The Holy Tub Sought
NOT UNTIL the city was reborn as “Bellegraal” in the early Twentieth Century did the town fully recover after the Rape of Bellegarde. The devastation was more than physical; it had a profound spiritual effect on later religious developments. Yet the Vision of the Holy Tub continued on rare occasions, and the visit of the Scolding Madonna was never forgotten. Devotions to her grew, and in some circles soon took on an increasingly unorthodox tinge that greatly disturbed the authorities.
They had good reason to worry. From Friar Martin’s small band of penitents there grew a new heresy, Endurism, a mix of the peculiar doctrines of the Pedilavists, or “Foot-washers” and the much better-known Flagellants. They merged into a unique, somewhat bizarre set of doctrines, blending extreme libertine views with rigorous self-discipline.
After the Rape, the more traditional wings of the movement quietly dissolved back into the mass of fervent Catholics devoted to the Scolding Madonna. But the more radical fringes went literally underground and were officially condemned by the Church in 1418. Yet rumors of strange rites held in the catacombs continued to be brought back by the growing corps of treasure hunters.
For just as the Scolding Madonna had enflamed the Endurists, so too had “Mad” Cardinal Gilles’ confession motivated these men. The two groups’ underground conflict sparked many of the events during this period.
The Scolding Madonna Through the Ages
A. The actual event, 14 June 1337, as it likely appeared
B. The Miracles of the Scolding Virgin, c. 1360
C. A bronze casting with traces of gilding, Fifteenth Century
D. The Monumentum Mirablilis, c. 1350
E. A painted ceramic figurine, c. 1910
F.A study for The Grieving Mother War Memorial, 1948
G. A modern toy, c. 2005
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Document Still to Come:
The Secrets of the Sages
By Martin Hellequin, 1625
Word of the hidden realms under Bellegarde briefly reached the outside world by means of an odd play that lasted one night in Paris in 1625. The Secrets of the Sages was a farce, centered on a wizard called “Geomy” who possessed a magical chamber pot that he claimed could turn human waste to gold. His students, searching for a “new physicks” are his accomplices in his fraud, but break into two competing factions.
The play was shut down after the first performance due to the riot it caused. It was forgotten until discovered by Françoise Noël in the period between world wars. Yet despite its overblown burlesque, may actually have been strangely close to the truth of what was going on. Most ominously, in this play – and in folklore collected by a cousin of the Brothers Grimm – contain the first reference to the ominously-named “Vials of Life and Death,” secreted by Heronimo in the Holy Tub. They would doubtless provide one reason so few have heard of the Maundy Grail.
No danger could deter the two actual factions who sought the Sacred Basin. Followers of Ieronimus that split apart over philosophical differences, they fought numerous battles in the dark looking for the treasure. It was only when they came back together at the dawn of the Nineteenth Century with the descendants of the mad cardinal that the individual fragments of lore started to be put together. Yet no one, however, took seriously the danger that they described.
The first notable character during this period was Sister Catherine the Loquacious, a talkative visionary who supposedly watched strange premonitions of the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution play out on the wall of her cell as if it were a screen. Then, during the Wars of Religion sparked by the Protestant upheaval, a preacher named Father Gorm, called “the Thunderer” for his loud rantings, saved the town from further destruction with an armed band of peasants and townsmen.
This militia of “barefoot leftists,” so named for their symbolic protest of taking the left shoe off, barely preserved the Cathedral from destruction. But when the priest then tried to set up a “reign of virtue,” the residents were unimpressed.
Kicked out of town, Gorm retired nearby to the old Roman theatre next to the road. There he loudly harangued passers-by for years. Some say his voice can still be heard there echoing in the summer thunder.
Tears of the Virgin
and the Garden of True Delight
By Br. Tobias the Shoeless, 1689
The most notable figure during this era was one of the most controversial of all. In 1652, a poor young barely-literate shepherd boy, Tobias the Shoeless, saw the Vision and successfully predicted another the following month. Joining the “Sorrowful Community,” Tobias soon took over.
Proclaiming himself the “Supreme Servant,” otherwise known to the outside world only as the dreaded “Red Pope” of the Endurists, Tobias completed the group’s transformation into a sex cult, according to his detractors. Doubtless, however, his power and influence soared as he used members to sexually corrupt nobles, officials, and the high clergy.
The party lasted twenty years. The Church seemed unable to touch him, but finally King Louis XIV’s men raided the cult and got the drop on him.
Sentenced after a secret trial to perpetual punishment, Tobias was walled up in a cell in the Bishop’s Palace of Bellegarde. During his twelve remaining years, Tobias somehow composed a long, meandering poem in two parts. Smuggled out by his followers and published some years after his death, there are several wildly differing editions each claiming to be the genuine version, and new portions and alternative renderings are still being discovered.
The first section, The Tears of the Virgin, is a strange, hallucinatory collection of history, prophecy and vivid imagery, while the second part, The Garden of True Delight, is however, is even more bizarre and generously laden with images of sadomasochistic erotica. In any case, the entire work was instantly condemned by both Church and State upon publication. Only a few of the more comprehensible verses without obscene imagery have been included here.
The ban hasn’t stopped the first part from being studied, debated, and deconstructed by tubbers and treasure hunters while the latter served as an inspiration of the Marquis de Sade. It is said that a heavily-annotated copy was found in his cell at the Bastille.
Though the Vision appeared numerous times early in the period, during the Age of Enlightenment sightings became rare. Few of the new men of science took the whole thing seriously anyway, including the adventurer Don Yago Ionas. An antiquarian forerunner of archeology, Don Yago was called “the Reliquarian” because of his early finds in the rich soil of Italy.
However, he took the Vision seriously the night that he and several drunken companions were awakened from a stupor in the Cathedral just in time to behold it. The next day, Don Yago boldly announced he would venture into the bowels of the Earth to seek it. Accompanied only by a black servant, he entered the catacombs.
Three days later, Don Yago alone emerged, hauling behind him the fossilized femur of a dragon – in reality, a juvenile stegosaurus – and some incredible stories. He claimed he had encountered “demons” below – most likely Endurists – which added greatly to the legendary terrors of the underworld.
In any event, a local wit called him “a modern Jonah” and the new nickname stuck. Don Yago Ionas became somewhat of a celebrity, especially after he was called upon to examine a candidate Maundy Grail in Stuttgart. He proved it was fake, cobbled out of vessels illegally acquired from the then-recent digs at Pompeii.
of the Red Cap
By Jean-Baptiste Beauregarde, 1839
During the French Revolution, Don Yago managed to save his “dragon bones” by hiding them back in the catacombs, where an equally colorful personality, Doc MacLantis, rediscovered them after World War II. But Don Yago was murdered shortly after the Napoleonic Wars ended. The event caused a close friend of his, Jean-Baptiste Beauregarde, to flee all the way to what would become the Southwestern United States.
Beauregarde, originally a Parisian intellectual, was appalled by the bloodshed caused by the secret societies that struggled during the Revolution. Once in America, he put down what he had learned of them into a book, Betrayers of the Red Cap, that he naively hoped would keep his new homeland safe from such factions. But like his mentor, Beauregarde too was mysteriously murdered.
His book became the centerpiece of a new institution of higher learning, the Studiorum. A place where forbidden and suppressed knowledge could be studied at leisure, the Studiorum started as a beacon of intellectual freedom and enlightenment, but in later years has become somewhat of a mystery itself.
Note: Despite its importance in solving the mystery, the section recovered by Prof. Augustus MacLantis has not been included here due to legal complications, as it was extracted from the Studiorum without proper authorization. We regret the inconvenience.