Urgell Secrets

2021 Update: Due to field research in Roda de Isábena and Vall de Boí some of our conjectures need to be revised, which is 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 were discovered in the Pyrenees above this ancient diocese. The Canadian historian Joseph Goering writes in his book 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, half a century before the French poet Chrétien has 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 in their isolated locations (4). In order to save them, the frescos were covered with transparent glue and expertly peeled from the plaster. They are exhibited at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona (MNAC) where they are celebrated as finest works of Romanesque art in the world. One of the most famous works is 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 these 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 with colorful projections of digital recreations at Sant Climent.

 Many international art historians connect these paintings to grail romance without even having to consider the etymological link of "graal" to Urgell. For example, Chandler R. Post writes in 1930 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 adds in 1970: "The Virgin... holds up a dish filled with the red glowing blood of Christ, a reminder that Catalonia was one of the centres of the cult of the Grail." Christopher Dodwell sums this up in 1993 by proposing that it is "the earliest allusion to the Grail in art or literature" (5). What makes this painting so unique is that Mary's simple bowl confirms the etymology of "gradalis-gradal-grala-graal" (6), which is also depicted in nearby Sta Maria de Taüll. There, the Magi use such bowls for their gifts, although they seem to be 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 is Mary 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 important had gestures were.

 

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 of two added vertical stripes. It relates apparently to the flaming grail and to Jesus Christ, who thrones above her holding the Book of Life to announce 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 from his mandorla. In view of the dramatic scenario, it is understandable that a history professor would overlook two little 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 originally, but visited the MNAC in April, 2018, and took these pictures ourselves (10). The detail at left 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 or vertical lines. Although no other paintings with such lines can been found in Romanesque churches, the Catalan experts we contacted dismissed them to our surprise as an artist's personal style to paint any mouth. The other church in the village, Santa Maria, presents the popular image of the Virgin Mary with little Jesus on her lap, which makes us wonder why she is demoted to a line-up with apostles at St Climent. Our detail shows three 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 be Holy Kings or Magi. The Church had revised their image as magicians by renaming them "Holy Three Kings" and continued preaching 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 historians and a surprising break-through for us, which we discovered a few years ago: The Magi at Maria d'Aneu wear tunics with fancy designs of the "fiery" and "watery" triangles we feature since the 1980s. (The detail at left can be enlarged by clicking on it also revealing the eggs in his basket). The paintings of their upper bodies on the other side of Mary are gone but their tunics remain with similar triangles! Hence, they could symbolize the sun with the "fiery" and "watery" triangles of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars before sunset in February of 6 BCE, which we hope to connect to the phoenix myth in our conclusions! One of the reasons why scholars overlooked these images is that France and Spain were disconnected at the Val d'Aran every winter – until tunnels were built in 1948 and 2007, see Vielha 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 great length that Chrétien had no idea what a grail is and that it is not an ancient myth, he features the consecration of the churches in Taüll (Tahull in Spanish) by Bishop Ramon of Roda and Barbastro. He dedicates an entire chapter to this bishop, an Augustinian canon and prior from Saint-Sernin in Toulouse when it was part of Aquitaine. Based on Ramon's note books, Goering reconstructs the ceremony of the consecrations over several pages and admits to our surprise "One might even imagine that the Grail processions as described by Chrétien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach owe something to this public liturgy". He adds that naming a church after "St. Clement, the famous first-century bishop of Rome and successor of St Peter," is a meaningful choice and concludes: 

"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 these paintings 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 I 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, the bishop of Huesca, permission to have his soldiers kill the entourage of Ramon and sack his residence. 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 like an hermit in a cave until he was restored to Roda.

The seclusion of this romantic village and cathedral on a hilltop allowed him a peaceful life and business ventures with his friends, the powerful Barons of Erill, and also restore 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 later 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 a grail message Goering seems to have overlooked!

Visitors can buy a booklet in the major languages at the MNAC today, which is published by the University of Lleida (14) and has pictures of St Climent's apse which are 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 is still covered by a 17th century altarpiece. 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 by an illustrated band. Furthermore, the altarpiece has obviously inspired the towers of the "Sagrada Familia" in Barcelona, the famous church of Antoni Gaudi, what 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 ignore the interactive presentation of Christ because it is quite controversial, as we will show below. They merely feature his garments "with edges simulating pearled adornments performed with detail and refinement, as if an exquisite goldsmith had made them to dress a king" (15), and overlook 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! Because this symbolism is mirrored at Santa Maria and on the robes of the Magi at Santa Maria d'Aneu, their esoteric symbolism is probably related. Like Goering, these experts maintain that the painters are responsible for these patterns and ignore that they are told by their patrons what to depict. They even fail to mention 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 is a sacred symbol of the spiritual principles in Buddhism and Hinduism, and of the revolving sun and continued creation in Zoroastrianism! Hence, the authors could only come up with the simplistic 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."

How Chrétien may have heard about Taüll

Chrétien's references to Marie de Champagne establish him at her court in the 1170s when Troyes had international importance. Her husband was the count of Champagne, her parents Eleanor of Aquitaine and king Louis VII of France, and her step-father Henry II of England, which meant a diverse attendance of potential informants at social events. Troyes was also a religious center, king Louis the Stammerer received there 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 Hugues de Payens, when the Knights Templar were founded. However, other chivalric orders existed already, including 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" used to their advantage. Academics and churchmen communicated in Latin and Greek,  Jewish scholars could add Hebrew and Yiddish, and travelling tradesmen like carpenters or masons had secret signals. Even a "heretic" member of any of these groups (16) could have attended Chrétien's performances at Marie's court and inform him about a secret cult, which could have inspired him to use "graal" and link it to the South of the Pyrenees where "grala" and "greala" are still used today.

According to our findings at St Pere de Rodes, the French poet decided to base his Conte du Graal on a legend about Peter's skull and a vessel with Christ's blood, which were allegedly lost at the site of the monastery. With the symolism of the "Magic Sword" he exposes pope Alexander III as "vicious and evil" because he persecuted heretics and used the Peace of Venice to have all traces of the centuries-long search for the relics removed (17). However, because the quest for the lost relics opened their minds to spiritual ideals, the searchers became "heretics" and had to withdraw to the High Pyrenees. From Roda to Roda it seems, because Sant Pere de Rodes used to be known as San Pedro de Roda (18) until a few decades ago.

We can easily imagine that after visiting Roda, Chrétien was riding along the Noguera river  towards  the Val de Boí, de facto "per-ce-val", and a poem about an ailing "Fisherking" went through his mind. Peter's skull and bones were rotting in a cave next to a cup with the blood of Jesus, and he envisioned some kind of religious quest. About a hero named "Perceval" and a castrated papacy – when the sight of this church stopped him!

 

It's the kind of tower he expected in a large Italian town to reach over the rooftops, but not in a secluded village in the Pyrennes! This didn't make sense if the Vatican lost Peter's relics, and the phallic symbolism seemed like "papal Machtkunst" (19).

This paradox took us a decade ago to Rome where we followed up with the excavations of Peter's tomb at the Vatican, which admitted officially in 1951 that it had been pillaged by intruders. Only some "reburied bones" without a skull were dug up next to Peter's empty grave, which confirmed the long search for his relics near St Pere de Rodes by Italian churchmen. The parallels in Chrétien's poem required a closer look at the Boí valley. Four of its churches, St Joan in Boí, St Climent and Sta Maria in Taüll, and Sta Eulàlia in Erill la Vall were built by Lombardian craftsmen before 1100 CE (20). When Chrétien saw these 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 notice that the above 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.

Why new field research became necessary

Sant Pere de Rodes has been the focus of our study for decades, and when Romanesques Art came into the picture, questions came up that can't be solved in research libraries and on the internet. For example, a fresco at St Pere de Burgal depicts a flaming grail like St Climent de Taüll, but as an enclosed relic. That Romanesque churches show vessels of different shapes is understandable because the early poets had the same idea, which indicates that the grail is not a religious object, but a symbol. But the longer we looked at the painting, it became more expressionistic! Mary started to look a bit too stern as she promotes her vessel, and Peter extremely unhappy with the corners of his mouth drawn down. We wondered what this could mean and noticed that her grail is made up of two vessels, as the dark line we added shows at right. It suggests that Peter dislikes being shown with two keys and being used like Mary to promote "dualism" ! Did this heretic idea inspire the fiery grail at St Climent, which was painted about a decade later? No secular satire required here as the facts speak for themselves, or the silence, because Mary's lips are sealed! To prove it, here are close-ups of the other apostles next to her, enhanced by a higher contrast and tint to show there are no lines on their lower lips, except for a crack in the plaster across John's mouth in the middle. 

These were the highlights of our study until three years ago when we had two major set backs. Our favorite contributor in Catalonia, who runs an esoteric website and blogs with foreign scholars, dismissed the "sealed lips" as jpg-distortions. When we sent him our comparisons, he disagreed and never responded again. He could have had an accident, we thought, but found him blogging with a historian in England who supports our site for years. We then sent an email to Montserrat Pagès, curator of Romanesque Art at the MNAC in Barcelona, and asked her if she has noticed the sealed lips. She ignored our important question and attributed the painting to our surprise to the "reinforcement of the papal position" in the controversy between "Gregorius VII with the bishop Berengario of Tours regarding the  Eucharistical (sic) sagrament", and added that she had forwarded our mail to her "friend and colleague" Anke Wunderwald. When we tried to contact her in Germany and failed to get a response, a trip to Spain seemed the only solution. 

In early April, 2018, we started out at the MNAC in Barcelona and could finally see with our own eyes that Mary's lips are really sealed. A couple of weeks later, after a lovely sunny Sunday morning in Roda de Isábena, it took us less than an hour to drive from Aragon to Catalonia though a maze of gorges, canyons, tunnels and bridges to Erill la Vall, which is 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 the drone we took along, because of heavy fines in Spain, we have 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 corner. (Please note that the Catalan name "Joan" is "John" in English). We realized that St Joan is situated in a strategic location between the other churches and learned on site that its tower used to have six floors like the others. According to recent excavations the church (at right) used to be inside a fortified castle with a draw bridge, which was destroyed in the Middle Ages – the mystery why there is no record of its existence will be addressed below!  

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 (21). They seem to have been more than watch towers because the Boí valley dead-ends into the mountains and two fortresses protected 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 building boom. Up the river is Caldes de Boí with hot springs, mineral baths and Spa hotels, and because Boí-Taüll is below the highest peaks of the Pyrenees it became a popular ski-resort:

When we wrapped up our field research in late April, 2018, we were quite disappointed! It had been like visiting a fancy resort because the villages are well maintained and the buildings covered by modern slate roofs, including the medieval structures, restaurants, and apartment buildings. Nevertheless, we took hundreds of photographs in Boí and 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 another bird sticks its head out from the whitewash at Sta Maria! In fact, the bare walls at the MNAC became a major challenge because it seemed preposterous to interprete isolated artworks without their context. (At left is a sample from St Climent and at right from Sta Maria). But we can't explain why Catalan scholars ignore the opinion of their international peers that grail romance is inspired by the Romanesque art at their museum (22). Don't they know that the Holy Grail is part of popular culture now, thanks to Spielberg and Dan Brown, and that they would attract more visitors from around the world by simply mentioning it?

Vall de Boí - Valley of Questions

In spite of our disappointing field research, the hard proof of the "sealed lips" began to raise new questions. We wondered if we had failed like Perceval at the Grail Castle by not asking the right question? There are no records of the Boí castle and we don't even know to which St John its church was 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 Monday? We'll never know what he did on Sunday, did he celebrate mass at St Joan or join a round-table discussion? And what kind of rite or cult could have been practiced in these churches to require new consecrations? Did it have anything to do with St Pere de Rodes and the Cathars? Yet over all these questions loomed another enigma: Who would hire Lombardian masons to build four identical churches with over-sized towers in clear sight of each other in a secluded valley in the High Pyrenees where the poor soil and harsh climate prevented any agriculture? Which raises the question what came first, the egg or the chicken, the churches or the villages? That Taüll has two churches indicates they were research centers and a few houses were built nearby for the scholars. It has been suggested that the church towers were watchtowers, which makes no sense because the churches would not be needed in this case.

 We checked Google Earth and noticed the tilted angle of a line-up from Sta Eulàlia at the bottom of the valley at left, less than a mile from St Joan de Boí as the crow flies, followed by a winding road up to Taüll at right.

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. Rising above the obelisk in the center of his view, which is from Heliopolis of all places! All of 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 would 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 other churches. Surprisingly, the satellite view shows that the churches in the Boí valley line up differently, and when we used Google's satellite view to zoom in on each church we noticed that it is not a concidence: All four churches are on this axis and each apse is in the South-East, which shows 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 gaps between the mountains, pending additional studies whem we 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 (π) 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 who collaborated with the photographer Max Hirmer. When we compared Romanesque art from all over Europe for several days, it became clear that the frescos of Taüll surpass everything ever done and certain patterns began to emerge. 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 a work he didn't quote (24). He offers a wealth of information about the pluralistic zeitgeist at the medieval borderlands, which would were 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 Castle of Boí a research center?

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 long ago. Although it may have never been more than a poetic vision, we are obliged to check if an esoteric brotherhood and sophisticated research center existed at the site, which would have involved Bishop Ramon.

We finally found a description of the fortress that used to surround St Joan der Boi and hoped to complete this article in 2021. But our report will take longer than expected because we had to avoid the Covid-19 Pandemic and left the United States to relocate to Cologne, Germany. Sorry about the delay!

 

 

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Notes:

1. C. du Fresne du Cange; Glossarium, L. Favre, Niort 1885, Tom. IV, p. 91, and Joan Coromines, ‘Apèndix sobre Greala i el Greal’ in idem, Diccionari Etimològic Complimentari de la Llengua Catalana, Curial Edicions Catalanes, (Barcelona, 1984), Vol. IV, p. 637: GREAL, ‘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”.

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.

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 references to the grail.

5. Chandler R. Post, History of Spanish Painting, (Harvard, 1930), p. 195; Otto Demus and Max Hirmer, Romanesque Mural Painting (New York, 1970), p. 479; Christopher R. Dodwell, The pictorial Arts of the West, 800-1200, (Yale University Press, 1993), p. 258. This is a span of 75 years until Goering's well-researched book.

6. Coromines, (See above, No. 1).

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, one of our contributors, whose spectacular website has been discontinued because of his death in early 2017, which is an immense loss. We are fortunate to have saved one of his files in pdf format, which preserves a few of his great photographs! You'll note he follows the interpretations of Montserrat Pagès and questions Mary's "sealed lips", but he kindly credits our website as a reference at the end.

9. Santa Maria de Mur, now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

10. We used a compact Canon SX730 HS with an 40x optical zoom in the automatic setting. Unfortunately, the MNAC seems to prevent tourists from getting good pictures to protect the professionals. They use colored spot lights on the paintings, which is a problem, and don't allow tripods or simple sticks to get a good focus. We had to use benches or floors to take some of our pictures. When we compared them with the originals, we noticed that our 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 a little bit at times to bring out 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 preserved 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."

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 was annulled in 1131. The plot thickens even more, because it was negotiated by the Count of Barcelona with the help of Alfonso's brother and successor, King Ramir II of Aragon and count of Ribagorza (1086-1157), who had been a monk and briefly the bishop of Roda.  

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 strange that the grail myth is not even brought up, which questions his relationship with 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 to symbolize the alleged authors of the synoptic gospels as weird winged creatures with animal features, based on the zodiac, is incomprehensible today. This was introduced by Irenaeus (130-202) and may have been devised to replace Pope Clement's phoenix symbolism with Ezekiel's visions.

16. A visiting Cistercian or Templar could have been the informant. The Catalan knight Arnau de Torroja (1118-1184) is a contender because he was born near Urgell, joined the Knight Templars 1162 in Lleida, and was 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 rabbis and 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 said that Chrétien's performance had 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 got some support from German researchers in 2016 who write that "a good third" of the documents until the late 12th century about Louis the Pious are forgeries and that it 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. 1), 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." We wonder if Coromines knew about the "Roman structure" under the monastery, which could be older than assumed and 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, but 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.

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". The importance of the winter solstice may explain why Bishop Ramon chose December for his consecreations.  

24. Manuel Iglesias Costa, Roda de Isábena, ex-sede y catedral Ribagorzana, (Huesca, 1987), see pdf, and Historia del condado de Ribagorza, (Huesca, 2001), see pdf.  Iglesias (1919-2001) was an enlightened historian and catholic priest from Bonansa, a small town on the road from Roda de Isábena to the Boí valley.

         

 

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