The Black Madonna of



After extensive visits to Sant Miquel de Cuixà and Sant Pere de Rodes, we have finally arrived at Santa Maria de Montserrat, the third monastery of our quest and the holiest place of them all. It is revered in Catalonia because its Black Madonna has rewarded the faithful with so many miracles. We shall see that her powers extend to us as well when she hands us the third piece of the broken Magic Sword and confirms the symbolism of Chrétien and Wolfram in grail romance. We owe it to the guidance of the historian Jeroni Pujades that the legends of Montserrat complete our search for the Christian elements of the grail mystery. Although he never mentions the Holy Grail in his Crónica, an esoteric time-capsule and hints like griphos, copas de argento, and horns of the unicorn make it clear he was familiar with secret traditions, but could not admit it openly because of the 'heretic' aspects. Yet during each step of our discovery process, he leads us to the right solution which reveals his initiation.

       We discovered two Latin chronicles at the first monasteries that mention events, which were forged by erudite churchmen in the Middle Ages. With the guidance of Pujades we are about to take the same approach with the legends of this monastery about the 9th century and many familiar themes: Celestial lights after sunset, a virgin and child, hermits in caves, and another rape!  In a surprising twist of the chronicle from Cuixà the daughter of Guifré el Pilós gets raped this time – and at Montserrat of all places! The culprit is allegedly Joan Gari, a pious hermit and exorcist, who is possessed by the devil after a long life of chasticity and cuts the throat of his victim afterwards. He is punished by the pope to get even shaggier than the shaggy count, a strange reversal which implies that a rape was attached to Guifré's name and "removed" to far-away Flanders. The sword fight of Parzival comes to mind, against the protector of the girl he raped in his first adventure. It is a bloody battle against hundreds of dragons that rise like red flashes of lightening from the armor and helmet of Orilus like a modern light show. We remember Parzival's mother and her cosmic daydream, her sterneblic, where a dragon announces his birth and the wise hermit tells Parzival later he was that dragon! This turns out to be quite a challenge for him – and for us! The coat of arms of Guifré el Pilós shows a dragon on his helmet  – but does it mean that Parzival fought against himself?_

        What complicates this cosmic scenario are the two hermits, in the grail poems and at Montserrat, and that its legendary origins match the timing of the 854-year planetary cycles we developed with Kepler's help. Let's see how Jeroni Pujades, a contemporary of Kepler and Shakespeare, unfolds this magical mystery about good and evil. He outlines his concept in the prologue of the Crónica by advising his readers "to pick the rose and leave the thorns behind" [1]. When he introduces Montserrat like a poet, he compares it with Mount Tabor in Galilee and other sacred mountains that stand alone in isolation from other mountains. In the same way a golden ring encloses an emerald, ruby or diamond to capture their beauty, the precious stone that brightens and adorns Catalonia is Montserrat which encases the sacred image of the Black Madonna – as depicted at right. (We admit that it was not easy to push rudely past tearful ladies to take her picture in 2007 because she is on a narrow stairway and behind glass!) 

            Pujades dedicates an entire chapter to the "Coronica General" of the Benedictine order [2] which celebrates the sacred mountain, the small towns around it and the red Llobregat river below its Eastern slopes. There are thousands of wild flowers, herbs and trees that make the mountain a spectacular garden (grandioso jardin) with many springs, brooks and streams. Although most dry up in the summer, there are caves where rushing water is heard from deep below. Pujades mentions that some rocks on the mountain are  very hard, like white jasper, and suggests that those "who understand this" get a sense of well being when working with them.

Before we study his rhetorical attacks of Church history some visitors of our site may wonder why we should waste our time with cave legends from the 9th century? Among other reasons, we might find out why there were hundreds of Black Madonnas in European churches, of which most have been destroyed! Although this could provide valuable information for our grail studies, there is another dramatic reason: A mystic experience of St Ignatius de Loyola in Montserrat led to the foundation of the Jesuits, the "Society of Jesus" [3]. He had spent a night vigil before the Black Madonna in March 1522, then laid down his sword and dagger before her and chose the seclusion of a cave for several months. We will offer substantial evidence below that he discovered the secret of Montserrat and decided to protect it by exchanging his dagger for a poisoned pen! In fact, everything about Monstserrat is not in the hand-writing of Pujades and may have been inserted by a Jesuit, which we hope to check in the 2020s.

But first, here is an irreverent report for "armchair travelers" by Richard Ford as a tune-up for things to come. This adventurous Brit and Oxford graduate rode up to the Black Madonna on horseback in the 1830s, when slavery was still practiced in the USA and after the monastery had been sacked and destroyed by Napoleon's army (1809-1811). The London Times declared upon its publication in 1845: ¨So great a literary achievement has never before been performed under so humble a title¨. We should add that we owe much to the efforts of Google, which offers digital versions of the Crónica and Ford's Handbook for Travelers in Spain [4]. Here are a few excerpts from his entertaining report:

."..the Convent, the cradle of Jesuitism, is now laid in ruin; more so indeed than the evil spirit hatched in that den. The extraordinary mountain is called Monserrat, quasi "Mons Serratus," and it is, indeed, jagged as a saw.... It rises an isolated grey mass, chiefly of pudding-stone, being some 8 L in circumference. The pinnacles range about 3800 feet high. The outline is most fantastic...

Visit without fail the parish church which is handsome with a good tower. In it is the miraculous image of the Virgin recently brought down from her `high place' having been for nearly 1000 years the Palladium of Montserrat. Volumes have been written on this graven image and the miracles it has worked... The image was made by St. Luke and brought to Barcelona in the year 50 by St. Peter. In 712 the pious Goths hid it away from the invading Moors in the hill where it remained until 880 when some shepherds were attracted to the spot by heavenly lights and singing angels; thereupon the bishop of Vique came in person and being guided by a sweet smell found the image in a cave but it refused to be moved; whereupon a small chapel was built on the spot, in which it remained for 160 years..

It is rudely carved out of dark wood and holds the child on its lap. `None however' says the Compendio (p.28) ‘can dare look at it long' and the monks in dressing and undressing it always avert their eyes... The grand miracle was the most ancient of all, but this is usual, for in proportion as the people were ignorant, grosser cheats were palmed upon them by the cunning monks...  

Towards the end of the ninth century the devil entered the body of Riquilda, daughter of Wifred `el velloso' (i.e. Wilfred the Hairy or Guifré el Pilós) so the father sent her to Juan Guarin, the hermit of the Virgin's cave, who was renowned for expelling the Evil One. The temptation was too great; and in one moment the exorciser cancelled a chasticity of a century's duration. The dread of discovery of his first crime led to the perpetration of a second, and he next cut the throat of the violated victim, and fled to Rome. There the pope ordered him to go back on all fours, and never to look up until pardoned by Heaven. Juan became... a grazing monk, until the hair on his body grew thicker than even on the shaggy count's sole. He then lost the use of speech, and became altogether an orang outang.

At last Wifred, when out hunting, caught him, and transported him into a zoological den, where he remained the full term of seven years, when a voice from heaven told him to look up; he did so, and, as in a fairy tale, at once recovered his human form and senses and became again a saint; thus in the poetical mythology of the ancients the cup of Circe i.e. brutal sensuality converted man into beast. Guarin now led the count to the mountain, where Riquilda re-appeared alive, with only a red rim on her throat, which, according to Villafane, (p.357), was like a necklace `de grana' and rather becoming than otherwise. Some Catalan theologians contend that her virginity was miraculously restored, which, if true, is the only instance even in Spanish legends... at all events she became the first abbess of the convent. Other historians are satisfied that Juan also was innocent, and that the devil, who had assumed his form, was deceived by an imaginary Riquilda, which the image of the Virgin had made out of a cloud just as Ixion was deceived by a nebulous Juno..."   

       The ghastly details of the legend, as assembled by Ford, are still preserved in the guide books of the monastery, which claim that the Black Madonna was discovered first and the girl raped and murdered later. It also looks like the "cunning monks" palmed upon Ford a rudely-carved madonna. The real one was hidden in Barcelona during the wars with France from the 17th to the 19th century and it is no wonder the monks averted their eyes! As we see above she has some true grace and beauty, and her clothes are painted on. Unless, of course, there was a tradition the shepherds had seen her naked in the cave and clothes had to be added in the Victorian era, and were later replaced with paint. This zeitgeist would explain why Ford refrained from pointing out the phallic symbolism of the tall, round pinnacles that rise above Montserrat as shown at left. When this writer's American wife saw them for the first time, and heard about the rape, she felt sorry for the poor monks up there who must have had "a hard time" controlling their sex drive! She made a joke, but we can show that the legend of the horny hermit connects to Taüll and Erill la Vall near Urgell, and to the medieval chronicle Gesta comitum Barcinonensium [5], which would identify it as another source of grail romance: 

1. Guifré el Pilós was Count of Barcelona and is a major figure in the Montserrat legends – his vita in the Gesta appears to have been Chrétien's source for Perceval.

2. A rape is claimed at Montserrat, another attributed to Guifré in Flanders according to the Gesta – and to Perceval in the poems of Chrétien and Wolfram, the main creators of grail romance. 

3. A hermit is featured at Montserrat – who is a main character in the poems, although Chrétien localizes him in a chapel and Wolfram puts him back into his cave. 

 4. The name Guifré "el Pilós" identifies him as a shaggy count – which is not used in Grail romance, but the rapist turns even shaggier than the count in the Montserrat legends!   

         The picture at the end of this paragraph was taken from the aerial tram to the monastery on April 26, 2018, to show the chapel at the cave where the Black Madonna was originally found. The weather was ideal that day to localize the legends, but our pictures give a false impression because the mountain is usually wrapped in clouds or covered by haze in the summer. At left is a sample of our first attempt, taken from Monistrol on April 13, to illustrate this point, and even more... It is the official position of the churchmen that the legends are distributed over several caves, which is important for Christians who believe in these miracles. But it is strange that a monastic chronicle would feature the rape and murder of a virgin – not that this didn't happen – which could be another reason why the monks avert their eyes. They may have been "under orders" to protect the Count of Barcelona or to stifle rumors about an immaculate conception. Either way, it's great stuff for conspiracy theorists!

          But before we return to Pujades, who will clear this up, we should point out that the first collective analysis of medieval history started in the early 17th century. In a strange competition, two religious groups copied the working style of Pujades and visited every monastery in Europe to compile documents for their version of an Acta Sanctorum. They were the Bollandists, Belgian Jesuits under Bolland (d.1665) and the Maurists, reformed Benedictines in Paris under Mabillon (d.1707). Zimmermann writes that both groups "remain leading in medieval research" because of their vast resources [6], which makes it difficult for independent historians to question their findings. We can only speculate why these projects were launched, but Bollandists showed up in Paris right after archbishop Pierre de Marca had died and went on to Rouen where the Crónica of Pujades was seen last, which is difficult to dismiss as a coincidence! Did they try to eliminate the works of Pujades because he revealed many Church secrets in the first part of the Crónica, published in 1609? Or did they respond to a plot hatched at the abbey St-Germain-des-Prés which made Etienne Baluze slander him "pujadesii inscitia notadur"? All we know is that the research of Pujades was opposed until the end of his life and that he had "mortal enemies," which may have prevented him from getting the second and third part of his work published. The manuscripts were allegedly taken by bishop Pierre de Marca "by force of arms" from his widow and could have disappeared in the Vatican Archives. But they ended up, thanks to the "Gallicanism" of Louis XIV, at the Bibliothèque Royale in Paris which is now the Nationale where scholars can consult them today. Nevertheless, they remained unpublished for two centuries, until 1829-32, which would have given the churchmen enough time to eliminate documents that would support his findings.

Which is the real hermit's cave?

       Ford's abbreviated account complies largely with the popular legends, but Pujades takes a different approach as a historian and legal expert, because he had doctorates in civil and canon law and taught a few years at the University of Barcelona. He begins with a critical comparison of opposing claims by Antonio de Yepes, a chronicler of the Benedictine order and Francisco Diago, a Dominicans historian and inquisitor. As evidence, Pujades introduces the chronicle of Montserrat, un libro antiquisimo escrito de mano en pergamino (a very ancient book, written by hand on vellum) that was kept at the monastery. Although some pages were mounted on wooden panels and displayed at its cloister, he has access to some missing pages at the residence of the ancient counts in Barcelona (p.369) which disprove a historical consensus: It was not Guifré el Pilós, but his father Sunifred of Urgell who took Montserrat back from the Moors and donated it to the convent Sta Maria de Ripoll. This is a controversial claim Pujades will save for the "badly informed" Antonio de Yepes [7] who didn't even know where the residence of the counts was located! Based on his advice in the prologue that we should "pick the rose and leave the thorns behind," Pujades is suggesting that the truth can only be found if we dismiss certain "thorny" claims by the churchmen.

      We have to keep in mind that Pujades worked in the early 17th century and had to use a complex, Baroque rhetoric to mislead the censure, which we examine in detail in The Pujades Affair.  However, we would need the support of an erudite Spanish jurist with classical skills to do his sophisticated rhetoric some justice, but there is enough stuff for "history detectives" like us to enjoy his passionate, religious outbursts that contrast the legal arguments of the academic consensus. Because the Spanish Inquisition was still active, he had the wisdom to enrich his most ambiguous statements with satire, which devout Christians and liberal humanists would interpret differently. Pujades offers substantially more detail than Richard Ford and he suggests that a reversal of the cave legends would make sense:

      As if it were some kind of passion play about good and evil, he introduces two anchorites in nearby caves of whom one gets possessed and tries to corrupt the other. The story begins when the devil possesses the daughter of Guifré el Pilós and the count takes her personally to the exorcist, whose name is Fr Joan Gari in Catalan. When he learns that the excorcism takes nine days he decides to wait in Monistrol and sends servants up the mountain with food for his daughter and the hermit.

          But after a few days, Gari is overcome by desire for the beautiful virgin and admits it to his "brother" in a nearby cave (whom Yepes omits) without realizing that the devil has taken his form and supports his carnal desire. Gari can resist the temptation during the exorcism and is able to heal the girl, but then gets possessed himself and violates her. When he is overcome by guilt and regrets, the ¨brother¨ exploits his weakness and makes him cut her throat and bury her at the cave. After nine days of waiting, the count climbs up to the cave and can neither find his daughter nor the hermit, because the repentant rapist is already on his way to the pope in Rome. The picture below shows that Monistrol is no longer a little village, but a small town on a major highway and nestled into the Montserrat mountain.   

 Back to the legend, where seven long years have allegedly passed when count Guifré is hunting in these mountains and his dogs start barking near a cave. He has his men climb up and they manage to catch a wild beast, the "grazing monk," tie a cord around his neck and lead him away like a sacrificial lamb [8]. This symbolism is the first hint that the hermit may be innocent, which Pujades expands at the end of the chapter. In the Barcelona edition, vol. VI, the chapter ends on p. 376, with Gari's punishment in Rome and that he had lived "incognito" at the residence of the count, but not like a beast in a stable as other historians have claimed, which we'll address later.

As if the cave stories are connected, the next chapter begins on p. 377 with the young shepherds climbing up the mountain to round up stray animals. After sunset, "they see lights descending from heaven, like candles of great brightness... and hear angelic voices and music from the cave..."

It is a curious fact that the legend does not mention what's inside the cave, only the sweet smells, magical lights and music, and that the boys keep singing a song when they return to Monistrol. Their parents ask them where they learned the song and their amazing tale makes the rounds of the village. Those who disbelieve it are taken by the boys to the cave on the next Saturday and witness the same miracle. The local priest hears about it and consults with the bishop of Manresa, which is about eight miles away. The bishop sends the priest with some "caballeros" up the mountain to check what is going on. They witness the same enchanting scene until midnight, and those who are below the cave notice sweet fragrances that accompany the lights and music. A few men stay until morning, as planned, and climb up to the cave to find a woman and child inside.

But, according to the legend, the miraculous signs came from a wooden statue of St Mary with little Jesus in her lap. Pujades uses the flowery Castilian style to describe it, which seems to be a rhetorical tool to pacify the Inquisitors who need to endorse every publication, but it also signals Catalan readers that he is exploiting the Spanish language. For example, when devout Catalans might simply state "the statue depicts St Mary," Pujades celebrates her in Castilian as "la purísima virgin santa Maria, flor de las flores, inmaculada y ascogida paloma, agraciada doncella, emperatriz de los ángeles y Señora nuestra."  When Catalans would say "the little child in her lap is about three or four months old," Pujades exclaims instead: "Está sentada in magestat, y en su regazo tiene la figura de su benditísimo hijo Cristo nuestro Señor asendadito, del tamaño de un infantico de tres á quatro meses."  He then adds casually that her face is "rather dark" (el rostro algo moreno) and that "the child has the color of his mother" (del propio color de su madre).

After describing the discovery of the Black Madonna, Pujades fuses the legends in the next chapter (p. 381) by first quoting from other historians that "while the above occurred in Montserrat, the saint Fr. Juan Garin (Joan Gari) who had lived there as an hermit, was held by Wifredo el velloso (Guifré el Pilós) like a savage." Ford mentions only a "voice from heaven," but Pujades elaborates: The count invites the nobles and knights to a "grande fiesta" at his residence in Barcelona to celebrate the baptism of his son. Some guests drag the wild beast to the banquet hall to entertain the others and it takes cover under a table with the dogs. But when they throw bones to it, the little baby who is only "three months old and in the arms of a nurse" looks at the savage and for all to hear begins to speak:

Alsat Fr Joan Gari,  
que Deu te ha perdonat tos pecats.

"Rise brother Joan Gari, because God has forgiven your sins!" in English, which is apparently such an important highlight in his Crónica that Pujades replaces Spanish with Catalan (p. 382). Because a divine miracle allows the child to speak, the count forgives as well and is blessed with an even greater reward: the hermit recovers his human form and takes the count to the cave where he had buried Richildis, and she is found alive and becomes the first abbess of Montserrat. It is a curious fact, however, that Pujades depicts the child in the arms of a nurse at the banquet, as if his mother was absent – which is another hint that the legends are connected. He supports this with descriptions of the child in the arms of the Black Madonna as "three or four months old" (p. 379), of the above child in the arms of a nurse as "three months old," and later as "four to five months old" (p. 385). This could easily lead us to wrong conclusions: In the poem of Chrétien, Perceval rapes a young lady who is fused symbolically by her tears with the tears of Blanchefleur, the woman he falls in love with, and later marries according to Wolfram. Hence, Guifré could have raped a girl in the mountains while out hunting and then forced the hermit to take the blame. And after the miracle at the baptism, the count took the name "el Pilós" as penance for his sin. This would explain why the matter was removed to far-away Flanders – and that a redactor at Cuixà was ordered to please the counts of Barcelona by creating a cover-up with the Gesta. But because too many rumors were still circulating, the editor used ambiguities in the first edition which were removed a hundred years later by a redactor in Ripoll for the final edition. Although Pujades enhances the "miracles" with outbursts of religious exaltation that are borderline Cervantes, there seems to be no direct reference to grail romance although it has often been connected to Montserrat. But some of his readers would have noticed how Pujades had it set up with Sunifred of Urgell (p. 263): According to the Gesta, the count has to take his infant son Guifré to Charles the Bald, king of the Franks, to defend some accusations but is murdered on the way to the court. The accusations are not explained, but they could either relate to Sunifred's role during the rebellions against Musa ibn Musa or to the above events at Montserrat! Although Pujades never mentions the grail verbatim, he offers an interesting metaphor in the context which would explain why Chrétien writes that he was obliged to correct a false story with the "meilleur conte":


Kings inform themselves rarely of the truth by drinking the clear

waters at the source, but usually after they pass through

conduits that are not always clean, but obscured,

polluted and corrupted, and served in vessels

 that are neither jars from Portugal, nor

porcelain from India or a horn

of the Unicorn...


       Our study raises many questions about these widespread "corruptions"! Why would two Benedictine scholars (Vic and Vaissette) insist that Guifré was born around 840 CE? Did they work "under orders" to secure the official chronology of the Montserrat legends? And why hasn't Abadal dared to challenge their authority? Although this date is accepted by scholars and the Wikipedias, no one seems to recognize its importance. This creates the impression that instead of illuminating manuscripts, modern monks "enhance" the internet today – with the Vatican's version of the truth!

             None of these virtual encyclopedias mention that before the Bollandists and Maurists "edited" medieval documents, the Dominican historian Francisco Diago had proposed in 1603 that "Vuifredo, llamado el velloso" (Guifré) was ten in 858 CE, when his father was killed [10]. Pujades sides with him in a careful rhetoric, and concedes that Guifré's father may have been killed in 858, although other chronists claim 854. He goes on to propose that the boy was only six at his father's death to conclude that Guifré was born in 852 "more or less," and "eighteen or nineteen" in 870, which could connect his birth to the planetary hexagram of 849 CE as we discovered thanks to Kepler. The most recent research proposes that Sunifred was killed by William, the son of Dhuoda and Bernard in 848. This would confirm Diago's opinion that Guifré could have been ten in 858 if we consider that Wolfram has Parzival born after the death of his father. This would correct Chrétien and the Gesta, where he is described as about six years old. In this and other contexts, Pujades refers to the "four-year-error" of the Church to add his own calculations because the discussion of Biblical chronology was very much en vogue at the time as we can see in the Latin tracts of Baronio, Scaliger, Kepler, et al.

           According to Pujades (citing Baronio), Abderramen II, the Moorish emir of Cordoba, began a cruel persecution of the Christians in Spain when they re-established image worship in 851 or 852 (i.e. ten years after Rome). Pujades emphasizes that Guifré's father "did not venerate the holy images" [11] and places the discovery of the Black Madonna between the rape of Richildis and capture of the shaggy hermit. He is apparently reminding his readers to "pick the rose" and consider that the legends are connected. Hence, if the rape came first and a Black Madonna was discovered later, there is but one logical conclusion:  

The boys did not see a statue, 
but a real mother and child!

        However, we need to address that instead of the usual nine months, the legends are separated by seven long years! So far, we only have the survival of the victim to support our conjecture. According to the official guide book the current Madonna is painted in black and was carved in the "late 12th century" – three centuries after the legends! According to the symbolism of Chrétien's Magic Sword, this coincides with the "Peace of Venice" (1177) when the truth had allegedly been "covered up" [12]. It could explain why there are no records when Sta Cecilia and Sta Maria were built. There are local traditions that the former was founded by the Visigoths before 700 CE and the latter donated to Ripoll in 888, but these are speculations. The original documents could have been lost in the fire of Ripoll in 1835, unless they had been removed after 1177. This happens to be the period when Chrétien presented his poem, when the fake Madonna was being carved and the Gesta started at Sant Miquel de Cuixà, which may have included the separation of the cave legends by seven years and transfer of the rape to far-away Flanders. 

       We have shown in The Pujades Affair how the historian applied his rhetorical skills to embed an esoteric "time capsule" in his Crónica with the support of his enlightened editors. They point out that we must understand the difficult period in which the "wise" and "indefatigable chronicler" had to do his work and praise his "genius, subtleness and erudition." Only a Spanish speaking legal expert would be able to sort out his rhetorical concept, but Pujades has seeded sufficient doubts that imply the legends were revised by the churchmen and assigned to different caves. He concludes the controversy in the chapter "Ascertainment of certain difficulties of abbot Antonio de Yepes with the history of brother Joan Gari" (p. 384) by accusing the "badly informed" abbot of having the cave legends in the wrong order and for admitting that much is uncertain about them. The exception, according to the abbot, is the story of the hermit because some testimonials are reliable, including those about his life on the mountain as a saint, his punishment by the pope, the completion of his penance, and his capture by the count's hunters. In other words, Yepes is insisting that the hermit really existed, which would also mean the seven years of penance are not a legend!

       Because Yepes is a Spaniard, Pujades accuses foreigners like him of persecuting the historians of Catalonia, and then entertains his readers with an old song: "There is no good historian who doesn't attack with his lance even if he gets hurt" because "there is only one truth and historians don't have the authority of the Book of Daniel." He goes on to show that the legend of the hermit's penance plagiarizes Daniel 4:28-34 where King Nebuchadnezzar is punished to live with the animals and eat grass like cattle as his hair keeps growing... and after living seven years raises his eyes toward heaven and his sanity is restored. After having removed seven years from the hermit's legend, Pujades takes on "the new and unique idea" of Francisco Diago that the discovery of the Black Madonna was either in the era of "Wifredo primero" (Sunifred of Urgell) or at least before the Moors entered Catalonia in around 873. The sarcastic praise gives Pujades an excuse to blame Diago for defending a Latin document of Count Berenguer of Barcelona from 1024 CE [13]. He disagrees with Diago in a reversed rhetoric, because if Guifré el Pilós had donated the mountain of Montserrat to Ripoll, including the abbey Sta Cecilia and other churches after he had expelled the Moors in 873, the chapel of the Black Madonna would have already existed! He points out that although the evidence is conclusive, Sunifred had been dead at the time and Guifré got married in 871, which eliminates a daughter who could get raped before 873. Furthermore, he confirms the authenticity of the Latin text by speculating that the discarded pages could have been about other churches Sunifred donated to Ripoll after he expelled the Moors, and because image worship was reestablished at around 851, the statue would have been hidden before this time! If we consider that Pujades was a historian and legal expert, he may have used a reversed rhetoric to make his readers consider an option he couldn't address openly: that the legends of Montserrat confuse a father with his son! 

The first chronicle that references them is the Gesta comitum Barcinonensium from Ripoll, which identifies them both as Guifredus. If we consider that Ripoll was in charge of Montserrat and a major cultural center, yet used the same name for a father and son and promoted the Flanders story, we have a strong indication that the rape was covered up with an intentional confusion of the two. Even Yepes and Diago accepted that Guifré was raised in far-away Flanders! And why did it take the Vaissettes so long to identify Sunifred as the father of Guifré and for Abadal to follow? Again, Pujades was ahead of his time because he writes that some documents refer to them as Seniofredo (Sunifred) and Wifredo (Guifré), which was allegedly a custom of the Visigoths to distinguish a father and son by the same name. To avoid this confusion, he refers to them as Wifredo "primero" and Wifredo "el velloso" in Spanish and explains they are difficult to identify because they are listed in foreign chronicles as Guyfre, Jofre, Jifre, Jifreo, Seniofredo, Wifredo, Godofre and Landifredo... "although the Gothic or German name is Vuifredo" (p. 180).

We should add that Pujades supports the redactor of the Gesta and only implies that the discovery of the "holy image" was in the era of Sunifred. Although he also avoids saying verbatim that the cave stories are connected, he offers subtle hints like the omission of the mother at the baptism, the strange comparison of the child with the statue, his "religious exaltation" which confuses the two, and the removal of the seven years that separate the legends. It seems he expected that humanists among his readers would understand his rhetorical arguments some day and discover the "roses" by leaving the Christian "thorns" behind!

The ¨crime scene¨

The adventurous Richard Ford, who localized the hermit in the Virgin's cave, had to ride up the mountain on horseback two hundred years ago, while we could take the above picture from a Boing Dreamliner before landing in Barcelona and enjoy the comforts of a rented car and a paved road to drive up the mountain. As this is the 21st century, we can even use a satellite, thanks to Google Earth, and document the experience below. The caves of the two hermits are shown today between the hermitage Sant Miquel and the monastery, yet the cave where the Madonna was found is far below them. If we fuse the cave stories into one, as Pujades suggests, Joan Gari would have lived in the "Santa Cova," which Ford follows as well. For modern hikers, the easiest access is probably from Monistrol, which is also a paved road today, but Ford may have used another path with his horse, while young shepherds with sheep and goats take shortcuts. We must also consider that the differences in hight are difficult to discern from a satellite because the elevation of the Montserrat chain peaks at 1,236 m (4,055 ft), the monastery at 710 m (2320 ft), while Monistrol is far below at about 161 m (528 ft) above sea level.

        The cave (Santa Cova) where the statue was allegedly found is about 300 ft. lower than the monastery and almost a mile to the South as indicated by our orange line. The photo at left shows the road which was a narrow path before it was dynamited into the face of the cliff. Sant Miquel is on top of the cliff, about 700 ft. above the cave and 400 ft. above the monastery. Monistrol is far below and on the banks of the red river from where the shepherds, churchmen and caballeros are said to have climbed up. The above white line over the river is actually the long bridge at right to access a train-station and the aerial tramway, built in 1930, which still takes fearless tourists to the monastery in five minutes. The close-up at right was taken from the moving tram in 2018, and the picture below from the tramway's parking lot, which shows that a ravine separates the two mountains with the church over the Santa Cova at the upper left, and Sta Maria, where the "statue refused to be moved", at the top of the ravine and barely visible at right. In fact, the locals confirm that it takes about an hour and a half to climb the mountain from Monistrol, which they used to do in their youth to attend mass. They also say that there is a fork in the path, which they would have to take to get to the cave!

           We should also point out that the spiritual message of this sacred mountain is far too profound to simply dismiss its famous legends. We have an obligation to try combining the above findings, and in consideration of the rhetorical clues of Pujades according to the works of Chrétien and Wolfram, present some kind of logical hypothesis of what could have happened over a thousand years ago. Here's our scenario: 

Close to the middle of the 9th century, Sunifred of Urgell rides up from Barcelona to hunt at Montserrat, either alone or separated from his men and dogs. Somewhere on the mountain he encounters a beautiful, dark-skinned girl with food and wine for the hermit, who is a close relative according to grail romance. Like Perceval in his first adventure, the young count "embraces her with his strong arms, as she defends herself, and he kisses her, whether she wants to or not, about twenty times" and his passion turns into rape. Chrétien describes it with subtle elegance by letting him eat her patées, drink her wine, and steal her emerald ring. When he leaves, the poor girl is left behind crying.

Nine months later, young shepherds discover a cave with the girl and her child who had returned to give birth with the hermit's help. It was a miraculous experience for the boys to hear the soft chanting of the devout mother and music played by the hermit in the wilderness and to see smoke illuminated by a fire at the cave, and smell the sweet aroma of burning thyme and lavender that grow wild in the region. If we apply the 854-year cycle of our study to this enchanting vision, it is easy to imagine how during sunset on March 18, 849 CE, as Saturn, Jupiter and Mars formed a "miraculously bright triangle" in the sky, a little boy was born in Montserrat.

      A critical observer might question from where the boys could have seen the cave. The angle at right makes the cliff look rather dangerous from the terrace of the monastery, but our close-up from the river below shows several protruding ledges near the chapel. Especially, if we consider that young boys are usually very curious! Furthermore, that the madonna is black would only make sense if it had to match their eye-witness reports. Although is has been established that the original is no longer extant, she would have been locally known as the Black Madonna and a copy had to confirm it.

        It is equally logical that when the churchmen discover the mother and child in a cave and learn why she had given birth, they have to protect the reputation of their patron Sunifred, count of Urgell and Barcelona. They help the mother, child and hermit off the mountain and claim the boys had seen a carving of the Holy Virgin in dark wood, which had been hidden in the cave from Iconoclasts. The villagers accept the explanation, but the boys know better and climb back up to the cave, which they find to be deserted.        

         As soon as their update makes the rounds of the village, the priest informs the bishop and they are forced to invent a second miracle to explain the empty cave: When they tried to bring the statue down to the village it suddenly refused to be moved "neither forward nor baçk." Richard Ford relates that it happened near the cave, but the churchmen were too smart to make such a mistake! We have shown above that the monastery, where the statue "refused" is almost a mile of difficult terrain from the cave. Obviously, the boys had no reason to search the mountains above the cave and this ruse gave the churchmen enough time to "quickly" (Pujades) carve a wooden statue. When they recorded the miraculous event in their chronicle, they simply reversed the cave stories because a rape could lead to pregnancy. To eliminate any suspicion that a child could have been born, they claimed the victim had been murdered – which forced them to make up a third miracle, that seven long years elapsed when she was found alive again.     

       Even the findings of Pujades, that two generations were confused, are mirrored in grail romance: In Wolfram's adaptation of Chrétien's poem the holy hermit is moved from the chapel back to his cave and the Fisherking is no longer Perceval's cousin but his uncle, which makes his mother a sister of the hermit and Fisherking. He also corrects Chrétien by having Parzival born after the death of his father, which could identify Sunifred who died around 848. Because the French poem ends long before its concept is fully developed, which might have fixed the confusion, Wolfram adds at the end of his work "if Chrétien did not tell the story correctly" his informant Master Kyot could disagree because he identified the right generation of Perceval.


         The generation problem begins with the Gesta comitum Barcinonensium and the confusion of a father and son by the same name. Pujades uses a cautious rhetoric to explain that the Visigoths distinguished this father and son by the same name as Seniofredo and Guifredo, which indicates he was the first to identify Sunifred as the father of Guifré. The controversial document has been studied extensively since we discovered it in the 1980s and scholars agree now that the claim Guifré was raised in Flanders is a "forgery by an erudite churchman," which would support Chrétien's hidden message that it was ordered by pope Alexander III. This is also supported by the research of Pujades, who is not credited, because he established that Guifré is first documented in 870 CE and married Gunedildis around 871. He calculates that Judith, the daughter of Charles the Bald, married Baldwin Ironarm of Flanders in 862 and that eight years are insufficient time for Judith to conceive a daughter, who gets pregnant herself and is in 871 old enough to marry Guifré. If we follow up with the doubts Pujades has seeded, it seems that Sunifred was killed en route to Charles the Bald in 848 and the boy raised by his mother in Prades, as implied in the grail poems. Hence, it is possible that grail romance is based on medieval documents to which Pujades had still access. Because a wise hermit is the teacher of Perceval, Joan Gari may have moved voluntarily to the residence of the count to tutor Guifré.  

      If these conjectures are supported by other documents some day, the Black Madonna might be recognized as the inspiration of all black madonnas in Europe. In that case, the color of her skin could be explained with Sunifred's alliances with the Emir of Cordoba and other Muslim rulers. They are also a theme in grail romance because, according to Chrétien and confirmed by Wolfram, Perceval's mother was from the "grail family" and related to the holy hermit, which could make her a descendant of Guillem de Gellone. The German poet celebrates him in Willehalm, his only other major work, which is based on the chansons de geste of Guillaume d'Orange. It is rarely considered that he featured interracial marriages in both works: Willehalm's wife Arabel is from Baghdad and Parzival's father was first married to Belakane, a black queen with whom he had a son! Hence, it would be consistent with Wolfram's concept that count Sunifred raped a dark-skinned beauty who was a descendant of Guillem de Gellone, and married her after she gave birth to their son who called himself "el Pilos" to honor Fr Joan Gari.   

      This takes us to another surprising discovery of Pujades, which all our "experts" seem to ignore: He mentions repeatedly that Guifré's mother was Almira [14], which happens to be لميرا , a variation of the Arabic Almera, Elmira and amirah, and means Princess of higher birth and Truth! In fact, he writes that she was related to Pipin the Short, which closes the circle with Guillem de Gellone (William of Gellone). Guillem's mother was a daughter of Charles Martell and Guillem spent his youth at the court of Charlemagne. Although this undisputable fact supports our conjectures, Church historians continue to dismiss the work of Pujades and maintain Guifré was born in 840, got married around 870, and Montserrat founded in 888 CE to create sufficient time for his miraculously revived "daughter" to become its first abbess.

           Nevertheless, our surprising conclusion and "happy end" is still tentative because modern historians find it difficult to accept that there could be more than a grain of truth to these legends! Until new discoveries correct our creative conjectures, we apologize for insulting the Catalans with the claim that their venerated "Santa Maria de Montserrat" is either Guifré's daughter, if the legends are simply reversed, or should be renamed "Santa Almira de Montserrat" if the black baby in her arms is not Jesus – but Guifré el Pilos, according to grail romance, or his brother Miró, as implied by Pujades.       


This is a work in progress!



1. The Bernard Problems

       The repetitious references to the four-year-error of the Church by Pujades force us to consider the option that it was Bernard of Septimania who raped the daughter of Sunifred of Urgell while out hunting. In fact, because Bernard has been accused of sorcery it would make sense that Richildis was taken to Fr Joan Gari for help because he is introduced in the legend as an exorcist. His protection of the pregnant girl, and refusal to identify the father would have made him vulnerable to accusations of rape. According to official history, Bernard was killed by Charles the Bald in 844 CE, which is about four years too early if Guifré was born in 849. But these were turbulent times, and it is difficult to find independent records that are not "revised" by the Bollandists and Maurists. After 840 CE, the death of his father Louis, Charles was busy with his older half-brothers and considered a parvenu because they were not willing to part with their heritage. This complicated the role of Bernard, who had even been accused of being the father of Charles. Again, the mystery man is the scholar Etienne Baluze who had full control of the Cuixà cover-up until his death. It is a strange coincidence, to say the least, that he had a document about the death of Bernard which is usually dismissed as another legend: It is the "Odo d'Ariberti" where Charles accuses Bernard of having dirtied the bed of his father before he kills him. There is a lot of Lancelot here, because Bernard's affair with the queen of France is well-documented. It seems that Wolfram added the story of Parzival's father to illustrate the confusion of generations. He even implies Bernard, because there is an insert (P.64-68) that makes little sense otherwise:

The King of France had died, whose wife got him (i.e. Perceval's father) often into trouble with her love. Now the noble Queen is asking for him to please depart from Heathen lands and come back home. She was longing for him with great love [15].

       When Perceval meets the hermit, the scene begins with a time-lapse of five years when he was without memory and without God. When we questioned librarian Fr Joan at Cuixà decades ago about the identity of Guifré's father, the poor Cistercian started to perspire heavily and kept insisting it was Sunifred according to Abadal, but he neither brought up Urgell nor Montserrat. (We didn't bring up Helinandus, although Joan said his order took up arms in the Middle Ages, hoping to distract us with the Order of Calatrava.)  We may be on to something here and disprove the Gesta once again as two children could have been born and the legends fused? Perhaps, Miró was not the older but the younger brother of Guifré, and born in 849 at Montserrat. But this is merely an adventurous idea because it is no longer possible to question Bernard's year of death, thanks to pope Alexander III and the Maurists and Bollandists who have medieval history pretty much nailed down. A good reason to study the "Odo d'Ariberti" and "manual de Dhuoda" once again!

        According to Chrétien, Perceval leaves the grail castle and meets a weeping virgin in the forest, with a beheaded knight in her arms. We have shown earlier that the tears of the girl he raped fuse with the tears of Blanchefleur, indicating that they symbolize the same woman. Hence, the weeping virgin could be part of the poetic fusion because she identifies herself as Perceval's cousin. The only knights who seem to connect to this scenario and were probably beheaded are Bernard and his son William. This is another clue that Guifré was related to Guillem de Gellone. Then, there is Bernard's other son, Bernard Plantapilósa or Plantepelue (d. June 22, 885), whose nick name means "hairy feet." This suggests that Guifré and Bernard were related because they had hairy birthmarks, which may connect to our most recent studies in Ribagorza and the Val de Boi. It is in this context that Zuckerman's study deserves more attention and should be compared with Muslim records. He contributes valuable information to our project, but also promotes Jewish support of the Carolingians and the Abbasids of Baghdad, and reduces Guifré and his family to rebels and collaborators of the Umayads of Cordova, which deserves to be reviewed.  

2. Other unsolved problems:

       Chrétien's and Wolfram's symbolism indicate that the focus remains the "Black Madonna," of which there are several in Europe. At various sites, the dark color is often explained with an exposure to centuries of candle smoke and of having being touched by pilgrims. We are familiar with this problem from the Kaaba in Mecca and the remains of St Peter at the Vatican, but most Black Madonnas were carved from dark wood. This is mirrored in Wolfram's poem where Parzival's father was first married to a black queen. Their son Feirefiz plays an important role during grail rites, perhaps because of an earlier fusion of Gawan and Parzival with Jofreit fils Idoel, which implies Guifré. We'll start with the Odo d'Ariberti to show that Bernard was as bald as Charles, and hope the former helps us find the "baldhead" of the Elisha-Jesus cycle. The key to this experimental alchemy will be Wolfram's hidden numerical code from Plutarch's riddle in "de defectu oraculorum," which was discovered by Hans Eggers in the 1950s and promoted by Otto Springer [16]. Then there is the forged Gesta by an "erudite churchman" under pope Alexander III, which forces us to explore the option that "Prades" was replaced by "Fladres." If Sunifred´s rape was first removed in a plot to Prades, and not to Flanders, our focus would shift back to the Pyrenees where we localize the other evidence. This unsolved problem will be a challenge for years to come, not only because of what we might find out about the past, but more important, what we could learn for our future from the 854-year cycles!


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             1.  Geronimo (Jeroni) Pujades, Crónica Universal del Principado de Cataluña,  (Barcelona, 1829), vol. I, p. xxxix

             2.  Ibid., vol. VI, (Barcelona, 1830), pp. 384-88, based on Antonio de Yepes, Coronica General de la Orden de San Benito, Patriarca de Religiosos, 7 volumes, Villadolid, 1609-1621.

             3.  Ernesto Buonaiuti, The Mystic Vision, Bollingen Series XXX, (Princeton University, 1968), pp. 189-91

              4.  Richard Ford, Hand-Book for Travelers in Spain, Vol. I, 3rd. ed., (London, 1855), pp. 419-423. His enlightening report is also available on line!

              5.  L. Barrau Dihigo i J. Masso Torrents, Gesta comitum Barcinonensium, Fundació Concepcio Rabell i Cibils, (Barcelona, 1825), p.XXII

             6.  Harald Zimmermann, Das Mittelalter, 1. Teil, (Westermann Verlag, 1975), pp. 9 and 126

             7.  Pujades, (see above n. 2), pp.384-88

             8.  Ibid., p. 376

             9.  Ibid., p. 263. This poetic metaphor is important because it pertains to Sunifred of Urgell who lost the support of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, because of false accusations against him. It is paraphrased from: "…los reyes en el informarse de las cosas y en el saber el justo valor de ellas pocas veces beben agua clara saliendo de sus manantiales; y no tomándolas de sus principios, sino de relaciones pasadas por conductos no siempre límpios, ántes muy amenudo charcosos, corrompidos y gastados, ó presentados en vasos que no son búcaros de Portugal ni porcelanas de la India ó hueso de unicornio; es muy posible lleguen gastadas ó en de peligro serlo, y aun de estragar los estómagos de quien las bebe." 

            10. Francisco Diago, Historia de los victorissimos antiguos Condes de Barcelona, (Barcelona, 1603). Note: The coat of arms that depicts Guifré el Pilós with a dragon on his helmet is from the cover of the work!

             11. Pujades, (see above n. 2), p.247

             12. According to Chrétien de Troyes, the blade of the Magic Sword is covered by a scabbard of ornate Venetian gold brocade, and its hilt has Greek and Arabic ornaments, which symbolises the sources. The chronicle of St Pere de Rodes matches the "Greek" and St Miquel de Cuixà the "Arabic" as we show in our study. The Gesta was started around 1180 at Cuixà and takes the arabesques to Sunifred and Guifré to a new edition of the Montserrat legends. If these chronicles were "covered up" with Venetian gold it would allude to certain decrees by pope Alexander III after he was restored to power at the "Treaty of Venice" (1177). This is also supported in Chrétien's prologue, where he raises the Count of Flanders above an unidentified Alexander who has done some evil deeds!

             13. Pujades, (see above, n. 2), p. 386

             14. Pujades, (see above, n. 1), vol. V, (Barcelona, 1829), pp. 116-121. After a comparison of several chronicles, Pujades arrives at the problematic conclusion that Pipin the Short (d. 764) made "Seniofre" governor of the Christians who were hiding in the forests of the Pyrenees, and married him to his niece, a certain "señora llamada Almira," daughter of Laudunda who was daughter of the same king. Most of the chapter is dedicated to the problem how the chronists confuse the names Jofre with Siniofre, Wifredo with Seniofredo, and he concludes that "the names of Wifredo, Guifre, Jofre, Jifre, Jofredo and Seniofredo are all synonymous."  It is incomprehensible that modern historians have not noticed the similarity of "Sunifred" and "Siniofre" and that it supports the Gesta comitum Barcinonenium, which opens with a father and son by the same name. In the following vol. VI, (Barcelona, 1830), Pujades introduces her as "señora Almirez ó Almira muger principal de la casa Real y sangre del rey Pepino y del mismo emperador Cárlos Magno" on pp. 181-183, and he sets a clear signal when he writes on p. 247 that Wifredo (hence Sunifred of Urgell) "did not venerate the holy images" and in the next chapter, on p. 248, "...en medio de las tinieblas por casos allá contados, se intristecian los corazones de los catalanes, salió cierta rutilante estrella que allegró sus ánimos prometiendo felices anuncios de buenos sucesos. Tal fue el haber nacido de la condesa Almira el conde Wifredo velloso en el año ochocientos cincuenta y dos: el cual por sus dias vino á ser uno de los buenos príncipes y famosos guerreros que tuvo la cristianidad; digno hijo de tal padre esclarecido en sangre ilustre por sus obras, como se verá en el discurso de su vida." He goes on to qualify the year of his birth as 852 "mas ó menos", which allows us to accept the metaphor of the "rising star" as pertaining to the "miraculous triangle" in the sky on March 18, 849 CE, because the death of his father is currently established between 848 - 850 CE, and the latter would confirm Wolfram's version that "Parzival" was born after the death of his father. Additional references to Guifré's mother Almira are on pp. 251, 266, 280-285.

            15. Rough translation from Wilhelm Stapel, Wolframs Parzival,  Albert Langen/Georg Müller, (München/Wien, 1977), p.37

            16. Hans Eggers, Strukturprobleme mittelalterlicher Epik, dargestellt am Parzival Wolframs von Eschenbach, Euphorion 47 (1953), pp. 264-65. See Otto Springer, Wolfram's Parzival, Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, A collaborative history, ed. Roger Sherman Loomis, (Oxford, 1959), p.247. Springer defines the discovery of Eggers as follows: "The first section of exactly 108 units (30 lines each) is the added story of Parzival's parents. This is followed by 3 sections of 108 units (109-432) until book IX, the core of the work, which only has 70 units of 30 lines. Then there are again 3 sections of 108 units (503-827), until the poem ends with 30 lines after unit 827." Because the second section of 108 units begins with the birth of Parzival, Wolfram may be implying that his poem begins in September, 828 CE, with a forboding massing of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, which repeated in 849. Based on these dates, the adventures of Parzival's father Gahmuret ended in the first section and matched the era of Sunifred of Urgell, who died around 850 CE.





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