Sant Pere de Rodes
(San Pedro de Rodas)

 - Revisions in progress -

We have shown earlier that Chrétien de Troyes invented grail romance and introduced graal as a hidden key to his source. According to du Cange and Coromines, the word is derived from gradalis, a simple bowl and not a holy chalice. They trace the earliest use as gradal to documents in 1010 and 1030 CE to Urgell (Spain) in 1010 and 1030 CE, which is supported by independent evidence: Several Romanesque churches with paintings of Mary with a fiery grail have been discovered in the Pyrenees around Urgell, which international experts like Chandler R. Post (1930), Otto Demus (1968), Christopher Dodwell (1993), and Joseph Goering (2005) link to the grail mystery. Because they were painted half a century before Chrétien presented the "Conte du Graal," the poet may have been inspired by Romanesque art and Catalan history, and this should be confirmed by his other allegories.


1. The Greek Connection

       According to Chrétien, the Magic Sword is hidden inside a scabbard of ornate Venetian gold brocade and its hilt is decorated with Greek or Arabian ornaments. The "or" is an interesting ambiguity because Perceval receives the sword at the grail castle just before the virgin enters with a grail that emits so much light that the candlelight "fades like the stars when Sun or Moon are rising". This validates both options and relates to the macrocosm, because the maiden behind her carries a silver plate to add the moon.   

       We had followed arabesques to St Miquel de Cuixà, a monastery below the Northern slopes of the Pyrenees where the Mozarabic style is preserved by the horseshoe arches, and found the Gesta comitum Barcinonensium, a chronicle with false claims about Guifré el Pelós, which Chrétien corrects with the help of the count of Flanders. Because his poem ends before he can develop his cosmic concept we turned to the adaptation of Wolfram von Eschenbach where the Greek and Arabian sources are clearly stated. He features Hesiod's phoenix myth, according to Plutarch, and an Arabian manuscript about the planets and constellations which reveals "hidden mysteries" of the grail. According to Wolfram, his informant "the wise master Kyot" searched for a family worthy of the grail in Latin books, and after he read the chronicles of many lands he discover the whole truth in "Anschouwe," which most scholars interpret today as Anjou [1]

        The Venetian scabbard of the Magic Sword refers to Chrétien's prologue where he praises Count Philip as worth more than Alexander "of whom so many good things are said, but who was really vicious and evil" [2]. Because he says nothing else about the man, scholars ignore the religious context of the prologue and identify Alexander the Great, who is also known for bad deeds. However, it makes more sense if a poet chose a religious ambiguity and implied Pope Alexander III "the great" who had just died! This could mean that the Venetian gold brocade of the scabbard symbolizes a cover-up during the "Peace of Venice" in 1177.

       Hence, the Greek ornaments on the hilt could be a clue to the Holy Grail itself. But are we this close to a major discovery? It helps that Chrétien shows us where to look for forged chronicle and that this writer spent the best years of his life there. It's a region in the Eastern Pyrenees where the ruins of Greek settlements mass like the Maries in Urgell, or like the planets we track with Kepler. The map (below) shows part of the Alt Empordà during the era of count Hugo I (991-1040 CE), when gradal was first recorded in Urgell.

2. Introducing Catalonia

       The Caput Crucis (Cape of Crosses) on the map is about a hundred miles from Urgell and at the North-Eastern tip of the Iberian peninsula where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean! You might ask how Latin names can help us with a Greek connection? It's quite kosher, really, because it's a Venetian cover-up and an Arabian key led to the first Latin chronicle. We're in a pluralistic environment! When the Moors invaded from the South and the Franks attacked from the North, the Catalans gave refuge to the persecuted! But that's inside information for later when we deal with Bara the Traitor, Guillem de Gellone, and Bishop Ramon de Roda. For now, the Latin names are important because the Greek origins are still recognizable. (Click on the map for a larger size and note the large lagoon!) There is even an ancient harbor with ruins of the Greek town Impurias (Empúries today) a few miles down the coast, at the bottom of the map at left where the Greeks had their first colonies in the 7th century BCE. The Romans used Empúries in 218 BCE to launch their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, which Ceasar Augustus completed two hundred years later. To get a better idea of the location you can take a virtual ride on a Paraglider to enjoy the map from the air! After 5 minutes, the pilot approaches the Cape of Crosses and the Catalan narrator introduces at 5:45 the monastery as "Monsalvat where the grail was guarded according its legends"! In addition to this surprise, the flight is a great exercise to prepare for a ride with the fabulous phoenix, which will follow on a higher level of our quest! 

         Master Chrétien taught us with graal how important etymologies are, and here is a refresher with names like Rhodes, Rodes, Rotas, and Roses that all derive from the Greek Ρόδος, Ródos. At the bottom of the cape is Rotas, facing South, which is named "Roses" today and by far the largest town. The fleet of large and noisy fishing boats that leave the harbor every morning is impressive! Facing North on the map is Armi Rodas, a Greek settlement which is "Port de la Selva" today, once a natural harbor and now a marina and popular tourist destination like nearby Lanciano (Llancà). Villa Judaica is "Vilajuïga" today – but the Jewish history of this little village has apparently been lost. A paved road winds from there into the mountains and ends at about 600 meters (2000 feet) at Sancti Petri Rotas, today "Sant Pere de Rodes" in Catalan, an abandoned Benedictine monastery which has been partially restored [3]. A little higher, on the crest of the mountain, are the ruins of the fortress Castrum Virdaria, of Latin roots, "San Salvador" today. We should interject that this unobstructed view was taken from the road along the coast, yet none of this was visible before the sixteenth century when the green mountain was covered by a dense rain forest. The narrow trail from the monastery to the fortress is worth the climb today because the 360 degree views are breathtaking and match Wolfram's descriptions of Klingsohr's castle! Far below, on the coast, is Stagnum Castilioni, which turned into an enclosed lake (see above map) over time and to which the monastery had the fishing rights. It became a swamp over the centuries and the swarms of  mosquitoes ruined the holidays of the German tourists who controlled the region after WW II. Their aggressive use of insecticides got rid of most birds as well, but the ecology has finally regained its equilibrium – even tourism became international! The hinterland is mostly agriculture, olive groves, and vineyards. Along the pristine, sandy beaches of the Gulf of Roses line up several villages, campgrounds, and tourist centers. Noteworthy is "Sant Pere Pescador", but the largest is "Empuriabrava" with a fancy marina, a private airport, high-rise buildings, hotels, villas, shopping centers, and all kinds of restaurants. 

        Informed gourmets used to rate El Bulli as the best and most innovative restaurant in the world. It is interesting in view of the grail as a feeding dish – even if it's food for thought – that the region is celebrated for its culinary culture! It offers good cuisine everywhere, especially in villages like Llado, Boadella or Mollet de Peralada. World famous El Bulli is in cluster of white buildings on the rocks of Cala Montjoi, a romantic cove at the left of Caput Onofreu, named after Saint Onofre. The buildings are as low key as depicted on our photo, which is typical Catalan and quite different from what the average tourist might expect. The Cala Montjoi can be reached by an adventurous drive from Roses through the mountains, and easily by boat. Now that El Bulli is a school of culinary philosophy you can try the affordable fast-food Paellador restaurant on the beach! There is also a small, run-down tourist center next to it and some villas in the pine-covered hills, but the cove is otherwise picturesque and fairly deserted. Much more impressive is nearby Kadaquers in the middle of the cape, known today as "Cadaques". (The sketch at left from 1980 is by this writer). The former harbor and fishing village is packed with tourists in the summer and used to be the magic kingdom of Salvador DaliHe held court on the patio of the "Hostal" while the locals danced Sardanas outside, and Thursdays on market day in Figueres at the "Astoria" on top of the Rambles, near the Dali Museum. Although some Catalans may not know the origins of the Sardanas,  their national circular dance, any fool can see the "Greek connection", especially if they saw the movie "Zorba" where the Mexican Quinn played a Greek. The peasants on the painted tiles at right are wearing the traditional barretina and often, the dancers are joined by dozens of enthusiasts. When large groups of Catalans perform this ritual dance, they get so solemn that it seems like their DNA remembers a ceremony from ancient times. In the 1970's, when this writer lived in Dali's enchanted realm, the Alt Empordà was still known by its Spanish name "Alto Ampurdan" because the Catalan culture was prohibited during the Franco era. What makes the region unique for our quest is that many Catalan names and places remind of Wolfram's symbols and word constructions. That's why this writer spent a good part of his life there in the 1970s, searching like a fool for the grail castle. He ignored, of course, a sign on the highway from Figueres to Llancà because it didn't advertise a castle, only the monasterio San Pedro de Rodas...

        Most of the Alt Empordà is flat like a tableau, and often under the spell of the Tramuntana, a fierce wind storm from the northwestern Pyrenees, which connects to the French Mistral when it thunders down the Rhone valley. The locals say if it lasts longer than five days it will continue for five weeks and might drive some people "mad like Dali". Under the influence, a Frenchman opened a Club Med on the stormy cape that is now a group of deserted buildings. (Yours truly hopes it wasn't Monsieur Blitz, whom he remembers fondly from Antibes!) The Tramuntana is the reason why few houses in the Eastern Pyrenees have windows to the North, except of a small one to dry jamons, butifaras and lomos in the winter, when the traditional Christmas pig is slaughtered. This writer had to hold one of the rear legs while it expired kosher style, which is another bloody, medieval experience he'll never forget! This fierce windstorm does not only open the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz but is also featured in a romantic love letter of 30 lines in Wolfram's Parzival (P.715), which reveals how well the German poet knew the region:

   mac wol dîner güete jehn

   staete âne wenken sus

   alz pôlus artanticus

   gein dem tremuntâne stêt

   der neweder von der stete gêt:

   unser minne sol in triwen stên

   und niht von ein ander gên.

  I can see your warm feelings

  are always without wavering

  like the Antarctic pole

  stands against the Northwind

  and never wavers from its place:

  Our love shall stay in such faith

  and never move apart.

          Our literal translation destroys the poetic beauty of lines 14-20, but the meaning is preserved. The adaptation of Hatto [4] misses the point with the Antarctic Pole stands opposite the North Star. It weakens Wolfram's dynamic opposition and reference to Catalonia. Not to be confused with the Ultramontane, the Tramuntana is an icey wind from the Northern mountains that attacks the warm South, and is only known at the Mediterranean. That it is featured in a love letter to symbolize the force of love localizes the grail castle, because of Venus-Aphrodite, as we will show below. 

         Furthermore, it confirms that Wolfram supports Chrétien's etymological concept by identifying Catalonia: He names the grail castle Munsalvaesche (also Monsalvasch, Montsalwatsche), located in Terre de Salvaesche. These neutral zones were known as Salvaterre, and a part of the Alt Empordà was an ancient refuge. Locations like Selva de Mar, Port de la  Selva and San Salvador are derived from Latin like the Old French "Salvage", "Salvatje" or "Salvatge" in Catalan, meaning both, savage and salvationMont Verdera (Viridarium) means green mountain, and may be why Wolfram's virgin carries the grail on a green pillow. "Mun" is Catalan vernacular for mountain, and "Munsalvatje" is pronounced "Munsalvatsch" in German, which is synonymous with "Wildenberg". Although some etymologies need to be verified, probably with Otto Springer, it is a quick exercise to google words like Montsalvage-Monsalvatge-Monsalvatje, which are quite common in Catalonia – and entirely independent of Wolfram and grail romance!  

         Wolfram's change to Munsalvaesche (ms D used by Lachmann) may contain a higher symbolism: The umlaut ae cleanses "salvatsch" with the German "wäsche" (washing, cleaning, purification), a theme of the final rites when the black & white Feirefiss (son of fire) is baptized before the grail (P.817). In view of our findings, this connects to the macrocosm of the watery and fiery triangles in the sky. A good time to get help from the 2nd. century CE, which confirms the Magic Sword again: Claudius Ptolemy was a Greek who wrote the famous astronomical work Almagest, which is Latin for the Arabic الكتاب المجسطي, al-kitabu-l-mijisti, ( i.e. "The Great Book"). It was discovered in Toledo at the time of Chrétien, and translated from Arabic into Latin by Gerard of Cremona (ca. 1114-1187). A better translation was done later under the patronage of Frederick II – when Michael Scot was his astrologer! Although it served the Vatican to oppose the heliocentric concept of Copernicus, an early version of the Almagest could be the "discarded manuscript" Wolfram's Kyot found in Toledo. For us, it's Chrétien's second invitation to "grasp" the hilt of the Magic Sword, because Ptolemy was also a celebrated cartographer. If we pursue the "Greek connection" at the above cape, this erudite Greek rewards us with sensational news.

3. A Greek temple?

         Right where the Pyrenees meet the Med, there existed long ago a famous Temple of Venus, which may have been consecrated to the love goddess Aphrodite in Greek times. The Renaissance editions of Ptolemy's maps display only this temple in all of Europe, which suggests it was more important than the ones in Rome. The collorized Bologna edition of 1477 includes it even on the world map, like the Roma 1478, which has a larger image. Click on the detail at left and you'll see a larger picture in black & white! At right is the colorized German version (Ulm, 1486) which demonstrates the popularity of these maps in Europe. About a century before Ptolemy, the geographers Strabo and Pompius Mela mentioned the temple in their works, and Pliny the Elder in Naturalia Historia, which is conclusive proof of its importance. In view of our quest, this could give us a plausible explanation why Wolfram decided to name the grail keepers templeisen. Most scholars interpret it as a reference to the Knights Templar, but these knights had been under holy orders within the folds of the Roman Church when Wolfram worked on his poem, and the accusations of heresy a later fabrication. Another unsolved riddle is the location of the Venus Temple which the archeologists seem to ignore. According to Pierre de Marca, the green mountain with San Salvador was known as "Podium Veneris" in Roman times, which is Venus Mountain or Venusberg in German. We know that he studied Mela's Chorographia and Pliny's Naturalia Historia at a monastery in Lleida, a debate we need to postpone until we've had a chance to expose his plagiarism and credit Pujades. Catalan historians describe the fortress as either Castell de Verdera or Sant Salvador. It is on the crest of Mount Verdera, at 670 meters (ca. 2200 ft), and inspired the name of Salvador Dali. The walls of the ruin, depicted at right, are from the 13th century, but there are older foundations inside. The castle is mentioned in 904 CE as "castrum quod dicunt Verdaria", a corruption from Viridaria. It was donated to the monastery in 973 by count Guifré of Roussilon and Empúries after he may have moved its residents to Urgell, which would explain the grail paintings, but soon thereafter "...Hugo I of Empúries took possession again, and pope Benedict VIII threatened excommunication... and the castle was abandoned by 1283..." [5]

       The ruins are only visible since the 1980's because they were hidden by trees and bushes until a couple of major fires opened the above perspective. It is common knowledge among the locals that the fires are set by shepherds to preserve open spaces for their herds. In the 1970's, when this writer lived in a village at the Muga river and had a clear view of this mountain top, he kept searching for the grail castle elsewhere, like a fool. (I never saw these walls, didn't even know San Salvador existed until I read in a German tourist guide, of all places, about a legend that the Holy Grail was once guarded at the monastery. I visited Sant Pere de Rodes when it was still known as San Pedro de Rodas and read its guidebook when all pieces of the puzzle came finally together [6]. My wife took the above picture of me in the 1980s to document the large stone blocks that were used in the Middle Ages). Everywhere inside the church are these blocks used to support the columns, as the photo at right demonstrates. The archeologists would be well-advised to compare them with the authentic Roman blocks at left we photographed on a street in Rome! They have been outdoors for about two thousand years and, except for a rounded corner, almost identical.

        Wikipedias are not reliable because anyone can edit their claims, monks included, but it is curious that our conjectures from the early 1980s get finally some support from this version in English, accessed in 2015, where it is claimed "Columns and pillars have been taken from a former Roman building"! This is supported by the guidebook "DK Eyewitness Travel: Barcelona and Catalonia" at right, revised in 2008!  Although pillars and columns are often confused, that these are from a Roman temple would make sense. They seem to be marked by the fierce Tramuntana like the rocks at the Cape of Crosses, which would be inconsistent with their location inside the building. The photo from the 2002 guidebook at left shows how columns of different lengths are pieced together. We removed the colorful light effects from our scan to enhance the marks of the weather. In fact, the Corinthian capitals could also be from the temple, but that's something only an art historian can determine. With such conclusive evidence about the pillars and columns, it is difficult to understand why Catalan archeologist are keeping quiet that the Venus temple has finally been discovered, even though it is known that Christian churches were often built over Pagan temples.

     The German poet Wolfram, who describes the region in detail, must have stayed at the monastery and noticed the temple's remains. This may explain why he proposes that the grail empowers the phoenix to rise from the ashes and even adds a hidden, numerological structure to his poem, which is based on Hesiod and Plutarch. To secure the "Greek connection" to the region he refers to the grail knights as "templeisen" whose coat of arms depicts a "turtle-dove", which is also based on Plutarch who writes in De Iside et Osiride [7]:   

"The Egyptians venerated the animals themselves,

while the Greeks use the correct expressions in these matters

and regard the dove as the sacred animal of Aphrodite."   

Like the love letter where Wolfram mentions the Tramuntana, the love theme is additional evidence that he visited the site. The monastery has been sacked in the 16th and 17th century many times and anything of value was removed by soldiers, bandits, pirates, and treasure hunters. Some fragments have been identified in museums around the world and private collections. There is "Peter in the Ship", a relief with some carvings from Antiquity on the back, but two windows in the main tower with sculptures of a mermaid and a bearded man are still on site. Did Wolfram take them for Aphrodite and Aphroditos? The Corinthian theme and medieval foliage depicted on the capitals could explain why Ishtar-Aphrodite-Venus became a major theme in latter-day grail romance, from the vegetation cults to Venusberg variations. As said above, the Tramuntana opens the Chymical Wedding and in addition to the triangular "Tomb of Venus" where her son Cupid joins the tale, there are "Three Temples" on the mountain top that form one of the many triangles the story features. If you understand German, here is an informative Wedding-summary from the Anthroposophical Society!

The fortress San Salvador, the monastery Sant Pere, and the church Santa Helena are grouped in a triangle on top of Mount Verdera, high above the sea where the Temple of Venus once stood. The site is between the town of Roses and the Cape of Crosses, and the builders of the monastery lived in a nearby cluster of buildings called Santa Creu de Roses, which indicates that they were known as "Rosicrucians." In addition to Wolfram, other poets may have visited the site as well and came up with creative ideas. Even the Celtic symbolism in grail romance could be based on the region because it was once settled by the Celt-Iberians. Few outsiders know that the Pyrenees are packed with spectacular "dolmens" and "taulas" of pre-historic times! When you check Google Earth for the dimensions of the cloister, use the Geo view and click on the photographs of the dolmens near St Pere de Rodes. You can also enjoy this paraglider which begins above the Greek ruins in Empúries and ends with some gutsy passes of the monastery! Here is spectacular YouTube footage from a drone that circles around Mont Verdera! We can see Roses at the bay, several views of Port de la Selva, and a little of Llancà below. The wide-angle lens distorts the horizon and makes the ancient harbor Empúries at the end of the bay seem farther than it is. As this was recorded on a warm day shortly before sunset there is substantial haze in the West where Olot and the Pyrenees are usually visible.

4. Enter Pujades

         Our key informant for Catalonia is a lawyer from Barcelona, Dr. Jeroni Pujades (1568 - ca.1650). His Crónica universal is based on fourty years of historical research, but disappeared under mysterious circumstances for two centuries after the first part was published in Catalan – which would explain why his findings are overlooked by most historians. Another reason is, unfortunately, that Pujades disputes the official chronicles of the Church and dares to challenge a part of medieval history the Bollandists and Maurists have pretty much nailed down. If you like the pun and are interested in Baroque intrigues, click on The Pujades Affair! It offers the kind of drama Alexandre Dumas could have written, with characters like Richelieu, Colbert, Louis XIV, the archbishop of Paris – and even a touch of Cervantes to make the truth entertaining.

         If you can't read the "Coronica" (1609) in Catalan, or the "Crónica" (1831) in Spanish, here are the highlights of this amazing tale: In the early 1600s, Pujades visited Sant Pere de Rodes and found a book of parchments, numbered 223, in the sacristy of the main church [8] with a record of its history. It contains a story that was probably as much of a shock for him as it is a joy for us, not because we lack compassion but because it resolves an age-old mystery. Click here for the original Catalan account from 1609, or check the Spanish text (below) in his works, which was finally rediscovered and published in Barcelona in the 1830s [9].

         Anyone familiar with the rhetoric of Pujades will notice the first throw-away line after Año 603. By opening with "So that time shouldn't go by without saying something about Catalonia" he alerts his readers that something very important is about to follow. If you understand Spanish, you'll note the subtle, esoteric reference to Chrétien. Pujades points out that the views from the mountain reach all the way to Olot in the West, but only experts and locals would know that the coastal town below is Llancà. Hence, the view reaches from Llancà to Olot in the distant mountains, from Lance to Olot – and we have Lancelot! An etymological coincidence? Chrétien would have loved it! But let's not forget what we learned at St Michel de Cuixà : that Latin chronicles can't be trusted, even when they are penned by pious monks. Here's the summary, but we must remain very skeptical about what is claimed here:

603: The pope and the citizens of Rome fear an attack by the Babylonians and Persians in 608 and after a private council decide to take their holiest relics to a hiding place in the West. Pujades quotes other historians to show that the decision made sense, except that they could not foresee Rome would be spared and Jerusalem attacked instead – and many relics "profaned" including the holy cross. Hence, the pope leads a procession with the relics to a ship and it sails down the Tiber to the Mediterranean.

As the ship sails westward, the glory of God and a strong wind from the South takes it to Armen Roda, a natural harbor at the Pyrenees, where the churchmen decide to rest for a few days. Under the guidance of Feliu, Pons and Epicino, they climb the mountains, enjoy the breathtaking views, and discover a cave near an artesian spring, with a small altar inside, which St Paul of Narbonne has used as a retreat in the first century. Impressed by the holiness of the place, the men decide to transfer the relics secretly to the cave, conceal the opening, and sail away.

When they return after the calamity has passed, they face another: New growth of wild plants has changed everything and they loose all sense of direction. After a futile search they remain on site and continue to look for the cave until the rest of their life. These desperate efforts are understandable because the treasure included the most precious relics of Christianity:

The skull and right arm of St Peter

and a cup with the blood of Christ.

      Surprisingly, the naive tale about a "Ship of Fools" contains every basic ingredient of grail romance: There is the Holy Grail, which is in the “company” of an ailing St Peter, the most venerated of fishermen. We have an hermit's cave near an artesian spring, which Wolfram features near the grail castle. And, above all, we meet some real fools with an elaborate "quest" on their hands.

        Long articles and entire books have been written about the meaning of the "Fisherking" and "Holy Grail", and many scholars would rather pull their hair out than accept our simplistic solution for the age-old mystery. They should have used Occam's Razor, which is why this discovery didn't become a sensation in academic circles in 1609, and why none of the imaginative experts of the mystery have heard about it? Not even the authors of the best-seller "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" had a clue, although their cult center Rennes-le-Château is only 60 miles to the north-west as the crow flies! Because Catalan is a fairly obscure language, the legend was published once more in 1831 in Spanish, yet equally ignored. Those of you who want to check it out should know that the editors of the Crónica didn't have access to the Spanish text at the BnF in Paris, and merely translated the Catalan version from 1609. The revised manuscript Esp. 118  in Paris, which was never published, reveals that Pujades got more specific and started the second line with "un vaso, o ampolla de la Sangre de la Santa Imagen de Christo nuestro Senor..." This is quite a correction because "ampolla" is limited in Spanish to a bottle or decanter, an enclosed reliquary, but "vaso" is a subtle hint to the grail because it includes common vessels like cups, bowls and "gralas". (Our scan shows the "s" as it was used in many European languages looking like an f, as in the above caso, vaso, Sangre, Christo, and nuestro.) 

       Although Pujades relates the entire tale in Spanish, he is giving his readers another clue by quoting an original passage about St Paul's altar, which confirms that it is the Latin chronicle Wolfram's Kyot could have read: "Et descendentes ab ipso monte, invenerunt fontem valde perspicuum, et ante ipsum montem invenerunt unam pulchriorem speluncam: et super ipsam unum parvum altare, quod beatus Paulus Narbonensis aedificaverat". In view of "Lancelot", this could be another hint by the historian that he was aware of the grail connection, but couldn't reveal it openly. The Spanish Inquisition was still active and nothing could be published without their stamp of approval.

5. Consequences

      That the men searched 'until their death' reveals they failed. Hence, the search continued during the next generation – and who knows for how many more?  According to Pujades, these men lived first in cells, or hermitages, a pious lifestyle Boniface IV had promoted. As the centuries passed, the cells grew to an abbey and monastery, high in the mountains above the Mediterranean. It was apparently not destroyed by the Moors and there is a tradition it was visited by Charlemagne. Starting with Pope Urban II, half a dozen popes rewarded the monastery will bulls to grant indulgences equal to St Peter in Rome, which made Sant Pere de Rodes rich and famous. In those times the "green mountain" was covered by a lush rain forest, which was cut down in the 16th century to build ships for the conquest of the New World. (This picture was taken in 2007 when most of the exterior had been restored. For scale, just compare the small automobile at lower left. Here is also a link in English for a brief introduction to the site!) However, we have to be skeptical for several reasons: Latin chronicles can't be trusted and there is the problem that Chrétien's grail is a platter or bowl, and Wolfram's lapsit exillis some kind of stone! To find the truth, we need to review the history and legends of Sant Pere de Rodes from different perspectives.

        For starters, this is great material for a Monty Python sketch: If Italian clergymen climb up and down this mountain for decades until they die of old age, intensely searching for something they can't find, the locals would have witnessed their odd behavior. Passing shepherds, hunters, and knights would have asked questions and the Italians had to respond somehow. Simple and naive, as many early Christians were, they could neither be dishonest nor reveal the truth, which didn't leave many options. They would have admitted in Latin that they are looking for reliquiae insignes, some old bones, and a gradalis, a vessel without value. Instead of revealing their search for Petrus, they would have mentioned a fisherman, and when pressed, a special fisherman. Those who asked the right question, one of compassion, were invited to join their quest. After all, the Italians needed new blood, disciples and servants who would work for them and continue after their death. Some of this lore was obviously embellished in nearby villages, where they had to beg or barter for food, and because some novices talk too much. Soon, the rumors about an important fisherman made him a "rich fisher" and even a "Fisherking". 

        For decades, or centuries, the strange events at Sant Pere de Rodes and San Salvador were great stuff for passing minstrels and some wrote it down. Who knows, they may have even named the cape "caput crucis" after the lost skull and crossbones? The seekers in the region between Roses and the Cape of Crosses were probably known as Rosicrucians, and the little village next to the monastery where the stonemasons lived was Santa Creu de Rodes, which is difficult to dismiss as a coincidence.

        This is a good time to pay homage to Alexandre Deulofeu i Torres (1903-1978), an amateur historian and philosopher in Figueres who provided the impetus for our grail study. He wrote the first guide book for the monastery in 1970, when it was still in ruins, and called "Sant Pere de Roda" in Catalan. He introduces Pujades and the legend of the lost relics, from the skull and right arm of St Peter to the vessel with the blood of Christ, and reveals that there is no cave under the altar. He even mentions the excavations at the Vatican that came up empty! In disregard of traditional scholarship he proposes that the 'adoptionist heresy' of Bishop Felix of Urgell included iconoclasm and influenced the Cathar faith. Furthermore, Deulofeu developed an impressive concept about the «matemàtica de la història», a cyclical evolution of civilizations, which inspired our interest in 854-year cycles. He even proposes that Romanesque Art was born at Sant Pere de Rodes, which implies that the Freemasons originated there as well [10]. The enlargement of the map identifies many famous churches and monasteries that were founded after Sant Pere and shows the routes of the travelling stone masons. Because they cover Western Europe and Great Britain over a period of several centuries, this would explain why they needed secret signals to recognize each other. Because the Rosicrucians seem to have had their start on the 'green mountain' as well, they were probably descendants of the original seekers and accepted by the masons as spiritual guides.

       With so many grail symbols finally identified, we could ask why this article does not end here? Creative writers like Dan Brown and most filmmakers would wrap it up here and now! After all, we found the legends that started grail romance and why should it matter that the chronicle is a bit "fishy"?

6. The Verdera cover-up

        However, we have barely scratched the surface because the mystery is much deeper if we are committed to the truth. For example, Pujades writes that the monastery was built over the relics cave, that the altar of the church was hiding its entry, and that he entered himself. But he doesn't say verbatim, only rhetorically, that the relics are there because they are listed in a later part of the chronicle:

"Pasa mas adelante el dicho libro, y refiere que en aquel tiempo del papa Bonifacio cuarto, y del emperador Focas, fue construido aquel monasterio de San Pedro de Rodas: y que alli (debajo del altar mayor, como dije en el capitulo 16 del libro cuarto) reposan los cuerpos de San Pedro exorcista, hijo de San Pedro apóstol, de Santa Concordia, de San Lucidino y de San Moderando. De modo que la cueva que hoy está debajo del dicho altar, en la cual yo he entrado, seria la misma en que fueron puestas aquellas santas reliquias, por manos de Feliu, Pons y Epicino, que las trajeron de Roma. Y diciendose en aquel libro que cuando las trajeron estaban tambien con ellas las del apóstol San Pedro; el no decir que estan ahora, arguye que debió permitir nuestro Senor que en algun tiempo que se volviese a descubrir la cueva, y hallarse en ella las reliquias, dejarian alli las demas, y la cabeza y brazo de San Pedro lo volverian a Roma. Entendiendolo asi, no hallamos contrariedad en lo que sobre este particular dejamos aqui escrito, y lo que universalmente profesa la santa Iglesia catolica romana, diciendo que la cabeza del apostol San Pedro realmente esta en Roma, y alli se muestra junto con la de su socio y coapostol San Pablo. Y es muy posible que todo haya sucedido asi en diferentes tiempos"..

         Because Peter's relics are no longer mentioned Pujades "argues" that the Lord must have permitted the recovery of the cave at a later time. He "concludes" by conjecture that some relics were left behind and Peter's skull and arm returned to Rome, because "The Holy Roman Catholic Church proclaims universally that the skull of St Peter is really in Rome where it is shown together with the skull of his companion and co-apostle St Paul..."  Hidden by his religious exaltation, which is also a signal, Pujades takes his rhetorical concept even further: He fails to mention that the later entry omits the blood-relic of Christ, as if this had no importance. Or, as if it had not occurred to him, an erudite humanist who also wrote poetry, that the relic is celebrated in Medieval literature as the Holy Grail. He ends with an interesting clue: "It is very possible that everything happened like this at different times." (i.e. underlining added to match the above Spanish text!)  If anyone had attacked his claim, which we'll explore with the excavations of Peter's tomb at the Vatican, he could have replied that he dated the events in 603 CE although pope Bonifac IV lived in 608 (See note 5). 

7. New information

The discovery at Sant Pere de Rodes may have inspired Pujades to look for grail symbols at other monasteries in Catalonia, including Cuixà and Montserrat, where he is our key informant as well. Perhaps, we'll find some day an esoteric Latin tract by Pujades about Mont Verdera which inspired the German Rosicrucian manifestos because the similarities are difficult to ignore. It was an era when scholars had no language barriers because they communicated in Latin, like Kepler and Galileo, for example. Although highly speculative, we can't exclude the possibility that Pujades was regarded by some initiates as a master of their order. It could explain why he was neither censured nor punished when his polemic debate of Peter's relics was published in 1609. Unless, of course, it took his foes 26 years to decode his concept and had him suffer the ultimate penalty. Even "history detectives" like us have an advantage over historians from the nineteenth century because we live in the Information Age! It's easy for us to find out that the monastery was attacked by the French several times during the second half of the 17th century, followed by the Duke of Noailles, who removed most of its books and chronicles in 1708. It was sacked again in 1726 and 1731, and occupied in 1793 when the French destroyed all religious objects in a bond fire. As a result, it was abandoned in 1798 and reduced to a popular destination for local treasure hunters [11]. We also learn that after local contractors had knocked most sculptures off the walls, some pillagers resorted to dynamite, which caused such public outrage that the ruin was declared a national monument in 1930. (You can click on the insert to see how bad it looked at the time!) When archeologists began to clear up the site, one of the first locals allowed to the "cave" in the 1960s was the scholar Alexandre Deulofeu, whose guide book got us started on the quest. He concludes in the English version of his tourist guide: "In the cleaning works carried out during these last years, once the rubble had been cleared, it has been proved that no such cave exists and that it is only a ramp which leads back into the church" [12].

         For us, forty years of detective work are coming to an end because the archeologists are finally sharing their findings, as the latest guidebook shows: "The most important of the areas awaiting exploration is the extreme east... The discontinued exploration of the area showed the perimeter of a large, rectangular building raised on large granite blocks. As explained, the only study carried out has shown that it's origin is previous to the 7th century." [13]

        Source for the information is the art historian Imma Lorés i Otzet who teaches in Lleida and Barcelona [14]. According to her detailed report, the archeologists at the site identified a structure of 25 x 7 meters from the "Roman era," which is East of it and in a North-South orientation. They also uncovered under the 12th century cloister a primitive one, which lines up with the Roman structure, which had been used as living quarters until the end of the 17th century. Furthermore, they finally admit that the pillars and columns inside the church may also be from Antiquity. Here is picture to illustrate what we suspected for decades:

        We can see where the columns are pieced together and covered by a smooth layer of stucco which has largely deteriorated. What we don't know is where they came from?  But it makes no sense that the beautiful capitals are a mix of unrelated designs unless the Romanesque capitals were combined with their Corinthian counterparts from the Venus temple. Based on the entertaining idea that if something walks like a duck... it seems strange that the archeologists hold this conclusion back! It could mean that they can't rule out that the fortress on the mountain top was built on the temple's foundations, which would require further study. In that case, the lower structure served for housing and the columns were rolled down the mountain and broke apart en route.

         The guidebook offers a floorpan of the monastery, which identifies the Roman structure at the right of its plan under 18 "Remains of a building predating the abbey..." which may be the dark walls parallel to the blue roof at the right on our photo, although they could be hidden under a roof if they were covered until the 17th century. Deulofeu mentions in the first guidebock [15] a structure in the South, measuring 21.5 by 6.05 m and built in "opus spicatum," which is "perhaps even older than the monastery". According to the layout, all spaces around the upper cloister (11-16) are quite similar to the Roman structure. Hence, there is a good possibility, pending excavations of the foundations, that they relate to the temple. Although the the South-Eastern side used to have a fairly well-maintained landscape, the archeologists seem to have let the growth of bushes and vines get out of hand to prevent public access of the Roman walls if they are outside the monastery. We tried in vain last year and intend to document our next attempt in the summer of 2020.

       Lorés points out that some kind of earth movement had caused a crack in the Southern wall of the Roman structure and exposed artifacts from the inside that can be dated from the 6th century. Even this evaluation can be supported with the research of Pujades, who quotes from several historians that devastating earthquakes errupted in France and continued into Spain around 584 CE, causing major destructions in the Pyrenees [16], which would have included the Venus temple. According to Lorés some fragments from Antiquity were found at the site, including one of Carrara marble with vegetation motifs from the 1st century CE [17]. This could be a reference to the agrarian cults and Venus symbolism we mentioned above and might explain why so many capitals from the 10-12th century repeat the theme in other Romanesque cloisters and churches in Catalonia. Pujades mentions two large blocks of Italian marble that were used as altars, which are no longer extant. Based on his observations at the site, he had good reasons to propose that the events in the legend could have taken place earlier than 610 CE, as the earthquake indicates. Especially, if we consider he had a "mole" there because his son Dalmau was a monk who transferred from Cuixà to Sant Pere and could have shown him the Roman ruins! Nevertheless, most scholars will dismiss these legends if there is no external evidence to support them, but we will show below that Peter's skull and crossbones are indeed missing from his tomb at the Vatican! Because this is an established fact, published in an official report of the Vatican, the legends of Sant Pere de Rodes are difficult to ignore!

       If relics were lost in a cave, which the poor fools had to search for until the end of their life, it was obviously not next to Roman ruins and an Artesian spring! It is merely the ideal location for a shelter during the search as it was hidden in a dense rain forest in the mountains.

        The monastery was expanded dramatically when the relics cult was at its peak, when entire churches and cathedrals were built upon fragments of bones, and even foreskins. Its legend, however, is about Peter's skull and right arm, paired with a blood relic of Christ, which would be the most treasured relics of Christendom and far too holy for monks to make up! What they could have invented, which is also suggested by Pujades, is that the relics were not lost in 603 CE, but at an earlier time if we consider the Roman structure. If the chronicler changed merely the timing of the event, the relics could have been removed from Rome shortly before the Visigoths sacked the city in 410 CE, or even by Alaric. This way, the scenario would remain unchanged and the ship's voyage towards Hispania would make a lot more sense because Roman provinces were well-established and our imagined Monty Python sketch would be even funnier:

Churchmen came for centuries to search for the cave

because they really didn't know where it is!

       This version makes the legend of Sant Pere de Rodes almost believable. It would explain why the search lasted for centuries and why funds were available to build such a large monastery. Robert de Boron's estoire about three successive parties travelling to the farthest West would be credible. The first group of Alan warriors could have hidden the treasure, and not in Avalon, which is in the North, but in the valleys of Avaron, Catalonia. We must go per-ce-val to find it, which may be why Chrétien calls Perceval a Valois and Wolfram uses Waleise – because he went through a certain "valley" to reach his destination and destiny! This has confused many scholars who failed to consider the wordplay Val Avaron/Val Aran because Val d'Aran means "valley of valleys" and leads through the valleys with the fiery grails in Ribagorza to the valley of Llancà. The second group is all about the Vatican and Petrus, but the seekers gave up the search when they realized that spiritual ideals are more valuable than material objects, which would identify Robert's third group. This means that the treasure was hidden at Mount Verdera and would explain why Robert suggests that the riddle of Petrus could reveal "what became of him, where he would be found again, and that he can only be rediscovered with great hardship!"

8. Conclusions

     After a recent review of this study, which has been stitched together and revised over decades, we still maintain that Chrétien based his grail castle on Sant Miquel de Cuixà and Wolfram on Sant Pere de Rodes [18]. Hence, you have the option to either research "spiritual values" in the Pyrenees near Urgell, or "material things" at the Vatican to check our conjecture why Peter's relics are missing and then review Robert's riddle to consider if valuable artifacts from the Sack of Rome ended up in the lost cave. Or you can start from 'scratch', literally, to find out why Kepler illustrated the title page of De stella nova with a vignette of ten chicks scratching in the fertile dung of a farmyard. Could he be right with the claim that there are a few hidden seeds of truth or "golden corns" in our superstitious beliefs?


    The choice is yours!

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        1. We propose under Wolfram in Grail Riddles that it means "anschauen" in German, like "looking" at something. If you don't mind getting even more side-tracked, here is our on-going study of The Kyot Problem.

         2. See prologue at end of article, lines 13-19.    

         3. Narcís Garolera, El català que ara es parla - La degradació de la llengua als mitjans de comunicació, (Barcelona, 2012), ftn. 24. “Roda i Roses són noms d’origen ben diferent, inconnexos” (Onomasticon Cataloniae, vol. VII, p. 462a); el nom del monestir és St. P[ere] de Roda, sense –s [...] mot cèltic sense res en comú amb el [nom] grec de Roses” (ibid., vol. II, p. 244b); la tradició viva i multisecular ha estat sempre, i únicament, Sant Pere de RODA” (ibid., vol. VI, p. 416a)." Thanks to Joan Coromines, the celebrated master of the Catalan language, a monastery that was always known as "St Pere de Roda" has been renamed "St Pere de Rodes". Perhaps, even the town "Roda" in the High Pyrenees will be renamed. See footnote 24:

         4. Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival, tr. A.T. Hatto, (New York, 1980), p.356. However, the translation of Cyril Edwards, Parzival and Titurel, (Oxford, 2006) mentions in Explanatory Note 299, p. 392, that Tremuntane is "a borrowing  from the O.Fr. tresmontane, 'North Star, Polar Star', or perhaps Italinan tramontana. In a crusading lyric of Wolfram's contemporary, Der Tannhäuser, it denotes the North Wind." We should add that he was a generation later, but may have met Wolfram as the Venusberg legend implies.

              5.  Anna Perez i Mir, Catalunya romanica, 11., (Barcelona, 2000), pp.738-39.

              6.  Alexandre Deulofeu, Sant Pere de Roda,  (Figueres, 1970).

         7. Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride, ed. J. Gwyn Griffith, (Wales, 1970), p.231

         8.  Geronimo Pujades, Crònica Universal del Principado de Cataluña, (Barcelona, 1829), p. V?

         9. Pujades, op. cit. Vol. IV, (Barcelona, 1831), pp.186-190. ¨Año 603  I.  Paraque no pase tiempo sin decir alguna cosa de Cataluña en donde corresponden los sucesos : es de este lugar el referir que en aquel libro de S. Pedro de Rodas, que he dicho en el capítulo 16 del libro 4.° que es del órden del P. San Benito, se halla escrito: Que en el tiempo que Focas imperaba en el Oriente, y tenia la Sede Apostólica en Roma el papa Bonifacio cuarto, el Almirante de Babilonia viniendo de las partes ultramarinas con un poderoso ejército suyo, junto con otro de lo Persas, deliberó venir, y amenazó pasar contra Roma. Entendiendo el Romano Pontífice que los Caldéos desde an país querian venir á Roma para sujetarla y devastarla, y apoderarse de los cuerpos de los spóstoles San Pedro y San Pablo, y de otros Santos: convocó un concilio particular de los Pontífices que en aquella ocasion se hallaban en Roma, juntamente con los Príncipes y señores que en ella residian: y allí pro­puso el temor que tenia por el peligro en que estaba, pidiéndoles consejo sobre to que convendria hacer en aquella urgencia. Y que los Príncipes y patricios Romanos le respondieron acordes: que pues sabia que el enemigo comun queria venir á Roma para llevarse aquellos santos cuerpos, era conveniente, para no padecer tal oprobio, sacar de allí alguna parte del cuerpo del bienaventurado San Pedro apóstol: es a saber, la cabeza y el brazo derecho..., y un vaso, o ampolla de la sangre de la santa imágen de Cristo: y que el Papa con todo el clero las llevaron en procesion hasta ponerlas en una nave...  Entire text

Pope in 603 CE was Gregory the Great, who is remembered for Gregorian chants and the relics cult. In fact, he had the tomb of St Peter reconstructed in the Constantine basilica, which indicates he wanted to take his skull and right arm to a safer place. At the time, Phocas murdered Emperor Maurice and the Persian king Chosroes II began war with the empire to allegedly avenge his death. Boniface IV was installed in 608 and Heraclius succeeded Phocas in 610. This would mean that the relics were hidden in the cave around 608. However, the Persians did not attack Rome, but moved toward Chalcedon (608), took Damascus (613) and finally Jerusalem (614). Pujades writes "Año 603", but when he said that all could have happened at a different time and when challenged by an Inquisitor, he could claim 603 is wrong because it was the era of pope Gregory. Here is an excerpt from Pujades to show he could claim 608: "Porque si leemos a Marco Antonio Sabelico, y a Platina en la vida de Bonifacio cuarto, hallaremos que a los ultimos dias del imperio de Focas, en el pontificado de Bonifacio cuarto, en el ano 608 de Cristo, segun Mateo Palmerin y Baronio, o en el de 611, segun Mariano Scoto y Pedro Mejia; Cosros Rey de Persia tomo toda la Mesopotamia, parte de Siria, Armenia, y Capadocia , y la santa ciudad de Jerusalen : robando la santisima cruz de Cristo nuestro Senor, y otras reliquias, y profanando las cosas sagradas con tanta velocidad y prontitud...

        10.  Alexandre Deulofeu, El Ampurdán, cuna del arte románico, (Barcelona, 1962).  See also: Kenneth J. Conant, Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture 800 to 1200, (Yale University, 1992), p.102. "The Lombards, aggressors against Rome and Montecassino, are generally thought of as destroyers. However, they had a fairly well organized state... After their conquest (774) the Franks used these cadres, and they aided in the task of setting up Charlemagne's empire".

        11. Eduard Riu-Barrera, La fortuna d'unes obres, Sant Pere de Rodes, del monestir al museu, from Quaderns del Museu Frederic Marès, Expositions 12, (Barcelona, 2007), English on pp. 302-03.

                 12. Alexandre Deulofeu, Sant Pere de Roda, its importance, history and art, English ed., (Editorial Emporitana, Figueras, 1970), pp. 16-17.

                 13. Joan Badia-Homs, Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes, (Barcelona, 2002), pp. 115-16

        14. Immaculada Lorés, El Monestir De Sant Pere De Rodes, (Barcelona, 2002), p.19-20: Here's the link in Catalan to Estructiones d'època més antiga: Dos murs paral-lels i molt regulars, construïts amb grans carreus rectangulars de granit que constructivament difereixen de la resta de construccions del monastir, delimiten un gran edifici rectangular, de 25 x 7 m, l'aparell del qual va fer pensar que es tractava d'una edificació d'epoca romana (Mataró i Pladelasala 1992: 35, Mataró et al. 1992-1993: 149; Burch et al. 1994: 166; Mataró i Riu i Barrera 1994: 81)...També es va poder comprovar de l'edifici estigué en ús com a mínim fins al segle XVII, moment en qué as va eixamplar cap a llevant, segurament a causa d'algun moviment de terra que ses va afectar i del qual encara en queda una esquerda en el mur sud. Els materials trobats en els dos estrats inferiors que recolzaven sobre la part interior dels murs s'han datat en el segle VI, la qual cosa informa que la cronologia de l'edifici ha de ser contemporània o anterior i, per tant, tardoromana (Llinàs et al. 1996: 272-273; Mataró i Pladelasala 1999), cosa que rectifica suposicions precedents a la intervenció d'una datació anterior (Mataró i Pladelasala 1992: 35; Mataró et al. 1992-1993: 149). Del que no se'n pot deduir res és de la seva funció original. De tota manera, la immillorable situatió estratègica de l'indret fa perfectament plausible suposar-hi un emplaçament antic..

         15.  Deulofeu, (see above, Nr. 6) p. 17

         16  Pujades,  (see above, Nr. 9) p. 159

                17. Lorés (see above, Nr. 12), p. 20. A close examination of Google Earth Pro shows a number of landslides around Mont Verdera which could have covered the cave. We should also consider that part of the mountain top could have broken off during earthquakes as the rubble below suggests. 

         18. Our study of Chrétien proposes that he based the "Conte du Gral" on the Gesta comitum and its hero Perceval on Guifré el Pelós. A comparison of his poem with Wolfram's adaptation shows that Chrétien used the monastery Eixalada (now Cuixà) as model for the grail castle, with the Fisherking fishing on a river because there is no lake. It is the river Tet, which destroyed the ancient monastery and required that Cuixà was rebuilt on higher grounds. Wolfram fuses Sant Pere de Rodes with the VenusTemple and introduces Anfortas fishing on a lake to which the monastery had the fishing rights. The Greek theme of the region allows him to expand  Chrétien's concept with the help of Plato and Plutarch and invoke Aphrodite and the phoenix myth.            




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