Secrets of Urgell

(A work in progress revised October 12, 2017)

It might surprise Arthurian scholars who associate the grail with the "Matter of Britain" that the word originated in Urgell (Spain) according to the experts (1), and that nine churches in the region have medieval paintings of the Holy Grail (2). The Canadian historian Joseph Goering claims that such images "are found nowhere else in Christendom: the Virgin Mary holding a sacred vessel", created fifty years before Chrétien de Troyes invented grail romance with a virgin holding the grail for the first time in literature (3). Joan Vallhonrat, a friend of Picasso, copied several paintings in 1908 but when reports about this unique treasure became public the churches could no longer be protected at their isolated locations in the High Pyrenees (4). The frescoes were covered with transparent glue and peeled off from the plaster in an Italian method called "strappo" and are exhibited today at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) in Barcelona and rated as the best examples of Romanesque art in the world. The most famous of these paintings is the "Pantocrator" from Sant Climent de Taüll, which was created eight hundred years ago and features Christ with such a stunning facial expression that it even surpasses modern art! Because of objections to the removal of these masterworks, painters were hired to restore the empty walls with copies in the early 1960s. These close-ups of the "grail virgin" show the difference between the original and the copy, which explains why they have been replaced by (fancy) projections of digital recreations:

Many art historians connect the above fresco to grail romance, but independent of the etymological link of the word "graal" to Urgell. Chandler R. Post writes in History of Spanish Painting (Harvard, 1930, p.195) that the vessel in Mary's hand "has been tentatively explained as the Holy Grail because Montserrat in Catalonia is connected with this legend and because the vessel seems to be filled with the Sacred Blood emitting miraculous rays". Otto Demus supports this identification in Romanische Wandmalerei, (München, 1968, p.160): "The Virgin... holds up a dish filled with the red glowing blood of Christ, a reminder that Catalonia was one of the centers of the cult of the Grail." (They don't mention that the cult is about a Black Madonna because this one is rather whitish!) It's an important work because the other paintings show Mary with a chalice, the Holy Grail of popular culture (5), while this simple bowl confirms the etymology of "gradalis-gradal-graal" (6). It is mirrored at nearby Santa Maria de Taüll where the wisemen use such bowls for their gifts as the detail shows at right. (Both images can be enlarged by clicking on them). This raises the question what Mary might be signaling with her right hand: is it that the flames are merely lightening her skin or a secret message – or both? Here are details of foolish virgins (7) and apostles (8) from other churches in the region that show how popular hand signals were at the time. 

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

The other church in the village, Santa Maria, features the traditional depiction of the Virgin Mary with little Jesus on her lap, which makes us wonder why she is lined up with the apostles at St Climent? This detail shows the wisemen at her side and, yes, below two (!) Stars of Bethlehem. They are wearing exotic miters with three fleurs-de-lys on top that look like crosses, which is an interesting ambiguity because they could either be kings or Magi! Bishop Ramon would have known that the Church revised their image as heretic magicians in the early Middle Ages by renaming them ¨Holy Three Kings¨, which is supported in Germany where their relics are venerated at the cathedral of Cologne. Their royalty was preached from every pulpit until the Reformation when Bible translations became available to the public and restored them as Magi. But they were celebrated in many parts of Europe as the "Magic Kings" (reyes magos, rois mages), which could include the High Pyrenees (11). Sta Maria de Cap d'Aran and Sta Maria d'Aneu show the Magi with conical caps, which would make them independent from Byzantine art where they are shown with Phrygian caps, like these in Ravenna. Here is another challenge for historians and break-through for our study: At Sta Maria d'Aneu, the three Magi wear robes with designs of the "fiery" and "watery" triangles we feature since the 1980s. At left is a detail which can be enlarged by clicking on it! The Magi on the other side of Mary wears a design that looks like the sun within a planetary triange, which could symbolize the fiery triangle next to the evening sun on Feb. 25, 6 BCE. One reason why scholars may have overlooked the paintings is that both valleys were difficult to access from France until two tunnels were built, in the 20th century and in 2007, see Viella Tunnel!

Back to Goering who ignores the esoteric symbolism of the Grail Virgin and simply links her to the Gregorian Reform so that he doesn't have to question her identity. Hence, he interprets the red-hot flames as "The grace of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost", but conceeds that "sacraments of oil, chrism and consecration; the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist; each and all of these meanings, and others too, might be represented..." After insisting that the poet Chrétien had no idea what a grail really was, he goes on to feature the consecration of the churches in Taüll by Bishop Ramon of Roda and Barbastro. Almost an entire chapter covers the life and works of this saint, which allows him to reconstruct the ceremony of the consecration. Goering admits "One might even imagine that the Grail processions as described by Chrétien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach owe something to this public liturgy" and points out that naming a church after "St. Clement, the famous first-century bishop of Rome and successor of St Peter" and adding the relics of St. Cornelius are meaningful choices, to conclude:

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

Goering would have understood this consecration if he had checked the vita of bishop Ramon in Spanish sources. "San Ramón, el obispo desterrado" informs us that he refused to support the wars of king Alfonso the Battler and protected the Muslims, Jews and heretics in his diocese. This is probably why Alfonso gave the bishop of Huesca a detachment of soldiers who killed the entourage of Ramon and expelled him from Barbastro. He had to retire to a cave near Roda where he lived for three years as a hermit until the bishops of Urgell and Barcelona restored him to Roda, at least. Only then could he start his mission to consecrate churches and include secret messages for posterity.

Visitors can buy a booklet in the major languages at the MNAC, which was published by the University of Lleida (13) and offers pictures of St Climent's apse which are also available on-line. We learn that nine Romanesque churches of the region became part of the UNESCO World Heritage in 2000, and that the inferior copies of the early 1960s were removed during a major restoration between 2008 and 2010. During the process, many new images were discovered which have remained on site. They show also a photo from 1904 when the apse was still covered up by a 17th century altarpiece. The detail at left is interesting for several reasons: Only Christ is visible below the ceiling, but the saints with Mary and the grail are masked by a wide band. (Based on our research, Jeroni Pujades or Pierre de Marca could have arranged this cover-up because the Spanish Inquisition was still active at the time!) Surprisingly, this altarpiece seems to have inspired the towers of the "Sagrada Familia" in Barcelona, the famous church of Antoni Gaudi! It is also of interest that the authors of the booklet explain in chapter 8, "Reading the Artwork", some of its messages down to specific details, but avoid anything controversial or heretic. They feature the garments of Jesus "with edges simulating pearled adornments performed with detail and refinement, as if an exquisite goldsmith had made them to dress a king" (14), yet ignore that both garments have a wide border similar to the belt, with diamond-shaped rhombuses of two triangles. The same decorative band is worn by each apostle on either side of Mary, but only the rhombuses of James are divided openly into triangles! This symbolism is mirrored at Santa Maria and on the robes of the Magi at Santa Maria d'Aneu, which suggests that their esoteric symbolism is related. Surprisingly, they don't even mention the row of colorful swastikas below the apostles at Sant Climent, which are on pp. 24/25 of the booklet and can be reviewed at the above sample of the digital recreations. In spite of its abuses during the holocaust, the swastika has always been a sacred symbol of spiritual principles in Buddhism and Hinduism, and pertains to the revolving sun and continued creation in the Zoroastrian religion! Yet without even mentioning the Magi and their astrology, these authors dared to come up with the simplistic conclusion that Bishop Ramon wanted to "remind medieval society – and thus our own – that the light to successfully lead and direct human existence is found in Christ in Majesty, represented in this apse;  almighty, the beginning and end of all things. And its pedagogy and teachings are very clear and basic: be like Abel (practice good) and go to heaven, or be like Cain (practice envy and badness) and go to hell."

According to our research at St Pere de Rodes, Chrétien based his "Conte du Graal" on the symbolism of Peter's relics and the vessel with Christ's blood, which were allegedly lost at the site of the monastery. Based on his description of the "Magic Sword", we proposed that the poet visited St Pere around 1177, the Peace of Venice, and learned that pope Alexander III ordered the removal of all traces of the centuries-long search for the relics (15). However, because these searchers profited spiritually from their loss, they had apparently become iconoclasts and withdrawn to the High Pyrenees. While following their trail, Chrétien may have discovered at Urgell another church by the name of St Pere which features the popular image of Christ in the apse and his mother Mary with her crown below him and also among the apostles, which could eliminate the option that Mary Magdalene is depicted at St Climent.  (The detail shows her with St John). The poet would have heard about the "Arianism" of the Visigoths and the "adoptionist heresy" of Bishop Felix of Urgell, and may have wondered if it had anything to do with Mary's role at Sant Climent?  He may have been told that "two similar churches" have the answer and returned to Sant Pere near the Mediterranean where the relics had been lost. Because monks were rewriting the vita of Guifré el Pelós, he would have checked out Montserrat, and then crossed the Pyrenees to St Miquel de Cuixà near Prades where this famous knight of the ninth century was born. The monastery used to be called Exalata, which reminds of Excalibur, but was destroyed by an inundation in 878 CE and rebuilt at Cuixà. Guifré was a son of the celebrated Sunifred of Urgell and Count of Barcelona, and the French poet returned probably to Urgell from the North. Perhaps, some initiates had revealed to him that the two churches are not the "Sant Peres", and have to be found by travelling "per-ce-val", through a certain valley named "Val d'Aran" (valley of valleys) in the High Pyrenees to the "Val de Boi" where Taüll is located. This conjecture allows us to imagine what the French poet from the North could have been thinking when he approached this odd looking church:


He would have been riding per-ce-val for days with the idea of a Fisherking going through his mind because Peter's bones and a cup with blood were rotting in a cave, which no one could find. He may have had visions of a castrated papacy and didn't believe his eyes when he saw the oversized tower of the little church an impressive phallic symbol! This didn't make sense if the Vatican had lost the reliquiae insignes of St Peter, which excavations under Pius XII would confirm in the 1940s. Chrétien learned on site that three churches with such towers were built at the same time, two at the village of Taüll and Santa Eulàlia in nearby Erill la Vall. The photos show that each church was built in the same style, probably a century earlier, and that each tower was added on a different side. (Eulalia is at left and Mary at right!) The poet would have wondered why this particular "trinity" completes with the martyrdom of  a young virgin and why the church celebrates the "Descent from the Cross" in her name? Aside from wood carvings that survived, there would have been many paintings and one showing Joseph of Arimathea collecting the holy blood, but it seems that the frescos were removed with the plaster long ago! Before Chrétien could develop a meaningfull concept of the quest, he had to start with "dualism" because the consecrations of the two churches in the village link Jesus to Mary and celebrate Epiphany with the Magi. He noticed that two colorful birds at Santa Maria are marked "PAVO" (peacock) yet lack the usual peacock eyes. They are drinking from a colorful chalice between three eight-pointed stars, which is a direct connection to the Magi next to Mary (16). Hence, the unambiguous image of the Holy Grail, which alludes to the phoenix legend, and the fiery bowl at Sant Climent seem to have inspired the cosmic concept of Chrétien's romance.

As far as we know, grail romance had its start about fifty years after bishop Ramon consecrated these two churches at Taüll, which is a strong indication that there existed some kind of secret tradition which the poets could draw on. The grala emitting rays at St Climent seems to relate to Plato's "divine mixing bowl of life" and the above chalice anticipates the Eucharist symbolism of later grail romance. Hence, the seekers from Sant Pere de Rodes, which is located between the town of Roses and the Cap de Creus (Cape of Crosses), could have been known as  "Rosicrucians". Furthermore, it is quite unusual that Chrétien opened his grail poem with ambiguous riddles! If the towers were inspired by the Gregorian Reform, their sexuality could be explained away as "papal Machtkunst" (17), but if the poet chose an ambiguous name like "Christian of the Trinity" it would be scheinheilig. The art historians of the MNAC attribute the paintings of Taüll to the reform (18), which the poet pretends to follow, yet he plays with "Alexander" in the foreword, which forces his audience to either identify the Mazedonian conqueror or the controversial pope, who are both mentioned in some annals as Alexander III the Great. If our interpretation is correct, bishop Ramon was not only a protector of the Muslims, Jews and heretics in his diocese, which would include the Cathars, but initiated in the "grail cult" himself. Hence, a poet of Chrétien's caliber would "read" the esoteric messages of Ramon much better than anyone of us today, as we'll try to explore next:

As he tried to figure out the symbolism, Chrétien read on a column at St Climent, which is still preserved, that the church is named after a pope of the first century and that the relics of St Cornelius, Bishop and Martyr, were placed in the altar during the consecration in 1123 (19). Pope Clemens was a successor of St Peter and introduced the phoenix legend to Christianity (20) and pope Cornelius (d. 243) preached that the Church has the power to reconcile apostates (see Franciscans), which was practiced by bishop Ramon and is confirmed by the message of compassion and pluralism in early grail romance. Chrétien realized that Ramon had a special "dramaturgy" in mind by consecrating St Climent first and Sta Maria on the next day to separate the different messages of the churches. By celebrating Christ in Majesty, he used OT Prophecy to establish that the "Cosmic Christ" reaches from the alpha to the omega. Yet with his humble self-description as the "Son of Man", which Ezekiel uses 97 times, Jesus defined himself as human. Hence, Jesus is depicted before his incarnation (21) at St Climent, and not during the Second Coming, which is developed from Epiphany, the Cucifixion, and the Last Judgment at Sta Maria. This is signaled by Ramon because the "agnus dei" (Lamb of God) is depicted as a wild beast with seven eyes at St Climent and as a sacrificial lamb at Sta Maria. An erudite theologian might disagree, but these walls tell stories that were as entertaining eight hundred years ago as "Jesus Christ, Superstar" or Mozart's "Magic Flute" today! There are actually so many ambiguities going on at St Climent that Ramon would have raised his hands and replied to critics that all questions will be answered the next day at Sta Maria! Here, for example, is a poster in black & white which exposes more black than white features to connect Jesus to the Black Madonna of Montserrat (22). At Sant Climent, he doesn't seem to have any wounds from the crucifixion for doubting Thomas to check either, which puts his dramatic appearance before the fact. This takes us to the painting of Lazarus at right, which looks like a masterpiece of Picasso! It is not the sick man Jesus had raised from the dead in John 11:1-43, which would belong to Santa Maria and the New Testament. This is another sick man by the name of Lazarus who dies and stays dead, according to Luke 16:19–31. What's interesting about this ambigous challenge by Ramon is that the parable claims both identity and memory remain after death, which would explain where Jesus might have been before he was born in Bethlehem! The pre-Christian theme continues with  the Tetramorph to the right and left of Christ where the Evangelists are still angels with wings and eyespots, and are joined by the man, lion, ox and eagle of Ezekiel's prophecies.

Up to now, October 2017, we are limited to conjectures that are based on a visit to MNAC in Barcelona and images from the internet, pending our updates in the future. The image of the peacock at St Climent, which is located at the upper left of the apse according to the chart, doesn't seem to have been reproduced anywhere. It would be consistent with our theories that it has eyespots because those at Sta Maria have none. Until they are checked on site, another ambiguity is unresolved: there is apparently one exception at Santa Maria, seen at left, which may have been added during or after the consecration. We can only speculate that the missing of "God's eyes" caused a discussion and the master of St Climent may have been asked to paint them himself as their style suggests. Although it is difficult to interpret paintings that are damaged or incomplete, one entertaining ambiguity stands on firmer ground: The Magi reappear in a painting with King Herod to the right of the apse on a wall of the church. It is the popular scene in the gospels when Herod meets the Magi secretly and finds out "the exact time the star had appeared" (Mt. 2:7).  

All four men are wearing identical crowns and any fool would finally be persuaded that the Magi are kings, which one wiseman seems to prove by pointing at Herod's crown, as the detail at right seems to prove. But we interpret the "fiery triangles" of the four crowns as an esoteric message and spend more time with the image. The first Magi at right, who stands next to Mary and Jesus, has a red bowl which may be a smart way to explain away its fiery version at St Climent. The cup in the middle is scratched out for some reason, which leaves the wiseman next to Herod. Had he held his gift in the left hand like the first Magi, pointing at Herod would have been simple, but the painter had to get creative: He almost breaks the left arm of the poor Chaldean as he forces it across his chest to the right so he can point that way. His contortion makes us spend more time with him until we realize that he is not pointing at Herod at all! This is a brilliant trompe l'oel because the detail at left reveals that he is pointing at the two birds with the stars and chalice above the arch, which closes the circle with the epistle of St Clemens by confirming that the Magi followed the phoenix to Bethlehem. (Our Phoenix Myth offers this theory since the 1980s.)

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

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;

the whole earth is full of his glory." (23)


Chrétien looked at the hand of the Almighty, sticking through the painted window below the seven-eyed beast, and began to search for a symbol of the Holy Spirit like the dove or a flame. He noticed the row of apostles, and the red dots on their cheeks and foreheads, which made them look strangely lifelike. When his eyes reached Mary's fiery vessel he began to meditate because it looked like radiation and not like a flame. After some time had passed, the red dots seemed to make her come to life, and inspired the higher theme of "Le Conte du Graal" where this transfiguration returns in Perceval's trance, which we´ll address below. He develops his concept with Perceval's father, who is wounded between the legs, and his "spiritual father", the Fisherking, who suffers from the same wound. The dualism continues with Perceval's failure at the Grail Castle and Gauvin's problems at the Castle of Wonders. Two sides of a coin, so to speak, that need to be fused into one to find the truth, as Wolfram will clarify! The wise hermit is fashioned after Joan Gari at Montserrat, but fused with Ramon who preached this from his cave. Hence, he based the sermon and grail procession on Ramon's writings, as Goering suggests, but what the Canadian historian failed to realize is that Chrétien preserved the grail mystery. The grail procession in the poem begins also with "two acolytes (assistants) carrying candelabras", but instead of priests with crosses and oils, a virgin follows with a grail – a first in literature! Although the poet names the object a "graal", he uses the hot radiation on the painting to transform the simple bowl into shiny gold and decorates it with "the most precious stones on earth and in the seas" from Revelation. To strengthen the symbolism of the macrocosm, Chrétien notes that the grail shines so brightly, the light of the candles at the Grail Castle faded like the stars when the Sun or Moon are rising (24). To make sure his audience gets the point, that the grail is about Sun symbolism and that the precious stones represent the planets, a second virgin follows with a silver platter, which adds the Moon. The red color is separated from the bowl and symbolized by a ¨blanche lance¨ during the banquet, which a knave brings from another room. Before Perceval realizes that only a bowl of myrrh would remain, he notices that a drop of blood flows from the metal point of the lance and runs down the shaft to the knave's hand, which distracts him from asking the important question. This is a reference to Longinus and the crucifixion, which link to the red dots in Mary's face and inspire the most enchanting scene in the poem, when Perceval falls into a trance and has a vision of his beloved Blanchefleur after a falcon attacked a wild goose and three drops of her fresh blood form a triangle and melt the white snow. 

From our skeptical point of view, as "history detectives", the Tetramorph and many wings and eyes represent the astrology. Wolfram's adapation of Chrétien's poem adds the planetary positions as a major link to the grail myth in a metamorphosis that parallels the three drops of blood in the microcosm with a planetary triangle in the macrocosm. Our study of the Star of Bethelehem establishes that the triangle in the sky appeared on Feb. 25, 6 BCE, and was interpreted as either Phoenix or Christmas Star. The evidence indicates that the Church promoted the Magi to Holy Kings, prohibited the study of all planets and stars, and ordered the learned monk and scholar Dionysius Exiguus in 525 CE to separate these events by four years (25), which he achieved with his "computus" of the anno domini – but Wolfram understood his "error" and proposed in about 1200 CE that the powers of the grail enable the reincarnations of the phoenix. This would mean that he interpreted the red-hot rays of Mary's grail as its symbol! If our interpretation is correct, there could exist some kind of astrophysical radiation during certain line-ups of our solar system that triggered the birth of Jesus, which the Church simplifies with the doctrine of a virgin birth. That it fertilized an egg in Mary's body may be symbolized by the gifts of the Magi, a secret wisdom they shared in Bethlehem. How else can we explain the egg-shaped objects in the bowls of the Magi, at Sta Maria d'Arneu at left and Sta Maria de Taüll, which are not the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh the Gospel of Matthew (Mt. 2:11) mentions?

Back to St Climent, where the "peacock" at the upper left of the apse would be a phoenix linking to pope Clement who introduced the magic of this bird to Christianity. If we are right, the German poet meditated before the image of Mary like Chrétien and decided to celebrate her as his muse "Lady Adventure" (frou âventiure) and to praise "Meister Kyot" (laschantiure) for adding magic and astrology, who may have been Michael Scot. Both names happen to line up nicely! True or false, this is persuasive evidence that the two poets interpreted Ramon's message accordingly. This means that the Sta Maria paintings should include the "Second Coming" of 850 CE as our website proposes. Hence, the beheading at left may not depict David and Goliath from the Old Testament, as widely held, but a tragic event in the 9th century when this happened a lot! How else could we explain that Goliath looks like a knight with his helmet floating behind his head like a bird, and his soul above him with a shield and lance? Until more details of the painting become available, we have to consider that it shows either Sunifred of Urgell, Bernard of Septimania, his son William, or even Solomon, the count of Cerdanya and Urgell. However, to disprove King David remains highly speculative until the paintings have been studied on site, which is scheduled for the near future.

Goering comes to different conclusions and ends his book with the trivial pursuit of count Rotrou of the Perche as the most likely candidate for Chrétien's Perceval. If he is right we came to the wrong place and should be heading North to follow up with his praise of Helinandus, one of the most ardent preachers of the Albigensian Crusades. But the magical mystery of the sealed lips and esoteric triangles keeps us in the Pyrenees a bit longer to study Mont Verdera, the green mountain of truth and Venusberg! In addition to the usual questions we'll try to find out if the frescos relate to a Second Coming in the 9th century, what Jesus might really be signaling with his hand, and why a painting at Sant Pere de Burgal depicts the fiery grail still as an enclosed relic – with Peter signaling exactly like Jesus and holding up two keys like Mary her Holy Grail? This grail parallels Peter's keys because this fiery relic is made up of two chalices, with the top one reversed – as if both Saints are posing for a poster to promote the kind of "dualism" Chrétien would feature in his poem. Hermetic messages that require a detour to the Pontifical Institutions of the Vatican and a closer look at the Christian "history" (éstoire) of Robert de Boron, whom we honor as the third originator of grail romance.

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



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

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




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

2. Joseph Goering, The Virgin and the Grail, Origins of a Legend, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2005), p. 70. It is rather curious that the historian accepts that "Mary is portrayed here as as first among equals (prima inter pares) in the Apostolic college" (p.101), yet the Council of Ephesus in 431 established her as "Mother of God" and the Romanesque period saw the construction of major Marian churches. That Ramon had her lined up with apostles at Sant Climent could mean they are still unborn at the time of the Old Testament.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. Ibid., p. 39. Their chart with the numerical identifications, p. 34, confuses the symbolism and has Luke with the eagle and John with a bull. We should add that the whole idea of the Tetramorph, of winged creatures that symbolize the alleged authors of the synoptic gospels as winged creatures with animal features, is somewhat incomprehensible. This was adopted by the Church in the fourth century and may have been an attempt to validate Ezekiel and eliminate the phoenix legends.

15. According to Chrétien, the sword is covered by a scabbard of fancy Venetian gold-brocade, see link.

16. The birds are clearly marked PAVO "pavo real", which is in modern Spanish a peacock. This makes it difficult for us to call it an ambiguity, but signs of the Zodiac are depicted below Mary which Peter Hubert has documented, (see above, No. 7, p. 68). And why is there a peacock in the far upper left of Sant Climent, see 33 on the chart, which we haven´t been able to verify on site yet? If Company is not confusing the two churches, as he did with Luke and John, the duality could be rather meaningful!

17.  Ernst Kitzinger, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Vol. 22, (Cambridge, 1972), p. 101. The towers are not mentioned and "papal Machtkunst" is applied to some art of the period.

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

19. Goering (see above No.2),  pp. 90-91. He offers the Latin text and an English translation.

20. Clement's only existing, genuine text is a letter to the Christian congregation in Corinth, often called the First Epistle of Clement or 1 Clement. The history clearly and continuously shows Clement as the author of this letter. It is considered the earliest authentic Christian document outside of the New Testament, and may pre-date the Gospel of Matthew. We show in our study The Phoenix Myth that Tacitus is a contemporary of Clement who writes that around 6 BCE "a bird called the phoenix, after a long succession of ages, appeared in Egypt and furnished the most learned men of that country and of Greece with abundant matter for the discussion of the marvelous phenomenon". Herodotus had studied the phoenix five hundred years earlier at Heliopolis and by the time Clement joined the discussion he was probably thinking of the Magi because he writes that the phoenix burned itself not only with myrrh, but also with frankinsense and other spices, and is reincarnated as a worm. Plutarch is another contemporary of Clement, who adapted a riddle of Hesiod and allows us to calculate in our study that the lifespan of the phoenix is 854 years, which identifies it as the same astronomical event in 6 BCE which Christianity celebrates as the Star of Bethlehem.

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

22. Although the digital recreations are a valuable tool for scholars, they destroy the magical mystery of the art work. We can only hope that the Disneyland effect of the photographs is not repeated at the sites where candlelight should recreate the medieval ambience.  

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

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

25. It was part of Kepler's genius that he, a Lutheran, found support among the Jesuits during the Counter Reformation, which not only saved his life but also his mother's, who was almost burned at the stake for witchcraft. Hence, he could only suggest that the Church miscalculated the birth of Christ by quoting the doctoral thesis of Laurentius Suslyga, a Polish Jesuit and astronomer: See Max Caspar, Johannes Kepler, Dritte Auflage, (Stuttgart, 1948), p. 179. English tr. by C. Doris Hellman: Max Caspar, Kepler, (Dover Edition, 1993 by Owen Gingerich and Alain Segonds), pp. 156, 228. Kepler did not dare bring up how widely the phoenix was discussed during early Christianity (see above, N. 20), and that an expert like Dionysius Exiguus would never miscalculate the birth of Christ, unless it was in the interest of the Church. It's almost a Polish joke that every modern astronomer who writes a book about the Star of Bethlehem perpetuates the alleged error!



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