NORTH CANAAN — A small stone church, Castle Church, that has stood on top of a steep hill in Canaan since 1845 and was designed by British architect Richard Upjohn, is the cynosure of an unfolding story that is the stuff of history, mystery, myth, religion, battle, villainy, and best-sellers.
The OSMTJ Knights Templar recently purchased the Canaan property, chosen for its central location. The newest incarnation of the Knights was inspired by the original Knights Templar, officially disbanded in 1312 by order of Pope Clement V, after lengthy persecution by King Phillipe IV of France. The current organization takes spiritual inspiration from the ancient order, and has dedicated itself to service to the community.
There are two men who each play a prominent role in the story of the reinvented Knights Templar.
Previous to becoming a late-to-the-vocation priest, Canon Rev. Robert Fredrickson served for four years in an F-14 Fighter Squadron and was for several years, an insurance salesman. Once ordained in the Anglican Catholic Church, he volunteered to serve as a Chaplain for police and fire departments. On August 3, 2010 he was called in to comfort families and first responders involved in the Hartford Distributor mass shooting in Manchester, CT where a gunman using a semi-automatic pistol killed eight co-workers and seriously injured two more.
During one of the earliest church services on the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, Father Robert surprised the small number of people in the pews by crawling on the floor, emulating a firefighter inside a burning building, holding on to his teammate’s boot so they could stay together and protect each other through the smoke. The lesson was well-taught, especially with a young girl in a nearby pew with wide open eyes. He handed out small prayer books dated 1928 to congregants, noting “We follow the traditions of the church of the first 1,000 years.” He said he wants to move his family to Canaan and become involved in the local community, joining the volunteer fire department.
Bryant Jones is the Prior of the Order that purchased the property through the contemporary use of a GoFundMe page. Forsaking chain mail armor and sword, he does marketing for amazon.com and works part time as a social worker. Jones lives in Cambridge, Mass, a three-hour drive, and travels the area frequently.
Jones admitted that the name of the town, as well as the architecture of the buildings, and the centrality to New England and New York City, were the three largest priorities that enticed the Grand Priory to assist in purchasing the property for use as their National Headquarters and Christian Ministry Center. There are currently 580 Knights and 1,600 Participants (which include family and children) in the Grand Priory.
Writer Joshua J. Mark wrote on Oct. 23, 2018 on the website www.ancient.eu/canaan “Canaan was the name of a large and prosperous ancient country (at times independent, at others a tributary to Egypt) located in the Levant region of present-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel. According to the Bible, the land was named after a man called Canaan, the grandson of Noah (Genesis 10).”
The Knights Templar of America is also known as OSMTJ, which references the original French “Ordre Souverain et Militaire du Temple de Jérusalem.” The Order is organized internationally and trademarks all its Templar symbolism to maintainidentity and integrity. The Regent of the Order is S.E. Dr. Nicolas Haimovici Hastier, 91, who lives in Nice, France. In the 1970s, he was so well known that an article about the Regent in the Boca Raton News on Oct. 2, 1977 was titled “Knights of Old live on in Lofty Ideals.” Jones said that his most fervent hope is to welcome the Regent to the International Conclave to be held in Canaan in September, 2020.
In the 1990s, women were welcomed into the Knights Templar. Jones said members can be either Knights or Participants. Knights go through two levels of study and undertake rigorous education, including a great deal of historical research.
Jones addressed the two hot-button issues often connected to the Knights Templar in best selling books, movies, TV shows and video games. He agreed that Oak Island in Nova Scotia was a Knights Templar treasure pit and insisted that they are not the original Knights Templar, but have created their own version of Templars, with a top priority to “spread the light of Christ in an increasingly dark world” and to “perpetuate the traditions of the Knights Templar by defending Christendom through non-violent means.” As a primarily religious order, Jones said it will never be a militia and members are the spiritual descendants of the Knights Templar. Members also aim to promote historical studies, heraldry and the genealogy of the Order.
Jones also stated that Scott Wolter, who appears on the “Travel Channel,” has popularized the idea that the Knights Templar have hidden an undercover tower in Newport, R.I. He said he is friends with Scott Wolter and will welcome him to give a program at Templar Castle Church.
Jones said through the Larmenius Charter, (”Charter of Transmission”), a manuscript created by Johannes Marcus Larmenius in February, 1324 AD, a succession of leadership was established, after the last Grand Master, Jacques DeMolay, was executed in 1314. The document is written in a devised ancient Knight Templar Codex — the same codex (coded language) used in ancient Templar documents involving the transfer of monies between Preceptories for traveling merchants. Larmenius was a Palestinian-born Christian who became a member of The Order of the Temple during the waning years of the Crusades. He was later the Templar Precept on the island domain of Cyprus after the Templar exodus from the Holy Land to Cyprus, after the fall of Acre in 1295 AD. In his position, Larmenius was left in charge as Templar Seneschal of the large remaining Templar forces in the Mediterranean in 1305 AD, when DeMolay, was tricked into coming to Paris for meetings with King Phillipe IV and the “puppet Pope” Clement V of “Papal Captivity” fame at Avignon, France, imprisoned, and executed. He said the current Knights Templar trace their beginnings to this succession, which has appended in the Charter, each successive Grand Master, ending in 1804. Some scholars have questioned the legitimacy of the document.
Jones said he wants to create a Templar museum similar to KidsPlay museum in Torrington. He said the Order is also very interested in helping Holy Land USA in Waterbury, and is planning a soup kitchen, food bank collection site and homeless ministry.
John Murray, publisher of the Waterbury Observer, commented: “The resurrection of Holy Land is one the most positive developments in Waterbury in the past 25 years. Holy Land is a spiritual place for Christians, and the cross on the hill is woven into the DNA of the city.”
The Order will be coordinating with other local churches on these projects and plans to host a retreat twice a year, and hold its annual Conclave for two consecutive years at Castle Church and every third year, its Annual Conclave will be held in different parts of the country.
Castle Church is located at 58 Main Street in North Canaan, sharing a steep hill with a large statue of a WWI soldier and a circle of plaques honoring the dead of various wars. There is a weekly Sunday service offered at 10 a.m. The church can be contacted at 860-833-6296.
For information on joining the Knights Templar, visit www.KTOA.org/Join.