Are The Holy Grail And Ark
Of The Covenant Hidden
On Baltic Sea Island?
By Peter Starck
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant may have been hidden by a secretive religious order of crusaders, the Knights Templar, on the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm some 830 years ago, according to a new book.
The whereabouts of the grail and the ark -- legendary religious relics of immeasurable value to Christian and Jewish believers -- have intrigued historians and archaeologists for centuries and films about quests to locate them, notably the ''Indiana Jones'' series, have thrilled movie audiences worldwide.
No one knows exactly what the relics actually are but the ark is believed a box-type container that held the stone tablets inscribed with the 10 commandments which Moses received from God on Mount Sinai.
Legends differ about the Holy Grail but it is most widely thought to be the chalice which Jesus and his apostles drank from at last supper before he was crucified.
Some scholars speculate that treasures amassed by the Knights Templar ended up in Rosslyn chapel in Scotland. Others have hinted at locations in Ethiopia, Spain and Canada.
In a 194-page book ``The Templars' Secret Island,'' Denmark's Erling Haagensen and Henry Lincoln of Britain say medieval round churches were built at sites on Bornholm based on the sacred geometry used by the Knights Templar elsewhere in Europe, most famously at Rennes-le-Chateau in southern France.
The book, studded with graphs, plots the churches' geometric layout with mathematical precision and the authors suggest the design may be a map to hidden treasures.
The Danish archbishop Eskil visited Knights Templar Grand Master Bertrand de Blanchefort in France in 1162, nine years after the death of his predecessor Bernard of Clairvaux.
The historically recorded purpose of Eskil's visit -- coming at a time when the Knights Templar may have feared becoming vulnerable because of the influential Bernard's demise -- was to prepare a crusade against pagans inhabiting the Baltic Sea's northeastern coast in what is today Estonia and Latvia.
The book suggests that Knights Templar who joined the Baltic crusade built Bornholm's churches and may have taken the opportunity to stash some treasures there.
``The need for a secure hiding place would have been paramount...It would make sense to conceal whatever may have been the Order's treasures in more than one place.
``Better still to provide a hiding place which was remote and had no apparent connection with the Order. Bertrand's involvement in the planning for the Baltic Mission would have offered him the perfect opportunity. becomes a trump card,'' says the book.
``It was small and easily controlled and protected. Above all, it was remote, unknown, unlikely to be disturbed, not big enough or rich enough to attract an errant warrior intent on carving out a kingdom,'' it continues.
Unique Churches Lasting Heritage
The European Templar Heritage Research Network (ETHRN), a non-profit making association of scholars not affiliated to any religious or political group, says it has been historically documented that the order of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon -- the full name of the Knights Templar -- was founded by aristocrats from the French region of Burgundy early in the 12th century.
The order's classic round churches founded on octagonal geometry, supposedly based on the design of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, are a lasting heritage of the Knights Templar era, the ETHRN says.
Historical records and 20th century archaeological digs indicate that a group of Knights Templar were searching for something under Jerusalem's Temple Mount between 1118 and 1127.
Haagensen and Lincoln say that on returning to France in 1127 the crusaders reported to Bernard of Clairvaux that their ''mission'' had been accomplished.
A carving on a pillar at the cathedral in Chartres, France, suggests the mission had been to find the Ark of the Covenant.
Legends say Mary Magdalen, to this day the village saint of Rennes-le-Chateau, and Joseph of Arimathea, who according to the Bible buried Jesus, took the Holy Grail to France.
Evidence of the belief in this tale is found in historical records about the Nazis searching for the Holy Grail at Rennes-le-Chateau during World War Two.
Backing up the theory that Knights Templar treasures may have been hidden on Bornholm, the book says ancestors of the noblemen who founded the order lived on this rocky 587 square km (226.7 square miles) island, now part of Denmark and home to some 45,000 people.
Burgundians Came From Bornholm
The authors point to a find of nearly 3,000 tiny, intricately carved golden figures unearthed in a 1985-86 excavation of a Bornholm field as lending credibility to their claim of a Bornholm connection.
The golden figures have been dated to AD 400-600 when the Merovingians -- a clan of Frankish kings who claimed to be, like Jesus, of the house and lineage of the Bible's King David -- were at the height of their power. Descendants of the Merovingians later settled in Burgundy.
The book also quotes a AD 417 work by Spanish historian Orosius, which says the Burgundians came from Bornholm.
The Knights Templar viewed the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant as their rightful possessions because of their bloodline to the House of David, scholars say.
The equilateral six-sided shape which forms the star of David is part of the geometric design formed by Bornholm's medieval churches, the book by Haagensen and Lincoln shows.
``It is undeniable that those who planned and built the churches of Bornholm knew exactly what they were doing and why they did it,'' the authors say, adding the design ``indicated a sure hiding place.''
An excavation in 1995 to install heating ducts under the floor of Oesterlars church, the biggest of Bornholm's round churches, found ``unusual and unexpected stone features...which might be explained by the presence of an undiscovered crypt,'' the book says, quoting the official renovation report.
Olsker, another church in the geometric pattern, also features a ``curious indication of a possible underground structure beneath a staircase,'' the authors say.
``Neither of these subterranean anomalies has, thus far, been investigated.''

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