I’ve just been to the former capital city of La Laguna to research an article I’m writing for a magazine.
In the 16th century Church of Santo Domingo I stumbled across an ancient tombstone laid into the floor with an inscription of names, below which was engraved a skull and crossbones. Further investigation revealed two more slabs bearing the symbol, this time without any inscriptions.
Completely baffled as to why the unmistakeable trademark of piracy should be present on a tombstone in a church in Tenerife, I did some research and discovered that the skull and crossbones was originally a symbol of the Order of the Knights Templar; the skull and two crossed bones signifying the only parts of the body the Order believed necessary to be interred before resurrection could take place.
Once the Order was denounced by the Catholic Church, many of their number turned to theft at sea in order to sustain the standard of living to which they had grown accustomed and so the symbol became synonymous with piracy.
The Canary Islands were a magnet for pirates in the 16th and 17th centuries; frontier societies growing wealthy on the newly developed trade between Europe and the New World for which the archipelago was a convenient stepping stone. With characters like Francoise (Peg Leg) le Clerc and John Hawkins being regular ‘visitors’ to the islands, it seems plausible that the Knights Templar may well have settled in the Canaries at some point and that the tombs may indeed belong to one or more of their number.
My neighbour tells me that the tomb could just as easily be that of a Freemason, but until he comes up with a plausible reason why a member of the Freemasons would have a skull and crossbones on his tomb, I’m heading back at the earliest opportunity to decipher the inscription and search for the cryptex.