ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
Chances are if you've heard of the Knights Templar, it's because of the "Da Vinci Code". The knights actually did exist. They were a secretive order of Christian warriors. The order was officially dissolved by the Vatican seven centuries ago. Now, a group claiming to be descendants or heirs of the Knights Templar is suing the Pope for more than $150 billion.
Reporter Fiona Govan wrote about the lawsuit for London's Daily Telegraph. Thanks so much for speaking with us.
Ms. FIONA GOVAN (Reporter, London Daily Telegraph): Hello.
SEABROOK: The Knights Templar were so secretive that isn't hard to trace who was and wasn't a member, and yet all these people say that they're descendants of the Knights Templar?
Ms. GOVAN: Well, there are people around the world who claim to be following six steps of the Knights Templar. As far as we're aware historically they were dissolved beginning of the 14th century. It is believed that at that point the movement went underground and that the Knights Templar became a very secretive order that continued to practice. This is a complete legend. We have no firm historical evidence of this.
SEABROOK: So what are these people actually suing for?
Ms. GOVAN: It's a Spanish organization. He claimed to be sovereign order of the Temple of Christ. They claim to be the direct heirs of the Knights Templar, and what they're suing for is recognition, firstly, of the wrong that was done to the original Knights Templar in the 17th century. They were accused of heresy and that's why the order was dissolved.
So they're asking for an apology from the Pope and they want recognition that the land that was seized, the land and belongings that were seized from the knights, which in today's terms is something in the region of, I think, 150 billion U.S. dollars, that they want that recognized that that was seized from them.
I mean, clearly, it's never going to be the case that the Vatican will reimburse them. But at this stage, they're not, they haven't directly said that they will ask for that - for that money back. And it's an impossibility that these people can't prove that they're in any way actual descendants of the original knights.
SEABROOK: So, is this case actually being treated seriously in the - your press, in your paper and Spanish newspapers?
Ms. GOVAN: Well I think the Spanish papers themselves are having quite a lot of fun with it. It's quite ludicrous. And one of the papers suggested that in fact rather than this being something for historians to decide, it's something that psychiatrists (unintelligible). So that might give you an idea of how people are treating that here.
SEABROOK: So have you become the Telegraph's Knights Templar reporter?
Ms. GOVAN: I think I'll leave that to their own correspondent.
SEABROOK: But I do understand that after your article was in the Daily Telegraph you got some interesting email.
Ms. GOVAN: I had a lot of emails from various groups around the world, some of whom were in the United States claiming that the Spanish group were pretenders and they, in fact, were the real Knights Templar, and pages and pages (unintelligible) astonishing claims, really. It's very interesting stuff, but nothing more than fiction is my personal opinion.
SEABROOK: Fiona Govan is the Madrid correspondent for the Daily Telegraph in London. Fiona Govan, thank you so much.
Ms. GOVAN: Thanks a lot.
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