Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Traprain Treasure



After a good ol’ rave at Messenger Sound System at the New Bongo in Edinburgh, plus a spot of comedy at the Stand, later on today I’ll be heading to East Lothian. Before I go I’ll write up a recent discovery of mine as regards the famous Traprain Treasure, a hoard of Roman silver found at Traprain Law, the ancient capital of the Votadini tribe. Speculations have abounded as to why the silver arrived at Traprain c.400 AD, when the Votadini at that time were no longer under Roman jurisdiction. The answer, however, is quite simple.


The first steps in the solution involves recognizing the pattern on the shields of several Roman units, as given in the 5th century Notitia Dignitatum, is identical to the following piece of silverware.


This image was created by Alice Blackwell, based on fragments of the dish being found in the hoard, & their massive similarities with a dish found in Switzerland. One is immediately reminded of the Honariana Attecotti Seniores, a unit of troops drawn from the Attacotti, a hitherto unplaced tribe of Scotland. ‘Honarian’ means they represented Emperor Honorious (395-423 AD), whose coins are the last dated in the Traprain treasure. With the Honariana Attecotti Seniores coming under the Roman Italian command, then  we have credible support for the dish at Traprain being the same as the one found in Switzerland.


Traprain Law

Now then, its time for a little Chispology. Watch what happens to the word Attacotti…

Atta- Cott





Otadini (Ptolmey)& Gododdin (Aneirin) are  both names for the Votadini tribe, & it seems that the two elements of the name were reversed to produce Attacotti, in the same fashion that Maglocunos was also Cunomorus.  Their mentions in history are mainly in the 4th century, when Ammianus Marcellinus places them attacking Roman Britain alongside the Picts & Scots between 364 & 368. Thus, all logic tells us that after this war, the Otadini/Attacotti were recruited into the Roman legions, bought off with Roman silver, some of which was buried at Traprain.



Singin’ For My Supper

Fetch on a Frozen Lake
Fetch on a Frozen Lake


Well, thats me just about to leave Glasgow, which hasmore or less thawed out now after a week or so of freezing cold conditions & snowfall lying everywher. Glasgow’s not that bad, & I’ve really enjoyed reviewing these past couple of nights – muisc journalism is quite good fun actually! Thursday was a couple of classic retro-rock outfits, Andy Fairweather & Band of Friends, while last night I witnessed a classic performance of Pizzica, an Italian folk dance I encountered in the Salento penisular three years ago!



The Park Near Colins
The Park Near Colins




Inbetween, I found myself an adopted son of the Tollcross Writers group, who had been invited by Shettleston Tesco to read poetry in the front foyer to passing punters in honour of RabbieBurns (its his birthday on sunday). Talk about out of mi comfort zone, but i do like a bit of Burns & read a few out, & also got involved in the Haggis Eating competition. Asked who I was I replied I was the Lancashire haggis-eating champion sent to take on the scots, which went like a lead balloon.

Glasgow City-20150123-00160



Anyway, I definitely took my time over the haggis, & never got out of second gear, allowing this other guy to win in the spirit of survival. To tell you the truth, though, eating haggis quickly is bloody hard – you definitely need the turnip. Talking of which, we poets got paid in kind & were given a burns supper to take home. Colin kindly donated me his & so Im just about to take 4 haggis over to Edinburgh for an impromptu supper tomorrow.






Im just back from a three round trip hike to Baillieston & back, giving one of the Tollcross poets – Gayle – a couple of review tickets for Celtic Connections. For me, Im now heading east after 4 evenings worth of top notch culture – y’know, im quite enjoying this Mumbling malarkey.


Nine Inch Will Please a Lady
(Robert Burns)

Come rede me dame, come tell me dame,
My dame come tell me truly,
What length o’ graith when weel ca’d hame
Will sair a woman duly?”
The carlin clew her wanton tail,
Her wanton tail sae ready,
“l learn’d a sang in Annandale,
Nine inch will please a lady.”

“But for a koontrie cunt like mine,
In sooth we’re not sae gentle;
We’ll tak tway thumb-bread to the nine,
And that is a sonsy pintle.
Oh, Leeze me on, my Charlie lad,
I’ll ne’er forget my Charlie,
Tway roaring handfuls and a daud
He nidged it in fu’ rarely.”

But wear fa’ the laithron doup
And may it ne’er be thriving,
It’s not the length that makes me loup
But it’s the double drivin.
Come nidge me Tom, come nidge me Tom
Come nidge me, o’er the nyvel
Come lowse an lug your battering ram
And thrash him at my gyvel!

graith=gear, equipment; clew=scratched, fondled;
tway thum-bread=two thumb-breadths; sonsy=healthy;
daud=a lump, a bit; laithron=lazy; doup=rump;




Celtic Connections

IMG_20150119_100511_1 Ive got a pretty good feeling 2015 is gonna be quite a year, so I thought I’d write a few words, take a few photos, that kinda thing. My journey, as so many have in the past, starts off in Burnley, where it looks like I’ll be getting a wee house quite soon. I’ve been in Edinburgh ten years, & the last Linkeylea festival in East Lothian found all of my Scottish exes in the same field (in various states of repair). Thing is, Britain’s a small island, & Scotland’s only a few hours away from Lancashire, so I can continue with my music & mumbling without any real hassle. Plus, with Burnley being in the premiership, & situated practically at the centre of the British Isles, its a win-win situation – I mean I dj-ed disco in Todmorden the other weekend for a big bunch of lesbians. Plus I’m loving hanging out with my family for once.


Pendle Sunset
Pendle Sunset

Over the festive season I finally finished Axis & Allies – my epic poem which Ive put online for folk to have a read of  – & completely recharged my batteries. So setting off for Scotland on Thursday, I was taken aback by the white & snowy glory of the journey, a perfect match for the blankess of renewed soul which Im feeling at present. Then a few hours later I was watching Macbeth in the Citizen’s Theatre followed 24 hours later by some amazing highland folk singers, as part of Celtic Connections (click on links to read the reviews. You just dont get that stuff in Burnley – put the black
puddings down that way are summat special!




Manchester Victoria
Manchester Victoria


















After finishing my Grailquest yesterday, I now have a chance to upload some of the photos Ive been taking in the past few weeks as Ive tooed & frooed between Scotland & Burnley. The first few, by the way, were unearthed at my Dad’s pad over the festive season.










Leeds Liverpool Canal
Leeds Liverpool Canal


London Road, Edinburgh
London Road, Edinburgh


Preston Bus Station
Preston Bus Station


Fulledge, Burnley
Fulledge, Burnley


Traprain Law
East Lothian






Traprain Law 


East Lothian
East Lothian




Turf Moor
Turf Moor






Loch End (Edinburgh)
Loch End (Edinburgh)


Leith Walk
Leith Walk









Pendle Hill
Pendle Hill


Calton Hill
Calton Hill



Mi Dad & Mi Nephew
Mi Dad & Mi Nephew


Me these days
Me these days




The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 18)

18 – The Turin Shroud




So here we are at the end of another historical investigation, one in which we verified the existence of King Arthur, & also discovered that the legend of the Holy Grail was based, in fact, upon the burial shrouds of St Thomas of India! This artefact was also known as the Mandylion, which I believe was taken by the Knights Templars & secretly sequestered in the vaults of Rosslyn Chapel. In recent decades, a number of scholars have postulated that the Mandylion was in fact the Turin Shroud, so before I wrap up my grail quest I’m just gonna show how that particular line of investigation has no legs!




Back in 1988, after a sample of the Turin Shroud was tested for Carbon Dating, the Vatican’s Cardinal Ballestrero announced the shroud came into being at some point during the period 1260-1390 CE.  In spite of this, many scholars are skeptical of the results, citing possible errors in the date springing from bad practice, a repair in the cloth, or possible corruptions in the molecules acquired during the shroud’s exposure fire & water damage… & steadfastly refuse to accept the findings.




The shroud first officially seen in the possession of the de Charneys, the founders of the church at Lirey, near Troyes, where the ‘Holy Winding Sheet,’ was first put on display.  The initial reaction to the shroud,made by two local bishops, was that it was nothing but a painting, with Bishop Henri de Poitiers (1354-1370), even stating he knew “the artist who had painted it.” This notion was confirmed in a 1390 memorandum composed by Bishop Pierre d’Arcis, who declared the shroud had been ‘cunningly painted.’ These days, the paint has all but faded from the shroud, leaving a negative imprint rather like the ones pressed leaves leave behind in books as they release lactic acid.

Screen shot 2010-10-19 at 4.10.56 PM
In the early 15th century, the de Charneys decided to hand the shroud over to the Duke and Duchess of Savoy , their distant relatives, who just so happened to live in Turin. I mean, its not rocket science -the Turin Shroud turns up in history at just the same time that Carbon Dating says it was created!
However, I now believe that the Turin Shroud is in fact a copy of the Mandylion, made by the de Charneys in the mid 1300s.  Presupposing that the Mandylion was in Scotland after 1307, then let us examine the movements of Sir Geoffrey de Charney, the founder of the church at Lirey. He was probably Europe’s most admired knight at the time, a wielder of many honours & much social power. We can place him in Scotland on two separate occasions; the Chronicles of Froissart stating he was on good terms with man of Scotland’s noblemen, as in;
Mctray Duglas and the erle Morette knewe of their comynge, they wente to the havyn and mette with them, and receyved them swetely, sayeng howe they were right welcome into that countrey. And the barons of Scotlande knewe ryght well sir Geffray de Charney, for he had been the somer before two monethes in their company: sir Geffray acquaynted them with the admyrall, and the other knyghtes of France
The idea is that on encountering the Mandylion on his first visit to Scotland, little Geoff of Lirey (as opposed to Big Geoff of Monmouth) returns with his best painter to copy the thing… & with that wee premise, I shall take my seat at the Siege Perilous, & banquet healthily through the Winter.





The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 17)

17 – Rosslyn

Might it not be possible that the mandylion… is buried under Rosslyn
chapel awaiting discovery at some future time Mark Oxley




On continental Europe, the Mandylion was last seen or heard of in 1287 by the Knights Templar initiate, Arnaut Sabbatier. After this it simply disappeared, more than likely during the fall-out of the Papal persecution of the Templar’s in 1307. Spearheaded by the French king, Philip IV, on Friday 13th of that year (after which it became a most inauspicious day) all the top Templars & scores of others were arrested & most of them later executed upon torture-drawn confessions for mostly made-up misdemeanours. Suddenly the Pope & the King controlled all the Templar lands & finances, which of course was a completely  unpredictable bonus.

Some of the priceless Templar treasures were spirited out of the country, however, when 50 Templars sailed from La Rochelle with sacred relics dating from the Crusades. French Legend has it that some of the treasures were taken to Scotland, where by 1314 a host of Templars were fighting alongside the equally excommunicated Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn. The knights were said to have landed on the Isle of May, in the Firth of Forth, which naturally leads to the River Esk & onto the village of Temple.
Founded on lands given to the order by David I of Scotland in 1127, the village of Temple was once home to the main Templar receptory (headquarters) in Scotland. To this day, a local proverb tells us that at Temple, ‘Twixt the oak and the elm tree/You will find buried the millions free.’ The treasure may even be connected to a strange stone found at Tenmple, dated to the Templar era, which sports a curious pacman symbol (see below & red arrow).


That the Mandylion was among the Templar Treasures is suggested by the presence of the Mandylion amongst the cornucopian carvings of Rosslyn Chapel. There is a sculptured tableau atop a pillar cornice, on which a headless figure holds up a piece of material sporting the  face of Christ. The presence of the Mandylion at Rosslyn would help to explain the mystery behind the chapel’s steps, which were said to have been worn down by pilgrims who had traveled to Rosslyn from northern Spain.


The Mandylion at Rosslyn
The Mandylion at Rosslyn


The answer is to be found in the Sudarium of Oviedo, said to be the face cloth used in the burial of Christ. A pilgrim, after seeing the Sudarium, would complete the set so to speak by travelling to Rosslyn to see the other material associated with the death & resurrection of Christ. Mark Oxley writes; ‘Folklore recounts how pilgrims in their thousands traveled there’after completing the arduous trek to the shrine of St James of Compostela.’ 


Sudarium of Oviedo
Sudarium of Oviedo



Building on Rosslyn chapel officially commenced in 1446, direcetd by local nobleman, Sir William Sinclair. He’d actually had a group of builders & masons on his hands since 1441 – perhaps even to build a secret underground chamber or a tunnel to his castle? I believe that to this day, perhaps in a secret compartment of the chapel’s crypt, or possibly wrapped around the body of on the buried Templars, the Mandylion can still be found at Rosslyn. Way back in 1546, the Queen Regent, Marie Guise, recalls a ‘secret’ shown to her at Rosslyn, while Sir Walter Scott wrote of Knights of the Grail being buried there.



For the moment, all we may do is speculate, for Historic Scotland controls the site & any excavatory work is forbidden. Local project director, Stuart Beattie, says, ‘We are not in the business of being grail hunters at the moment, although I think there are members of the trust and a lot of the public who would like to see invasive investigations. The immediate priority is to focus on conservation work, and then perhaps the trust might turn its attention to more esoteric matters.’

So I guess we’ll just have to wait….

The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 16)

16 – The Mandylion

I would now like to declare quite honestly that the object of veneration upon which he legends of the Holy Grail were based was not, in fact, the cup used at the Last Supper, but was rather a ‘Turin Shroud’ like piece of material which sported the so-called image of Jesus Christ. The truth, however,  is all rather tangled up in layers of proper history & later romancing, so the best thing to do is to present the information in chronological order;

1 – Joseph of Arimathea is associated with the burial shrouds of Jesus – c60AD

 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. (Matthew 27:57-60)


The Burial of Jesus
The Burial of Jesus

2 – The remains of Saint Thomas are removed from India & taken to Edessa 

It must be here noted that one of the apostles, St Thomas, was in fact described as Jesus’ twin. In the 50s & 60s AD he was active in India, where he was martyred at Mylapore, Chennai. The Acts of Thomas describe how the apostle’s body was wrapped in, ‘beautiful robes and much and fair linen’ before being buried in a royal tomb. Two centuries later, the relics of Thomas were removed from India. A text known as ‘The Passio’ tells us, ‘The Syrians begged of the Roman emperor Alexander, then on his victorious return from the Persian war against Xerxes [Ardashir], and petitioned that instructions should be sent to the princes of India to hand over the remains of the deceased [Apostle] to the citizens. So it was done; and the body of the Apostle was transferred from India to the city of Edessa.

This is significant moment of diversion, for the remains of Thomas were stored in Edessa’s Royal palace, known as the ‘Britio Edessenorum,’ a citadel built by King Abgar of Edessa. A thousand years later, a memory of this event transmogrified into the legend of Joseph of Arimathea taking the grail to Britain. During this process, the material which housed the blood of Christ (or rather his twin) became the vessel which stored the blood of Christ (or rather his twin). There is even a 5th century Russian manuscript which states that Jesus’ blood dripped from his crucified person onto the burial shroud itself. Support for the Brito-Britain change comes from a mention by Bede of the so-called King Lucius of Britain,w ho never existed at all, & was in fact  Agbar Lucius Aelius Megas Abgar IX of Edessa.




The Icon of Edessa 

The Mandylion, also known as the icon of Edessa, is a long-lost piece of material said to have the face of Jesus (or his twin). That it arrived in Edessa with the remains of Thomas can be observing just a single philochisp. Firstly, let us analyze a 4th century hymn by Saint Ephraem of Syri. It is a curious piece, which is pitched from the perspective of the Devil, as in;

‘The merchant brought the bones:nay, rather! they brought him. Lo, the mutual gain! ‘But the casket of Thomas is slaying me, for a hidden power there residing, tortures me.

The merchant who brought the remains of Thomas to Edessa is mentioned in an early Syrian ecclesiastical calendar:  ‘3 July, St. Thomas who was pierced with a lance in ‘India’. His body is at Urhai [Edessa] having been brought there by the merchant Khabin.’ Jerome gives the merchant a slightly different name; ‘Judas Thomas the Apostle, when [Our Lord] sold him to the merchant Hâbbân that he might go down and convert India.’ Habban is extremely similar to a certain Hannan, said to have painted a picture of Jesus for the King of Edessa. the tale appears in a text known as the Doctrine of Addai.

When Hannan, the keeper of the archives, saw that Jesus spoke thus to him, by virtue of being the king’s painter, he took and painted a likeness of Jesus with choice paints, and brought with him to Abgar the king, his master. And when Abgar the king saw the likeness, he received it with great joy, and placed it with great honor in one of his palatial houses.

The palatial house, then, would be the Britio Edessenorum. I believe that somewhere in all of this lies the true source of the icon of Edessa – which is the blood-stained burial linen of Jesus’ twin brother, Thomas. Clement of Alexandria, in his Hypotyposes, states that the tomb of St-Jude Thaddeus was in the Britio Edessenorum. Now then, Jude Thaddues is quite an obscure saint, & I believe that it was actually Saint Thomas who is being reffered to, who was known as Didymus Judus Thomas, in the Gospel of Thomas. Indeed, the two men & Edessa are all placed together by  Eusebius, bishop of Ceasaerea (early 4th century) who wrote;

Thomas, one of the twelve apostles, under divine impulse sent Thaddeus, who was also numbered among the seventy disciples of Christ, to Edessa, as a preacher and evangelist of the teaching of Christ.



3 – Liberarius is the governer of Edessa

We have seen how Liberarius, the MVM for Thrace, was also Eleuther & the Liberalis of the Yarrow stone. At this critical conjecture, the only way to make all the evidence hold together in harmony is to have Liberalis take the Mandylion from Edessa to Scotland, where it was housed at ‘Galafort’ & ‘Corbenic,’ i.e. Galla Law &  Penicuik. That he was the govenor of Edessa in 525 gives him the perfect chance to help himself Herman Goering style to the treasures of the city.  We know from the Annales Cambrae & the Historia Brittonum that his father, Arthur loved Christian relics, & even housed an image of Mary at Stow-on-Wedale, downstream from Galla Law.


4 – The Mandylion is taken to Saint Catherines Monastery, Sinai

A few years later, his son Peredur/Pharas the Herulian then returned the Mandylion to Sarras/Mount Sinai, alongside Bouzes/Sir Bors. One of the earliest copies of the Mandylion was cleaned up in 1962, revealing a 6th century layer, whose iconography points to the reign ofJustinian. This suggests that the Mandylion was taken to Saint Catherine’s in order to be copied by the highly artistic  monks of the monastery. Support comes through 14th century iconography found on Templar-built churches in Cyprus, such as the Church of Panagia Phorbiotissa at Asnou.  Here, the Mandylion is suspended over two visions – one of Moses receiving the laws, & also the Burning Bush – events which happened at Sinai. There are also depictions of Christ’s transfiguration, thought also to have occurred at Sinai, & to which event St Catherine’s is dedicated. In the book ‘Approaching the Holy Mountain,’ we are told;

Take the famous tenth century diptych showing the disciple Thaddeus & King Abgar who receives the Mandylion, represented in the features of Constantine Porphyogennetos, who had transferred the Mandylion from Edessa to Constantinople in 944. A row of monastic saints below make makes it propbale that the two wings of what may have been a tryptich are regions to be seen within the localism characteristic of Sinai.’

Approaching the Holy Mountain also shows how St. John Climacus, the 6th century abbot of St Catherines,  created a piece of art called ‘The Ladder’ in which; ‘the tablets have been transformed into two of the most venerated images of Christ in the byzantine world, the Mandylion (an imprint of the saviour’s face on cloth) & its arch copy, the keramion, a miraculous reproduction on a tile… what is shown is a transfiguration, the metamorphisis of the stones into the living face of Christ which can also be seen behind & between the Mandylion & Keramion in a ghost-like sketch on blue ground.’


Esposizione S. Mandylion

The Mandylion returns to Edessa

According to Evagrius, the Mandylion was miraculously used to ward off a Persian siege of Edessa in 544, brought out by the citizens of the city in order to counter a Persian mine built to destroy the walls of Edessa;

In this state of utter perplexity, they bring the divinely wrought image, which the hands of men did not form, but Christ our God sent to Abgarus on his desiring to see Him. Accordingly, having introduced this holy image into the mine, and washed it over with water, they sprinkled some upon the timber; and the divine power forthwith being present to the faith of those who had so done, the result was accomplished which had previously been impossible: for the timber immediately caught the flame, and being in an instant reduced to cinders, communicated with that above, and the fire spread in all directions.

Fifty years before Evagrius, & contemporary to the events, Procopius fails to mention the Mandylion at Edessa: putting the miracle down to a ‘letter’ of Jesus, of which he gives the following details;

A letter sent by Jesus to a certain King ‘Augarus’ of Edessa. which has Jesus finishing off by stating the city would never be taken by ‘barbarians.’ This final portion of the letter was entirely unknown to those who wrote the history of that time; for they did not even make mention of it anywhere; but the men of Edessa say that they found it with the letter, so that they have even caused the letter to be inscribed in this form on the gates of the city instead of any other defence.

The conclusion we should draw here is that the Mandylion returned to Edessa after 544, but before 590, when Evagrius was writing.  It was Evagrius, then, who acted upon a factochisp  – like a philochisp but with factual information – & associated the miracle of Edessa with its more famous image of Jesus, rather than the letter.


The Mandylion is actually a full-length shroud

Gino Zaninotto unearthed a crucial piece of evidence appertaining to the Mandylion, in the Vatican library. The 10th century  Codex Vossianus  describes an 8th-century account of an imprint of Christ complete body being found on a canvas kept in a church in Edessa. A certain Smera stating. ‘King Abgar received a cloth on which one can see not only a face but the whole body.’

The Mandylion is taken to Constantinople

On August 15, 944, the Mandylion arrived in Constantinople to great fanfare. It was placed in the Byzantine version of the Tate gallery – the Theotokos of the Church of Our Lady of Pharos – alongside many other sacred Christian relics, of which the Fourth Crusader, Robert de Clarie, tells us; ‘Within this chapel were found many precious relics; for therein were found two pieces of the True Cross, as thick as a man’s leg and a fathom in length. And there was found the lance wherewith Our Lord had. His side pierced, and the two nails that were driven through the midst of His hands and through the midst of His feet. And there was also found, in a crystal phial, a great part of His blood. And there was found the tunic that he wore, which was stripped from Him when He had been led to the Mount of Calvary. And there, too, was found the blessed crown wherewith He was crowned, which was wrought of sea rushes, sharp as dagger blades. There also was found the raiment of Our Lady, and the head of my Lord Saint John Baptist, and so many other precious relics that I could never describe them to you or tell you the truth concerning them.’


The Mandylion is removed by the Knights Templar

In1204, during the 4th Crusade, Constantinople was sacked by the treasure-hungry Crusaders. Among these were the Knights Templar, who ransacked the Pharos Chapel. The following year (1205) Theodore Angelos wrote to Pope Innocent III, ‘The Venetians partitioned the treasures of gold, silver, and ivory while the French did the same with the relics of the saints and the most sacred of all, the linen in which our Lord Jesus Christ was wrapped after his death and before the resurrection. We know that the sacred objects are preserved by their predators in Venice, in France, and in other places, the sacred linen in Athens.



The Mandylion is taken to France

The Templar, Othon de la Roche, was known as the ‘Lord of Athens’, & it is almost certain the Mandylion was in his possession in Athens in 1204. Some time later, it made its way to the south of France, a movement which can be discerned by following clues found in the earliest writers of the Grail story, all of whom, by the way, were connected in some way to the Templars.

(i) Robert De Boron tells us that the secret of the grail was taken to the Vales of Avaron;

Tell him that at his destination he should wait the son of Alain, &
that he cannot pass from life to death until the one has come who will
read him the letter & explain the power of your vessel.

The mention of the letter is interesting, & may refer to the Edessan letter written by Jesus to Agbar. Aveyron department, by the way, is extremely famous for being a Templar hotbed, containing many wonderful walled towns.



(ii) Wolfram von Eschenbach placed the grail in France at a place called Montsalvat, adding the grail was guarded by the  ‘Templiesen.’ This ileads us to the charming village of Montsalvy, found in the department known as Aveyron, i.e. De Boron’s Avaron. We can now see how later poets presumed Avaron was actually Avalon in Glastonbury.



(iii) The grail was said to have been kept in a castle, & there is a ruined castle which towers over Montsalvy which goes by the name of Mandalrulfen – a wonderful semantic match for the Mandylion.

(iv) Sir Lancelot, who first appears in the Grail Romances of the early 13th century, is based upon a top Templar called Alain Martel, from the Lot region of France, which gives us;

(A)Lain ce Lot

Martel is only 40 miles from Montsalvy, & Sir Lancelot did indeed hold court in the area.




The Grail Ceremony


What seems to have happened at the castle is a ceremony in which the Mandylion formed the climax of a series of iconic revelations. Think masonic lodges & grandmasters, hoods on-heads & & stuff like that. The word grail seems now to derive from the Latin ‘gradalis,’  ‘by degrees,’ which connects to the gradually unfolding exhibition during the grail ceremony, a ritualistic procession, where a series of ‘holies’ are brought before the initiate, almost all of which conclude with a vision of Jesus. One of the texts, known as the Grand St. Graal, lists many of these, including;


A holy dish of blood,
Nails of the Crucifixion,
The Cross,
The vinegar sponge
A scourge,
A man’s head,
Bloody swords,
Christ himself,
A bloody lance head
A red man

What has happened is that the grail ceremony seems to have been conducted about the holy relics taken from Constantinople. Among them is a dish – which would later become the vessel of Christ – & also Christ himself, i.e. the Mandylion.  Dr Barbara Frale found a vital piece of evidence a few years back in the Vatican, when she unearthed a 1287 description of a Templar ceremony by a certain Arnaut Sabbatier. Conducted somewhere in the south of France & with only a few witnesses in attendance, Arnaut was shown a long piece of linen cloth sporting a bearded man, & was asked to kiss its feet. Afterwards, they conducted a mass with a bearded male head.

Dr Barbara Frale - pretty cute
Dr Barbara Frale – pretty cute



That was the last time the Mandylion was seen in that part of the world – it was time to take it to its final resting place…





The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 15)


 15 – Sarras 

Resuming my Grail-Quest after a particularly hedonistic Edinburgh New Year (no wonder the Scots have the second off as well), we find ourselves with Sir Peredur & Sir Bors  just about to set off in search of the grail. The 12th-13th century French romances tell us that they received the grail in Britain from a certain King Pelles & his son, Eliezer, at their court in Corbenic. What has happened here is a case of genflation, that is when an author receives into his hands two different names of the same personage, & places them together as kindred. In this instance, Pelles stands for Liberalis & Eliezer stands for Eleuther, the Latin & Greek versions of King Arthur’s son. Their castle, Corbenic, was expressly erected to hold the grail, which had previously been held at a nearby castle called Galafort.  These two names appear together in a map of the Lothians just south of Edinburgh as Galla Law (bottom right) & Penicuik (middle left).




That Galla Law was Galafort is suggested by the presence  of a very ancient church dedicated to St Mary at neighbouring Monklowden, which is mentioned as being present at Galafort in the romances. We have already seen how Liberalis/Eleuther was a man of the north, & his realms could well have encompassed the south Edinburgh area,  especially when we hear of a certain ‘Liberton’ just a few miles north of Penicuik… & of course, Mount Agnet/Auchendinny is slam dunk right next to Penicuik. The tales tell us that Peredur & Bors took the grail from Britain to a place in the east called Sarras. This reconnects with Peredur & Bors being the Byzantine warriors Pharas the Herulian & Bouzes. That such a transliteration took place between medieval writers & Byzantine historians is confirmed through Big Geoff, whose Diatus & Sartuz of the Loge (a holy precinct in Constantinople) appear in Procopius.

On the present occasion, therefore, the Eruli who dwelt among the Romans, after the murder of their king had been perpetrated by them, sent some of their notables to the island of Thule to search out and bring back whomsoever they were able to find there of royal blood… and secured another man, Datius by name… since much time passed while they were absent on this journey, it occured to the Eruli in the neighbourhood of Singidunum [Beograd] that they were not consulting their own interests in importing a leader from Thule against the wishes of the Emperor Justinian. They therefor sent envoys to Byzantium, begging the emperor to send them a ruler of his own choice. And he straightaway sent them one of the Eruli who had on time been sojourning in Byzanteum, Suartuas by name. 


That Bouzes, son of the great Gothic general Vitalian,  was Bors is supported by Mallory’s ‘Morte D’Arthur,‘ which states that Bors  died fighting the Turks in the Middle-East. This connects with Bouzes’ own disappearance from history, in 556, defending Nesus on the River Phasis, in ancient Armenia. He is first mentioned in 528, as joint dux of Phoenice Libanensis ( to the east of Mount Lebanon) together with his brother, Coutzes, & two years later he is placed directly alongside Pharas the Heruian at the Battle of Dara (530 AD).

The extremity of the left straight trench which joined the cross trench as far as the hill, which rises here, was held by Bouzes with a large  force of horsemen and by Pharas the Herulian with three hundred of his nation… In the late afternoon a certain detachment of horsemen … came against the forces of Bouzes and Pharas. And the Romans retired a short distance to the rear. …  and again Bouzes and Pharas stationed themselves in their own position.

Elsewhere, Procopius describes Pharas as, ‘energetic and thoroughly serious and upright in
every way, although he was an Erulian by birth. And for an Erulian not to give himself over to treachery and drunkenness, but to strive after uprightness, is no easy matter and merits abundant praise. But not only was it Pharas who maintained orderly conduct, but also all the
Erulians who followed him.’ This all sounds very much like one of the pious Knights of Arthur’s Round Table, such as Sir Percival!




So where was Sarras? The Estoire del Saint Graal places Sarras between Babylon and Salamandre, as in; ‘They left the wood and set out their way, traveling until they arrived  at a city called Sarras, between Babylon and Salamander. From this city came the first Saracens.’ The Babylon of medieval texts generally refers to Cairo, which in this case is supported by the mention of a war in Egypt. Salamander is unknown, but the text does tell us that Sarras is the homelands of the Saracens, which  according to Procopius were in the Sinai peninsular of Egypt; ‘As one sails into the sea from there [i.e., sailing Southwest, from Aqaba to the Red Sea], the Egyptian mountains lie on the right, extending toward the south; on the other side a country deserted by men extends northward to an indefinite distance… This coast immediately beyond the boundaries of Palestine is held by Saracens, who have been settled from of old in the Palm Groves. These groves are in the interior, extending over a great tract of land, and there absolutely nothing else grows except palm trees. The Emperor Justinian had received these palm groves as a present from Abochorabus, the ruler of the Saracens there, and he was appointed by the emperor captain over the Saracens in Palestine.

The romances tell us that the grail was taken to a hilltop castle in the middle of a wasteland, fitting in with the desert nature of the Sinai. The idea that sixth century warriors were taking a religious artefact to the area leads us to one place in particular – St Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai, the very place Moses received the Ten Commandments. It was built at some point during the reign of Justinian (527-565), with huge fortified walls & monastery buildings surrounding the Church of the Transfiguration.

Support for Sinai being Sarras comes from the tale’s description of the natives of Sarras having reverted to pagan ways; ‘Before the founding of the sect, the people of Sarras had no faith, but worshiped everything that pleased them, so that what they worshiped one day was not worshiped the next. But then they established the worship of the sun and the moon and the other planets.‘ This perfectly matches John, Bishop of Nikiu’s account of the peoples about Sinai (in the reign of Anastasius) as; -’Impious barbarians, who eat flesh & drank blood, arose in the quarter of Arabia & approaching the borders of the Red Sea, they seized the monks of Araite (Rhaithou), & they put them to the sword or led them away captive & plundered their possessions; for they hated saints, & were themselves like in their devices to idolators & the pagans…’




The main purpose of St Catherine’s monastery was as a repository for Christian icons – which could be copied by the monks for the rest of Christendom. In its unadulterated form, then, the grail-quest represents an Arthurian mission to transport a Christian icon from Britain  to St Catherine’s, perhaps even ‘the image of St. Mary‘ which the Historia Brittonum says Arthur took with him to Britain from Jerusalem & helped him triumph at the battle of Guinnion/Stow-on-Wedale, beside the Gala water a few miles downstream from Galafort. Perhaps… but in my next post I shall show you how the grail was in fact based upon one of the most famous  pieces of Christian icongraphy in the world,  a long-lost piece of material which bore the face of Christ himself!