Postcard from Valencia, Spain: Failed again to spy the Holy Grail

Two years ago, we missed the clues secreted in the cup of the 12th angel over the 12th gate in the Cathedral in Cuenca.

But wait. Maybe Cuenca is not where the chalice was at Jesus’ place during his Last Supper was hidden away by the Knights Templar. Some claim it to be sitting right there in plain view in a chapel in Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Valencia where all can visit it.

An entrance fee replaced the mystery surrounding the Holy Grail hidden in Cuenca. We paid, but once again were as deprived in our quest as the knights of King Arthur. The chapel was closed temporarily.

Consecrated in 1238, the cathedral was built upon the remains of a Visigoth church that had been turned into a mosque. Although primarily Gothic in design, lengthy construction and additions led to portions spanning styles from Romanesque to Neoclassical.

While much of the interior is somewhat plain, the church does include two paintings by Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), including the pictured one of an exorcism in progress.

Oh, and then there is an arm. The arm purportedly was attached at one time to Saint Vincent, Martyr, the patron saint of Valencia. Imprisoned in Valencia, the archdeacon of Saragossa faced his test of faith in 304. After stretching him on a rack, Vincent’s tormenters were frustrated by his calm and even joyful countenance despite the pain they inflicted. His flesh was torn by hooks, and he was tied to a red-hot iron grate. As if that was not enough, they rubbed salt in his wounds before he succumbed to the multitude of his injuries. His mangled body was thrown in the sea but washed ashore where his relics were guarded by a raven until retrieved by the faithful.

Two-hundred and seven stairs ascend the interior of the tower of the cathedral. Two family members elected to climb, while one volunteered to stay at the base in case they needed her for scale in photos.

So, maybe are destined to never find a trail to the Holy Grail. That is, unless we travel to Leon in northern Spain and pay the entrance fee to the museum in the Basilica of San Isidoro, where another “real” grail is housed.

Postcard from Cuenca, Spain: On the trail of the Holy Grail?

This place probably was pretty crowded in 2012 when some anticipated a cataclysmic end to most of us.

The Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Gracia in Cuenca is entangled in the mystery of the secret location of the Holy Grail. Some believe the 12 gates lorded over by 12 angels represent an architectural code indicating the grail can be found within the cathedral, making it the safest place in the world to be when the doom prophesied by Nostradamus strikes.

The architecture – Gothic-Anglo Norman – of the cathedral reflects the marital union of the royalty commissioning it in 1196. Twenty years after gaining Cuenca back from the Moors, King Alfonso VIII (1158-1214) and Eleanor (1177-1214), the daughter of Henry II of England, had the monumental cathedral underway.

Ignorant during our visit, we failed to look for the 12th angel holding a cupful of clues or any symbols left by Knights Templar to mark a trail to the grail.

But we did find treasures, amazing grilles.

The grillwork fronting the chapels is exquisite, but extremely difficult to photograph without flash. It’s wonderful it will be spared destruction when doomsday arrives.

Postcard from Sintra, Portugal: Masonic mysteries surface at Quinta da Regaleira

During interrogation by the Inquisition, a Templar knight cryptically stated: “There exists in the Order a law so extraordinary on which such a secret should be kept, that any knight would prefer his head cut off rather than reveal it.”[40)

from First Templar Nation: How the Knights Templar Created Europe’s First Nation-State by Freddy Silva

When the royal family summered at Sintra, society followed. Among those was the Baroness da Regaleira, who purchased Quinta da Torre, dating from the 1700s, in 1840 and transformed it into a place of elegance.

But the next owner lavished more embellishments on the estate, known now as Quinta da Regaleira. Born in Rio de Janeiro to Portuguese parents, Carvalho Monteiro (1848-1920) engaged Italian architect Luigi Manini (1848-1936), who designed the Bussaco Palace for the royal family, to work on the main house and grounds from 1898 to 1911. By the time Monteiro completed his extravagant transformation of the quinta, the days of summering with the royals had come to an end. Following the assassination of his father, young King Manuel II was living in exile In London.

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The extensive grounds designed as an image of the Cosmos are filled with a network of mysterious towers, tunnels and grottos associated with Masonic rituals. The initiation well spirals dramatically downward into the earth (The Mister took the photo peering upward from the depths; one of us does not do subterranean spaces well.). Near the upper gate, workers were assembling stage and props for a Masonic ceremony.

Author Freddy Silva describes Sintra’s connections to the Knights Templar in First Templar Nation: How the Knights Templar Created Europe’s First Nation-State:

In 1152 Afonso Henriques — by now first king of Portugal — donated the entire village to a man who would become the fourth Templar Master of Portugal, Gualdino Paes (one of the five knights sent by Hugues de Payens to “establish a Portuguese crown”), and he did so under unusual circumstances — in absentia, while Paes was in Palestine with the then Templar Grand Master André de Montbard (also allegedly head of the Ordre de Sion).[38] Hundreds of years of earthquakes, neglect and time made their mark on the Templars’ properties in Sintra, but their original foundations remain and now serve modern day businesses, such as the Hotel Central and Café Paris. In 1970 a hypogeum or ritual chamber with access tunnels was discovered beneath said café, with a connecting passageway leading one way to the nearby Palace, and the other uphill towards the Templar castle.

Fifteen minutes’ walk from Sintra’s main square lies another property that right up to the Middle Ages was described as the Forest of Angels. Today it is the site of an extensive property owned by successive Masonic families dating to at least the early 18th century; in 1371 it was still in the possession of the Knights Templar.[39] Its gardens can only be described as a deliberately designed ritual landscape. One of its many wonders is a labyrinth of tunnels dug into the solid bedrock of the mountainside, penetrating deep into the hill as though meant for initiates wishing to immerse themselves in the dark seclusion of the womb of the Earth Mother, much like Gnostic sects have done throughout history. One of these tunnels leads to a shaft sunk forty feet into the earth.

It is described in official brochures as a well, and yet a close examination shows it never did, nor is it capable of retaining water. It consists of five levels of unevenly stacked and undressed limestone blocks, here and there patched and repaired. Behind the blocks hide five low and narrow circular galleries, each accessed through claustrophobic spiral stairs set into the rough wall and in a measured style that suggests a later refurbishment. The top of the shaft is literally an eighteen-foot diameter hole, level with the ground and surrounded by a rough, dry-stone wall in the shape of a horseshoe. This entrance faces northeast and, like Stonehenge’s horseshoe of bluestones, it references the highest position of the light, the summer solstice sunrise, the esoteric reference to ancient wisdom and, coincidentally, the feast day of John the Baptist, to whom the Templars dedicated a disproportionate amount of churches in Portugal and elsewhere.

Now owned by the municipality of Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira (click link to see videos) is operated by a nonprofit. The general public, and Freemasons, share the magical space.