In Medieval times it was the base for an order of warrior knights who fought for Christendom in the Holy Land.
And now, the future of an historic Warwickshire church linked with the mysterious Knights Templar order has been saved by the Land Registry.
More than 900 years after the Knights first met at Temple Balsall, near Knowle, the uncertainty over its ownership has finally been settled. It is now officially named on the Land Registry, meaning its existence is guaranteed by the state.
The temple, and the surrounding manor of Balsall, were granted to the Templars by King Stephen in the 12th century.
The members of the order, who acted both as knights and monks, held it for nearly two centuries until the Order was wiped out.
The temple was registered by the Foundation of Lady Katherine Leveson, a Christian charity based in the temple. It was established in 1674 to teach children and care for older people – work which it still carries out today.
The Rev Dr James Woodward, the master of the Foundation, said: “Temple Balsall has a long and fascinating history during which time ownership has changed hands many times – not always amicably.
“A few years ago, the title of Lord of the Manor for Temple Balsall was up for sale. This caused us some concern as we were unsure as to how this would impact on our legal status and our charitable work. Registering with Land Registry has meant that once and for all, we have secured and clarified the Foundation’s legal position regarding ownership of the site.”
The temple changed hands many times since it was built as the local headquarters of the Templars in the 12th century.
When it was built, the preceptory, or old hall, was where the knights handed out instruction and punishment to the local population.
The Knights Templar fought in the Crusades, and grew into one of the most powerful organisations of the age, until they were wiped out by the Inquisition.
On Friday, October 13, 1307, hundreds of Templars were arrested, tried by the Inquisition and burned at the stake as heretics.
The Church of St Mary the Virgin was built on the site around 1320 by the Knights Hospitaller, who succeeded the Templars. They in turn were dissolved in 1540 during the Reformation.
The manor was given by Henry VIII to his last wife, Catherine Parr and then given by Elizabeth I to her alleged lover Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
His grand-daughter, Lady Katharine Leveson died in 1674 and used her will to found a charity at the temple.
The church was later restored by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1849.
By registering the temple, the Foundation now has its claim to the site backed up by law.
A spokesman said this meant it would be able to manage the land more effectively, and protect it against encroachment.