The Virgo Cathedrals of Northern France
New Page -- 19 May 2006
Laurence Gardner  has compared the Constellation of stars in the zodiacal sign of Virgo with the Notre Dame cathedrals of northern France.
Even more fascinating is the fact that many of these Notre Dame and other cathedrals included labyrinths of various designs and sizes. These labyrinths were derived from an archetypal form found all over the world and dating back thousands of years. They typically employed a non-linear path which went through various segments in a non-sequential manner. As a decidedly sacred form, as many as twenty-two of the eighty Gothic cathedrals designed and built in medieval times housed labyrinths .
A relevant question might involve the reasons for the cathedral builders to incorporate labyrinths as a decidedly sacred and in several cases Notre Dame honoring device. This web page will attempt to suggest some answers to this question. As such it will include: 1) the reaction to labyrinths by the Catholic Church clergy (those responsible for the preservation of the cathedrals in all of their glory), 2) the connection between Notre Dame (“Our Lady”) and a wide variety of religions and traditions, 3) a detailed correlation between the French cities or cathedrals and selected bright stars of the Virgo Constellation, 4) a sampling of the labyrinths which once adorned their respective cathedrals, 5) a decidedly speculative consideration of a deeper underlying meaning of what the cathedral builders might have been attempting to tell us in using the Virgo Constellation as a template for a Gothic building spree of cosmic dimensions, and 6) a revised interpretation concerning the mythology.
1. Labyrinths and the Church
Tragically, many of the labyrinths incorporated as an integral part of the cathedrals were subsequently destroyed by the Catholic Church clergy in the 17th and 18th centuries – at Auxerre in 1690, Sens in 1768, Reims in 1778, Arras in 1795 , Poitiers (“perished long ago”) , and Saint Omer circa 1778 , and so forth and so on.
Why would the clergy destroy such fascinating and sacred artifacts? The primary reason appears to be that the Catholic clergy were so fearful of the Knights Templar and their designs (i.e. the labyrinths) that they began a systematic destruction of them.  There was always the hint of magic about the labyrinths, and this equated in the clergy mind with evil spirits, Republicans, and used car salesmen. Gardner , for example, has noted that the word Gothic in architectural terms had nothing to do with the Goths, but derived instead from the Greek goetik – which meant “magical [action]”.
At the same time, despite the integration of labyrinths into the cathedral designs:
There is thus the distinct possibility that many of the medieval Catholic clergy [pardon the redundancy] had no hint of the underlying purpose of sacred labyrinths and accordingly reacted out of blind fear, simply destroying what they did not understand.
Alternatively, some of the clergy may have recognized that the Notre Dame cathedrals were honoring someone other than the Blessed Virgin Mary (the mother of Jesus), or that the labyrinths were a route for individuals to attain their own inner peace and reflective moments without the need for the intercession of priests and/or intermediaries. Neither possibility could be tolerated by a control-at-any-cost clergy.
Margaret Starbird , for example, has noted that:
As noted above, the labyrinth at Chartres was not destroyed. This may have been based on the fact that the Notre Dame at Chartres is said to stand on the most sacred ground.
Small wonder that the always-fearful Catholic clergy restrained their religious fervor at Chartres. It’s one thing to loudly proclaim the evils of magic and what others should do about it, and quite another to go up against said magical forces of an unknown power and unknown possible willingness to defend itself by any means available. Those who use fear to control others inevitably find themselves controlled by fear as well.
An extremely worthwhile link, which provides additional detail – particularly concerning the Chartres Cathedral -- and which demonstrates the hidden geometry of the labyrinth within the cathedral, is The Gothic Cathedrals . Don’t miss it! But hurry back. You ain’t seen nothing yet!
2. Notre Dame
Many of the architectural drawings for the finer points of the Gothic cathedrals (including the pattern for the famous labyrinth at Chartres) were obtained from a 2nd century Greek alchemical manuscript and were dedicated to the patron goddess of France, Notre Dame de Lumiere ("Our Lady of Light"). This pattern is “reckoned to be one of the most sacred designs on Earth.” 
The Constellation of Virgo itself had long been associated with almost every major female deity in any of various worldwide early civilizations including:
Even the ancient Chinese construed Virgo to be important (even though they based their understanding on the passage of the moon and not the sun).
3. Virgo Constellation / Cities
The Constellation of Virgo is the second largest in the sky (after Hydra) and the sixth member of the zodiac. Allegedly based upon the Babylonian description of the constellations, the pattern of Virgo is pictured as a female, often holding a spike of grain in one hand . As such the constellation and the female it represented have been associated with the Earth Goddess, the arrival of spring, the bringer of the growing season , and the ripening of the harvest . In fact, Virgo’s main stars, Spica and Vindemiatrix, are associated with a “spike of grain” (or “grape gatherer”) and a “wine gatherer” respectively. Virgo has also been depicted as holding a staff, a caduceus, or a scale. These other symbols collectively add to the Goddess’ associations with healing, justice, wisdom, or prophecy.
Virgo’s other name is the Virgin. As such, the Constellation has been viewed by some as representing the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. While the original definition of virgin as “a woman beholden to no man” may still hold even in this case, there is no doubt that the Knights Templar held "The Virgin" (whichever goddess or mother was implied in that designation) in special reverence when they constructed many of the French Cathedrals. The fact that it is far more likely that "The Virgin" in question was Mary Magdalene than her mother-in-law is the material for another web page.
[BTW, this web page was posted on 19 May 2006 – the date of the opening of the movie, The Da Vinci Code, which posits the Magdalene as the bride of Jesus.]
Figure 1 shows a map of Northern France [based on reference 11] overlaid with several of the brighter stars in the Constellation of Virgo.
Figure 1a -- Selected Cities of Northern France
Figure 1b -- Selected Stars of the Constellation of Virgo
Figure 1c -- Virgo in Northern France
The corresponding stars  and Cities / Cathedrals are given in Table 1. Note that the designation Virginis refers to the traditional identities of stars in Virgo, while other nearby stars from adjacent constellations are included for the sake of completeness. Note also that the greater magnitude of a star corresponds to a smaller (or negative) number, e.g. Arcturus with a magnitude of –0.05 is the brightest in the Table (and in fact is the third brightest star in the sky; fourth if you include the Sun). Spica is the brightest in Virgo. Stars whose specific identification was unavailable to the author have been labeled as, for example, “W-Omicron” (“West of Omicron”). Also, “~” implies a less than exact match.
[The Greek alphabet is found at http://www.winshop.com.au/annew/greek.html.]
The naming and selection of stars which constitute a constellation is largely arbitrary. If one looks at a star map such as Stargazing’s photo , one notices that several stars are not included in the Greek letter designations and are not linked by imaginary lines. Accordingly, stars that are not designated with a member of the Greek alphabet (such as 109 Virginis) may still be included in a traditional view of Virgo while named stars such as Gienah Ghurab and Denebola might also be included in an expanded view of Virgo. In fact, the four bright stars: Arcturus, Denebola, Zubenelgenubi, and Gienah Ghurab nicely frame Virgo, and these four might have been viewed by the designers of the Northern France cathedrals to be part of the Virgo symbolism in their plans.
Obviously, the selection of cities is limited to settlements which were already established as of the 11th through the 14th centuries as places to build Gothic cathedrals. It also takes a long time to build a cathedral – the Notre-Dame of Reims took a hundred years (1211-1311)! Cities are also notorious in not springing forth in full bloom overnight.
Accordingly the matches between stars and cities is not always exact. However, the cathedrals at Chartres, Reims, and Bayeux are by definition exact, while several cities such as Dreux, Rouen, Carentan, Fourmies, Flers, Beaumont-sur-Sarthe, Saint Quentin, and Gace-o-Argentan are also very nearly exact. Amiens, Lisieux, Evreux, Meaux, Paris, and Beauvais must be considered approximate. Finally, several of the cities have cathedrals which are not specifically dedicated to Notre Dame – for example, Meaux (Cathedral of Saint Etienne), Lisieux (Cathedral of Saint Peter), Beauvais (Cathedral of Saint Pierre), and Tours (Cathedral of Saint Gatien).
Nevertheless, with study it becomes ever more clear that the designers and builders of the medieval cathedrals of northern France – essentially the Knights Templar – were indeed intending to mimic in some way the Virgo constellation with the location of various cathedrals dedicated to Notre Dame, “Our Lady”. And while the Catholic Church may be eager to identify Notre Dame as the mother of Jesus, there is almost no reason to assume that this was the case. Mary has never been identified by the Church with the Virgo constellation and the clergy’s eagerness to destroy the labyrinths suggests that the intended design was never wholly something the Church was eager to embrace. The Church is also notorious for reinventing the wheel in its own peculiarly narrow focus when it comes to interpreting history and events in general.
4. Labyrinth Paths
The labyrinth designs, meanwhile, were nothing short of prolific. For example:
Chartres Cathedral of Notre Dame -- Built 1194-1260.
Reims Cathedral of Notre Dame  -- Built 1211 -- end of 13th Century; labyrinth destroyed in 1778.
Bayeux Cathedral of Notre Dame  -- labyrinth 12 foot across, red tiles with shields/ griffins, and fleur-de-lis, separated by small, plain, black tiles
Amiens Cathedral of Notre Dame  -- Built 1260-1289; labyrinth destroyed in 1825, but rebuilt in 1895. (For this labyrinth, follow the black lines, not the spaces in between)
Saint Quentin Collegiate Church of Saint Quentin  -- Began in 1195 and completed after 300 years; labyrinth dates from 1495 (and still exists) (Again, follow the black lines, not the spaces in between)
Sens (similar to Auxerre) Cathedral of Saint Etienne  -- Built 1140-1164; labyrinth 30 foot in diameter, destroyed 1768 (Auxerre demolished in 1690).
Saint Omer Collegiate Church of Notre Dame  -- Located at Abbey of St. Bertin; labyrinth destroyed 1778 (at the time of Reims destruction and possibly for the same reason)
Poitiers Church of Notre Dame de la Grande  -- "It will be seen that the construction is such that he who traces the path eventually emerges--like the poet of the "Rubaiyat"--by that same door at which he entered; he will have encountered no "stops," but he may have "looped the loop" an indefinite number of times." (shades of the Tree of Life?) (Once again, follow the black lines, not the spaces in between)
Virtually every depiction of the Virgo constellation by various and diverse scholars (astronomical, mythological, and so forth) shows a fully clothed Virgo lying prone along the elliptic. For example :
In one hand is inevitably shown a shaft of wheat or other cereal grain, as if identifying the Virgo as the bringer of harvests and nutritional well being. While this sounds plausible – based on all the various symbolisms from various cultures around the world – it is not necessarily what the Knights Templars had in mind. In fact, the normal depictions -- for example, from astronomy  or astrology  -- may be far short of a far more interesting picture of what Virgo is really all about.
To consider Virgo in an alternative depiction, we might begin by investigating various geometrical aspects of the stars of the constellation and the various French cities. For example, one can quickly draw straight lines through:
The latter line up of stars very closely approximates the elliptic (the path of the sun across the constellations). This may be very important. There is also the curious fact that a circle centered on Evreux and passing through Chartres (Spica) meets tangentially a larger circle centered on Chartres -- one which intersects Gienah Ghurab (Auxerre) and Nu Virginis (Meaux) -- at a point which intersects the lines between Arcturus and Spica.
This latter curiosity can lead one to turn the traditionally depicted figure of Virgo about ninety degrees – so that her figure is perpendicular to the elliptic, i.e. standing erect. One can then overlay what Leonardo de Vinci might have called his Vitruvian Woman. When this is done in a particular manner, Figure 11, one finds that Arcturus (“Bear Guard” and/or “Keeper of Heaven”) becomes the crown charka of an idealized Virgo figure. Arcturus and Spica are of course linked by the traditional saying of going from the Big Dipper, “Arc to Arcturus; slide to Spica.” Both of these are among the 15 Behenian Fixed Stars (“magical in medieval astrology: and the “source of power for one or more planets) .
Meanwhile, if we also draw a circle around the navel of the figure -- as in Leonardo Da Vinci’s original drawing -- the circle's circumference passes through Zubenelgenubi (Laval), Pi Hyrda (Tours), Gienah Ghurab (Auxerre), Rho Virginis (Amiens), 70 Virginis (Abbeville), and 109 Virginis (Bayeux). This is beyond coincidence.
Other very interesting correspondences include:
These conjunctions are shown in Figure 11.
On the one hand, perhaps we shouldn’t tell the Catholic Church about the true meaning of Chartres’ location, if only to avoid their tearing down all of the Notre Dame cathedrals in a fit of apoplectic fanaticism. Of course, they may have already begun to suspect Leonardo Da Vinci as not being an enthusiastic advocate of the Church’s rather tortured dogma, so perhaps they wouldn’t be all that surprised.
On the other hand and despite any protestations from the Church, the particular design shown above (with all of the intriguing correlations listed above that) strongly suggests the Knights Templar designers were perhaps more interested in honoring the pagan tradition of the Chartres site as the “womb of the Earth” than as homage to any saint or honored guest of the Church. In fact, there seems to be an honoring of a goddess or someone whose fertility was symbolized far more effectively by her womb than by her carrying a handful of wheat stalks. (BTW, an arm carrying the wheat stalks and offering them to the world can always be drawn so that the wheat stalks correspond to the Notre Dame at Paris without violating the scale.) [Virgo might even have said to the people of Paris, “Let them eat wheat.”]
One might also surmise that the reason no dead person has even been buried in Chartres Cathedral is that the end of such lives (and their burial) might have been considered to be inconsistent with the womb of life. The site is simply too sacred to appease the arrogance of celebrities and honored folk of a Church so totally out-of-touch-with-reality.
We should also emphasize that the womb is the source of the menstrual blood – as in the Bloodline of the Holy Grail. We might also recall that Spica (Chartres) has more than one meaning. Besides Virgo’s “ear of wheat”, it is also referred to as “The Undefended” and “The grape gatherer”.
“The Undefended” might well refer to Mary Magdalene and her status as the mother of the Desposyni (“Heirs of the Lord” ), as well as the fact that she was effectively on the run from authorities for much of her life following the Crucifixion – and thus more than just a bit vulnerable. At the same time, the “grape gatherer” symbol might be even more interesting in that it might be a reference to the Starfire of the goddess inasmuch as grapes are high in Rhodium and Iridium in the monatomic form. Recall also the association of Virgo with healing, justice, wisdom, or prophecy. The Starfire or ORME certainly qualifies for providing many of these attributes.
Keep in mind that as in all cases of labyrinth walking one exits by the same path as one enters. This suggests an additional meaning of labyrinths: one of death and rebirth. Perhaps the Anglo-Saxons knew something when they identified the Virgo Constellation with Eostre (“Easter”), the goddess of spring (i.e. rebirth after “death”).
Immediate Update: The first person to read this web page (other than the author who while not reading it did at least skim it) suggested that the labyrinth of Chartres might be overlaid on the Vitruvian Woman figure. This is a simple matter of sizing the Chartres labyrinth figure shown above to the circle generated by the Leonardo's Vitruvian Man (which has all manner of connections with the Golden Ratio and Sacred Geometry), and which in Figure 1c above connects so many cities/cathedrals of France. When this is done and the circle oriented so that the horizontal line on the labyrinth is parallel to the elliptic, we obtain:
This should be sufficient to cause apoplexy in the Vatican.
6. The Mythological Connection
Inasmuch as Myth can often be considered as a condensed history suitable for use in oral traditions, it is worthwhile to consider one particular story, as related by Julius D. W. Staal .
In the guise of Astrea (Goddess of Justice), Virgo mixed with those mortals who were members of an unspoiled golden race of men who did not know feuds or wars. They were all communal farmers and everything was peaceful -- until a silver race of men began to appear on Earth. This secondary race was slightly inferior, but nevertheless and despite their tendency toward criminal ways Astrea did make an effort to guide and teach them. When the silver race died out, there was created a brazen race, one enamored with swords and war weapons. Astrea loathed this race and left the Earth, taking her place in Heaven.
The curious part about such gods and goddesses and their departures from the Earth is that those who revered them never seemed to have grasped just how and where luminaries such as Virgo/Astrea had gone. Space ships were not exactly a consumer product at the time and thus the means and destination of departures were not easy to grasp for those decidedly not in the know.
One obvious scenario led these non-spacefaring people to believe that their gods and goddesses had departed the daily grind only to take residence upon high mountains such as Mount Olympus or Mount Kailash. In the latter, intriguing example it has been said that “ancient cosmography identifies Kailash with the mighty mountain Sumeru, the central peak of the world.” 
It’s hard to miss the similarity between “Sumeru” and “Sumerian” such that one can be justified in concluding that Kailash is just one more place where the Earthbound suspected their gods and goddesses -- who had once been so influential in their lives -- now resided. The bad news was that their protectors and guides had left them to their own devices. The good news was that at least their deities were still, so to speak, in the neighborhood and thus possibly available for assistance and/or intervention on behalf of their worshipping public.
A second possibility is that the Earthbound believed that the gods and goddesses (what was likely to be the Anunnaki) quite literally left the Earth and ascended into the Heavens – but in this case remained in visible sight of those left behind. Constellations thus provided a means of maintaining the illusion that the absent deities were still close enough to keep tabs on their progeny and/or wards. In fact, the constellations might even suggest to those on the ground that there were messages to be read by their appearance in the nighttime skies. It was just a matter of interpreting the relative positions of the constellation’s stars in such a manner as to make the symbolism moderately obvious.
In the case of Virgo – if one views her constellation in the form shown in Figure 11 above -- her message might be more one of sacred sex rather than clothed propriety, and specifically that of a connection with the Starfire, the menstrual blood of the Goddess. Chartres as this source of heavenly manna – by possibly the use of its incredible labyrinth – thus becomes truly the “womb of the world.”
 Laurence Gardner, Bloodline of the Holy Grail, The Hidden Lineage of Jesus Revealed,, Element Books, Harper Collins, London, 1996.
 Laurence Gardner, The Magdalene Legacy, The Jesus and Mary Bloodline Conspiracy, Element Books Harper Collins, London, 2005.
 Margaret Starbird, "The 'Sacred Feminine'", Special Edition; Secrets of the Da Vinci Code, U. S. News and World Report, 2006, excerpted in part from Dan Burstein, editor, Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind the Da Vinci Code, Client Distribution Services, 2004.
 Wide World Atlas, Reader’s Digest, Pleasantville, New York, 1979
 Julius D. W. Staal, Patterns in the Sky, Myths and Legends of the Stars, McDonald and Woodward Publishing, Blacksburg, Virginia, 1988.
The Gospel of Mary Madgalen The Gospel of Thomas
The Lost Gospels Fiddling with Tradition
Comparative Religions Mary Magdalen
Knights Templar History 009 Chronicles of Earth
Or forward to:
The Gospel of Peter The Gospel of Philip
Pagan Easter The Gospel According to Daniel
The Library of ialexandriah
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