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The Sea of Galilee: receding waters of biblical lake

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A sharp drop in annual rainfall in the northern Galilee region over the past three years has caused the lake’s waters to recede.

On the shimmering Sea of Galilee, where the Christian gospels say Jesus walked on water, 150 Nigerian pilgrims aboard a river boat sing and dance to an African beat. Their pastor, Reverend Samuel Tunde Ogunmodede, said he and his congregation had come to the biblical lake to see what they had, until now, only read about in the scriptures. “We came here to seek the face of God, pray to God as he did in the time of the disciples. We will pray here so that he will do the same in our lives,” he said on board the boat. About one million tourists from abroad visit the Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Tiberias or Kinneret, each year, according to the Israeli tourism ministry.

Stretching about 65 sq miles (170 square km) from the foot of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee (actually a fresh-water lake) spills into the Jordan River, where Jesus is believed to have been baptised. On a crisp winter day, worshippers from Singapore, Nigeria and Germany perform their own baptism ceremonies in the waters. The gospels tell of Jesus walking on the lake to comfort and save disciples as their ship was foundering in a storm and miraculously producing huge catches of fish for their nets. But the Sea of Galilee may need a few more miracles these days. A sharp drop in annual rainfall in the northern Galilee region over the past three years has caused the lake’s waters to recede, according to Israel’s Water Authority. It is now at its lowest in five years.

Receding water levels means higher salt levels, which harm the eco-balance and could render the water unusable. In an effort to control the damage, only a 10th of the annual average quantity of water supply has been drawn from the lake this year, a water authority spokesman said. In a complex operation, salt water springs are found and their flow is diverted out of the lake. To better keep the eco-balance and maintain water quality, the lake is stocked with millions of fish every year. The Sea of Galilee has, in the past, provided up to a third of Israel’s water. Israel now relies on the more expensive methods of desalination and recycling for more than half its water supply.

Reuters

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Scientist Finally Read the Oldest Biblical Text Ever Found

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The charred lump of scroll sat in an archaeologist’s office, impossible to read without destroying it – until now.

Scientists have finally been able to read the oldest biblical text ever found.

The 2,000-year-old scroll has been in the hands of archaeologists for decades. But it hasn’t been possible to read it, since it was too dangerous to open the charred and brittle scroll.

Scientists have now been able to read it, using special imaging technology that can look into what’s inside. And it has found what was in there: the earliest evidence of a biblical text in its standardised form.

The passages, which come from the Book of Leviticus, show the first physical evidence of a long-held belief that the Hebrew Bible that’s in use today has is more than 2,000 years old.

The discovery was announced in an article in Science Advances written by researchers from Kentucky and Jerusalem. It described how the researchers used a tool called “virtual unwrapping”, which provides a 3D digital analysis of an X-ray scan.

By using that, it was the first time that researchers have been able to read an ancient scroll without actually opening it.

“You can’t imagine the joy in the lab,” said Pnina Shor of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who participated in the study.

The digital technology, funded by Google and the U.S. National Science Foundation, is slated to be released to the public as open source software by the end of next year.

Researchers hope to use the technology to peek inside other ancient documents too fragile to unwrap, like some of the Dead Sea Scrolls and papyrus scrolls carbonized in the Mt. Vesuvius volcano eruption in 79 CE. Researchers believe the technology could also be applied to the fields of forensics, intelligence, and antiquities conservation.

The biblical scroll examined in the study was first discovered by archaeologists in 1970 at Ein Gedi, the site of an ancient Jewish community near the Dead Sea. Inside the ancient synagogue’s ark, archaeologists found lumps of scroll fragments.

The synagogue was destroyed in an ancient fire, charring the scrolls. The dry climate of the area kept them preserved, but when archaeologists touched them, the scrolls would begin to disintegrate. So the charred logs were shelved for nearly half a century, with no one knowing what was written inside.

Last year, Yosef Porath, the archaeologist who excavated at Ein Gedi in 1970, walked into the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls preservation lab in Jerusalem with boxes of the charcoal chunks. The lab has been creating hi-resolution images of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest copies of biblical texts ever discovered, and he asked researchers to scan the burned scrolls.

“I looked at him and said, ‘you must be joking,”‘ said Shor, who heads the lab.

She agreed, and a number of burned scrolls were scanned using X-ray-based micro-computed tomography, a 3D version of the CT scans hospitals use to create images of internal body parts. The images were then sent to William Brent Seales, a researcher in the computer science department of the University of Kentucky. Only one of the scrolls could be deciphered.

Using the “virtual unwrapping” technology, he and his team painstakingly captured the three-dimensional shape of the scroll’s layers, using a digital triangulated surface mesh to make a virtual rendering of the parts they suspected contained text. They then searched for pixels that could signify ink made with a dense material like iron or lead. The researchers then used computer modeling to virtually flatten the scroll, to be able to read a few columns of text inside.

“Not only were you seeing writing, but it was readable,” said Seales. “At that point we were absolutely jubilant.”

The researchers say it is the first time a biblical scroll has been discovered in an ancient synagogue’s holy ark, where it would have been stored for prayers, and not in desert caves like the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The discovery holds great significance for scholars’ understanding of the development of the Hebrew Bible, researchers say.

In ancient times, many versions of the Hebrew Bible circulated. The Dead Sea Scrolls, dating to as early as the 3rd century B.C., featured versions of the text that are radically different than today’s Hebrew Bible.

Scholars have believed the Hebrew Bible in its standard form first came about some 2,000 years ago, but never had physical proof, until now, according to the study. Previously the oldest known fragments of the modern biblical text dated back to the 8th century.

The text discovered in the charred Ein Gedi scroll is “100 percent identical” to the version of the Book of Leviticus that has been in use for centuries, said Dead Sea Scroll scholar Emmanuel Tov from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who participated in the study.

“This is quite amazing for us,” he said. “In 2,000 years, this text has not changed.”

Noam Mizrahi, a Dead Sea Scrolls expert at Tel Aviv University who did not participate in the study, called it a “very, very nice find.” He said the imaging technology holds great potential for more readings of unopened Dead Sea Scrolls.

“It’s not only what was found, but the promise of what else it can uncover, which is what will turn this into an exciting discovery,” Mizrahi said.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

The real human history behind Game of Thrones

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MODERN authors don’t have to look far for inspiration. Often, it’s right there on their shelves in learned tomes of history.

Some of the stories are truly fantastic. Others are simply amazing examples of human behaviour.

Dr Katie Barclay of the Adelaide University school of History and Politics says she finds the use of history in popular modern fiction fascinating.

“These are clearly engaged with much of the historic literature, particularly for the medieval period,” she said. “And, as a historian, you watch it, and you’re constantly thinking ‘yeah that’s good’, and ‘no, that wouldn’t happen’, except it’s fantasy so you can’t get annoyed!”

Dr Barclay points out that history and fantasy have had a long and close relationship: The first novels were called “histories” and purported to be based on real events.

“They often were,” Dr Barclay said, “at least to the level that they featured real historical characters if re-imagined to suit the sensibilities of the era”.

And such “re-imagining” is central to the history-fantasy link. The same story is often retold in different ways over hundreds of years, with each incarnation pitched at the tastes and expectations of a new generation, she said.

“But the most inspirational tales for modern writers and audiences are not necessarily those based on the most outlandish stories or supernatural events, but those that relate to unexpected human relationships.”

Here’s just a sample of some of the most eye-catching historical sources you may recognise in popular books, films and television shows.

CAUTION: There are some Game of Thrones spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.

SCOTLAND’S ‘RED WEDDINGS’

The “Red Wedding” episode from Game of Thrones had fans in shock, with several characters cut down. However there is a precedent — clan-based slaughter in the north of Britain.

“The Scottish ‘Red Weddings’ linger in the historical imagination because of what it says about betrayal and loyalty and human relationships, and because they wiped out whole families, not just because they are bloody,” Dr Barclay said.

The brutal slayings, while not weddings, were regarded as particularly heinous as they breached strict moral codes of hospitality.

In 1691 a terrible betrayal saw most of the key members of clan MacDonald massacred.

The Scottish clans had been summoned to produce a signed document swearing allegiance to King William of Orange. The MacDonald clan, delayed through a series of misfortunes, delivered their oath several days “too late”.

Several months later, a troop of 120 men under the king’s Captain Robert Campbell arrived at the MacDonald’s estates in Glencoe and claimed shelter from the harsh weather.

Hospitality was duly offered, but, after a fortnight of enjoying the MacDonalds’ food, drink and card-games, the soldiers slew about 40 of the clan as they slept in their beds in what would become known as the Glencoe Massacre. The 40 or so women and children that escaped died of exposure.

An earlier, similar, massacre has gone down in history as “The Black Dinner”.

In 1440 the young Earl of Douglas (traditionally called the Black Douglas), 16, and his younger brother David were invited to dine at Edinburgh Castle with 10-year-old king James II.

The story goes that the young nobles were getting along like a house on fire, enjoying food, entertainment and each other’s company until deep into the evening. Suddenly, legend has it, the severed head of a black bull was dropped on the dining table.

The two Black Douglas boys were dragged outside, given a mock trial, and beheaded.

The young king was not likely to have been to blame. The Chancellor of Scotland, Sir William Crichton, had issued the invitations as he felt the Black Douglas clan had grown too powerful.

THE REAL DRAGON SLAYER

If “Smaug” the dragon from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit gets your blood racing, imagine what impact the real thing would have had on medieval Europe.

The only encounter with a “dragon” recorded in history happened on the Mediterranean island of Rhodes in the 1340s. The question is, what was the beast really — a crocodile? A giant lizard?

According to the Order of St John’s archives, the beast had established a lair to the south of the fortified city of Rhodes. There, it had begun preying on the local livestock and maidens.

Several Knights Hospitaller are said to have set out to prove their valour by tackling the dragon. After they failed to return, the Order’s Grand Master firmly ordered a stop to such expeditions.

One, however, ignored the order. The French knight Dieudonne de Gozon decided to take on the beast personally. He gathered as many descriptions as he could of the animal from the country folk who had seen it and built a scale model.

He then trained his dogs to attack the creature and practised angles from which he could attack it with his sword and lance.

Once confident, he sallied forth into the countryside and slew the dragon. He was then summarily expelled from the Order for disobedience.

But the public outcry from the peasants about how poorly their hero had been treated soon saw “the Dragon Slayer” restored to the Order and he ended up becoming Grand Master himself in 1346.

“The Rhodes story is not the only crocodile as dragon story going around,” Dr Barclay said. “There is one for St George too — only the crocodile got to Essex! We don’t really know if it was a crocodile, that’s just what a 19th Century scientist thought when he saw a skull in Rhodes that they claimed belonged to the dragon. Given that selling relics was big business during the medieval period and there was 600 years for a ‘dragon skull’ to go missing, decompose (or never exist in the first place) and be replaced with that of a crocodile by an entrepreneurial relic salesman, we don’t really know the truth here. Maybe there really was a dragon!”

HISTORY’S HORRIBLE FAMILIES

There is a reason why the likes of the Tudors keep appearing in books and on our screens. Many were truly awful people from absolutely horrible families.

“Games of Thrones is fascinating,” Dr Barclay said, “not just because of the gruesome deaths and sex, but because these are families defending lineages, committing incest, being wiped out in a single generation.

“We get behind the families because of their relationships to each other, not just because they have dragons.

“Wendy Moore’s Wedlock (a tale described by The Independent as a “misery memoir” of how Georgian Britain’s worst husband met his match; it is “crammed with corrupt surgeons, questionable chaplains, fallen women and gossips”) is also fascinating because of the manipulative and abusive relationship between husband and wife. Then there was Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire — which became the movie The Duchess — a story about a dodgy threesome.”

There is also the true story of James Annesley, the heir to the estate of Anglesea. He was abducted as a child in the 1730s and sold into slavery in the Caribbean. He managed to escape in his late teens and returned to Britain to discover his uncle had inherited his estates. He won the first trial, but died during a drawn-out 10-year appeals process. This inspired stories such as Memoirs of an Unfortunate NoblemanPeregrine Pickle and The Wandering Heir.

MAGICAL SWORDS

The magic of a glittering, all-dominating sword is a powerful icon of hope and victory. In the case of magic swords, it may be an idea burnt onto our cultural heritage by history.

Some say the legend of Excalibur could have been born from the impact a high-quality Roman sword would have had if it had survived into the Dark Ages of Britain. Such a refined, well-made and strong weapon could indeed win almost magical status among its enemies.

This is likely what happened some centuries earlier, as the Bronze Age collapsed before the onrushing Iron Age. The new grey metal swords cut through bronze as if it was butter. Whole armies could fall in the face of a smaller band of iron-equipped men.

Iron’s impact was not just felt on the battlefield. The entire economy and social structure of Europe was turned on its head as it shifted away from bronze to the tougher, easier, more common metal.

Even the story of pulling Excalibur from the stone may be a cast-back to a long-forgotten time. Bronze blades were cast in moulds of stone before being pulled out and polished.

Iron was to experience a similar revolution when the refinement of steel emerged. It’s an arms race that has never ended. And each age would most likely have had its own “Excalibur”.

But such magic-history links are rare, Dr Barclay said.

“The ‘magical’ element of fantasy allows us to set aside our practical concerns (’that wouldn’t happen’) and go with the story (‘it isn’t real, so that’s fine’), despite the fact that what drives the story could often happen without the magical elements,” Dr Barclay said.

THE BLACK WATCH

The romantic notion of a band of outcast warriors living on the fringes of civilisation who have taken a binding oath to protect the ignorant and ungrateful people they left behind is a common one.

It was no less popular when it was a reality.

The Knights Templar are well known for their supposed mystical secrets and the staged trial that accused them of such. But their real purpose also has passed into legend.

In the early 1100s, a small band of knights resolved to police the roads of the newly captured Holy Land for pilgrims making the dangerous journey from Europe.

To save their souls and prove their devotion the knights adopted the rigid rules and lifestyle of monks, with the added responsibility of protecting Christendom from all its enemies.

The idea spread like wildfire: Soon every second son in Europe was clambering for permission to win glory (and a secure lifestyle) within a rapidly expanding network of farms, forts and fleets all designed to feed equipment, knights and soldiers to a distant chain of castles protecting Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

Many other Orders sprung up, imitating the idea: The Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights were among the largest.

However, the trials and tribulations of the hot and volatile Holy Land soon caused the chivalric dream to lose much of its gloss. As such, many in the later ranks of the Templars were drafted from “grey knights” who had committed crimes or lost the support of their lords. In return for their service, these warriors were promised the limited freedom the Order offered — as well as a chance to fight, pursue a career and save their souls.

WINTER IS COMING

In fact, it’s already been. Several times.

We’re talking weird seasons that last for years — not the typical annual event.

In 536AD a 10-year winter kicked off in the Northern Hemisphere. Scribes in Europe and Asia reported bitterly cold conditions that seemed to never end. The sun was darkened, they said, and remained “small” even into the depths of summer.

Famine, war and plague quickly followed as crops failed and hungry hordes started streaming south.

Tree rings and ice core samples have since confirmed these events and tied the decade-long winter to the eruption of a supervolcano in El Salvador. But many academics consider that is in itself not enough to explain the duration of this winter. Some say Earth may have also passed through Halley’s Comet’s dusty tail.

Another unusual winter struck Europe in 1816. Known as “The Year without Summer”, hunger once again quickly swept across Europe as crops shrivelled up.

This event has been tied to the 1815 super eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. The dust in the upper atmosphere from this eruption produced an average 1C drop in temperatures worldwide.

From Game of Thrones to The Narnia Chronicles, myth continues the reality.

in news.com.au

Crusader wreck tells tale of Crusader Holy Land conquest

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CHRISTIAN knights and Mameluke warriors were fighting on the walls. Now the wreck of a 13th century ship reveals the desperate bid to save the Holy Land.

The port of the city of Acre was a vital lifeline for Crusader knights and settlers alike. Through it streamed European pilgrims, horses, fighting men and manufacturing goods, all vital to sustain Christianity’s tenuous hold in what would later become Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Israel.

In return, ships carried precious cargoes of sugar, spice and exotic textiles.

But, in 1291, it all came crashing down.

The Egyptian Mameluke Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil — leading an army of 100,000 men and horses — rolled back the Christian defences, weakened by almost two centuries of fighting to maintain control over the Holy Land.

European interest was failing — despite efforts by Pope Gregory X to summon reinforcements. And the militant orders — international organisations of warrior-monks — established to defend the Holy Land had become engrossed by their own wealth and the games of thrones back home.

What support did arrive for those few on the front line was invariably too little, too late.

Eventually, the European knights fell back to their final fortress — the city of Acre.

Here, besieged, they were totally reliant on support from the sea.

Gold Crusader florins found in Acre harbour by diving archaeologists. Picture: Israel Antiquities Authority Source:Supplied

REVEALING WRECK

According to the news service Haaretz, a Crusader-era shipwreck recently found in the bay of Acre has been dated to the time of the desperate last stand by a handful of knights and mercenaries on the walls of the city.

Acre is now part of northern Israel.

The wreck had been severely damaged by dredging. But parts of the timber hull, including its keel, survived.

Excavation work began last year.

The wood has been carbon-dated between 1062-1250, which neatly brackets the Crusader era.

But archaeologists led by Doctor Ehud Galili and Professor Michal Artzy of Haifa University have uncovered traces of its cargo — and a stash of 30 gold florins.

These narrow its date down to that of the final siege of the nearby city.

Fragments of ceramics, including jugs and bowls, reveal the ship was carrying imports from Cyprus and Italy. There are also rusted remains of a few metallic objects, including anchors.

It is possible the wreck may have belonged to King Henry II of Cyprus who had reportedly sent a force of 40 ships filled with reinforcements. Just one month later, King Henry’s forces would retreat by sea as the city fell.

URGENT EVACUATION

Historic records of the disaster tell the tale of fleeing nobles attempting to bribe boat and ship owners for safe passage out of the Middle East. But few managed to make their way on-board.

A handful of Templar, Teutonic and Hospitaller warrior-monks fought stoically to buy time for the civilian population, but were eventually forced back to their strongholds after the city’s walls collapsed.

But, by May 18, the Grand Masters of the Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights had fled. The Grand Master of the Templars had been killed. Only a few equipped and trained knights remained alive.

Defeat, they knew, was inevitable.

The last stand was fought in a Templar tower at the very edge of the sea. Accounts tell of the city’s inhabitants throwing themselves into the harbour in a desperate bid to reach the departing ships.

The Templar knights were only overcome when Mameluke engineers undermined their fortress’ walls. Among the rubble were 100 of the Sultan’s best men who had been inside, fighting the Crusaders hand-to-hand.

Western Christianity would never again establish a firm foothold in the Middle East. After repeated attempts to mobilise yet another crusade, the Templars were accused of witchcraft and homosexuality in an effort by French King Philip IV to seize their wealth. The order was eventually disbanded, and its key officers burnt at the stake.

The Hospitallers retreated to Rhodes, where they established a navy in anticipation of a fresh crusade. The Teutonic Knights shifted the focus of their holy war to the Baltics.

The entire city of Acre was levelled, and left abandoned until rebuilt nearly three hundred years later.

in news.com.au

Shroud of Turin ‘stained with blood from torture victim’, find researchers

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The Shroud of Turin is stained with the blood of a torture victim, scientists have claimed.

Analysis of the linen cloth, purportedly used to bury Jesus after his crucifixion, contains “nanoparticles” of blood which are not typical of that of a healthy person, according to researchers.

Institute of Crystallography researcher Elvio Carlino, one of the authors of the report, said the particles are conducive with someone having been through “great suffering”.

“Our results point out that at the nanoscale a scenario of violence is recorded in the funeral fabric,” authors wrote in the scientific article, published in PLOS One.

“The consistent bound of ferritin iron to creatinine occurs in human organism in case of a severe polytrauma.”

Researchers believe the particles show a “peculiar structure, size and distribution”, which corroborates the theory that it was used as a burial cloth.

They also believe it contradicts previous theories that the shroud was made in medieval times.

Professor Giulio Fanti, one of the author’s of the research, said: “The presence of these biological nanoparticles found during our experiments point to a violent death for the man wrapped in the Turin Shroud.”

The cloth’s authenticity is highly contentious and divides religious opinion.

Some Christians believe the fabric – which is kept in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin – is the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazereth, dating back over 2,000 years.

But previous scientific studies have suggested the cloth, which appears to be imprinted with the face of a man, may in fact be from the 13th or 14th century – centuries after Jesus is believed to have died.

One study found the cloth had been manufactured in India.

The research was published in US scientific journal PlosOne and is titled: “New Biological Evidence from Atomic Resolution Studies on the Turin Shroud.”

in independent.co.uk

«Toledo fue la única ciudad templaria de España»

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El joven investigador y escritor José Manuel Morales (Córdoba, 1981) ha acudido este jueves a Toledo con su tercer ensayo sobre temas históricos y de misterio debajo del brazo. En esta ocasión, se sumerge en la historia del Orden del Temple con su libro «Templarios: Claves ocultas en catedrales góticas, vírgenes negras y la búsqueda del Santo Grial en España» (Ediciones Luciérnaga). Una obra que ha presentado en la Biblioteca de Castilla-La Mancha junto al también investigador y colaborador de Cuarto Milenio Luis Rodríguez Bausá y Juan Luis Alonso, autor de la web leyendasdetoledo.com.

-Los templarios es uno de los temas más manidos de la historiografía. ¿Qué aporta de novedoso su libro?

-Aunque a mí me encargaron un ensayo, «Templarios» no es un estudio de investigación al uso, ya que hay muchas obras sobre este tema y la época medieval. Yo me he alejado del libro clásico y ofrezco al lector, tanto al que se acerca a esta temática por primera vez como al docto en la materia, una aventura y un viaje en primera persona por las iglesias y fortalezas con huellas templarias, todo ello de forma novelada, aunque no deja de ser un ensayo.

-¿Por qué cree que los templarios tienen tanto poder de atracción entre los lectores y el público en general?

-Por un lado, porque creo que todos los seres humanos tenemos simpatía por las minorías perseguidas. En el caso de los templarios, fue una organización que creció de manera meteórica, luego fueron perseguidos de forma injusta y tuvieron un final muy romántico. Además, a esta orden se la ha relacionado siempre con los temas más fascinantes del medievo, como los últimos caballeros medievales, la construcción de las catedrales góticas, las vírgenes negras o reliquias como el Arca de la Alianza, el Santo Grial y la Mesa del rey Salomón.

-¿Qué hay de cierto en muchos de los mitos y leyendas que se asocian a esta orden?

-Yo soy de los que opina que toda leyenda tiene un poso de realidad. Para la investigación de la Orden del Temple, aunque gran parte de la documentación no se conserva, ha habido que rellenar las lagunas históricas echando mano a las leyendas, siempre separando el grano de la paja, pero está claro que cuando el río suena agua lleva.

-¿Y cuál es el misterio de su fulgurante ascenso y de su no menos repentina disolución y persecución?

-Quizá, lo más llamativo sería pensar que encontraron el Arca de la Alianza y relacionar la eclosión del arte gótico -surgido alrededor de 1130- con el ascenso de los templarios y, cuando la Orden del Temple es disuelta, este estilo artístico desaparece. Por eso, la hipótesis que yo lanzo en el libro es que encontraron este valioso objeto que les hizo poderosos a ojos del Papa, de monarcas y nobles, además de permitirles el acceso a cierta información para aplicar la geometría sagrada a los templos que ellos mismos financiaron.

-Francia es quizá el país donde las huellas templarias son más claras. Pero, en su expansión, llegaron hasta España. ¿Qué les trajo hasta aquí?

-Los templarios vinieron por dos motivos. Por un lado, su razón fundacional era proteger a los peregrinos que acudían a Jerusalén y, en el caso de España, este papel lo desempeñaron en torno al Camino de Santiago. Y, por otro lado, fue importante su labor en la Cruzada contra los territorios musulmanes en la Península Ibérica, como en el caso de la batalla de las Navas de Tolosa en 1212 o en la conquista del valle del Guadalquivir bajo el amparo del rey Fernando III El Santo.

-Toledo tuvo un gran papel para ellos. ¿Por qué?

-Toledo es uno de los lugares de la Península Ibérica con más huellas de la presencia de la Orden del Temple. Además, tiene una peculiaridad, ya que las encomiendas templarias habitualmente se situaban alejadas de las ciudades, pero Toledo fue la única ciudad con presencia templaria de España por así decir.

in ABC.es

M. CEBRIÁN Toledo

Cómo ser neotemplario hoy y la búsqueda espiritual en Occidente

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NOTA previa de A. Almazán:
 
Este texto forma parte de la conferencia pronunciada por frey Patrick Emile Bracco en Sigüenza dentro de los actos conmemorativos del 880 Aniversario de la fundación de la Orden del Temple, año de 1998 de la era de Cristo; actos organizados por el Gran Priorato Español de la Orden Soberana y Militar del Temple de Jerusalén (OSMTJ). En esta reunión estaban presentes los grandes priores de España, Portugal, Escocia y Escandinavia. Asimismo había delegados de los prioratos de Hungría, Inglaterra, Francia y Alemania.
 
Patrick Emile Bracco era, a la sazón, comendador y nuncio de la OSMTJ de España en Francia, Apoderado de la Comendadoría de las Tierras Ocitnas, y representante en Niza, París, Montpellier, Toulon y Limoges-Poitiers.
 
En nuestra opinión el espíritu rector de esta disertación de Bracco plasma lo que diversos investigadores del Temple y del neotemplarismo francmasónico estiman lo que posiblemente latía en los auténticos y orales (no escritos) “Estatutos Secretos del Temple”.
 
Obsérvese la crítica que realiza a muchos grupos neotemplarios e incluso a miembros de la propia OSMTJ no inmersos en ese “espíritu templario” que él expone. Asimismo véase su reiterada insistencia en la subsistencia de un esoterismo cristiano en el seno del Temple y de su constante tener presente a Dios, a Gloria de cuyo Nombre el Temple elevó su divisa y acción.
 
La conferencia tuvo lugar el 1 de octubre, víspera de San Saturio. Reitero, por mi parte, que nunca he formado parte de ninguna asociación neotemplaria, aunque como periodista especializado en estos temas he asistido a algunas celebraciones neotemplarias como invitado e incluso conferenciante.
___________________________________________________
 
CÓMO SER TEMPLARIO HOY: EL CAMINO DE UNA BÚSQUEDA ESPIRITUAL EN EL MUNDO OCCIDENTAL
 
PATRICK EMILE BRACCO
En nuestros días, a través de toda Europa o América, se constata un florecimiento de movimientos templarios, como si el hecho de añadir la palabra Temple o Templario a cualquier grupo bastara para darle título.
 
Es cierto que en el seno de algunos de estos grupos se encuentra un verdadero espíritu caballeresco cristiano. Pero al lado de esto, ¿de cuántas manifestaciones patológicas podemos ser testigos?
No hablaré de estos bravos “Templarios” que no presentan más que el aspecto de guardianes de cementerios encargados de realizar el plan de las sepulturas, o todavía de estos hiper-especialistas históricos, más ratas de biblioteca que auténticos hombres de terreno. En todos estos casos, el espíritu templario está bien lejos. Pero ¿en qué términos podemos definir hoy el espíritu templario?
 
Cuando era aceptado como templario, este último debía conformarse con ciertas obligaciones de la Regla del Temple, que eran: la obediencia, la castidad, la pobreza, la fraternidad, la hospitalidad y el servicio a los ejércitos. No olvidemos que el Temple era una orden monástica y que sus miembros debían seguir sus reglas de una manera estricta.
 
El espíritu templario reposaba sobre ellas y su respeto representaba una apuesta sublime donde el honor y la fe tenían partes iguales.
 
Este espíritu animaba a los hombres que debían ser, a la vez, santos héroes, especulativos y hombres de acción, administradores y jefes de guerra. Debían aceptar, además, que la acción personal servía a la comunidad y no a la reputación de un hombre, por alto que estuviese en la jerarquía. Y todavía más que la gloria del Temple, servir a la gloria de Dios. Se trataba de ser digno del blanco manto y digno de sí mismo, saber conducirse en este mundo de ilusiones como un verdadero servidor de Cristo.
Pero hoy día, ¿cómo se puede, por una parte, conciliar estas obligaciones con la vida profana y, por otra parte, defender el ideal cristiano en un mundo donde reina la indiferencia?
 
Nuestra Orden actual no tiene una vocación monástica, así como también las obligaciones del Templario deben ser interpretadas con detenimiento. El mundo y las cosas han evolucionado desde el siglo XII, también es preciso saber adaptar estas reglas.
 
La castidad no debe ser una ausencia de relación carnal con el ser amado, sino más bien una huida de toda impureza y de todo desahogo malsano.
 
Tratar de reencontrar el verdadero sentido del amor físico, dándole su lugar como en el amor afable, una fusión de dos seres humanos no sólo por unos instantes, sino por toda una vida.
La pobreza: tampoco es cuestión aquí de comprometer a los Caballeros en la pobreza absoluta, sino hacerles comprender que en un momento se puede perder todo en la vida, pero la verdadera riqueza no está en los bienes exteriores, sino en lo que hay en el corazón.
 
Es preciso saber también, y esto concierne a otras dos obligaciones que son la fraternidad y la hospitalidad, que el templario debe saber compartir con su hermano menos afortunado que él (recordemos el simbolismo de dos templarios sobre el mismo caballo) y que él debe saber abrir su puerta y su corazón a los desgraciados que pueda encontrar en su camino.
La obediencia: cuando se entra en una orden, cualquiera que sea, el primero de los mandamientos es la obediencia. La obediencia y el respeto por las reglas son los únicos medios de mantener las estructuras de un organismo en función, sin no la anarquía se instala y nosotros tenemos demasiados ejemplos alrededor de nosotros para querer seguirlos.
 
El servicio a los ejércitos: la Orden del Temple no está aquí para batirse de una manera física; no llevamos espada, ni armadura; no es cuestión de restituir cualquier compromiso militar. Pero recordemos que, en caso de conflicto, hemos elegido un ideal espiritual, y que este ideal haría falta saberlo defender con las armas en la mano si fuera necesario.
 
Temo que muchos Hermanos, presentes o ausentes, no hayan ponderado de una manera suficientemente seria el peso de su compromiso en nuestra Orden. ¿Cuántos no han sido seducidos más que por la apariencia, el porte del manto blanco, el título de Caballero, pero los actos, los hechos, dónde están? ¿Qué han hecho ellos por la Orden en general y por su evolución en particular?
 
Si no se nace Caballero, se puede, sin embargo, llegar a serlo y para ello se debe tomar y seguir un cierto camino que comienza por una iniciación. Esta iniciación va a permitir al hombre profano que quiera entrar en el Temple, separarse de las coacciones exteriores y de su historia personal. Va a alejarse de su medio inmediato, limitado y obtuso por confiar al Universo y a la Humanidad todo, dándole una dimensión sagrada.
 
El sentido de esta ceremonia invariable es ayudar al nuevo Hermano a afrontar la angustia provocada por un compromiso profundo y permanente. Esta ceremonia vivida por los que obtienen el título y por los Hermanos crea un lazo entre los adeptos y, si es vivida intensamente, puede provocar una auténtica comunión.
 
Comprendemos que estas ceremonias iniciales son muy importantes en el sentido de que pregonan un deseo de despertar el hombre dormido y de hacerle tomar conciencia de un posible estado superior, lo que era una de las misiones del verdadero Temple.
 
Nosotros, que hemos elegido la vía de la Caballería Templaria, sabemos que la meta que nos hemos fijado no es la Jerusalén Terrestre, sino la Jerusalén Celeste.
 
Para hacer actos de beneficencia o tener una conducta moral irreprochable, no es necesario entrar en el Temple. En nuestro caso, esto debe ser la consecuencia directa de una búsqueda situada mucho más alto. Hace falta, pues, comprender que el Temple es también el vehículo de una búsqueda esotérica para cada Caballero, y la síntesis de esta búsqueda es la formación de una encrucijada de civilizaciones y de corrientes espirituales primordiales, cuyos participantes se harían Guardianes de la Tradición, transmitida por vía esotérica desde el cristianismo primitivo (comprendemos mejor así las relaciones entre los Templarios y los musulmanes durante las Cruzadas, mucho más hechas de comprensión mutua que de traición del cristianismo por parte de los primeros).
 
Guardemos el espíritu abierto a la diferencia y practiquemos la tolerancia, así podremos tener ya un estado de espíritu apto para una comprensión más sutil de las cosas.
 
Cuando comienza a existir, el hombre se interroga sobre el sentido de su vida; desgraciadamente las respuestas que aporta a estas interrogantes son vagas e insatisfactorias, y se ve obligado a contentarse con opiniones, de creencia o de fe. El sentido de esta verdadera búsqueda existencial no será dado más que por un camino interior, guiado a la vez por la Fe, la voluntad de alcanzar el logro marcado y la intuición; tres cualidades indispensables para cualquier éxito temporal o espiritual.
 
La corriente templaria es una de las grandes vías occidentales que ha llevado en su seno los medios de desarrollar esta búsqueda espiritual y, más allá de esta simple búsqueda, ha propuesto a los templarios realmente dignos una realización mucho más importante… Quien tenga orejas que oiga…
 
Hemos dicho que nuestra meta era la conquista de la Jerusalén Celeste, la que cada uno lleva en lo más profundo de sí y que le permitirá, si llega a conquistarla, trascender el simple estado mortal que tenía hasta ese momento. Para confirmar esto, miremos el símbolo que llevamos en el hombro izquierdo: es una cruz, sin el hombre crucificado, y no por ella directa y únicamente ligada al cristianismo, pero sí a una tradición muy anterior que creía que el hombre caído estaba estrechamente atado a los cuatro elementos de la manifestación y que sólo por el centro de esta cruz podía extraerse el hombre elegido y digno de figurar con los justos a la derecha del Padre Eterno.
 
Comprender, mis Hermanos, que el Temple ofrece esta posibilidad a los que tienen bastante coraje, voluntad y perseverancia para emprender y mantener tal camino, pero el resultado al final es digno de la gracia que nos ha hecho Dios permitiéndonos estar aquí, pues no olvidemos que este trabajo no se hace únicamente en un sentido egoísta, sino también, y sobre todo, por la Más Grande Gloria de Dios: “Non nobis, domine, non nobis sed nomini tuo da gloriam”.
 
Patrick Emile Bracco
(in templariosymas.blogspot.pt)