Urgell Secrets

August 2018 Update: Due to recent field research in Montserrat, Barcelona, Roda de Isábena, and Vall de Boí, major revisions of this report are currently in progress.

Arthurian romance is still celebrated as a "Matter of Britain," but the mysterious word "grail" has been traced to Urgell in Spanish Catalonia (1). It is an even lesser known fact that nine churches with paintings of a Holy Grail have been discovered in the Pyrenees above this ancient diocese. The historian Joseph Goering writes in The Virgin and the Grail (2) that such images "are found nowhere else in Christendom: the Virgin Mary holding a sacred vessel." He proposes that they inspired grail romance because they were painted around 1123 CE, many decades before the French poet Chrétien had a virgin hold the grail for the first time in literature (3). When a friend of Picasso copied a few paintings in 1908 and reports about this unique treasure reached the public, the churches could no longer be protected at their isolated locations (4). In order to save them, the frescoes were covered with transparent glue and expertly peeled from the plaster. They are now exhibited at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona (MNAC) where they are celebrated as the finest examples of Romanesque art in the world. One of the most famous works is the "Pantocrator" from Sant Climent de Taüll, created almost nine hundred years ago, where Christ has such a stunning facial expression that it surpasses some of the best modern art! Because of objections to the removal of the masterpieces, the empty walls were restored with copies in the 1960s. Here are close-ups of the "grail virgin" to show the difference between the original and inferior copy, which explains why they were replaced another fourty years later by colorful projections of digital recreations at Sant Climent:

Some art historians can connect these paintings to grail romance without having to consider the etymological link of "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 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." Because this virgin is rather whitish, they ignore that the Montserrat legend is about a famous Black Madonna, but it is still important because the other paintings in the region show Mary with various vessels that look like the Holy Grail of popular culture (5). Only her simple bowl confirms the established etymology of "gradalis-gradal-grala-graal" (6) which is mirrored in nearby Sta Maria de Taüll. There, the Magi use such bowls for their gifts, although they are filled with eggs instead of myrrh, frankincense and gold! (Some images can be enlarged by clicking on them.) We can also see that Mary tilts the grail slightly to the left, towards Christ above her left shoulder. This raises the question what Mary may be signaling with her right hand: to show that the rays are very hot or that her bowl (7) contains a secret message? Here are details of foolish virgins (8) and apostles (9) to show how widely these hand gestures were used at the time.


But why does Mary's facial expression seem so strained – is it because her lips are sealed? Someone without an art background wouldn't even notice the subtle effect. Sealing wax or glue are difficult to paint but stitches are quite easy! Christ thrones above her holding the Book of Life that announces EGO SVM LVX MVNDI (I am the light of the world). He is surrounded by angels and animals, symbols of the Tetramorph, and seems to float forward with his mandorla. In view of such a dramatic scenario, it is understandable that a history professor would overlook the subtle lines on Mary's lips. Goering reveals that he had neither studied art nor literature and admits humbly to "poaching on their grounds" in an homage of his teachers at the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto. We poached as well by copying the virgin from his book at first, but visited the MNAC in April, 2018, and took these close-ups of Mary ourselves (10). The detail of her mouth shows the brush strokes across both lips rather well, which speaks for itself – pun intended! It remains an open question if the painter wanted to depict her silence with painful stitches because vertical lines would also seal the lips. Although no other paintings with such lines have been found in Romanesque churches, all Catalan experts we contacted dismiss them as an artist's personal style to depict a mouth. As this is a major key to the mystery of Taüll, we'll provide a side-by-side comparison in the Appendix.

The other church in the village, Santa Maria, shows the popular image of the Virgin Mary with little Jesus on her lap, which makes us wonder why she is lined up with apostles at St Climent? This detail shows the wisemen at her side and, yes, below two Stars of Bethlehem. They wear exotic miters with three fleurs-de-lys that look like crosses, which is an interesting ambiguity because they could either be Holy Kings or Magi. The Church had revised their image as magicians by renaming them "Holy Three Kings" and preached their royalty from every pulpit until the Reformation, when Bible translations became available and restored them as Magi. By that time, they were celebrated everywhere as "Magic Kings" (reyes magos, rois mages), yet still depicted with conical caps at Sta Maria de Cap d'Aran and Sta Maria d'Aneu (11) in the Pyrenees, which could make them independent from Byzantine art where they wear Phrygian caps as the famous mosaic in Ravenna demonstrates. Here is another challenge for modern historians and a surprising break-through for us, which we discovered a couple of years ago: The tunics of the Magi at Maria d'Aneu have fancy designs of the same "fiery" and "watery" triangles we feature since the 1980s. (The detail at left can be enlarged by clicking on it also to reveal the eggs in his basket :). The paintings of their upper bodies on the other side of Mary are gone but their lower tunics are still there and also decorated with these triangles! Hence, they may symbolize the sun with the "fiery" and "watery" triangles of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars before sunset in February of 6 BCE, which we intend to connect to the phoenix myth in our conclusions! One of the reasons why scholars may have overlooked these images is that France and Spain were disconnected most of the year at the Val d'Aran for centuries until two tunnels were built in 1948 and 2007, see Viella Tunnel.

Back to Goering who interprets the red-hot flames as "The grace of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost" and concedes 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 at length that Chrétien had no idea what a grail is, and that it is not an ancient myth, he goes on to feature the consecration of the churches in Taüll by Bishop Ramon of Roda and Barbastro. He dedicates an entire chapter to this French bishop who was an Augustinian monk and abbot named Raymond in French, from Saint-Sernin in Toulouse when it was part of Aquitaine. Based on one of Ramon's note books, Goering reconstructs the ceremony of the consecrations over several pages. To our surprise, he even 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 adds that naming a church after "St. Clement, the famous first-century bishop of Rome and successor of St Peter," is a meaningful choice 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's unexpected concession that the poets may have been familiar with Bishop Ramon will be explored it detail below, but first a brief introduction of this extraordinary man. The article "San Ramón, el obispo desterrado" reveals that he refused to support the wars of king Alfonso the Battler (13) and protected the Muslims, Jews and heretics in his diocese. Based on the accusation that Ramon "allowed Muslims and Jews to prosper," the king gave his brother at arms Esteban, bishop of Huesca, a detachment of soldiers to kill the entourage of Ramon. Most on-line biographies omit this slaughter and claim he was exiled in France and attended in 1117 a council in Toulouse. There is also a legend that he was banned from Barbastro and lived three years like an hermit in a cave until the bishop of Barcelona restored him to Roda, at least.

The seclusion of this romantic village and cathedral on a hilltop allowed him a peaceful life and business ventures with his friends and patrons, the powerful Barons of Erill, and plan the restoration of their churches in the Boí valley. Before December, 1123, when he consecrated St Climent and Sta Maria in Taüll, he even made peace with the blood-thirsty king Alfonso and joined his wars against the Muslims in the South to tend to injured and displaced Mozarabic victims, until he became ill himself and died in 1126 after returning to Roda. These acts of wisdom, pluralism, and compassion are quite a grail message, which Goering seems to have overlooked!

Visitors can buy a booklet in the major languages at the MNAC today, which was published by the University of Lleida (14) and offers pictures of St Climent's apse which are also available on-line. We learn that nine Romanesque churches and chapels in the Boí valley became part of the UNESCO World Heritage in 2000 and that the inferior copies at St Climent were removed during a restoration between 2008 and 2010. In the process, new images were discovered which have remained on site. The booklet has a photo from 1904 when the apse was still covered by a 17th century altarpiece, although Goering writes it was older. (Based on our study, Jeroni Pujades or Pierre de Marca could have arranged this cover-up because the Spanish Inquisition was still active at the time!) The detail at left is important for several reasons: Only Christ is visible below the ceiling, but the row of saints with Mary and the grail were masked for centuries with an illustrated band. Furthermore, this altarpiece inspired the towers of the "Sagrada Familia" in Barcelona, the famous church of Antoni Gaudi, yet none of the experts seem to have noticed...

It is also strange that the authors of the booklet explain in chapter 8, "Reading the Artwork," some of its decoration down to specific details, but avoid the dramatic presentation of Christ because it is quite controversial. They merely 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" (15), and even 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 indicates that their esoteric symbolism is related. Like Goering, these experts maintain that the painters are responsible for this symbolism and ignore that they are told by their patrons what to depict. They even overlook a row of colorful swastikas which underline the apostles with Mary at Sant Climent, check pp. 24/25 in the booklet or the digital recreation! In spite of its abuses during the holocaust, the swastika was always a sacred symbol of the spiritual principles in Buddhism and Hinduism, and pertains to the revolving sun and continued creation in Zoroastrianism! Yet without even mentioning the Magi and their astrology, the authors came up with the childish explanation 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." We'll show below that they misinterpreted the function of the painting!

How Chrétien may have heard about Taüll

Chrétien's references to countess Marie de Champagne establish him at her court in the 1170s when Troyes was an important commercial and cultural center, and his choice of the word "graal," which Wolfram reduced to "grâl," links to Catalonia in the south where "grala" and "greala" are still used today. Troyes was also a religious center where King Louis the Stammerer received the imperial crown from Pope John VIII in 878, and Pope Honorius II convened a Church Council in 1129, attended by Bernard of Clairvaux and some Knights Templar to found their order. However, many other chivalric orders existed already, most notably the Knights Hospitaller (Order of Saint John), the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Knights of Saint Lazarus.

In the Middle Ages, when most people could neither read nor write, the role of our electronic media was played by interest groups. Information was secure because of language barriers, which so-called "heretics" could use to their advantage. Academics and churchmen had Latin and Greek to communicate,  Jews could add Hebrew and Yiddish, and travelling tradesmen like carpenters or masons used secret signals. A representative of any of these groups (16) could have attended Chrétien's performances at Marie's court and informed him during an intermission about a secret tradition in the Pyrenees.

According to our findings at St Pere de Rodes, the French master based his Conte du Graal on the symbolism of Peter's relics and vessel with Christ's blood, which were allegedly lost at the site of the monastery. Based on his description of the "Magic Sword," we concluded that the poet visited the monastery around 1177, the Peace of Venice, and learned from the monks that pope Alexander III had ordered the removal of all traces of the centuries-long search for the relics (17). However, because these searchers had profited spiritually from their loss, they apparently became iconoclasts and withdrew to the High Pyrenees. From Roda to Roda perhaps, because the monastery was  known as San Pedro de Roda until a few decades ago.

If Chrétien had to follow their trail because he wasn't fully informed at Troyes, he started probably at the monastery Sta Maria de Ripoll in the Pyrenees, which was a major, religious center at the time. He would have heard there about its founder Guifré el Pilos and Montserrat, which was under its jurisdiction. After questioning the twisted legends of the Black Madonna, including the one about Guifré in Flanders, he learned about St Miquel de Cuixà near Prades, where this famous knight of the ninth century was allegedly born. Guifré el Pilos was a son of the celebrated count Sunifred of Urgell, which could have taken the poet to Urgell next. He learns there about the "Arianism" of the Visigoths and the "adoptionist heresy" of Bishop Felix, and about Pope Sylvester II, and would have wondered if later documents about "gradals" connect to dualism, and link St Pere de Rodes to the High Pyrenees (18). He might have visited another church by the name of St Pere in Urgell and studied Christ in the apse, with his mother Mary below him, holding a diadem and next to St John.

Perhaps, Chrétien had also heard in Troyes about two churches which are not named after St Peter and pose a riddle that can only be solved by taking the "Val d'Aran" (valley of valleys) to the High Pyrenees where the Boí valley with Taüll is hidden. This conjecture allows us to imagine what went through the mind of the French poet when he saw this odd looking church for the first time:


He would have been riding "per-ce-val" for days with his entourage as a poem about an ailing Fisherking was getting him inspired. Because Peter's skull and bones were rotting in a cave which no one can find – including a cup with the holy blood of Christ – he envisioned some kind of religious quest. When he began to put the first adventures of "Perceval" into rhyme, about a castrated papacy, the phallic looking erection would have surely stopped him! It's the kind of tower he expected in a large town to reach over the rooftops, but not in a secluded village in the mountains. This didn't make any sense if the Vatican has lost the relics of St Peter and it seemed like "papal Machtkunst" (19).

The paradox took us a few years ago to Rome where we followed up with the excavations of Peter's tomb at the Vatican, which had admitted officially in the 1950s that it was found to be empty. However, some "reburied bones" without the skull were dug up a few feet away, which confirms the long search for this relic near St Pere de Rodes by churchmen from Rome. This made us take a closer look at the Boí valley because three of its churches, St Climent and Sta Maria in Taüll, and Sta Eulàlia in Erill la Vall were built by Lombardian craftsmen around 1100 CE (20). When Chrétien saw the other two churches, he would have wondered like us why they look identical, and why each over-sized tower was added on a different side? (Climent is depicted on top, Eulàlia at left and Maria at right.) A critical observer would also notice that our picture of St Climent includes the tower of Sta Maria above the rooftops of the village, which could be a first clue to the mystery.

After a sunny Sunday morning in Roda de Isábena it took less than an hour to drive from Aragon to Catalonia though a maze of gorges, canyons, tunnels and bridges to Erill la Vall, a little village on a hill like Roda that offers a panoramic view of an upward slope in the Boí valley. Until we have permission to send up our drone, because of the heavy fines in Spain, we need to borrow this great picture from the internet to show the visual connection of each church by their tower, with Eulàlia in the foreground, Joan de Boí in the center, Climent above it, and Maria almost hidden in the upper left. (Please note that the Catalan "Joan" means "John" in English). We realized that St Joan is in a strategic location between the other churches and learned on site that its tower used to be as tall as the others. According to recent excavations the church (detail at right) used to be inside a fortified castle with a draw bridge, which was destroyed in the Middle Ages – yet no records of it seem to exist!  

We also noticed that the towers did not have to be that tall for visual contact with each other and St Joan, with the exception of St Climent perhaps, which could explain why Sta Maria was added higher up in Taüll (21). We borrowed this great picture from the internet as well  because it is taken from the tower of Climent and reveals Maria at right and Erill la Vall below. They don't seem to have been watch towers either because the Boí valley dead-ends into the mountains and two fortresses used to protect the access from the South. At the entrance of the valley was Castilló de Tor above the Noguera river, which belonged to Roda de Isábena, and East of it was Erillcastell to cover the South-Eastern flank. But after these castles had been destroyed for unknown reasons, the Val de Boí remained isolated from the rest of the world for centuries and its inhabitants left either the region or suffered great poverty. But soon after their hidden art was discovered they became prosperous and as if the grail is a magic "feeding dish" were rewarded with a major building boom. Up the river is Caldes de Boí with famous mineral baths and Spa hotels, and because Boí-Taüll is below the highest peaks of the Pyrenees it had turned in recent decades into a popular ski-resort:

When we wrapped up our field research in late April, 2018, we were extremely disappointed! It was like visiting a fancy resort because the villages are well maintained and all buildings covered by modern slate roofs, including the medieval structures and large apartment complexes. Nevertheless, we took hundreds of photographs near Boí and in Barcelona, but didn't find the missing pieces of art we had expected. Not even the "peacock" marked 33 on the chart of St Climent. We could only discern the neck of a bird, while a bird sticks out its whole head from the whitewash at Sta Maria! In fact, the bare walls at the MNAC turned into a major challenge for us because it seemed impossible, even preposterous, to interprete isolated artworks without context. (At left is a sample from St Climent and at right from Sta Maria). Until we found the solution, we even understood why Catalan scholars, who prefer the subtle approaches, ignore the opinion of their international peers that grail romance is based on the Romanesque art at their museum (22). 

New questions

In spite of our disappointment, our memories of Boí-Taüll began to raise new questions that may have been overlooked. Why did so many international experts connect St Climent to the grail legend and didn't analyze why Sta Maria is almost identical and in the same little village? There are no records of the Boí castle and we wondered to which St John its church is consecrated? Bishop Ramon would have been an honored guest at the castle when he conscrated St Climent and Sta Maria, but why did he wait until December when it is freezing cold, and why until a Monday? We'll never know what he did on Sunday, celebrate mass at St Joan or consecrate it first? And what kind of rite or cult had been practiced in these churches to require new consecrations? Did it have anything to do with St Pere de Rodes or the Cathars? Yet over all these questions loomed an even greater enigma: why were four over-sized towers added in clear sight of each other that look like Muslim minarets? When we checked Google to review the distances, we noticed the tilted angle of a line-up from Sta Eulàlia at the bottom of the valley, less than a mile from St Joan de Boí, and about the same distance all the way up to Taüll.

We googled the Vatican next and found Peter's square in the East of the basilica, which means that when the pope faces the crowds from his window he is looking towards the rising sun and the ecliptic where the planets rise at night. This could have many meanings, but the offical explanation is Matthew's Gospel "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man" (Mt 24:27,) which should include the Star of Bethlehem. Although the direction of each sunrise changes slightly each day from South-East to North-East beyond the winter solstice, the Vatican lines up rigidly with the East like many churches. Surprisingly, the satellite view shows that the churches in the Boí valley line up differently, and when we used Google's satellite to zoom in on each church we noticed that it is not a concidence: All four churches are on this axis and each apse faces the South-East, which could mean they are aligned to the solstices. December 10 is shortly before the winter solstice, and we wondered if the mountains would obstruct the observation of the sunsets? Here are the only photos we took from this angle, of St Climent at left and Sta Maria, and it seems the North-West shows some gaps between the mountains, pending additional studies upon our return. Only an astronomer would know how to explain the purpose of this axis, which is apparently an ancient tradition because Stonehenge in far-away England is lined up the same way (23). It might even relate to the many pre-historic Dolmens, Taulas and stone circles in the Pyrenees, like this Taula we photographed near Sant Pere de Rodes. Hence, our field research opened new perspectives which sent us back to the drawing board for another look at our earlier conjectures.

We started out with Goering again and noticed he doesn't even bring up that Sta Maria looks like St Climent and omits Boí castle and Sta Eulàlia altogether. He neither mentions the Church reforms, the Cluniac and Gregorian, nor the Mozarabic rite. We wondered if he had his eyes closed or lips sealed by his friends at the Pontifical Institute – and decided to retrace his steps. Like him, we spent some time with the creative ideas of Otto Demus, a renown Byzantine expert from Vienna, and the great photography of Max Hirmer, and compared Romanesque art from all over Europe when certain patterns began to emerge in the Pyrenees about the stars. We noticed that the political conflicts during Bishop Ramon's life are covered eloquently by one of Goering's other sources, Manuel Iglesias Costa, but in two works he didn't quote (24). They surprise with a wealth of information about the pluralistic zeitgeist at the medieval borderlands, which would become the impetus for our Western culture and science. After checking Demus again, who connects some Romanesque works to the phoenix myth and grail romance, we compared Wolfram's descriptions of the planetary positions with our findings in the Boí valley, and the hundreds of fragments began to conjure up some kind of "grail cult" which used four tall towers in a hidden valley to study the heavens.

Was the lost Castle of Boí an astronomical observatory?

Our study has been dedicated to this mystery since the 1980s and this is the first time our diverse conjectures seem to fuse together! Persuasive evidence that we may have reached our lofty goal, even if it means that the celebrated grail castle of medieval romance has perished. Although it may have never been more than a poetic vision, we are obliged to check if an esoteric brotherhood or hermetic order existed at the site, which would have involved Bishop Ramon. Our starting point is the documented order of events, which puts Ramon first because grail romance followed decades after he consecrated the churches.

1. It's an ideal site to study the heavens

Remote locations are even chosen today because of the clear skies and absence of light pollution. There wasn't much light in the Dark Ages, but the sources of energy were wood, turf, oils and fats. Almost every house had an open fire 24/7 and the smoke pollution would have been substantial under some meteological conditions. As the telescope hadn't been invented yet, such a remote location would have been ideal for naked eye observations – especially with the help of an astrolabe. Let's not forget that the horizon rises to our eye level wherever we are, at the beach or on the highest mountain peak! All we need is a gap between two mountains and we can observe the sunrises and sunsets at the horizon, including the rising stars and planets at night. 

2. Some evidence for a religious context

Muslim astronomers were improving the astrolabe for navigation and to set the direction of Mecca for prayers, while Christian astronomers could have investigated the Star of Bethlehem, as suggested at Sta Maria de Taüll. After all, church towers are meant to bring them closer to God! For a better understanding of the interactions at the border between Islam and Christianity, which are documented since Pope Sylvester II, we need to consult the poets, which requires a brief introduction: Chrétien de Troyes opens his poem Conte du Graal (see link) with the "parable of the seed" from the Gospels (Mk 4, 1-10, Mt 13, 4-9), and takes us later to the grail castle where a virgin carries a "graal" which shines so brightly "the light of the candles faded like stars when the sun or the moon are rising" (25). He obviously combines the medieval concept of the Microcosm and Macrocosm with the Etymologies of Isidor of Seville "the most influential book, after the Bible, in the learned world of the Latin West for nearly a thousand years" (26)! The Biblical parable inspired Chrétien to play with ambiguities and add an etymological jeu de mots with "conte" in four continuous lines which leads to Urgell. Wolfram von Eschenbach honors the French master by taking this to another level with hundreds of ambiguous words, including "lapsit exillis" for grail, which has the power to revive the phoenix from its ashes! (27)

Furthermore, he gives Chrétien's unnamed places and characters French sounding names, which most experts dismiss as bad French because they ignore that Wolfram's patron was raised at the court of King Louis VII in Paris and spoke the language fluently (28) like this writer. Unfortunately, the French poet died before he could develop his cosmic concept, perhaps in the late 1180s, but we are fortunate to have the German adaptation and second opinion (see link), which begins the mystery in Spain with its astronomical origins. Wolfram writes in P. 453 that the truth of the grail was discovered by Master Kyot in a discarded manuscript in "Dôlet" which is usually translated as Toledo, although he probably meant Tudela at the Ebro, near the Pyrenees (29). According to the lost manuscript:

Flegetanis was a heathen who was highly renowned for his learning. This physicus descended from Solomon and was born from a family which had been Israelite until Baptism became our shield against hellfire. He wrote of the adventures of the Grail. Flegetanis, who worshiped a calf as through it were his god, was a heathen by his father. How  can the devil inflict such mockery upon such wise people, without Him above whose powers are greatest and to Whom all powers are known? For the infidel Flegetanis was able to define the recession of each planet and how long each revolves in its orbit until it comes back to its mark. All human kind are affected by the revolutions of the planets. With his own eyes the heathen Flegetanis had seen – and was too shy to say openly – hidden, mysterious things in the stars. He declared there was a thing called Grail he read clearly in the constellations..." (30)

Wolfram goes on to praise his informant Kyot who could understand these hidden things in the stars because he was baptized. We will demonstrate below with the software Starry Night Pro that this Christian point of view can be confirmed in December, 1123, at the Boí valley. Wolfram sets this up by referring to the planetary positions in the second half of his poem because of their influence (P. 454, 15), beginning with suffering under Saturn (P. 489, 24-25, P. 493, 1), followed by relief from Jupiter and Mars (P. 748, 23-25, P. 789, 4-7). Towards the end of the poem, a sorceress arrives at King Arthur's court and prophecies for Parzival:

"Show restraint in your joy! Blessed are you in your high lot, O crown of man's salvation! The inscription has been read: you shall be Lord of the Grail..."

She goes on to mention the Arabic names of the Sun and seven planets "from the farthes to nearest in relation to the earth according to the traditional concept of an earth-centered universe" according to the translators (31).  Her prophecy seems to be based on Plato's "Great Year" when all planets line up again with the Sun in Aries, the first sign of the Zodiac.  

The astronomical data will follow after our review of the paintings in the context of the many stars and astrological symbols at Joan de Boí and Maria de Taüll that relate to the Magi. In fact, we will show that each surviving painting in Taüll is by itself a magic window into the past, thanks to Bishop Ramon. This indicates that the poets understood his messages and "unsealed" Mary's lips by having a virgin carry the grail. Wolfram names her "Repanse de Schoy" which celebrates her as "answer to a joyful choice", which Goering didn't address because it is a heretical scenario: "To place a Host into the hands of a woman was condemned in the sixth century as an inaudita superstitio and a long line of consiliar decrees and episcopal edicts regarded it as an abuse down to the thirteenth century" (32). According to Roger S. Loomis, among the poets who adapted and reworked Chrétien's ideas “the ecclesiastics who composed the Didot Perceval, the Queste del Saint Graal, and the Estoire del Saint Graal carefully substituted for the beautiful maiden a youth or a priest" (33).

3. The historical support

There had been much turmoil on both sides of the Pyrenees at the time. The Umayyad dynasty, famous for its high culture, tolerance, and centers of learning, dissolved when the Caliphate of Córdoba fractured in 1031 into a number of independent Muslim kingdoms, which was followed by religious fanatism and territorial wars. In 1054 came the East-West Chism when the Orthodox Church separated from Rome, which resulted in the Investiture Controversy, followed by the First Crusade. The Gregorian and Cluniac reforms were also started, yet historians bring up rarely that a large part of the clergy was married and had children, and that some escaped the Church reforms by taking their families across the Pyrenees to live in a tolerant environment like Roda de Isabena. This might even explain why Mary can be depicted with a sacred vessel in this part of Christendom, because if these churchmen loved their wives they would have included them in some rituals.

It's time to switch our point of view to the South where our review of the historical events during Bishop Ramon's life has to overcome two major obstacles: We'll never know if Ramon was married because he was canonized right after his death, in 1135, which allowed the new king of Aragon, Ramir II, to have his vita rewritten by the monk Elias at Roda (see below). Information about the mysterious rites that were practiced in the Boí valley is no longer available either, probably because it came under the control of Urgell in 1140, which enforced the Church reforms.  

Thanks to the wisdom of Manuel Iglesias Costa, a Catholic priest and historian (34), his research provides us with enough evidence to "connect a few dots" about the lost history of his beloved homeland which will lead to some interesting conjectures. They will offer new perspectives of the "Boí mystery" and even confirm the eye-witness accounts of the poets Chrétien, Robert, and Wolfram: 

(to be continued)

Please note that the analysis of our field research in Catalonia took already over half a year. Most of our time was dedicated to a study of the paintings, which turned out to be a major learning experience. We had to revise our concept of the "Star of Bethlehem", thanks to Bishop Ramon, and are almost ready to continue this project! Meanwhile, please read all about the Star!


Every scholar we contacted about the lines on Mary's lips, 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 her lips are supposed to be "sealed." (The only exceptions are an English historian and an expert of Russian icons in Germany, but both are friends of this researcher and could be subjective!) However, the widespread criticism can be 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 us with a higher contrast and tint to emphasize the details.

Below is a similar close-up of Bartholomew next to Mary we just discovered, to show there are no vertical lines over his lower lip either. One critic pointed out that John´s lips have such lines, but a closer examination reveals 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. Hence, because neither Jesus nor his three disciples have lines over their lower lip like Mary at right, we have finally conclusive evidence that her lips are sealed! In fact, it is probably the subtleness of the effect that preserved the fresco over the centuries, because the image would have been destroyed or whitewashed long ago.



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 curious that he 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 had made her the "Mother of God" in 431, and the Romanesque era picked this up many centuries later with Marian churches.

3. Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian 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) an informative introduction, but without any reference 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. 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.

8. Sant Quirze de Pedret, see Romanesque Heritage by Peter Hubert whose spectacular website has been discontinued because of his death in early 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 he disagrees with our theory of Mary's sealed lips, but kindly credits our website as a reference.

9. Santa Maria de Mur, now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. See above, no. 4, the report of Montserrat Pagès how the preservation of Romanesque Art originated. We'll deal with it in greater detail below.

10. We used a compact Canon SX730 HS with an 40x optical zoom in the automatic setting. Unfortunately, the MNAC prevents tourists from getting good pictures to protect the professionals. They use dim and spotted colored lights on the paintings and don't allow tripods or simple sticks to get a better focus. We had to use benches or floors to take pictures. When we reviewed them next to the art works we noticed that the camera reduces the color intensity by roughly 15%, even outdoors, which we tried to compensate with Adobe photoshop elements 14. We also increased the contrast at times because it brings out the details.

11. The mural of Santa Maria de Cap d'Aran has been lost to the Metropolitan Museum The Cloisters in New York, the one from Santa Maria d'Aneu is 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." He adds 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." We should add that Goering overlooked the ambiguity of Mary's depiction. Unlike any other medieval painting we have seen, her head-cover bulges immensely over her head, which could conceal the above-mentioned long, flowing hair!

13. The Knights Templar had been received with enthusiasm by the Crown of Aragon. King Alfonso I the Battler, having no direct heir, bequeathed his dominions to be divided among the Knights Templar, the Knights Hospitaller, and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, but this bequest was annulled in 1131. The plot thickens even more, because it was negotiated by Alfonso's brother and successor, King Ramir II of Aragon and count of Ribagorza (1086-1157), who had been a monk and briefly bishop of Roda-Barbastro.  

14. 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 questions his relationship to the Bishop of Lleida and the Vatican.

15. Ibid., p. 39. Their chart with the numerical identifications, p. 34, confuses the symbolism and pairs Luke with the eagle and John with the ox. We should add that the whole idea of a Tetramorph, of winged creatures that symbolize the alleged authors of the synoptic gospels as weird winged creatures with animal features, and based on the zodiac, is incomprehensible today. This was introduced by Irenaeus (130-202) and was probably meant to replace Pope Clement's phoenix symbolism with Ezekiel's visions.

16. A visiting Cistercian or Templar would have been the informant. The Catalan knight Arnau de Torroja (1118-1184) is a good contender because he was born near Urgell, joined the Knight Templars 1162 in Lleida, and their Grand Master when Chrétien worked at Marie's court. There is also the curious case of Jacob ben Meir (d. 1171) in Troyes, a leading participant in the rabbinical synods since about 1160. He is best known as Rabbenu Tam, one of the most renowned Ashkenazi Jewish rabbis, and as a leading French scholar. When the celebrated philosopher and astronomer Abraham ibn Ezra (born 1089 in Tudela!) visited Troyes, Rabbi Tam greeted him in verse whereupon Ibn Ezra exclaimed in astonishment, "Who has admitted the French into the temple of poetry?" He probably answered that Chrétien's performance inspired him and introduced him to the poet!

17. According to Chrétien, the sword is covered by a scabbard of fancy Venetian gold-brocade, and breaks into three pieces if used wrongly, which Wolfram confirms. He adds that they can be fused by "Trebuchet" (three books?) where the source lies in darkness, which might identify the forgered chronicles of St Pere de Rodes, St Miquel de Cuixa and Sta Maria de Montserrat. Our hypothesis gets independent support from German researchers in 2016: They write that "a good third" of the documents until the late 12th century about Louis the Pious are forgeries which has misled historians in the past. (See link.)

18. Narcís Garolera, El català que ara es parla - La degradació de la llengua als mitjans de comunicació, (Barcelona, 2012), ftn. 24, see link. “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)."  Because of Joan Coromines, (see above Nr. 6), the celebrated master of the Catalan language, a monastery that by tradition was always known as "St Pere de Roda" has been renamed "St Pere de Rodes." This opens the door to speculation that the "Roman structure" under the monastery is a thousand years older than assumed, and that the temple may have been consacrated to Aphrodite, as Wolfram suggests.

19. Ernst Kitzinger, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Vol. 22, (Cambridge, 1972), p. 101. He doesn't mention the towers and applies "papal Machtkunst" to the religious art of the period.

20. 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".

21. If we get permission to use our drone, we intend to fly it above the tower of St Joan to compensate for the missing floors and determine if the tower of St Clliment is visible.

22. 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 grail only once, in a reference to Sant Pere de Burgal (p. 28). It is difficult to understand why they single out an enclosed relic and ignore the well-known Virgin of Taüll. We sent an e-mail about the "sealed lips" to Montserrat Pagès, which she forwarded kindly to the expert Anke Wunderwald. In confirmation of the German proverb "Reden is Silber, Schweigen is Gold" she didn't respond, and it seems the Leading Ladies of the Romanesque are keeping their lips sealed as well, which probably includes Immaculada Lorés, our reluctant informant about the "Roman ruins" at St Pere de Rodes, although she seems to have followed our trail to San Ramon!

23.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge under Function and construction: "The site, specifically the great trilithon, the encompassing horseshoe arrangement of the five central trilithons, the heel stone, and the embanked avenue, are aligned to the sunset of the winter solstice and the opposing sunrise of the summer solstice... Further astronomical associations, and the precise astronomical significance of the site for its people, are a matter of speculation and debate". Under https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1492482/Stonehenge-druids-mark-wrong-solstice.html, Charles Clover writes that "Modern-day druids, hippies and revellers who turn up at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice may not be marking an ancient festival as they believe. The latest archaeological findings add weight to growing evidence that our ancestors visited Stonehenge to celebrate the winter solstice". This may explain why Bishop Ramon chose December for his consecreations! We should add that the direction of Mecca matches the sunrise of the summer solstice, while the apse of Saint-Sernin in Toulouse is towards the North-East, the sunrise of the winter solstice. 

24. Just as we had discovered Miquel Pujol i Canelles (1927-2011), a Catalan priest, philologist and medievalist from a village near the Eastern Pyrenees to help us sort out  forged documents for The Pujades Affair, we are blessed to meet Manuel Iglesias Costa (1919-2001), an Aragon priest and enlightened historian from Bonansa, a small town between Roda de Isábena and the Boí valley. His amazing works are Roda de Isábena, ex-sede y catedral Ribagorzana, (Huesca, 1987), see pdf link, and Historia del condado de Ribagorza, (Huesca, 2001), see pdf link.

25. CHRETIEN, 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.”

26. See http://www.princeton.edu/~pswpc/pdfs/katz/060801.pdf. Frank N. Magill, Great Events from History, Vol.2, Salem Press, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1973, p.1086.

27. Here is Wolfram's text, (P. 469, 1-13): "Dâ wont ein werlîchiu schar. ich wil iu künden umb ir nar. si lebent von einem steine: des geslähte ist vil reine. hât ir des niht erkennet, der wirt iu hie genennet. er heizet lapsit exillîs. von des steines kraft der fênîs verbrinnet, daz er zaschen wirt: diu asche im aber leben birt. sus rêrt der fênîs mûze sîn unt gît dar nâch vil liehten schîn, daz er schœne wirt als ê..."

28. The Wikipedia link to Hermann is in German. It mentions that he was raised at the court of King Louis VII in Paris, to which we should add that he would have met Chrétien's future patroness, Marie de Champagne, who was the daughter of the king. "Durch seine zeitweise Erziehung in Paris war er mit zeitgenössischer französischer Literatur bekannt, deren deutsche Neubearbeitung er förderte. Am Landgrafenhof entstanden unter anderem Heinrichs von Veldeke Eneasroman, Wolframs von Eschenbach Willehalm, ggf. Teile des Parzival und Herborts von Fritzlar Liet von Troye. Die Wartburg wurde unter seiner Herrschaft endgültig zum Hauptsitz der Ludowinger, 1206 soll dort der Sängerkrieg stattgefunden haben, an dem so bedeutende Minnesänger wie Walther von der Vogelweide und Wolfram von Eschenbach teilnahmen."

29. Werner Greub, Wolfram von Eschenbach und die Wirklichkeit des Grals, Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, (Dornach/Schweiz, 1974), pp. 151-3.

30. It seems that when scholars translate Wolfram into English, they use as a guide the excellent prose version of Wilhelm Stapel in modern German, who translates "Dôlet" as Toledo and implies with "heathen" that Flegetanis and his father had abandoned Judaism. This is another, interesting ambiguity because in Exodus 32:4, some Jews are accused of worshipping Baal and praying to a calf as a false god, which is pre-Islamic and had been exploited by Christians like Hrabanus Maurus since the ninth century to support their anti-Semitic polemics. 

31. Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival, trans. Helen M. Mustard and Charles E. Passage, (New York, 1961), pp. 406, 435.

32. Colloques internationaux du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, iii, Romans du Graal (Paris, 1956), p. 246.

33. Roger Sherman Loomis, The Origin of the Grail Legends, Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, A Collaborative History,  (Oxford University Press, 1959), pp. 277-78

34. Iglesias Costa, (see above No. 24)



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Most of the following is no longer valid and currently under revision!

The oversized towers reminded Chrétien probably of the phallic symbolism of the pinnacles at Montserrat and he wondered if the cult of its "Black Madonna" had found refuge in the Pyreenees. He questioned therefore why the "trinity" of three churches completes with the martyrdom of a virgin and why the "Descent from the Cross" is celebrated in her name. But before Chrétien could develop a meaningfull concept, he had to start with "dualism" because the churches in Taüll link Jesus to Mary and celebrate Epiphany with the Magi. He noticed two colorful birds at Sta Maria, with one marked "PAVO" (peacock), a symbol of eternal life, and wondered why they lack the usual peacock eyes and what the other bird might be. Both seem to be drinking from a colorful chalice between three eight-pointed stars which relate to the Magi and Mary (19). Hence, this unique image of the Holy Grail, which seems to combine the vessel of the Last Supper and the phoenix myth, could have inspired the cosmic concept of Chrétien's final work.

As far as we know, grail romance started about fifty years after Bishop Ramon consecrated these churches at Taüll, which is a strong indication that there was a secret tradition the poet could draw on. A grala emitting rays at St Climent could relate to Plato's "divine mixing bowl of life" and the above chalice anticipates the Eucharist symbolism of Robert de Boron! Hence, if the original seekers had come from Sant Pere de Rodes, which is located between the town of Roses and the Cap de Creus (Cape of Crosses), they could have called themselves "Rosicrucians." Furthermore, if the towers were inspired by the Roman Church, their phallic symbolism could only be explained as "papal Machtkunst" (20), yet the art historians of the MNAC continue to attribute the artworks at Taüll to an Italian influence and the Gregorian reform (21), which Chrétien approaches from a different perspective. He plays with "Alexander" in the foreword of his poem to make his audience identify either the Mazedonian conqueror or the controversial pope, who are both listed in some annals as "Alexander III the Great." If this interpretation is correct, bishop Ramon did not only protect the Muslims, Jews and heretics in his diocese, which would include Arians and Cathars, but was also initiated in the so-called "grail cult" himself. Hence, a poet of Chrétien's caliber would have been able to "read" the esoteric messages of Ramon much better than anyone today, which we'll explore next.


What Chrétien might have experienced

We used Google earth to visualize the "crime scene" in Montserrat and will attempt the same at the valley of Boí. Until our field research in the fall of 2018, we had to rely on Goering (22) who describes how bishop Ramon "and his entourage travelled" in early December of 1123: "Following the right (west) bank of the Noguera de Tor River, they came to the village of Erill la Vall in the Boí Valley (i.e. he ignores Sta Eulàlia!)... There they crossed the river, passed through the village of Boí, the traditional political center of the region, and climbed another three kilometers to reach the village of Taüll at the head of the valley... Raimund had come to dedicate two churches, one at the outskirts of the village, and the other about 400 meters (450 yards) further up the road, in the central plaza. He began with the church on the outskirts, which was destined to be the recipient of an important endowment..."

Goering makes the trip of Ramon seem grandiose by using terms like "entourage" and "plaza," yet the bishop had to take his congregation up the steep mountain on a dirt road with some cobble-stones, mules and oxen pulling carts, some people on horseback, and most following on foot. It would have been very cold in December, perhaps even snowing. Goering's "central plaza" conjures up a sunny town, while these were tiny villages with simple farmhouses and few windows, due to the harsh climate. Only if we consider the location can this cluster of oversized towers in a remote part of the Pyrenees tell us a message!

Chrétien would have been riding up the same road to Taüll, about half a century after Bishop Ramon, and read on a column at St Climent, which is still preserved, that the church is named after this pope of the first century and that the relics of St Cornelius were placed in the altar during the consecration in 1123 (23). As an educated man, the poet knew that pope Clemens was a successor of St Peter and had introduced the phoenix myth to Christianity (24), and that pope Cornelius (d. 243 CE) defended the obligation of the Church to reconcile apostates (see Franciscans). This is what Bishop Ramon practiced with substantial opposition and which confirms the message of love, compassion and pluralism in early grail romance.

The poet realized that Ramon followed a certain "dramaturgy" when he consecrated St Climent first and Sta Maria on the next day to separate the different messages of the churches, with the placement of the towers as signposts. By celebrating Christ in Majesty, he apparently used OT Prophecy to establish that the "Cosmic Christ" reaches from the alpha to the omega at St Climent. Yet with his humble self-description as "Son of Man," which Ezekiel uses 97 times, Jesus defines himself as human. Hence, Jesus is shown before his incarnation (25) and not during or after his Resurrection, which is developed from Epiphany, the Cucifixion, and Last Judgment at Sta Maria. This is signaled clearly by Bishop Ramon because he has the "agnus dei" (Lamb of God) depicted as a wild beast with seven eyes at St Climent and as the sacrificial lamb at Sta Maria.

In fact, 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 could have raised his hands and replied to critics that any questions will be answered the next day at Sta Maria! This takes us to the painting of Lazarus at right which looks like a masterpiece of Picasso. However, this is not the sick man Jesus raised from the dead in John 11:1-43, which would belong to Santa Maria and the New Testament! It is the beggar 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 proposes that identity and memory remain after death, which could explain where Jesus had been before he was born in Bethlehem! The cosmic theme continues with  the Tetramorph to the right and left of Christ where the Evangelists are still angels with wings and eyespots, and paired with the man, lion, ox and eagle of Ezekiel's prophecies.

Until now, our creative conjectures rely merely on a visit to MNAC in Barcelona and images from the internet, pending updates in the future. The above painting of Lazarus could relate to the peacock at the upper left of the apse which, according to the chart, symbolizes eternal life like the phoenix. It would be consistent with our theories that it has eyespots because those at Sta Maria have none. Until they are checked in situ, another message remains unresolved: there is apparently one exception at Santa Maria, seen at left. Perhaps, the missing of "God's eyes" caused a discussion and they were added to demonstrate that the painter knew how to paint them and to back up that they are missing in some images on purpose. Although it is difficult to interpret paintings that are partially missing or next to empty walls, one ambiguity stands on firmer ground: The Magi reappear in a painting with King Herod at the right of the apse:

It is the famous scene in the gospel when Herod meets the Magi secretly and asks for "the exact time the star had appeared" (Mt. 2:7). But all four men wear identical crowns and any fool could be persuaded that the Magi are kings, which one wiseman seems to prove by pointing at Herod's crown, as the detail at right shows. However, we take the "fiery triangles" (or pyramids) of the crowns as a secret message and spend more time with the painting, although we can't see what's inside their bowls: The first Magi at right has a red bowl, which may be a way to explain away its fiery version at St Climent. The one 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, it would have been easy for him to point at Herod. But the painter got creative here; he almost breaks the left arm of the poor Zoroastrian by forcing it across his chest to the right so he can point that way. His contortion makes us look closer and we realize that he is not pointing at Herod at all! It is a trompe l'oel because the detail at left reveals that he his 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 eyes signify the seven spirits of God, but this lamb is jumping and neither bleeding nor with seven horns, which evokes 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." (26)


Chrétien looked at the hand of the Almighty, reaching through the painted window below the seven-eyed beast, and began to search for a symbol of the Holy Spirit like the usual dove or a flame. He studied Jesus and the row of apostles below him, and the red dots on their cheeks and foreheads made them look strangely lifelike. When his eyes reached Mary's vessel, he began to meditate because the flames look like radiation and not like fire. After some time has passed, the red dots in her face made her seem to come alive and inspired the higher, cosmic theme of "Le Conte du Graal" where this transfiguration returns in Perceval's trance, which we´ll address below. He develops his basic concept from 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 Gauvain's problems at the Castle of Wonders. These are 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 apparently fashioned after Joan Gari at Montserrat and fused with Ramon who preached this from his cave. Hence, Chrétien seems to have based the hermit's wisdom and grail procession on Ramon's writings, as Goering suggests, but what the Canadian historian failed to realize is that the French poet preserved the grail mystery. 

In the poem, the procession 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 red 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 (27). 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. Perceval notices a drop of blood that flows from the metal point of the lance and runs down the shaft to the knave's hand, which distracts him from asking the all-important question. It is obviously a reference to Longinus and the crucifixion, which links to the red dots in Mary's face and inspires the most enchanting scene in the poem, when Perceval falls into a trance and has a vision of his beloved Blanchefleur. A falcon had attacked a flock of white geese and injured one, and three drops of blood melt the fresh snow – forming a triangle that fuses into her face. 

While Perceval's metamorphosis is of a spiritual nature with the symbolism of the Grail Castle in the center, the Castle of Wonders takes its place in Gauvain's adventures. It looks like Chrétien got this idea at St Climent as well when he noticed the painting of Mark above Mary's right shoulder. Hence, in the mirror world of Gauvain, there is no trance but a nightmare. Mark's lion evokes the Ezekiel prophecies and Gauvain has to fight a magical bed and break the spell by killing the lion. Hence, the Tetramorph and many wings and eyes seem to represent the magic and astrology of the ancients. Because Chrétien's poem breaks off at the Castle of Wonders, Wolfram's adapation seems to take the scene to another level with the phoenix myth and the planetary positions as major elements of the grail mystery. His concept culminates in a metamorphosis of "melting" in the Sun by three drops of blood in the microcosm and a planetary triangle in the macrocosm. Our study of the Star of Bethelehem establishes that this triangle formed at the western horizon on the evening of Feb. 25, 6 BCE, after which Saturn, Jupiter and Mars "melted" into the setting Sun. It is, like the location of sunrise in the East, one of the two "Gates of Heaven," according to Isidor of Seville.

Our comparison of independent sources shows that the planetary triangle was interpreted in different cultures as Phoenix or Christmas Star, which could have worried the successors of Pope Clemens. This would explain why they 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 (28) – but Wolfram seems to have understood the alleged "error" and proposes that the powers of the grail enable the reincarnations of the phoenix. This could mean that he interpreted the rays of Mary's grail as its symbol! Hence, an unknown radiation during a line-up of our solar system triggered supposedly the birth of Jesus, which the Church simplified with the doctrine of a virgin birth. In an age before DNA research, fertility clinics and frozen eggs, this could have been the opinion of Bishop Ramon and his followers! That "radiation" fertilized an egg in Mary's body is indicated by the gifts of the Magi, which suggests that it was about a secret knowledge they shared in Bethlehem. How else can we explain the egg-shaped gifts in the bowls of the Magi, at Sta Maria d'Arneu at left and Sta Maria de Taüll at right, which don't look at all like gold, frankincense and myrrh (Mt. 2:11) the gospel mentions.

Back to St Climent, where the "peacock" at the upper left of the apse could be a phoenix that links to Clement who introduced the magic of this "firebird" to Christianity. Perhaps, Wolfram meditated before the virgin like Chrétien, and decided to celebrate her as "Lady Adventure" (frou âventiure) and then praised "Meister Kyot" (laschantiure) for revealing the truth, who could have been Michael Scot. Both names happen to line up nicely! This is persuasive evidence that both poets interpreted Ramon's messages accordingly. What we don't know is which paintings were white-washed and where the lance of Longinus was shown, which preceeded the grail in both poems as a major part of the mystery. There are numerous white spaces in both churches, although there is a fragment of David and Goliath at Sta Maria, which alludes to the lineage of Jesus according to Matthew. Some depictions of the Last Judgment have also survived, yet none of the Crucifixion as far as we know until our field research is completed.

Another unsolved mystery

According to Goering, there are no records of Ramon's consecrations, only the inscription on a column at St Climent he had wisely installed, identifying December 10, 1123, the pope of the first century and the relics of St Cornelius. This takes us to another esoteric message, which may be the greatest mystery of all: Why did Ramon ignore Sunday and then consecrate two churches on Monday and Tuesday?  This makes us question his dramaturgy and wonder what happened on Wednesday, the "third day," which would symbolize Christ's resurrection. In view of the phoenix myth, which is alluded with pope Climent, it could be about reincarnation and a third consecration. Hence, Ramon may have wanted to take us back down the hill to Boí and the third church, although Sta Eulàlia, the patroness of Barcelona, doesn't quite fit the scenario. But the shape of the church and its tower dates it clearly at the time of St Climent and Sta Maria, yet there are no records from before 1373, which indicates they may have been destroyed. It is also strange that Goering ignores the church in his detailed report, although it is identical with the two he features! Hence, if Chrétien used the symbolism of the Magic Sword to expose pope Alexander III, as we contend, the poet would have questioned the bare walls and wondered why the frescos are missing, and why only wood carvings remain that could be from other churches. Perhaps, he learned that the locals remembered its consecration to a virgin, which would imply that Eulàlia replaced the Black Madonna of Montserrat. Even the "Descent" from the cross is a fitting theme because it includes Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea's recycling of the grail. This may very well be the missing scenario from Chrétien's grail procession about the drop of blood on the lance, which implies that Longinus had stopped a "Passover Plot." This mystery will be a focus of our studies in 2018 with field research in the Boí valley with the intention to document it in detail at this website.

Tentative conclusions

Goering ends his book with a 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 his lavish praise of Helinandus, the most ardent preacher of the Albigensian Crusades. However, the magical mystery of the esoteric triangles and "sealed lips" keeps us in the Pyrenees a while longer to find out how St Pedro de Roda links to Roda-Barbastro. In addition to the usual questions, we'll try to figure out if they relate to a Second Coming in the 9th century, what Jesus might really be signaling with two fingers, and why a painting at Sant Pere de Burgal depicts the Holy Grail as an enclosed relic – with Peter signaling like Jesus! Does he look so grim because his bones and Christ's blood are still missing? However, Mary's fiery grail matches Peter's keys because it is made up of two chalices, with the top one reversed – as if both are posing for a poster to promote a message of hope with "dualism." Hermetic messages that require a detour to the Pontifical Institutions of the Vatican and a look at the Christian "history" (éstoire) of Robert de Boron, who may be the third originator of grail romance.

If you have enjoyed our wild speculations until here, even if they entertained you only like a medieval joust, you might 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 again because there should be other hidden messages.


19. Mt. 13.37- 43: “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the devil, and the enemy who sows them is the devil… As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of this kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will be weeping and gnashing their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

20. The right bird is marked PAVO, peacock in Latin. The left bird is not identified, but both are surrounded by stars. I fact, the signs of the Zodiac are depicted below Mary which Peter Hubert has documented, see above, No. 7, p. 68. Is the alleged "peacock" in the far upper left of Sant Climent also marked PAVO?, see 33 on the chart, which we intend to verify on site. If Company is not confusing two churches, as he did Luke with John, the dualities could be rather meaningful!

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

22. Goering (see above No.2), p. 77

23. Ibid., pp. 90-91. He offers the Latin text and an English translation.

24. This is another Greek element of the Magic Sword: 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 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 mention in our study of 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." Inspired by Hesiod and Herodotus, Ovid, Lucan and Pliny the Elder wrote also about the phoenix, and when Clement joined the discussion he was probably thinking of the Magi because he informed the Corinthians that the phoenix burns 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 adapts a riddle of Hesiod and allows us to calculate that the lifespan of the phoenix is 854 years, which identifies it as the same astronomical event as the Star of Bethlehem in 6 BCE.

25. 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).

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

27. 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.”

28. It was Kepler's genius that he, a Lutheran, could gain the support of a few 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 could not dare to mention how widely the phoenix myth was discussed during early Christianity (see above, No. 24), and that an expert like Dionysius Exiguus would not miscalculate the birth of Christ, unless it was ordered by the Church. Part of the scam is probably Herod's date of death, which is kept as ambiguous as possible. Yet now that information is so easily accessable, the Jesuits seem to promote any hypothesis about 7 BCE as an even better alternative. 


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