This is my love letter to Wales. I am fascinated with it's rich history and rugged landscape. Within 50 miles I can travel over 5000 years. The Bronze and Iron Ages, the Middle Ages, and the not so distant Industrial Revolution all huddle beside each other amongst the verdant Southeast Valleys. This is where I ride and this is why I write.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Garway & The Knights Templar

Last month the Kingfishers lead me on a journey to visit one of the last remaining churches built by the Knights Templar. Perched on the valley slope high above the River Monnow and about 8 miles northwest of Monmouth sits the tiny little village of Garway.

(photo courtesy:

The village itself feels as if it's been hidden from the rest of the world years, and finding the church is like discovering something forgotten to time.

St. Michael's Church

From the outside, the church is modest and unadorned. The tower itself was once used as a defensive retreat against the Welsh.

The zig-zag tooth designed Norman Arch.

The most notable feature inside the church is a Norman arch between the nave and the chancel. It is thought to have been influenced by Byzantine churches seen in the Holy Land during the Crusades. On the left side, just at the top of the column is a mysterious carved head of a man with horns called the Green Man.

The Green Man.

In the rear of the chancel sits the only known surviving altar piece from the Knights Templar. Carved into the top surface are five crosses representing the five wounds of Christ on the cross. It's important to note that all other known Knights Templar altar pieces were destroyed during the Reformation. The stairs leading up to the altar are made from the coffin lids of the knights and bear large swords carved down the length of each step.

Wood framing above the chancel.

View into the nave from the chancel.
Check out the stars in the ceiling...

The original circular nave was destroyed and later rebuilt by the the Knights Hospitaller in the 14th century in the rectangular form present today. Also of interest are the unusual "graphito" added to the exterior of the chancel (shown below...). There doesn't appear to be any specific order to the placement of these elements such that they seem to have been embedded randomly to the exterior of the church. (photos courtesy: Bob M./

It was a fascinating day... a wonderful surprise thanks to John and the other fellas.

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