Opinion

«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)

The Struggle Of King Arthur And Mordred

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The story of England’s heroic King Arthur and his arch enemy Mordred has been a popular tale since the medieval era. It has been told and retold and been the subject of paintings and films as well as a succession of books. There are many differences between the narratives. For instance, sometimes Mordred is depicted as Arthur’s illegitimate son from his half-sister, or he might be portrayed as the son of the King of the Orkneys. He is also sometimes described as a member of King Arthur’s court who rebelled against him. However, the conflict between these two warriors and Mordred’s death in battle with Arthur are subjects of general agreement.

From the British Isles the legend of Arthur was carried to the European Continent and later to other English speaking countries around the world. The popularity of the first name Arthur in so many countries can also be traced to the fame of this legendary hero monarch. Today it is going to be hard to find someone educated in one of these lands who has not heard of King Arthur and is also able to name a few other of the characters and places featured. Although parts of the story are so well-known, its history and significance are not so widely appreciated.

The Origins of the Legend

Historians continue to speculate if King Arthur, Mordred and the other scenes and players in the legend have any historical basis. For the most part the story is associated with fifth or sixth century Wales. If a prototype for Arthur did exist he might have been a Celtic chieftain rallying his forces to fight off the Saxon invaders. References have been found to figures that might have been the model for King Arthur in some of the scare writings that survive from the Saxon period in British history, but none of the associations made are conclusive. Two Medieval writers share the responsibility for publicising the tale and incorporating in it many of the elements familiar to us today.

In 1138 Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote a history of the Kings of Britain. Many allege that he drew more on his imagination than on any older records that had come to his notice. Others claim that some of what he wrote corresponds with information in earlier documents that have now come to light. Whatever the authenticity of his facts, Geoffrey introduced his readers to a King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Merlin the Wizard and of course, King Arthur’s arch enemy Mordred. In this version of the tale King Arthur goes to fight against the Roman Empire in Gaul (France of today). The evil Mordred takes advantage of the opportunity to usurp Arthur’s throne and take Queen Guinevere as his wife. The news reached King Arthur on campaign. He returns to his kingdom and fights a fierce battle with Mordred at a place called Camlann, Mordred is killed but Arthur is mortally wounded.

In the late medieval period Thomas Malory published a revised and comprehensive version of the Arthur stories, entitled “The Death of Arthur” (Le Morte d’Arthur). The publication of this work coincided with the introduction of the printing press. Malory’s work became one of the first books printed in England and standardised many aspects of the Arthur legend, for example, the idea of Arthur and his knights sitting at the Round Table dates from this publication. The bitter enmity between Arthur and Mordred continues to form a key part of the story but in a key change from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s narrative Queen Guinevere remain loyal to King Arthur.

Why have these tales survived the years?

The fact that the reader of this article is likely to be familiar with tales of Arthur and Mordred is a testimony to their enduring power. Yet they are more than simple stories. The Arthur tales have contributed culturally to the shaping of Britain’s identity. Over all these years they continue to serve a useful purpose. People are attracted by the idea that there was once an age when chivalrous knights rode about the British countryside fighting treacherous enemies like Mordred, or even supernatural dragons and other monsters. During World War Two, tales of Arthur’s bravery against the country’s enemies provided a rallying point for resistance to German aggression. Today the interest is probably largely of an escapist nature. Regardless of whether or not there is a basis in history, it seems that tales of Arthur and Mordred still serve a purpose in our hi-tech age.

By: Jane Richardson in newhistorian.com

Medieval European Perceptions of Islam

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In 1087, a joint Pisan and Genoese force attacked the North African town of Mahdia, located in modern-day Tunisia. Christian forces returned to Italy triumphantly and used their spoils of war to construct commemorative churches.

A number of Arabic and Latin sources from the time testify to the events surrounding the raid of Mahdia.

One of the most important Latin sources is the poem Carmen in Victoriam Pisanorum, ‘Song for the Triumph of the Pisans’. The Carmen, written by a Pisan cleric only months after the raid, commemorates the expedition.

It has often been argued that the raid on Mahdia – conducted under the banner of St. Peter against a Muslim ruler – was a direct precursor to the First Crusade which followed eight years later. The Carmen is often viewed as providing context for the development of a crusading ideology in the eleventh century.

A pioneering new study has taken a fresh look at the Carmen. Matt King, a PhD student in the Department of History at the University of Minnesota, has been studying the Carmen as a means of understanding Christian perceptions of Islam.

“An examination of this text will allow historians to consider Latin Christian perspectives on Islam and its adherents during the period immediately preceding the First Crusade,” King writes in his article, published in Hortulus, a graduate journal on medieval studies.

It is usually suggested that Pisan interests in North Africa were primarily commercial, with military activities receiving less attention. King argues that there was a certain level of coexistence and cooperation between Pisa and Islamic states, while the Carmen reveals a different side of the story where religiously-charged rhetoric could be applied to justify violent ends.

The Mahdia raid can be located in a wider context of Pisan military activities in North Africa. Pisa had been involved in military actions against Muslims throughout the eleventh century; briefly seizing the city of Bone in 1034 and helping the Norman Robert Guiscard in his conquest of Sicily in 1063.

“The author of the Carmen was thus writing in the midst of conflicts between burgeoning Italian commercial powers and Muslim states in the Mediterranean,” King notes.

Importantly, the Carmen makes frequent Old Testament references in an effort to locate Pisan activity in a Biblical tradition. Within this framework, the inhabitants of Mahdia take the form of Old Testament villains who feel the wrath of God. In contrast, King argues, the Pisans are a Gideon/David/Moses combination who, through the favour of God, are able to defeat their adversary.

“Such a description makes clear the deep religious roots that run throughout this story,” King notes. “In this narrative, it is impossible to separate the sacking of Mahdia or the author’s perception of Islam from this ancient narrative.”

The portrayal of Islam in the Carmen is a multi-faceted one. Pisan attacks are understood as an epic confrontation, similar to the Old Testament and classical tales. Further, the doctrine of the Muslim inhabitants of Mahdia is portrayed as a form of heretical Christianity. Taken together, these depictions of Muslim Africa reveal a medieval Latin understanding of the area as a place and people of the utmost evil.

King notes that the Carmen is, however, a triumphant poem. The author is consciously contextualising the Pisan-Genoese raid in a tradition of God-willed triumph. Simply taking the Carmen’s portrayal of Islam at face value, therefore, may misrepresent the Latin understanding of Islam.

“If we cautiously take the Carmen as indicative of general trends in Pisan perceptions of Islam and Africa,” King concludes, “we thus can see an image of Pisa as a city with some knowledge of medieval Ifriqiya and as one that used this knowledge to nurture some image of righteous war against Muslims.”

For more information: www.hortulus-journal.com

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user: DrFO.Jr.Tn

By: Adam Steedman Thake in newhistorian.com

Novos Escudeiros no Priorado Ibérico

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Os tempos do rápido consumo das coisas mundanas levou ao rápido consumo das coisas que valem mais que o mundo. Num ápice, passamos por elas sem as experimentar verdadeiramente e sem nos determos o tempo suficiente para nos deixar seduzir nem pelo seu encanto, nem pela voz que evidenciam e não ouvimos. A vontade de ter e de chegar cobre e oculta os aromas suaves que só se experimentam no passar largo.

Muitos ramos das Ordens que derivam do reavivar dos valores Templários nos séculos XVIII e XIX desconhecem os graus de Noviço e Escudeiro. Entra-se na Ordem por cima. Da rua a Cavaleiro em poucos minutos. Passe de ilusionismo, capa na mão. Flup! Já está! Muitas vezes até ouvimos “Sr. Fulano é uma pessoa extraordinária e já era Templário ante de o ser”. Mas como é que se pode ser antes de ser? Estaremos a cumprir o nosso desígnio ao passar a Cavalaria com a facilidade de quem passa uma constipação?  É que muitas vezes a vontade de “ser Templário” assemelha-se a uma febre  rápida, mas passageira, que se apanha com os amigos. Um espirro aqui e ali: “Sim, juro! Sim, prometo!”, mas depois de passar só ficam para trás os lenços de assoar. Entrou e saiu com a velocidade de um tiro. Ala que se faz tarde. Templários quê? Já tenho… Já sou! Já fui…

Por isso, é de destacar a tenacidade daqueles que procuraram com igual curiosidade e desejo, mas em vez de se deixarem seduzir pela Via Rápida, se mantiveram atentos à Via Dolorosa, mais lenta mas, por ventura, mais segura. Hoje, pedir a alguém uma cifra elevada em Euros para o fazer rapidamente “templário” é mais fácil do que pedir a alguém mais de um ano de estudo e formação para (talvez…) chegar a ser Cavaleiro. Ninguém quer esperar meses para eventualmente ter o que, tudo indica, ser a mesma coisa, mas muito mais depressa. Ninguém quer perder tempo a estudar o que já leu nos livros que tem sobre a Ordem. A Via Rápida é ampla e sem obstáculos, com arrojados viadutos sobre o vale (nem é preciso lá descer), três faixas de rodagem e Via Verde. Já a Via Dolorosa, é longa e não se sabe mais nada. Só se sabe que demora muito tempo. Poucos vêem a necessidade de começar como Noviço. “Noviço, eu? Já ando a estudar isto há tanto tempo! Então agora é que vou ser Noviço?”. Poucos vêem no Escudeiro uma progressão. A poucos interessa a Via Dolorosa porque o que procuram não é ser, mas parecer (assumir a similitude, esperando que assim se dê a ilusão, literalmente que “o hábito faça o monge”). O que é instantâneo na Via Rápida é incerto e longínquo na Via Dolorosa. Ou, sendo porventura caridoso, tudo é longínquo e incerto na Via Delarosa ou Via De la Rosa.

A Ordem dá por isso os parabéns aos novos Escudeiros e Escudeiras, reconhecendo neles e nelas a dedicação e o desejo de progredir um pouco mais no seu trabalho de instrução e despertar espiritual. Não será demais dizê-lo: pelo serviço, a recompensa é certa.

Luis de Matos

Prior Geral

Chanceler Internacional

OSMTHU

 

Hunt for the Knights Templar’s Wealth in the New World

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For nearly two centuries, the Knights Templar plundered the vast riches of the Near East while marching under the banner of Christ in the Crusades. In addition to the silks, bullion, spices and other valuables the Templars claimed as spoils of war, the wealth of countless dukes, barons, viscounts and other lords flowed into the Order’s coffers as the flower of European nobility rushed to join the ranks of the holy warriors. The massive fortune collected by the Templars generated awe, jealousy and—in the centuries after their disbandment—hope for a payout.

“It’s fantastic treasure,” says Marty Lagina, who along with brother Rick stars in History Channel’s The Curse of Oak Island. The show follows the brothers’ quest to uncover a vast store of riches long rumored to be hidden on its titular Nova Scotian island. What exactly that treasure is (and who hid it) eludes clear-cut definition. Theorists and treasure hunters speculate it is anything from lost manuscripts of Shakespearean plays to Marie Antoinette’s jewels to a sunken Viking ship. But the Laginas have seen enough evidence to convince them the treasure could be part of the lost Templar riches. “The connection with the Templars has always been there, since the original discovery of the Money Pit, which supposedly happened in 1795,” says Rick. “There’s always been four or five credible theories about the treasure’s origins—one of which has been that it’s from the Templars.”

How did the wealth of a medieval order of knights, who were destroyed more than a century before Christopher Columbus’s historic voyage, find a home in the New World? The prevailing theory among true believers is that during the Templar’s final days, a fleet of the Order’s ships sailed from La Rochelle, France to the safety of Scotland. The treasure then rested at Kilwinning Abbey until Sir Henry Sinclair and a group of Scottish knights spirited the wealth away to Oak Island, hiding the riches on the island for their progeny to eventually recover.

The story strikes most historians as more than a little fanciful, and the Laginas certainly approach it with a healthy sense of skepticism. “The theory gets a little more tenuous after you have the knights leaving Scotland,” says Marty. However, the brothers quickly point to what they believe is evidence that other Europeans reached the shores of America before Columbus. “There’s the Newport Tower in Rhode Island, which, according to the carbon-14 dating, was constructed between 1440 and 1480,” says Rick (though most researchers believe the tower was built well after Columbus’s discovery). He also references the Narragansett Rune Stone in Rhode Island, which, according to geologist Scott Wolter, contains a mark that links the slab of rock to the same sect of monks that helped construct Kilwinning Abbey—the same place that supposedly housed the Templar treasure before its journey to the New World. “There are these connections—spider web connections—but no dots that say it went from here to here to Oak Island,” says Rick.

Despite the lack of a smoking gun proving Sinclair and the Scottish knights made the voyage to Oak Island, the brothers maintain certain discoveries they’ve made on Oak Island make the Templar theory intriguing, if not convincing. “Has there been a find on Oak Island that we can say is a definitive tie-in to the Templars? No,” says Rick. “But, are there curious facts and bits of discovery that indicate the possibility? Yes.” One of those bits of evidence is the fact that the flag of the island’s native peoples, the Mi’kmaq, bears a striking resemblance to the Templar’s battle flag: a red cross on white with a red crescent and red star.

For Marty, the engravings of what appear to him to be corn and trillium flowers in Scotland’s Rosslyn Chapel—a chapel built by Henry Sinclair’s grandson William in 1446—lend credence to the Templar theory. “To me, being from upper Michigan, there does really appear to be trilliums in the chapel,” says Marty. Both corn and trillium flowers are native to the Americas, indicating to Marty that Henry Sinclair had visited the New World and passed on what he saw to his family, who later incorporated it into the chapel decorations.

After pouring so much of their time and energy into navigating the pitfalls and perils of Oak Island in their effort to uncover the island’s secrets, the Laginas have high hopes their story will end with some sort of payoff. “We all want our money back,” says Rick. But while the brothers would love to discover a pile of gold and riches straight out of an Indiana Jones adventure, the rewards of the hunt extend beyond material goods. “I believe there’s a story on Oak Island of historic significance, and I want to be part of the team that figures it out,” says Rick. “If that story involves the Templars—one of the most powerful entities on the face of continental Europe during their time—then all the better.”

His brother agrees that finding solid proof of a Templar presence at Oak Island would constitute a huge win, but also embraces the mindset of what his sibling calls “hopeful skepticism.” “There are certain people who believe almost every lost treasure in existence has a connection to Oak Island. So we’ve got to take it all with a little dose of reality,” Marty says. In an adventure filled with half-truths and cryptic clues, keeping that level head may be the most valuable asset of all.

This article appears in the Newsweek’s special edition, Secret Socities: Infiltrating the Inner Circle, by Issue Editor James Ellis of Topix Media Lab.

Lessons in Crusader cuisine

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The “window” of the Apollonia Fortress’ dungeon affords a view of the kind of Mediterranean scene that is fast disappearing: gravel cliffs sloping sharply down to turquoise and pale green inlets, grouper fish darting around a reef, clearly visible in the transparent water, and one man sunbathing on the rocks, completely naked. The tourists standing at the spot where the magnificent tower once loomed gaze enchanted at the view – either at the sunbather’s exposed limbs, or, more likely, at the remnants of the Crusader port. This is a collection of boulders protruding from the water, what’s left of the towers that once stood by the entry of the ancient port before they grew weary and collapsed in the mid-20th century, several hundred years after they were built.

Crusader nobles awakened to this vista every morning, peering out at the European ships that anchored across from the port and the boats that made their way back and forth to fill the city’s storerooms with precious goods. The living quarters of the Crusader fortress, where the families of the knights who ruled the area resided, were located on the western side of the fortress, which faced the sea. This section eventually collapsed after ceaseless erosion by the waves of the gravel ridge.

Apollonia’s natural harbor never developed into a port as large as Acre, where dozens of ships would anchor in the 13th century, to be loaded with locally- produced sugar bound for Europe. But the ruins of Apollonia are enough to make one see that the constant movement of people, raw materials and cooking techniques was already occurring hundreds of years before the word “globalization” became part of the modern vocabulary.

Sugar cane, lemons, oranges, eggplant, bananas, rice and other agricultural products originally cultivated in the Far East were adopted by Western civilization via the Middle East. The legends that grew up around the West’s first encounters with these unfamiliar foods and the way they spread throughout Europe were largely connected to the Crusades and the knights who flooded the Middle East with blood on their way to the Holy Land. They hungrily gorged themselves on sugary sweets and almonds, it’s said, and brought these treats back with them to their native countries.

But the historic truth, as usual, is a bit more complex, since most of the knights who settled in the Crusader kingdom never returned to Europe. Today it is widely believed that the reconquest of Spain and Sicily from the Muslim Empire, rather than the Crusades, introduced the foods and flavors of classic Arabic cuisine into the lands of the Mediterranean and then to Western Europe.

Whatever the case, the West’s encounter in the Middle Ages with Arabic cuisine, which in many respects was more advanced than Western cooking of the time, was a source of great excitement among the Crusaders. This week, we returned to the cuisine of the Land of Israel in the 12th and 13th centuries – via a Crusader cooking workshop at Apollonia National Park.

Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are. In the Middle Ages, so we learned in the workshop, food defined a person’s identity and status in the world. This is true to a great extent today as well, but it was even truer when people believed that the nobleman’s physical build required him to eat the dainty flesh of fish, fragile, high-flying birds, and roast game. A peasant whose body was not designed to digest such foods and nevertheless sampled them, was liable to take sick, according to popular belief at the time, and so he was supposed to make do with simple, crude vegetables that grew close to the ground. Once in a while, the poor would season their bean and root vegetable stew with a paltry bit of fat from an animal’s less desirable parts.

Meanwhile, the upper middle class ate hardly any vegetables. And as for carbohydrates, white bread made from wheat was food for lords only. In Europe, the peasants ate black bread made from rye or oats, and delivered any wheat, a much rarer commodity, to whoever was above them in the social hierarchy. Thus, the Crusaders were quite surprised to find that in the Holy Land, everyone ate white bread and pita made of wheat.

In Europe, cooking employed mainly animal fat, usually lard, and food was so greasy that bumps were carved in bowls to keep it from slipping out of people’s hands. In the Middle East, the main sources of fat were olive oil and sesame oil.

Another surprise was the abundance of available spices and the broad use of herbs. In medieval Europe, food was seasoned primarily with black pepper and a little salt, which was also used to preserve, smoke and dry foods. In Arab cuisine, by comparison, seasoning was considered a real art. Extensive use was made of spices such as ginger, saffron, cinnamon and cloves, which the Arab traders brought from the spice lands of the East, and of seasonings produced from indigenous herbs.

The Crusaders appear to have internalized the principles of seasoning so well that if you tried to follow Crusader recipes exactly as written, you’d end up with dishes quite unappetizing to the modern palate. Seasoning in Crusader times was not just meant to improve the taste of the food, but had a host of other purposes as well. For one thing, it was a status symbol that reflected a person’s ability to purchase expensive spices from faraway markets. And the various colors that spices gave to food had mystical meanings – for example, the golden hue produced by yellow saffron was an allusion to the possibility of eternal life. The spices also had medicinal purposes.

But most often, the heavy seasoning was intended to cover up the awful taste and quality of the raw ingredients. At a time when there was no refrigeration, the meat was frequently in a bad state. Such dubious meat, buried under layers of spices to hide its flavor, gave the central bazaar that served the Crusaders in Jerusalem its name – the Rue de Malquisinat (“The Street of Bad Cooking”).

Na’ama Frustig and chef David Gol, the leaders of the workshop, chose dishes composed of ingredients that existed during the Crusader period here and adapted them to the modern palate – i.e., they reduced the cacophony of spices and flavors of the original recipes. The lamb packed into the browned meat pies is not soaked overnight in sour milk, as was customary back in the Crusader era, but chopped and fried with egg yolk (in the Middle Ages, eggs were rarely eaten on their own as a food, but were cooked with other ingredients), rosemary, parsley, oregano, thyme and a variety of other local herbs. Jacques de Vitry, the governor of Acre, wrote admiringly of the lemon trees, whose tangy fruits were ideal for making sauces for fish and fowl. So chicken thighs were brushed with a mixture of lemon, olive oil and sumac. While the lentil stew simmered over an open fire, workshop participants were taken on a tour of the fortress’ kitchens.

Here is an adaptation of a recipe that appears in different versions in cookbooks from the late Middle Ages. It is based on lemon, spices and wine (the Crusaders who settled in the Holy Land revived, at least for a while, the wine industry that had faded during the age of Muslim occupation) and is a good example of that era’s tendency to blend sweet, sour and salty tastes.

Lemon sauce for chicken and pheasant

Ingredients:

3 lemons

2 1/2 cups white wine

4 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

Peel the lemons and set aside the peel. Squeeze the lemons, keep the juice and the pulp and discard the white pith. Combine lemon peel, pulp and juice with the wine and cook over a low flame for four minutes. Add the sugar, cinnamon and salt and simmer for one more minute.

The main celebrity of Apollonia was King Richard the Lionheart. Since little Apollonia did not appear on the map of holy pilgrimage sites, not too many VIPs of the time stayed there, but the English king did spend at least one night. He had run into a unit of Saladin’s army near the city, and in the famous Battle of Arsuf, managed, despite the Crusader army’s inferior numbers, to achieve a great victory, which paved the way for the conquest of the Holy Land. This battle exacted a heavy price among the Crusaders, including the life of Richard’s friend, Sir Jacques, who as buried at the Church of the Holy Lady in Apollonia in the presence of the king himself. The church and the knight’s grave have yet to be found (take note, all you prospective writers of best-selling historic adventure tales).

The history of the Apollonia fortress, unlike that of the city itself, is very brief. It was built by the Crusader rulers of the city, but it wasn’t long before, in the face of the Mamluk threat, it passed into the hands of the Knights Hospitaller, who were thought to have a better chance of defending the city. As it happened, this strategy was not very successful. Nor was the digging of a wide, 17-meter deep moat that could only be crossed by a raised wooden bridge, or biological weapons in the form of animal carcasses that were hurled over the wall to spread disease among the enemy. Just 24 years after it was built, the Mamluks conquered the fortress after a siege that was anything but lengthy.

But before that happened, 200 Knights Hospitaller and their bearers used to dine at the large wooden table in the dining hall twice a day – most likely in shifts, given the tight space (during the siege, 2,000 people somehow squeezed into the fortress).

The Christian monastic communities, which set down in great detail the rules of eating – including what goes on the menu, seating arrangements and frequency of meals – had an especially important influence on lifestyles in the Middle Ages. Every knight had his own personal knife, there were no forks as yet, and spoons were a rare item. The soup and stew bowls found in excavations were designed to enable diners to drink from them directly.

In the five cooking and baking ovens found in the kitchen next to the dining hall, stews simmered and slabs of meat were roasted. The city’s knights went on hunting trips in pursuit of the fallow deer, wild boar, rabbits and bears that still populated those unsettled areas at the time. One of the city’s rulers died in a freak hunting accident when his hat became stuck on a tree branch, causing him to be strangled.

Tagliot – Archaeology 4 All offers cooking workshops in Philistine, Crusader and Ottoman cuisine. For more information, call 03-6423432 or visit http://www.tagliot.com