“The castle of the fairy-tale king” seduces more than a million tourists every year with its serene facade and mysterious air featured in postcards, travel guides and products from Walt Disney. The castle holds its own tales which it told to world and some and kept in mystery.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria who designed the castle as his solitary refuge was said to have been driven to insanity. Later in 1886, he was declared to have drowned a mysterious death. A few weeks later, the castle, Neuschwanstein, was opened to the public. Until today, it is among the famous tourist destination in Germany. Beyond the fairy-tale story, the fortress also holds a Nazi past. It was only recently featured in George Clooney’s World War II film, “The Monuments Men”. The film is about a special forces unit with a mission to track and steal back Europe’s stolen art works and treasures during the Second World War.
King Ludwig II did not just build the fortress forever immortalized in tales for royal ceremonies and residential purposes. He designed it particularly to isolate himself from the public. With the same intention as that of the king, the Nazis also chose the site to hide their plunders from the world.
Hitler’s Marching Orders
Hitler ordered the Rosenberg task force to “search lodges, libraries and archives of the occupied territories for material valuable to Germany.” The task force was created for the exclusive purpose of searching and looting art works from around the world. The command was given after German troops attacked France. It was the Fuhrer’s dream to open a “Fuhrer’s Museum” in Linz, Austria displaying all the treasures they have plundered during their war exploits. Acting upon orders, the Nazis looted art works and valuables and kept them hidden in various locations all over Germany including monasteries, salt mines and castles between 1940 and 1945.
“Neuschwanstein castle was chosen as headquarters of the ‘Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg,’ the German art-looting organization,” said an art historian Tanja Bernsau. The castle was also set in an ideal location being near the Austrian border and far from Berlin which are likely targets of Allied attacks. The castle was built with a design similar to that of medieval inspiration. However, the castle was featured with the latest of architectural technology of the time. The castle has central heating, electric bell system for summoning servants and flushing toilets. The cornerstone dated back to 1868. However, the castle was not yet complete. There was still a large part unfinished which could be used for storage.
Tracking Lost Art
In the film, ‘The Monuments Men,’ Rose Valland is played by Cate Blanchett. Most of stolen art works found in the Neuschwanstein were looted from France. It was also the French connection that provided the U.S. Army information that led to the castle. efore the death of Monuments Man and art historian S. Lane Faison, Jr., in 2006, he described their find in an interview for the Archives of American Art. He said that the key to unlocking the discovery was French curator Rose Valland.
“She pretended to be a [Nazi] collaborator,” Faison said of Rose Valland. The curator worked at the Jeu de Paume Museum which was one of the Nazi’s central collection points before the looted items were shipped to Germany. For many years, Valland secretly traced the route of the art work and found out where they ended up eventually.
Salvaging the Loot
Valland then made a report which provided the Allies with information of the looted items leading the U.S. troops to the Bavarian castle. The troops then stormed the hideout in 1945. The troops discovered a vast file of index cards, lists and slides which document in detail stolen items numbering to around 21,000.
Saving Europe’s Art
The crates which contained invaluable pieces of art work were then transferred to the U.S.-directed Central Art Collecting Points. The center is assigned with the restitution or the returning of the items to their original owners. “And that’s where the huge task started,” said Iris Lauterbach of the Central Institute for Art History in Munich. “The works of art had to be inventoried, photographed and restituted one by one. American and German art historians and secretaries worked together to restitute tens of thousands of pieces.”
S. Lane Faison also related how the task came as a daunting mission. Faison returned to Germany in 1951 to transfer the operations initially started by the U.S. to the Germans. “One of the saddest problems was that acres, I think you might say, of furniture just went on and on and on, piled up to the ceiling…and chairs, tables, household things, everything you could think of known to have come from Jewish sources,” Faison said. “But what do you do? And if somebody lost six Louis XV chairs, which ones were they? And did we have them? There was no way – you can’t identify such things.”
The Huge Task Ahead
The mission handed over to the Germans continue to this day. Germany continues the huge task of identification and art restitution. The discovery of stolen art in Germany also continues to be news. The film “Monuments Men” which recently had its premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival, though interesting and informative of the preservation efforts of the art in war, received its share of criticisms.
“I didn’t like the film,” Iris Lauterbach said. “The film pretends to be based on a true story, but it contains too many fictitious elements.” She shared that the film gave out some informative inputs. Yet she also has some reservations on whether the film connects the European war theater and art to the lay person given the complexities that surround them. The tour of Neuschwanstein will also not be able to provide answers of the lost art works. Tourists will only find themselves amused of the castle tours to the king’s bedroom, the artificial dripstone cave and kitchen all intricately and lavishly laid out. However, the tour does not answer questions on the role of the castle in one of Europe’s darkest episodes.
“We’re not trying to hide that fact,” said castle spokesperson Thomas Rainer. He also said that the management even wants to provide answers to the castle’s role in the Nazi plunder. The director of the Bavarian Palace Museum department recently wrote an essay about art looting and art rescue sites during the Second World War. “But we have more than a million visitors per year and very strict regular tours that last 30 minutes,” Rainer said. “We focus on what we can during that time.”
No this isn´t the title of a rather outlandish novel by Dan Brown, this is the goal of a Italian mathematician and explorer Giancarlo Gianazza. He believes that he has found hidden clues in the Divine Comedy by Dante which has led him to Kjölur in the Icelandic highlands where heand his team think they are close to discover something called the “Holy Grail” on a lonely hill, called of all things “Nipple hill,” right in the middle of nowhere. This is apparently the culmination of a 13 yearlong project, which has both involved research in the field in the Icelandic highlands and mathematical analysis of Dante´s text. You find this a bit unbelievable and outlandish? Well, we must admit we are sceptical as well!
In any case, documenting the project are Italian independent filmmakers Sofia E. Rovati and Alex Sykulak who have a project on Kickstarter called Finding Thule so they can film the final excavation and complete their documentary with a planned release date of September 2016. They have already spent a year and a half on the project and judging from their trailer on Kickstarter they have some really cool material already. When this is written they are more than halfway to reach their goal of collecting 24 thousand pounds. We found all of this intriguing and they agreed to be interviewed.
How did it come about that you started to follow Mr. Gianazza project and documenting it?
I’ve heard about Giancarlo for the first time a very long time ago through my father. His story has always exercised a very powerful fascination on me. However, it was only last year when I finally took the step that I had long dreamed of. I joined the expedition with the idea of sharing this story and making it more accessible to the people.
Mr. Gianazza’s research is extremely complicated and it has been carried out over a 10-year period. My film focuses on the scientific aspect of the research, documenting step by step the last stages of this journey to Iceland. But it also leaves space for us to get to know the men behind this quest, discovering the inner journey that each of them had to go through. I believe that every story is a journey, and the purpose of a journey is to find out something more about your inner self. This is how the idea of making a film about Mr. Gianazza and his team really came about.
Forgive us for being a bit sceptical, do you think he is actually on to something in his quest?
I think it’s good to be sceptic, it makes you look at things in a much more critical way. This is how my filming started too. It is only along the way, when this journey turned into something else, something more personal and real that I started to believe in this man and his quest. What is fascinating about his research is that Gianazza doesn’t know what exactly he is looking for. He can only draw assumptions based on the historical circumstances in which Dante writes his masterpiece, hence the connection with the Templars. By following clues that he finds in the Divine Comedy, translating poetry into geographical coordinates, Gianazza got hold of a map to the unknown. The destination will only be revealed once he finally gets there.
In answer to your question, I believe Giancarlo is definitely on to something, perhaps something that is invisible to most of people who have lost the ability to dream.
You mention on your Kickstarter page that you came to Iceland in 2014. Was that your first trip here?
Yes, hopefully the first of a long series.
What challenges did you face when filming in the Icelandic highlands?
The weather was definitely the biggest challenge. Iceland it’s windy and cold and this can be very impious when it comes to filming.
Is it something that you particularly like or dislike about Iceland?
It’s like being on another dimension, the landscape reminds me of a primordial land untouched by man and inhabited by dinosaurs.
Driving up to the Kjölur highlands was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Up there everything is quiet and peaceful, you can almost hear yourself thinking. It’s very therapeutic.
What advice would you give to people that are traveling to Iceland for the first time?
Go there, buy a map, rent a car and explore.
There have been Facebook comments about off-road driving. We at Stuck in Iceland hate unlicensed and illegal off road driving which often can leave permanent marks or damage to fragile nature for decades or longer. Sofia Rovati responds to the comments:
It’s good that you mention [off road driving] as I believe this should be applied everywhere and not just in Iceland. We should take example from your country as is the main reason why the nature of your land is still so beautiful in comparison to many other places with the same potential.
Because we are following a government approved expedition we have the permit of traveling of road with them. Like indians and without leaving more than one same trace
I’ll promise not to ruin but to preserve!
O Palácio da Pena ergue-se sobre uma rocha escarpada, que é o segundo ponto mais alto da Serra de Sintra. Localiza-se na zona oriental do Parque da Pena, que é necessário percorrer para se chegar à íngreme rampa que o Barão de Eschwege construiu para se aceder à edificação acastelada. O Palácio propriamente dito é constituído por duas alas: o antigo convento manuelino da Ordem de São Jerónimo e a ala edificada no século XIX por D. Fernando II. Estas alas estão rodeadas por uma terceira estrutura arquitetónica, em que se fantasia um imaginário castelo de caminhos de ronda com merlões e ameias, torres de vigia, um túnel de acesso e até uma ponte levadiça.
Em 1838 o rei D. Fernando II adquiriu o antigo convento de monges Jerónimos de Nossa Senhora da Pena, que tinha sido erguido no topo da Serra de Sintra em 1511 pelo rei D. Manuel I e se encontrava devoluto desde 1834 com a extinção das ordens religiosas. O convento compunha-se do claustro e dependências, da capela, sacristia e torre sineira, que constituem hoje o núcleo norte do Palácio da Pena, ou Palácio Velho.
É um dos mais importantes legados do Portugal simbólico. A propósito do antigo Mosteiro da Pena, do Rei Artista D. Fernando II e da recriação arquitectónica e paisagística da mítica Ilha Secreta dos heróis e da Floresta que cerca o Castelo Inacessível do Santo Graal, iremos conhecer melhor mitos e lendas que enquadram o programa simbólico e o lançam, com força e vigor, em direcção ao futuro. Ao Portugal que falta cumprir, nas palavras de Fernando Pessoa.
A visita terá lugar no dia 24 de Maio, iniciando-se pelas 14h30 e terminando 19.00h, sendo guiada por Luis de Matos (ver: universatil.wordpress.com).
As inscrições são limitadas e devem estar concluídas até dois dias antes da visita por imposições logísticas do próprio Palácio.
A visita tem um custo de 10€ por pessoa + entrada no monumento* (ver preços de admissão ao monumento em: parquesdesintra.pt)
Inscrições prévias: email@example.com
* para alunos do Curso Livre Templários e Templarismo da Universidade Lusófona, bem como membros da OSMTHU a visita é gratuita e apenas devem pagar a entrada no monumento, contudo DEVEM INSCREVER-SE de modo a garantir a participação.
During a dawn raid, 12 burly officers accused pub workers of hiding the supposed cup Jesus Christ drank from at the last supper
Police hunting for the stolen Holy Grail were left red-faced when all they found was a wooden salad bowl.
The team of 12 officers accused pub workers of hiding the missing ancient relic, thought by many to be the cup Jesus Christ drank from at the Last Supper.
Police and a dog handler locked all the staff inside while they searched every inch of the 15th century pub on their quest.
But after an hour the only thing they found that looked like the missing medieval cup was a wooden bowl used to serve salad to customers.
Shocked landlady Di Franklyn said: “I was amazed to see so many police – they said they had been given information that this Holy Grail had been shown off by someone here.
“But if somebody had stolen something as priceless as the Holy Grail I don’t think it would be on show in my pub.
“But the police were taking the information very seriously because there were so many of them including a police dog handler.”
Legend has it that the cup has healing powers and was named after the vessel that Jesus drank out of during the Last Supper.
Staff at the Crown pub in Lea, Herefordshire, were not allowed to leave the premises during the search and a policeman stood guard during the early morning raid.
Bemused Di, 54, said: “I have been shown a picture of the missing cup – if it had been here we would have thrown it on the fire because it is not whole any more.
“The only thing here that looks like it is an old salad bowl.”
The cup is said to have been brought to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea, the founder of a religious settlement in Glastonbury during the mediaeval period.
The grail then came into the possession of a group of Somerset monks who later fled with the cup to Strata Florida Abbey, near Tregaron in in Ceredigion.
For centuries the historic cup was kept at Nanteos Mansion in the village of at Rhydfelin near Aberystwyth.
But it was stolen while being cared for by Fiona Mirylees, from Weston-under-Penyard, Herefordshire, whose family once owned the mansion in Wales.
Police said the cup went missing after it had been loaned to a seriously-ill woman because of its healing powers.
When the fragile dark wooden cup was stolen, sometime between Monday July 7 and Monday July 14 – the remaining pieces were not taken.
West Mercia Police officers said the raid was carried out after they “received intelligence” that the stolen cup had been seen in the pub.
A spokesman said: “We were told it was still there and so executed a search warrant to try and find it.”
Burglars have stolen a priceless religious artifact believed to be the mythical Holy Grail – after it was loaned to a seriously ill woman.
The Nanteos Cup, an ancient wooden chalice, was rumoured to have been carried over to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea, years after the crucifixion of Christ.
The revered Catholic figure later founded a religious settlement at Glastonbury and legend has it that the “grail” then came into the safekeeping of monks.
Over the centuries the mysterious wooden bowl was said to have magical healing powers and in later years it came into the ownership of the Steadman family, who kept it in a bank vault in Wales.
But the Birmingham Mail discovered the cup has now been stolen by burglars after being temporarily loaned to a seriously ill woman connected to the Steadman family.
Raiders struck after she had been admitted to hospital and stole the cup – sparking a major police investigation by West Mercia Police.
It is understood burglars struck at the property in Weston under Penyard, between last Monday and yesterday.
The cup was previously included in a Channel Five documentary called Search for the Holy Grail. In the programme, experts claimed it was actually made at least 1,400 years after the crucifixion.
But the cup has a long held reputation for healing, with people drinking from it in the hope of curing their illnesses.
The Holy Grail has been a issue of controversy and debate amongst historians and theologians – with some religious figures claiming the grail is actually the Holy Chalice, used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper.
The search for the mythical religious artefact was the plot for one of the 1980s’ biggest blockbusters, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.
A visit to the Palace of Pena in Sintra and it’s Forest Park, took place June 22nd, organized by the Commandery of Sintra of the Iberian Priory Osmthu, in order to perform an Instruction of Novices.
The theme of the day was the Quest of the Holy Grail. The location could not have been more appropriate. In fact, upon seeing Pena Palace, Richard Strauss said: “Today is the happiest day of my life. I have been to Italy, Sicily, Greece and Egypt, but I’ve never seen anything like the Pena. It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. This is the true Garden of Klingsor and up there is the Castle of the Holy Grail.”
The rain threatened to ruin the day, but the sun opened the cloudy sky just in time for the visit. For about two hours the large group recalled the legend of Parzival in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s version. The central symbolic elements of the Quest were highlighted, and, from the vantage point of the Palace, the Squires had no difficulty in identifying some of them in the surrounding forest park beneath, where King D. Ferdinand II, creator of the romantic fantasy that is the Pena Palace and its gardens, had them placed. The restoration works to which the building is being subjected, prevented some architectural elements to be analyzed, but the visit to the Chapel of Our Lady of Pena and particularly the study of its stained glass windows and altar had its rewards.
After visiting the Palace inside and out, it was then time to start exploring the gardens. The group was led hiking to the highest point of the Sintra mountain, Cruz Alta, 529m in height, featuring a magnificent view of the Palace and the estuary of the Tagus river and the sea to the right, the Atlantic opening from where the Caravels of Vasco da Gama departed and later arrived after having reached India by sea, going around Africa, a historical event of transcendent importance for the Order of Christ.
Returning to the Forest, Knights, Dames, and Squires (and guests) gathered around the Round Table and recalled the legend which tells how Parsifal has himself become aware of chivalry and how he was amazed. Seeing shining armor, spears, swords and capes waving with the wind, he could only to ask the Knight he saw in the forest: “Are you God?” and when he said no, counter: “You are an angel, then”?
Visto o Palácio em si, por dentro e por fora, foi então ocasião de iniciar a exploração dos jardins. O grupo foi em caminhada conduzido ao ponto mais alto da Serra de Sintra, a Cruz Alta a 529m, de altura, com uma vista magnífica sobre o Palácio e sobre o estuário do rio Tejo e o mar à direita, abertura atlântica de onde partiram e onde chegaram as Caravelas de Vasco da Gama.
The clock was moving ant the time becoming short for the many things that had to be taught. So the Squires were conducted on a mission to collect information to the Temple of Columns, nearby. Nothing was said about the place beforehand, except that they should undergo rigorous observation and take note of the elements that called their attention. The group gathered again around the Table later and it was revealed that their intuition was indeed alert. Several of them had brought their cameras, with which they gathered the testimony of their observation. In fact, more than two thirds of the key symbolic elements had been identified, and after considering their signifficance, the vast majority of Squires came up with very exceptional results in their explanations.
After leaving that magical place, the group went further into the forest, abandoning the easy paved road recommended for tourists. After passing by caves where ancient monks of St. Jerome (SJ) had the habit to use to meditate for long periods, found the remains of the tracks in the woods and very old staircases, through narrow ways, and then, between two high cliffs, were led to the contemplation of the Palace as seen from the Throne, a lithic cluster of central importance in the whole Pena forest park. The pilgrims rested. But for a short while only. Then they went back to the dark forest.
In search of fresh water, springing from the Sierra, the group could see how the aquifers and streams were build up, how the mines and ornamental lakes match, catching the most subtle essence of life in the Sierra and its valleys, making everything bloom and fruit, as the water snakes around the cliffs, feeding freshness and light to the deep valleys long its way. In the background, the cry of the white swans evoked the Knights of the Round Table and the lakes where Amfortas, the Fisher King, used to bathe and heal his wounds.
The group withdrew from the Park well beyond the scheduled time (the gates were already closed and it was necessary to ask for security to come and open the door for the group to leave the park!). Tired but happy and thankful for the opportunity, with the mind racing with new questions and thoughs, the group returned home.
On behalf of all the Knights and Dames of the Order, we congratulate the Squires for the qualities shown along this day of pilgrimage. Good things are expected of them. The instructions will continue in July with a visit to the Capuchin Convent in Sintra, under the theme of the Monastic Way.
Em busca da fresca água da Serra o grupo pôde ver o modo intencional e muito sábio como as correntes aquíferas e o jogo entre minas e lagos decorativos, captavam a essência mais subtil da vida na Serra e como, pelos seus vales, tudo faziam florir e frutificar, serpenteando pelas fragas, alimentando de frescura e luz os vales profundos. Ao fundo, os cisnes brancos evocavam os Cavaleiros da Távola Redonda e os lagos onde Amfortas, o Rei Pescador, se banhava e onde curava as suas feridas.
O grupo retirou-se do Parque já muito para lá da hora prevista (os portões já estavam fechados e foi necessário pedir que a segurança viesse abrir as portas para sair do Parque!), cansado, mas feliz com a oportunidade e com a cabeça a colocar-se questões sobre a Cavalaria viva e actuante nos tempos modernos como possivelmente não se teria colocado antes.
Em nome de todos os Cavaleiros e Damas da Ordem, devemos enaltecer as qualidades demosntradas ao longo da peregrinação do dia pelos Escudeiros presentes. Boas coisas se esperam deles. As instruções irão prosseguir em Julho, com uma visita ao Convento dos Capuchos em Sintra, sob a temática da Via Monástica.
Alguns links para conhecer a Pena: