The Black Madonna

of Montserrat

(Revised in 2016)

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 the 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 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 part of the grail mystery. Although he never mentions the grail in his works, his esoteric time-capsule and hints like griphos, copas de argento, and horn of the unicorn make it clear he was familiar with the secret traditions, but could not admit it openly because of the 'heretic' elements. Yet during each step of our discovery process, he leads us to the right solution which reveals his initiation. 

We had found 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 Montserrat. They feature the 9th century and many familiar themes: Celestial lights after sunset, a virgin and child, hermits in caves, and another rape! In a strange 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 become even shaggier than the shaggy count, a surprising reversal which implies that a rape was attached to Guifré's name and a learned monk ordered to "remove" it to far-away Flanders. The sword fight of Parzival comes to mind, against the protector of the girl he had raped in his first adventure. It is a bloody battle against over a hundred dragons that rise like red flashes of lightening from the armor and helmet of Orilus. We are reminded of Parzival's mother and her cosmic daydream, her sterneblic, where a dragon announced his birth, and that the wise hermit tells Parzival 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 (at left) shows a dragon on his helmet – but could Parzival have fought against himself? What complicates matters are two hermits in a cave, one possessed and the other a wise man, and that the legends of Montserrat connect to the 854-year planetary cycles we developed with Kepler's help. Let's see how Jeroni Pujades, a contemporary of Kepler, unfolds this magical mystery about good and evil. He outlines this concept in the prologue of the Crónica by advising his readers "to pick the rose and leave the thorns behind". [1]

"Es Tabor en Galilea, Magela en el reino de Nápoles y Soroates cerca de Roma: sola y esenta de compañía de otros montes. En la propia manera que en un anillo de oro igual por todas parte se pone una esmeralda, encaja un rubí ó diamante que con relevarse sobre la sortija la hermosea y embeleza, así podemos decir que la piedra preciosa que ilustra y adorna á Cataluña es la montaña de Monserrate, que insierra en sí aquella sagrada imágen..."

Pujades compares Montserrat with Mount Tabor in Galilee and other sacred mountains that stand alone and are isolated from other mountains. In the same way a golden ring encloses an emerald, ruby or diamond to capture and reveal their beauty, the precious stone that brightens and adorns Catalonia is Montserrat that encases this sacred image.  (It was not easy to push rudely past tearful ladies and capture her image in 2007 because the Black Madonna is on a narrow stairway and behind glass)

Pujades dedicates an entire chapter to the "Coronica General" of the Benedictine order [2] to introduce the sacred mountain, the small towns around it and the red Llobregat river below its Eastern slopes. Like a poet, he enhances the chronicle by praising the beauty of the thousands of wild flowers, herbs and trees that make the mountain a spectacular garden (grandioso jardin) with springs, brooks and streams. Although most dry up in the summer, there are caves where rushing water is heard deep inside. He also describes some rocks on the mountain as very hard, like white jasper, and suggests that those "who understand" 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 had been hundreds of Black Madonnas in European churches, of which many have been destroyed! Although this could provide valuable information for our grail studies, there is also a dramatic reason: It is an established fact that the mystic experiences 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 1522, then laid down his sword and dagger in front of her and chose the seclusion of a cave for a retreat of several months. We will show below that he may have discovered the secret of Montserrat and vowed to protect it by exchanging his dagger for a poisened pen!

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 most of the monastery 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 literary efforts of Google, which not only offers a digital version of the Crónica, but also of 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, but it looks like the monks palmed upon visitors a fake Black Madonna at the time. 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 you can see above, the original has some true grace and beauty, and her clothes are painted on. Unless, of course, there is a tradition that the shepherds saw her naked in the cave and clothes were added in the Victorian era and later painted on. 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 wife saw them for the first time, and heard about the rape, she felt sorry for the poor monks up there who must have "a hard time" controlling their sex drive! She made a joke, of course, in fewer words that can be quoted. But aside from the horny hermit, many aspects of the legends connect to the medieval chronicle Gesta comitum Barcinonensium [5], which identifies it as an important 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 seems to be Chrétien's source for Perceval.  

2. A rape is committed at Montserrat, another is implied in the Gesta – and in the poems of Chrétien and Wolfram, two of the creators of grail romance. 

3. Even a holy hermit is featured – a main character in both poems, although Chrétien localizes him in a chapel and Wolfram puts him back into his cave. 

4. The name of Guifré "el Pilós" identifies him as a shaggy count – but in the legends of  Montserrat, the rapist becomes even shaggier than the count! 


            The above picture was taken from the parking lot of the monastery. The chapel, which is in front of the cave where the Black Madonna was discovered is difficult to discern in the shadow above the first pinnacle in the foreground. At right is a professional close-up that shows the lush vegetation and steep cliff! We should note that it is the official position at Montserrat that its ancient legends are distributed over different caves, which is important for devout Christians who believe in such miracles. But it is rather strange that a monastic chronicle would feature the rape and murder of a virgin – not that this didn't happen – and this could be another reason why the monks averted 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 was started in the 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 the 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 the Bollandists showed up in Paris right after archbishop Pierre de Marca had died and then went on to Rouen where the Crónica of Pujades was seen last. That's when the Maurists got started in Paris, which is difficult to dismiss as a coincidence! Did they try to eliminate the works of Pujades because he revealed too many Church secrets in the first part of the Crónica, published in 1609? Was it part of 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 by some 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 support his findings.


The hermit of the Virgin'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. His investigation 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 he discovered 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 his attack of 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", 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, rhetorical skills to do his sophisticated concept some justice, but there is enough material for us amateurs to enjoy his passionate, religious outbursts that contrast the legal arguments that question the academic consensus. Because the Spanish Inquisition was still active at the time, 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 Yepes and Ford and a major change by reversing the order of the cave legends: As if it were some kind of passion play about the force of evil, he begins with two anchorites in nearby caves of whom one gets possessed and tries to corrupt the other. Then 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 will take nine days he decides to wait in nearby Monistrol and sends servants to the cave with food for his daughter and the hermit. After a few days, Gari is overcome by desire for the beautiful virgin and consults with his "brother" in a nearby cave (whom Yepes omits) without realizing that the devil has taken his form. He resists the temptations 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 devil exploits his weakness and makes him cut her throat and bury her outside the cave.  After nine days, the count returns and can neither find his daughter nor the hermit because the repentant violator is already on his way to the pope in Rome.  (This picture is from Monistrol's website, a town that's famous for Loyola's cave that had a view of these mountauins, and for its delicious wine.)

Seven years have allegedly passed when Guifré is out hunting in these mountains and his dogs start barking near a cave. He has his men climb up and they 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 lived "incognito" at the residence of the count, but not like a beast in a stable as other historians have claimed, which he'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 some stray sheep. After sunset, "they see lights descending from heaven, like candles of great brightness... and hear a great melody of sweet voices and music following the lights to the cave..."

 It is a curious fact that the legend does not mention what's inside the cave, only that voices can be heard and that the boys keep singing these songs when they return to Monistrol. Their parents ask them if the songs are true, and soon their amazing tale makes the rounds of the village and 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 only about eight miles away. The bishop sends the priest with some of his "caballeros" up the mountain to find out what is really going on. They witness the same enchanting scene until midnight, and those who are below the cave notice the sweet fragrances that accompany the lights and music. A few men stay until morning, as planned, and climb up to the cave to indeed discover a woman and child inside. But, according to the legend, it is only a wooden statue of St Mary with little Jesus in her lap. Pujades uses the flowery Castilian style to celebrate the statue, which seems to be a rhetorical tool to pacify the Inquisitors who need to endorse every publication, but it is also a signal for his 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 passionately 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 the Catalans would say "the little child in her lap seems about three or four months old", Pujades exclaims: "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 adds casually that her face is "somewhat dark" (el rostro algo moreno) and that the child is of the same color (del propio color de su madre).

After the discovery of the Black Madonna, Pujades connects the two legends in the next chapter (p. 381) by quoting from other historians: "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 had only mentioned a "voice from heaven", but Pujades elaborates: The count is hosting for the nobles and knights of his counties a "grande fiesta" at his residence in Barcelona to celebrate the baptism of his son. During the festivities some guests drag the hairy beast to the banquet hall for everyone's entertainment and it takes cover under a table with the dogs. But when they throw some bones to it, the son of Wilfredo 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:

Rise brother Joan Gari,  
because God has forgiven your sins!

         Because a Divine miracle allowed the child to speak and forgive, the count forgives as well and is rewarded with an even greater miracle: the hermit regains 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 has the child in the arms of 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 make us easily come to false conclusions: According to Chrétien's poem, Perceval rapes a maiden who is fused symbolically by her tears with the tears of Blanchefleur, the woman he later falls in love with. 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 create a cover-up with the Gesta. But because too many rumors were still circulating, he used ambiguities for these claims in the first edition, which could be removed a hundred years later by the 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 always 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 was ordered 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 relate either to Sunifred's role during the rebellions against Musa ibn Musa or to the events at Montserrat! Although Pujades never mentions the grail verbatim, he offers an interesting metaphor which would explain why Chrétien felt obliged to correct a false story with the "meilleur conte":

Kings inform themselves rarely of the truth by drinking from the clear waters at the

source but after they pass through conduits that are not always clean, and

rather obscured, polluted and corrupted, or presented in vessels 

that are neither bucaros from Portugal, nor porcelain

from India, nor a horn of the unicorn...


Our study raises many questions about these "corruptions"! Why did the 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 Ramon d'Abadal challenged their authority? Although the date is accepted by most scholars and Wikipedias, they don't seem to recognize its importance. This creates the impression that instead of illuminating manuscripts, modern monks "illuminate" the internet now – with their version of the truth!

None of these virtual encyclopedias mention that the first to speculate about the birth date was the Dominican historian Francisco Diago who proposed in 1603 that "Vuifredo, llamado el velloso" (Guifré) was ten in 858 CE, when his father was killed [10]. Pujades sides in a careful rhetoric, and concedes that Guifré's father may have been killed in 858, although other chronists claim 854. Then, Pujades proposes that the boy was only six at his father's death and concludes that Guifré was born in 852 "more or less", and "eighteen or nineteen" in 870, which could extend to the planetary hexagram of 849 CE as Kepler's findings suggest. The most recent research dates the death of Sunifred in 848, which confirms 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 mentions always the famous "four-year-error" of the Church to add his own calculations because the discussion of Biblical chronology was very much en vogue in the early 17th century as we can see in 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 the discovery of the hairy beast. He is apparently reminding his readers to "pick the rose" and leave the Christian "thorns" behind, which would force them to conclude that both cave 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 first address that instead of nine months, over seven years seem to have passed between both legendary events. So far, we only have the survival of the rape-victim to support our conjecture, and that there is no statue from the period! According to the official guide book the current Madonna is a copy painted in black and carved in the "late 12th century" – three centuries after the legends! According to the symbolism of Chrétien's Magic Sword it was after the "Peace of Venice" (1177) when the truth was "covered up" [12]. This would explain why there are no records when Sta Cecilia and Sta Maria were built. According to local traditions, 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 were removed under pope Alexander III after 1177. This would coincide with the time Chrétien presented his poem, when the fake Madonna was being carved and the Gesta started at Sant Miquel de Cuixà, which could have included the separation of the cave legends by seven years and transfer of the rape to far-away Flanders in the Gesta. Again, our best choice is to turn to Pujades who usually has the answers!


Tentative conclusions

 We have shown in The Pujades Affair how he used his rhetorical skills to embed an esoteric "time capsule" in the 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 the rhetorical concept of Pujades, but he 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 the seven years of penance are true and not a legend!

Because Yepes is a Spaniard, Pujades accuses foreigners of persecuting the historians of Catalonia and entertains his readers by quoting from an old song: "There is no good historian who doesn't attack with his lance" even if he gets hurt badly, because there is only one truth and because historians don't have the authority of the Book of Daniel. He goes on to show that the hermit's penance is copied from Daniel 4:28-34 because King Nebuchadnezzar had been punished to live with wild animals and eat grass like cattle as his hair kept growing... and after living seven years he raised his eyes toward heaven and his sanity was restored. After eliminating the 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) or at least before the Moors entered Catalonia in around 873. The sarcastic praise gives Pujades an excuse to blame Diago for what he had discovered in the discarded pages of the Montserrat chronicle (p. 369), and which Diago supports with a document from 1024 CE [13]. It allows Pujades to speculate if Guifré el Pilós 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 seems conclusive, the chronicle of Montserrat and other historians maintain that the Black Madonna was discovered around 888 CE. In a rhetorical reversal, Pujades disputes Diago's date because Sunifred was already dead and Guifré got married in 871, which eliminates a daughter who got 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. If we consider that Pujades was a historian and a legal expert, he may have used these arguments to make his readers consider an option he couldn't address openly, that the legends of Montserrat confuse a father and son! 

The earliest 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 never disputed 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 so long for Josep Vaissette to identify Sunifred as the father of Guifré and for d'Abadal to accept it? Pujades was ahead of his time again because he explains that some documents refer to them as Seniofredo (Sunifred) and Wifredo (Guifré), which was a custom of the Wisigoths 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 because they are difficult to identify and listed in foreign chronicles as Guyfre, Jofre, Jifre, Jifreo, Seniofredo, Godofre and Landifredo, "although the Gothic or German name is Vuifredo" (p. 180).

We should note that Pujades seems to support the redactor of the Gesta, but implies throughout his arguments that the discovery of the "holy image" was in the era of Sunifred of Urgel. Although he also avoids saying verbatim that the cave stories are connected, he gives subtle hints like the omission of the mother at the baptism, the comparison of the child with the statue, his "religious exaltation" that confuses the two, and his removal of the seven years that separated the legends. It seems he expected that the humanists among his readers would understand his rhetorical arguments and discover the "rose" 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 in 1830, while we can enjoy the comforts of a rental car and a paved road. But this is the 21st century and we can even fly over the steep terrain with a satelite thanks to Google Earth! Furthermore, we can document the visit and make it available for everyone. The caves of the two hermits are between the hermitage Sant Miquel and the monastery, and the cave where the Madonna was found is far below them. If we fuse the cave stories into one, as suggested by Pujades, Joan Gari would have lived in the "Santa Cova" as Ford suggested. For hikers, the easiest access is from the South and is probably the same path Ford had used.  It leads over a ridge past Sant Miquel to the monastery, where its church Santa Maria was built over the place where the statue refused to be moved. The differences in hight are difficult to discern from a satelite because the elevation of Montserrat chain peaks at 1,236 m (4,055 ft), the monastery at about 710 m (2320 ft), and Monistrol is far below at about 161 m (528 ft) above sea level.

          The cave (Santa Cova) where the statue was found is about 300 ft. lower than the monastery and almost a mile to the South as indicated by our yellow line. The photo at left shows the narrow road which was dynamited into the face of the cliff and obviously a dangerous path before the chappel and monastery existed! Sant Miquel is on top of the cliff, about 700 ft. above the cave and 400 ft. higher than the monastery. Monistrol is far below and like Manresa at the banks of the red river from where the young shepherds, churchmen and caballeros are said to have climbed up. Based on the above conjectures and by re-arranging the diverse clues of Pujades, the following scenario may capture what really happened in the middle of the 9th century: 

Sunifred rides up from Barcelona to hunt at Montserrat and gets separated from his men and dogs. Half way up the mountain he encounters a beautiful, dark-skinned girl with food for the hermit, to whom she was closely related according to grail romance. Like Perceval in his first adventure, the count embraces her "whether she wants to or not and showers her with kisses" and his passion turns into rape. 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 first the soft chanting of the devout mother and music played by the hermit in the wilderness, they then see smoke illuminated by a fire rising from 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 grail study to this enchanting vision, we have to conclude that right after sunset on March 18, 849 CE, as Saturn, Jupiter and Mars formed a "miraculously bright triangle", a child was born in a cave at Montserrat.

         That the statue is black would only make sense if it had to match the eye-witness reports of the boys! It is equally logical that when the churchmen discover the mother and child 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 statue of the Virgin and Child. The villagers accept the explanation, but the boys know better and climb up to the cave, which they find deserted. As soon as their update makes the rounds of the village, the priest informs the bishop and they are forced to invent another miracle: They claim to have tried to bring the statue down to the village, but it suddenly "refused" to be moved "neither forward nor back". Richard Ford relates that this happened at the cave, but the churchmen were too smart to make such a mistake! The satellite view exposes the cover-up because the location of the monastery, where the statue allegedly "refused", is a mile of difficult terrain from the cave and not on the way to Monistrol! Obviously, the boys had no reason to search the entire mountain and this ruse gave the churchmen enough time to "quickly" (Pujades) raise a wooden chapel and add a rudely carved statue.  

          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 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 would confirm Sunifred who died in 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 Kyot could disagree because he identified the right generation of Perceval.

          The generation problem takes us back to the Gesta comitum Barcinonensium where this confusion started with a father and son by the same name. The document has been studied extensively in recent years and scholars are now in agreement that the claim Guifré was raised in Flanders is a "forgery by an erudite churchman", which supports Chrétien's hidden message that it was ordered by pope Alexander III.  It is also supported by the research of Pujades, who is not credited, because he had shown centuries before recent scholarship that Guifré is documented in 870 CE and married Gunedildis around 871. After a comparison of Virgil's Dido with Judith, the daughter of Charles the Bald, Pujades calculates that Baldwin Ironarm of Flanders married her in 862 and that eight years are insufficient time to conceive a daughter, who is noticeably pregnant herself and in 871 old enough to get married to 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 suggested 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 our conjectures are supported by other documents some day, the Black Madonna of Monserrat might be recognized as the inspiration of hundreds of 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" which could make her a descendant of Guillem de Gellone. Wolfram celebrates the legendary hero in Willehalm, which is his only other major work and is based on the chansons de geste of Guillaume d'Orange. It has not been considered enough that he featured interracial marriages in both works: Willehalm's wife Arabel is from Baghdad and Parzival's father was married to Belakane, a black African queen with whom he had a son! Hence, it would be consistent with Wolfram's concept that count Sunifred had raped a dark-skinned beauty who was a descendant of Guillem de Gellone and married her after she gave birth to their son.

        This takes us to another discovery of Pujades, which has been ignored to date: He proposes that the name of Guifré's mother was Almira [14], which happens to be الميرا a variation of the Arabic Almera, Elmira and amirah, and means Princess of higher birth and Truth! Although this would be rather conclusive, Church historians continue to maintain Guifré was born in 840 and founded Montserrat in 888 CE when his "revived" daughter became allegedly its first abbess. Nevertheless, our conclusions and "happy end" are still somewhat tentative because it is difficult to accept that there is more than a grain of truth in these legends! Until new discoveries eliminate or correct our conjectures, we apologize for insulting the Catalans with our adventurous suggestion that "Santa Maria de Montserrat" should really be called "Santa Almira de Montserrat" because the black baby in the arms of the Black Madonna may not be Jesus, but could either be Guifré or Miró if their birth dates have been falsified!


 This is a work in progress and corrections are ongoing!



1. The Bernard of Septimania Problem

        The repetitious references to the four-year-error of the Church force us to include the option that Bernard of Septimania 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, who 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 or Miró were 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 was even 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 to prove the murder of Bernard which has been 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 two generations. He also implies Bernard, because there is an insert (P.64-68) that would make little sense otherwise [15]:

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.

        When Perceval meets the hermit, the scene begins with a time-lapse of several years when he was without memory and without God. When we questioned librarian Fr Joan at Cuixà decades ago about the identity of the father of Guifré, the poor Cistercian started to prespire heavily and kept insisting Sunifred according to Abadal, but he neither brought up Urgell nor Montserrat. We didn't bring up Helinandus, although Fr Joan volunteered to say that his order took up arms in the Middle Ages. We may be on to something here and disprove the Gesta once again. Maybe two children were born and the legends fused? Unless "Mir" was not the older but the younger brother of Guifré, and born in 849 at Montserrat! But this is merely a conjecture at this point, because it is no longer possible to question Bernard's year of death, thanks to pope Alexander III and later 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 from this angle!

        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 had raped fuse with the tears of Blanchefleur, indicating that they symbolize the same woman. Hence, the weeping virgin could be part of the fusion because she identifies herself as Perceval's cousin. The only knight that connects to our scenario and was allegedly beheaded is Bernard's son William! It's another clue that Guifré was related to Guillem de Gellone. Then, there is Bernard's other son, Bernard Plantapilósa (d. June 22, 885), whose name means "hairy feet". This suggests that Guifré and Bernard had hairy birthmarks and seem to have been related! It is in this context that Zuckerman's Jewish concept deserves more attention and should be compared with Muslim records. Zuckerman contributes some interesting 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 is not entirely without merit!

2. Other unsolved problems:

        A review of Chrétien's and Wolfram's symbolism on a higher level indicate that Guifré el Pilós is not the right candidate for the Elisha-Jesus cycle. More research is needed and the focus will be the "Black Madonna", of which there are several in Europe that support this esoteric tradition. At various sites, the dark color is often explained with an exposure to centuries of candle smoke and being touched by pious 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 African queen. Their son Feirefiz plays an important role during the grail rites, perhaps because of a fusion of Gawain and Parzival with Jofreit fils Idoel (Guifré). We'll start with the Odo d'Ariberti to show that Charles was as bald as Bernard, and hope the latter 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 forgery of the Gesta by an "erudite churchman", which forces us to explore the option that "Prades" was replaced by "Flades".  If a microscopic examination of the chronicle confirms it, our imaginative conjectures would tumble like a house of cards. In that case, a rape by Sunidred of Urgell was removed in a sophisticated plot from Prades to Flanders and Montserrat, and our focus would shift back to the Pyrenees where we localized all other evidence. These unsolved problems will be our main 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 the future!





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

2.    Ibid., tome VI, 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. Available on line

5.    L. Barrau Dihigo i J. Masso Torrents, Gesta comitum Barcinonensium, Fundació Concepcio Rabell i Cibils, Barcelona, 1925, p.XXII

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

7.    Pujades, (see above n. 1), tome VI, pp.384-88

8.    Ibid., p. 376

9.    Ibid., p. 263. This poetic metaphor relates 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 this work!

11.   Pujades, (see above n. 1), tome VI, 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 Arabian ornaments, a symbolism for Latin chronicles according to Wolfram's second opinion. The chronicle of St Pere de Rodes matches the "Greek" and St Miquel de Cuixà the "Arabian" as we show in our study. The Gesta was started around 1180 at Cuixà and takes the arabesques to Sunifred and Guifré at Montserrat. If these chronicles are "covered up" with a scabbard of ornate Venetian gold brocade, it would probably refer to certain decrees by pope Alexander III after he was restored to power at the "Treaty of Venice" (1177). This interpretation is also supported in Chrétien's prologue, where the poet compares the Count of Flanders to someone by the name of Alexander!

13.   Pujades, (see above, n. 1), tome VI, p. 386

14.   Ibid., p. 266.

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. Based on this date, the adventures of Parzival's father Gahmuret would end in the first section and match the era of Sunifred of Urgell, who died around 848 CE.




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