One of my favorite pastimes is photographing historic sites in Britain and Europe. As an American, I am privileged to have lived in the historical theme park of England since 2002. A few weeks ago I visited the small village of Badlesmere in Kent to muse over the secrets of their ancient church.
The church may have a Saxon footprint which predates the Normans of 1066. It is small and without overt adornment. Due to lack of funds it escaped Victorian DIY upgrades and much of its original interior is medieval, though the walls are rendered over in white. If there are any early murals they were covered by austere reformationists.
It is dedicated to 6th century saint, Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat. Merovingian King Clovis granted his nobleman’s request to allow him to release prisoners who he deemed worthy. St. Leonard is therefore the patron of prisoners.
I’m rather fond of the idea that a Merovingian connection has been sitting in S.E. England for almost 1000 years. But it is a connection that is in honour of the marriage of King Æthelberht of Kent to Merovingian Princess Bertha of Paris in the 6th century.
The church and manor was owned by Guncelin de Badlesmere who fought with King Richard I (1157-1199) at the siege of Acon. The family remained at the heart of medieval politics for the next few hundred years before the tide turned against them. Their loyalty to the young King Edward III proved to be their downfall at the hands of his mother Queen Isabella.
The above carving is rare and in memory of a Knight of the Garter of Badlesmere, thought to have been carved at least by 1415, perhaps by his wife. The Order is still in existence today with a maximum of 24 knights with a lifelong seat. It was created by Edward III (1312-1377) within living memory of the Templars. Were there knights still close to the crown, having shaved their beards? Did they help to inspire the new Order? The Garter is symbolic of Arthur’s round table, a subject made famous by Chretien de Troyes and avidly followed by the Templars in the 12th century and perhaps one of the reasons for their creation. I’ve written in greater detail about the Templars origins and also the Knights of the Garter in The Secret Dossier of a Knight Templar of the Sangreal.
Another ancient yew with memorial bench.