Opinion

El Temple, clave para la formación de la región

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La Orden fue una pieza necesaria para que los reyes leoneses y castellanos conquistaran las tierras al sur de la Sierra de Gata, por entonces llamada Transierra, germen de Extremadura.

Es indudable la proliferación de libros con temática relativa a la Orden del Temple que se han publicado en los últimos años. La inmensa mayoría carentes de rigores históricos y encuadrados en la novela, en la leyenda o el esoterismo que, si bien pueden entretener, desvirtúan en muchos casos la imagen real de los Caballeros de la Orden del Templo o Caballeros del Temple. En otros casos llegan a nuestras manos libros que pretenden acercarnos a la historia general del Temple, donde se nos habla de sus batallas en Tierra Santa o su poder en Francia, y todo esto nos parece lejano a nuestra tierra.

Pero no podemos olvidar que en realidad El Temple, la Orden de caballería medieval más famosa, poderosa y antigua, tuvo una fuerte presencia en Extremadura que duró casi siglo y medio. Sus tres encomiendas extremeñas llegaron a tener una extensión más grande que la actual Rioja o Cantabria, por poner dos ejemplos comparativos. Obviar esto sería mutilar nuestra propia historia y la de aquellos monjes-guerreros que salpicaron con su legado un inmenso territorio de nuestra actual comunidad.

Para entender la relación de la Orden del Temple con nuestra tierra nos tendríamos que remontar 843 años atrás, cuando los territorios de la actual Extremadura eran dominio musulmán y botín apetecido por los reinos cristianos de León, Castilla y Portugal deseosos de extender sus dominios hacia el sur.

Fue durante el reinado del monarca leonés Fernando II cuando aparece por primera vez documentada la presencia de los templarios en Extremadura, en aquellos tiempos conocida como Transierra. Todo comienza a raíz de la extraordinaria campaña llevada por este rey entre 1166 y 1169, en la que los templarios tendrán gran protagonismo.

Una serie de acontecimientos precipitaron que Fernando II diera un impulso definitivo a la reconquista de la Transierra y tuvo que contar para ello con un ejército disciplinado y contrastado en el campo de batalla como lo era El Temple. El peso de Los Pobres Caballeros de Cristo en esta incursión fue importantísimo si tenemos en cuenta el gran número de donaciones con que les premió el rey leonés.

Con todas las donaciones castilleras, concentradas entre el río Tajo y sus afluentes el Almonte, el Alagón y el Arrago, los templarios formaron su primera encomienda en Extremadura. Como centro de la misma eligieron un lugar bien fortificado y estratégico que era el paso más importante sobre el Tajo, Alconétar.

Años más tarde, Alfonso IX de León dará un nuevo impulso a la reconquista de la Transierra a partir de 1212 tras la derrota musulmana en la batalla de las Navas de Tolosa. Con las conquistas de Mérida y Badajoz en 1230 llevó la frontera leonesa desde el Tajo hasta el Guadiana. Por esas fechas compensó al Temple con los territorios de Burguillos y Alconchel.

Estos territorios, situados en el parte central de la provincia, estaban limitados por los concejos de Badajoz al norte y de Sevilla al sur, el reino portugués al oeste y los territorios de la Orden de Santiago al este, formando una cuña en dirección surestenoroeste. Pero una serie de circunstancias como la preocupación de Fernando III en la conquista del este de la provincia de Badajoz, puerta de al-Andalus, la posterior conquista de Córdoba y Sevilla con ricas vegas que las hacían muy atractivas, y la indefensión de los Concejos de Badajoz y Sevilla con grandes territorios y poca población, fueron poderosas razones para que la Orden del Temple decidiera, de manera unilateral, apoderarse de territorios que no le pertenecían por derecho. Del concejo de Sevilla se apropiaron de la villa de Jerez y de un amplio territorio sobre los que luego fundaron las poblaciones de Fregenal, Zahínos, Valencia de Mombuey, Oliva de la Frontera, Villanueva del Fresno, Higuera la Real y Bodonal. Pero, al igual que ocurriera con Sevilla, los templarios no respetaron los límites del concejo pacense y desde el castillo de Alconchel fueron usurpando territorios hacia el norte (Olivenza), el oeste (Cheles) y el este (Villanueva de Barcarrota y Táliga), donde fundaron nuevas poblaciones.

La encomienda de Jerez

Con todos estos territorios se formó la encomienda de Jerez con una extensión aproximada de 2.888 kilómetros cuadrados, lo que la convirtió en la más grande de todas las encomiendas templarias de la Corona de Castilla y por supuesto de Extremadura, quizá fue esta la razón del deslinde entre Jerez y Valencia del Ventoso en 1272 llamándose desde entonces la encomienda Jerez-Ventoso.

Como rey de Castilla, Fernando III (1217- 1252) emprende una campaña contra los musulmanes para conquistar el Valle del Guadalquivir. Entre sus objetivos se encontraba la bien fortificada y populosa Capilla, enclave fundamental para facilitar el avance cristiano por la Baja Andalucía. Tras catorce semanas de asedio las tropas templarias la tomaron en 1226.

Poco tiempo después de la conquista de Córdoba, los templarios van a recibir de manos del monarca el señorío de Capilla (9 de septiembre de 1236) con un enorme territorio, añadiéndose apenas tresmeses más tarde el castillo de Almorchón. Formándose así la tercera de las encomiendas.

Tres inmensos territorios con escasez de población, en un territorio fronterizo y una vegetación natural muy abundante, no fueron obstáculos para los templarios. El modelo de organización será siempre el mismo, la división de sus territorios en encomiendas o baylías. En lo organizativo cada encomienda se adaptará a su propio territorio tratando de explotar al máximo los recursos existentes. En ninguna de ellas aparecerán grandes núcleos de población que unifique todo el poder, lo que dará más homogeneidad y competencia entre las poblaciones de la misma encomienda.

La repoblación de las tres encomiendas seguirá el mismo modelo. El centro aglutinador de la población es el castillo, cerca de él la iglesia, en honor de la Virgen María como era práctica frecuente entre los templarios, y al amparo de estas dos edificaciones la población.

Ocupar o levantar un castillo

La norma general era ocupar un castillo arrebatado a los musulmanes (Alconchel, Jerez, Cheles, Capilla, Alconétar…) o bien levantar uno de nueva planta (Ventoso en la sierra de San Pedro, Barcarrota, Fregenal, Olivenza, Higuera de Vargas, Burguillos, Cabezón…), para aglutinar aldeas o núcleos dispersos de escasa población, como en Burguillos del Cerro o Garrovillas de Alconétar.

Los templarios supieron repoblar y organizar su territorio de una manera muy eficaz como lo demuestra el hecho de que mientras sus tierras atraían pobladores, sus vecinos como los del concejo de Badajoz, iban disminuyendo su número. Prueba de ello son la cantidad de nuevas poblaciones que fundaron los templarios en las tres encomiendas:
En Capilla, tras la conquista, todos los musulmanes que sobrevivieron fueron enviados al cercano castillo de Gahete (Belalcázar). Ante la ausencia de población autóctona, los templarios se vieron obligados a traer gentes de sus encomiendas gallegas, aún así fundaron: la aldea del Bued (actual Cabeza del Buey), Galizuela, Provichuela (hoy un despoblado cerca del río Esteras), Garlitos y Siruela.

En Alconétar, para la consolidación y repoblación de este territorio, utilizaron como base los castillos, muchos de ellos solamente perduraron mientras cumplieron su función defensiva: Salvaleón, Benavente de Sequeros, Cabezón y Bernardo. Otros como Alconétar persistieron hasta el momento de la disolución de la Orden pasando sus habitantes a la villa templaria de Garrovillas, que junto a Cañaveral siguen siendo núcleos de población en la actualidad.

En Jerez, donde si pudieron contar con población mudéjar y judía, fundaron las poblaciones de: Villanueva del Fresno, Oliva de la Frontera (llamada entonces La Granja de la Oliva),Valencia deMombuey, Cheles, Higuerilla (posteriormente Higuera de Vargas), Zahínos (o Zafinos repoblada con gentes de la encomienda templaria de Ceínos del Campo en Valladolid), Fregenal de la Sierra, Bodonal de la Sierra, Higuera la Real, La Marutera (aldea hoy desaparecida), Barcarrota (antesVillanueva de Barcarrota), Táliga , Olivenza y Ventoso (en la Sierra de San Pedro).

Disolución de la Orden del Temple

Pero la fecha del 13 de octubre de 1307 marcará un acontecimiento injusto y escandaloso que aún hoy, siete siglos después, sigue siendo tema de estudio: la disolución de la Orden del Temple.

El artífice de todo fue el rey de Francia Fernando IV El Hermoso, ansioso por hacerse con todas las posesiones de los templarios, y ayudado por un papa de poca personalidad como era Clemente V. Entre los dos imputaron a los templarios una serie de delitos ficticios como blasfemias y herejías.

En Castilla, a pesar de ser declarados inocentes en los interrogatorios de Medina del Campo y Salamanca, el rey Fernando IV dispondrá de todos los bienes templarios extremeños incluso antes de que se declare disuelta la Orden en el Concilio Ecuménico de Vienne el 22 de marzo de 1312.

A pesar del paso de los siglos y de la obsesión de reyes, concejos y otras órdenes militares por borrar toda huella de su paso por nuestra tierra, la presencia templaria sigue hoy viva. Dice un proverbio antiguo que: «Cuando calla la Historia, hablan las piedras».

Persiste su legado oral con multitud de topónimos (Valle de la Orden, de los Caballeros, Zahínos, Olivenza…) un santoral extremeño salpicado con nombres de Vírgenes introducidas por ellos (Santa María de la Encina, del Castillo, de Belén, de Gracia, de Altagracia, de la Magdalena, Nazaret…), leyes como el fuero del baylío o leyendas (La Torre Sangrienta, El mantel de la Santa Cena, La Virgen de Gracia, La Leyenda del Vaquero…).

Perdura su legado arquitectónico tanto en fortificaciones (Jerez, Fregenal, Capilla, Barcarrota, Alconchel…),en construcciones religiosas (Nuestra Señora de la Encina, Santa María del Castillo, Claustro de Belén, Iglesia Parroquial de Santiago El Mayor, la casa-convento de Altagracia…) o vestigios escultóricos (escudo armero en Fregenal de la Sierra, un relieve de Cordero Pascual en Oliva de la Frontera, estelas discoideas en Burguillos del Cerro y Alconétar o tallas de vírgenes como las de Oliva de la Frontera o Cañaveral, entre otros).

La Orden del Temple fue una pieza necesaria para que los reyes leoneses y castellanos conquistaran las tierras al sur de la Sierra de Gata, por entonces llamada Transierra, germen de lo que más tarde se llamará Extremadura.

Monjes-guerreros que asentaron el territorio, lo repoblaron con nuevos pueblos y aldeas, salpicaron todo de castillos e iglesias que hoy forman parte importante de nuestro patrimonio. Y en definitiva, fueron protagonistas clave para la formación de nuestra tierra y por tanto es hora que se le dé un merecido sitio dentro de la Historia de Extremadura.

por J. JULIO LÓPEZ RODRÍGUEZ en Hoy.es

Bringing our buried treasure to light

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Jesus tells the story of a man who discovered a buried treasure while ploughing in a field. He was so delighted, he sold everything he had so that he could buy the field – and its treasure – for himself!

Our world abounds in hidden treasures that have been brought to light by hard work and painstaking effort. In all cases, the effort involved in uncovering these long-hidden treasures has been more than compensated for by the final reward.

One example comes immediately to my mind.

For centuries, Michelangelo’s frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel were dulled by the build-up of grime and soot from smoke and humidity. The remarkable thing was that many people had come to think that these dark and muted colours were the way Michelangelo originally intended his paintings to appear. They had become so accustomed to the dilapidated appearance of this great masterpiece, that by the beginning of the 19th century, some could even describe the artist who created it as “a painter insensitive to colour”.

When the restoration work began in 1984, close inspection showed that – besides the accumulated grime – some of the damage had actually been caused by earlier, less skilled attempts at restoration. Both repair and correction were required to uncover the ‘buried treasure’. When the restoration was completed, the world was able to marvel once again at the brilliance of Michelangelo’s original work as it was when he first painted it. Even so, there were still critics who claimed that the new colours were too bright or that the restoration had removed a ‘respectful quality of age’ from the artwork.

English-speaking Catholics today are awaiting the restoration of an even greater treasure than the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel: a fresh and faithful translation of the Liturgy of the Church into the English language.

In 1963, in its very first Decree, the Second Vatican Council granted that it “may frequently be of great advantage to the people” if some parts of the Liturgy were translated into the common language of the people. In this way, the Council Fathers hoped that some of the hidden treasures of the Liturgy would be brought to light for all to appreciate. We have been using the translation that resulted for the past 40 years.

While very successful in many ways, this translation has, in many cases, hidden rather than revealed the true treasures of the Liturgy. Just as the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel were dulled by smoke and grime, so the vivid colours of the Sacred Liturgy were dulled by a limited use of vocabulary and a pedestrian style of sentence structure. Like the earlier, unskilled attempts at restoring the work of Michelangelo, so the rich imagery of the original Latin text was often obscured or removed altogether.

Most tragically, in some places our current translations have actually hidden the Church’s true faith. An ancient saying, ‘Lex orandi, lex credendi’ (‘the way we pray is the way we believe’) teaches that if our prayers are robbed of their full meaning, so also our faith is impoverished. If our prayers are in the vocal equivalent of ‘black and white’, so also our faith will lose its vivid colour and tone.

The Latin text of the Liturgy is the result of many centuries of faith and tradition. Parts of the text go back to the very earliest times of the Church. Like Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, the Roman Liturgy carries in it many allusions to the Scriptures and the writings of the Church Fathers. It reaches from the floor level of our present history right up to the ceiling level of the Last Judgement and beyond into eternity. It centres on the Sacrifice of the Mass, the greatest treasure of the Church, in which saints and martyrs and bishops and priests and people join together with the angels ‘as one voice’ to praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To enable this great symphony, the Liturgy employs a language that is ‘noble’ and ‘poetic’. The language of public worship has never been the language of the street or the marketplace. Even when Catholics still spoke Latin as an everyday language, they intentionally used a courtly style to address their praise and worship to God, following the instinct of the Church that in matters of worship we should offer God the very best of which we are capable.

The desire to use English in our liturgies and the desire to offer our prayers to God in a language of the highest nobility ought not to be mutually opposed. English, like Latin, can also be poetic and beautiful. English, like Latin, is also capable of bearing many layers of meaning. English, like Latin, can accurately express and convey the truth of our Faith.

In 2001, with the authority of Pope John Paul II, the Congregation for Divine Worship began to oversee the huge work of the retranslation of the Latin Liturgy into English. This task required “the preparation of (new) liturgical books marked by sound doctrine, which are exact in wording, free from all ideological influence, and otherwise endowed with those qualities by which the sacred mysteries of salvation and the indefectible faith of the Church are efficaciously transmitted by means of human language to prayer, and worthy worship is offered to God the Most High” (Liturgiam Authenticam).

The process of retranslation is now nearing an end and, hopefully before very long, we will be able to begin to enjoy the fruits of this great labour. The new texts will be common to the whole of the English-speaking Church. All the bishops’ conferences of Canada, England and Wales, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Scotland, South Africa and the United States have been involved. I have been privileged to be a part of the process, as the Australian bishops’ representative on the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL).

Of course, there is much work to be done in the introduction of the new translations when they are ready. Priests and people will need to be pastorally prepared through a period of catechesis. I truly look forward to this phase of the introduction as a way for us all to grow in our faith and our appreciation and understanding of the riches of the Liturgy.

I recognise that, like digging for buried treasure, the work of introducing the new Liturgy will take some considerable effort on behalf of the whole worshipping community. I understand that the period of transition will not be easy. I ask all of you to show a gracious degree of patience and a firm degree of solidarity with me and with the whole Church during the introduction of the new translations.

However, I am sure that when this great work of restoration is completed and we are all able to experience the result for ourselves, we will rejoice to see the revelation of the hidden treasures of the Liturgy – a treasure fresh and restored for the Church today and for many future generations.

Written by Archbishop Denis Hart

Otley car boot sale find could be Knights Templar relic

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An antiques dealer described today how a piece of painted wood he picked up at an Otley car boot sale appears to be a 900-year-old Knights Templar artefact.

Martin Roberts paid £13 for the chest of drawers and set of Victorian glass handles which he swapped for the ornate ten-inch long piece.

Now he is hoping experts from the auctioneers Christie’s will give him a definitive answer to what it is. A series of analysts he has spoken to so far think it could be a door from a Knights Templar tabernacle, which is a box for carrying sacred items, although some think it could be an early Orthodox church artefact dating back 1,300 years.

Mr Roberts, who lives in Leeds, believes the find could even help throw light on the legend that the knights brought the Holy Grail to North Yorkshire.

He said the artefact was found by a friend of his in a box of junk from a house clearance in the market town of Masham, an area which has numerous connections to the Knights Templar.

New Programs Explore Theories Put Forth in The Da Vinci Code

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The questions and theories put forth in The Da Vinci Code contradict old, accepted beliefs and have electrified debate around the world. Could Mary Magdalene have been the wife of Jesus, and did they have a child together? Was Mary’s reputation as a prostitute in fact a libel created by the early Church? What were the real circumstances of Jesus’ death? Were the Knights Templar founded to guard the secret of Jesus’ bloodline?

Secrets of the Cross, airing on the National Geographic Channel, is an exciting new four-part series, uncovering the tantalizing mysteries at the heart of the Christian tradition. Stories that have shaped Western culture are scrutinized in the light of compelling new evidence, as the series strips back the layers of history to reveal surprising and provocative truths.

At the heart of each program is new archaeological and historical evidence that explodes the myths embedded in the traditional tales. With the help of expert witnesses, they discover the conspiracies and cover-ups that have obscured the truth, and finally uncover the historical reality at each story’s heart.

Secrets of the Cross avoids the familiar reverential treatment of biblical history; it’s a fast-paced present-day quest. The subject may be the ancient past, but the investigation is in the here and now, amidst the tourists and traffic, the hustle and bustle of modern Jerusalem and Rome.

The Mary Magdalene Conspiracy
The gospels say almost nothing about Mary Magdalene. The early Christian church branded her a prostitute and western art and literature have constantly reinvented her down the centuries. She remains one of the most mysterious women in history.

This program draws together a picture of the real Mary Magdalene. Was she the bad girl of the gospels or the wife of Jesus, perhaps even the mother of his child? Or do all the conspiracy theories hide an even greater truth of Mary Magdalene as the leader of the early church?

Trail of the Knights Templars
The rise of the Knights Templar had been rapid, and their fall was equally as swift. In the blink of an eye, the considerable wealth the Templars had amassed was also to disappear, giving rise to myths that have shrouded the order ever since. And it begged the biggest question: what was the real purpose of the Knights Templars?

Away from the celebrity glare of The Da Vinci Code, new light is now shed on the Knights Templars, based on fresh evidence. The truth starts to emerge about an idiosyncratic conglomerate of warrior-monks, ultimately leading to an extraordinary conclusion: corporate greed and until recently, the Vatican’s best-kept secret; The Chinon Parchment, revealing Templar confessions of taboo rituals.

Who Killed Jesus?
This program examines the conspiracy of silence that protected Pontius Pilate and the Roman Empire for two thousand years. Why was Rome’s real role in Jesus’ death covered up? What was the secret agenda of the early Christian writers who detailed the trial and execution of Jesus in the gospels? This show exposes their motives for pinning all the blame on the Jews and shows how this skewed accusation has resounded through the ages. The gospel version of Christ’s death is revealed to be fatally flawed, and finally Pontius Pilate stands alone in the spotlight as the man who killed Christ.

The Jesus Tomb
In 1980 an ancient tomb was unearthed on a building site in the Jerusalem suburb of Talpiot by archaeologists. Inside were a number of bone boxes dating from the 1st century CE. The inscriptions on the sides of these boxes were an archaeological bombshell–they included; Jesus son of Joseph, Mary, Mariamne, Jose, Matthew and Judah son of Jesus–all names potentially associated with the New Testament family of Jesus of Nazareth. This finding strikes at the heart of traditional Christianity which is based on the belief that Jesus was physically resurrected from an empty tomb near the Holy Sepulchre Church–the traditional site of crucifixion. Yet the archaeologist argues that it would have been easy for the disciples to simply remove Jesus’ body from the tomb at Golgotha and place him in a tomb at Talpiot.

“La Isla del Roble”… celoso guardián del tesoro de los Templarios

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Todo comenzó en 1795 cuando tres hombres jóvenes desembarcaron en “Oak Island” (la Isla del Roble). Al llegar, observaron un árbol con una rama aserrada y una depresión en la tierra debajo del mismo. Esto aumentó su interés ya que la isla estaba deshabitada, y no podía ser causa de la naturaleza. Por debajo de la rama aserrada, parecía como si algo estuviera allí enterrado. Volvieron al día siguiente y comenzaron a cavar en aquel lugar. Los hombres al cavar fueron encontrando distintas capas de tierra cada 10 pies de profundidad, las cuales habían sido puestas allí intencionadamente, rellenando el hueco de lo que parecía ser un pozo cavado en la tierra.

Al llegar aproximadamente a unos 30 pies de profundidad, los tres jóvenes abandonaron la excavación para ir a buscar más ayuda y poder cavar más rápido y mejor. Volvieron con gente de zonas cercanas a la isla, pero aún así no era suficiente para poder seguir cavando adecuadamente, ya que la profundidad del pozo era mucho mayor de lo que ellos pudieron imaginarse en un principio. Después de varias semanas de excavación y de no encontrar nada de valor, se dieron por vencidos.
Desde entonces, han habido muchas excavaciones importantes en la isla con un coste que llega casi al millón de dólares.

En 1897, Guillermo Chappell, mientras excavaba se topó con hierro, cemento, madera, fibra de cáscara de coco y un pequeño pergamino con las iniciales inscritas “ui “, “vi” o “wi”. Parecen ser escritas con tinta china mediante una pluma de canilla. Estos fueron encontrados a una profundidad de 153 pies.

En 1909, Franklin D. Roosevelt, (quien años más tarde sería presidente de los Estados Unidos) a la edad de 27 años, formaba parte de una expedición. El mantuvo un interés durante toda su vida por la Isla del Roble.

Y como esos, muchos más, (como podrá ver en el recuadro del final) han buscado, sin fortuna, ese tesoro. Desde la época de la primera exploración, han muerto seis personas intentando desenterrar el tesoro, y la leyenda cuenta que antes de ser desenterrado el tesoro morirán siete personas!. ¿Pero cuál es este tesoro?

Existen varias leyendas al respecto: una de ellas cuenta que dicho tesoro proviene del capitán Kidd; un banco común construido por los piratas para guardar los tesoros robados.

Otra leyenda cuenta que el oculto lugar fue elegido por Sir Francis Drake para enterrar un gran tesoro, que podría contener las riquezas procedentes de los navíos españoles y de los pagos que se realizaban en el Caribe.

Sin embargo una de las principales teorías o leyendas que surgen en torno a la Isla del Roble, y que aún hoy en día sigue rondando en la mente de los buscadores de tesoros escondidos, proviene de los Caballeros Templarios, quienes se dice, enviaron a un grupo de ellos a esa isla a esconder una verdadera fortuna en oro, joyas y otros objetos igualmente valiosos con la idea de utilizarlos cuando fuese necesario para seguir financiando su lucha. Pero el grupo se fue extinguiendo poco a poco y nunca se recuperó aquel tesoro… y son varios expertos en la materia que aseguran, existen evidencias suficientes como para soportar esta teoría!

Lo es que la leyenda del tesoro de la Isla del Roble, puede o no ser cierta, sin embargo no hay duda que ésta genera una aventura única en la vida que combina el entusiasmo de la búsqueda del tesoro con una excavación arqueológica de gran importancia.

Hasta la fecha, ese supuesto riquísimo tesoro aún no ha sido encontrado a pesar de tantos y tantos intentos por encontrarlo… Esto, sin duda lo convierte en uno de los Enigmas y Misterios más grandes de todos los tiempos.

US atheists choose ‘de-baptism’ to renounce childhood faith

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Until last summer, Jennifer Gray of Columbus, Ohio, considered herself “a weak Christian” whose baptism at age 11 in a Kentucky church came to mean less and less to her as she gradually lost faith in God.

Then the 32-year-old medical transcriptionist took a decisive step, one that previously hadn’t been available. She got “de-baptised”.

In a type of mock ceremony that’s now been performed in at least four states, a robed “priest” used a hairdryer marked “reason” in an apparent bid to blow away the waters of baptism once and for all.

Several dozen participants then fed on a “de-sacrament” (crackers with peanut butter) and received certificates assuring they had “freely renounced a previous mistake, and accepted Reason over Superstition”.

For Gray, the light-hearted spirit of the 2008 Atheist Coming Out Party and De-Baptism Bash in suburban Westerville, Ohio, served a higher purpose than merely spoofing a Christian rite.

“It was very therapeutic,” Gray said in an interview. “It was a chance to laugh at the silly things I used to believe as a child. It helped me admit that it was OK to think the way I think and to not have any religious beliefs.”

Within the past year, “de-baptism” ceremonies have attracted as many as 250 participants at atheist conventions in Ohio, Texas, Florida and Georgia. More have taken place on college campuses in recent years, according to Hemant Mehta, chair of the board of directors for the Secular Student Alliance, a group that promotes atheism among high school and college students.

“If we’re having a winter solstice or summer solstice get-together or some other event, we might say: ‘Who wants to get de-baptized?”‘ said Greg McDowell, the Florida state director for American Atheists, an advocacy and networking group. “It’s a bit of satire. People will play the fool by waving their arms in the air and saying, ‘I got de-baptised!’ But the paperwork is still legit.”

Some of the so-called “de-baptized” have used their certificates to petition churches to remove their names from baptismal rolls. One argument: they were baptised without their consent as children and should now be declared de-baptised.

Some churches, however, aren’t budging on what they regard as an irreversible sacrament.

Atheist Gary Mueller recently mailed his de-baptism certificate to St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Concord, California, and asked to be dropped from its baptismal record. The church told him, in effect, that he was all wet.

“While we do not remove a name/person from a Baptism register, we can note alongside your name that ‘you have left the Roman Catholic Church’,” the Rev. Richard Mangini replied in an email. “I hope that God surprises you one day and lets you know that He is quite well.” In Christian theology, baptism can’t be undone.

If a Southern Baptist renounces his or her baptism, then that person is usually presumed to have never received an authentic baptism in the first place, according to Nathan Finn, assistant professor of Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

For mainline Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians, baptism is commonly understood as a sign or means of grace and a covenant that God maintains even when humans turn away, said Laurence Stookey, professor emeritus of preaching and worship at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. He said “de-baptisers” misunderstand baptism when they caricature it as an attempt at magic.

Baptism “is a kind of adoption where you become a child of God, of the church and of the family,” Stookey said. “You can renounce your physical parents, (the church and God), but they cannot renounce you because you are their child. Anybody who makes fun of baptism probably hasn’t gone into it in enough depth to know that.”

De-baptism efforts have been growing internationally in recent years. More than 100 000 Britons downloaded de-baptism certificates from the National Secular Society between 2005 and 2009, according to NSS campaigner Stephen Evans. Upwards of 1000 Italians requested de-baptism certificates prior to Italy’s “De-Baptism Day” in October 2008, according to Italy’s Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.

Public ceremonies to confer de-baptism, however, seem to be primarily an American phenomenon.

“I think a de-baptism ceremony (in Europe) would strike a lot of secularists and atheists as kind of pointless,” Evans said. “They would leave the ceremonies to the religious.”

Not all American non-believers have warmed to de-baptism rituals. Secularist Phil Zuckerman, a Pitzer College sociologist who studies apostates, said he would never take part in such an event because it “feels intrinsically negative” and “immature”.

Even so, he said, de-baptisms may serve a cathartic function for some participants, as well as a political one.

“For a long time, non-religious people in the Bible Belt just kept quiet, but they aren’t keeping quiet anymore,” Zuckerman said. “I think that’s largely a reaction to George W. Bush’s presidency. [Atheists] were saying, ‘The government is being taken over by very religious people. We need to stand up and say: We’re here. We’re secular. Deal with it’.”

By G. Jeffrey MacDonald

TV Composer Spots ‘Templar’ Cross In Hertford

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A renowned composer has questioned whether a cross emblem in Hertford is connected with the town’s legendary links to the Knights Templar.

Garry Judd, who has written music for TV show Trinny & Susannah Undress and has had his work performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, was struck by the symbol, next to the street sign for Old Cross.

He wrote on his twitter page: “Hertford is connected with the Knights Templar-Spotted this next to a street sign-wonder if it is connected.”

Garry, who lives in Ware, told the Herald: “I don’t know anything about the subject, but the cross does look like a Templar symbol-Could be a knowing joke perhaps.”

The Knights Templar, rumoured to be the custodians of the Holy Grail, were an order of warrior monks who were brutally suppressed by the Vatican in 1307 when Grand Master Jaques de Molay was burned at the stake. Legend has it that members of the Order survived and carried on meeting in secret, in places such as the Royston Cave.

Hertford is said to be a significant town in Templar mythology, and has been referred to as the Order’s headquarters.

Self-proclaimed modern day Hertford Templar Ben Acheson doubted the possibility or a Templar link, he said: “I am no expert on general local history but I believe the street name refers to the site of an ancient and still partial crossroads.

“I would guess that the cross design was created in recognition of the place name. Sorry, no holy treasures buried there.”

He added: “There are a few place names, mostly including ‘temple’ in the Hertford area, which are reminders that they were once owned by the Temple. But these were mostly arable lands with no military history the people who lived and worked there had no connection to the modern day organisation.

“Examples include Temple Fields in Bengeo and Temple Farm in Tonwell.

in The Herald

Holy Grail could be in Kilwinning

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KILWINNING could rival Rosslyn Chapel as a major tourist attraction in the wake of claims it is the final resting place of the Holy Grail.

The Irvine Herald can reveal an historic archaeological dig is to take place in the town’s Abbey grounds.

The project is to be carried out by Irvine Bay Regeneration after actor turned historian, Jamie Morton, a recognised expert on Freemasonry, revealed the artefact used by Christ at The Last Supper could have been hidden in the town by the Knights Templar.

He based his theory on historical documents he has uncovered and the town’s close connections with The Masonic Order.

Mr Morton has compiled the evidence in his latest book, the foreword of which is being written by members of The Mother Lodge in Kilwinning. The 29-year-old author said: “Historians have been searching for a Templar haven where the members sheltered after their downfall.

“Several places have been pinpointed but all of them are false, I have found that Kilwinning and nearby Irvine had the highest concentration of Templar Knights in Scotland.

“The Templars were Europe’s bankers and when they were destroyed, none of the material was returned, it disappeared, so it is possible that it is in Kilwinning or Irvine.”

One leading member of the Lodge said he hoped the findings would bring the importance of Kilwinning to Freemasonry to the rest of the world.

He said: “It’s great for the town and while I can’t claim to be an authority on the topic of the Holy Grail, it certainly has shown just how important Freemasonry is to the world.

“I am interested to know what lies beneath this street as there are wells underneath the surface, who knows what’s buried there?”

Jim Miller, spokesman for the ancient Abbey Tower, welcomed the findings.

“It’s great news for the town as people will be coming from all over to find out more about Kilwinning’s connection to the Holy Grail.

“We have a number of artefacts in the Tower but I’m afraid I don’t know the whereabouts of this particular cup.

“I know there are people who follow the Grail Trail and travel all over the world, you just have to appreciate how popular Rosslyn Chapel became following the Da Vinci Code claims so we should be expecting a lot more people in the town.”

Kilwinning is thought to be the resting place of the Holy Grail after information was found to suggest The Templars had a major presence in the town.

And he rubbished the claim that Rosslyn Chapel, near Edinburgh, was where the Grail was hidden.

“There were no Templars in Rosslyn as the building was constructed after the Templars were destroyed, while Kilwinning Abbey was built shortly after the Templars were created – Rosslyn Chapel is an enigma, a beautiful building but nothing to do with the Templars.”

Rosslyn Chapel was saved from certain closure as its visitors shot up from 30,000 to over 120,000 a year with the release of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code book and subsequent Hollywood film starring Tom Hanks.

Now, the search is on as Holy Grail trailers who travel the world looking for evidence about the cup – said to have mystical powers – are expected to invade Kilwinning on the hunt for the Holy Grail.

Hot spots where it could be include:

l The Mercat Cross outside the original Mason’s Howff in the Main Street. It is said in Kilwinning folklore that the cross is believed by some to have been part of the original wooden cross on which Jesus was crucified.

l The Abbey Church grounds. The Tower already has a feasibility study for an archaeological dig approved and Irvine Bay Regeneration have also talked of making the town an open dig to draw tourists.

l The Mother Lodge – the new lodge was built next to the Abbey Church and Tower, could this be standing on top of the Holy Grail?

l The Main Street itself – it has already been the subject of an archaeological dig by Irvine Development Corporation. Could it be hiding the Christian chalice?

If Mr Morton’s theory is proved, Kilwinning could hold the keystone to re-writing history and give the Main Street a boost with the tourist trade.

by Lorraine Howard, Irvine Herald

La Camargue

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Spreading across the triangle formed by the two branches of the Rhône and the Mediterranean, the 360-square-mile Camargue delta is for the most part a lonely barren plain of rough pasture, grazed by black bulls and white horses, and salty wetlands inhabited by a diverse community of waterfowl, the most famous of which are pink flamingos-although the first time I spotted them, they were disappointingly white. When a local resident explained that they must have found no shrimp for breakfast, I thought he was joking, but it turns out that they do indeed get their color from the carotene contained in crustaceans and algae-a rosy sign of good health that makes them seductive to the opposite sex.

With Albert Lamorisse’s award-winning 1953 film Crin Blanc (White Mane) on my mind, I was equally surprised that the Camargue horses, too, shift color, from dark brown to white, at the age of five or six. The renowned Camarguais bulls, though, are always dark, with lyre-shaped horns. Both the herds of bulls and the ranches on which they are raised are known as manades, and the ranchers are called manadiers; the cowboys on horseback that tend them are the gardians. And in an odd quirk of local language, both male and female animals are referred to as taureaux, or bulls.

Grazing in the wild, the bulls yield excellent meat, but they are bred primarily for the courses camarguaises, highly-coded bullfights consisting of six 15-minute rounds, each with a different bull, punctuated by the sounding of trumpets at specific moments and ending with the overture from Carmen. The job of the several white-clad bullfighters-les raseteurs-is to remove la cocarde-a rosette or other decoration-from between the horns of the bull, le cocardier. The raseteurs make flying leaps into the stands as the bull charges them, and occasionally the bull lunges into the stands too, to wild applause from the audience. Usually neither bull nor raseteurs get harmed, but for the bullfighters it can be a dangerous business, demanding agility, speed and nerve. The week before my visit, a raseteur was dispatched to hospital with pierced lungs and liver, another with a chunk of his buttock torn off.

This Provençal version of the Wild West, with its cattle ranches and gardian cowboys, is barely a century old, the brainchild of a Camargue resident, the Marquis Folco de Baroncelli de Javon (1869-1943), an eccentric aristocrat who was dazzled by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and invited him and his entire troupe to visit the Camargue. It must have been an outlandish spectacle to have genuine Sioux Indians in their traditional attire camp around Baroncelli’s mas-a large Provençal farmhouse-but one result of the cross-cultural exchange was a long-lasting epistolary friendship between Baroncelli and Jacob White Eyes, a Dakota Sioux. Their correspondence led to the Frenchman’s idea of reviving the Camargue’s traditions, which had declined in the wake of the French Revolution.

By turning the ordinary farmers and livestock breeders into Camargue-style cowboys, Baroncelli helped regenerate the local economy and created a new cultural lifestyle that, over the years, has gained the status of an age-old heritage, although it was initially a fabrication. When Baroncelli died in 1943 he was a ruined man, having dedicated his life and fortune to the promotion of Provençal culture. His Mas du Simbèu was destroyed by the Germans in 1944, but he would have probably been pleased to know that when his remains were transferred in 1951 to its site, outside Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the bulls of his manade are said to have gathered spontaneously and followed the procession. Two of his granddaughters still live on a nearby mas.

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Paul Ricard (1909-1997) was another of the Camargue’s pioneering visionaries. In 1939, by which time his future empire of “real Marseille pastis” was well under way, he bought a sprawling estate with a farmhouse, a former medieval domain of the Knights Templar-a Templar cross still stands on the site today. Called Méjanès (meaning halfway), it was situated midway between the two branches of the Rhône. There he intended to grow the licorice, fennel and mint that go into the iconic drink of Provence, but the war, and the Vichy government’s ban on spirits the following year, forced him into alternative planning. Since he couldn’t sell alcohol, he would use Méjanès to breed cattle for both milk and meat. But one way or another, the land was a salty wasteland and would need an irrigation system. The Knights Templar had been faced with the same challenge.

Ricard was also among the early pioneers of the Camargue rice industry, which now supplies 25 to 30 percent of the home market. He may have picked up on Henri IV’s idea to introduce the staple to the Camargue-in Henri’s case, they say it was to complement his favorite dish, poule au pot, although Ricard intended it principally as a means to desalinate the soil. The French associate Ricard’s name with the famous anise-flavored pastis he created in 1932, mostly unaware that, if Parmentier taught their ancestors to eat potatoes, Paul Ricard was instrumental in teaching them to eat rice. (An early ecologist and an enlightened employer, he also established an oceanographic institute, an arts foundation and a car-racing track.) A quarter of the 1,500-acre Ricard estate is still allocated to rice farming using “green” methods and management; one-half remains natural breeding pastures and marshes; and the fourth quarter is open to the public, with a bullring, a bar, a restaurant and open space for fêtes and fiestas. There is also a tiny old railway station and a little, rattling train that takes visitors through the estate and along the Etang de Vaccarès, the Camargue’s largest lagoon and a waterfowl paradise.

Ricard’s historic mas, however, is tucked away from the public eye and is now the property of Ricard’s daughter, Michèle. This was where I discovered, from the photos hanging on the walls, that Picasso, Salvador Dalí and the former French president François Mitterrand were among Paul Ricard’s friends. There’s also a recent photo of President Nicolas Sarkozy on horseback-apparently he loves the place and visited both before and after his election.

Denys Colomb de Daunant, who had married another of Folco de Baroncelli’s granddaughters, was also an emblematic figure of the Camargue. Artist, writer and film maker Daunant adapted the screenplay for Crin Blanc (whose 10-year-old hero is also named Folco) and the film was shot on his estate, le Mas de Cacharel, north of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Daunant too dedicated his life to the promotion of the Camargue. Among other things, he established the bullring in Les Saintes-Maries and opened the first inn for equestrian tourism on his ranch, in 1955. The formula has mushroomed since, now often upgraded to three-star and four-star hotels complete with outdoor swimming pools-at the top of the scale is the luxurious hotel and restaurant Le Mas de Peint, farther north near Le Sambuc. But Le Mas de Cacharel, standing in the midst of breathtaking scenery of wetlands, remains a cut above most, probably because it is inhabited by the spirit of its founder Daunant and his visitors, among them Hemingway, Picasso and Provençal writer and film maker Marcel Pagnol.

Daunant rests in the cemetery of Les Saintes-Maries, the cradle of Christianity in Western Europe, at least according to one version of the story. This is where, somewhere around the year 40 AD, the three Maries-Madeleine (Mary Magdalene), Jacobé and Salomé-and a variable cast of other early Christians first touched soil after being cast adrift from the Holy Land without sail or oars. Marie Jacobé and Marie Salomé remained where they landed and became the patron saints of the village. Their black Egyptian servant Sara became the patron saint of the gypsies, and her statue is kept in the crypt of the Romanesque village church that they built. (Among the others, Martha is said to have gone inland to Tarascon, Mary Magdalene to the mountain of Sainte-Baume and Lazarus to Marseille.)

Eventually the village became a pilgrim destination for European gypsies, an ongoing tradition that draws thousands of gypsies from all over the Continent for the three-day event, May 24-26, along with huge crowds of spectators who turn up as much for the gypsy music and dancing as for the gypsies’ fervent religious pilgrimage. After Mass on May 24, the statue of Sara is carried in procession all the way into the sea. Anyone with crowd phobia is advised to wait until the 25th, when Marie Jacobé is honored under more manageable circumstances. May 26 is dedicated to the Marquis de Baroncelli, with a commemoration ceremony at his grave followed by bull racing, jousts, dancing and music, all in traditional costumes. For a quieter celebration, opt for the Sunday closest to October 22, the much less publicized and pleasingly genuine feast of Marie Salomé. October is an excellent time to visit the Camargue, too, when it basks in an autumnal glow: temperatures are cooler, mosquitoes are fewer and birds are plentiful as they head for Africa.

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Discovering the wonders of the Camargue landscape on horseback is a unique experience, but for those who can’t or don’t do horses, a boat ride provides an enjoyable alternative. From Aigues-Mortes, embark on the Saint Louis and enjoy a close, leisurely look at a manade before heading for the fishing village of Le Grau-du-Roi, where Ernest Hemingway spent his honeymoon with his second wife Pauline. From Les Saintes-Maries, try the Tiki III, which provides lots of opportunities for bird watching along the Petit Rhône.

Back on land, head for the nearby Pont de Gau, a bird sanctuary with several miles of nature trails through magnificent scenery. This is also an educational center, enlightening visitors to the workings of the delta and to the fact that the “natural” wilderness here is in effect manipulated, its biodiversity stimulated by a sophisticated management of water levels. Without the human element, the Camargue would revert to a desolate, salty wasteland, good for nothing but the extraction of salt.

Thanks to the shallow water along the seashore, the evaporation stimulated by the intense heat and the frequent winds, salt has been extracted in the Camargue since ancient times. Salt was indispensable for the preservation of foods such as cheese and meat, making it man’s most precious staple for millennia. It was used by the Romans as soldier’s pay (hence, salarium, meaning salary), and made the salt-tax collectors among the richest and most hated men in France in the years leading up to the French Revolution. Today salt is still produced in large basins near Salin-de-Giraud, along the Grand Rhône on the eastern edge of the Camargue, and in the Salins du Midi outside Aigues-Mortes, which you can visit on a fun little train.

Aigues-Mortes was founded in the mid-13th century by Louis IX, Saint Louis, to provide a staging point for his Crusade to reconquer the Holy Land-at the time, with much of Provence still independent, the kingdom of France had no Mediterranean port. Louis built his port on a lagoon, joined it to the sea via a canal and a branch of the Rhône, and offered privileges to attract residents. On August 28, 1248, the king and his fleet of 1,500 ships set sail for Cyprus on an expedition that lasted eight years but failed in its mission. During a second attempt, in 1270, Louis died in Tunisia, and it was his son Philippe le Hardi who, starting in 1272, built the massive walls still intact today.

On the northwest corner, Louis’s imposing royal tower, La Tour Constance, also served as a lighthouse, and later as a notorious prison. Aigues-Mortes remained the most important Mediterranean port in France until Marseille and other parts of Provence were annexed in the late 15th century. Both the Tour Constance and the ramparts are open to visitors. Situated to the west of the delta, Aigues-Mortes is in the Petite Camargue rather than the Camargue proper; the only difference between them is administrative-Aigues-Mortes is in the département of the Gard, while the Camargue is in Bouches-du-Rhône.

Thirza Vallois is the author of Around and About Paris, Romantic Paris, and Aveyron, A Bridge to French Arcadia.

CAMARGUE NOTEBOOK

Domaine Paul Ricard Mas de Méjanès, D37 south of Arles, 04.90.97.10.10. http://www.mejanes.camargue.fr

Hôtel de Cacharel Route de Cacharel, Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, 04.90.97.95.44. http://www.hotel-cacharel.com

Le Mas de Peint Le Sambuc 04.90.97.20.62. http://www.masdepeint.com

Hôtel L’Estelle en Camargue Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, 04.90.97.89.01. http://www.hotelestelle.com

Le Bateau Saint Louis 14 rue Théaulon, Aigues-Mortes, 04.66.35.06.51

Le Bateau Tiki III Le Plan d’Orgon, Route D38, Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, 04.90.97.81.68

Pont de Gau Ornithological Park Route D570, Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, 04.90.97.82.62

 

in France Today

Un fin de semana entre templarios

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La ruta Domus Templi ofrece la posibilidad de transitar por los escenarios por los que lo hicieron estos famosos monjes-soldado. Cinco espectaculares castillos son los puntos principales del itinerario, que a lo largo de 250 kilómetros recorre territorios de Huesca, Lleida, Tarragona y Castellón.

La palabra templario evoca, con sólo nombrarla, un pasado de poder y misterio que se perdió con la disolución de la orden por el Papa Clemente V en 1314. Pero aunque esos monjes-soldado fuesen eliminados y despojados de sus posesiones para siempre, en lo que fue la antigua Corona de Aragón sus huellas todavía permanecen. La ruta Domus Templi (las Casas del Temple) las recupera a través de un itinerario que recorre una zona que en su tiempo fue de cruzadas y que hoy destaca por su patrimonio arquitectónico y artístico.

Tres territorios y 250 kilómetros componen el recorrido, que se puede realizar en un fin de semana. La ruta une las ciudades de Monzón (Huesca), Lleida, Miravet, Tortosa (ambas en Tarragona) y Peñíscola (Castellón). Cinco puntos que no han sido elegidos al azar: en ellos se encuentran otros tantos castillos templarios que aún hoy siguen asombrando por sus imponentes ubicaciones y su buen estado de conservación.

Domus Templi discurre, básicamente, por escenarios de los siglos XI y XII en los que los templarios llegaron a articular grandes dominios feudales. Una zona de cruzadas en la que el viajero encontrará conventos, torres e iglesias que retrotraen a otra época. En ellos es posible imaginarse la vida de la Orden del Temple, fundada en Jerusalén en 1120 y que llegó a convertirse en una poderosa fuerza militar.

Hasta su disolución en el siglo XIV, el Temple recibió numerosas donaciones que le permitieron consolidar su poder feudal, administrado desde imponentes fortalezas. La Corona de Aragón no fue una excepción, y los ojos del viajero no pueden por menos que detenerse frente a esos castillos que siguen dominando, siglos después, los territorios sobre los que se asientan. El de Monzón atesora el logro de haber sido el último bastión de los templarios en caer, después de un largo asedio. El de Gardeny, en Lleida, conserva la torre del homenaje, parte de sus murallas y hasta una iglesia en la que admirar uno de los pocos testimonios europeos de pintura mural en edificios de la Orden.

Miravet destaca por sus innovaciones arquitectónicas: se trata de un castillo-convento de estilo románico de transición con fórmulas cistercienses. La encomienda de Tortosa, por su parte, fue pionera en el Bajo Ebro y controló el paso fluvial y la puerta principal de la ciudad. Peñíscola, al final de la ruta (o al principio, según el orden en el que se realice) es en cualquier caso una agradable sorpresa, puesto que se trata del castillo templario mejor conservado de todo el recorrido. Su entorno, además, resulta de lo más evocador: una pequeña y rocosa península rodeada por las aguas del Mediterráneo, que aquí adquieren un intenso color azul.

Cinco castillos y 250 kilómetros tras las huellas de unos monjes-soldado que, siete siglos después de su violento final, siguen fascinando a quienes se acercan a conocer su legado.

in Publico.es

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Más información
La ruta cuenta con una web oficial, www.domustempli.com , en la que se puede ampliar información sobre cada castillo y conocer, entre otros datos, sus horarios de apertura y datos de contacto. Además, en la página es posible acceder también a algunas pinceladas sobre la historia de la Orden del Temple.

Dónde comer
A lo largo de los puntos principales en los que se detiene la ruta podemos parar a llenar el estómago en diversos restaurantes recomendados. Simó, en Peñíscola, ofrece platos de la cocina tradicional mediterránea en un local situado junto a las murallas del castillo. Los productos frescos del mar son la estrella del Restaurante Carballeira , ubicado en Lleida. En Tortosa, Rosa Pinyol (Tel. 977 502 001) es un establecimiento especializado en cocina catalana.

Dónde dormir
En primera línea de la playa de Peñíscola, la Hostería del Mar recrea el Medievo en sus interiores y ofrece además cenas ambientadas en esa época. El Parador de Tortosa se ubica en un castillo del siglo X que domina la ciudad. Quienes se acerquen a Lleida pueden optar por quedarse en el Hotel Nastasi Spa, un alojamiento urbano de nueva construcción que incluye diversos servicios de balneario.

The German Templars : From “the Christian Zionism” to the Nazism

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Central folk house of the German Templars in Israel, built in the 1890′s

 

Important Note: The “German Templars” have no connection, historical or any other, to any of the branches of the OSMTJ/OSMTH/OSMTHU. It is a stand alone group that appeared in the 19th century with a religious background, taking the Templar name out of contex. However, since their name and connection with Nazism often appears to the researcher in books and news articles, we think that it is of interest to most of our readers to know their real story.

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The German Templars embody, perhaps better that other Christians, the “Christian Zionism” which goes with the ambitions of the European power rediscovering the Holy land from 1840. For years, they were a model for the jewish pionniers. But in the 30’s, part of the Templars settled in Palestine, join the Nazi Party.

A delicious scent of orange blossom is hanging in the air. The guest, mainly diplomats from abroad, have come to the garden party organized in the first day of april to inaugurate the Sorona park on the occasion of the ceremonies of the centenary of Tel Aviv.

The mayor, Ron Houldai, underlines that “Sorona, a place founded by the German Templars in the 19th century, is an integral part of the history of Tel Aviv”. Indeed, the community of Sorona is even prior to the creation of Tel Aviv. The Templars settle in there in 1871, on a sand dune from 2 kilometers to the sea, whereas the birth act of Tel Aviv dates back to 1909.

Thus, the German Templars were there precursors, as in other places of the Ottoman Palestine. They embody, perhaps better that other Christians, the “Christian Zionism” which goes with the ambitions of the European power rediscovering the Holy land from 1840. «The Christian Zionism appears in Germany in the 18th century. The first groups of German farmers come there as Zionists in the 19th century » is pointing out Julia Poth, mayor of Francfort, guest of honour for the inauguration of the Sarona Park.

Model for the jewish pionniers

The German Templars, who have broken off with the Lutheran Church stand out in the Wurtemberg in 1861, few times after the first exploration trip in Palestine. They consider themselves as the people of God, the Jews having failed in their mission for not having recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Their objective is to reconstruct the Temple of Jerusalem. With this prospect, they organize the departure of several families for Palestine. A first group of 72 people settles in Haifa at the foot of the Carmel mount in 1868, that is to say fourteen years before the first Jewish immigration wave of the modern times which is going to count thousands of people. The Templars are going to build seven little localities in all the country, one of which close to the Holy City, the Mochava Germanit, which will be one the posh quarters of the modern Jerusalem. Their communities are first centered on an agricultural activity, but very soon they participate in the modernization of Palestine, indeed in some cases they initiate it. Thus, Haifa is linked up with Saint John of Akko by the first maritime line, and with Nazareth by a paved road… They are the ones who print the first post cards of the found again Holy Land. And some of them contribute as well to the construction of the first Jewish localities from 1882.

« The Templars have been an example for the Zionist pioneers » noticed David Kroyanker, Israeli historian of architecture, during the colloquium « Germany in Jerusalem, 1800-1920 » which went off in Jerusalem March 2007. The rebirth of the role of the Templars is not something new in the Israeli academic circles. In 1987, the professor Alex Carmel created in the University of Haifa, a Chair for the research on the Christian contribution to the development of Palestine and the Gottlieb Schumacher Institute to pay a tribute to one of these Templars who was a famous explorer of the Holy Land.

Nevertheless, this heritage is henceforth under a popularization in the opinion of the general public. In 2006, the Eretz Israel museum of Tel Aviv has offered for six months a retrospective Chronicle of an utopia – The Templars of the Holy Land, 1868-1948. The organizer of the exhibition, Sarah Turel, surprised by the record audience figure, explained her motives: « It is a chapter of the history of our country the Israelis do not know so much. Even so, this idea of a messianic utopia is not without connection with the Zionism, even if this one was carried by a secular movement.»

The “dark side” of the Templars

However, the history of the Templars has a « dark side » [1]. In the Thirties, many of the Templars settled in Palestine, join the Nazi Party. One of his members, Cornelius Schwartz, is then placed at the head of the community of the Templars. In the streets of Jerusalem, there were even some defiles in Nazi uniform, the flag of the Third Reich in hand, as the event has been immortalized by some pictures of that time. The Templars « turn then from a religious Messianism into a political Messianism » notices the Israeli professor Yosso Ben-Artsi, rector of the University of Haifa. But he specifies that less than 20% of the Templars were members of the Nazi Party in 1938. Some of them are going to come back to Europe for fighting in the German Army. Thus, in the springtime 1942, Noah Klieger, survivor of Auschwitz, tells a surrealist scene. While he is summoned to the Gestapo headquarters in Bruxelles, the German officer Joachim Erdman speaks to him in Hebrew, leaving the young Noah speechless. « I have been told later that Erdman had grown in a village of Samaria founded by the German order of the Templars in Israel » explains the veteran journalist of the Yediot Aharonot [2].

During the World War II, the British, rulers of Palestine, organize the way back in Germany of a thousand of Templars in exchange for some five hundred and fifty Jews thus saved from the Nazi torment. And in 1948, the British expel all the German Templars from Palestine. One month later, David Ben Gourion delivers the proclamation of independence of the state of Israel.

Footnotes
[1] Weekly magazine of the Maariv, february 2nd, 2008

[2] “Boxing or the life”, Elkana publishing house

by Catherine Dupeyron in Jerusalem & Religions

De cómo el templario Haimardo derrotó a Juan sin Tierra

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En 1202 Francia no era Francia. Se reducía a unos pequeños territorios alrededor de París. Su joven monarca, Felipe Augusto, ambicionaba cambiar el destino del reino y puso sus ojos en Normandía. Los normandos (vikingos establecidos en el norte de Francia) habían conquistado Inglaterra a los sajones en 1066, por eso los reyes ingleses hablaban francés y de ahí que el Reino de Inglaterra comprendiese también la muy rica provincia normanda. Además, el rey inglés Ricardo Corazón de León había heredado de su madre Leonor el extenso reino de Aquitania (suroeste francés), por lo que Inglaterra era una superpotencia que albergaba casi la mitad de la actual Francia aparte de los territorios insulares (Gales e Irlanda habían sido sojuzgados, Escocia lo sería un siglo más tarde). Como sabemos por “Ivanhoe”, Ricardo marchó a la tercera cruzada y, a la vuelta de ésta, cayó prisionero del archiduque Leopoldo de Austria. El hermano de Ricardo era el Príncipe Juan sin Tierra (el “malo” de las películas de Robin Hood) y aprovechó el vacío de poder para gobernar Inglaterra a su antojo, ambicionando el trono de su hermano (dilatando en lo que pudo el regreso del mismo).

Aproximadamente la Corona inglesa recaudaba en ingresos el triple que el minúsculo territorio controlado por la Corona francesa. Aun así Felipe Augusto decidió ir a la guerra. El conflicto quedó perfectamente documentado por el presupuesto de Francia de 1202, del que se ha conservado una copia del siglo XVIII. En este extraordinario documento se percibe la íntima relación entre los templarios y el Rey de Francia, que se evidencia en el nombramiento de un hermano templario, Haimardo, a la sazón tesorero del Temple de París, como tesorero del reino. El tesoro real ya se encontraba en el Temple de París, y desde entonces, y durante más de un siglo el tesorero del Temple actuaba como tesorero del reino. 

El presupuesto muestra el todopoderoso papel de Haimardo recaudando ingresos y afectando gastos a partidas militares, así como su papel relevante en la curia real. Haimardo organizó la contabilidad real por gobernadores (llamados prebostes y bailes) y desarrolló un minucioso esquema de gestión de ingresos y gastos por cada mandatario, con la extraordinaria habilidad de que los gobernadores tenían facultad para asignar gastos militares en sus territorios, contando con el placet de Haimardo, sin necesidad de centralizar todos los ingresos y gastos en París.  Las cuentas de cada gobernador se plantean frente a la Orden Templaria.  Si los ingresos excedían a los gastos el remanente se ingresaba en el tesoro templario de París (generando un saldo deudor de los templarios hacia el Rey, cuyos saldos se resumían en tres estados anuales), si ocurría lo contrario, el Temple se hacía deudor por la diferencia (generando un saldo acreedor del Temple hacia el Rey); además, esta contabilidad de gestión permitía una agregación rápida con el objetivo de conocer los ingresos y gastos totales del reino, divididos por capítulos (los ingresos se dividían en los provenientes de las tierras, en los saldos deudores de los gobernadores del periodo contable anterior, si los ingresos habían excedido los gastos y no se había satisfecho la diferencia en el Temple, e ingresos diversos; los gastos, en suministros, mercenarios, caballos…).  La agregación permitía conocer la posición global del reino. Con este sistema, esta “genialidad contable” permitía distinguir entre gastos e ingresos contables (los agregados de todos los gobernadores) e ingresos de caja (los saldos que se satisfacían en el Temple), conociendo a la perfección las diferencias y obteniendo una información valiosísima por partidas para maximizar el esfuerzo de guerra. 

Cuando la situación de caja de un gobernador era asfixiante, Haimardo enviaba sumas a través de tesoreros de guerra, lo que permitía mantener a máximo rendimiento la maquinaria militar. La flexible organización contable (los ingresos y gastos de cada gobernador se podían contabilizar en divisas locales y sólo al final se consolidaba todo en la moneda real, la libra de París) permitieron la integración rápida de los territorios conquistados.

Por el contrario, el anticuado sistema contable inglés resultó mucho más ineficiente (no había una separación de ingresos y gastos por partidas y por gobernadores, lo que dificultaba el control de gestión), y la capacidad de Juan sin Tierra para movilizar tropas rápidamente en el escenario normando fue muy limitada debido a la centralización del tesoro real en el Exequer. Pronto, la superior organización de la administración francesa a manos de un templario desembocó en la victoria del monarca francés, y en la anexión de Normandía al reino de Francia. Hasta la actualidad.

Hoy en día los políticos de uno y otro signo nos engañan y se engañan con pre-supuestos basados en supuestos propios de Alicia en el País de las Maravillas, y cuando se chocan con la realidad se tapa el agujero de la misma forma: subiendo los impuestos del alcohol y del tabaco.  Lamentablemente, después de 800 años me inclino a pensar que nuestros políticos son más dignos sucesores del crápula Juan sin Tierra que del innovador Haimardo, el hermano tesorero del Temple.

 

por Ignacio de la Torre

Tras la huella de las cárceles y del pan por el Matarraña

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Un grupo formado por una veintena de personas ha seguido a lo largo del fin de semana “La ruta de las cárceles y el pan del Matarraña”, organizada por el historiador y escritor Jesús Ávila Granados junto con la Librería Serret de Valderrobres y La Penya del Corb de Fuentespaldas. Tras los cambios de última hora sufridos en el programa, el itinerario se ha realizado de forma exitosa y sus participantes han descubierto algunos de los rincones más atractivos y mágicos de la zona, como el horno más antiguo del Maestrazgo, ubicado en la localidad de Cuevas de Cañart.

Además del Matarraña y del Maestrazgo de Teruel, la visita se ha prolongado hasta la comarca de Terra Alta, en Tarragona, con el fin de transmitir a los excursionistas “diferentes conceptos de la historia no oficial relacionada con los templarios, aunque igualmente se han visitado hornos de pan tradicionales y una bodega emblemática de la localidad de Lledó”, ha explicado Ávila Granados.

Uno de los objetivos del historiador era reproducir la ruta que emitió el pasado mes de abril el programa “Cuarto Milenio” del canal Cuatro de televisión. En este sentido, Jesús Ávila confeccionó un recorrido que aunaba misterio y tradición, historia y actualidad.

Del sur del Matarraña al Maestrazgo

Así pues, el pasado viernes, día 1, los participantes de la actividad se desplazaron hacia el sur del Matarraña, donde visitaron los municipios de Monroyo y Torre de Arcas. En este último, comenta Ávila Granados, admiraron “su interesante Museo de Horno de Pan Cocer, que, aunque documentado en el siglo XVIII, con toda probabilidad se corresponde con una instalación mucho más antigua, sin duda medieval”. A las afueras, se encontraron con la ermita de San Bernardo de Claraval, “una construcción octogonal del siglo XVIII sobre los cimientos de un santuario templario –sostiene el experto-. Precisamente en su interior, se conserva un fresco de pintura alusivo al momento en que San Bernardo entregaba los estatutos al primer maestre templario, Hugues de Payns”.

A continuación, la excursión se trasladó al Maestrazgo a través de Aguaviva hasta la villa de Castellote. En esta población se halla el torreón del Temple que, a juicio del historiador, “es visita obligada”. “Desde sus habitaciones superiores es posible contemplar el castillo, también templario, que se alza sobre la creta de la montaña”, añade.

Y del castillo al horno de pan más antiguo de la comarca, ubicado en Cuevas de Cañart. Jesús Ávila mantiene que se trata de un vestigio del pasado con “posible fundación judía y relacionado con el Temple; como también la ermita de San Blas, destruida por un rayo en el siglo XVI”.

En el ecuador de la comarca

Jesús Ávila Granados recorrió junto con el grupo el centro y el noreste de la Comarca del Matarraña durante el sábado, día 2. “Visitamos el horno de la familia Llerda, en Cretas, y degustamos sus exquisiteces reposteras; luego nos fuimos a Lledó para ver las bodegas de la casa Crial y de regreso a Valderrobres visitamos la villa medieval”, cuenta.

La ruta vespertina discurrió por Arnes y Horta de Sant Joan, en la Terra Alta tarraconense. Según indica el especialista, “Arnes le debe su nombre a la apicultura, también rinde homenaje su escudo a los templarios; y Horta de San Joan, con su santuario de San Salvador, es considerado el principal recinto religioso templario en el antiguo Reino de Aragón; su subida en 45 escalones al santuario es una ascenso a la espiritualidad interior; los magos templarios conocían muy bien las claves del conocimiento”, manifiesta.

De regreso al Matarraña, ya al atardecer, los visitantes se detuvieron en La Fresneda, “pueblo que también rinde culto a los templarios, como recuerda su nombre (el fresno era el árbol sagrado del Temple)”, cuenta Ávila Granados. En este municipio, recorrieron el casco antiguo y se acercaron hasta la panadería de la familia Dilla.

En Ráfales

El domingo, día 3, fue una jornada dedicada a la visita exclusiva a Ráfales, “donde se celebraba una feria dedicada a las hadas; de gran interés por la diversidad de los temas que allí se dieron cita, relacionados con la salud física y espiritual de las personas”, narra Jesús Ávila.

De nuevo, visitaron la cárcel y se desplazaron hasta la iglesia de la Virgen de la Asunción, donde pudieron admirar las restauraciones ejecutadas en el edificio sacro. Allí vieron también “el baphomet que domina un canecillo superior” y contemplaron “una lápida decorada con la estrella de Occitania (cruz de doce puntas) en una pared exterior del templo”, explica.

Con esta visión, se clausuró “La ruta de las cárceles y el pan del Matarraña” y, como ha señalado el historiador y escritor, “con grandes deseos de volver a la convocatoria del año próximo”.

in aragondigital

Fotos de es.geocities.com

The real deal

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Some hotels’ claims to a colourful historical past may prove tenuous, but David Knight can’t help but be impressed by a country house which dates back, in part, to the 13th century and the Knights Templar.

Men in white tunics and women in white dresses are threads which are interwoven in the past and present of Maryculter House Hotel, near Aberdeen.

Many country hotels like to trade on their historic past, with varying degrees of authenticity, but Maryculter House has something right from the top drawer.

As soon as you see the 1225 date engraved above its entrance you realise it has something different from the rest.

It sits in a charming, secluded spot alongside the River Dee which also happens to be the ancestral home of a Scottish contingent of the famed Knights Templar.

These were fearsome fighting Christian knights with various strongholds around Europe spanning two centuries, who fought in the Crusades and protected pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land.

A mere 80 knights once challenged an army of 26,000 Saracens to a scrap on the road to Jerusalem – and eventually won, according to my research.

Apart from their fighting prowess, they were also distinguishable by their white robes and vivid scarlet crosses. You feel their presence everywhere here, and it is not every hotel which can list in its range of activities the chance to stand in a field at midnight in the hope of seeing a knight’s ghost charging past on horseback.

With a surname like mine, I wondered if I, too, might have had ancestors who were Knights Templar. Very fanciful, I know, and on checking the meaning of names, I discovered that the name, Knight, was also granted to domestic servants or soldiers in the pay of real knights. My lot probably had the contract for cleaning the gents for the Knights Templar.

They are now outnumbered here by an equally formidable and unstoppable force also dressed impeccably in white – an army of brides.

With more than 100 weddings a year, Maryculter House is up there with the best around Aberdeen for staging nuptials.

It is easy to see why: it is beautifully picturesque and the River Dee ripples just feet away from the actual place where couples tie the knot under an arch outside, weather permitting.

The views in both directions down and upriver take some beating. You can see the attraction for wedding pictures with such an idyllic background.

It is not compulsory to get married before you stay here, of course. It has plenty to offer everyone else as well.

Apart from being pretty to look at, the Dee also offers up its bounty of fish and the hotel boasts its own beat with various packages tailored to the fishing fraternity.

Golf abounds everywhere in these parts, of course, and from some of the rooms, you can gaze across the river and see golfers ambling up and down Peterculter golf course.

From the South Deeside Road, it is possible to drive past and not actually see the hotel as it is tucked away from view. New sections have been added over the years, but at its centre, the architecture remains distinctly mediaeval.

Its showpiece is the residents’ lounge, set in an ancient hall dating back to 1225 which would not look out of place in any castle, with huge exposed stone walls and a beamed ceiling so high it almost disappears from sight.

It is a perfect room in which to relax with a drink in its luxurious leather sofas and soak up the historical atmosphere. The knights’ stables were supposedly beneath this very room.

The rooms were nicely appointed and, for my wife and I, there was a view across the Dee which ran just past our window. A 32in flat-screen TV and a walk-in stone-floor shower were other pleasurable extras.

We sampled room service and ordered ham and cheese croissants. These proved to be quite a sumptuous affair with deep, delicious fillings, tomatoes and cucumber dressed in a tasty balsamic sauce and accompanied by crisps.

Outside, and opposite the reception, there are the remains of a large Knights Templar chapel and cemetery, which is well worth a visit. From its gates, we could spot deer in the distance.

It’s an ideal base to strike out for other activities and visits in the area, but this is also a great place just to get away from it all, relax and do nothing in particular, or perhaps some walking, eating and drinking in very pleasant surroundings. That would be perfect.

Maryculter House also offers one luxury city dwellers crave – peace and quiet. There is no traffic and no noisy drunks outside, as often happens around city hotels. We were there for only 24 hours, but felt our batteries had been recharged by the time we left.

The Priory restaurant offers an excellent a la carte menu choice, with special theme nights now and again such as murder-mystery dinners, wine-tasting and mediaeval banquets.

Gourmet menus are offered on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, at £32.50 a head when we visited, and that was a superb special treat. Various discounted room offers also accompany a number of the meal options. A good selection of meals and snacks is also served in the Poachers Pocket bar.

A full traditional breakfast awaits guests in the morning in a dining-room just off the bar.

The staff were friendly, helpful and very approachable throughout our stay, but we gave one special attraction a miss. There is a field nearby where, legend has it, a knight rides out at midnight and a ghostly Saracen woman can be seen floating about the woods.

I decided to stay safe close by the bar.

It is said that the Knights Templar were not allowed to retreat in battle, even against ridiculous odds, which probably explains why their life expectancy was so short.

Maryculter House Hotel is a special retreat of another kind which even the knights would have had trouble resisting.

Maryculter House Hotel, South Deeside Road, Maryculter, Aberdeen. Phone 01224 732124, or visit http://www.maryculter househotel.com

«Los templarios usaban animales y héroes mitológicos con fin pedagógico»

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Pablo Alonso es concentración en sí mismo y escucha plena de cuanto le transmites. Es licenciado en Historia Medieval por la Universidad de Málaga y desde hace diez años se ha centrado en la investigación de la simbología tradicional deducible de la iconografía bajo imperial romana y medieval. Fue uno de los impulsores de la celebración en Murcia de las actividades en torno a las Tres Culturas. El mundo de lo simbólico y la astronomía son temas que domina perfectamente, si bien su trabajo cotidiano se desarrolla en el Palacio de Justicia de Murcia. Recientemente presentó su último libro: Las estrellas de Eunate, editado por la Sociedad de Estudios Templarios y Medievales de España que servirá de guía para muchos murcianos que realicen el Camino de Santiago.

- ¿Qué es Eunate?

- Es un lugar emblemático en el camino de Santiago, por donde muchos de los murcianos que hayan realizado dicha ruta necesariamente han pasado por él. Eunate es famoso en Europa en el camino de Santiago, y lo es, en primer lugar, por la forma exterior de su construcción: un octógono circundado por una arcada y en segundo lugar porque todo aquel que ha estado allí reconoce haber sentido algo especial. En sí es una ermita dedicada a Santa María de Eunate y está situada en el tramo navarro.

- ¿De qué trata su libro?

- Es una guía simbólica de la portada norte de esa ermita, pues es una portada construida como todo el conjunto de la edificación, en la primera mitad del siglo XII; es decir, en pleno auge de los templarios. Las arcadas se componen de figuras de animales mitológicos y héroes de la mitología clásica que son también constelaciones, estrellas del cielo. De ahí el título de Las estrellas de Eunate.

- ¿Cuál fue la finalidad principal de esta ermita?

- Principalmente era un lugar de sanación, se encuentra en un cruce de muchos caminos. Las sanaciones que allí encontraron los peregrinos están representados por los remedios que se facilitaban para curar diversas enfermedades y ello ha quedado labrado en piedra a través de héroes mitológicos.

- ¿Podría dar algunos ejemplos?

- Por supuesto; por ejemplo el dragón representa la hierba llamada artemisia dracunaculus, popularmente conocida como dragoncillo.

- ¿Qué sentido tiene esta portada tan peculiar?

- Su finalidad última es pedagógica pues trata de aproximar al peregrino a la fe cristiana mediante la inteligencia pues todos los remedios de enfermedades sugeridas en esta portada tienen un trasfondo simbólico de sacrificio; dejándole al buen entendedor que comprenda por sí mismo que toda la historia de la humanidad es una historia de salvación y que grandes sacrificios han salvado al hombre de monstruos y males de todo tipo, siendo el mayor sacrificio de todos el de Cristo en la Cruz.

- ¿Cómo están representados los animales?

- Animales que, como bien le he dicho anteriormente representan la constelación estelar. Todos ellos se encuentran en una posición de perseguidores y perseguidos. Hércules es el gran maltratador del dragón y Perseo es el maltratador de la ballena; y como usted sabe, estos cuatro símbolos se corresponden con constelaciones estelares.

- ¿Podemos localizar algunos de estos símbolos en la catedral de Murcia?

- Murcia durante el siglo XII estuvo bajo ocupación musulmana, mientras que dicha simbología aparece más en el arte románico. Aquí, cuando se cristianiza la construye ya prácticamente con el gótico, precisamente en un momento de mayor persecución a los templarios que se ven obligados a huir a Francia. Si bien la catedral también tiene mucho que decir de este mundo, prefiero silenciarlo.

 

en Laverdad.es