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Crusades and Secret Societies

In 1070, 29 years before the First Crusade, a group of monks from Calabria in southern Italy arrived in the vicinity of the Ardennes Forest, part of Godfroi de Bouillon's domains.  They were led by someone called "Ursus".  Upon their arrival in the Ardennes the Calabrian monks obtained the patronage of Godfroi's aunt and, in effect, foster mother.*

They received a tract of land at Orval, not far from where Dagobert II had been assassinated some five hundred years earlier.  They established an abbey there, but by 1108 had mysteriously disappeared, leaving no record of their whereabouts.  Tradition says they returned to Calabria.  Orval became, by 1131, one of Saint Bernardís fiefs.           

Before their departure from Orval, however, the Calabrian monks may have left a crucial mark on Western history.  Included in their ranks, according to some sources, was a man subsequently known as Peter the Hermit.  In 1095, along with Pope Urban II, Peter made himself known throughout Christendom by charismatically preaching the need for a crusade -- a holy war (jihad?) to reclaim Christ's sepulchre and the Holy Land from the hands of the Muslim "infidels".  Today, Peter the Hermit, Godfroi's personal tutor, is regarded as one of the chief instigators of the Crusades.           

Godfroi was unusual among the Crusaders.  Upon preparing to leave for the Holy Land, he was the only European commander (there were four distinct armies, each commanded by an illustrious and influential Western potentate) to renounce his fiefs, sell all his goods, and make it apparent that the Holy Land, for the remainder of his life, would be his domain.  This is even more surprising, when one realizes that if the crusade proved successful, any one of the four potentates would have been eligible to occupy the throne of Jerusalem.  Godfroi seems to have known beforehand that he would be selected.           

In 1099, immediately after the capture of Jerusalem, a group of anonymous figures convened in a secret conclave, in order to elect a King of Jerusalem.  Despite a persuasive claim by Raymond, count of Toulouse, the mysterious and obviously influential electors promptly offered the throne to Godfroi de Bouillon.  With uncharacteristic modesty Godfroi declined the title of King, accepting instead the title of Defender of the Holy Sepulchre, king in everything but name.           

To the south of Jerusalem stands a high hill known as Mount Sion (Zion).  When Jerusalem fell to Godfroi's crusaders in 1099, the hill hosted the ruins of an old Byzantine basilica, which allegedly dated from the fourth century and which was called the Mother of all Churches (no kidding!).  At the express command of Godfroi, an abbey was built on the site of these ruins.  This abbey, called the Abbey of Notre Dame du Mont de Sion, was extremely well fortified, with its own walls, towers, and battlements.  It is believed that the knights and monks who occupied this abbey were formed into an official and duly constituted "order", specifically, the Ordre de Sion.           

The elusive Calabrian monks from Orval were apparently in the Holy Land at the time, along with Peter the Hermit, who may have enjoyed considerable power.  In fact, there is evidence to support the idea that the Calabrian monks of Orval were, in fact the mysterious conclave which elected Godfroi ruler, and that furthermore, they were the occupants of Notre Dame de Sion.  This possibility cannot be proved with the currently available evidence, but if it is true, it would attest to the Ordre de Sion's power - a power that included the right to confer thrones.

 

Clovis I to Godfroi        History 009

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Knights Templar

*This very abbreviated historical perspective is taken from numerous sources, including specifically the excellent book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln [Dell Publishing, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, 1983].

               

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