The Mysterious Message of the Acerenza Cathedral An antique Norman cathedral in the heart of Lucania, its symbols slipped away from the minds of historian analysis, a message transmitted under the form of code contained in rock and destined “for those that have eyes to see, and ears to interpretate.” Maybe an important secret: but what is really involved here?
The Forgotten Cathedral In Italy, every past event has left its concrete mark as a material testimony. It could be a sanctuary at the crossroads of two paths, or a coin, an amber necklace that came up from the earth in a field or a cathedral in a place that has been lost in time. The knowledge producing these testimonies appear hidden most of the time, arranged and transformed during the course of the epoch that had followed. But everything is still present: you only need to know how to see it and interpretate it. Acerenza, Lucania, the south of Italy. It is a country of little souls on a rock which dominate the bordering passage of the plateau of Puglia. Over its shoulders we see Lucania with its mountains, intricate forests and its impetuous river. You’d arrive following a torterous unconnected road-- a journey towards a place suspended in time where everything seems to have been frozen. A couple of falcons in the sky search for space to twirl, everything’s in movement. And the medieval town, tight streets, antique houses, empty noble buildings disintegrating; that still flaunt their familiar coast of arms with pride. And in the end, the cathedral, imposing for this small medieval hamlet, almost seems foreign, it’s like landing here suddenly, from who knows where.
The Troup television who were already familiar with this place because they had already been here with indiscretions and video cameras. The silence that rests around the cathedral with its essential geometry renders this place modest, severe almost bringing you to fear it. Everything is ready; the old parish priest of the cathedral is in front of the camera lens with microphones attached to his black colored vest. They day is young. The warm sun radiates the façade of this medieval building creating dark and light shades that yield to the sculptures of two monsters both on either side of the main entrance with intent to possess two women, particularly disturbing. Ciak! And there’s suddenly a scene; the priest had thought it over and will not give the interview. The camera man and sound technician continue their shots while Fabio Tamburini the director, isn’t able to conceal his amazement “We are here for you to learn about the light!” The eighty year old priest (or more) looks at him smiling faintly! No, no I will not be interviewed.” A gust of wind blew up his black vest almost transforming him into a mythical character. “But why?” Fabio looked to persuade him in
every fashion possible, but the priest doesn’t budge. “If you cannot speak maybe your assistant can do it for you.” The words of a lawyer the true devisor of this adventurous research leading the elderly priest to be perplexed for an instant. “Ok he can answer your questions.” There was a sigh of relief; the interview could now continue and it was worth it. The scene is relocated to the inside of the cathedral in front of the altar. On the right, vaguely grasping two windows. Some researchers years ago noticed that one window was set up higher then all the rest. On May 25th, which is a holiday in Acerenza, (because that day is the commemoration, the transfer of the body of Saint Canione—patron saint of the town). On May 25th two beams of light enter in, one through the highest window and one through the lowest; they meet at a precise point at the altar almost wanting to indicate something of importance. A precise description that doesn’t leave an entrance way for doubts-whoever built the cathedral in the heart of the medieval darkness in 1080, knew exactly what he was doing. Knowing how to focalize the lighting in such a precise manner at that time, means only on thing: that he possessed the “Knowledge.” It was an epoch in which schools and universities did not exist, and he who constructed the cathedral came from a Benedictine School, the only one of its kind in Europe in that period; whom preserved such a knowledge and had to have been a cathedral builder.
Arnould the Builder The builder has a name. Arnould de Chiny. Arnaldo was the bishop of Acerenza until 1063 and was a part of a group of monks who came down in 1061 from Normandy together with a builder of cathedrals: Robert Grantmesnil. Restless souls like their brotherly knights who were all Normans. Their place of origin- the monasteries of Cluny and Saint Evroult sur l’Oche. They were called “Normans dressed like Monks” which wanted to indicate their impetuous and warlike characters. Educated for combat from a young age to be knights; they began from their families of the Benedictine monastery for a career of Abate. The epoch in which we speak of is around 1060, and to be an abbot or bishop was equivlent to being a prince. Therefore, their faith was often mixed up with ambitious of power-- to reach it with arms or with religion. To build the cathedral Arnould would have had to lower himself to the confraternity of the “Sons of Solomon” or to the “Masters Comacini.” But it’s improbable he did because a Benedictine Norman Abbot had been obligated to design the blueprints of the church using the “Traditional Rules,” the knowledge obtained in the Benedictine School.
He needed to understand more about this cathedral. The research carried out in writing by historians who’ve studied this building—such as: Lenormant, Schultz, Berteaux, Borden ache and Houbert Huben, have left more questions than answers. Is it possible that something important was overlooked in all these investigations? According to our hypothesis, Arnould was a builder of cathedrals who designed blueprint plans and symbols. If this is true, then the cathedral must be pervaded from magic- religious symbolism and have precise meanings. It’s this magic symbolism that the Norman religion was particularly interested in or ex- Viking-- influenced by Irish monarchism that conserved signs of Druidism. But there is more. The cathedrals were considered by their builders to be “mechanisms” in contacting the divine. The locations they chose and the geometries used, could not be casual; the location to build on had to possess a particular
“Telluric Energy” and the geometry had to produce particular vibrations in resonance with this energy. They needed to create a space on the boundaries with God and this was the essence of the “Sacred Geometry.” Have we found all of this in Acerenza? One consideration leaves us to feel trustworthy: the construction of the Acerenza cathedral asked for a considerable economic commitment for the Normans, especially during the period in which Robert Guiscard (the Norman Duke of Puglia and Calabria) was launching into the most ambitious adventure of his life with his son Boemondo: the conquest of the Bisanzio Empire. Therefore, the Acerenza cathedral represents something really significant.
Strange Symbols We’ll begin straight away with symbols; have they ever been interpreted? What are their meanings? We search for answers consulting existing studies. Historians of Art have searched analogies with symbols present in other cathedrals, accepting that the bas relief’s of the arch on the entrance’s archway are made in the same style of the miniatures of the Psalter of Saint Albans in England: unusual and odd bas relief’s. The official significance is a moralistic monitor: leave the sin outside; here is the entrance to the kingdom of God. But why transmit this into the rock, a moralistic monitor in such a cryptic way? Instead our sensations were that the symbology portrayed something precise maybe a story. It seems a typical Celtic iconography that refers to the Holy Bran myth; a shoot that flowers from the mouth of Bran and forms braids around mythic characters with precise symbolic meaning. Some images are decisively erotic, like that of a man “grasping a woman’s nude ankle” while he ascends on tangled shoots—or that of a graceful dancer that is wrapped in veils. These are images in left from Catholic morals. Even more surprising, is the scene of a grape harvest that spreads between the vines, where the nude woman in the center is pregnant and picking grapes. The woman is being pecked by a peacock in the genitals. Also, two monsters are positioned at the entrance of the cathedral, intending to possess two women. This is very similar to the gargoyles which are used in other Gothic Cathedrals in Northern Europe. All this makes you think you’re finding messages in front of you that arrived from the Celtic World. Is it possible that Arnould the builder came from a school that was Monastic Druid and Irish? This discovery that makes one curious and convinces us that there is a very antique relation that exists between Acerenza and the Celtic World: the patron Saint Canion. The name “Canion” is derived from Gaelic, from “Cannion” and meaning; “The Magnificent Supervisor.”
According to the legend, he arrived aboard a ship with eleven brethren. It was around 450A.D., and this is exactly how the Irish monks went on their missions at that time. Even today, Saint Canion’s cane was honored with great respect--and a magic exactly like this, was what the Druids used in their rituals. The name Canion was a ritual name that was given to those who guarded something of importance. Still surprisingly enough, his body was recovered by Arnaldo, while he was building the cathedral. Another confirmation in connection with the Celtic world, is the river which flows underneath Acerenza: Bradano is derived from Bradan, antique Gaelic name meaning “salmon”. This fish was the symbol of the knowledge in the Gaelic mythology. Here is something elese: the square front of the cathedral has the name an antique Gaelic-Irish family that mysteriously stabilized themselves in Acerenza. In Gaelic, “Glinni” means
“Clear Valley.” Finally, a few kilometers from the town along an antique road called “Via Erculea” is a hill called “Il Tumulo,” which is an artificial hill shaped like a cone and built in remote times. It is extraordinarily similar to the Celtic “tumul”, burial mounts you’d find in France, Ireland Wales and in Cornwall. They say it’s a tomb, but no one knows exactly who’s.
The Incredible Sacred Geometry To convalidate our hypothesis on Arnould, it was necessary to verify one fundamental; if it was he who designed the blueprints of the cathedral, it must availed himself of the sacred geometry. Has such geometry ever been tracked down to Acerenza? From the studies undertaken, nothing has ever been revealed. This could mean one of two things: that this sacred geometry in the Acerenza Cathedral didn’t exist, or no one ever thought to look for it. Such a geometry would have been the proof to our hypothis on Arnould.
Although skeptical, we began studying the cathedral’s blueprints. These blueprints brought to mind, an Anglo-Norman style: developed on three aisles, it has a transept that is apparently very out of proportion, because it is too narrow from an architectural point of view, and a ambulatory around the area of the altar—long which opens into three radial chapels. Only three examples of churches with this style exist in Italy; one in Aversa, on the “unfinished” of Venosa and in Acerenza. All three are combined in the Norman Reign of Southern Italy. We can find them diffused in France, Normandy, Portugal and England. From the very first geometric valuations; we’d notice the existence of the reoccuring: “1,618” the number of the Golden Section! Studies become intensifyingly profitable with the help of a researcher from the University of Architecture in Nanchino--a uncasual choice because we wanted an objective study. The major part of these types of studies are highly criticized, because of such a geometry. It’s like wanting to say that we could find the sacred geometry in our bathrooms. The result is disconcerting. The research was done separately on my part and by architect Yang Hui, we then collaborated. In the Cathedral of Acerenza, not only has the Golden Section been detected, but saturates the entire cathedral. Each and every one of its single dimensions follows the proportions of the Golden Section in a precise manner. There’s no doubt about it. But that’s not it; the proportion of the Golden Section has been applicated following a rule of design that is ingenious, with consequentiality geometric that cascades leading to the dimensioning of the navate of the transept, or the abside. Squares that produced circles, then produced equilateral triangles—had taken form right under our noses-- then a pentagon and heptagon was created. Everything from the entrance of the cathedral, to the points of light from the windows— followed this precise proportion referred to as; the Golden Section. The beams of light position in on a particular point near the presbytery only on May 25th. This was described with precision by the priest, and represents a part of an ingenious design that is believed to possess a deeper knowledge of astronomy besides the Sacred Geometry.
Arnould the cathedral builder was a genius expert of the Sacred Geometry who cultured the discipline of the tradition; a secret knowledge coming from the past and protected by Irish Benedictine monks. Besides that, we discover that Arnould had had an important duty, in fact among the middlemen; Popes—Nicolo II and Urban II—the pope of the 1st crusade, and Robert Guiscard and son Boemundus. He worked staying behind the scenes—
catering to the interests of the Normans. His influence on historic events during that time, needs to be better understood. The Geometry of Acerenza has slipped away from observation some 900 years ago – only to remerge now, and maybe with that unfamiliar meaning lost in time, but it still exists because it’s written within the proportions of the cathedral, As for Acerenza, nothing is casual. Every space has sacred dimensions, maybe meant to amplify the telluriche energies, while the symbols speak only to those who know how to interpretate them. This was the meaning of symbolism in medieval times; a simple decoration for the naïve, an essential message for members. But what does this message involve? Maybe some secret? In reality, a mystery exists here-- there is something hidden underground beneath the altar. An investigation was performed some time ago with a metal detector—it detected a metal of a high density maybe lead, behind the crypt. They say that it’s a container containing the corpse of Saint Canion; but does it make sense to keep a saint’s body hidden to this extent?
The Underground River There is something else to consider; is it possible that Acerenza is a junction place in which an energetic network is set up-- known as “Telluric Energy” or Wuivre in the Celtic religion? It dealt with places at a cross point of two or more flowing lines of energies and was believed to have come from the enthralls of the earth, from Mother Nature who worked the earth within some sort of network. In Celtic Iconography, the telluric energy represented from “Wuivre” pertained to two serpents that were braided together and formed a continuous knot. The Wuivre was also the watercourse that ran beneath sacred places and in the Christian Iconography was transformed into the image of a dragon. These spots were doors to communication with the divine-- manifesting through sacred springs.
It was believed that this energy possessed curative qualities for those who were pilgrims. Temples and the sacred constructions whose job was to amplify this energy and create a connection with cosmic energy-- the famous Avebury, Stonehenge and Glastonbury in England, Chartres --in the forest of Carnuti in France. The name “Acerenza” came from “Akere” or “Akeron” the river flowing underground that mythology uses to separate the dead from the living. If Acerenza was a place of telluric energy, a pre-existence must also exist; it must have been sacred before Christianity. And in fact, this was exactly true. At one time there was a temple in this spot, an important temple dedicated to Hercules Terpeuta. And still before that, another on the same location called “Heracles” or maybe “Hera.” To this place, the pilgrims came to be healed following the “Via Erculea” tracks to the temple. The video camera pointed at the bas relief’s on the cathedral’s entrance’ s archway memorizing the images of symbols coming from a distant past-from medieval times which were trying to transmit a message of a forgotten knowledge, a message inscribed into the rock. Two images sit in front of us. The mysterious woman that is picking grapes while being pecked in the vagina: the grape symbolizes the blood of Christ, and the peacock is a symbol of reproduction. Why was the face of this woman the only thing erased out of everything else presented in this bas relief? Right in front of her on the other jamb of the archway, there is a Celtic knot. The Celtic knot is a symbol of the continuity of existence. But this Celtic knot is interrupted in several places –forming an a-symmetric chain of Celtic knots. It’s
difficult to imagine it would require the expert ability, but it surely has followed a premeditated design. It is possible that there is a code in this chain of knots? Finally, the geometry, its heart, the square of the Latin Cross from which the Sacred Geometry was developed inside this building. It measures 20x20 Egyptian cubits and when multiplied by three, would generate a rectangle of 20x 60, the exact dimensions of the “Sancta Sanctorum” of the Temple of Solomon. What is hidden in Acerenza? The documentary “In the Name of the Templars” has been produced by channel 4 in Corti of Cronaca, aired on March 17th 2007, and directed by Fabio Tamburini. Others besides the author of this article and the director that have participated are; Attorney Raffaello Glinni, Journalist Marco Marini, Guglielmo Giovanelli Marconi, Yang Hui-from the University of Nanchino and professor Stefano Trapani from the University of Tor Vergata in Rome.
Translation by Jackelin J. Jarvis ©2007