Chartres Cathedral: Sacred Geometry

saint-bernard-of-clairvaux

St.Bernard of Clairvaux

St.Bernard of Clairvaux, the patron saint of the Knights Templar, clearly regarded their architectural skills with much praise, and was particularly impressed by their soaring roofs and arches… With their distinguishing features of Gothic architecture as expressed at Chartres Cathedral and other 12th century French Cathedral’s.

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral – France

Contained within the walls of Chartres Cathedral, Ancient Hebrew ciphers were added, spelling out obscure liturgical phrases in key positions, in the buildings structure.  Key designs to religious mysteries.

Similarly, sculptors and glaziers concealed texts about human nature, the past and prophetic scriptures, in its sculptural works and leaded glass.

The French Gothic Cathedral of Chartres contains sacred geometry, as used in its construction…

Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth

The Labyrinth

In the nave of the cathedral, we find a labyrinth on the floor made from white stone, set within dark coloured marble.  The labyrinth measures one tenth of the cathedral’s interior length, which equates to the central point of the buildings geometric construction.

Chartres Cathedral - West Front

West Rose Window – Chartres Cathedral

The diameter of the labyrinth is the same size as the West Rose Window.  The distance from the centre of the west rose window to the floor, is exactly the same as the distance from the centre of the labyrinth to the Cathedral’s west portal wall.

Putting it simply, the West Rose Window and the Labyrinth form a perfect equilateral triangle.

Within the Cathedral, distances between pillars and the length of the nave, transepts and choir, are multiples of the Golden Mean, (The Golden Mean is related to the dimensions of a pentagon, a shape much used in the building of Chartres Cathedral).

The ribs supporting the vaults of the quadrangle units of which the cathedral is composed of, are the shape of the golden triangles.

Chartres - Latin Cross Plan

The grand plan view of Chartres Cathedral is in the design of a Latin Cross.  It symbolizes Light of the Cross, where Spirit and Matter converge.

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Knights Templar and Paris

Ancient Paris

Paris of the Past

Following the historical account of the Knights Templar, it was here on the French soil of Marais, much of their story was played out.

In 1137, King Louis VII of France gave the “Order of the Knights Templar” a house, in the swamp marshland area, in the northern parts of Paris, just outside the city walls.

Large stretches of marshland, remnants of the ancient branch of the River Seine, which once flowed down from Belleville, east of Paris.

Enclos du Temple

Enclos du Temple

In less than a century, these hardy knights had dried out the marshlands, and moved to its north-eastern edge, upon which they built, the “Enclos du Temple,” a fortified compound, consisting of crenellated walls, buttresses, watch towers and a drawbridge.  To accompany the tower, a gothic styled round chapel was built in stages, granted by a papal bull of Pope Honorius in 1217.  The church was consecrated to the Holy Mary, the burial place for Templar high dignitaries who died in Paris.

The church was aligned from west to east, comprising of three parts:

  • The gothic nave was characterised by a clerestory located on the ground floor.
  • The round was built on two floors, encompassed by a circular gallery. The round vault, leant on six pillars, laid out in a circle.
  • The chancel consisted of five bays with tall windows. Access to the bell tower was by way of the south-wall bay.

In the latter part of the 12th century and early 13th century, the preceptor grew larger, and additional buildings were erected, on the six acres of land set aside for the preceptor.  The area was protected by an eight – ten metre high crenellated wall, equipped with buttresses, and flanked by turrets and stone shelters.

The Knights Templar created an International Banking System, which contributed to their increasing wealth.  The Enclos du Temple, became home to their bank, and the European headquarters of the Templar’s.

It is said Philip Augustus made use of their services, by depositing much of his treasures with them in 1190, before departing on the Third Crusade to the Holy Land.

King Henry III

King Henry III

In 1254, King Henry III of England chose to stay at the Knights Templar temple on his visit to France and Paris, instead of the Royal Palace.  One has to ask, how the French King would have felt about that.

The war in the Holy Land had stretched France’s finance’s to breaking point, and the Templar’s had taken control of France’s finances.  In short France was under the control of the Knights Templar, with King Philip IV, nothing more than a puppet king to his people.

The Templar’s had created their own state in France, located within King Philip IV’s own borders.  Philip could no longer stand by watching these Templar’s wealth grow day by day.

During a mass uprising in 1306, King Philip IV accepted the offer of shelter, from the Templar’s.  What he was to discover were rooms full of treasures?  The King became so envious of their wealth; he devised a plan, spreading false rumours, which would lead to their downfall.

On the 12th October 1307, Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knights Templar, was one of the guests at the funeral of Catherine de Courtenay, the wife of Charles de Valois and sister-in-law of Philippe IV.

On the 13th October 1307, the King’s men sent forth to arrest all members of the Knights Templar and seize their assets.

Captured knights were tortured, and brought to trial on false accusations, rumours and slander, and those found guilty were burnt at the stake.

On the 22nd March 1312, the Papal Bull ‘Vox In Excelso’ issued by Pope Clement V, dissolved the Order of the Knights Templar.

On the 2nd May, the Papal Bull ‘Ad Providam’ issued by Pope Clement V, ordered that all assets, property and land to be turned over to the Hospitallers.

Over the next two centuries, the Hospitallers enlarged the church, filled in the ditch around the fortress, and replaced the drawbridge with a stone bridge.

Knights Templar Burnings

Burnt at Stake

On the 18th March 1314, Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, was burnt at the stake, on false charges of heresy.

Jacques de Molay’s last words were to his God, claiming Pope Clement V and King Philip IV, his accusers should join him… thirteen months later, his accusers had died.

The Order of the Hospitallers stayed in the ‘Enclos du Temple’ until the days of the French Revolution, and were eventually disbanded by Napoleon in the 19th century.

By the early years of the 17th century, the area known as Marais, had become an aristocratic neighbourhood of Paris.  The Palace of the Grand Prior of the Temple had become the court of the illegitimate sons of royalty.  Philip the Duke of Vendome, grandson of Henri IV and mistress Gabrielle d’Estree, led a life of debauchery, along with literary and artistic brilliance.

The Comtesse de Boufflers mistress of Horace Walpole, reigned supreme over the court.  It was here the ten-year-old Mozart performed in the drawing room, playing the harpsichord.

On the 13th August 1792, the drawing room played host to a dinner where all the guests were the Royal family and their retinue.  They were the prisoners of the Commune of Paris.  Following the meal, the royal couple, two children and King’s sister were locked up in the Tower of the Temple, and the other women transferred to the Prison of La Force.

Execution of Louis XVI

Execution of King Louis XVI

King Louis XVI and his Queen; Marie Antoinette were imprisoned at the Temple, awaiting their execution at ‘Place de la Revolution;’ King Louis XVI on the 21st January 1793 – Queen Marie Antoinette on the 16th October 1793.

Exécution of Marie Antoinette

Execution of Queen Marie Antoinette

The seven-year-old Dauphin, was taken from his parents, and locked in a cell, until his presumed death in June of 1795.  His body was buried at Sainte Marguerite Cemetery.  As far as anyone was concerned, the body in the grave should have been King Louis XVII (1785-1795), the body of the ten-year-old boy.  In 1894 his remains were dug up, and examination of the body, proved without doubt, the remains were those of an eighteen-year-old boy.  So what happened to the young King, the last of an ancient regime?

French and Austrian authorities did an exchange, the French Princess Royal for five Republican prisoners.

In 1796, the Temple became a state prison, and in 1805 was bought by royalists.  On the 16th March 1808, Napoleon ordered its destruction.

In 1823, the Palace of the Grand Prior became the Benedictine Church of the Perpetual Adoration of the Holy Sacrament.  In 1853, Napoleon III ordered its destruction, and with it, the last remnant of Knights Templar died…

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Knights Templar: Gothic Architecture

Gothic Cathadral - PI

Design of Gothic Cathedral

Gregorio Papareschi, was appointed to the post of Pope Innocent II, in the year 1130, supported to the Papal throne by Bernard of Clairvaux.

Pope Innocent II

Pope Innocent II

Following his appointment, to the Papal throne, Pope Innocent II, approved the request made by the Knights Templar, granting them the right, to build and run their own churches.  Overnight the Templar’s became answerable to only one person; the Pope, and out of reach of most authorities.  They could hold their own court, impose taxes, and no longer did the church hold any pressure over them.  They were their own men, and becoming a powerful order.

They planned and developed their own style of buildings, one which was French Gothic by design.  This new style was born in 1134.

The Templar’s mentor and spiritual leader; St.Bernard of Clairvaux, showed his flair, and his designs were used for the building of the north tower at Chartres Cathedral.

Gothic architecture dates back to the 12th century, it was to be an exciting time in Medieval European history, with the development of a new style of buildings.  Many a knight had served in the Holy Land, on the Crusades, and many had been influenced by the buildings and engineering styles used.

Gothic architecture evolved over a 300 year period, with bright and airy interiors, pointed arches to emphasize light and soaring spaces, ribbed vaulting, flying buttresses, tall spires and gargoyles.

The early forms of Gothic architecture was predominately used for the building of cathedrals, and later used in the building of castles, palaces and bridges.

Gothic architecture first emerged in northern France around 1140.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

The Gothic style of building was soon taken up by the English, and used in Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

Gothic architecture in Medieval England was developed from Norman building styles, which related to buildings from 1200 – 1500.

Early English Style: 1200 – 1300

Decorated Style: 1300- 1400

Perpendicular Style: 1400 – 1500

Gothic churches and buildings were different to Normans, on their style and way of construction.

  • Stone blocks lined side by side was the choice of Normans, but Gothic buildings used many a shaped stone.
  • Hollow walls favoured by Normans, became solid under Gothic builds, thus they could handle far greater weight.
  • The use of pointed arches strengthened buildings, compared to Normans round arches.

Cathedral roofs were much larger, and buttresses were installed to take extra weight, alongside the nave and into the foundations.  These changes spread additional weight around the building, creating additional strength.

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Chartres Cathedral: The Labyrinth

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral – France

As one gazes upon the beauty of the gothic styled Chartres Cathedral, built in 12th century France.  One asks what mysteries, what holy designs, will one find?

Located within, upon the stone floor, is an ancient styled Labyrinth, which would have been used by monks for contemplation.

Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth

Chartres Cathedral – Labyrinth

So what is a Labyrinth?

A Labyrinth is a path representing our spiritual journey, with many a twist or a turn, and the walker would find themselves, uncertain where the path was taking them, yet they were never lost.

The Labyrinth has the hand of God, gently guiding us, even though we feel lost or confused, we are being led forward.

As one walks the path to the centre, one walks the way of the world, asking as we walk step by step for God’s forgiveness, for our wrongdoings, and seeking to make amends for our acts.

Upon reaching the centre, it is for us to open ourselves to the love of God, before taking the path back, seeking to follow in the ways of Christ.

The walk of the Labyrinth, gives the walker a chance to seek out how to resolve problems in their lives.  Seeking guidance, times of personal bereavement, or just to walk hand in hand with God.

In its simplest form, a Labyrinth is a path of medication.  You just simply walk it, and allow the mind to be at peace, as the body takes over.

One could describe the Labyrinth, as having three paths:

  • Symbolic path of purgation.
  • Illumination, opening ourselves to the Divine in the centre.
  • Union, is our return path taking the benefits of what we have received, back into our lives.

During the time of the Crusades, Labyrinths were built to provide an alternative, as not everyone could make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  The centre of the Labyrinth represented the Holy City of Jerusalem, and became the substituted goal of the journey, for pilgrims.

Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth:

The Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, measures forty-two feet in diameter and was built between (1215-1235).  13th century churchmen instructed builders of Chartres, that numbers and symbols were to be used in its design.  The significance of which is drawn from Ancient Greek thoughts; Plato and St.Augustine reflections on the divine order of creation.

The path is laid out in eleven concentric circles intricately woven into a sacred geometric pattern.  It is then surrounded by twenty-eight semi-circular lunations per quadrant, creating a third of the year’s lunar calendar around the Labyrinth’s perimeter.

Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth 1

Labyrinth Design

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Ark of the Covenant

Ark of the Covenant

Ark of the Covenant

One of the most legendary objects in religious history, has to be the “Ark of the Covenant.”  Housed within a wooden box and overlaid with pure gold, containing the “Ten Commandments,” inscribed upon stone tablets.

  • It is believed the Ark, is responsible for bringing victory during battles.
  • Bestowing blessings upon worthy recipients.
  • Sending plagues down upon enemies.

The Ark of the Covenant, stand’s for God’s communion with Moses, when he led out the Israelites, to their own land.

King David conquered Jerusalem in 993 BC, and his son Solomon, built a temple to his God, between 958-951BC.  Solomon’s temple housed the Ark of the Covenant: A wooden casket covered in gold, holding the Ten Commandments, which God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Jerusalem and the history of the Jewish people, play a significant part in their religion.  For it is written in their writings that Abraham would prove himself to God, by sacrificing his own son; Isaac.  God stepped in, and sent a Ram, for Isaac to use, for sacrificial purposes.

Solomon’s Temple was built by Phoenician craftsmen.  The inner walls lined in gold, with marble blocks and fine emeralds adorning the temple.

Rehoboam became King of Israel as successor to his father; King Solomon.  Shishak, the Egyptian king ransacked Solomon’s Temple in the fifth year of Rehoboam’s reign.

In 586 BC, the Babylonians completely destroyed Solomon’s Temple.

A second temple was built upon the site, between 535-515 BC.

Over the next 470 years, Persian rule gave way to the Greeks, then the Romans, with Herod the Great as its ruler.  In 20 BC Herod introduced courts and walls to Solomon’s second temple.

In 70 AD, Jews revolted against the Romans, and General Titus (Caesar) besieged the city and burnt the temple to the ground.

In the year 691, a shrine was built upon the site; “Dome of the Rock.”  By 715, the Al-Aqsa mosque was built alongside and destroyed by earthquakes over the next 300 years.  By 1035 a new mosque was constructed, and in 1118 became the headquarters of the Knights Templar (Holy Warriors) in the Holy Land.

The Knights Templar, dug deep tunnels underneath the Temple, as they sought out religious treasures and the fabled prize of all, “Ark of the Covenant,” one of the most important religious artefacts of all time.

Bas-Relief of the Ark

A bas-relief depicting the “Ark” can be found at Chartres Cathedral in France.  One has to ask, does the Ark of the Covenant, still remain within the Cathedral?

Claims were made by Louis Charpentier (20th century French author) that the original nine members of the Knights Templar, possibly discovered the “Ark” early on in the order’s history, whilst digging under Temple Mount.

A pillar, part of Chartres Cathedral, known as the Portal of the Initiates, features a carving of the Ark upon a wheeled cart.

What could this mean, and many historians have put forward their own interpretations:

The Templars discovered the Ark in Jerusalem, and moved it to France, coinciding with the construction of Chartres Cathedral.  When news of the Templar’s impending arrest in the 14th century leaked out, the Ark was moved from France to Scotland.

Louis Charpentier published: Les Mysteres de la Cathedrale de Chartres (The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral) in France of 1966.

Knights Templar: Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres), a medieval Catholic cathedral, constructed in a Gothic style.  It stands in all its glory, dominating the skyline of the medieval French town of Chartres, some eighty kilometres south of Paris.

According to legend, in the year 100 BC, a druid shrine and a sacred spring to a virgin mother stood here, and as such a Christian church was built.  Legend or no legend, the remains of a sacred well exist in the cathedral to this day.

Chartres converted to Christianity in the 4th century evangelization of Gaul.  A bishop was installed at Carnotum by the 5th century, as such Chartres church changed status, becoming a cathedral.  The church would have been built of wood, and as such highly vulnerable to fire.

The Duke of Aquitaine sacked the cathedral in 743, and it was destroyed by the Danes in 858.

By royal decree, Pepin’s 8th century court had named the town as; “Chartres.”  In response to the church being dedicated to the Virgin Mary and receiving the title: “Church of St.Mary.”

With the acquisition of the Sancta Camisa (The tunic worn by the Virgin Mary at Christ’s birth) in the latter years of the 9th century, Chartres therefore received divine protection.  In 911 Rollo the Viking leader besieged Chartres.  Had it not been for Bishop Gantelme, who called for the Sancta Camisa, to be brought before the Viking warriors, Chartres might have been destroyed, as it was the Vikings fled!  Rollo converted to Christianity and took the title; Duke of Normandy, of the Norsemen province, granted to him by King Charles III of France.

In the year 1020, Chartres Cathedral was burnt to the ground, on the eve of the “Festival of the Nativity of the Virgin.”  Bishop Fulbert took on the challenge to oversee the construction of a new cathedral.  Fulbert used his personal income to finance the new build, and received further funds from King Robert II, Dukes of Aquitaine and Normandy along with the Count of Chartres – Blois.

The architect was Beranger, who expanded remnants of the former crypt, creating a vaulted crypt built in the Romanesque style.

Bishop Fulbert died in 1028, before the completion of Chartres Cathedral in 1037, when it was consecrated by Bishop Thierry, Fulbert’s successor.

Fire over the year’s played its part leading to re-construction and changes in design.  In 1134 the Cathedral’s west end was damaged by fire, re-built in 1137 using the Romanesque  style.

On the 10th June 1194, flames engulfed the Cathedral.  The Sancta Camisa (Sacred Tunic) had been saved by two priests who entered the burning building, and took the relic down into the crypt for safety.

History tells us that nine knights discovered the Nasorean Scrolls, revealing a treasure far beyond their wildest dreams.  Yet it was a treasure that they could not or would not share with the world.

Stone Mason

Stone Mason

One of the roles of the Knights Templar; they were Master Stonemasons.  They designed and built formidable castles, chapels and cathedrals across Europe.  They introduced holy geometry into building of Gothic masterpieces such as Chartres Cathedral in France.

In many Gothic Cathedrals across Europe, one would find the names of master builders responsible for construction and design of these awesome projects.  They would cut their names into floors or walls, for they wanted future generations to know who they were.

When we stand back and look at the magnificent Chartres Gothic Cathedral, with its exquisite carvings standing proud for all to see and admire such works… one has to ask who these architects and builders were.

A mystery evolves before our very eyes:

Bas-Relief of the Ark

Knights Templar: Bas-Relief depicting the Ark

The Knights Templar sought the “Ark of the Covenant” (The Ark of the Covenant has to be one of the most important religious artefacts.  A wooden box overlaid with gold, containing the stone tablets, inscribed with the Ten Commandments), which was buried under Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.  Cut into the stone of Chartres Cathedral is a Bas-Relief depicting the “Ark.”

French architect; Louis Charpentier claims that the Knights Templar built Chartres Cathedral as a repository for ancient wisdom.

The Templar’s were men of God, and as such they wouldn’t want their names cut into the stone of Chartres.

Chartres Cathedral a gothic styled building, emerging in 12th century France, a style which flourished in the latter part of the medieval period.  Gothic buildings contained pointed arches, large windows, clustered columns and soaring spires.  The main gothic portion of Chartres was built between (1194-1220).

Chartres Cathedral Interior

INTERNAL  As one enters the Cathedral, what catches your eyes first has to be the Nave; measuring 16.4 metres wide and 44 metres long.  The Nave is illuminated by two tiers of windows on either side, and by the Rose window of the western facade.  One can’t help but notice an unbroken view from the western end to the magnificent dome of the apse in the east.  Clustered columns rise to the high pointed arches of the ceiling, directing one’s view in the direction of the Clerestory windows in the apse.

The North Transept Portals illustrates the Old Testament and the Virgin Mary as precursors and preparations for Christ.  Themes about the glorification of Mary in the centre, with the incarnation of her son on the left and Old Testament prophecies on the right.

The Northern Portals tell about the time leading up to Christ’s incarnation and the west facade is about the events of his life and Passion.

The South Transept Portals address the time from Christ’s death until his Second Coming.  The central portal concentrates on the Last Judgement and the Apostles, the left portal on the lives of martyrs and the right on confessor saints.

Chartres - Choir Screen

Choir Screen

At the east end, an ambulatory wraps around the choir and sanctuary, vaulted and divided from the latter by a carved choir screen.  Erected in 16th century with sculptures added between 16th – 18th centuries.  The choir contains 200 sculptures in 41 scenes, depicting the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth

The Labyrinth

The stone floor bears an ancient Labyrinth used by monks in time of contemplation.

One of the most distinctive features of Chartres Cathedral has to be the 176 stained glass windows:

Chartres - Rose Window

One of Three Rose Windows

The West Rose Window dates from the 13th century and its three lancet windows from 1150.  The rose window depicts the Last Judgement; Christ in Judgement surrounded by Four Evangelists and angels, with scenes of angels blowing trumpets, resurrection, judgement, heaven and hell.  The left lancet is the Passion and Resurrection Window; the middle lancet is the Incarnation Window; and the right lancet is the Jesse Window.

The North Rose Window and its five lancet windows were a gift from Queen Blanche of Castille in 1230.  The rose windows depicts the Glorification of the Virgin: Virgin and Child surrounded by doves and angels, then Old Testament Kings and Prophets.  Lancets from left to right: Melchizadek and King Saul, King David and Jeroboam, St.Anne and the infant Mary with the arms of the Royal House of France; King Solomon and Nebuchadezzar, Aaron and Pharaoh.

The South Rose Window and its five lancet windows date from the 1230’s.  The rose window depicts the Glorification of Christ; Christ blessing surrounded by Four Evangelists and angels, then the elders of the Apocalypse, the arms of Cathedral donors.  Lancets from left to right: Evangelist Luke over Prophet Jeremiah, Evangelist Mathew over Prophet Isaiah, Virgin and Child, Evangelist John over Prophet Ezekiel, Evangelist Mark over Prophet Daniel.

EXTERNAL  Chartres Cathedral, built from limestone is noticeable by its mis-matched western spires.  One is 105 metres and of Romanesque design and built in the 12th century, whilst the other is 113 metres high and built in the 16th century of gothic design.

This fine looking Gothic Cathedral, built in the cruciform style, with a long nave and short transepts to the north and south.  The east end is rounded, and has five semi-circular chapels connected to it.  The external measurements: 37 metres high, 130 metres long and 32-46 metres wide.

The high Nave is supported by double flying buttresses, anchored by colonnettes.  An extra row of single flying buttresses supported the apse at time of construction and a third row was added in the 14th century.

Friezes on the Capitals left to the central door depict scenes from the life of Mary.  The capitals on the left of the central portal depict Anne and Joachim struggling with infertility before the birth of Mary.  Right of the central door are friezes of scenes from the life of Christ.

The left-hand portal centres on the Ascension of Christ.  Christ stands on a cloud, supported by two angels.  Below this is a relief with four singing angels and the bottom lintel shows ten seated men holding scrolls and looking at Christ.  The archivolts are decorated with symbols of the zodiac and the labours of the months.

The right-hand portal, the tympanum bears scenes from the descent of Christ into the world, complemented by the Ascension on the other side.  The bottom register shows scenes from the life of the Virgin including the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity and Annunciation to the shepherds.  In the middle register is the Presentation at the Temple.  In the upper level is the Virgin and Child enthroned between two censing angels.  The inner archivolt contains angels whilst the outer depicts seven liberal Arts and Zodiac signs; Pisces and Gemini.

Chartres Cathedral - West Front

West Front

The cathedral has three great facades, each equipped with three portals which open into the nave from the west and into transepts from north and south.

The sculptures on the west facade depict Christ’s ascension into heaven, his life saints and apostles.  Christ in the lap of Mary plus other scenes.  Below the religious figures are statues of Kings and Queens.

Reference Sources:
Universe of Stone by Philip Ball
The Sword and the Grail by Andrew Sinclair
Secret of the Knights Templar by S.J.Hodge
Encyclopedia of Angels by R.E.Guiley
The Hiram Key by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas

Wikipedia Images

Knights Templar: Cathedral of the Pyrenees

cathedral-of-the-pyrenees

The village of Saint Betrand de Comminges has a long history dating back to 72BC, when the Roman colony of “Lugdunum Convernarum” was established by Pompey, a Roman General, with a population close to 30,000 people.

The city was destroyed by vandals in 408 AD and again in 585, when it suffered a similar fate, at the hands of Gontrand of Orleans, King of the Franks.

In 1073, Bertrand was nominated to the post of Bishop by Count Raymond IV of Toulouse, his cousin.  Ten years later, Bertrand became Bishop in 1083, and in 1218 was canonized, becoming Saint Bertrand.

cathedral-of-the-pyrenees-2

Cathedral of the Pyrenees

In 1083, Bishop Bertrand ordered that the Cathedral of the Pyrenees with its Romanesque cloisters be built upon a steep hill, some 1700 feet high.  This fine cathedral would dominate the valley, located between the Pyrenean peaks.

As one enters the cathedral, located on the outer left wall, a relic, a crocodile to ward off evil spirits, brought back from the Holy Land by a pilgrim.

Three men through history are responsible for the construction of this fine cathedral, which dominates the valley:

12th century – St.Bertrand de I’Isle

14th century – Bertrand de Got; Pope Clement V

16th century – Jean de Mauleon

The first phase of the construction: The porch, displays twelve apostles, surmounted by the Adoration of the Magi, presenting gifts to the Virgin Mary, with an image of Bertrand in the background.

Numerous pillars depict the Green Men.  Columns are decorated with foliage, plants and leaves similar in design, to those found in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland.  Rosslyn has three enigmatic pillars, whilst here we have two enormous pillars, with a circumference of 11.45 metres.

cathedral-cloisters-of-the-pyrenees

Cathedral Cloisters

On the cathedral’s south wall, the cloisters are located, open to the Pyrenees, a place of prayer for the monks.

The second phase of the construction: Bertrand de Got was Bishop of Comminges from 1295-1299 and in 1304 Archbishop of Bordeaux.  In 1305 elected to the post of Pope Clement V.  Bertrand de Got, was the first in a line of pope’s through history, to be crowned with a papal tiara.  A stone from the Pope’s tiara was lost, as he himself stumbled, as a wall collapsed during the parade, killing some bystanders.

In 1307 he sided with King Philip IV of France, calling for the arrest of the Knight’s Templar, and in 1312 officially abolished the order in Vienne.  In 1314 Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knight’s Templar was burnt at the stake on charges of heresy in Paris.  Molay vowed his accusers would follow him to their death, within a year.

Bertrand de Got’s proposed extension and gothic embellishments to the cathedral were completed by 1350, under the guide of Hugues de Castillon.

The mother of Pope Clement V was Ida de Blanchefort, related to Bertrand de Blanchefort.  Grand Master of the Knight’s Templar 1156-1169.  Who would have believed that a grand master descendant, would abolish the Knight’s Templar.

Any secrets found in St.Bertrand de Comminges, would only be known to Pope Clement V, as he had served in the cathedral.

pope-clement-v

Pope Clement V

Bertrand de Got, became Pope Clement V.  In 1306, the Chateau de Duras, was taken over by the de Got family.  Pope Clement’s nephew was Bertrand de Got, and he was partly responsible in over seeing the expansion of the chateau into a fortress; 3,000 square metres in size with eight round towers.

It is said, it had been built to defend the valley and its food production.  On the other hand, did the fortress have something of considerable value hidden within… the money came from the Knight’s Templar, so could there be a link to the Holy Land relics?

In 1430, Bishop Pierre de Foix, built a grand mausoleum for relics of Saint Bertrand.

pyrenees-choir-stalls

Choir Stalls

The third phase of the construction: Located within the cathedral, the 16th century choir stalls, known as a wooden church within a stone church made from oak and walnut, of Renaissance style and inaugurated for Christmas 1535.  A series of sixty-six stalls, depict characters from the bible, the brainchild of Jean de Mauleon.

Wikipedia Images