Whilst Temple church in london has most recently been associated with the Da Vinci Code, this small church hidden away between the Inns of court in Holborn boasts a rich and varied history. Consecrated in 1185 by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the church has seen major changes in religion and politics, both at home and abroad. The church acted as the headquarters for the Templar order until its dissolution in 1307, the building eventually being given to the Order of St John. The most distinct part of the church is the original "round", which somehow survived the great fire of London, but the bombing of WW2 caused extensive damage. The nave and choir of the church has been extensively remodelled over the years, most notably by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th century. Despite its tumultuous past, the church sits quietly tucked away, hidden from view from the main road, Fleet Street, and is a place of worship and quiet contemplation for all who care to seek it out. It is open most days of the week.
The Paleachora and monastery
of Agios Nektarios, Aegina
In the heart of Aegina island lies the monastery of St Nektarios and the Paleachora, an abandoned hillside village peppered with tiny churches, still lovingly used and tended to today. Paleachora served as a place of refuge from marauding pirates, but was eventually abandoned in the 19th century when the majority of the townsfolk settled in the port town of Aegina. The place itself isn't easy to access, with simple dirt tracks, loose rocks, and vertigo inducing climbs in some places, yet many visit here to say a prayer, offer thanks, and remember their past. The picture on the top left is that of the tiny church of St George catholikos, whose relic (the top of his skull) was kept, as a result, this saint is especially venerated here. There were originally over 100 churches here, yet only 38 remain, some almost inaccessible.
St Nektarios lies in the monastery on the nearby hillside and is one of the biggest monasteries in the Balkans, with pilgrims visiting from all over the world. The faithful can be seen pressing an ear to his sarcophogus hoping to hear from him, the legend stating that only those with pure hearts will do so. St Nektarios lived an eventful life, travelling around Egypt and Greece, and left much written work. Many miracles have been ascribed to him and he is especially loved on this small island. St Nektarios died in 1920, his feast day is 9th November, with procession of his relics on September 3rd.
On the slopes of Mount Parnassos lies the ancient sanctuary of Delphi, home to the Pythia and the oracle of the god Apollo. The sanctuary was one of the most important in ancient times, with rulers from all over the known world seeking its council, although the oracles of the Pythia could be a little ambiguous. It is highly likely that the sanctuary had representatives in most major courts and thus had an excellent knowledge of the current political climate and a foretaste of the questions likely to be asked. The Pythia herself was usually a local woman of a certain age, although she would wear the robes of the virgin whilst in the role of priestess, and would work on rotation with others. Whether her pronouncements were due to drug use, or inhalation of seismic fumes is still open to debate, although a fault tline has been indentified running directly across the temple of Apollo. Contrary to popular belief, the Pythia did not prophesies everyday, but only on certain days of the year, the god Apollo disappearing to Hypoborea in the winter months. Despite the prestige attached to the sanctuary and rival cities competing with each other to donate more to it than their counterparts, the sanctuary fell into decline in the reign of Theodosius I in AD 395.
1: Here is a photo taken in Bayeux Cathedral, where a very faithful representation of the CRISTA is located… 2: Beautiful little Crista, well stamped on a coin. 3: Tomb of St. Radegonde. 4: Another view of the tomb of Sainte Radegonde. 5: The crypt of Sainte Radegonde’s church, main room 6: Crypt in the Church of Sainte Radegonde in Poitiers. Picture from the investigation dossier of 2007. 7: Painting depicting Sainte Radegonde, located in another church nearby. 8: Philippe de Chérisey used to call this object: “Serpent Rouge (Red Serpent) of Saint-Germain-des-Prés”. 9: Close view of the column’s capital. Serpents? 10: Another very strange column’s capital in the same church. 11: A column with strange lily flowers, in the Church of Sainte Radegonde in Poitiers. 12: Another talisman by Fortunatus, on the same theme. 13: Written talisman composed by the poet Venantius Fortunatus on the theme of Emperor Constantine’s symbol: “By this sign you will overcome!” 14: Crista on the pillar of the brotherhood of Tanners, in Gisors, identical to the one featured in Rennes-le-Chateau. 15: Very strange CRISTA symbols featured on coins minted in the town of SION, in Switzerland. 16: A Crista shaped like a Constantinian PAX symbol. Strange… 17: Other examples of Crista, on coins shown in an auction sale catalogue. 18: Merovingian coin with a CRISTA symbol. 19: “Devout Christ’s Cross”. 20: Translation - 'Lily flower' 'Here, one can see a serpent’s body with its scales 'Object to be found. CRISTA. It is a type of TAU which has been compared by theologians to the Red Serpent of Moses'. 'There, one can see the body of another serpent. The bodies of the two serpents are intertwined'.
Highgate Cemetery (West) London
Highgate cemetery was built as a response to the horrific overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in many of London's burial sites, and was formally opened in 1839. One of the highest points in London, the cemetery boasts magnificent views, and coupled with the stunning architecture and exotic landscaping, the rich were more than happy to invest in eternity here, with many bankrupting themselves in the process. The cemetery incorporates some unusual designs, such as the circle of Lebanon (which was landscaped around an existing Lebanese Cedar tree) and the Egyptian avenue which has sixteen vaults on each side of its passageway, with room for twelve coffins in each. The catacombes served as a repository for the less well off, with places still available to buy at the time of writing.
The cemetery made the headlines in the early 1970's due to the infamous Highgate Vampire case, with many people descending on the area, not all of them with good intent. Whilst many have experienced strange phenomena in the area, the jury is still out on the vampire case. Some have speculated that any paranormal activity is due to the cemetery's location on a ley line, and others on recent buiding works disturbing the spirits of the dead. Whatever the truth, Highgate is a stunning and enigmatic place, full of mystery.
Clockwise from left to right:
1: Girona Cathedral 2: Girona Cathedral exterior 3: Le Beatus de Girona, an illuminated manuscript from the 10th century. 4: A mysterious seal 5: King Alaric 6: Castle of Peralada, of the Roccafert family, located next to the Carmelites’ Convent, in Girona. 7: 'The Apocalypse' as depicted in Le Beatus de Girona 8: The Martyrs 9: 'The Descent into Hell' as depicted in Le Beatus de Girona 10: Crypt of Saint Vincent Ferrer in Valencia, Spain
Gisors 'on the spot'
and its Mysteries
Clockwise from left to right:
1: This cross cut from a single stone block, called 'Croix de Neaufles', is located on the road leading from Neaufles-Saint-Martin to Gisors. 2:
A detail of the room’s ceiling in Saint Gervais and Saint Protais’ Church. Notice the pillar of the Tanner Penitents, which can be seen in the background. 3: Tree of Jesse located in Saint Gervais and Saint Protais’ Church. 4: A detail of the room’s ceiling in Saint Gervais and Saint Protais’ Church. Notice the pillar of the Tanner Penitents, which can be seen in the background. 5: Pillar featuring dolphins in Saint Gervais and Saint Protais’ Church, in Gisors. Notice the lily flowers and the dolphins. 6: 'The Perfect Master'. This stele was placed there by the Brotherhood of Tanner Penitents of Gisors. 7: Outside view of the church of Saint Gervais and Saint Protais, in Gisors. 8: Outside view of the façade of Saint Gervais and Saint Protais’ Church in Gisors. 9: View of the steeple. 10: Old print of the church.
Black Madonnas & Penitents,
Clockwise from left:
1: A suffering Penitent Christ, in the cathedral of Pamplona… He is said to be 'picado' ('stung' in Spanish), because of the multiple sting marks applied all over his body. 2: A close view of the Penitent Christ of Pamplona. His body is described as spotted with sting marks ('picado'), in reference to the penitents who are accustomed to applying, all over their body, little balls covered with spikes or thorns, in order to make themselves bleed abundantly and to suffer in silence… 3: Wide angle view of the pyramid-shaped Black Madonna of San Sebastian, in the Basque Country of Spain. 4: A closer view of this pyramid-shaped Madonna, a characteristical shape of Black Madonnas…
5: Statue of a crowned Black Madonna, in the museum of Pamplona’s cathedral. Her composure is hieratic, and her child is sitting on her bosom, all typical characteristics of the 'Black Madonna' genre 6: Painting showing a Black Madonna, or a so-called 'black' Madonna, located in the Cathedral of Pamplona. 7: Another Black Madonna in the Cathedral of Pamplona. 8: Cloister of the monastery of Estella, in Spain. 9: View of the little town of Estella in Spain. 10: Flagellant Christ found in a church of the city of San Sebastian, in the Spanish Basque Country.
Royston Cave, Hertfordshire
Royston Cave is a man made cave believed to date from the 14th century, located in Royston, Hertfordshire. No written records exist as to its original function, and it has long been steeped in mystery. The cave is shaped like a bell in construction, and features some strange, if enigmatic carvings in its interior. There have been many theories as to its origin, some cite the Knights Templar, and others the Freemasons, but nothing has ever been conclusively proved. The carvings themselves are a mixture of the religious and esoteric, featuring spirals, swords, saints and the holy family. There is also a prominent Sheila na Gig, which some think indicates fertility, and perhaps even an earlier date for the cave. Some have even suggested that the cave lies on the St Michael ley line that allegedly runs across the country from Lands End to East Anglia.
The cave itself lies underneath a busy high street, its presense only hinted at by a manhole cover. Entrance to the cave is through a doorway located next to a shop, and through a long, steep, winding passageway.
Church of Deux Jumeaux, Normandy
The church of Deux Jumeaux (the 'Twin Boys' in English) is situated in the Calvados region of Normandy, and boasts an unusual story. The church was founded by saint Martin de Vertou who upon returning from a trip to England, resurrected two small children who had died before they could be baptised, hence the origin of the name. Although the foundation of the church is unknown, there was an abott in residence around the time of Dagobert I. The story of the treasure is more recent. According to a story reported in the 1980's by the church's gardener, the last abott found a treasure which was subsequently hidden between the church and the adjoining priory, which is now a private residence. What he alledgedly found remains a mystery, but echoes can be found through the placement of 'treasure' hidden in some parts of the wall of the church by modern day questers. Of note are the enigmatic carvings, such as the palm trees, a Capricorn type sculpture with an 'X' on the exterior, and unusual round windows.
Some images from a recent research trip to Rome.
From left to right: 1: Isaac Ben Jacob 2: The Arch of Titus depicting the looting of the Treasure of the Temple of Jerusalem 3: The open roof of the Pantheon 4: Column detail from the Pantheon 5: Heavy bronze doors of the Pantheon 6: Inside the arena of the Colosseum 7: Colosseum exterior 8: The prison of St Peter 9: Fresco inside the prison of St Peter 10: Basilca built by Constantine 11: View towards the House of the Vestals 12: The cupola of St Peters Basilica 13: The Vatican, St Peters Square 14: The Curia 15: Romulus and Remus 16: Ruins near the Forum 17: Triumphal arch 18: Grotto/spring within the ruins of the Forum 19: The mosaic floors of the baths of Caracalla 20: The Castel Sant Angelo
Isaac Ben Jacob