Monday, October 10, 2011

New perspective on Christopher Columbus Freemason
The Dream of Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus was not the given name of the man who navigated to the New World. Variously translated, his chosen name was Cristoval Colon or Colom, and his given name is still unknown. Christopher Columbus was deeply connected to Portugal’s King John II’s inner circle through marriage long before any important actions. The family members of Columbus’s wife, Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, were all part of the court of King John II and of the king’s household, including the king’s mistress, Lord Chamberlain and bodyguard. Many of them were grandchildren and other descendants of the Kings of Spain, France, and Portugal – a connection that only we discovered just a few years ago.

The Italian named Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus), long presumed to be the legendary explorer, Cristobal Colon was only a poor wool weaver in Genoa as claimed by every historian and documents. He lacked the noble station required to marry nobility, as the explorer Colon did long before his historic voyage. There is no uncontested evidence that the explorer knew how to speak Italian, or had any substantial connection to that country.
Columbus’s cryptic signature, “XpoFERENS Colon” as we decipher it, indicates that he was a member of the super-secretive Templar Military Order of Christ, which had a stronghold in Portugal at the time leading up to his voyage. As a member, like his father-in-law and brothers-in-law, he was dedicated to ridding the world of Muslims, who had occupied his country several centuries before.

Though history tells us that the Columbus felt angry and betrayed when King John II of Portugal refused to fund his trip, Christopher Columbus continuously colluded with Portugal after the supposed rejection. This is because he was sent to Spain to lead Spanish explorers Westward and force Spain away from the Portuguese monopoly. Christopher Columbus's efforts took Spain’s focus away from Portugal’s coveted eastern sea route to India, with its promises of gold, spices, and other riches. Columbus continued to communicate with the King of Portugal during his voyages. He continuously lied to the Kings of Spain, helped the Portuguese, and navigated with secret sun charts commissioned by the Portuguese king.

Columbus’s descendants continued to lie and hide the truth from the Kings of Spain with the help of their well-connected relatives.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lamas At Loggerheads

Three articles look at China and religion. First, a war of attrition over Tibet; next, China v the Vatican; third, a Chinese project at the Buddha’s birthplace.

IT WAS never going to be easy. Installing the Chinese Communist Party’s chosen man as Tibet’s second-highest ranking religious leader has been an uphill struggle since 1995, when it declared him, at the ripe old age of six, to be the new Panchen Lama. But a recent attempt to introduce him to monastic life suggests that Tibetan resistance to China’s choice is still strong. Loyalty to the young man is brittle.

For China, this matters hugely. Tibetan Buddhism has a religious hierarchy with the Dalai Lama at the top, followed by the Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama is traditionally involved in recognising the Panchen Lama, and the Panchen Lama is part of the process by which each new Dalai Lama is chosen. China has its eyes on a complex struggle that will play out after the death of the current 76-year-old Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India. With the endorsement of its own Panchen Lama, China wants to choose a successor to the current Dalai Lama and seek to control him. Hence it is believed to be keeping another young man, who was the Dalai Lama’s choice as Panchen Lama 16 years ago, incommunicado in an unknown location. China fears that Tibetan exiles will appoint their own Dalai Lama and it does not want any authoritative Tibetan figure to show him support. Both China and the exiles have recently been stepping up preparations for a coming dispute.

On China’s side, this has involved an effort to burnish its Panchen Lama’s credentials by getting him some monastic training. Gyaltsen Norbu, as he is named, has spent most of his 21 years in Beijing. His outings have been few and secretive. Across Tibet, images of the Dalai Lama’s choice of Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, can sometimes be seen on furtive display in monasteries, his face frozen in time as a little boy. Chinese officials probably hoped that installing Gyaltsen Norbu in a big-name monastery might win him more supporters. With some parts of Tibet roiled by unrest—a protesting monk burned himself to death on August 15th in Daofu, a Tibetan-dominated county of Sichuan Province—this was always bound to be tricky.

The monastery they chose was Labrang in southern Gansu province, on the edge of the Tibetan plateau. It is not clear why. Historically, the Panchen Lama’s seat was Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse in central Tibet.

Robert Barnett of Columbia University in New York says it is possible that even at Tashilhunpo some lamas do not accept China’s choice. In 1997, Tashilhunpo’s then abbot, Chadrel Rinpoche, was sentenced to six years in prison (he has not resurfaced since) for helping the Dalai Lama make his choice of Panchen Lama. In 1998, Chinese officials tried to give their Panchen Lama a monastic start at Kumbum in Qinghai Province, a monastery that has usually acquiesced to Chinese rule. Its abbot, Arjia Rinpoche, fled to America to avoid the duty.

Labrang has no reputation for tameness. Its monks joined a wave of protests that swept Tibet and neighbouring Tibetan regions in 2008 after an outbreak of rioting in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital. In recent days, Labrang has again proved stubborn. Locals gave China’s Panchen Lama, who arrived on August 11th, nothing like the rapturous reception his predecessor, the tenth Panchen Lama, received during visits to Tibetan areas. Large numbers of police prevented any protests, and foreigners were ushered out of town. Tibetan exile groups quoted sources at Labrang saying that Gyaltsen Norbu was expected to stay for weeks or months. A local official, however, says he left on August 16th. His cool welcome, it seems, hastened him on his way.

In Dharamsala in India’s Himalayan foothills, Tibet’s government-in-exile has been busy manoeuvring, too. On August 8th it swore in a new prime minister, Lobsang Sangay. This is touted by the exiles as an historic event, with the new man taking over all the Dalai Lama’s political functions. Mr Sangay, who has never been to Tibet, struck an ambiguous tone in his inaugural speech, referring to Tibet as “occupied” but also expressing his wish for “genuine autonomy” under Chinese rule.

The Dalai Lama’s decision to give up his political role appears aimed at bolstering the post of prime minister before his death. A new Dalai Lama chosen by the exiles is likely to be a small boy who will need many years of tutelage before taking up his duties. It also presents a challenge to China, which has always refused to recognise the Dalai Lama’s political mantle. Now that he no longer has it, China has a face-saving opportunity to engage with him properly. Chinese officials have held several rounds of talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives in recent years, the latest in January 2010, but have not moved beyond finger-wagging.

Few see any sign of change. The man likely to become China’s next president, Xi Jinping, visited Lhasa in July for official celebrations of the Communist Party’s takeover of the territory 60 years ago. He praised the fight against “separatist and sabotage activities staged by the Dalai group and foreign hostile forces”. But there have been some positive signals, too. A meeting between President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama at the White House in July elicited the usual sharp criticism from China. But it did not derail subsequent exchanges between China and America, including a visit to Beijing this week by the vice-president, Joe Biden.

On August 13th the Dalai Lama told reporters in France that he would discuss the issue of his reincarnation at a meeting of Tibetan religious heads in September. He said that unlike China, he is in no hurry to make arrangements.

In an ancient Jerusalem tunnel, sword, oil lamps and pots from a 2,000-year-old war uncovered

The excavation of an ancient drainage tunnel beneath Jerusalem has yielded a sword, oil lamps, pots and coins abandoned during a war here 2,000 years ago, archaeologists said Monday, suggesting the finds were debris from a pivotal episode in the city’s history when rebels hid from Roman soldiers crushing a Jewish revolt.

The tunnel was built two millennia ago underneath one of Roman-era Jerusalem’s main streets, which today largely lies under an Arab neighborhood in the city’s eastern sector. After a four-year excavation, the tunnel is part of a growing network of subterranean passages under the politically combustible modern city.

The tunnel was intended to drain rainwater, but is also thought to have been used as a hiding place for the rebels during the time of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. That temple was razed, along with much of the city, by Roman legionnaires putting down the Jewish uprising in 70 A.D.

On Monday, archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority unveiled a sword found in the tunnel late last month, measuring 24 inches (60 centimeters) in length and with its leather sheath intact. The sword likely belonged to a member of the Roman garrison around the time of the revolt, the archaeologists said.

“We found many things that we assume are linked to the rebels who hid out here, like oil lamps, cooking pots, objects that people used and took with them, perhaps, as a souvenir in the hope that they would be going back,” said Eli Shukron, the Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist in charge of the dig.

The archaeologists also found a bronze key from the same era, coins minted by rebels with the slogan “Freedom of Zion,” and a crude carved depiction of a menorah, a seven-branched Jewish candelabra that was one of the central features of the Temple.

The flight of the rebels to tunnels like the one currently being excavated was described by the historian Josephus Flavius, a Jewish rebel general who shifted his allegiance to Rome during the revolt and penned the most important history of the uprising.

As the city burned, he wrote about five years afterward, the rebels decided their “last hope” lay in the tunnels. They planned to wait until the legions had departed and then emerge and escape.
“But this proved to be an idle dream, for they were not destined to escape from either God or the Romans,” he wrote. The legionnaires tore up the paving stones above the drainage channels and exposed their hiding place.

“There too were found the bodies of more than two thousand, some slain by their own hands, some by another’s; but most of them died by starvation,” Josephus wrote. The victors proceeded to loot, he wrote, “for many precious objects were found in these passages.”

The new tunnel, lit by fluorescent bulbs and smelling of damp earth, has been cleared for much of its length but has not yet been opened to the public. Earlier this month, a team from The Associated Press walked through the tunnel from the biblical Pool of Siloam, one of the city’s original water sources, continuing for 600 yards (meters) under the Palestinian neighborhood named for the pool — Silwan — before climbing out onto a sunlit Roman-era street inside Jerusalem’s Old City.

The tunnel is part of the expanding City of David excavation in Silwan, which sits above the oldest section of Jerusalem. The dig is named for the biblical monarch thought to have ruled from the site. It is funded by a group affiliated with the Jewish settlement movement and has drawn criticism from Palestinian residents who have charged that the work is disruptive and politically motivated.

Israel and the Palestinians have conflicting claims over Jerusalem that have scuttled peace efforts for decades. Both sides claim the Old City, which includes sites holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews. The excavation of the tunnel began in 2007. Last month, a worker found a tiny golden bell that seemed to have been an ornament on the clothing of a rich man, or possibly a Temple priest, and which could still ring 2,000 years later.

When the tunnel opens to the public sometime in the coming months, underground passages totaling about a mile (1.6 kilometers) in length will be accessible beneath Jerusalem. The tunnels have become one of the city’s biggest tourist draws and the number of visitors has risen in recent years to more than a million in 2010. The tunnels remain, however, a sensitive political issue. While for Israelis they are proof of the extent of Jewish roots here, for many Palestinians, who reject Israel’s sovereignty in the east Jerusalem, they are a threat to their own claims to the city and represent an exaggerated focus on Jewish history.

The 1996 opening of a new exit to a tunnel underneath the Old City’s Muslim Quarter sparked rumors among Palestinians that Israel meant to damage the mosque compound, and dozens were killed in the ensuing riots. In recent years, however, criticism has been muted and work has largely gone ahead without incident.

Lost Graffiti Of The Templars

Could graffiti left by the Knights Templar in southwestern France be the missing link between the order and the Holy Grail?
The assumption that first-hand evid­ence of the Templars’ mysteries was erased along with the structure of their organisation has been perpetuated by so many books that most researchers, scholars included, entirely ignore the fact that the Templars actually did leave behind some startling indications of their thoughts in the form of stone-carved graffiti in prisons where they were held following the suppression of 1307.

There are Templar graffiti in the dungeon at Warwick Castle in England and at Chinon Castle in France, but by far the strangest and most intriguing examples are to be found at the guardhouse at Domme, in south-western France – traces of the order that have been unaccountably overlooked in the thousands of pages written about the Templars. These wall carvings are as close to first-hand Templar writings are we are ever likely to get, so when the opportunity arose to take a close look at them I seized my camera and sallied forth. Little did I suspect that what I was to find would leave me astonished and engulf most of my spare time in the following months as I became driven by the need to comprehend what the Templars had left behind on the walls of this terrible place.

High on a rock overlooking the green hills of the Acquitaine region of the Dordogne, on the road from Perigeaux to Cahors, is the ancient village of Domme, a gem of sponge cake-coloured buildings and labyrinthine nooks. During the arrest of the French Templars, starting on the infamous morning of 13 October 1307, 70 of their number were taken to the guardhouse, one of the town’s gateways, where they could serve the pleasure of ‘fair’ King Philip IV while awaiting trial in an area no larger than a tennis court.With only four slit windows to admit light from the outside world, the prisoners’ focus was turned inward, and to forms of expression that might, even today, reveal fragments of their psychology: in the cold and uncertain months and years which followed, the Templars carved graffiti into the walls.

My guide explained that, being denied possessions and food other than bread and water, fingernails and even teeth were used to scrape away the sandstone, although stones must also have been employed, as some of the carvings are deeply incised. It is some striking measure of their faith – as well as the anger and despair they felt in this place – that they were able to make these amazing graffiti so vivid and permanent.

The first carvings are found inside the entranceway: a large cross with a forked base, surrounded by four smaller crosses. Known as a Jerusalem or Crusader’s Cross, this emblem was adopted at the time of the First Crusade, and may have been the personal arms of Godfrey of Bouillon, first brief ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The emblem is surrounded by a circle, possibly representing the imprisonment of the Templars. The ‘stickman’ appearance of the large cross with its triangular base is repeated dozens of times all around the lower level of the guardhouse.

On entering the guardhouse, it becomes clear that its walls are filled with carvings, many of them familiar, some less so. My eye is caught by what my guide explains is a representation of the crucified Christ within a square – for the Templars this square was the symbol of the Temple Of Solomon. So far, this interpretation ties in with what is known. The Templars’ headquarters in Jerusalem was at the al-Aqsa Mosque on the south side of the Temple Mount, what they thought of as the Temple of Solomon. The guide continues with words that touch directly on the mystery of these carvings, describing the other symbols as “geometrical signs that may represent the Jewish seven branches of the candelabra called menorah”.

The menorah is one of the oldest symbols of Judaism, with its seven branches representing light, the seven days of Creation and, when lit, the seven planets, or the all-seeing eyes of God. Interpreting one of the strangest of the Templar carvings (I call it the ‘cross symbol’) as a menorah rests entirely on its having seven main branches. Yet these branches do not curve upwards to an equal height, as they should – four are at different heights, two of which are pointing downwards; the diagonal lines at the midway are different. Representationally, it is unlike the menorah, despite its seven ‘arms’ and triangular base. Seth Mandel, a menorah expert, has found no drawings from antiquity or mediæval times, either in Roman or Jewish sources, of the menorah with straight arms.At least one specialist I consulted offered a Cabbalistic interpretation of the tree symbol, but this requires a similar contortion to viewing it as a menorah.Having explored a number of avenues to find the source and meaning of the ‘cross symbol’, and although a precise correlation for it still eludes me, I believe its origins might now be within reach.

In 1097, the first crusader armies arrived at Constantinople. After taking Nicæa from the Seljuk Sultanate, they marched through Anatolia on their way to Jeru­salem. A guide sent from the principality of Armenian Cilicia to the east led Baldwin of Boulogne to the mountains of the Taurus, then to the Marash plain where he joined with the Armenian forces. He continued towards Edessa (modern Sanliurfa), and was adopted by King Thoros. Upon the assassination of Thoros, Baldwin became the new ruler, and the first crusader state was created. In 1215 (nearly a century after the formation of the Knights Templar), an ancient monastery close to Mount Ararat in eastern Armenia was rebuilt and renamed Geghardavank. The name means ‘monastery of the spear’, for it was here that the lance that pierced the side of the crucified Christ was said to have been brought by Thaddeus (also known as Jude the Apostle).

The walls of the shrine are covered with distinctive carvings of crusader crosses. And there are several of the same engraved cross formations that we find at the Templars’ prison at Domme: one large cross with four smaller crosses in each of the four quadrants. It is not difficult to see what fasc­ination the monastery held for crusading knights as the repository of the Holy Spear; the relic was clearly a huge draw, and is still kept in Armenia’s Etchmiadzin Cathedral (for other contenders to the Spear of Dest­iny, see FT70:35–37; 175:48–52).

Looking closely at early Christian sites in Armenia, another startling parallel leapt out from the numerous memorial stones, or khatchkars, that exist in their thousands in monasteries and ancient cemeteries. These carved stones, with their ornate branched crosses, reached a peak between the 12th and 14th centuries. If the khatchkar cross is reduced to its essential form – with the horizontal branches splitting off into two diverging branches, each finished with smaller crosses – it resembles the Domme complex cross emblem. There are, however, crucial differences: the five ‘digits’ of the Domme cross are extra elaborations, which may hint towards more ‘heretical’ inclinations; the director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Professor Youssef Ziedan, emailed me with the opinion that the symbols are “pagan symbols and not Christian”.

Yet having trawled through hundreds of examples of mediæval Christian and Arabic art and symbolism, nothing comes anything like as close to the strange carvings at Domme as these Armenian crosses, inviting the supposition that at least one of the Domme Templars had been to Armenia and taken the khatchkar carvings as a precursor to the, possibly unique, versions at Domme. It could have been during the Templars’ presence in the country in 1298–9 under the orders of the last grandmaster, Jacques de Molay. Perhaps the inscribing Templar had even visited Geghard monastery and been deeply impressed. Situated as it is close to Iran’s northwesterly borders, with Syria to the south, Armenia (the first country to adopt Christianity as its official state relig­ion, in AD 301) appears to be something of an architectural and artistic ‘missing link’ between the advances of mediæval Islamic mathematicians and early Gothic buildings. Mediæval merchants’ and masons’ marks, for instance, also share characteristics with the Domme symbols, some having precisely the same triangular features. And there are mason’s marks from Chartres cathedral with exactly the same characteristics as the central motif of the ‘cross symbol’: a pair of bent horizontal lines linked by a vertical line. Other masons’ marks at Chartres could well derive from the same ‘root shape.’

“The great prevalence of these [masons’] marks, composed of mathematical lines,” wrote Robert Ingham Clegg, “is a strong confirmation of the truth of the opinion entertained by Paley, Lindsay, and many other writers, that the secret of the mediæval Freemasons was the application of the principles of geometry to the art of building.” These marks, I believe, are further clues to the obscure connections between Templars and Cistercian monks who facilitated the Gothic flourishing, and the nameless artisans who realised it using rules of form and structure derived from the Pythagorean and Eastern mystery schools.

THE GRAIL OF THE TEMPLARS curious, octagonal-diamond-triangle emblem resembled nothing I nor any of the dozens of scholars to whom I showed it could find elsewhere, so I eventually went with the official interpretation and looked at Grail representations in the Middle Ages. The chalice held by Melchizedek on the north porch of Chartres cathedral has a good three-dimensional resemblance to the ‘Graal de Domme’. Melchizedek’s chalice contains a stone sphere, an unusual depict­ion echoed in the early grail romance Parzifal by Wolfram von Eschenbach (1170–1220), where the grail is the Lapis Exilis, the stone that fell from Heaven. And who are the guardians of the grail in Parzifal? Wolfram calls them Templeism, an unusual word taken by most to mean the Templars. The octagonal shape found in the Domme ‘stone’ was of special significance to the Templars. It links to certain strictures imposed on them after breaking the rules. Architecturally, the octagon is an ordinary shape for mediæval fonts and church pillars, and also underlies the Jerusalem cross. The intimacy between the Grail and the number eight is encapsulated by the theme of renewal, or resurrection. Might it be that the ‘chevrons’ within the octagon represent the wings of the phœnix, which also appears in Parzifal with the Lapis Exilis: “By virtue of this stone the Phœnix is burned to ashes, in which she is reborn”?

As might be expected, the stone-in-chalice motif has its alchemical tradition. It persists in architecture even down to the watered-down Gothic-revival houses that line England’s suburbs. The banister-ends in many homes, for instance, are topped with identical wooden sculptures. I had always assumed they were eggs in eggcups – but that’s probably a more bizarre idea than them being Holy Grails!

More disturbingly, a graffito at Domme in the niche overlooking the valley depicts Pope Clement V as a serpent being speared by the Archangel Michael. This is clearly an angry satirical swipe at the man who betrayed the Templars, equating the Pope with Satan (or Belial), the ‘old serpent’ and ‘Father of Lies’, throwing his arm aloft as Michael, the most divine of the archangels and commander of the Army of God, is about to defeat him. It might be said that this moment of cosmic drama stems from a fleeting mention in the Book of Revelation (12:7), but considering the importance of Michael in apocryphal documents such as The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, an apocalyptic prophecy and military manual, and other Gnostic and Rabbinic strands with a similar emphasis on Michael/Christ versus Satan, there is the possibility that some of the Domme Templars were influenced by pre-Christian ideas from the Holy Land.

There are other enigmatic motifs to be found at Domme, including a pentagram and several Suns and crescents. A mass of complementary evidence suggests that these relate to the symbolic meanings ascribed to them by the Pythagoreans and Neoplatonists. The Pentagram derived from the proportions of man, and indicated good health. The Sun and Moon were the “guarantors of immortality”. The Pythagorean traditions of numerical and geometric harmonies underlie a family of symbols that, in the developing intellectual centres of Western Europe, were converging with the Christian iconography embraced and espoused by the religio-political establishments of the late mediæval period and culminating in the cloud-piercing summits of Gothic architecture. Pythagoras himself was depicted on French and Spanish cathedrals and illuminated manuscripts. By the 13th and 14th centuries, adherents of the way of truth through enquiry and observ­ation were also indicating themselves via masons’ marks and English church graffiti, a wave of pictographic enthusiasm the likes of which was not seen again until “Kilroy was here” was unleashed across wartime Europe by allied soldiers. One of the very earliest feat­ures of Pythagorean sacred architecture, the oculus, can be found at Royston Cave.

The graffiti at Domme could prove signific­ant in providing extra insight into the members of the Templar order in southern France – it’s almost incredible to find such a place, entirely overlooked by English-language scholarship, and not much better known even in France. The motifs certainly deserve further enquiry (as do the markings at Royston, but for different reasons). A few academics to whom I showed the symbols denied they had any meaning at all, dismissing them as “doodles” or “the idlings of an inmate”. By trying to define a meaning for the symbols, I was, according to one assistant professor, engaged in a hopelessly outmoded way of thinking, since the new wisdom, in art history at least, is that even the word “meaning” requires careful definition. But those who think the symbols are merely doodles perhaps need to be reminded that to the mediæval mind everything was symbolic.

Stepping out of the guardhouse at Domme, I found myself unexpectedly shaken. Few artworks have ever affected me so powerfully; the sense of their presence, and of emotional contact with their creators is incredible – akin to the cave paintings at nearby Lascaux. But at Domme a combin­ation of intense devotion and an angry sense of injustice emanates from the walls like heat, challenging you to walk away without reflecting on how it all came about. There amidst the many carvings and inscript­ions – others include life-size hands, a Nine-Men’s-Morris board, a Madonna and Child, a Eucharist scene, numerous angels and dozens of crosses, with their curious dots and forked bases obsessively repeated – the situation of the Templars at their darkest hour is brought closer to us than anywhere else in the world. In considering these inscriptions, both familiar and mysterious, it’s imposs­ible not to imagine the prisoners scoring over and over their traces, reflecting on and sharing their deeper meanings, gaining knowledge and peace of mind and preparing themselves for the trials they must have known awaited them.

In the passageway around the side of the New Age shop on the main street of Royston in Hertfordshire is a doorway to another world. Step through into a descending tunnel, curving under the central crossroads of this mediæval market town, and you reach a cave unlike any other. The passage through which you have arrived is not the original entrance – that would have been by way of an old shaft, a vertiginous climb down footholds cut from the solid chalk.

Looking around the walls of this bell-shaped chamber, dozens of relief-carved figures are apparent, some of them arranged in groups or scenes. A few are easily discernible as Christian icons: crucifixions, St Christopher, St Katherine. Others are more contentious, and their ambiguity leaves a space of uncertainty into which some have allowed the Knights Templar to plant their flag. Indeed, so successful has the ‘Templarisation’ of Royston become (see also FT193:28–30) that the local museum endorses the view that the cave was a place where they gathered in secret after their suppression.

Scholars tread more caut­iously. Dr Helen Nicolson, a Crusades expert and author of several books on the Templars, tells me that, since the Royston carvings show a knight in full armour (a feature I am unable to make out, I have to say), they must have been made at least a century after the Templars were dissolved. She reminded me of the theory that the cave was used as a hermit’s cell in the late 14th or 15th century, and that this hermit made the carvings, but admitted her own preference for the idea that the carvings “were made by Catholics in the 16th century in the time of Edward VI or Queen Elizabeth, or in the 17th century, when Catholicism had been outlawed and Catholics had to meet in secret.”

Where does this leave the Knight Templars in Royston? Is the Templar theory for the carvings at Royston Cave just another example of how these knights inexor­ably gravitate towards any mystery and are consequently embraced by those – like the present guardians of the cave – who welcome the extra tourists?

The cave was discovered by accident in 1742. Initially thought to contain treasure, it was rapidly cleared of debris, revealing a chamber almost 8m high and 5m in diameter. Intrepid visitors entered via ladd­ers, until in 1790 an enterprising bricklayer cut the 22m (70ft) tunnel and charged visitors sixpence to see the cave.

The first intensive academic study of the carvings was published in 1884 by Joseph Beldam, who assigned a pre-Christian or Roman origin for the cave and concluded that the carvings were made during the Crusades, when it was converted into a Christian oratory with a hermitage “probably attached”. No mention of Templars was made for almost another century, not until Sylvia Beamont suggested that the local knights were farmers and artis­ans, not fighters, and that they used the cave to store perishable foods and as an overnight lodging during market days. The lower part of the cave, she thought, could have been a chapel, poss­ibly used for initiations.Peter Houldcroft, who for many years guided visitors around the cave, went further in supposing the cave’s purpose was entirely ritualistic, coming up with a raised star-shaped platform on which the Templars performed their secret rites.Houldcroft’s notion of the platform derived from post-holes found in the floor and possible beam-holes on the walls, a disputed but interesting theory. Philip Coppens pushes the boundaries even further with his ‘sacred landscape’ argument, making Royston “the only fully-developed geomantic site in Britain, situated at the intersection of two straight roads orientated to the cardinal direct­ions”, a pagan origin reclaimed as a ‘creation myth’ by the later Christian imagery.Where esoteric matters are concerned, there are indeed no coincidences, yet this may be too close to a Foucault’s Pendulum-like master­plan for comfort. But who knows?

What most persuades this observer that the graffiti are linked to the Templars is the presence of the two figures being burned on woodpiles. One of them is beside a large St Christopher, an important Templar saint, the other, more memorable, one leads two rows of 31 figures (also heretics?) and wears a crown or mitre. The figure’s high status indicates that it could even be Jacques de Molay, the last Templar Grand Master. Tangentially, another figure with upraised arms is said to be King David rising from water, closely reflected in a 13th-century illuminated manuscript in Trinity College, Cambridge, library illustrating Psalm 69. Freemasons sympathetic to the Templar origins of their society might consider recognising this as one source for the Masonic Sign of Distress with its upraised arms.

Twelve metres above the floor, an oculus (“eye” or round opening) offers a glimpse of sky. This feature most strongly attests to the cave’s origins. Now that it is beyond question that Pythagoreans, mystic-scientists known for at least 500 years before Christ, met in secret, sometimes in the kind of underground temple discovered under Porta Maggiore in Rome, where the roof would have required an oculus for illuminating the living symbols of the sun (Apollo), light, the circle – the first causes of the Pythagorean perspective from which all else stems: number, harmony, geo­metry, music, the spheres and everything on them. Hadrian, one of the more inquisitive emperors, had Pythagoras’s mathematical discoveries expressed within the Pantheon, one of the great ventures into the relationship between the sphere and the cube. This is Pythagoreanism at its most glorious and showy; the religion is essentially practised and disseminated under varying conditions of secrecy. Royston’s echo of Pythagorean rules keeps to the basic essentials for a shrine. It is underground, has an oculus, and an entrance that expresses the tenets of “descending to the divine”, making it difficult to estimate one’s orientation to the surface. Thus the Pythagorean learns that by going underground you find the light.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pope to the young "apostles of the 21st century" Benedict presided over the World Youth Day closing Mass in Madrid’s Cuatro Vientos military airport Sunday morning, inviting the young people to be “the apostles of the twenty-first century” and to join him again for the next World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2013. Emer McCarthy is in Madrid and sends this report:  “You are now about to go back home. Your friends will want to know how you have changed after being in this lovely city with the Pope and with hundreds of thousands of other young people from around the world. What are you going to tell them? I invite you to give a bold witness of Christian living to them. In this way you will give birth to new Christians and will help the Church grow strongly in the hearts of many others”. This was Pope Benedict XVI’s mandate to the estimated 2 million young people – the ‘disciples of the new evangelization - who had braved a stormy night at Cuatro Vientos aiport and were impatient to hear the Holy Father’s words.

The tent city had withstood the battering winds and driving rains that cut short Saturday’s prayer vigil but the young people, though tired, still had enough energy reserves to welcome Pope Benedict enthusiastically as the Pope mobile entered the vast military compound, for the closing Mass of this 26th World Youth Day. His first words to them after a welcoming address by the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Ruoco Varela, were “I hope you were able to sleep a little last night”, to the young people’s applause. Then with the procession of bishops and priests to the sweeping white stage, upon which a simple altar was shaded by the outstretched branches of an artificial golden tree, the closing ceremony of this week of prayer, song, meditation and encounter begun.
“We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others.” Pope Benedict told them in his homily. “So do not keep Christ to yourselves!”. The entire homily was drawn from the Sunday Gospel, Mathew 16, from Christ’s question to the apostles: “But who do you say that I am?”. “Faith is more than just empirical or historical facts; it is an ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all its depth”, he said. And then looking out on the horizon of young men and women, religious and lay, that extended before his gaze, the Pope said to them , “today Christ is asking you the same question”. “Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own”.
Then Pope Benedict spoke of how faith in Christ cannot be separated from his Church: “The Church… is not simply a human institution, like any other. Rather, she is closely joined to God. Christ himself speaks of her as “his” Church. Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12). The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord”. And following Jesus in faith means participation in the communion of the Church. “We cannot follow Jesus on our own”, he told the young people. “Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus”.

Pope Benedict appealed to the young people to love and care for the Church, by recognizing how important their participation in the life of parishes, communities and movements in their local realities is. He spoke of the celebration of Sunday Mass and the need we all have to frequent the sacrament of Reconciliation.
“Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear witness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference” he observed. “The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God. You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God”.
His homily was followed by a profound silence that echoed around the arena, and as a gentle breeze lifted the flags of the nations of the world the intercessory prayers were read: The first prayer in Italian, for the Church; the second prayer for the Pope, read in Chinese; the third prayer, in Arabic, is for all young people who don´t know Christ; the fourth prayer, in Polish, for the poor of this earth; the fifth prayer, read in German, for all the young people gathered at the Mass.
Then as the choir sang 'Antigua Eterna Danza', the liturgy of the Eucharist began. It was the moment that millions of young people had saved, worked and prayed for. However during Saturday’s storm some makeshift chapels set up on the field's perimeter were also damaged, forcing organizers to announce Sunday morning over loudspeakers that not everyone would be able to receive Communion during the Mass. 
Nonetheless the pilgrims took this news with the same calm and good nature with which they have conquered the hearts of Madrid residents. Pope Benedict gave communion to a selection of pilgrims to the notes of 'Here I am Lord'. While beneath the altar 2 million young people dropped to their knees in prayer. A very different wind was blowing Sunday morning across Cuatro Vientos.
Pilgrims then raised the crosses that had been placed in each backpack for the Apostolic Benediction. But the Pope’s thoughts and prayers went well beyond the Madrid airport and those immediately present: “During these days, how often I have thought of the young people at home who are waiting for your return!” , he said to them during his address before the midday Angelus. “Take my affectionate greetings to them, to those less fortunate, to your families and to the Christian communities that you come from”.
And then the party really began as Pope Benedict officially announced that the next World Youth Day will be held in 2013, in Rio de Janeiro. “Before we say good-bye, - he said - and while the young people of Spain pass on the World Youth Day cross to the young people of Brazil, as Successor of Peter I entrust all of you present with this task: make the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ known to the whole world! He wants you to be the apostles of the twenty-first century and the messengers of his joy. Do not let him down! 

History of "Rio de Janeiro"
Europeans first encounter Guanabara Bay on January 1, 1502 (hence Rio de Janeiro, "January River"), by a Portuguese expedition under explorer Gaspar de Lemos captain of a ship in Pedro Álvares Cabral's fleet, or under Gonçalo Coelho. Allegedly the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci participated as observer at the invitation of King Manuel I in the same expedition. The region of Rio was inhabited by the Tupi, Puri, Botocudo and Maxakalí peoples.

In 1555, one of the islands of Guanabara Bay, now called Villegagnon Island, was occupied by 500 French colonists under the French admiral Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon. Consequently, Villegagnon built Fort Coligny on the island when attempting to establish the France Antarctique colony.

The city of Rio de Janeiro proper was founded by the Portuguese on March 1, 1565 and was named São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, in honor of St. Sebastian, the saint who was the namesake and patron of the then Portuguese Monarch D. Sebastião. Rio de Janeiro was the name of Guanabara Bay. Until early in the 18th century, the city was threatened or invaded by several, mostly French, pirates and buccaneers, such as Jean-François Duclerc and René Duguay-Trouin.

In the late 17th century, still during the Sugar Era, the Bandeirantes found gold and diamonds in the neighboring captaincy of Minas Gerais, thus Rio de Janeiro became a much more practical port for exporting wealth (gold, precious stones, besides the sugar) than Salvador, Bahia, which is much farther to the northeast. And so in 1763, the colonial administration in Portuguese America was moved from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro. The city remained primarily a colonial capital until 1808, when the Portuguese royal family and most of the associated Lisbon nobles, fleeing from Napoleon's invasion of Portugal, moved to Rio de Janeiro. The kingdom's capital was transferred to the city, which, thus, became the only European capital outside of Europe. As there was no physical space or urban structure to accommodate hundreds of noblemen who arrived suddenly, many inhabitants were simply evicted from their homes. There was a large influx of African slaves to Rio de Janeiro: in 1819, there were 145,000 slaves in the captaincy. In 1840, the number of slaves reached 220,000 people.

When Prince Pedro I proclaimed the independence of Brazil in 1822, he decided to keep Rio de Janeiro as the capital of his new empire. Rio continued as the capital of Brazil after 1889, when the monarchy was replaced by a republic. Until the early years of the 20th century, the city was largely limited to the neighborhood now known as the historic Downtown business district (see below), on the mouth of Guanabara Bay. The city's center of gravity began to shift south and west to the so-called Zona Sul (South Zone) in the early part of the 20th century, when the first tunnel was built under the mountains located between Botafogo and the neighborhood now known as Copacabana. Expansion of the city to the north and south was facilitated by the consolidation and electrification of Rio's streetcar transit system after 1905. Botafogo's natural beauty, combined with the fame of the Copacabana Palace Hotel, the luxury hotel of the Americas in the 1930s, helped Rio to gain the reputation it still holds today as a beach party town (though, this reputation has been somewhat tarnished in recent years by favela violence resulting from the narcotics trade). Plans for moving the nation's capital city to the territorial centre had been occasionally discussed, and when Juscelino Kubitschek was elected president in 1955, it was partially on the strength of promises to build a new capital.[24] Though many thought that it was just campaign rhetoric, Kubitschek managed to have Brasília built, at great cost, by 1960. On April 21 that year the capital of Brazil was officially moved from Rio de Janeiro to Brasília.

Between 1960 and 1975 Rio was a city-state under the name State of Guanabara (after the bay it borders). However, for administrative and political reasons, a presidential decree known as "The Fusion" removed the city's federative status and merged it with the State of Rio de Janeiro, the territory surrounding the city whose capital was Niterói, in 1975. Even today, some Cariocas advocate the return of municipal autonomy.

The city hosted the 2007 Pan American Games and will host the 2014 FIFA World Cup final. It was announced on October 2, 2009, that Rio would host the 2016 Olympic Games, beating the finalist competitors Chicago, Tokyo, and Madrid. The city will become the first South American city to host the event and the second Latin American city (after Mexico City in 1968) to host the Games.