Archive for February, 2021

Cirencester, the Setting for “Templar’s Prophecy”, Part 1

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

Cirencester, the English town in which the fourth novel, Templar’s Prophecy, in the Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries, is set in AD 1395, has an even more ancient history going back to the Roman occupation of Britain.  There was a Roman military presence in Cirencester by the middle of the first century a. d.  A stone wall enclosed 200 acres of the Roman town, which by the second century was called Corinium Dobunnorum.  The Corinium Museum in Cirencester today takes its name from the Roman designation.  Dobunnorum in the title refers to the Celtic tribe which occupied the area.

Corinium was laid out in a typical Roman rectangular street pattern, much of which remains to the present day.  The Roman forum and basilica were larger than any other in Britain except in Londinium.  A depiction of the forum in the Corinium Museum is shown above.

To this day, Cirencester is the largest town in the Cotswald region of England, but already in Roman times, its location was important in the network of Roman roads which passed through it in various directions.  It is on the Fosse Way which the Romans constructed to link Lincolnshire in the north with Devon in the south as well as London in the east with Wales in the west.  A sign near the site of the Roman East Gate to Corinium is shown below.  It speaks of two of the main Roman roads passing through Corinium.  The third was Ermin Street which linked Corinium to Glevum or modern Gloucester.

Corinium has offered archaeologists many Roman treasures even though little of it remains on view above ground in modern Cirencester beyond the footprint of the walls surrounding the Roman town.  The Corinium Museum, however, has a rich display of Roman objects including many beautiful mosaic floors such as this one in the photo below.

The site of the Roman amphitheater is just southwest of the Roman walls.  It is now covered in grass, but had other types of vegetation in the medieval period.  I used this in Templar’s Prophecy as a site where villains in my story could hide.  My historian friend Phil Moss from Gloucester is shown walking with me in the middle of the amphitheater site in the image below.

Roman occupation of Britain ended early in the 5th century, after which the population grew much smaller.  However, the Romano-Britons and other Britons that did remain were supplemented in the 5th and later centuries by invading Saxons. These Saxons who were Germanic peoples. rose to prominence in Cirencester as elsewhere in England.  One lasting effect of the Saxons in Cirencester was Dyer Street in the northwestern part of the town.  Unlike the ancient rectangular street pattern of the Romans, Dyer Street meanders with lovely, gentle curves.  A house on Dyer Street which jetties out in its upper stories, shown on the upper left, was my inspiration for the residence of Lady Apollonia’s household in Templar’s Prophecy.

In my next post, I will continue to speak of ancient Cirencester.


My Prologue’s Setting for “Templar’s Prophecy”.

Monday, February 8th, 2021

Perhaps the most exotic setting that occurs in my Lady Apollonia West Country Mysteries is found in my fourth book, Templar’s Prophecy, the cover of which is shown on the left.  The prologue is set is Nubia in the middle of the 14th century.  Why such a place and time for my prologue?  I begin my 2021 posts by lifting topics from Templar’s Prophecy, to answer these questions.

In each of my seven books, I have tried to include some features of medieval life that are unfamiliar to our contemporary existence.  The Templar brotherhood was an important monastic movement in England and continental Europe until the early 14th century when it was banned by the French king.  To bring medieval Templars into one of my stories, I had to find a way to bridge the beginning of the 14th century, when the Templars were disbanded by the French king, with AD 1395, the time of Templar’s Prophecy.

My interest in archaeology also provided me an excellent idea.  In one of my Archaeology Magazines, I found an article about a dig in Sudan, which in the Middle Ages was called Nubia.  It revealed the existence of an important Christian church which had been a healing center and sight of pilgrimage until later in the 14th century when the area was converted to Islam.  I decided to use this Church of Raphael the Archangel in Banganarti in the Kingdom of Makuria, Nubia in AD 1350, as the first setting for my story, Templar’s Prophecy.  It had been a famous healing center in the fourteenth century of which an archaeological reconstruction from the magazine Archaeology is shown below.

To provide the link between the Templars who no longer existed in 1350 with my story, set in AD 1395 in Cirencester, I have created two new fictional characters:  Hugh de Farleigh, a Templar from a family of knights in Cirencester who was captured by the Mamelukes at the fall of Acre in 1291 and sold to a Nubian Christian as a slave, and Benesec Raphael de Farleigh, his grandson, a boy in 1350 in Nubia who comes as a mature adult to Cirencester, the ancestral home of the de Farleigh’s, in 1395 to play a role in my story as a physician.

The prologue to Templar’s Prophecy tells the story of Martin Harlech, another resident of Cirencester, whose life has been so plagued by diseases of the skin that he has sought relief through pilgrimages to a variety of favorite medieval sites including Santiago de Compostela and Rome.  Finally, his desperation takes him to Banganarti, Nubia, in Africa in AD 1350 to visit the healing center at the Church of Raphael the Archangel.  Although this Englishman from the West Country of England is unfamiliar with the languages that he encounters in Nubia, he does begin to experience relief from his disease which he fears is some form of leprosy.

After many weeks of healing, he is also amazed to encounter a person with an English voice from the West Country who is Hugh de Farleigh, an aged Templar captured and sold into slavery a half century earlier.  Harlech is befriended by de Farleigh and becomes acquainted with de Farleigh’s family, including his Nubian wife, son, and young grandson Benesec Rafael.  The latter has inherited Hugh de Farleigh’s blue eyes but shows the African ancestry of his Nubian parents and paternal grandmother in his black skin.

Benesec Raphael de Farleigh, Hugh’s grandson comes to Cirencester 45 years later to explore his de Farleigh ancestry, but finds his dark skin is immediately noticed suspiciously by the locals.  The Lady Apollonia who is living in Cirencester at the time, finds this stranger from Africa a well-educated and fascinating friend.  Benesec’s African training as a physician is an asset which enabled me to have him play a role in my West Country story.

The illustration below is a medieval rendering of Saint Raphael in the church where it was discovered in the archeological dig in Sudan.

My next post will begin exploring the history of Cirencester where Templar’s Prophecy is set.