- 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. Bornholm...now 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,''
- 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
- 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,
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