The Holy Tub Transcendant
HAVING RISEN LIKE THE SUN, the Order of the Temple fell like a meteor on Friday, October 13, 1307, betrayed by King Philip the Fair and the pope. Due to its great fame and popularity, seizing the Sacred Basin and its associated loot was doubtless a prime goal of the King of France. But it was not to be.
Instead, there befell the strangest turn of all in the entire history of the Maundy Grail. The king’s scheme depended upon the custodians of the relic having returned to their fortress headquarters in Paris as usual for the winter with the donations they had gathered. Yet they were not there to be found. Warned perhaps by the same rumors that saved the Templar fleet, that autumn the leadership wisely kept the Grail knights out on the road late into the season.
So when the arrests came, the men were still leisurely parading between towns in Southern France, accompanied by happy crowds. Once alerted, they quickly dispersed the laity and fast-marched in a desperate attempt to catch the fleet on the Mediterranean coast. But just a few miles from one of their castles, the soldier-monks were forced to make a stand in the unroofed wing of a cathedral in the town of Bellegraal.
It proved a most providential choice. For there, they claimed, the Virgin came just before dawn to relieve them of their charges. It is regarded by unbelievers these days as a desperate trick to save the Holy Tub, concocted by a learned friar and his assistant. The Maundy Grail was gone, but the thirteen men faced seven years of imprisonment and torture before they were given to the flames.
In the meantime, a “consulting theologian” and exorcist was assigned to crack the case. Rigorously trained in Scholastic logic, Brother Gabriele of Padua brought a discerning eye and keen skepticism far ahead of its time to the hunt. Though unable to prove anything, his speculations seem to be shrewdly correct – especially his suspicions of Friar Lorenzo and his apprentice Heronimo. Moreover, Gabriele’s urging of watchful vigilance brought the Inquisition in, which incited the next and most famous apparition of the Virgin over three decades later. Here is his final report on his investigation to the pope.
By Br. Gabriele of the University of Padua, 1316
In 1337, likely triggered by more rumors, the Inquisition came sniffing around. They forced the bishop’s bastard teenage son, Gilles, to serve as their secretary. His record of their inquiry is our chief source of information about the most remarkable resident of the town, Heronimo le Mage, the so-called “Da Vinci of France” who may have had a role in what happened later.
Much of Gilles’ record of the interrogations survived, although the conclusions of Friar Roberto, the Assistant Inquisitor, did not.
The first is concerned with various townspeople, including an herbal healer and a man with a talking horse. The second section, containing the questioning of Ieronimus, as Heronimo was known in Latin, sheds light on his remarkable inventions.
Report of the Holy Inquisition
and Attendant Miracles
Edited by Fr. Ricardo of Seville O.P.,
Transcribed by Gilles of Bellegarde
The earliest graphic depiction of the Scolding Madonna known, from around 1360. Recovered from the Papal Archives of Avignon, this was likely seized during the Rape of Bellegarde. The illumination appears in a folio added at the end of a copy of The Little Hours of the Virgin, doubtless owned by a sectarian. This priceless work opens the first extant account of The Miracles of the Scolding Virgin by Friar Martin.
The chief target of their probe was Simeon the Squire, the sole surviving Templar, who had been originally spared due to his youth. Now old, he escaped during the ordeal but fled to the Cathedral. There, in the company of a squire named Jacques holding his knightly vigil, and the baron’s daughter Madeleine, he beheld the Holy Tub. Also present were Gilles and his father, who both missed the Vision. Chief Inquisitor Jehan D’Laval didn’t see it either. In his rage, D’Laval slew Simeon on the spot.
Among the first arrested had been Heronimo, already feared as a sorcerer for his technical and scientific achievements in optics and mechanics. It is now widely believed that fortunately for them, he had also dabbled in the use of gunpowder in fireworks and explosives. It is widely thought that together they managed to manifest another appearance by Mary, played by Madeleine.
Three figures bearing blazing torches unlike anything ever seen by the townspeople suddenly appeared in the as-yet unglazed rose window of the Cathedral. Whoever she was, the lady boldly stood before the window of the cathedral and berated the whole town. She was therefore forever remembered as the “Scolding Madonna.” A magnificent statue with clever natural lighting effects was designed in her honor by Heronimo some years later. It still draws pilgrims today.
By Friar Martin the Sanguine, c. 1357
Gilles profited the most from the “Miracle of the Scolding Madonna,” yet he would be remembered as a madman. He soon married Madeleine and succeeded her father to become Baron of Bellegarde. Unlike Though she died in the great pandemic in 1347 and was later beatified for her charity, Gilles survived.
He resigned and joined the Church. Within a few years, Gilles rose to the rank of cardinal and the office of the Grand Penitentiary, in charge of selling indulgences, dispensations, and even offices. It was a position of great responsibility and even greater opportunities for corruption.
By his own admission, Cardinal Gilles took full advantage of his position to live in luxury at his castle, Chateau des Roches. The main restraining factor as he got older was his concern for his granddaughter Sr. Alix. She was a devout, ascetic girl who had joined a then still-orthodox but anorexic branch of Martin’s sect, the “Little Sisters of Penance.”
To her, he eventually confided details of what really happened in a series of letters carefully preserved by her descendants. They are all gathered here, including the final, most revealing one. Though its rightful ownership and authenticity is still hotly contested, both the Fawkeslorne and Fatamorgana estates have kindly given permission so that it can be republished here.
By Cardinal Gilles of Bellegarde
As the letters clearly illustrate, the Church was facing a grave crisis over the papacy at the time. When Gilles was miraculously spared during a bombardment of his castle, he decided it was a sign to reveal the Maundy Grail. But this turned out to be a catastrophic blunder which made Bellegarde a target for both sides. Though derided as crazy, shortly after his death in 1379, the town was ruthlessly and thoroughly sacked by one of the papal contenders. No trace of the Holy Tub was found, but the town would never be the same again.