When Ashley Cowie talks about the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail and being a Knight Templar on a quest to find ancient artifacts, you might think he was talking about the plot of the latest Indiana Jones movie. Not so.
Instead the symbologist and relic hunter is the host of Syfy's newest reality series, Legend Quest, which premieres tonight at 10 p.m. ET.
"You know what it is?" asked Cowie. "It's like shaking the best out of The Da Vinci Code, shaking the best out of the Indiana Jones series, but replacing all of the fiction and myth that's in there with absolute fact and logic. ... It's time for us to [go] beyond The Da Vinci Code and just ask for a little bit more. And I think it's time TV gave an audience something to ruminate on that actually is worth something."
Legend Quest follows Cowie, who is an actual modern-day Knight Templar, and his producer, Kinga Philipps, as they go on the hunt to find some of the most mysterious and revered missing historical artifacts known to man. Each episode tracks two separate artifact searches using research to find a starting point, and then follows the clues through interviews and the symbols found at various locations. To learn whether we'll actually see artifacts like the Ark, you'll have to watch, said Cowie.
"My methodology is to take everything that's been written so far. I research everything that cannot be, and, like Sherlock Holmes says, hopefully end up with what can only be. I'll be honest. When you see the show, we've a number of dead ends along the way for the Ark of the Covenant," said Cowie.
"But when I find a clue, see a symbol or something that's absolutely indicative of where the Ark was taken next, we follow that." When they hit a dead end, he goes back to the last stage "and then take it forward again. But that's methodology. It's really following your nose as we go, rather than making up history."
First up tonight there's the search for the Ark of the Covenant and the Talking Cross. As far as the Ark goes, "we're going on the premise that the Ark is out there somewhere, and there are lots of clues and legends within medieval text from everywhere from Africa all the way through to Northern Europe," said Cowie. "The only way we can prove it is out there is we actually find it. And we've done pretty well with the show, I must add."
In the second hunt for the night, "we're going searching for the Talking Cross in Mexico," he said. "One of the most interesting relics takes us all the way through Europe and elsewhere. It's the Holy Lance. This is the spear that pierced the side of Christ when he was on the cross, otherwise known as the Spear of Longinus or the Spear of Destiny. That's a great fun relic to go searching for. There's a lot of fiction written about that, but we really come up with some cool stuff for that one."
This season, "we're looking for Merlin's magic treasures. That's known as the 13 Treasures of Great Britain. They're hidden in a cave somewhere. And others, like Solomon's ring. King Solomon had a ring that he lost sometime before the birth of Christ. We're looking for that."
They'll also search for Excalibur, the Golden Sun Disc, the staff of Moses and the Holy Grail.
The search for the Holy Grail will be the finale and is a one-hour special. Cowie admits it was his favorite case this season. "That is riveting in the sense that, being involved in Knights Templar and having such a close association to these types of artifacts, especially the biblical artifacts, that was just like being dropped off in a sweet shop for me. I mean, to go out in a modern-day quest for the Holy Grail, considering the success of Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci Code [movies, it] was pretty much everybody's dream, and we really did go for it. ... We've gone to places that no one would ever think."
And while you'd consider someone who's a Knight Templar would have the inside track in finding such things as the Ark and the Holy Grail, he has his fair share of challenges.
"I can't send like a group email out going, 'Hey guys, where is the Ark of the Covenant?' What I can do is sit down ... ask questions, and converse with them, and that's what we do in the show. We meet various Knights Templar in the show. Some of them have information. Some of them don't know what the last person was talking about. But I've got to try and piece that all together," said Cowie.
There is one other personal challenge Cowie faces. "I'm a Type 1 diabetic. That takes an awful lot of management and time on an everyday basis. Never mind traveling the world, not sleeping at times and everything else. That was the biggest challenge on the road."
However, despite diabetes, the challenges of traveling and having to puzzle out the mysteries involved in centuries' old artifacts, Cowie admits he'll follow the hunt no matter where it leads him. "Syfy was absolutely brilliant as far as budget was concerned," he said. "They literally told me, 'We will follow you wherever we have to go. Please behave yourself. Don't make a fool of us. But get out there and find it.'"
Legend Quest premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on Syfy.
Will you tune in?