Tracing templars in Campania


Knight Templars


As we all know, the origins and the history of the mystical powerful Order of the Templars are shrouded in mystery.

According to the legend the founder of the Order of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, known as the Order of the Knight Templars, was Hughes of Payens ( a French fellow coming from a not yet identified place). According to a few Italian scholars, Hughes of Payens should be identified with Ugo dei Pagani from the Italian Pagani city, close to Nocera in the province of Salerno, where many pilgrims used to live. His origins were Norman although his family had been living in Nocera for more than a century when Hughes gave birth to the Order in 1118 A. D. The symbol of the Templars was found among the shields of the most powerful families of French origins living in the area close to Nocera and many other evidences can be traced in this city. We have to take into account that Nocera is quite close to Amalfi and during the 11th century, Amalfi was one of the most powerful marine republics in the Mediterranean area and many noble people from the neighbourhood had already established contacts with Jerusalem. In fact, the monks soon received the support of Baldwin II, king of Jerulasem, who donated them part of the Temple of Solomon. Coming back to Europe, Hughes de Payens started a recruitment campaign in order to create a military force which might have offered its services to the Church and to the Kings or nobles who required them. The Order received the recognition and help of Bernard, the Cistercian abbot of Clairvaux in France in 1128. The knights were provided with a rule and Hughes de Payens became the first Master of the Temple. The Church, ruled at that time by Honorius II recognized the order and gave its support to the warrior monks who were then assigned the task of defending the Christian world. The Knight Templars established their Headquarters in Jerusalem.

Known as brave knights on the battlefield and pious monks when in convents, during the Crusades those noble warrior-knight-monks became very popular among the popes who granted them their protection and many privileges so that the Knight Templars started acquiring properties and donations which made them economically independent. They btemplareecame a very powerful military force that protected pilgrims travelling to and from the Holy Land. Thanks to their reliability and honesty many nobles entrusted them their funds and the Templars established such a secure international banking system that even kings and popes gave them custody of their own money.

In a very short lapse of time the Templars gained a huge wealth which was then deposited in Paris and London. They became so powerful at the apogee of their prosperity that they also interfered in the government of Jerusalem which had meanwhile become very weak. Their rising power was soon opposed by other military orders, like the Hospitallers, which confronted them, but also by the same king and the Church that together decided to suppress the order of the Templars accusing them of loving too much the power. All the properties belonging to the Templars were passed on to the Hospitallers after many Templars had been executed by orders of the king of France. The last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake together with another dignitary and legend states that while he was burning, he summoned both the king of France and the pope to appear before God in the course of the year. And as a sort of coincidence, both the king and the pope died the same year as the Grand Master. Even more astonishing is the legend reporting that the architraves of all Catholic churches cracked when the stake holding the Grand Master completely blazed.

The Order was officially suppressed in 1312 but many members either joined other military orders or continued to participate in a secret line meetings, which according to the Larmenius Charter, gave birth to the legendary stories that for centuries were narrated about them. One of the secrets held by the Templars was linked to the Grail as they called themselves “the keepers and defenders of the Holy Grail”. They in fact dedicated themselves to preserving the blood line of Jesus and also relics which where then given to other people. During the 18th century, in fact, the Freemasons claimed to have secretly received information regarding the Holy Grail and esoteric knowledge which was once possessed by the Knight Templars.

Goleto Abbey

Goleto Abbey

In the Campania region (South Italy) there are many traces of the Knight Templar’s presence in convents and churches which still hold symbols linked to the Templars and their activity. One of the most important hermitage used by the Templars is the Goleto Abbey near Sant’Angelo dei Lombardi in the province of Avellino. Vestiges of the Knight Templars can still be seen in Nocera, in Casaluce but also in the same town of Naples.

For lovers of the Knight Templars it might be an idea to participate in a private guided tour booking directly at or calling me on the phone at +39 339 3982433

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© Dr Maria Sannino


Walking through the ancient town of Herculaneum (buried in A.D. 79)

© by Dr Maria Sannino


The ruins of ancient Herculaneum

The little hamlet of Herculaneum was situated on a high bluff overlooking the sea, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, which dominated the bay of Naples, in the Campania region, South Italy.Two small streams, gliding down from the volcano, were flanking the cliff supported by ramparts. Coloured wooden fishing boats were on the black sandy beach. High fornices had been built right underneath the temples where the Gods would watch the sailors leaving for a fishing trip and would protect them. To the right of the temples area, a terrace had a white marble cenotaph in its centre. Decorated with marmoreal reliefs, it was dedicated to Marcus Nonius Balbus, a very important personality who became the patron of Herculaneum.

Decumanus Maximus

Decumanus Maximus

Over the centuries, the small village had been transformed into a resort town for wealthy people and during the forth century b.C., soon after the Samnites wars, it became a flourishing vacation centre for Roman patricians. Many successful philosophers and writers used to gather here to talk about philosophy and poetry. Up above the reef, imposing dwellings had their terraces facing the bay. The view from those residences was magnificent. The spectacular bay of Naples was opening, like an amphitheater, right in front of them. Their beautiful sweet-scented gardens, were adorned by many marble statues portraying Greek Gods or heroes, according to the taste of the owner of the lodging. The timber roofs were elegantly decorated either with basreliefs or frescoes. A rare example of a well preserved carbonised wooden roof, with a set of garnished panels, was found on Herculaneum’s ancient shoreline, in the year 2010. Most of the houses had an inlaid coloured marble floor, the walls were painted with delicate frescoes, the internal gardens were surrounded by rooms which were used for different purposes. An efficient sewerage system, collecting the waters from the houses, the shops and the thermal baths, was placed underneath the roads and drained on the foreshore.

The recent excavations and investigations along those sewers, gave us the opportunity to have an idea of the life and the sort of diet that the Herculaneans had, before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius of the year A. D. 79 covered every single inch of their town. The city was, in fact, buried under some 25 meters of a pyroclastic flow during one of the most catastrophic eruptions in the world. The liquid hot material penetrated inside the houses and preserved almost everything: from carbonized wooden furniture, doors and windows, to jewels, seeds, fruits, bread, payri scrolls and even clothes. For more than sixteeen centuries Herculaneum remained buried beneath the medieval town of Resina, which was built, on top of the ancient city, a few years after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It was only in 1709 that a worker, digging a well, discovered, by chance, the theatre of the ancient buried town and the real adventure of the excavations of the ruins of Herculaneum began.


Roaming the streets of ancient Herculaneum means to take a trip into the past. Every corner has its own fascinating bit of history and culture, which are easily traceable from the well preserved houses and their gardens, which were recreated exactly as they were before the cataclysm of the year 79.Crossing a high bridge and entering the town, the bastion used by the army, is still visible to the left. To the right, a huge mansion made the archaeologists think that this was a hotel. Its garden must have been so fragrant and so well looking. In fact, it had been planted with pomegranate and quince trees, among which beautiful scented roses were flowering into the sun. A street is leading to the centre of the town and towards the volcano. It is flanked by the remains of many elegant mansions and shops.

House of the deers

House of the deers

A hotel is in sight close to the man section of the thermal bath and its gym. To the left, a private basilica which was enriched with the statues of the most important emperors, is still beneath a thick layer of solid volcanic material. At the end of the road, just before entering the forum, which is still hidden under a huge amount of pyroclastic material, there is, to the right, the famous Collegium of the Augustales, a collegial shrine where the Roman priests (called Augustals) attended to the religious rites connected with the worship of the Emperor Augustus and the Julia gens. This large hall is decorated by frescoes portraying the mytholigical founder of the town: Hercules. Exiting this suggestive building, an arch decorated by stucco reliefs will introduce the forum area which was facing the decumanus, the most important street in the city. This is a marvellous street, bordered by imposing architectures. Here, well-preserved carbonized wood is astonishingly conspicuous: shelves, roofs, doors, windows are all clearly detectable. The shops are still decorated with frescoes and the wooden shelves are still hanging from the walls. Limestone drinking fountais, decorated with sculptures representing Gods, are located at each crossing. The decumanus was probably the location where a daily market was held, and many shops were allineated along the road. A few impressive dwellings were facing it. One of them would go down in history as many crucial wax tablets were found in a box inside one of its rooms. They were reproducing the important court case relative to Petronia Justa, a complicated process of the Roman time to determine whether she was a slave or a free person. Going down the forth street, called cardo, the gorgeous, marble embellished women section of the thermal bath is placed to the right, soon after the house of the Black Hall, considered one of the most beautiful homes in Herculaneum. To the left, a series of stunning marble mosaics are visible into the houses facing the road. Here there is one of the most amazing shops where terracotta amphoras are kept inside the original wooden shelves which are still hanging from the wall. Entering the apartment to the left, the eye is captured by a marvellous wall mosaic representing Amphitrite and Neptune. Continuing along the road the Samnite House to the left is worth a visit.

Herculaneum from the top

View from the top

Passed the intersection, another dwelling to the right is characterized by a wooden partition which was used to give some privacy to the owner’s office. Pristine mosaics and frescoes clearly show the importance of the family living here. Close to this building, an ironing wooden press, still untouched, gives us an idea of how laundries were organized two thousand years ago. Returning to the crossing with the Decumanus inferior, which ends right in front of the Palestra (the gym), the small reliefs of winged Victories are traceable to the left. Reaching the next crossroad and turning to the left, a few shops, among which a laundry and a bakery, are aligned to the right. After the visit of the gym, returning to the intersection and continuing along the 5th cardo, it is possible to visit the most impressive Herculanean dwellings: the house of the deers to the right and the Telefo’s house to the left. Heading down towards the sea, the steep road leads towards the terrace of the cenotaph, to the left, and the temples, which are aligned to the right, and are overlooking the ancient marina. The underneath beach was the place where in 1981 a wooden Roman boat was uncovered, and recently, in 2010 an entire timber roof was discovered together with the set of the wooden panels which decorated it. It probably belonged to the House of the Relief of Telefus fronting the bay. Returning to the main road which takes towards the exit and turning back, it is possible to see, at a distance, the location of the spectaular villa of the Papyri from which a library full of bookcases with carbonised papyri scrolls was found. Unfortunately the villa is still under 25 meters of volcanic material that hopefully will be removed in the near future so to open, to the public, this area too.

For a walking tour of the ancient town, please contact me at