What Have you Found? 12/07/2011
“What have you found?” It was Wolfgang Larcher, art historian and guide at Chartres Cathedral. His tone was hushed, his expression earnest. My pendulum was twirling like a propeller, its crystal tip straight out, parallel to the floor. I knew if I let go it would fly across the ancient stone crypt. I could hear the whizzing and clicking of Judy’s camera as she snapped picture after picture in the chamber's dim light.
“Is it the Ark of the Covenant?” Larcher whispered. His eyes were wide with anticipation. He nodded his head, encouraging me to confirm the miraculous find.
"Don't be silly," I laughed. The man looked crestfallen.
“But it was buried here," he said. "Didn't you see the carving?” I had indeed seen the 12th-century carving on a stone pillar in front of the cathedral’s North portal: An object resting on the bed of a wheeled cart being pulled by a headless someone. Nothing to lead me or anyone else, as far as I was concerned, to believe it might be the Ark of the Covenant. Except for the Latin words: Hic Amititur Archa Cederis. But even that was ambiguous. It could mean, "You are to work through the Ark," or, if the word cederis was a corruption of the word foederis as some suggest: "Here it is let go, the Ark." Grasping at medieval straws as far as I was concerned.
"It's not the Ark," I said.
“But how can you be sure?” Larcher didn't look up as he spoke. He was busy counting heel-to-toe steps from the wall to the spot on the floor where the pendulum registered the extraordinary energy spike.
“I’m a little old lady from Oregon," I said. "I'd never be the one to find the Ark of the Covenant." I didn't know that for sure, but it seemed a reasonable presumption.
Larcher paused. “Perhaps you’re right,” he said, then moved to an adjacent wall where he proceeded to step off the distance as if plotting vectors. "But if it's not the Ark, then what is it?"
Copyright 2011 Sharon Mehdi
Scrolls of Good and Evil 11/30/2011
Note: As you've probably figured out by now, this blog has little rhyme or reason. It is made up of bits and pieces of larger published works, or about-to-be published works, or as in this case, notes and journal entries. I hope you find them interesting.
En route to Toulouse:
Road signs said we had entered Cathar country. The map showed we were only a few miles from Montsegur and the ruins of a huge stone fortress carved out of the top of a mountain. It was the last stronghold of the Cathars, a Christian sect considered heretical by the Catholic church. Cathars believed God was good and would never have created or allowed to be created all the evil in the world. Therefore, mankind itself must have created evil. Have to say, that makes a lot of sense to me.
Cathars saw no need for priests, bishops and popes to act as intercessors between man and God, which made the Catholic priests, bishops and popes pretty darn nervous. Especially since more and more disillusioned Catholics were joining this heretical movement. It made them so nervous, in fact, that Pope Innocent III decided to mount a Crusade and kill all those who wouldn't recant their misguided ways. The Albigensian Crusade succeeded in doing just that.
The Cathar's were known as the Good Christians, and their dualist beliefs were known as the religion of Good and Evil.
Judy and I climbed to the top of Montsegur in spite of signs that said how dangerous and strenuous it was. Well, I climbed and Judy groaned and moaned and complained her way up the steep path. At the top – finally! – we took pictures to prove we'd made it to the fortress. I picked a small stone out of a crumbling wall to take back as a remembrance of the breathtaking site. Etched into the stone was what appeared to both of us to be a dragonfly.
On the drive back to Chartres we stopped in Avignon where we took a tour of the enormous and exquisite Palace of the Popes. There, in the middle of a marble step on an inside staircase in a wing of the palace, sat a small stone with the outline of a dragonfly. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. Clearly a theme was emerging, but we had no idea what it meant.
While Judy drove north, I read two books I’d picked up in town of Foix. One on the Cathars and one on sites in France established by the Knights Templar. The Cathar book talked about four men who lowered themselves at great peril over the side of the fortress at Montsegur the night before the last 220 Cathars were burned at the stake by Crusaders. I remembered reading about it in the Michael Baigent/Henry Lincoln book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Legend says the four men carried with them a treasure that has never been found.
I was thinking out loud – since the pious Cathars put no value on things material it didn’t make sense that they’d be carrying worldly treasure like gold or jewels. All they cared about was their way of life, their beliefs. And since they knew that the last of the them would die by fire the next morning, perhaps the “treasure” was the history and tenets of their religion. If that were the case and if I were a Cathar, I’d ask the most powerful allies I had for help in hiding the documents. To wit: The Knights Templar.
That’s when I remembered the scrolls of good and evil that Our Lady of Chartres talked about in the 30-day messages. She said they were buried near the town of Chartres and that they were marked by standing stones.
What if there were a Templar site near Chartres and the scrolls of good and evil were actually the Cathar scrolls? In the book I’d bought in Foix about Templar sites, I found reference to a village called Sours “some kilometers” from Chartres where the Templars built one of the most important commanderies in that part of France -- a commanderie, the book said, that had at one time housed “the Holy of Holies.”
Cathar documents probably couldn’t be construed as the Holy of Holies; so far as I knew, that term was saved for the Ark of the Covenant. But at the same time, if Sours was so important, perhaps the Cathars had heard of it and had made their way there. Or maybe they had a pre-arranged meeting with Templar knights and had handed the scrolls off to them. Sours wasn’t on the map we had and I figured it must have been one of those medieval towns that just crumbled into oblivion.
We’d been driving five or six hours when all of a sudden I could not take one more second of French freeways. I was frantic. “You have to get off the freeway now!” A startled Judy took the first exit she came to and we ended up on a two-lane road heading roughly toward Chartres. Two minutes later we passed a wooden sign in the shape of an arrow that said Sours!
Judy slammed on the brakes and swerved onto a tiny farm road that wound its way through miles of wheatfields and eventually led to the hamlet of Sours which consisted of a postoffice, a pharmacy, a butcher shop, a Mayor’s office, a medieval church, and a few houses with window boxes and small lawns. We parked in front of the church and went in. No reference to the Templars there. On the outskirts of the tiny town were several ancient-looking stone dwellings, but nothing with a Templar cross or historical marker.
Judy got turned around as we were leaving Sours and we ended up on a different road. “I don’t know what I was expecting,” I mused aloud. “Did I think I'd just look out the car window and there would be a pile of standing stones?” I gestured, unseeing, to my right.
“Oh my God, what’s that?” Judy yelped. (Yes, it did happen this way.) In the midst of the wheatfield stood what looked like a pile of huge stones, one balanced on the other. The stones were far out into the field and we could only see the top. Judy pulled the rental car off the road and into a ditch. I grabbed my camera, climbed down into the ditch and up the other side. There was no pathway, but it was early spring and the wheat was only a couple of feet high. I made my way out to the stones. They were surrounded by masses of tiny green shoots. Each in the shape of a dragonfly.
Copyright 2011 Sharon Mehdi
If you were to visit the crypt of Chartres Cathedral, you might notice a small wrought-iron door set into the wall near an ancient healing well. If someone had forgotten to lock the door, as happens from time to time, and you managed to slip through unnoticed you would find yourself at the top of a stone staircase that leads down into murky darkness.
To your right is a light switch. Don’t worry, the glow from the bulb is faint and no one will see it from the corridor. But be careful. The stairs are steep and your eyes aren’t accustomed to the dimness.
Near the bottom, just before the steps veer to the left, you’ll see a low wooden barricade blocking the entrance to an excavation tunnel. If you were foolish enough to climb over the barricade and inch your way around the darkened tunnel, you’d find yourself wedged in a narrow, airless space surrounded by thousands of tons of limestone and granite. On one side is an inner wall of the crypt, on the other, the massive outer wall of a much earlier church, one built in the ninth century. A cathedral within a cathedral.
Buried below this are fragments of still earlier churches – the oldest dating back to the fourth century where workers uncovered the statue of a goddess holding a child carved into the hollowed out trunk of a pear tree. Perhaps there are even remnants left by the Druids who many say gathered on this spot hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus. But leave the rocks and rubble for another time. They are lifeless and your mission is Life.
Quickly now, for you have only minutes before someone locks the upper door and you find yourself trapped for the night in shivery blackness with the ghosts and ghouls of the past. Make your way down the last few steps and into a small stone vault, the only existing remains of a church built near the time Charlemagne was Emperor and Leo III was Pope.
The first thing you’ll notice is a massive column surrounded by an iron guardrail. At the base of the column there is a hole cut into the limestone wall, a hole big enough for someone, maybe you, to crawl through. But don’t waste your time on the obvious when a short distance away what called you to this place is waiting to be found.
You may sense a certain energy, perhaps even get a mind’s-eye glimpse of a box, higher than it is wide, covered in gold with round knobs on all four corners. A box that contains scrolls of brittle yellowed calfskin inscribed in symbols that look more like music notes than words.
If you are very lucky -- or very unlucky -- an inner voice may give you three choices: uncover the box; intuit the message the scrolls contain; or walk away. But beware your choice for the stakes are high and time is short.
As I write these lines there are wars being waged that can’t be won; political and religious ideologies that can’t be reconciled; whole areas of the world that have been devastated by hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, and droughts. There are terrorists plotting massacres, mutating viruses poised to kill, and asteroids – seen and unseen – on a collision course with the earth.
I was a skeptic. It took me 15 years, 17 trips to France, a mountain of research in three languages, a 500-mile pilgrimage walk from the Pyrenees in France to the far western coast of Spain, a near-death experience, and two arguably certifiable miracles before I reluctantly accepted the task as chronicler of events in this curious quest for absolute truth.
Don’t believe what you’re about to read because you want to believe, or worse, because you need to. Instead be wary, for on every step of the journey we are about to take you will need to choose as I did between truth and illusion. There is no task more daunting. And none more important.
That said, let me assure you the story is true. True insofar as what I say happened to me did, in fact, actually happen. I have changed a few names and may have misremembered a few details of the early years, but the events and circumstances are true. Often there were witnesses. Whether my interpretation of those events and circumstances is valid, however, I cannot guarantee. And therein lies the challenge.
Copyright 2011 Sharon Mehdi
MYSTERIES OF CHARTRES 10/15/2011
In the year 1194 in the tiny rural village of Chartres, an architect laid out plans for a cathedral whose design was different from anything ever conceived. In this unlikely, isolated area surrounded by wheat fields so vast they define the horizon, a master builder and hundreds of stone masons and craftsmen gathered to construct the soaring ribbed vault and flying buttresses of what would become the finest monument to Gothic architecture ever built. The construction would take only 26 years, something architects and engineers say would be impossible today.
Over the next hundred years more than 80 cathedrals and nearly a thousand Gothic churches would be erected across Europe, many of them in France. We know the names of the architects who designed them and the master builders who supervised their construction. For many we know the names of quarrymen, stone cutters, sculptors, carpenters and stained-glass artists.
But in the case of Chartres, which houses the world’s largest collection of medieval stained glass and more than four thousand exterior sculptures, we know not a single name connected with the design, construction or sacred art. And this is only one of many mysteries.
Where, for instance, did the money and manpower come from to construct such a massive edifice in such a short time in such an out-of-the-way place? Why, in a Roman Catholic cathedral in what was a Roman Catholic country, were there over a hundred depictions of a woman and child, some markedly pagan in nature, but no representation anywhere of a crucified Christ? Why are there so many references to the zodiac in a Christian cathedral? We'll explore these and other topics in the months leading up to the September 2012 workshop.
WELCOME TO THE CHARTRES BLOG! 10/15/2011
It took months, but thanks to Debi Bodett, the brilliant and ever-patient graphic designer and Web Wizard from Olympia, Washington we have a website! A beautiful, hopeful, helpful, soon-to-be fully functional website. I cannot say enough GOOD THINGS about Debi who guided me, long-distance, in the gentlest, most empowering way through all manner of Weird Weebly Webbyness that had me screaming and sobbing and tearing what’s left of my hair out. She is clever and knowledgeable and funny and adorable (with VERY cute hair), and if anyone reading this blog ever needs a website designed, call her!
Visit her website here::
That said, there are still a few things I have to figure out, like how the Google Merchandise site works so you can order things and pay for them and the workshop with your credit card online. DO NOT USE GOOGLE MERCHANDISE YET. I’ll tell you when.
In the meantime, I’m going to be blogging – at least once a week and maybe more often in the beginning – about Chartres and the workshop and all kinds of stuff you’ll never find in books. You’ll love it. So, keep checking in!