This is the second post about things and places in my upcoming novel, A Song In Stone, to be published in November 2008.
Our Story So Far
Ian Graham, the protagonist of the novel, visits Rosslyn as part of an assignment to do a television documentary, and because he can hear the “healing music” encoded in the stones of the Lady Chapel, he is transported back to the fourteenth century – and not only that, but he’s awoken in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (in the northwest part of modern Spain); and it’s the most important day of the year – the feast-day of Saint James (Santiago Matamoros), companion of Jesus, whose tomb is placed behind the high altar.
Like most modern folks – including most readers of this blog, I’d guess – Ian knows nothing about Santiago. But in the fourteenth century, it was a pilgrimage destination every bit as popular as Rome (not a particularly safe place in 1307 – the reigning Pope hadn’t even set foot in the city) and Jerusalem (even more dangerous, since it had been lost to the Saracens). But it was a long way from everywhere.
The Road to Santiago
For most people undertaking the journey, it was three or four months’ walk along the pilgrims’ roads, starting in France (or points beyond). There were regular stops – shrines and churches and monasteries, hostels and festivals – with the objective of arriving in Santiago on, or before, the saint’s feast day of 25 July. But there was another pilgrimage, the esoteric pilgrimage, that began at Santiago and ended at Rosslyn. For the purposes of this book, I associated it with the Order of the Temple.
Where It Comes From
My account of the esoteric pilgrimage is based loosely on Rosslyn, Guardian of the Secrets of the Holy Grail, a book I picked up at Rosslyn. It goes without saying that it is as likely a work of fiction as the novel that I structured around its descriptions, but it does make for fascinating reading. Wallace-Murphy and Hopkins assemble considerable circumstantial and “mythic” evidence on the various parts of the pilgrimage, as well as describing their own experiences at each of the sites.
Having planted my feet firmly on the ground in the paragraph above, let me observe that it’s not entirely without historical background. As Ian notes, there are seashells (pilgrim badges) from Santiago on display in the Rosslyn sacristy, and people did make the journey to each of the “Oracles” . . . and are still doing it. Here are the principal pilgrimage sites and their associated “celestial sphere”:
|Cathedral of Compostela
|Notre-Dame la Dalbade
|Notre-Dame de Chartres
|Notre-Dame de Paris
|Notre-Dame de Amiens
Remember that the medieval conception of the heavens consisted of a number of concentric spheres with the Earth at the center, the sun and moon as planets, and Saturn as the end of the solar system. This was the Ptolemaic view, and it prevailed until Copernicus dumped it in the trash bin in the fifteenth century.
Ian is introduced to the esoteric pilgrimage at Santiago – but he immediately realizes that there’s a terrible problem:
“You must travel the pilgrim road. That’s the only way.”
“Until I reach the final destination. Which is?”
“Wait. That’s not possible – Rosslyn wasn’t built until the 1440s. If Rosslyn is the destination, how am I supposed to get to it in 1307?”
Ian has only one thing to hang on to as a twenty-first-century man in the fourteenth century: his guide is the same man who gave him the tour of Rosslyn Chapel – Rob Madson. Except that he’s Robert de la Maison here, a transplanted Scot . . . and a confrère in the Order of the Temple. And Ian, it appears, is a Templar initiate.
And 1307 Is Important Because . . .
On 13 October 1307, after extensive secret preparations, King Philip IV (”the Fair”) arrested the Templars on charges of heresy, sodomy and apostasy, seizing all of their property and lands. Most other nations in the Christian world did the same. After seven years’ imprisonment, the Templars that hadn’t died under torture or of other causes were burned at the stake in 1314. One of them was the last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay.
It Ended Badly.
Legend has it that while the flames were consuming him, de Molay repeated his innocence and called both King Philip IV and Pope Clement V to meet him before the throne of heaven before a year was out. Within that year both were dead; Clement had been suffering from what might have been bowel cancer, but Philip was a strong man in the prime of life. This story is probably fiction made up after the fact, but it makes for good drama.
The Seven Initiations
The purpose of the pilgrimage was to visit religious sites, but particular ones: in Santiago, Toulouse, Orléans, Chartres, Paris, Amiens and Rosslyn. Together these seven formed the Camino de las estrellas – the road of the stars, anchored by the two ends in Santiago and Rosslyn. Each “Oracle” represents another step along the path of “light”.
The fact that there isn’t any Rosslyn yet – neither Ian’s guide Rob, nor anyone else other than 21st-century Ian, knows anything about it – means that no one in 1307 (or before) has actually completed the entire pilgrimage. It ends at the Jupiter Oracle in Amiens. It will take someone who can reach Rosslyn . . . assuming he’s able to get back to his own time. And at the outset, only Ian knows that there’s a deadline: 13 October, when King Philip moves against the Templars.