Key to the Sacred Pattern

12 June 2006

The Nanteos Cup

The story of the Nanteos Cup begins during the reign of King Henry VIII. In the late 1520’s, Henry began making steps to separate England from the spiritual authority of the Catholic Church. The disagreement between the Church and King centered round Henry’s desire to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragorn. Catherine had not produced a male heir for Henry and he wished to marry Anne Boleyn in hopes of producing a son. Henry bantered with the Catholic Church for a number of years. Henry exchanged letters and delegates with the Holy See in hopes of winning his annulment. The Catholic position was not only one of Church doctrine, but of politics. The Pope, not wishing to alienate England

In 1533, Henry took matters into his own hands and secretly married the pregnant Boleyn. Parliament then passed an act that dissolved Papal authority in England. This act made an English Court’s decision that Henry’s marriage to Catherine was legally annulled, and therefore his marriage to Boleyn valid. The Parliament’s actions also proscribed placing Henry as the spiritual leader of the newly formed Church of England. The doctrine of the Church of England was the same as Catholic doctrine with the exception of the Pope’s authority in matter of faith. By 1536, all public and ecclesial officials had to publicly denounce the authority of Rome in accordance with the Reformation Parliaments acts.

There was no public outcry for the loss of Papal authority. Most commoners saw the Catholic Church as a spiritual protection racket. The Church charged to perform weddings, baptisms, or funeral services. Without these services, the Church’s stance was that entry into heaven could not be obtained. To Henry, the Catholic Abbeys and Monasteries represented pockets of resistance to his reign. Pragmatically, they also represented a stream of income to the crown. Most Abbeys had large tracks of farmable land and other material assets that could be put to the King’s use. To insure that the monasteries were conforming to the law, Thomas Cromwell organized groups of commissioners to perform ecclesial spot checks. This turned out to be a rather lucrative job for the commissioners. Who had the honor of looting the monasteries where the monks were found to be in violation of the law.

It is during this time the Nanteos Cup surfaces. In 1539, the King’s commissioners were sent to check on the Abbey of Glastonbury. The Abbot of Glastonbury had evidently never denounced Papal authority. Some loyal Catholic had tipped the Abbot off that the commissioners were in the area. Upon hearing this, the Abbot made plans to hide the Abbey’s most prized possession. Along with what ever gold and silver wares the Abbey possessed, an olive wood cup measuring about five by three inches was hidden. One legend says the Abbot sent seven monks to the Strata Florida to safe guard the cup. The Abbot stayed at Glastonbury to cover the monk’s escape. For the Abbot’s devotion to his faith and the cup, the old priest was hung and Glastonbury Abbey was sacked. A second, more likely version, is that the Abbot accompanied the monks and barely escaped the commissioner’s ravages of Glastonbury.

At the Abbey Strata Florida in Cardiganshire, the monks found momentary refuge. Supposedly, they hid their treasure under a loose floor board in the main chapel. It wasn’t long before the commissioners picked up the monk’s trail. For a second time, the former Glastonbury Monks were informed that their position was in jeopardy. The group of seven could not go to ground forever. They had to find a patron to shield them from the King’s agents or leave the country.

The monks then made contact with the Powell family. It was also rumored that the Powell family was partners with the neighboring Stedman family in a rather extensive smuggling operation. There was said to be a tunnel running nearly a mile from the coast to the Powell’s manor. The local tavern talk was that the Powell’s loyalties to the King were bought with bribes to the local magistrates. Possibly it was the smuggler nature to turn a profit or secret Catholic ties that connected Lord Powell with the monks. For whatever reason Powell’s reasons, the seven monks were directed to fleet to the Powell estate of Nanteos.

When the monks reached Nanteos, the terms of their safe haven was struck with Lord Powell. In exchange for sanctuary, the Abbot would become personal chaplain to the family and the remaining monks would become servants around the estate. Lord Powell agreed and let the monks remain at the estate for as long as they liked. This arraignment went along for years. The monks lived their days with little difference than they had at Glastonbury. The only exception being, hiding in the costal tunnel when prying eyes came to the estate. The monks kept their part of the bargain for a number of years. All the while, keeping the secret of the cup they had spirited away from Glastonbury.

The ravages of age or disease began taking their toll on the monks, until only one remained. On his death bed, the lone Glastonbury monk called for Lord Powell. It was there he entrusted Powell with the olive wood cup and it’s secret. Lord Powell was told that this was the cup used at the Last Supper. It had been brought to Brittan by Joseph of Arimathea after the crucifixion. It must have been with some trepidation he took the cup from the dying monk. Viewing what he had been told was the Holy Grail. The monk charged the Powell Family to guard the cup, until the “Church shall claim her own.”

Lord Powell must have taken his charge seriously, because it stayed in the family for nearly 400 years. In 1739, the Nanteos House was rebuilt by Thomas Powell. The cup was housed in a glass container of an upstairs room. Visitors to Nanteos were even told the generations old tale of how this cup came into the family’s possession. The cup stayed there for another 200 years, attracting pilgrims hoping to receive miraculous healing from the cup. Water that had rested in the cup was sent to serious ill friends and family members all over the world. Richard Wagner made a trip to Nanteos in 1855 to see the cup while writing Parsifal, at the invitation of George Powell. George recounted tales of the cups healing powers to Wagner. It even convinced Tom Mac Donald of Western Mail and South Wales News to write an article on the cup. On 5 July 1934 he recounted the story of an 80 year old man who was healed of some unnamed sickness after drinking from the cup.

The pilgrims that traveled to Nanteos House to drink from the cup have taken a physical toll on the artifact. Those desperate enough to receive the blessings of the cup took to taking bites out of it. Hoping that by ingesting some of the cup, they would be made well again. At some point after the 1934 article was written, a silver ring was placed around the rim to hold the cup’s cracked pieces together. Some say that it was then the miraculous benefits of the cup ceased.

When the last of the Powell family passed away in 1952, the Nanteos House was sold to a Major Mirylees. The Mirylees were somewhat private about the cup. They no longer publicizing the fact they were the owners of the “Holy Grail”. The family did allow a few interviews regarding the cup. One was a 1997 BBC Television documentary and another was an interview granted to the Martinist Review in 1959. In the Martinist Review article, Marjory Mirylees hinted that the cup was still being used to some extent to heal the sick. She also mentioned that sometimes the water that was poured in the remaining portion of the cup turned a yellowish color, and tasted almost like wine. Mrs. Mirylees also assured the reporters that experts had told her the wood had absolutely nothing to do with the color change.

The present Mirylees have moved from Nanteos House. The once proud House has turned into a run down bed and breakfast. Choosing to preserve both the cup and their privacy they moved to Herefordshire and deposited this contender for the true Grail in a Lloyd’s Bank safety deposit box. The only time the Nanteos Cup has been displayed was in 2001, at the launching of a book Nanteos and their Families. At the time, Miss Mirylees said that she still sent water out from the cup.

06 June 2006

Knights Templar Reading Lists

In the last few years there has been a ton of books written on the Templars. The following are good starting points for not only the known history of the Order, but a primer on the conjectural side of Templar history.

Dungeon, Fire and Sword; John Robinson

John Robinson, author of Born in Blood, writes his history of the Knight's Templar in this text. While the text is informative on the Templar's, it tends to turn into a history of the Crusades and the politics of the era. Robinson does have a story telling style to his history and the text is recommended to those who are looking for an over view of what is historically known about the Templars. For those who are looking for speculation about what the Templars could have done or what they might have been involved in during the Crusades, this is not a text you'll want to pick up.

The Templars : Knights of God; Edward Burman

This is a very concise overview of the Templars during the Crusades. The weakness of most texts dealing with the Templars is that the focus tends to be on the Crusades, and mention of the Templars is an after thought. Knights of God attempts to break that mold. The author’s focus is very clear in trying to report on what is known about the organization. It’s a good starter text for anyone wishing to get a historical background of the Knights.

The Trial of the Templars;Malcomb Barber

Malcolm Barber is one of the world’s leading medieval historians. He has written a number of histories of the Templars and of the Crusades. I decided to put this one on the reading list because of the events it deals with. To understand any post 1307 conjectural history of the Templars, one must understand how and why they fell from power. Barber takes a close look at the surviving documentation to report on this subject in depth. There is a very scholarly air about Barber’s writing, but it is in no way impenetrable to the armchair historian.

Sign and the Seal : The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant; Graham Hancock

If one says nothing else about Graham Hancock, it would be that he is a man of adventure. Hancock's was a journalist for a number of prominent English newspapers during the 1970's, and was the Economist's East African correspondent in the early 80's. Trained as a sociologist at Durham University, Hancock's travels impressed upon him that what we know about history is not really what we know about history. It is from this framework we come to Hancock's first crypto-historical book the Sign and the Seal.

Hancock's theory is that the Holy Grail is the Ark of the Covenant. Hancock became fascinated with the Falasha Jews of Ethiopia while on assignment there in 1983. The Falasha's folklore tells that the Ark of the Covenant was taken from Israel by Solomon and The Queen of Sheba's son, and returned to Ethiopia. There exists a church in Axum, that Christian Ethiopians believe houses the Ark. Hancock goes on to claim that the Knights Templar figured out where the Ark was and went to Ethiopia to find it.

Hancock's arguments are rather compelling. The present day practices of Ethiopian Christians and architecture bearing Templar Crosses, go a long way in presenting his case. Should the Ark of the Covenant still exist, Hancock's argument will make you think there is no better place in the world that it would reside.

As to the Holy Grail connection, Hancock uses Grail Literature as a hidden code to decipher that the Grail is the Ark. While the argument for the Ark residing in Ethiopia is compelling, the link between the Grail and the Ark is not so. The strength of this text is in Hancock's interviews with Ethiopian Religious leaders and research into the history of Ethiopia.

The Templars and the Grail : Knights of the Quest

Dr. Karen Ralls explores the legendary and literary links between the Templars and the quest for the Grail. I was fortunate enough to meet Karen at a conference in 1999 in London. At the time she was an Deputy Curator of the Rosslyn Chapel Museum. Her insights on things Grail related yield some interesting results. She also supports the web site Ancient Quest

Templar Documents Sold at Auction in London

Click here for the full source article

In London this past week John Goodchild auctioned off deeds of the Knights Templar dating back to the 12th and 13th Centuries. These deeds relate to holdings in the Lofthouse and Newland areas in England. The documents also have references to Temple Newsam Given the Da Vinci Codefuror, the street value of any such documents has risen significantly. I suspect that a close watch of upper end action houses lots will yield a number of such items up for sale in the coming months.

Goodchild supports a local research center in Wakefield, a displays what is simply known as the Goodchild Collection. According to a UK ARCHON search, this collection simply houses some family’s deeds from the Wakefield area. Goodchild as also written a texts relating to the Wakefield area . However, I cannot find any references on the net to the book News from Newland. It’s likely that the book is available at local book shops. Goodchild’s books and research generally follow the history of the Wakefield area. The majority of Goodchild’s texts are published by Tempus Publishing and Wakefield Historical Publications. The conspiracy theorist in me, that I do try to suppress when writing this blog, notes that Wakefield Historical Publications web site does display the Fleur-de-lay at the top and bottom of every page.

Points I found interesting about the article

  • The Templar documents came from a large estate that Goodchild is not willing to name. I know there are numerous donations to charities and the like that hold anonymity clauses. But Goodchild states that he is not “prepared” to disclose this information. I know this is a matter of semantics, but interesting none the less.
  • Goodchild states in the article that he had no idea of the value of the Templar documents he held. This is a rather odd statement. How could a retired archivist not know anything related to the Templars would hold significant value?

Once again, the job of the Grail Seeker leads to more questions that answers. I just wonder what else is in Mr. Goodchild’s achieves.