The Sea of Galilee: receding waters of biblical lake

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

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

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

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



The Travels of Marco Polo

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Originally dictated in a Genoese prison cell, ‘The Travels of Marco Polo’ straddles the line between travel literature and adventure story. The teller of the story, Marco Polo, claimed that the work was based completely on fact, compiled from his travels around the world. The book was hugely popular in Medieval Europe, despite being widely referred to as ‘The Million Lies’.

Marco Polo was not the first European to venture into Asia, but he traveled much further to the East than any before him, and, according to the book at least, became much more integrated into the cultures there. The real key to the work’s success is the imagination and energy put into the descriptions of Asia, Africa and the Mongol Empire. The work often seems fantastical, partly because some of the things Polo described were indeed made up, but also because the language used is so colourful it seems unbelievable.

The adventure to the East actually started when Nicolo and Maffeo Polo, Marco’s father and uncle, set off for Constantinople in 1260. From this journey they ventured into the lands of the Mongolian tribes, eventually reaching the court of Kublai Khan. The Polos returned to Europe, eventually arriving in their home city of Venice in 1269. Upon his return, Nicolo discovered he had a son, Marco Polo. The Polos, who had promised Kublai Khan they would come back to Mongolia with Catholic missionaries, eventually set off on their return to Asia with Marco and two Catholic friars, in 1271. Although the friars eventually gave up on the journey, the Polo’s returned to the Khan’s court, where Marco became a confidant of Kublai Khan.

Marco Polo remained in the Khan’s court for seventeen years, and was sent on a variety of missions and errands, allowing him to travel in previously uncharted territories. Through his service he explored much of what is now China, as well as venturing into India, and crossing over to Sri Lanka. A recently revealed map, attributed to Polo and signed for authenticity by his three daughters, is believed to sketch out the coast of Japan and Alaska. The origins and veracity of the map have not been confirmed, but some researchers have claimed that it proves Polo’s travels actually took him as far as the shores of North America.

‘The Story of Marco Polo’ details his experiences in this period of his life. It includes descriptions of the journey from Acre (in what is modern day Israel), through Persia and then onto the Khan’s palace in what is now Beijing. The Polos traveled over a series of overland trader’s routes, what would eventually become known as the Silk Road. As well as providing detailed descriptions of Polo’s experiences in the Khan’s court, the book is just as crucial for its depiction of the journey along the Silk Road, providing information on the cultures and landscapes the Polo family encountered.

Some critics question the validity of the text, pointing out that there is no mention of Polo in the detailed records of the Khan’s court from the thirteenth century. They also point out that despite Polo’s extensive stay and travels in Asia, he never made reference to major landmarks, such as the Great Wall, or distinctive cultural traits, such as eating with chopsticks or foot binding.

Polo himself eventually returned to Europe in 1295. He became involved in a conflict between Venice and Genoa, during which he was captured and imprisoned. While incarcerated he met Rustichello, a writer from Pisa who started to write down Polo’s stories.

Whether these stories were a complete fabrication, or just heavily embellished by Polo or Rustichello, they remain a fascinating document. The book was pivotal in shaping opinions on Asia and the Mongol Empire, long after its publication. Whether the book is factually accurate or not, it cannot be denied that the stories within, as well as the history of Polo himself, make it a fascinating read.

By: Daryl Worthington in

Acre: The Crusaders’ Last Stand

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Memo to visitors to Israel: If you get a chance, don’t miss the crusader fort at Acre, a ride of about an hour and a half from Jerusalem. You’ll spot it on the map (it’s alternately called Akko) a little north of Haifa on the Mediterranean coast. To understand what you’ll see there, here’s a short history of the port – starting with a meeting in the 11th century thousands of miles away.

Nov. 27, 1095, was a red letter day in medieval history. Actually, it was a red cross day, that symbol having been proclaimed by Pope Urban II as the icon of a planned crusade to retake the Holy Land from its Muslim invaders.

Speaking at the Council of Clermont — a meeting of hundreds of clerics, noblemen and onlookers in southern France — the Pope hoped to recruit fighters with this pitch: “Here (you) are poor and miserable sinners; there, (you) will be rich and happy. Let none hesitate; (you) must march next summer. God wills it.”

So in the fall of 1096 a crusader army of tens of thousands of knights, vassals and serfs went charging off to the Holy Land using “God wills it” as their battle cry. Three years later, after slashing their way across Europe, Constantinople and the Mediterranean coast of the Holy Land, the Christian forces not only took the city of Jerusalem but went on to create the Kingdom of Jerusalem – a 360-mile-long strip of land stretching from Lebanon south through modern-day Israel and western Jordan down to the Gulf of Aqaba – among several crusader states.

Fast-forward two centuries, through seven more major crusades (and several smaller ones) and many more battles. During this period Muslim armies recapture the Kingdom of Jerusalem, then lose part of it again during the Third Crusade led by King Richard the Lionheart. The crusaders carve out another kingdom, but fail to take Jerusalem. Instead, they build a new capital at the Mediterranean port of Acre.

But things go south for the crusaders again, and by the late 13th century the conquest of the Holy Land has pretty much fizzled out. The caped knights have been booted out of just about every place they took, and now they’re down to their last “God wills it” stronghold — at Acre, where the cross of the crusaders had been flying (on and off) since 1104.

The crusaders’ last big holdout crumbled in 1291 when the flag of the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt was raised over Acre. Later on, the Ottomans captured the port and held on to it until the onset of World War I, when the Brits took over. The Union Jack flew over the port until the State of Israel was created in 1948.

Visitors to Acre will see the remains of all these cultures – and before them those of the Romans, Greeks and Canaanites, among others – in what’s left of their walls, battlements, churches, mosques, baths and courtyards. Tours of the city typically wind up in an underground labyrinth of domed halls and walkways, once the home of monastic military orders such as the Knights Templars and the Knights Hospitallers.

Among subterranean eye-poppers awaiting tourists is a 1,150-foot-long stone tunnel used by the Templars as a protected passageway between the fortress and the port. Also featured down there is a commercial street that passed through the Hospitaller quarter, high-domed knight halls, a huge dining room and a central courtyard – all painstakingly restored to offer a jump back in time to the days when guys wandering around with crosses on their tunics ruled the roost around these parts.

in Huffingtonpost

Acre is hungry for another crusade, this time against urban decay

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The northern city’s rich heritage is blighted by neglect, casting a shadow on its many gems, including the Turkish bath, Crusader citadel and knights’ dining hall.

Acre is a dreamy, ancient Mediterranean seaside resort. It goes back millennia, which you can see on the spot.

“There are very few cities like Acre – it has a lot of history, a mixture of religions and unusual sites that you can weave a good story around,” says Kawas, manager of the new hostel at the entrance to Acre’s Old City.But Acre is, in many respects, a place that has failed to realize its enormous tourism potential.

In 2001, Acre and Masada became the first two places in Israel to be declared UNESCO World Heritage sites. But there is no comparison today between the number of visitors to Masada – which for several years running has topped the list of the most visited sites [requiring entrance fees] in Israel – and the still meager number of tourists who stroll through Acre. A one-day visit to the northern coastal city reveals why: There is a huge gap between the formal sites, which have been developed over the past few years by various tourism bodies, and everything in between. Wandering through the Old City’s alleyways, I was overcome with sadness. So much has been invested in the city over the last few years, yet these side streets, even the ones closest to the main market street, exude neglect.

The main section of the Old City, which is home to several thousand people,is quite small. It takes no more than 20 minutes to cross from one end to the other, but it lacks signs and is not particularly inviting to visitors. Each official site in the old quarter is a gem, but because these gems are not strung together, they fail to create a single piece of jewelry.

Acre is a fascinating city, but it can and should turn into a place that showcases not only isolated tourist sites, but also one that opens a window on contemporary life in the old quarter. In the meantime, here are a few of the gems worth viewing.

The Hospitaller’s Citadel

Something about medieval knights, who came to the Holy Land during the Crusades, sparks the imagination, conjuring up visions of courage. But the reality of the lives of these men in armor, who passed this way just under a thousand years ago, was apparently less glamorous than what the movies portray. Among other things, they required medical treatment and hostels where they could find refuge and safety in the untamed land on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The Knights Halls in Acre’s Hospitaller Citadel were the jewels in the crown of the city. It is worth coming to Acre just to see them.

The spacious, lovely halls, which were built in the late 12th century and during the course of the 13th century, have high ceilings and thick walls. The lighting adds a fitting dramatic touch to the visit. The Hall of Columns, which was probably the knights’ dining hall, is the most impressive in the fortress, and causes a sigh of renewed wonder with every visit. A beautiful attraction such as would probably draw hundreds of thousands of tourists if it was in a European city.

Arranged around it are the Northern Hall, the Sugar Bowl Hall, the Art Hall, the Beautiful Hall and the Hall of the Imprisoned.

The Templar Tunnel

The 350-meter-long tunnel runs from the fortress to the seashore, adjacent to the port. It opened to the public in 2007, and for the past few months animated clips have been screened on the walls depicting the history of the Templars. Members of the order helped the Crusaders and the sick and moved to Acre from Jerusalem after its conquest by Saladin in 1187.

The Al-Basha Hamam

The 18th-century Turkish bath is probably the most well developed site in Acre’s Old City. It was built during the days of Acre’s governor Jazzar Pasha, when the city experienced its biggest construction boom. It is obvious that much effort was invested in making a visit here into a multidimensional experience: films are screened on the walls, dolls have been placed in the center of the hall, assorted accessories are scattered around the rooms and pictures and sounds enhance the atmosphere. It is even a little overwhelming, distracting from the beauty of the structure.

Khan al-Omadan

The large traders’ khan next to the port is one of the city’s nicest structures and unfortunately has not been developed at all yet. It is neglected and dirty, and visits there are limited to the entrance hall. This beautiful khan deserves better. It was built in the 18th century by Jazzar Pasha, at the same time as the hamam, and when I stood outside it, I tried, unsuccessfully, to understand why such huge sums were put into the hamam, while the khan was left untouched. The Acre Development Company plans to turn the Khan al-Omadan and the adjacent Khan a-Shuneh into a large hotel with 170 rooms, but there are no signs of this happening. In any case, such major plans are always a cause of concern when they involve a designated landmark.

Three museums

The Treasures in the Walls Museum is the most interesting of the city’s three museums. The building located in the eastern wall of the Old City is exquisite, and the display features many items meant to preserve the local history, crafts, furnishings and arts. The collection is not organized or displayed scientifically, giving one the sense of visiting a big antiques shop. Address: 2 Weizmann Street, in the Eastern wall.

The Okashi Art Museum is located in a 300-year-old arched building. It is a fascinating structure, but one that distracts considerably from the works hanging on the white-washed walls. The permanent exhibit includes works by Avshalom Okashi, who lived in Acre for most of his life, and had his workshop in the museum. Alongside them are rotating exhibits of contemporary Israeli art. Currently on display is the “First Exposure 2012,”a photo exhibit featuring the works of 10 young photographers.

The Underground Prisoners Museum depicts the history of the place when it was a British-run jail that housed members of the pre-state Jewish undergrounds who fought to end the British Mandate. It may be a fascinating place, but memories of a long-ago visit during my school days prevented me from properly viewing the current exhibit and led to a hasty exit.

The Al-Jazzar Mosque

The mosque is known in Arabic as the Jama al-Basha (the Pasha’s mosque ) and is another relic of Jazzar Pasha’s extensive building activity 250 years ago. It is the largest mosque in Israel, after the al-Aksa mosque in Jerusalem, and the biggest one built here during the Ottoman period. The trapezoidal courtyard is a beautifully landscaped garden that exudes great tranquility. Scattered around are benches that allow a visitor rest and contemplation. In the center of the courtyard, there is a covered fountain that was used for bathing. The inside of the mosque is filled with decorative touches, rugs and colored glass windows. It is said that a clipping of the Prophet Mohammed’s hair is stored somewhere in the depths of the mosque and displayed once a year. I did not see it. Address: Al-Jazzar Street. The mosque is open all day and closes for short periods at prayer times.

The port

There is evidence that the Acre port existed over 2,500 years ago. In recent years, extensive excavations next to the southern seawall have uncovered fragments of a stone pier, large stone anchors and clay vessels from the Mediterranean isles. The port reached its peak during the Crusader era in the 12th century. It achieved its greatest notoriety in the 18th century when Napoleon besieged the city and was blocked from reaching the port by ships that had been intentionally sunk.

The old port is now a marina; the main attraction is the Pisani port several dozen meters to the west. Two veteran restaurants, Abu Cristo and Doniana, compete for customers. Both have large balconies with views of the port. Not much has changed here in the last 40 years. The children who, in the 1970s, used to jump into the water from the walls above, are today responsible adults and have been replaced by other youngsters leaping into the sea with the same fervor.

Future facelifts

The sites listed above have been developed over the last few years by various tourism bodies, including the Old Acre Development Company, the Antiquities Authority and the Ministry of Tourism. A glance at the list of projects the Old Acre Development Company is planning reveals how much work still remains. The list includes the Khan al-Shawarda, the city’s largest khan, where a commercial center and hotel are to be built. The small hamam, currently a dilapidated building beside the Khan al-Omadan, is slated to become part of a hotel. A facelift is also in the works for the Burej al-Quraim, an intriguing site northwest of the city that is considered to be the largest and most fortified seaside fortress – and offers fantastic views. All of these projects, if and when they are completed, will increase the number of hotel rooms in Acre, enhance the state of some buildings and further highlight the necessity of developing the alleyways themselves.

Useful information

Getting there: Take Highway 4 from Haifa to Acre. At the Ein Hamifratz junction turn left (west ) and travel along the sea. At the first traffic light turn left, and follow the signs to the Old City.

Entrance fees: the Old Acre visitors’ center is in the Enchanted Garden on 1 Weizmann Street. Joint entrance ticket to many sites listed here (the Knights Hall, the Templar Tunnel, the Okashi Art Museum ) may be purchased. Sites are open from 9:00 A.M.-6:00 P.M. daily, including Saturdays. For more information see:


The last bulwark of the Crusaders: The castle of Belvoir

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July 3, 1187 was a scorching midsummer day at the Horns of Hattin, on the plateau above Tiberias. The Arab leader Saladin outwitted and crushed a parched and ill-led Crusader army, and the 88-year-long Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem began disintegrating almost overnight. Exactly three months later, Saladin entered the Holy City of Jerusalem in triumph. By the end of the year it was all over, and the Crusaders abandoned the Holy Land with their tail between their legs.

Only one powerful castle remained to fight a defiant rearguard action: Belvoir – “beautiful view” – on a ridge 500 meters (1,600 feet) above the Jordan Valley.

The Knights Hospitallers, one of the Crusader orders of “fighting monks” (the Templars were another) had bought the site from a French nobleman in 1168 and constructed one of the dominant castles in the kingdom, designed to guard the Holy Land against invasion from the east.

Belvoir’s building stones and bedrock foundations are basalt, the region’s immensely hard volcanic rock: undermining the battlements was virtually impossible. The outer walls of the castle form a pentagon, with the main defensive towers at each of its four corners, a massive one at the eastern point facing the steep slope and the valley below, and smaller ones midway along each wall.

The fortress was protected by a dry moat excavated out of the bedrock, 20m (65 ft.) wide and 12m (39 ft.) deep, and crossed by a drawbridge (now a permanent pedestrian bridge) on the west.

The ruined north-western and south-western corner towers still have parts of the steep stairwell leading down to postern gates, used for secret access to and from the castle, or for sudden attacks on besieging enemy soldiers in the moat.

Ignore the directional arrows. The best route to take is the wide gravel path directly from the parking lot to the overlook, keeping the sculpture park on your right and the castle on your left. What awaits you is a stunning view of the quilted farms in the valley, the biblical Gilead range (now Jordan) to the east, and the edge of Lake Kinneret, or Sea of Galilee, way off to the north (your left).

The straight line that joins the lake, the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea is part of the approximately 6,000 km-long (3,700-mile) Great Syrian-African Rift, the world’s longest open fault.

The Arabic name for the site is Kaukab al-Hawa, the “Star of the Wind,” because of the strong breezes that often sweep the plateau. In Hebrew it is known as Kochav Hayarden, the “Star of the Jordan,” recalling the ancient Jewish town of Kochav nearby.

Both names are consistent with the description of the site by a medieval Arab writer. Belvoir, he wrote, is “set amidst the stars like an eagle’s nest and abode of the moon.”

Left, across the moat, steps enter the castle through a massive gate and a corridor dominated by shooting niches above your head. The corridor doubles back on itself before entering the central courtyard through another gate.

Kids usually get a charge out of “attacking” the castle this way – but keep smaller children close to you.

In the center of the courtyard is another fortified square – a fort within the fortress, so to speak. Within it are the essential elements of barracks life: sleeping halls, a kitchen, a cistern for collecting run-off rainwater, and a hint (fine-cut white stones) of what might have been an upper-floor chapel.

Belvoir endured a long siege following the disaster at the Horns of Hattin; but the knights took advantage of the occasional hiatus to replenish their supplies by attacking and plundering passing Muslim caravans. After 18 months, Saladin’s men had only managed to undermine the large eastern tower. The Hospitallers, on the other hand, were isolated and in despair; further resistance seemed futile. They parlayed with Saladin: surrender in return for safe passage out of the country. He honored the bargain, and with characteristic chivalry allowed them to ride to the coast with flags proudly unfurled in recognition of their heroic defense.

Rte. 717 (road climbs 5 kms), off Route 90, 12 km north of Beit She’an

Open Apr.-Sep. 8am-5pm (Fri. and holiday eve 8-4), Oct.-Mar. 8am-4pm (Fri. and  holiday eve 8-3)

Entrance fee


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

The Headless Knight Templar & Murdered Nun in Prague

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Ghosts & the Supernatural – Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. It is the fourteenth-largest city in the European Union. It is also the historical capital of Bohemia. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava River, the city is home to about 1.3 million people.

Founded during the Romanesque and flourishing by the Gothic and Renaissance eras, Prague was not only the capital of the Czech state, but also the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors and thus also the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. It was an important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire and after World War I became the capital of Czechoslovakia. The city played major roles in the Protestant Reformation, the Thirty Years’ War, and in 20th-century history, during both World Wars and the post-war Communist era.

Prague is known for its mysteries and paranormal happenings. The Golem of Prague was created by Judah Loew. The Golem was to protect the Jewish people. Even though this story is far-fetched, I still feel that there is some truth to this myth.

The Headless Knight’s Templar

While in Prague, I went to the mystical labyrinth of this ancient city. There is a story that there was once a noble Templar Knight who rode a fanciful white horse and this is one of the most popular ghosts of Prague. The Headless Knight’s Templar reminds me so much of Sleepy Hollow’s Headless Horseman. If you have the chance of encountering this famous ghost, you will see the bright red cross on the Knight’s torso and in his hand, he is carrying his head! Many citizens have claimed that they have seen this ghost trotting down the cobblestone streets. Many citizens who have seen this ghost say that he is merely serving his ghostly servitude.

Legend has it that to rid this ghost from Prague’s cobblestone streets, you must be brave and strong and seize his noble horse and then grab the knight’s sword and pierce it through the heart of the ghost. The Headless Templar can be found wandering on picturesque and positively creepy Liliova Street between midnight and 1 a.m. It is a mystery on why the Headless Knight’s Templar lost his head.

While trying to conduct an EVP session, I felt something kick me in the back of the leg. I feel like I have a sprained ankle and I have been limping. I have a huge bruise on my foot. Could I have provoked the Headless Knight’s Templar horse to stomp on the back of my leg? See photo of my foot. I have learned from experience that ghosts overseas don’t mess around.

The Murdered Nun

Around the area of St. Agnes Convent in Josefov there lurks a ghost that is known as The Murdered Nun. She appears only at night. She is known to be a moody and is seen sometimes covered in blood and crying hysterically. She is known also to smile and stare at loving couples on a bench. She was a child of a wealthy nobleman. She fell hopelessly in love with a desolate knight. Her noble father of course refused to give his consent for marriage and as her payment for her unforgivable sin she was to be sent to live in St. Agnes convent, where she still resides today but only in esoteric form.

The night before her transfer to the convent she decided to follow her heart and met with her beloved. Her father went psychotic and stabbed her repeatedly for shaming the family name. The Murdered Nun has been haunting the area of St. Agnes ever since. Legend has it that this ghost once appeared to a girl who wished to poison herself because of a tragic love affair. The Murdered Nun grabbed the poison from the depressed girl’s hand and placed a bag of coins in it instead, enabling her to live a happy and prosperous life with her true love.

The Murdered Nun and the Headless Knight’s Templar are the only ghosts I investigated due to time limitations, but Prague has many ghosts and they are so colorful! Like the Drowned Maid that is seen dripping wet with drooping hair. She has chattering teeth and crying eyes and she can be found haunting the House of the Golden Well. Yes! She was murdered! Many of the ghosts in Prague have colorful names and it appears that everyone knows the legends of these ghosts.

There are: The Iron Man; The Ghost of Miller’s Daughter; The Obese Merchant; The Begging Skeleton; The Mad Barber; The Fiery Turkey – yes, it’s a ghostly turkey that looks like it’s on fire; the Ghost of the French Major; the Headless Lady; The One Armed Thief; the Fish Eater of Stromovka Park and let’s not forget Karbourek the Water Sprite!

To fully enjoy the benefits of ghost hunting in Prague, you will need to spend 6 months there just to investigate everything!

By Paul Dale Roberts, HPI Esoteric Detective

Hegelianism Paranormal Intelligence (International)