsibilities.  For those who find it difficult to attend meetings in Toronto, may we suggest becoming part of the On-Line Team whose primary responsibility is to publish this newsletter.    If you would like to meet your Priory commitments in this way, write and let us know what you would like to take on . . . and welcome aboard.

Templar Tales...

A tourist site from Aberdeen [] tells an interesting story of chastity and cursing . . .

Templar Thunder Hole
At Maryculter on the South Deeside Road, just off the B9077 sits Maryculter House Hotel. Centuries ago this was a community of the Knights Templar (known as a preceptory), a strict order of holy knights who were committed to protecting pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem during the Crusades. The preceptory was founded by Walter Bisset in 1230.

Godfrey Wedderburn Of Wedderhill
A knight called Godfrey Wedderburn of Wedderhill was wounded whilst on a Crusade at the Holy Lands. He was nursed by a Saracen woman. They became friends during his recovery and then Godfrey returned to the preceptory. The Saracen woman came to visit him a few years later at the preceptory. The head of the preceptory (known as the preceptor) thought they were lovers and that Godfrey was not pure and had broken his vows. He ordered Godfrey to kill himself using his own dagger. On hearing this the Saracen woman killed herself by stabbing her heart. As she died she cursed the preceptor. A lightning bolt struck him, killing him instantly. It left a large hollow in the ground. It can still be seen today and is known as The Thunder Hole.

A Templar visiting Paris should never miss a pilgrimage to Pont Neuf . . .
Dame Nola Crewe, GOTJ

 . . and the scene of the crime, the site of Jacques de Molay’s infamous martyrdom:  the result of a conspiracy between a weak Pope to whom de Molay had been loyal and a King for whose desire for control meant the destruction of the Order which de Molay would not sacrifice.


Original Plaque








Square du Vert-Galant


Jusqu’a la construction du Pont Neuf, l’ile de la Cite se terminait par le Jardin du Roi, ou fut edifice la place Dauphine.  La pointe actuelle de l’ile est constituee de la reuion de trois ilots a la Cite, assise centre du nouveau pont.  L’ile du nod, nomme ile du Patriarche, se prolong edit a l’est par un minuscule ilot portant un moulin, dit de la Gourdaine puis de la Monnaie, car son energie hydraulique etait utilisee pour battre le monnayage royal.  Celur de sud, le plus grand, etait dil ile aux Bureau, car il appartonait a [portair of a Knight templar] Hughes Bureau a la fin du XVe siecle.  Le 11 mars 1314, Jacques de Molay, grand maitre de l’ordre du Temple, et Guy, commandeur des Templiers de Normandie y furent brules vis.



A Templar comes to honour the man, the last Prior of the original Knights Templar, and finds in the weeping willow, standing at the island’s end, a fit emblem and place to meditate.  This land has known so much violence in its history . . . but this type that involves tyranny and disloyalty and vengeance.  The blood of martyrs may strengthen the faith:  but what faith when the purveyors of terror are the very faith’s and nation’s leaders?  Avarice and deception should not tell the story of kings and popes. There is a tale of a man leaping from the crowd as Louis XVI was beheaded and dipping his hand in the blood, then shouting out that de Molay was avenged.  I cannot believe Molay would have found comfort in that.  In death he reclaimed his honour.  In life he was human, subject to the failings of flesh and spirit.  But chivalry is made of such as these.  And chivalry is what we seek.


A garden now covers the place where de Molay was immiolated.


Templar Seals:  Matter of Interpretation

In the Newsletter, we will be publishing articles that may answer questions you have about the Order, its symbols and history.  This month we have an article originally published by the Grand Priory of the USA by Dr. Robert Kovark, GCTJ, seeking to clarify the differing interpretations on Templar Seals.

The use of seals can be traced back to the Ancient World. The Christian Church was among the first to use seals on official documents in the Medieval West.  Latin served as the Medieval liturgical and legal language.  The cleric elite provided the service of producing necessary documents for rulers and nobility, particularly with regard to inheritance and the transfer of property.  This process was reminscent of the scribes of Ancient Egypt.  With the vernacular language being a hodgepode of dialects and the visual being more important than the written, seals became a necessary means of identification and verification.  Symbols based on religious and/or family iconography were adopted for seals.  Unlike other religious orders, the Knights Templar was unique as a mixture of temporal and the spiritual, the warrior and the monk.  Since most members were drawn from  the nobility and were illiterate, seals became a necessity for Templar transactions.  As the Order expanded over much of Europe after 1128, a structure for governance was created based on provinces or langues, reflecting regional linguistic and ethnic differences.  Such provinces were headed by a Master or Preceptor. Since the most important one was the Kingdom of Jerusalem, its Master was recognized as the Order’s head.  One result was there was no common seal for the Order and each Master/Preceptor adopted his own.  The Pascal Lamb was symbolic of Christ, who had shed His blood for the redemption of many.  Templars, like Christ, would shed their blood in defense of Christianity.  The Agnus Dei was also favored in Provence, while in Aragon/Catalonia seals often featured a knight on a horse or a fortress.  How did the two knights on a horse become the “official seal of the Knights Templar?"

The iconic image of two knights on a horse developed out of a tradition based on the humble origins of the Templars.  This seal became the most common for French Templars.  It became the “Official seal of the Order inasmuch as the majority of the Masters from 1128 to 1312 were of French origin"The earliest known example is that of the sixty Master, Bertrand De Blanquefort in 1168. 

An examination of this seal reveals two knights on a horse, each holding a shield emblazoned with the Cross and a lance.  The wording from right to left is Sigillum militum Xpristi. Seal of the Companions of Christ.  The problem is one of interpretation.  One such is based on the chronicler, William, Archbishop of Tyre, in the late 12th century.  Being quite critical of his contemporary Templars, he overemphasized the poverty of the Order at its beginning providing credence for the legend of two Templars having to use one horse.  This view was partly based on the earliest name of the Order: Pauperes commilitones Christ or “Poor Companions of Christ”.  What did the term Pauperes mean?  Does it mean poverty, literally, or is it symbolic pf the poverty of Christ and His first disciples?  These knights, by taking monastic vows became partial monks; saw themselves as imitating the poverty and humbleness of Christ.  I prefer the symbolic interpretation over the literal one.

There are two other opinions regarding the interpretation.  The seal came to symbolize the Order’s charity fulfilling the biblical call of loving one’s neighbour, even to the point of sacrificing one’s life.  Another view is that the seal symbolized brotherhood and loyalty.  In the midst of battle, if a Templar was unhorsed, his brother would rescue him.  Although no evidence has surfaced as to when this seal was first used, it is interesting to note that the Templar Rule forbade the sharing of horses and provided that each Templar Knight would have two horses.

On the obverse side of Bertrand de Blanqufort’s seal is a dome church with the words "de Templo Cristi,”  “Of the church of Christ”. While some historians have concluded it is church of the Holy Sepulcher, they remain few.  Most argue for the Dome of the Rock.  In 1099 this Moslem shrine was converted into a church called the Church of Christ or of the Lord, administered by canons of St. Augustine. William of Tyre mentions that the Templars fulfilled their religious duties in the courtyard of the Templum Domini, Church of the Lord”, located south of the former Al-Aqsa mosque, on the Templar headquarters.  This image became the most common on the obverse side of Templar seals.

Perhaps this essay will help clarify the questions surrounding the “official seal of the medieval Knights Templar”.

(This article was first published in The Journal of the Autonomous Grand Prior of the United States – Beauseant – vol. 11, No. 2, Winter 2007)

In our next issue we'll look at what makes a modern Dame/Knight Templar.

Water Project
Matthew Gaasenbeek III, Prior II, Priory of St. James

My trip to Guatemala was most memorable.  We flew via Houston to Guatemala City where we were taken by car to Antigua, Guatemala’s first capital city which was destroyed in 1776 and then moved to its present location.  Base camp of Living Water was there.  After one and a half days we went about 5 hours by car to La Machina where we stayed at Hotel Seis.  This was our forward camp.  The town is very small and poor with Hotel Seis being the only hotel.

The word “hotel” is a bit of a misnomer.  It had the feel more that of a jail; steel gates and steel doors everywhere.  My room was a good imitation of a prison cell, rough conditions with only a cold shower.  Food was spartan.  Cold cereals for breakfast, soup with potatoes and parts of ancient chickens were boiled for lunch and dinner was much the same, if not worse?  But no one got sick, which is remarkable!  Snacks were fresh coconuts and fried bananas prepared by the villagers.

The well itself was drilled in a small village “Chicales”, consisting of perhaps 45 cabins with a population of around 250 people, located near the coast about an hour outside La Machina.

Drilling was fast and efficient.  There were two teams of four people each doing a series of jobs.  Job #1 was to run the drill, Job #2 was to set the drill stem, Job #3 was to clear mud channels leading to mud pits, which circulated the mud fluid through the drill stem and back, as well as take grit samples to determine what kind of rock or soil formation we were going through, Job #4 was to record depth, soil samples and number of drill stems.  After each drill stem each member of the team moved one up.

Here are two pictures of our Prior helping drill the well:-

After two drill stems, second team took over, while the first team did odd jobs and rested.  It was hot and humid and we were continually told to drink water and sit in the shade.  Most of us however played with the children.

Day I - This was the dirtiest day.  At the end of the day when changing, my pants would have stood up by themselves.  There was gumbo mud everywhere.  We drilled down to 120’.

Day II – Reaming to a 7” hole.

Day III – We set the casing to 120’ and drill pipe to 100 feet, tested the water, poured the cement platform and installed bottom end of pump in the concrete.

Day IV – We set the sucker rods, valve at bottom, completed and tested hand pump and the capacity of the well (50 gallons of water a minute) and had a dedication ceremony.  Everyone turned out for that one.  The local preachers, mayor, politicians, big wigs, general population and lots of children made it into quite a celebration.

Social aspects were wonderful.  We were surrounded by young children who loved the frisbees, balls, stickers and fancy pencils we had brought.  They were all amazingly well behaved with the older girls (maybe 10-12 years old) in charge and consoling the odd crying, over-excited, younger child.

The adults thought it was Carnival time.  They had never seen gringos work so hard and get so dirty.

While I was there, I did not think I would want to go on another trip.  It is fairly rough, Spartan and hot. Yet the experience gets to you and continues to haunt you in a good way.  Now I would probably go back within a year or so.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience, which I would not have missed for anything.

Priory of St. James 2009 Meeting Schedule

Prior Matthew has set the 2009 meeting schedule.  All meetings are held at the RCMI.  From 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm you may join other Knights & Dames for a light diner and socialization.

All meetings will commence promptly at 7:30 pm and should be over by 9:00 pm followed by more socializing.

General Meeting Dates

All Knights & Dames are invited: February 9th, April 13th, June 8th, August 10th, October. 12th, December 14th.  (Note: December 14th is our annual Christmas Party)

Council Meeting Dates

Athough all are invited it is of paramount importance that all Chairs be in attendance March 9th, May 11th, July 13th, September 14th, and November 9th.

Investiture Dates

St. James Priory - Toronto - 24th October
Simon-Peter – Ottawa – May 23rd
Prior of The Ascension of Our Lord - Windsor - 7th November.