The Secrets of Urgell

May 2018 Update: As a result of recent field research in Montserrat, Barcelona, Roda de Isábena, and the Vall de Boí, major revisions of this article will follow in the weeks to come.

Arthurian romance is known as a "Matter of Britain," but the mysterious word "grail" has been traced to La Seu d'Urgell in Spain, a town in Catalonia (1). It is an even lesser known fact that nine churches with paintings of a Holy Grail have been discovered in the Pyrenees above this ancient diocese. The historian Joseph Goering writes in The Virgin and the Grail (2) that such images "are found nowhere else in Christendom: the Virgin Mary holding a sacred vessel." He proposes that they inspired Chrétien de Troyes, because they were painted fifty years before the poet had a virgin holding the grail for the first time in literature (3). When a friend of Picasso copied a few paintings in 1908 and reports about this unique treasure reached the public, the churches could no longer be protected at their isolated locations (4). In order to save them, the frescoes were covered with transparent glue and expertly peeled from the plaster. They are now exhibited at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona (MNAC) where they are celebrated as the finest examples of Romanesque art in the world. One of the most famous works is the "Pantocrator" from Sant Climent de Taüll, created almost nine hundred years ago, where Christ has such a stunning facial expression that it surpasses some of the best modern art! Because of objections to the removal of the masterpieces, the empty walls were restored with copies in the 1960s. Here are close-ups of the "grail virgin" to show the difference between the original and inferior copy, which explains why they were replaced fourty years later at Sant Climent by (fancy) projections of digital recreations:

Some art historians can connect these paintings to grail romance without having to consider the etymological link of "graal" to Urgell. Chandler R. Post writes in History of Spanish Painting (Harvard, 1930, p.195) that the vessel in Mary's hand "has been tentatively explained as the Holy Grail because Montserrat in Catalonia is connected with this legend and because the vessel seems to be filled with the Sacred Blood emitting miraculous rays." Otto Demus supports this in Romanische Wandmalerei (München, 1968, p.160): "The Virgin... holds up a dish filled with the red glowing blood of Christ, a reminder that Catalonia was one of the centers of the cult of the Grail." Because this virgin is rather white-ish, they ignore that the Montserrat legend is about a Black Madonna, but it is important because the other paintings in the region show Mary with vessels of different shapes, the Holy Grail of popular culture (5). Only her simple bowl confirms the etymology of "gradalis-gradal-graal" (6) which is mirrored in nearby Santa Maria de Taüll where the wisemen use these bowls for their gifts, although they seem to be filled with eggs instead of myrrh, frankincense and gold. (Some images can be enlarged by clicking on them!) We can also see that Mary tilts the grail slightly to the left, towards Christ above her left shoulder. This raises the question what Mary may be signaling with her right hand: is it because the rays are very hot or does her bowl contain a secret message? Here are details of foolish virgins (7) and apostles (8) to show how widely hand signals were used at the time even by monks under the vow of silence!


But why does Mary's facial expression seem so strained – is it because her lips are sealed? Someone without an art background wouldn't even notice the subtle effect. Sealing wax or glue are difficult to paint but stitches are easy! Mary tilts her fiery bowl (9) towards Christ who floats high above her with the Book of Life announcing EGO SVM LVX MVNDI (I am the light of the world). He is surrounded by angels and animals, symbols of the Tetramorph, and ready to exit his dualistic mandorla. In view of the dramatic scenario, it is understandable that a history professor would overlook the subtle lines on Mary's lips. Goering reveals that he had neither studied art nor literature and admits humbly to "poaching" in an homage of his teachers at the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto. We poached as well by copying the virgin from his book, where the stitches look like jpeg-distortions, but the MNAC provided us kindly with a better reproduction (10). The close-up of Mary's mouth at left is digitally enhanced to show the brush strokes across both lips. It is an open question if the painter wanted to depict her silence with painful stitches because vertical lines would also seal the lips! Although paintings with such lips have not been found in other Romanesque churches, most experts we consulted dismiss them as an artist's personal style to depict a mouth. (See Appendix for our side-by-side proof to the contrary.)

The other church in Taüll, Santa Maria, shows the popular image of the Virgin Mary with little Jesus on her lap, which makes us wonder why she is lined up with apostles at St Climent? This detail shows the wisemen at her side and, yes, below two Stars of Bethlehem. They wear exotic miters with three fleurs-de-lys that look like crosses, which is an interesting ambiguity because they could either be Holy Kings or Magi. The Church had revised their image as magicians by renaming them the "Holy Three Kings" and preached their royalty from every pulpit until the Reformation, when Bible translations became available and restored them as Magi. By that time, they were celebrated everywhere as "Magic Kings" (reyes magos, rois mages), yet still depicted with conical caps at Sta Maria de Cap d'Aran and Sta Maria d'Aneu (11) in the Pyrenees, which could make them independent from Byzantine art where they wear Phrygian caps as the famous mosaic in Ravenna demonstrates. Here is another challenge for modern historians and a surprising break-through for us, which we discovered a couple of years ago: The Magi wear tunics at Maria d'Aneu with designs of the same "fiery" and "watery" triangles we feature since the 1980s. (The detail at left can be enlarged by clicking on it to show the eggs :). Paintings of the upper bodies of the Magi on the other side of Mary are no longer extant, but their tunics are decorated with triangles, which could symbolize the sun with the "fiery" and "watery" triangles of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars shortly before sunset in February of 6 BCE. Planetary triangles, which we intend to connect to the phoenix myth in our conclusions. One reason why scholars seem to have overlooked these paintings is that France and Spain were always disconnected above the Val d'Aran for most of the year until two tunnels were built in 1948 and 2007, see Viella Tunnel.

Back to Goering who ignores the esoteric symbolism of the Grail Virgin and simply links her to the Gregorian Reform. He interprets the red-hot flames as "The grace of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost," but concedes that "sacraments of oil, chrism and consecration; the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist; each and all of these meanings, and others too, might be represented..." After insisting at great length that Chrétien had no idea what a grail really was, he goes on to feature the consecration of the churches in Taüll by Bishop Ramon of Roda and Barbastro. He dedicates an entire chapter to the life and works of this extraordinary man, which allows him to reconstruct the ceremony of the consecration. However, Goering admits "One might even imagine that the Grail processions as described by Chrétien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach owe something to this public liturgy" and adds that naming a church after "St. Clement, the famous first-century bishop of Rome and successor of St Peter," is a meaningful choice to conclude: 

"Whatever the message intended by this choice of patron saint and of precious relics, there can be no doubt that the consecration of the church of St. Clement in 1123 was an event of even more than usual importance in the valleys of the Pyrenees." (12)

Goering's concession that the poets could have been familiar with Bishop Ramon will be explored below, but it seems he would have been more enlightened if he had checked the vita of Ramon in Spanish sources. The article "San Ramón, el obispo desterrado" reveals that he refused to support the wars of king Alfonso the Battler (13) and protected the Muslims, Jews and heretics in his diocese. Based on the accusation that Ramon "allowed Muslims and Jews to prosper," the king gave the bishop of Huesca a detachment of soldiers who killed the entourage of Ramon and expelled him from Barbastro. He was able to hide in a cave near Roda where he lived for three years as a hermit until the bishops of Urgell and Barcelona restored him to Roda, at least. Only then could he consecrate the churches in Taüll and include the alleged messages for posterity. He may have saved them from destruction by joining the blood-thirsty king against the Muslims in the South to tend to injured and displaced victims, which led to his death in the following year. These acts of wisdom, love and compassion are quite a grail message, which Goering seems to have overlooked!

Visitors can buy a booklet in the major languages at the MNAC today, which was published by the University of Lleida (14) and offers pictures of St Climent's apse which are available on-line. We learn that nine Romanesque churches of the region became part of the UNESCO World Heritage in 2000, and that some inferior copies of the early 1960s were removed during a restoration between 2008 and 2010. In the process, many new images were discovered which have remained on site. They show a photo from 1904 when the apse was still covered up by a 17th century altarpiece. Based on our study, Jeroni Pujades or Pierre de Marca could have arranged this cover-up because the Spanish Inquisition was still active at the time! The detail at left is important for several reasons: Only Christ is visible below the ceiling, but the saints with Mary and the grail are masked by a wide band. Furthermore, this altarpiece inspired apparently the towers of the "Sagrada Familia" in Barcelona, the famous church of Antoni Gaudi, yet none of the experts seem to have noticed...

It is also strange that the authors of the booklet explain in chapter 8, "Reading the Artwork," some of its messages down to specific details, but avoid anything controversial. They feature the garments of Jesus "with edges simulating pearled adornments performed with detail and refinement, as if an exquisite goldsmith had made them to dress a king" (15), yet ignore that both garments have a wide border similar to the belt, with diamond-shaped rhombuses of two triangles. The same decorative band is worn by each apostle on either side of Mary, but only the rhombuses of James are divided openly into triangles! This symbolism is mirrored at Santa Maria and on the robes of the Magi at Santa Maria d'Aneu, which indicates that their esoteric symbolism is related. These experts don't even mention that most saints hold up books, which may allude to gospels that didn't make it into the official bible. They ignore also the row of colorful swastikas which underline the apostles with Mary at Sant Climent, check pp. 24/25 in the booklet or the digital recreation! In spite of its abuses during the holocaust, the swastika was always a sacred symbol of spiritual principles in Buddhism and Hinduism, and pertains to the revolving sun and continued creation in Zoroastrianism! Yet without even mentioning the Magi and their astrology, the authors came up with the simplistic concept that Bishop Ramon wanted to "remind medieval society – and thus our own – that the light to successfully lead and direct human existence is found in Christ in Majesty, represented in this apse;  almighty, the beginning and end of all things. And its pedagogy and teachings are very clear and basic: be like Abel (practice good) and go to heaven, or be like Cain (practice envy and badness) and go to hell."

How could Chrétien have heard about Urgell?

Chrétien's references to countess Marie de Champagne establish him at her court in the 1170s when Troyes was an important commercial and cultural center, and his choice of the word "graal," which Wolfram reduced to "grâl," links to Catalonia in the south where "grala" and "greala" are still used today. Troyes was also a religious center where King Louis the Stammerer received the imperial crown from Pope John VIII in 878, and Pope Honorius II convened a Church Council in 1129, attended by Bernard of Clairvaux and the Knights Templar to found their order. However, three chivalric orders existed already: the Knights Hospitaller (Order of Saint John), the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Knights of Saint Lazarus.

In the Middle Ages, when most people could neither read nor write, "knowledge meant power" (Nietsche) and the role of our electronic media was played by interest groups. Information was secure because of language barriers, which "heretics" could use to their advantage. Academics and churchmen used Latin to communicate,  Jews Hebrew and Yiddish, and travelling tradesmen like carpenters or masons had secret hand signals. A representative of any of these groups (16) could have attended Chrétien's presentations at Marie's court and informed him during an intermission about a secret tradition in the Pyrenees.

According to our findings at St Pere de Rodes, the French master based his "Conte du Graal" on the symbolism of Peter's relics and vessel with Christ's blood, which were allegedly lost at the site of the monastery. Based on his description of the "Magic Sword," we concluded that the poet visited the site around 1177, the Peace of Venice, and learned from the monks that pope Alexander III had ordered the removal of all traces of the centuries-long search for the relics (17). However, because these searchers profited spiritually from their loss, they had apparently become iconoclasts and withdrew to the High Pyrenees.

If Chrétien followed their trail, he had to start with the monastery Sta Maria de Ripoll in the Pyrenees, which was the major, cultural center at the time. He would have learned about its founder Guifré el Pilos and the legends of Montserrat, which was under its jurisdiction. After questioning the twisted legends of the Black Madonna, including the one about Guifré in Flanders, he crossed the Pyrenees to St Miquel de Cuixà near Prades, where this famous knight of the ninth century was allegedly born. Guifré was a son of the celebrated count Sunifred of Urgell and Barcelona, which would take the poet to Urgell next. He learns there about the "Arianism" of the Visigoths and the "adoptionist heresy" of Bishop Felix, and would have wondered if later documents about "gradals" connect to dualism, and link St Pere de Rodes, which was formerly known as "de Roda", to Roda in the High Pyrenees (18). During this search, he would have visited another church by the name of St Pere in Urgell and studied Christ in Majesty in the apse, with his mother Mary below him and also lined up with the apostles, which eliminates Mary Magdalene as promoted by current novelists. (The above detail includes St John).

Perhaps, a Cathar mentioned a riddle about three churches, which are not named after St Peter, and which can only be solved by travelling "per-ce-val" through a valley known as "Val d'Aran" (valley of valleys) in the High Pyrenees to the "Val de Boi" where Taüll is located. This conjecture allows us to imagine what the French poet may have been thinking about when he approached these odd looking churches:


He would have been riding per-ce-val for days with the idea of a Fisherking going through his mind, because Peter's bones and a cup with blood were rotting in a cave which no one could find. Chrétien may have had visions of "Perceval" and a castrated papacy until he saw the phallic towers of the tiny churches! This didn't make sense if the Vatican lost the reliquiae insignes, the main relics of St Peter which excavations in Rome confirmed in the 1950s! He learned on site that three churches were constructed at the same time, Sta Eulàlia in Erill la Vall, Sta Maria and St Climent in Taüll. The above pictures show they are almost identical and the poet would have asked why each tower was added on a different side? Was it because each has a different message? (Climent is on top, Eulàlia at left and Maria at right.)

The oversized towers reminded him probably of the phallic symbolism of the pinnacles at Montserrat and he wondered if the cult of its "Black Madonna" had found refuge in the Pyreenees. He questioned therefore why the "trinity" of three churches completes with the martyrdom of a virgin and why the "Descent from the Cross" is celebrated in her name. But before Chrétien could develop a meaningfull concept, he had to start with "dualism" because the churches in Taüll link Jesus to Mary and celebrate Epiphany with the Magi. He noticed two colorful birds at Sta Maria, with one marked "PAVO" (peacock), a symbol of eternal life, and wondered why they lack the usual peacock eyes and what the other bird might be. Both seem to be drinking from a colorful chalice between three eight-pointed stars which relate to the Magi and Mary (19). Hence, this unique image of the Holy Grail, which seems to combine the vessel of the Last Supper and the phoenix myth, could have inspired the cosmic concept of Chrétien's final work.

As far as we know, grail romance started about fifty years after Bishop Ramon consecrated these churches at Taüll, which is a strong indication that there was a secret tradition the poet could draw on. A grala emitting rays at St Climent could relate to Plato's "divine mixing bowl of life" and the above chalice anticipates the Eucharist symbolism of Robert de Boron! Hence, if the original seekers had come from Sant Pere de Rodes, which is located between the town of Roses and the Cap de Creus (Cape of Crosses), they could have called themselves "Rosicrucians." Furthermore, if the towers were inspired by the Roman Church, their phallic symbolism could only be explained as "papal Machtkunst" (20), yet the art historians of the MNAC continue to attribute the artworks at Taüll to an Italian influence and the Gregorian reform (21), which Chrétien approaches from a different perspective. He plays with "Alexander" in the foreword of his poem to make his audience identify either the Mazedonian conqueror or the controversial pope, who are both listed in some annals as "Alexander III the Great." If this interpretation is correct, bishop Ramon did not only protect the Muslims, Jews and heretics in his diocese, which would include the Cathars, but was also initiated in the so-called "grail cult" himself. Hence, a poet of Chrétien's caliber would have been able to "read" the esoteric messages of Ramon much better than anyone today, which we'll explore next.


What Chrétien might have experienced

We used Google earth to visualize the "crime scene" in Montserrat and will attempt the same at the valley of Boi. Until our field research in the fall of 2018, we have to rely on Goering (22) who describes how bishop Ramon "and his entourage travelled" in early December of 1123: "Following the right (west) bank of the Noguera de Tor River, they came to the village of Erill la Vall in the Boi Valley (i.e. he ignores Sta Eulàlia!)... There they crossed the river, passed through the village of Boi, the traditional political center of the region, and climbed another three kilometers to reach the village of Taüll at the head of the valley... Raimund had come to dedicate two churches, one at the outskirts of the village, and the other about 400 meters (450 yards) further up the road, in the central plaza. He began with the church on the outskirts, which was destined to be the recipient of an important endowment..."

Goering makes the trip of Ramon seem grandiose by using terms like "entourage" and "plaza," yet the bishop had to take his congregation up the steep mountain on a dirt road with some cobble-stones, mules and oxen pulling carts, some people on horseback, and most following on foot. It would have been very cold in December, perhaps even snowing. Goering's "central plaza" conjures up a sunny town, while these were tiny villages with simple farmhouses and few windows, due to the harsh climate. Only if we consider the location can this cluster of oversized towers in a remote part of the Pyrenees tell us a message!

Chrétien would have been riding up the same road to Taüll, about half a century after Bishop Ramon, and read on a column at St Climent, which is still preserved, that the church is named after this pope of the first century and that the relics of St Cornelius were placed in the altar during the consecration in 1123 (23). As an educated man, the poet knew that pope Clemens was a successor of St Peter and had introduced the phoenix myth to Christianity (24), and that pope Cornelius (d. 243 CE) defended the obligation of the Church to reconcile apostates (see Franciscans). This is what Bishop Ramon practiced with substantial opposition and which confirms the message of love, compassion and pluralism in early grail romance.

The poet realized that Ramon followed a certain "dramaturgy" when he consecrated St Climent first and Sta Maria on the next day to separate the different messages of the churches, with the placement of the towers as signposts. By celebrating Christ in Majesty, he apparently used OT Prophecy to establish that the "Cosmic Christ" reaches from the alpha to the omega at St Climent. Yet with his humble self-description as "Son of Man," which Ezekiel uses 97 times, Jesus defines himself as human. Hence, Jesus is shown before his incarnation (25) and not during or after his Resurrection, which is developed from Epiphany, the Cucifixion, and Last Judgment at Sta Maria. This is signaled clearly by Bishop Ramon because he has the "agnus dei" (Lamb of God) depicted as a wild beast with seven eyes at St Climent and as the sacrificial lamb at Sta Maria.

In fact, these walls tell stories that were as entertaining eight hundred years ago as "Jesus Christ, Superstar" or Mozart's "Magic Flute" today! There are actually so many ambiguities going on at St Climent that Ramon could have raised his hands and replied to critics that any questions will be answered the next day at Sta Maria! This takes us to the painting of Lazarus at right which looks like a masterpiece of Picasso. However, this is not the sick man Jesus raised from the dead in John 11:1-43, which would belong to Santa Maria and the New Testament! It is the beggar Lazarus who dies and stays dead, according to Luke 16:19–31. What's interesting about this ambigous challenge by Ramon is that the parable proposes that identity and memory remain after death, which could explain where Jesus had been before he was born in Bethlehem! The cosmic theme continues with  the Tetramorph to the right and left of Christ where the Evangelists are still angels with wings and eyespots, and paired with the man, lion, ox and eagle of Ezekiel's prophecies.

Until now, April 2018, our creative conjectures rely merely on a visit to MNAC in Barcelona and images from the internet, pending updates in the future. The above painting of Lazarus could relate to the peacock at the upper left of the apse which, according to the chart, symbolizes eternal life like the phoenix. It would be consistent with our theories that it has eyespots because those at Sta Maria have none. Until they are checked in situ, another message remains unresolved: there is apparently one exception at Santa Maria, seen at left. Perhaps, the missing of "God's eyes" caused a discussion and they were added to demonstrate that the painter knew how to paint them and to back up that they are missing in some images on purpose. Although it is difficult to interpret paintings that are partially missing or next to empty walls, one ambiguity stands on firmer ground: The Magi reappear in a painting with King Herod at the right of the apse:

It is the famous scene in the gospel when Herod meets the Magi secretly and asks for "the exact time the star had appeared" (Mt. 2:7). But all four men wear identical crowns and any fool could be persuaded that the Magi are kings, which one wiseman seems to prove by pointing at Herod's crown, as the detail at right shows. However, we take the "fiery triangles" (or pyramids) of the crowns as a secret message and spend more time with the painting, although we can't see what's inside their bowls: The first Magi at right has a red bowl, which may be a way to explain away its fiery version at St Climent. The one in the middle is scratched out for some reason, which leaves the wiseman next to Herod. Had he held his gift in the left hand like the first Magi, it would have been easy for him to point at Herod. But the painter got creative here; he almost breaks the left arm of the poor Zoroastrian by forcing it across his chest to the right so he can point that way. His contortion makes us look closer and we realize that he is not pointing at Herod at all! It is a trompe l'oel because the detail at left reveals that he his pointing at the two birds with the stars and chalice above the arch, which closes the circle with the epistle of St Clemens by confirming that the Magi followed the phoenix to Bethlehem. (Our Phoenix Myth offers this theory since the 1980s!)  

In the Middle Ages, when most people were illiterate, Biblical stories were often displayed in churches the way comic strips communicate, and the paintings at Taüll confirm it. Hence, when Chrétien began to "read" the paintings like a book, he entered from the "peacock" at the upper left of the apse of Sant Climent to reach pope Climent and Peter, and contemplated before the vision of Christ if there is any difference between reincarnation and resurrection? He wondered what the hand of God above his head could mean, and even higer the "Agnus Dei".  He had never seen the Lamb of God with seven eyes and without the cross on its back and got curious. Revelation 5:6 came to mind, where the eyes signify the seven spirits of God, but this lamb is jumping and neither bleeding nor with seven horns, which evokes Ezekiel. His prophecies start with God opening the heavens in Babylon, revealing cherubs with faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle with wings that were "spread out upward: each had two wings, one touching the wing of another creature on either side, and two wings covering its body" (Ez. 1:1, 10-12). When Ezekiel saw the cherubim later "Their entire bodies, including their backs, their hands and their wings, were completely full of eyes... (Ez. 10:12). Ezekiel is dated around 597 as the first exiled prophet in Egypt, but his visions are inspired by Isaiah (5:1-3) from a hundred fifty years earlier: "I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;

the whole earth is full of his glory." (26)


Chrétien looked at the hand of the Almighty, reaching through the painted window below the seven-eyed beast, and began to search for a symbol of the Holy Spirit like the usual dove or a flame. He studied Jesus and the row of apostles below him, and the red dots on their cheeks and foreheads made them look strangely lifelike. When his eyes reached Mary's vessel, he began to meditate because the flames look like radiation and not like fire. After some time has passed, the red dots in her face made her seem to come alive and inspired the higher, cosmic theme of "Le Conte du Graal" where this transfiguration returns in Perceval's trance, which we´ll address below. He develops his basic concept from Perceval's father, who is wounded between the legs, and his "spiritual father," the Fisherking, who suffers from the same wound. The dualism continues with Perceval's failure at the Grail Castle and Gauvain's problems at the Castle of Wonders. These are two sides of a coin, so to speak, that need to be fused into one to find the truth, as Wolfram will clarify! The wise hermit is apparently fashioned after Joan Gari at Montserrat and fused with Ramon who preached this from his cave. Hence, Chrétien seems to have based the hermit's wisdom and grail procession on Ramon's writings, as Goering suggests, but what the Canadian historian failed to realize is that the French poet preserved the grail mystery. 

In the poem, the procession begins also with "two acolytes (assistants) carrying candelabras," but instead of priests with crosses and oils, a virgin follows with a grail – a first in literature! Although the poet names the object a "graal," he uses the red radiation on the painting to transform the simple bowl into shiny gold and decorates it with "the most precious stones on earth and in the seas" from Revelation. To strengthen the symbolism of the macrocosm, Chrétien notes that the grail shines so brightly, the light of the candles at the Grail Castle faded like the stars when the Sun or Moon are rising (27). To make sure his audience gets the point, that the grail is about Sun symbolism and that the precious stones represent the planets, a second virgin follows with a silver platter, which adds the Moon. The red color is separated from the bowl and symbolized by a ¨blanche lance¨ during the banquet, which a knave brings from another room. Perceval notices a drop of blood that flows from the metal point of the lance and runs down the shaft to the knave's hand, which distracts him from asking the all-important question. It is obviously a reference to Longinus and the crucifixion, which links to the red dots in Mary's face and inspires the most enchanting scene in the poem, when Perceval falls into a trance and has a vision of his beloved Blanchefleur. A falcon had attacked a flock of white geese and injured one, and three drops of blood melt the fresh snow – forming a triangle that fuses into her face. 

While Perceval's metamorphosis is of a spiritual nature with the symbolism of the Grail Castle in the center, the Castle of Wonders takes its place in Gauvain's adventures. It looks like Chrétien got this idea at St Climent as well when he noticed the painting of Mark above Mary's right shoulder. Hence, in the mirror world of Gauvain, there is no trance but a nightmare. Mark's lion evokes the Ezekiel prophecies and Gauvain has to fight a magical bed and break the spell by killing the lion. Hence, the Tetramorph and many wings and eyes seem to represent the magic and astrology of the ancients. Because Chrétien's poem breaks off at the Castle of Wonders, Wolfram's adapation seems to take the scene to another level with the phoenix myth and the planetary positions as major elements of the grail mystery. His concept culminates in a metamorphosis of "melting" in the Sun by three drops of blood in the microcosm and a planetary triangle in the macrocosm. Our study of the Star of Bethelehem establishes that this triangle formed at the western horizon on the evening of Feb. 25, 6 BCE, after which Saturn, Jupiter and Mars "melted" into the setting Sun. It is, like the location of sunrise in the East, one of the two "Gates of Heaven," according to Isidor of Seville.

Our comparison of independent sources shows that the planetary triangle was interpreted in different cultures as Phoenix or Christmas Star, which could have worried the successors of Pope Clemens. This would explain why they promoted the Magi to Holy Kings, prohibited the study of all planets and stars, and ordered the learned monk and scholar Dionysius Exiguus in 525 CE to separate these events by four years (28) – but Wolfram seems to have understood the alleged "error" and proposes that the powers of the grail enable the reincarnations of the phoenix. This could mean that he interpreted the rays of Mary's grail as its symbol! Hence, an unknown radiation during a line-up of our solar system triggered supposedly the birth of Jesus, which the Church simplified with the doctrine of a virgin birth. In an age before DNA research, fertility clinics and frozen eggs, this could have been the opinion of Bishop Ramon and his followers! That "radiation" fertilized an egg in Mary's body is indicated by the gifts of the Magi, which suggests that it was about a secret knowledge they shared in Bethlehem. How else can we explain the egg-shaped gifts in the bowls of the Magi, at Sta Maria d'Arneu at left and Sta Maria de Taüll at right, which don't look at all like gold, frankincense and myrrh (Mt. 2:11) the gospel mentions.

Back to St Climent, where the "peacock" at the upper left of the apse could be a phoenix that links to Clement who introduced the magic of this "firebird" to Christianity. Perhaps, Wolfram meditated before the virgin like Chrétien, and decided to celebrate her as "Lady Adventure" (frou âventiure) and then praised "Meister Kyot" (laschantiure) for revealing the truth, who could have been Michael Scot. Both names happen to line up nicely! This is persuasive evidence that both poets interpreted Ramon's messages accordingly. What we don't know is which paintings were white-washed and where the lance of Longinus was shown, which preceeded the grail in both poems as a major part of the mystery. There are numerous white spaces in both churches, although there is a fragment of David and Goliath at Sta Maria, which alludes to the lineage of Jesus according to Matthew. Some depictions of the Last Judgment have also survived, yet none of the Crucifixion as far as we know until our field research is completed.

Another unsolved mystery

According to Goering, there are no records of Ramon's consecrations, only the inscription on a column at St Climent he had wisely installed, identifying December 10, 1123, the pope of the first century and the relics of St Cornelius. This takes us to another esoteric message, which may be the greatest mystery of all: Why did Ramon ignore Sunday and then consecrate two churches on Monday and Tuesday?  This makes us question his dramaturgy and wonder what happened on Wednesday, the "third day," which would symbolize Christ's resurrection. In view of the phoenix myth, which is alluded with pope Climent, it could be about reincarnation and a third consecration. Hence, Ramon may have wanted to take us back down the hill to Boi and the third church, although Sta Eulàlia, the patroness of Barcelona, doesn't quite fit the scenario. But the shape of the church and its tower dates it clearly at the time of St Climent and Sta Maria, yet there are no records from before 1373, which indicates they may have been destroyed. It is also strange that Goering ignores the church in his detailed report, although it is identical with the two he features! Hence, if Chrétien used the symbolism of the Magic Sword to expose pope Alexander III, as we contend, the poet would have questioned the bare walls and wondered why the frescos are missing, and why only wood carvings remain that could be from other churches. Perhaps, he learned that the locals remembered its consecration to a virgin, which would imply that Eulàlia replaced the Black Madonna of Montserrat. Even the "Descent" from the cross is a fitting theme because it includes Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea's recycling of the grail. This may very well be the missing scenario from Chrétien's grail procession about the drop of blood on the lance, which implies that Longinus had stopped a "Passover Plot." This mystery will be a focus of our studies in 2018 with field research in the Boi valley with the intention to document it in detail at this website.

Tentative conclusions

Goering ends his book with a trivial pursuit of count Rotrou of the Perche as the most likely candidate for Chrétien's Perceval. If he is right, we came to the wrong place and should be heading North to follow his lavish praise of Helinandus, the most ardent preacher of the Albigensian Crusades. However, the magical mystery of the esoteric triangles and "sealed lips" keeps us in the Pyrenees a while longer to find out how St Pedro de Roda links to Roda-Barbastro. In addition to the usual questions, we'll try to figure out if they relate to a Second Coming in the 9th century, what Jesus might really be signaling with two fingers, and why a painting at Sant Pere de Burgal depicts the Holy Grail as an enclosed relic – with Peter signaling like Jesus! Does he look so grim because his bones and Christ's blood are still missing? However, Mary's fiery grail matches Peter's keys because it is made up of two chalices, with the top one reversed – as if both are posing for a poster to promote a message of hope with "dualism." Hermetic messages that require a detour to the Pontifical Institutions of the Vatican and a look at the Christian "history" (éstoire) of Robert de Boron, who may be the third originator of grail romance.

If you have enjoyed our wild speculations until here, even if they entertained you only like a medieval joust, you might be interested in the mystery of Santa Eulàlia! Pujades has left us many esoteric messages about the Urgell region, which led us even to suspect he had the apsis of Sant Climent covered up with the help of Pierre de Marca in the 17th century. When Eulàlia came to our attention in August, 2017, we realized that this virgin is featured repeatedly by Pujades as his favorite saint, yet we paid no attention to his comments at the time! This means that his entire work of eight volumes needs to be read again because there should be other hidden messages.



Every scholar we contacted about the lines on Mary's lips, at the MNAC and in other parts of Europe, is of the opinion that they are an artist's personal style to depict a mouth and that there is no indication that her lips are "sealed." (The only exceptions are a historian in England and an expert of Russian icons in Germany, but both are friends of this researcher!) However, the widespread criticism is easily disproven with close-ups of John, Jesus, and James (below) in the same fresco and by the same painter. For a better comparison we framed the refined head of Christ with two apostles who are painted in the same style as Mary, but enhanced by a higher contrast and tint to emphasize the details.

Below is a close-up of Bartholomew, who is next to Mary, to show there are no vertical lines over his lower lip either. Some critics pointed out that John´s lips have such lines, but they are caused by fine cracks in the plaster which run from his ear across the lips to the chin – and only the corners of the mouth have lines because he is beardless. Hence, because neither Jesus nor his three disciples have lines over their lower lip like Mary at right, we have conclusive evidence that her lips are meant to be sealed. In fact, it is probably the subtleness of the effect that preserved the fresco over the centuries, because the image would have been destroyed or whitewashed long ago! That so many depictions of Mary with a vessel survived in the Pyrenees could be an indication that some Church reforms never reached them.


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1. C. du Fresne du Cange; Glossarium, L. Favre, Niort 1885, Tom. IV, p. 91, and Joan Coromines, Diccionari Etimològic Complimentari de la Llegua Catalana, Vol. IV, Curial Edicions Catalanes, Barcelona, 1984, p.637.

2. Joseph Goering, The Virgin and the Grail, Origins of a Legend, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2005), p. 70. It is curious that he accepts that "Mary is portrayed here as as first among equals (prima inter pares) in the Apostolic college" (p.101), yet the Council of Ephesus in 431 made her the "Mother of God" and the Romanesque era followed up with the construction of major Marian churches. That Ramon has her lined up with the apostles at Sant Climent above a band of swastikas could symbolize they are still unborn at the time of the Old Testament. (Apropos, it's odd that Goering didn't change his name, as most Hitlers surely did!)

3. Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurien Romances, tr. William W. Kibler, (London, 1991), pp. 7-8

4. Montserrat Pagès, the curator of MNAC, offers in Romanesque mural painting in Catalonia (2012) a most informative introduction, but without any references to the controversial grail context.

5. Chrétien described the grail as a "golden platter" as bright as the sun, Robert changed it to a "Paschal dish" from the Last Supper, and Wolfram reduced it to a "lapsit exillis," a stone from paradise. Decades later, other poets changed the grail to the Cup of the Last Supper, which was probably meant to enhance the myth with the transubstantiation treatise of Thomas Aquinas.

6.  Joan Coromines, ‘Apèndix sobre Greala i el Greal’ in idem, Diccionari Etimològic Complimentari de la Llengua Catalana (Barcelona 1980-), 10 vols to date, IV, pp. 637-641  at p. 637: ‘del cat. Greala “escudella” (cat. arcaic gradal, f.). La dada més antiga que es té del mot en qualsevol país es troba en una escriptura catalana, i més concretament urgellesa en latí en l’any 1010 (du C.): “ad Sancta Fide coenobio gradales duas de argento” […], d’Ermengarda, filla del comte Borrell de Barcelona, any 1030, tornem a trobar “vexela de auro et de argento, id sunt enapos V, et gradals II”’.

7. Sant Quirze de Pedret, see Romanesque Heritage by Peter Hubert whose spectacular website has been discontinued because of his death in early 2017, which is a great loss. We are fortunate to have saved one of his files in pdf, which deserves some serious study! You'll note that he was one of the many experts who disagree with our theory of the "sealed lips," but kindly credits our website as a reference.

8. Santa Maria de Mur, now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. See above, no. 4, the report of Montserrat Pagès how the preservation of Romanesque Art originated.

9. The fiery bowl may symbolize Plato's "Krater," a divine mixing bowl of life. See Henry Kahane, Renee Kahane, The Krater and the Grail: Hermetic Sources of the Parzival (Illinois Studies in Language and Literature, Vol 56), 1985.

10. Manuel Castiñeiras and Jordi Camps, Romanesque Art in the MNAC collections, in collaboration with Joan Duran-Porta, photographs by Matías Briansó, (Barcelona, 2008). They acknowledge the "Holy Grail" only once, in a reference to Sant Pere de Burgal (p. 28). It is difficult to understand why they single out an enclosed relic and ignore the well-known Virgin of Taüll.

11. The mural of Santa Maria de Cap d'Aran is now at the The Cloisters in New York, the one from Santa Maria d'Aneu at the MNAC in Barcelona.

12. Goering (see above No. 2), p. 78. He writes in footnote 13, p. 172, that "it is enough to repeat that nowhere else in Christian art, ouside this small area of the Pyrenees, do we find images of the Virgin Mary holding a fiery vessel, or a vessel of any kind." Aware of the fact that this argument disproves his own identification, he admits in the next footnote: "Some have asked whether it might not be Mary Magdalene rather than the Virgin Mary who is depicted here... Such a view would not affect the hypothesis of this book in any material way, but I am persuaded by authority (all art historians seem to agree) and by argument (for example, that Mary Magdalene is almost universally distinguished by her long, flowing hair with which she anointed Jesus' feet) that the figure represented here is indeed the Virgin Mary and not the Magdalene."

13. The Knights Templar had been received with enthusiasm by the Crown of Aragon. King Alfonso I the Battler, having no direct heir, bequeathed his dominions to be divided among the Knights Templar, the Knights Hospitaller, and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, but this bequest was annulled by his subjects in 1131. The plot thickens even more, because Alfonso's brother and successor, King Ramir II of Aragon and count of Ribagorza (1086-1157), abdicated in 1134 to became himself the bishop of Roda-Barbastro. This speaks for itself even if the documents have been deleted that the region was an important religious center at the time.

14. Ximo Company, Clara Lopez, Marina Bellmunt, Isidre Puig, Eloi de Tera, The Pantocrator of Sant Climent de Taüll: the light of Europe, English ed., (Lleida, 2016). An erudite theologian and art historian like Company is certainly qualified to address the message of St Climent. We find it rather suspect that the grail myth is not even brought up, which warrants research of his ties to the Bishop of Lleida and questions why he is so kind to Cain?

15. Ibid., p. 39. Their chart with the numerical identifications, p. 34, confuses the symbolism and has Luke with the eagle and John with a bull. We should add that the whole idea of the Tetramorph, of winged creatures that symbolize the alleged authors of the synoptic gospels as winged creatures with animal features, is incomprehensible today. This was adopted by the Church in the fourth century and was probably meant to replace the phoenix legend with Ezekiel's visions.

16. A visiting Cistercian or Templar would have been a good informant. The Catalan knight Arnau de Torroja (1118-1184) comes to mind, who was born near Urgell, joined the Knight Templars 1162 in Lleida, and became Grand Master when Chrétien worked at Marie's court. There is also the curious case of Jacob ben Meir (d. 1171) in Troyes, a leading participant in the rabbinical synods since about 1160. He is best known as Rabbenu Tam and one of the most renowned Ashkenazi Jewish rabbis and a leading French scholar. When the famous philosopher Abraham ibn Ezra was traveling through France R. Tam greeted him in verse, whereupon Ibn Ezra exclaimed in astonishment, "Who has admitted the French into the temple of poetry?" We should ask if it wasn't thanks to Chrétien at Marie's court?

17. According to Chrétien, the sword is covered by a scabbard of fancy Venetian gold-brocade, and breaks into three pieces if used wrongly, which Wolfram confirms. He adds that they can be fused by "Trebuchet" (three books?) where the source lies in darkness, which might identify the forgeries of St Pere de Rodes, St Miquel de Cuixa and Sta Maria de Montserrat. Our hypothesis gets independent support from German researchers in 2016: They write that "a good third" of the documents until the late 12th century about Louis the Pious are forgeries which misled historians in the past. (See link.)

18. Narcís Garolera, El català que ara es parla - La degradació de la llengua als mitjans de comunicació, (Barcelona, 2012), ftn. 24, see link. “Roda i Roses són noms d’origen ben diferent, inconnexos” (Onomasticon Cataloniae, vol. VII, p. 462a); el nom del monestir és St. P[ere] de Roda, sense –s [...] mot cèltic sense res en comú amb el [nom] grec de Roses” (ibid., vol. II, p. 244b); la tradició viva i multisecular ha estat sempre, i únicament, Sant Pere de RODA” (ibid., vol. VI, p. 416a)."  In spite of Joan Coromines, (see above Nr. 6), the celebrated master of the Catalan language, a monastery that by tradition was always only known as "St Pere de Roda" has been renamed "St Pere de Rodes." This bold move opens the door to speculation that the "Roman structure" under the monastery is a thousand years older than assumed, and that the temple was consacrated to Aphrodite, as Wolfram suggests. Why else is Roses depicted on Ptolemy's map as "Rhoda," on our Latin map as "Rotas," and the monastery as "Sanct Petri Rotas"?

19. The right bird is marked PAVO and "pavo real" is in modern Spanish a peacock. The left bird is not identified, but the signs of the Zodiac are depicted below Mary which Peter Hubert has documented, see above, No. 7, p. 68. Is the "peacock" in the far upper left of Sant Climent also marked PAVO?, see 33 on the chart, which we intend to verify on site. If Company is not confusing two churches, as he did Luke with John, the dualities could be rather meaningful!

20. Ernst Kitzinger, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Vol. 22, (Cambridge, 1972), p. 101. He doesn't mention the towers and applies "papal Machtkunst" to the art of the period.

21. Manuel Castiñeiras, et al., (see above No.10), p. 14

22. Goering (see above No.2), p. 77

23. Ibid., pp. 90-91. He offers the Latin text and an English translation.

24. This is another Greek element of the Magic Sword: Clement's only existing, genuine text is a letter to the Christian congregation in Corinth, often called the First Epistle of Clement or 1 Clement. The history clearly shows Clement as the author of this letter. It is considered the earliest authentic Christian document outside of the New Testament, and may pre-date the Gospel of Matthew. We mention in our study of the phoenix myth that Tacitus is a contemporary of Clement who writes that around 6 BCE "a bird called the phoenix, after a long succession of ages, appeared in Egypt and furnished the most learned men of that country and of Greece with abundant matter for the discussion of the marvelous phenomenon." Inspired by Hesiod and Herodotus, Ovid, Lucan and Pliny the Elder wrote also about the phoenix, and when Clement joined the discussion he was probably thinking of the Magi because he informed the Corinthians that the phoenix burns itself not only with myrrh, but also with frankinsense and other spices, and is reincarnated as a worm. Plutarch is another contemporary of Clement who adapts a riddle of Hesiod and allows us to calculate that the lifespan of the phoenix is 854 years, which identifies it as the same astronomical event as the Star of Bethlehem in 6 BCE.

25. Elaine Pagels, The gnostic Paul: gnostic exegesis of the Pauline letters, (Philadelphia, 1975). The noted scholar found evidence that a "secret wisdom" existed before the birth of Christ, which suggests that the first Christians had some unrecognized Gnostic beliefs, including St Paul and pope Clemens. Another valuable resource is her Penguin pocket book REVELATIONS, Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation, (New York, 2012).

26. All our Biblical quotes are from Holy Bible, New International Version, (New York, 1978).

27. Chrétien vv. 3225-3229: “Atot le graal qu’ele tint, Une si granz clartez i vint Qu’ausi perdirent les chandoiles Lor clarté come les estoiles Quant li solauz lievre ou la lune.”

28. It was Kepler's genius that he, a Lutheran, could gain the support of a few Jesuits during the Counter Reformation, which not only saved his life but also his mother's, who was almost burned at the stake for witchcraft. Hence, he could only suggest that the Church miscalculated the birth of Christ by quoting the doctoral thesis of Laurentius Suslyga, a Polish Jesuit and astronomer: See Max Caspar, Johannes Kepler, Dritte Auflage, (Stuttgart, 1948), p. 179. English tr. by C. Doris Hellman: Max Caspar, Kepler, (Dover Edition, 1993 by Owen Gingerich and Alain Segonds), pp. 156, 228. Kepler could not dare to mention how widely the phoenix myth was discussed during early Christianity (see above, No. 24), and that an expert like Dionysius Exiguus would not miscalculate the birth of Christ, unless it was ordered by the Church. Part of the scam is probably Herod's date of death, which is kept as ambiguous as possible. Yet now that information is so easily accessable, the Jesuits seem to promote any hypothesis about 7 BCE as an even better alternative. 




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