La fin des travaux de restauration du château de Quéribus

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Le chantier aura duré sept mois. Le château cathare de Quéribus, à la frontière entre l’Aude et les Pyrénées-Orientales, a subi une cure de jouvence. Un chantier indispensable pour ce site qui date du Xe siècle.

Les visiteurs ont pu redécouvrir ce mardi le château de Quéribus après sept mois de travaux. Un chantier périlleux en raison de la localisation du château cathare : en haut d’une falaise, à 728 mètres d’altitude.

Des maçons alpinistes !

Il a fallu utiliser des hélicoptères pour acheminer le matériel nécessaire (eau, chaux, sable, etc..) au pied de l’édifice. Parmi les travaux réalisés : le rejointoiement des murs. Pour Bruno Schenck, premier adjoint au maire de Cucugnan “c’était impératif. On pouvait passer la moitié du bras entre les pierres ! Cela n’avait jamais été fait depuis des siècles.” Il a aussi fallu s’occuper de plusieurs voûtes. Celle entre le corps de logis et le parvis du donjon a été refaite à l’ancienne, avec des moellons, et l’autre a été réalisée avec des pierres de taille travaillées sur place.

Le chantier a été compliqué techniquement. Un seul mot d’ordre: respecter l’architecture médiévale de l’époque. Ce sont des maçons spécialisés qui s’en sont chargés, des maçons alpinistes accrochés à la façade pour certains travaux, comme sur le donjon.

Bruno Schenck, l’adjoint au maire de Cucugnan est fier du résultat: “c’est un vrai bonheur d’avoir réalisé ce chantier, c’est essentiel pour le maintien du patrimoine. Le dossier en vue d’un classement au patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO continue, mais c’est très long !”

Par Isabelle Rolland, Sébastien Berriot, France Bleu Roussillon, France Bleu Occitanie

The Story of the Crown of Thorns

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When the magnificent Cathedral of Our Lady (Notre Dame) in Paris caught fire earlier this week, the world was mesmerized by the apparent destruction of such an historical and holy edifice—one of the most widely recognized and frequently visited structures in the world.

Although the soaring Gothic cathedral is well known, until recent events relatively few people knew that it has been home to the holy relic of the Crown of Thorns worn by Christ during his Passion. The destructive fire sharpened the world’s focus on the cathedral, Paris, and the Catholic Church at the beginning of the holiest week of the year and, in God’s own providential way, made more widely known the existence of this singular relic.

It has also aroused skepticism and questions. How did one of the central relics of the Passion end up in the capital of France? How do we know this relic is authentic? Isn’t it more likely some pious myth?

The story of the arrival of the crown in Paris is a dramatic tale of the sacking of a majestic city, a bankrupt empire, and a saintly monarch desirous of manifesting leadership of Christendom in medieval Europe.

Three of the four Gospel narratives record that Jesus, during his Passion, was crowned with thorns by Roman soldiers (Mark 15:17, Matt 27:29, John 19:2, 5). However, documentary evidence for the crown’s whereabouts after the Crucifixion are scarce until the fifth century, when the Gallo-Roman bishop St. Paulinus of Nola (354-431) referenced the relics of the crown and the cross in his writings. A century later, the Roman senator and later monk Cassiodorus (c. 490-585) mentioned the relic of the crown of thorns in his commentary on Psalm 86.

Another sixth-century reference is found in the travel diary of the anonymous Pilgrim of Piacenza, a Christian from Italy who went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, who wrote, “There is in that church [the basilica Church of Hagia Zion] also the crown of thorns with which the Lord was crowned.” From the sixth to the tenth centuries, there are reports of the distribution of thorns from the crown to various persons including St. Germanus (c. 469-576), the bishop of Paris; Charlemagne (742-814), king of the Franks and holy roman emperor; and the Anglo-Saxon king Æthelstan (894-939). It is believed that sometime in the mid-eleventh century the crown was transferred from Jerusalem to Constantinople, where it remained for nearly two centuries.

In the thirteenth century, Robert de Clari (1170-1216), a French warrior who participated in the Fourth Crusade (1201-1205), provided a description of his Crusade activities. He describes in his chronicle the multitude of precious objects and sacred relics contained within the majestic city of Constantinople:

Within this chapel were found… two pieces of the true cross… two nails that were driven through the midst of his hands and through the midst of his feet. And there, too, was found the blessed crown wherewith he was crowned, which was wrought of sea rushes, sharp as dagger blades.”

The Fourth Crusade, in 1204, resulted in the sack of Constantinople, which Pope Innocent III (r.1198-1216) condemned, and the establishment of a Latin Empire (called “this new France” by Pope Honorius III and colloquially known as “Romania”) that lasted until 1261. The Latin Empire faced significant challenges in its short existence, including the presence of exiled Byzantines, who wanted their imperial capital back, and a lack of western military manpower. Many westerners left the Holy Land and settled in Latin-controlled Constantinople, which ultimately weakened Christian-controlled territory in the Latin East (Acre, one of the last major Christian cities in the Holy Land, fell to a Muslim army in 1291).

The last Latin emperor to rule in Constantinople was Baldwin II (r. 1228–1273), who was also the only Latin emperor born in the city. Faced with significant financial difficulties, Baldwin embarked on a tour of western Europe in a recruitment campaign for men and money. While in France, Baldwin received word that his barons had borrowed money from the Venetians and used the crown of thorns as collateral. He begged King St. Louis IX(1214–1270) to help him repay the loan to prevent the transfer of the precious relic to Venice. In return, Baldwin promised to gift the crown of thorns to Louis.

The saintly monarch envisioned France as a new Holy Land, and what better way to manifest that vision than with possession of the relics of the Lord’s Passion. The king earnestly believed that the offer from Baldwin was providential and agreed to provide the funds to the young emperor. King Louis sent two Dominicans (Jacques and André), one of whom had spent time in Constantinople and could verify the authenticity of the relic, with a royal letter to the imperial city. The royal messengers arrived on June 17, 1238, one day before the loan’s due date. The Venetians, disappointed that the prized relic would not permanently reside in their city, honored the king’s payment with the condition that Louis allow the crown to travel to Venice for a period of veneration by the inhabitants of the republic. Louis agreed to the request, and, in 1239, the crown was transported across the sea to Venice, where it was received with much adulation.

That same year, the relic began the overland journey to France. Miraculous occurrences were reported during its journey to Louis’s kingdom, including weather phenomena wherein no rain fell when the relic was transported by day but torrential rains when it was safely inside at night. The king planned to accompany the crown into Paris (along with his mother, brothers, several bishops, barons and knights), meeting it ninety miles away at the town of Villeneuve-l’Archevêque.

From there, the king and his entourage began a penitential procession to Sens, which welcomed the relic with great fanfare. Clerics brought out the city’s collection of saint relics to welcome the crown amid the ringing of church bells and the sound of organs. The relic’s journey of continued via the Yonne River from Sens to Vincennes over several days. As they neared Paris, Louis and his brother Robert carried the crown of thorns into the city barefoot, each wearing a single tunic. Once inside the city, the king took the crown to Notre Dame Cathedral for a brief period before its arrival at the royal palace, where it was placed in the Chapel of St. Nicholas.

Recognizing that such a holy relic should not remain in a small palace chapel, King St. Louis IX ordered the construction of a special chapel on the Île de la Cité, near Notre Dame. The Gothic style chapel, known as Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel), containing fifteen exquisite stained glass windows that depict 1,113 scenes from the Bible, was consecrated on April 26, 1248.

The crown of thorns remained in Sainte-Chapelle for over 500 years until the French Revolution, which saw the crown removed to the National Library for several years until the archbishop of Paris received it back with the signing of the Concordat of 1801 between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII. Subsequently, the crown was placed in Notre Dame. Encased in a jeweled rock crystal reliquary and containing only a circlet of rushes and no thorns, the relic was displayed on First Fridays of the month and Fridays during Lent, including Good Friday when the faithful were allowed to venerate it.

Although the fire destroyed the spire and wooden roof of the almost 900-year-old cathedral, a courageous priest, Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier,  rescued the crown, along with other holy relics and the Blessed Sacrament, from the blaze. Let us hope and pray that the renewed interest and knowledge of Notre Dame Cathedral and the crown of thorns caused by the great fire of 2019 might bring a resurgence of faith to France—the Eldest Daughter of the Church—and the whole world.

by Steve Weidenkkopf in

Cátaros, la doctrina prohibida

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Mucho se ha escrito sobre catarismo desde distintos puntos de vista. Ahora, el autor de este reportaje nos avanza parte de las claves que desvela en su último libro Cátaros, el secreto de los últimos herejes –Espejo de Tinta–, un trabajo que dará que hablar…

Existe, no cabe duda, un neocatarismo impulsado por el romanticismo surgido a principios del siglo XX con autores como Peyrat, Roché, Magre o Gadal, que hicieron resurgir de sus cenizas –y nunca mejor dicho– la Cruzada Albigense. Otros recuperaron de la memoria unos hechos que pudieron haber cambiado el destino de Europa. A partir de los estudios efectuados por René Nelli, las investigaciones se convirtieron en más rigurosas, y con el paso del tiempo otros investigadores como Duvernoy y Roquebert tomaron el relevo. Finalmente, Anne Brennon, la actual conservadora del Centre d’Études Catahres en Carcasona, es quien ha proseguido con la labor historiográfica.

Pero también existe la otra cara de la moneda, innegablemente mucho más comercial. De Sède, Angebert, Blum o Nataf, por poner unos pocos ejemplos, son autores que han conseguido determinados éxitos con sus trabajos pseudos-esotéricos, en los que el misterio y las conjeturas son elementos principales.

No hay duda de que existen lagunas y muchas preguntas sin respuesta, pero, como en tantas ocasiones, se ha caído en el tópico y el cliché; fanáticos, anticlericales, dualistas y un sinfín de calificativos, han acompañado a los bons hommes a largo de la historia. Sin embargo, subyacen realidades mucho más profundas que no han sido divulgadas como merecieran, tal vez por omisión o por desconocimiento de las mismas.

A partir del descubrimiento del belga Théo Vencheleer de textos originales como el Ritual Cátaro escrito en occitano, que se encontraba en la biblioteca del Trinity College de Dublín, y el Interrogatio Iohannis, salvado milagrosamente de la persecución de los inquisidores, se produjo un cambio sustancial en las investigaciones. Hasta aquel momento, todos los estudios estaban basados en los documentos inquisitoriales y en las crónicas de los vencedores. Finalmente, con el hallazgo de los rollos del mar Muerto y los manuscritos evangélicos apócrifos de Nag Hammadi, el giro resultó definitivo.

Los descubiertos en el citado mar Muerto son los que han recibido mayor difusión. Tras largos años de investigaciones, a los que hay que añadir todo tipo de teorías, especulaciones e interpretaciones, se llegó finalmente a la conclusión generalizada de que los escritos pertenecían a la secta de los esenios. A partir de aquí, las opiniones están divididas entre aquellos que afirman que ello fue la base del nacimiento del cristianismo, y los que lo niegan argumentando que dicha religión apareció un par de siglos más tarde. Pero una corriente filosófico-religiosa no nace de la noche a la mañana; precisa de una base embrionaria, de un desarrollo y finalmente de su establecimiento, y ello sólo es posible con la ayuda del paso del tiempo.

Con los hallazgos de Nag Hammadi, menos conocidos y anteriores a los del mar Muerto, pues los primeros se produjeron en 1945 y los segundos en 1947, aparecen los textos denominados gnósticos. Se trata de los primeros Evangelios Apócrifos que, a modo de un guiño histórico, están sugiriéndonos que en ellos se encuentran las primeras corrientes –que serían llamadas dualistas mucho más tarde–, y en consecuencia heréticas para los Padres de la Iglesia.

Allí se encuentran las bases de todas las “herejías” que llegarían a convulsionar los intentos de la Iglesia para unificar criterios y llegar a constituir sus bases doctrinales. Desde Zoroastro hasta el catarismo, fueron muchas las figuras que basaron sus ideas y conceptos en esos textos. Pero lo más sorprendente del caso fue que de todas estas corrientes heterodoxas, el catarismo no sólo se basaba en un auténtico gnosticismo, sino que los propios Evangelios canónicos servían de base para su doctrina, sobre todo el de San Juan. Los cátaros aportan el libro de Los Dos Principios, atribuido a Jean de Lugio, el Ritual Cátaro o el Manuscrito de Florencia, como prueba para demostrar que eran auténticos cristianos. Unos pocos versículos bíblicos serán suficientes para comprobar por qué sus ideas –y más aún su comportamiento– ha sido tachado de radical.

El gnosticismo, y en consecuencia el catarismo, rechazaban el Antiguo Testamento. En él se descubren dos entidades antagónicas, una cruel y vengativa, y otra muy distinta, misericorde y bondadosa. Algo no encaja, y por ello, el llamado dualismo encuentra suficientes razones en las que basar sus argumentos.

Aparentemente, según reflejan las Sagradas Escrituras, Jesús estaba en contra de esa iglesia y de sus representantes. Con ello se enfrentaba al Jehová del Antiguo Testamento y a toda tradición hebrea tergiversada y alejada del verdadero mensaje. No es de extrañar que dijera en su momento, que no había venido para cambiar la ley sino para que se cumpliera.

La imposición de manos
El gnosticismo, del griego gnosis –“conocimiento”– no admitía una divinidad con propiedades y características negativas tal y como se exponían en el Antiguo Testamento, pues éstas se encontraban muy alejadas de los conceptos de un Dios bueno y justo. Su aceptación vendría a ser como un insulto a la inteligencia humana. Inteligencia que por otro lado era una de las manifestaciones creadas por la misma divinidad. Ello no tenía sentido y no encajaba con sus bases filosófico-religiosas. Tal rechazo se hacía evidente. Además, la salvación del ser humano tenía que efectuarse a través de una toma de conciencia de trascendencia y de conocimiento, y no con el seguimiento de una fe ciega cuya base doctrinal estaba en manos de intermediarios entre Dios y el hombre.

Existen versículos de los Evangelios que prueban la existencia de un profundo esoterismo siempre negado por la Iglesia. En el Nuevo Testamento, por ejemplo, pueden encontrarse apartados claramente significativos. El conocido consolhament de los perfectos del catarismo, es decir, la imposición de manos, es un claro referente. Este gesto ritual lo han realizado todas las religiones, desde Egipto hasta la actualidad.

Podrían citarse numerosos versículos en los que la imposición de manos está presente como en los Hechos de los Apóstoles (IXX, 2-6), cuando el apóstol Pablo se dirige a Éfeso, en Lucas (XIII, 11-13) y podríamos seguir con Números, Deuteronomio, Marcos, etc. “…una vez hayas acercado a los levitas hasta la presencia del Señor, los israelitas impondrán las manos sobre ellos”. “Josué, hijo de Nun, estaba lleno de espíritu de Sabiduría, porque Moisés había impuesto sus manos sobre él, y los israelitas obedecieron, obrando de acuerdo con la orden que el Señor había dado a Moisés”. “A los que tengan fe le seguirán estas señales: impondrán las manos a los enfermos y éstos sanarán”. Estos son, respectivamente, los versículos en los que, una vez más, el ritual de las manos se va repitiendo a lo largo de los Evangelios.

Los cátaros sabían del simbolismo evangélico. Jesús hablaba en parábolas para que tan sólo unos pocos supieran de los contenidos y su interpretación como sucedía con los apóstoles. Ciertos conocimientos estaban siempre presentes en sus enseñanzas, y en alguna ocasión, incluso el maestro llegó a pedir silencio sobre los mismos.

También la cruzada y su implacable persecución contra la denominada herejía albigense estaba argumentada por los perseguidos, pues ya había sido vaticinada en las Escrituras. Considerándose auténticos cristianos, se identificaban con las palabras de Juan el Evangelista (XVI, 2-3): “Os echarán de las sinagogas; y aún viene la hora, cuando cualquiera que os matare, pensará que hace servicio a Dios”. “…y estas cosas os harán, porque no conocen al Padre ni a mí”. Asimismo, en Mateo (X, 22-23) leemos: “Seréis odiados por los hombres a causa de mi nombre; pero aquel que perseverare será salvo. Y cuando os persigan en una ciudad, huid a otra”.

Jesús hijo… o no
Uno de los puntos más candentes y controvertidos de los Evangelios –y para el catarismo, claro está– es el de la divinidad de Jesús. ¿Dios encarnado o simplemente un hombre extraordinario? Motivo de grandes polémicas, discrepancias y persecuciones, para el gnosticismo se trataba de un ser humano excepcional, y para los cátaros de una ilusión corpórea aparente, conocida como docetismo.

El radicalismo del que fueron acusados los cátaros –y que muchos llevaron al extremo–, podemos encontrarlo en numerosos versículos. Si rechazaban la materia, a la jerarquía eclesiástica y afirmaban que Dios se encontraba en todo lo creado y en consecuencia no daban utilidad alguna a los templos, no era debido a una corriente filosófico-religiosa particular, sino por tomar las Escrituras como modelo de comportamiento. En las Epístolas de San Pablo a los Hebreos (X, 4) puede leerse: “…pues es imposible que sangre de toros y machos cabríos borren pecados”. Posteriormente repite el mensaje: (X, 11) y leemos lo siguiente: “…y ciertamente, todo sacerdote está en pie, día tras día, oficiando y ofreciendo reiteradamente los mismos sacrificios, que nunca pueden borrar pecados”. Estos versículos –y otros semejantes– eran la base por la cual el catarismo no daba ningún valor a la liturgia del denominado Sacrificio de la Santa Misa. Reprobaban que en cada ocasión se oficiara el sacrificio de la divinidad para salvación nuestra. Para ellos, nada más alejado de la realidad. Por dicho motivo tampoco podían venerar a la cruz, símbolo de crueldad y padecimiento que imposibilitaba la muerte divina. Dios eterno no podía morir –según afirmaba la Iglesia–, aunque se argumentara dicho fallecimiento como material, es decir, el cuerpo de Cristo, y no una muerte espiritual, su parte divina.

Estas ideas y conceptos, que se expandieron con el gnosticismo –mucho más cercano a los hechos–, dio como resultado el que muchos de los contenidos evangélicos posean un trasfondo gnóstico, a pesar de que ello sea negado por la institución eclesiástica. Buscando algunos versículos, como el de Lucas en los Hechos de los Apóstoles, nos ofrecerán una visión muy distinta de la predicada. El rechazo a los templos se encuentra en (XVII, 24): “El Dios que hizo el mundo y todo lo que hay en él, como es Señor del cielo y de la tierra, no habita en templos hechos de manos”.

Proseguir buscando versículos que justificaran las posturas de las distintas herejías resultaría finalmente tedioso. En ocasiones, los evangelios se expresan de forma literal pero en otras el mensaje posee una doble lectura que va mucho más allá de lo aparentemente escrito.

Y los templarios
En otro orden de cosas, de entre los muchos interrogantes y respuestas pendientes sobre el catarismo, uno de los enigmas que han suscitado todo tipo de opiniones y teorías, ha sido sin duda alguna la posible relación entre la Orden del Temple y los cátaros. Unos consideran que los templarios combatieron al lado de los cruzados y en contra de la herejía, debido al juramento de obediencia a la Iglesia y al rey. Otros creen que no participaron en el genocidio pues para ellos los cátaros en realidad no eran heréticos sino simplemente cristianos. Unos terceros, incluso, llegan a sostener que ayudaron a los supervivientes a llegar a España.

Sea como fuere, existen una serie de indicios que hacen sospechar que tanto cátaros como templarios sostuvieron buenas relaciones. No se trata de pruebas concluyentes, pues la mayoría de ellas fueron a título personal, pero suficientes como para tener dudas más que razonables al respecto. Se sabe de la amistad que existía entre la familia Vernet y la encomienda templaria de Mas Déu, en el Rosellón. Dicha familia procátara, hizo entrega de tierras a la Orden. El señor Pons II de Vernet, se convirtió en su benefactor y en cofrade del Temple en 1223. Enterrado en dicha encomienda, la Inquisición ordenó la exhumación del cadáver, y juzgado post-mortem por hereje, sus huesos fueron quemados como los de tantos otros. Tuvo el mismo fin Arnaud de Mudagons, cuya familia estaba muy unida a la de Vernet.

Al comienzo del siglo XIII, la nobleza del Languedoc tenía lazos familiares y de parentesco con la Orden templaria. Muchos caballeros pertenecían a la nobleza, y a pesar de sus votos de castidad, los monjes-guerreros tuvieron esposas con mujeres de dicho estatus. A ello se añadía el deseo de ser enterrados en tierra cristiana, evitando la excomunión, “arma” muy utilizada por la Iglesia en aquella época. Conocidos “herejes” como Olivier de Termes y Bernard Hugues de Serralongue, hicieron importantes donaciones al Temple. Béranger, de la familia Barabaira, fue bodeguero de las encomienda de Mas Déu.

Uno de los grandes señores de aquel tiempo fue Pierre de Fenouillet, quien sostenía excelentes relaciones con las nobles familias heréticas del vecino Languedoc. En compañía de Chatbert de Barabaira y Raymond Trencavel, reconquistaron el Razés, antes de verse obligados por los vaivenes de la contienda a refugiarse en el Rosellón. Veinte años después de su muerte, acontecida en la encomienda de Mas Déu en 1261, el inquisidor Pons de Huguet abría una investigación. A pesar de la oposición familiar fue condenado al igual que Pons II de Vernet y Arnaud de Mudagons a que sus huesos se quemaran por herejes.

Otro hechos no menos importantes van añadiéndose a la supuesta conexión cátaro-templaria. Cerca de Carcasona, en la encomienda de Douzens, fueron descubiertos unos documentos en los que podían reconocerse una serie de donaciones efectuadas a la iglesia cátara. Estas pruebas, que van apareciendo poco a poco, parecen ir confirmando teorías rechazadas por el historicismo académico.

Finalmente, existe una no menos curiosa situación histórica que bien merece nuestra atención. Hubo un noble llamado Bertrand de Blanchefort, según documentos, conocido por sus supuestas conexiones con el catarismo y que había luchado al lado del célebre Raymond Roger de Trencavel –vizconde de Carcasona–, antes de formar parte de la Orden del Temple. Al convertirse en caballero, hizo donación de sus tierras situadas en las cercanías de Rennes-le-Château y de Bezu, una de las más importantes encomiendas de la región. Su progresión dentro de la Orden le llevó a convertirse en Gran Maestre (1156-1169). Mandó venir desde Alemania a un contingente de mineros para que cavaran una serie de galerías bajo el monte Blanchefort, pues una hipótesis de siglos indica que dichos túneles tenían que servir de almacén clandestino al Temple. Hasta hoy, nada se sabe al respecto.

Los textos ocultos
El espacio del que disponíamos está llegando a su fin, pero todavía nos permite conocer algo novedoso –o cuanto menos insólito– de la llamada herejía albigense. Desde que se desarrolló la escritura, se buscaron sistemas para ocultar mensajes codificados. Esos criptogramas han sido utilizados por todas las lenguas y culturas. En el llamado Manuscrito de Florencia, uno de los escasos textos cátaros originales que se conservan, aparecen tres líneas escritas por mano ajena al documento que se encuentran a pie de página y cuya caligrafía es claramente diferente.

Redactado en latín, como era costumbre, el contenido criptográfico hace referencia al archiconocido consolhament, es decir, la imposición de manos. Clasificado como Folio 51r, se ha llegado a descubrir que se utilizaron dos métodos o sistemas para su realización. Los investigadores A. Dondaine, su descubridor, y A. Borst, dataron dicho documento aproximadamente de 1280 y 1276 respectivamente. Tal vez el catarismo todavía guarda celosamente alguna que otra sorpresa que en su día nos obligará a escribir nuevamente su historia.

Y es que la historia de Occitania es la de un país bañado por el Sol, en el que se comerciaba con Oriente, desde donde partían las expediciones de las Cruzadas hacia Tierra Santa, y en la que el hombre y la mujer eran iguales ante la ley. Tolosa y Avignon eran más importantes que París o Roma, y ambas ciudades seguían las reglas del derecho romano.

La cruzada albigense fue un buen pretexto para que el rey y los barones del norte se apoderaran de todo el Midi francés, y para que la Iglesia no perdiera su poder. Ya Clovis tramó el pretexto del arrianismo para invadir el sur en el año 506, ganando a los visigodos, aliados de los gascones, en la batalla de Vouillé. El rey de Francia y sus barones sólo hicieron lo mismo 700 años más tarde, invocando la herejía cátara. La historia siempre se repite.

Sourced from akasiko

Jacques DeMolay, Grand Master of the Knights Templar, cursed a king and a pope as he burned at the stake — launching an undying myth

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Seven hundred years ago today, a dying knight uttered a curse as the flames of the pyre he was tied to lapped at his feet. Those words continue to haunt us even now.

That knight was Jacques de Molay. He was the Grand Master of the Order of the Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon, generally known as the Knights Templar.

A fraction more than two centuries after the Knights of Order of the Temple of Solomon had been founded amid the rubble of Jerusalem to defend the Holy Land, it would now be ended by flame in the heart of Paris. Betrayed by a king he trusted and a pope he was sworn to obey, in his final hours DeMolay fought fervently against the false charges which had destroyed his international network of Christian warriors.

His dying curse was powerful. And effective.

S’en vendra en brief temps meschie / Let evil swiftly befall

Sus celz qui nous dampnent a tort; / Those who have wrongly condemned us;

Diex en vengera nostre mort. / God will avenge our death.

Pope Clement V, complicit by design or cowardice, was dead 33 days later — from a severe bout of dysentery brought about by advanced bowel cancer.

King Philip IV of France, who had been happy to kill and defame Christendom’s defenders for their wealth and land, died within eight months. This time it was a hunting accident.

It was the final act in a power play that makes the schemes of Game of Thrones seem like mere schoolyard squabbles. De Molay, oddly, lives on. A contemporary source tells of a group of monks secretly swimming to his funeral pyre on an island in Paris’ River Seine to gather up the old man’s bones as holy relics. His name has echoed through history ever since. The idea of the Order of the Temple itself refused to die.

Though formally disbanded and its assets nominally handed over to their arch rivals — the Knights Hospitaller — there were few untouched enclaves of Templars who changed their name to escape retribution. But the black-and-white banner of the Poor Knights would rise time and again throughout history by the oppressed and those seeking association with secrets, occult and mystery. And, as the likes of The DaVinci Code, Game of Thrones and Ivanhoe attest, it’s an idea that resonates even now.



De Molay’s last stand was something of a surprise.

The supreme commander of more than 2000 knights, sergeants and attendants had put up a pitiful performance after the sudden arrest of his brethren on Friday, October 13, 1307. It was a date that would go down in infamy for its ill fortune.

It had been an extraordinary operation: King Philip’s sheriffs all through France had been secretly notified to conduct the coordinated arrests that same night. Once hauled forward to face trumped up charges of heresy, sodomy and sedition, the stunned church seemed powerless to defend its own. Torture did the rest, quickly extracting confessions for the most heinous of crimes — heresy.

But by 1314 the scandal had died down. The arrest and accusations against the Templars was old news. The fate of its members — and its wealth — seemed little more than a formality. A papal commission of inquiry was appointed to pass final judgment on four of the Templar’s most senior commanders. Two of the inquisitors were considered “royal” men — being close associates of King Philip “the Fair”. The third cardinal was one of Pope Clement’s closest friends. Naturally, the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

It was to be a public show trial, carefully scripted and conducted under the watchful eye of King Philip’s city guard and most loyal followers and performed on scaffolding erected in front of the famous Notre Dame cathedral. But something inside de Molay had changed. The seven years of torture and imprisonment had not weakened his spirit. It had reinforced it. In fact, the Grand Master had been held in solitary confinement the dungeon of his own Paris fortress for the previous four years. Now in his 70s, de Molay’s body must have been wracked by injury, malnutrition and lack of sunlight.

Stepping out into the warm light and seeing his brothers-in-arms again after so long must have ignited his spirit in a way it had never been before. He and his colleagues — Geoffroi de Charney, Hughes de Pairaud and Goeffroi de Gonneville — were dressed in their Order’s iconic white robes emblazoned with the blood-red cross and paraded in front of the crowd. It was intended to be their final humiliation.



The people of Paris were expecting a show. A performance. A tragedy. They got what they wanted — but not the anticipated script.

The day, March 18, 1314, started well. The full list of charges was read out to the crowd: Heresy. Homosexuality. Corruption. All were reminded that the Templar commanders — including de Molay — had long since confessed to these most awful of crimes. It was time to pass sentence. As the senior cardinal began to read from a decree announcing that the three Templar leaders would face perpetual imprisonment, he was unexpectedly interrupted. By de Molay.

The Grand Master who had seemingly confessed so easily to such serious sin seven years earlier — and who had refused to speak out during the show trials which followed — finally found his voice. He demanded to be heard. He asserted his innocence, and that of his colleagues. He accused the king and pope of false accusations and of rigging the trials. The crowd was shocked. They knew what this meant. An unexpected spectacle: A burning at the stake. Such was the fate of all confessed heretics who renounced their crimes. But the performance was not yet over.

De Molay’s old colleague under the searing sun of the Holy Land, Geoffroi de Charney, suddenly took up the battle cry. Both launched into a forceful defence of their innocence and a blistering attack on those who sought to steal their land, their power, and their honour. They harangued the esteemed cardinals for their complicity. They emphatically denied the allegations and pointedly revoked every aspect of their prior confessions. De Molay and de Charney knew the consequences. So did the remaining two Templar officials — de Pairaud and de Gonneville. Both cowered into the background, abandoning their superiors to their last stand.

The cardinals were stunned. They quickly fled the uproarious scene. The king’s men knew what to do. Such a revocation of guilt meant the Grand Master and the Preceptor of Normandy had voided the protection of the Church and were now under royal jurisdiction. They dragged the two Templars away.



King Philip heard of the outburst within minutes. His extravagant new palace was just a few hundred meters up the road. It was too much for the troubled king to tolerate. His family was torn by scandal — the wives of his three sons all having been found guilty of adultery only months earlier. Any other such challenge to his flagging authority and reputation needed to be stamped upon, and quickly. He summoned an immediate session of his royal council. Nominally it was to discuss and pass judgment upon the two relapsed heretics. In reality it was most likely a shouting session. The verdict was arbitrary anyway.

King Philip gave the two Templars what they wanted. He immediately issued his decree: Jacques de Molay and Geoffroi de Charney were to be burnt at the stake that very evening, at the hour of Vespers. The place of execution was ordered to be a small sandbank at the foot of the island in the middle of medieval Paris which formed the seat of royal and religious power. It sat in full view of the island’s royal gardens and palace, and of the Monastery of St Augustine on the opposite bank of the River Seine.

Meanwhile, the Templars Hughes de Pairaud and Goeffroi de Gonneville had been whisked away by church officials to serve their sentences of life imprisonment. Both would die prolonged, miserable deaths.



De Molay and De Charney were bundled through the seething crowds filling Paris’ streets. Word of their fate had spread. Nobody wanted to miss the show.

It was the end of an era. All knew this. All wanted to see how this suddenly courageous Grand Master faced his death. Chroniclers from the time tell of how de Molay willingly cast off his clothes and walked up to the pyre dressed only in his undershirt. Some say he asked to be tied to the stake with his hands free so he could pray. All paint a picture of a calm and determined man, content with his fate.

As the flames took hold, they seem to have only ignited anger within the old knight. The Chronicler of Paris wrote:

Seignors, dis il, sachiez, sans tere, / Sirs, he said, know, without any doubt

Que touz celz qui nous sont contrere / That all those who are against us

Por nous en arront a souffrir. / For us will have to suffer.

It was an age of superstition. While the sparks of the Renaissance were beginning to fly — particularly among the new universities of Paris — there was still a pervasive belief in the power of curses, prayer and prophecy. The chroniclers tell of “how gently” de Molay met his execution. To the silent crowd, this would have only added to the power of his final words.

De Charney, seeing the extraordinary manner in which his commander had died, declared he was proud to burn in the colours of his Order, and desired to do so with the same grace as his Grand Master. The righteous piety in which the two knights were immolated was in stark contrast to the stories of cowardice, corruption and heresy the Paris crowd had been sold over so many years. Their deaths invoked so much admiration among the crowd that it inspired centuries of doubt as to their guilt. It also inspired the myths that seemingly will not die.



It’s a story with stark relevance to the modern world.

The Templars were, in essence, an international corporation. A network of farms, estates, banks and markets which fed a bureaucracy full of infighting, divergent purposes and ambition under the helm of a single chief executive officer — in this case Jacques de Molay.

King Philip’s government was bankrupt. He’d squandered his wealth on a series of failed wars and expensive monuments to his ego. He needed cash. He needed income. He lusted for power. The manner in which the hearts and minds of Europe’s pious public were played, how the legal system was manipulated and how the cowed Catholic Church capitulated still triggers fears of grand-scale, high-level conspiracy and corruption.

But the Templars themselves — as pious knights, as warrior-monks sworn to fight for their beliefs — reflect our fear for modern religious-inspired terrorism and the righteous claims of those who fight against it. Add to the mix the charges of heresy, magic and conspiracy and you have a rich recipe few authors — and charlatans — can resist.

They’ve been linked to the Turin Shroud, the Holy Grail and the ‘hidden bloodline’ of Jesus Christ. From Ivanhoe to Indiana JonesHellbound to Assassin’s CreedKingdom of Heavento The DaVinci Code — the myth of the Templars all play a part. And the name of the Order has been invoked by secret societies for centuries, seeking to draw upon the mystical might of the knights’ name.

It’s a power still present today: One of Mexico’s most powerful drug gangs has twisted the image, and the name — The Knights Templar Cartel — to suit their own anti-authoritarian needs.

But put aside the myth and the mayhem and you will find the real history of the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ of the Temple of Jerusalem to be fully fascinating in itself.

As the final hours of Jacques de Molay show: There is no need for embellishment.

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The guru with a gift for brainwashing

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Thierry Tilly looks like a geography teacher or a chartered accountant, or a French version of Bill Gates. He claims, variously, to be a Nato “master-spy”, a confidant of presidents and prime ministers, a financial genius, a 21st-century representative of an ancient, secret order descended from the Knights Templar and a man with superhuman powers sworn to fight the forces of evil.

He is now in a French prison, refusing to answer questions on possible charges of kidnap, brutality and torture. Seven or eight of his followers, from three generations of a French aristocratic family, are living in Oxford, Tilly’s base for the past nine years. One of them, formerly a gynaecologist, is working as a gardener. Others have jobs in fast-food restaurants. Until 2006, 11 members of the family had spent five years barricaded in their château at Monflanquin, 100 miles east of Bordeaux.

Their relatives say they remain under the spell of a lurid fantasy, which might have been torn from the pages of a Dan Brown thriller. They have been convinced by Tilly that their family – the De Védrines, part of the Protestant nobility of south-west France for 300 years – has been chosen to struggle against supreme evil by an ancient order called L’Equilibre du Monde (The Balance of the World). Lawyers and relatives say they refuse to accept that they have been duped and fleeced of the family fortune of up to €5m (£4.5m) by an unscrupulous, possibly deranged but mysteriously effective con-man.

Angry landlords in Oxford, owed tens of thousands of pounds by Tilly and his followers, say the De Védrines, aged from 96 to 24, are not necessarily all victims. Some members of the clan, they say, have become Tilly’s willing accomplices.

Dotty sect or elaborate fraud? Either way, since the arrest of Thierry Tilly, 44, in Switzerland last month, relatives in France are desperately worried. They fear that the “Oxford Eight” (or perhaps seven) may be so deeply under Tilly’s spell that they could fall victim to a mass suicide pact. They are angry that British authorities have refused to treat the Tilly affair seriously for more than eight months.

Jean Marchand, 62, a former financial journalist, has run an almost single-handed crusade against Tilly for eight years. The Oxford Eight include his former wife, Ghislaine de Vedrines, 55, and his two children, Guillemette, 32, and François, 30. In September 2001, they abruptly severed all ties with M. Marchand, whom they declared to be an “agent of evil”. His daughter, Guillemette, then 24, abandoned her husband after only four months of marriage. Neither husband nor father has seen her since.

M. Marchand’s wife and children barricaded themselves into the family mansion in France with Ghislaine’s elderly mother, also called Guillemette. They were joined by Ghislaine’s two highly educated and successful brothers, Philippe, then 56, and Charles- Henri, 53, Charles-Henri’s wife Christine, 51, and their three children, Guillaume, 24, Amaury, 21 and Diane, 16. The transfer of the family to Oxford began in 2006.

“I still cannot explain Tilly’s hold on my family. It is a kind of mental kidnapping,” M. Marchand said. “He does not even have to be physically present to control them. Almost from the beginning, he has issued most of his orders by telephone or by email and they have always obeyed him.”

For years, the French judicial authorities refused to intervene, despite a police investigation which showed that the family fortune, in cash, furniture, paintings, jewelry and property, was being systematically liquidated and transferred to accounts controlled by Tilly. In March this year, Charles-Henri’s wife, Christine, fled the group in Oxford and returned to France.

She told French police she had been tortured, physically and mentally, beaten and kept for days in darkened rooms. The ill-treatment, she said, was supposed to dredge from deep in her unconscious the whereabouts of a lost treasure of the Knights Templar, the powerful, shadowy, medieval order of chivalry suppressed by the French monarchy in 1307.

The French authorities issued a European arrest warrant. But. despite several requests by a French investigating magistrate, the British judicial authorities refused to honour the warrant for technical reasons. Tilly was finally arrested aboard an aircraft at Zurich airport on 21 October and extradited to France.

“You might think, or hope, that, with Tilly under arrest, the spell would be broken and they would return, painfully, to reality,” M. Marchand told The Independent in his Paris suburban home, still crowded with portraits of his lost family. “But no, it seems not. They are just as much under his spell as they were before.

“I keep thinking of the Temple du Soleil and Jim Jones’ followers in Guyana [sects which entered mass suicide pacts in 1994 and 1978]. What kind of instructions has Tilly given them? Time may be short. The authorities in France have started to take this affair seriously but in Britain we are still being ignored.”

A few days ago, M. Marchand and his lawyer, an expert criminal psychologist, and other helpers visited Oxford and tried to speak to his relatives, now living in guest-houses, expelled from large houses after they failed to pay rent. The attempt led to violent verbal clashes, photographed and filmed by French journalists. M. Marchand tried to accost his son, François, on the street, leading to another shouting match. Oxford police told M. Marchand there was nothing they could do.

“I love Britain. I have a great admiration for Britain,” M. Mar-chand said. “But the attitude of the UK judicial system in this affair has been unhelpful and obstructive since the beginning. Tilly is a convicted fraudster, with other legal problems in Britain and France. He is being sued, many times over, by ex-landlords in Oxford. The French investigating magistrate has asked for the right simply to interview the members of the De Védrines family still in Oxford. He has been systematically refused.”

M. Marchand is especially worried about his daughter, Guillemette, who has not been seen in public for months. In theory, she is still in Oxford but Mr Marchand fears she has been taken elsewhere; or that something worse may have happened to her.

Philippe de Védrines, a former oil executive, now 71, was the first family member to “escape” from Tilly, with his wife Brigitte, 61, in 2008. Much of the French police information on Tilly’s methods and far-fetched claims comes from Philippe, now living in Normandy. He refuses to bring a legal action or talk to the press.

The second breakthrough came in March this year. Christine de Védrines, 59, the wife of the former gynaecologist, Charles-Henri, was persuaded to flee from Tilly by a Frenchman, living in Oxford, for whom she worked as a cook. Robert Pouget was born in Paris and educated in Britain. He came back to England after his French military service and started a business in Oxford selling fresh produce. Mr Pouget said: “After more than a year of working for me, we sat discussing things one night after hours and she just came out with all of it, the whole story.

“She had been incarcerated of her own volition with these people. They had told her she was the direct descendant of people who knew where treasure, handed down from generation to generation, had been hidden by the Knights Templar as a fund to help French aristocrats if they got into trouble: except, she couldn’t remember where it was hidden or how to get it. She said she was taken from bank to bank in Brussels to try to find it but she just couldn’t remember. I told her that was because she had never known. She was told a lie.”

Mr Pouget arranged for Christine to call a cousin in France, who came to collect her within two days. “Christine was a very sweet, nice woman. She was good-natured and kind. When she came to work with normal people, little by little I think, the realisation dawned that it was all an illusion.”

Andrew Scully, 48, also rues the day he ever met Thierry Tilly and the De Védrines. Since renting two houses in Cornwallis Road, Oxford, to Tilly and Guillaume, in 2006 he has been involved in 19 court cases, partly for non-payment of rent, partly counter-claims by the De Védrines.

He rejects the suggestion that the De Védrines are hapless victims. He believes they are “all in it”, especially Guillaume, whom he describes as “Tilly’s right-hand man”. He adds: “They were almost imprisoned in a house that was boarded and shuttered. No one was allowed in or out. Tilly tried to tell me I was being watched and followed, that he had his own entourage of enforcers. I don’t care what happens to any of them, after what they have put me through. They think they are a high-and-mighty, wealthy family but they are just money-grabbing.”

Tilly, in prison in south-west France, is refusing to answer questions. But how was he able to commandeer the lives of three generations of a family, described by M. Marchand as “previously joyous, outward-going, successful people”?

The man was born in March 1964 in Bois-Colombes, west of Paris. He has a record of fraud convictions and failed companies in France. In 1999, he began to work for Mr Marchand’s former wife, Ghislaine (née De Védrines), who ran a successful secretarial school in Paris. He was rapidly taken into Ghislaine’s confidence and, through her, became friendly with her two brothers. M. Marchand said: “I asked her colleagues whether they thought that Tilly and my wife were having an affair. They said, ‘No, we think it’s far, far worse than that’.”

Tilly even tried to recruit M. Marchand. He claimed to be, variously, a “Nato agent”, a confidant of George Bush and to have limitless, mental powers. M. Marchand dismissed his claims as fantasy. He believes Tilly “brain-washed” the De Védrines by playing cleverly on their pride as members of a prominent, Protestant aristocratic family. He persuaded them that previous generations of the De Védrines had always been “called” to act for the forces of good against the forces of evil. He even invented a fictitious role as a wartime resistance hero for the elderly matriarch, Guillemette, but told her children never to discuss it with her.

Another technique used by Tilly, M. Marchand says, was to convince his wife and brothers-in-law that he could make them very rich, then persuaded them that they were in imminent, mortal danger from “evil forces” (including M. Marchand). If they pursued their normal lives, they would be killed instantly.

What were the De Védrines doing for all those years when they were locked in the family chateau, now sold? “Nothing. That is the tragedy,” said M. Marchand. “My brother-in-law Philippe, told me that they were doing absolutely nothing. Most heartbreakingly of all, he says that my daughter Guillemette used to have moments of lucidity. She would say, ‘The best years of my life are being thrown away’. All the same, she remained, somehow, under Tilly’s spell.”

The Independent tried to contact Charles-Henri de Védrines and one of his sons, who work for The Oxford Garden Company. The company said they declined to speak to the press “for the time being”. But Charles-Henri did say: “The truth will come out eventually, then the world will see.”

in theindependent

Luzech – Les Templiers à la médiathèque

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La médiathèque de Luzech vous invite samedi à écouter François Thiollet sur les Templiers. Le sujet est si vaste que trois séances seront nécessaires pour comprendre au mieux cet ordre religieux militaire.

Le Temple est né des croisades avec pour missions de protéger les pèlerins en route pour les lieux saints et de défendre les états latins issus de la croisade. Un réseau sans faille en Occident était alors nécessaire pour atteindre ces objectifs. Les Templiers sont aussi des gestionnaires, afin d’entretenir les grandes forteresses. Mais pas seulement, ils sont aussi des cultivateurs, des banquiers tout en étant des soldats. Ils sont les inventeurs d’une organisation très hiérarchisée. Les Templiers assumeront leur mission jusqu’au bout au Moyen-Orient, au prix de milliers de morts… tout en entraînant leur propre chute.

Pour découvrir ou l’épopée des Templiers, rendez-vous samedi à 15 h 30.


Villefranche. Sur les traces du vin des templiers

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Ce mardi matin, en faisant le tour de ses vignes, elle était plutôt dépitée. La grêle, épée de Damoclès de tous les vignerons, venait de cingler les branches fragiles des ceps se dressant sur le causse de Martiel. Pas de quoi, cpendant, abattre Sandra Lemoine qui, depuis quelques années, réimplante la vigne sur les terroirs où il y a des lustres, les templiers avaient su la faire mûrir. « On verra pour la récolte 2009 », lâchait-elle fataliste en milieu de semaine. D’autant que si dégâts il y a, ceux-ci n’ont rien de commun subis dans le Bordelais. Certains ne pourront même pas vendanger cet automne. Cela fait, malheureusement partie, des risques du métier. Et, elle le sait.

Installée en 2003, sur des terrains proches de Martiel, Sandra Lemoine a planté depuis 3 ha de vignes du côté du Juge et de Lespinassière, sur des coteaux exposés de manière à optimiser l’apport de soleil au raisin. Ici, la rocaille affleure. « C’est bon pour la vigne, car un sol trop riche ne lui convient pas. Et lorsqu’elle souffre, cela se voit car elle donne de meilleurs fruits ». Venue dans le métier par passion pour le vin, elle raconte ses parcelles et les cépages qui y prospèrent avec des mots teintés d’affection. Après avoir picoré des conseils auprès de vignerons comme Jean-Luc Matha, de Marcillac, ou de son confrère du domaine de Labarthe dans le Gaillacois, la vigneronne du causse vole de ses propres ailes. En alchimiste des arômes, elle marie syrah, cabernet-sauvignon, cabernet-franc, merlot et chardonnay pour délivrer aux papilles un rouge et un rosé singuliers. « Ce n’est ni du cahors, ni du marcillac, c’est du vin de pays de Martiel », tranche-t-elle.

Ménager la vigne
Un vin qui naît de la terre au terme d’un long et délicat processus. Car, ici, tout le travail s’effectue à la main. « En ne mécanisant pas, on ménage la vigne ».

De l’effeuillage- « très important car en aérant bien la grappe on évite les maladies et on favorise la maturité »- à la vendange, les différentes étapes dépendent des seuls doigts de la vigneronne et de ses aides. Un état d’esprit proche de la nature que l’on retrouve aussi dans les traitements, seul volet mécanisé. « Pour l’instant je suis en agriculture raisonnée, mais en phase bio, car si je n’ai pas encore effectué de reconversion officielle, je n’utilise que du soufre et du cuivre, et je bannis les traitements de synthèse », explique-t-elle. Une démarche portée comme un engagement pour l’avenir lorsqu’elle défend : « Je crois qu’il faut arrêter de jouer avec le feu ».

Après le rouge et le rosé, Sandra Lemoine s’apprête à récolter sa première vendange de Chardonnay. « Elle sera modeste, sourit-elle, mais comme dans nos secteurs, on produit peu de blanc, j’envisage, avec les quelques droits de plantation qu’il me reste de développer cette production pour laquelle existe une demande ». De bien belles promesses gustatives. Elle mesure déjà, grâce à ses tanins, la densité du potentiel de son vin rouge. Elle sait aussi combien, en insistant sur la longueur d’élevage, le goût peut subir des modifications. Sauf que dans ce domaine, elle avance à pas feutrés en se refusant de jouer aux apprentis sorciers. « En tant que professionnel, nous avons des préférences, mais c’est le consommateur qui décide ». Un consommateur qu’elle capte par la vente directe, avec la même logique accompagnant l’ensemble de sa démarche.

in La Depeche