The hierophany, which began rather quickly faded just as fast, the colors misaligning, the shadow below deforming. Whispering people began to drift away, and the faux wizard led the crowd outside to see the Great Clock. They followed behind.
“It does makes one think, doesn’t it?” said Angelique.
“Makes me hungry,” Skip said, taking a last snap.
“What else is new?” Allie dug the schedule from her bag. “Angel and I should be getting back to the art show, but we have enough time to visit the balcony. Anybody interested?”
Skip decided to return to the hotel. Gus thought for a moment and shook his head. “No, sorry, I should talk to the Heronimo guy.”
Outside the ladies climbed the stairs to the broad balcony which ran across the façade of the cathedral just below the great rose window. Queues of tourists waited to pose with the figures of the Scolding Madonna and the angels.
Outside, Gus found the impersonator standing next to the statue of the original, waiting for crowds to gather. “Doctor Lacnuit?” he said approaching the slender old man. “I’m Professor Gus MacLantis – Doc MacLantis’ son. I wanted to ask you a question if I might.”
“MacLantis? Oh yes, I know who you are,” the old man shook his hand with a wiry grip. His fake gray beard, almost reaching his waist, wagged comically as he spoke. “I never met your father, though of course, I’ve heard of his work, and yours, too. What can I do for you?”
“I’m flattered, sir. But I wanted to ask you about astronomical alignments,” Gus said, “like the Wonderful Memorial. I, um, worked on a set last summer based upon Indian sites. This used slabs and a Sun-dagger oculus to mark the solstice. I know other Native American sites employed lunar alignments. I wondered if Heronimo le Mage ever used the Moon. Or if he employed solar ones for anything other than the Monumentum?”
“Really? Lunar? That’s very rare – I’d love to hear more. As I recall, your Red Indians of Chaco Canyon, like the builders of Stonehenge, were among the few peoples who kept close track of the Moon’s cycles as well as the Sun.” The old man smiled.
“My teacher, the great Valdez,” he continued, “theorized Heronimo first tested solar alignments with the rose window and the transept floor. We’ll soon see; I just hope they’ll let me document it properly. But no others have been suggested. What are you getting at? Are you asking if he could have somehow used moonlight to create the Vision?”
Gus nodded. “Exactly.”
“Thought so; it’s an old idea,” Lacnuit said, dismissing it with an airy wave of his hand. “I toyed with it myself once, for the mage understood the motions of the heavens better than anyone in Europe at the time. But sorry, I fear it’s not possible.
“While sightings favor summer midnights on a full Moon, they’re erratic. Compared to the lighting of the statue occurring every year to an exact timetable, the Holy Tub’s appearances are maddeningly unpredictable. There are often twenty years or more apart, sometimes a month, a single night between them on rare occasions. They are over quickly, too; just a few minutes at most. Plus, to appear at the rear of the Templar’s Tomb, the light would have to be reflected. The sole possible mirror was the Star of Bethlehem upon the old altar screen, and it couldn’t work. The angles are wrong – trust me, I’ve checked – and there are other reasons, too. ” He checked the huge chronometer strapped to his wrist.
“Come and see the show at the Cosmoscope and talk to me afterwards. I have my own theory you might find interesting. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my presentation.” Lifting his skirts, he mounted a small stool.
“Good visitors and gentles, I present to you the Great Clock of Bellegarde,” he said, pointing toward the spire at Heronimo’s intricate mechanical timepiece, one of the first to be installed anywhere.
The astronomer suddenly did a double take. Shielding his eyes, he squinted up at the clock face in the tower. Looking surprised, Lacnuit muttered, “Excuse me, but I must check something.” With agility belying his age, the elderly astronomer hopped down and comically rushed through the throng towards the main doors, sleeves flapping like wings.
Gus peered at the clock while the crowd laughed. Noticing Allie and Angelique enjoying the vista from the balcony, he quickly ascended the stairs beneath the Great Clock to join them. Behind them, tourists continued to take pictures of each other where the Lady and her angelic attendants stood, now occupied by life-sized statues.
“What was that about?” Allie said. “I don’t know; maybe part of the show?” Gus speculated.
“If so, it was a new twist,” Angelique added. “He’s never done anything like it before.”
“Is the clock broken?” Allie asked. “It sure must be way past warranty.”
They looked in puzzlement at the huge dial, twice as tall as Skip. The medieval mechanism was difficult to interpret. The face had two hands like modern clocks, but Heronimo’s timekeeper divided the day into quarters. To complicate it further, other dials displayed the phase of the Moon and the signs of the zodiac which the great lights occupied.
Near the bottom of the multicolored dial was set a small aperture, indicating a full Moon, a pointer almost touching it. On the white disk within, they could see a gold symbol consisting of a wide-mouthed U with curled stems. Above it was a crossbar set upon a P – the sign of the Maundy Grail.