Friday, January 30, 2009

The Simurgh and the Nightingale (Part 4)

Chapter 5 
Baltimore, SW Ireland. 20th June 1631 

Combined Speed and handrawn Stafford Map of 
Baltimore in the 1630s.

It was just past midnight when the longboat containing Murat Reis and the reconnaissance crew returned to the anchored ships. Pulling alongside his own ship the captain quickly climbed aboard and with an obvious good humour made straight for his cabin. There he was joined by the corbasi - the commander of Algiers’ Janissary palace guard orta company known as the Hasekis - and his lieutenant who had been with Reis in the boat. Both had to stoop to avoid the low ceiling knocking off their elegant caps. The senior officer was very dark-skinned and tall, which was a further disadvantage in the small cabin. His Janissary uskuf cap, in addition to its decoration by a jewel encrusted spoon on the front also had a plumed crest to the side. Murat knew this to be the celenk, a crest only awarded for extreme bravery, and which the corbasi had won as the leader of an elite serdengecti assault unit of the 64th ‘Zagarcis’ orta of the Janissary Corps. Two of the soldiers remained in the passageway guarding the door.
“There are good prospects,” Murat began in Italian, their common language, “Murad Corbasi.” 
The Turkish officer nodded. The way Murat had addressed the corbasi had been formal and expected. Although captain of the ship and current Admiral of the Algerian corsair fleet Murat Reis had to defer to the Janissary, who as military commander and representative of their political overlord the Dey, was the person with the final military decision on board the ship. They had sailed together many times and Murad Corbasi trusted and respected the Dutchman more than almost any other northerner he knew.
The worst aspect for Murad Corbasi of his Algerian assignment - after transfer from Istanbul to head this orta - was seeing the blasphemous way that many of the northern corsairs flouted the laws of Islam with their drinking and whoring. Their nautical expertise was necessary but their indiscipline angered him. This Dutchman on the other hand, although ambitious, appeared genuine in his submission to the will of Allah and Murad respected him for this. Turning to his lieutenant he enquired in Turkish, “Mehmet Odabasi what is your assessment?”
The younger man had been recently promoted and being on his first seabourne mission tried to contain his enthusiasm. “I concur with the Reis, Murad Corbasi.”
“Very well,” Murad continued speaking in Turkish, for he knew Murat Reis to be an excellent linguist who would understand the orders being given to the odabasi. “Mehmet. Take 75 of the company and form three troops, a cavus in command of each. You will take one in the longboat with the Reis and the others will go in the captured fishing boats. All soldiers are to be armed with muskets and mec swords and each troop must be equipped with door rams. I will remain on board.”
The odabasi stood up and adjusting the long leather strap that hung down his back turned for the door. Just at that moment there was a knock. Reis moved to the door and opened it. “Yes bosun, what do you want?”
“Captain, one of the Irish fishermen in the hold requests permission to speak to you concerning the raid.” The sailor looked uncomfortable in the presence of the two Janissary officers.
Murat Reis looked briefly back at Murad before turning to his boatswain and nodding his assent. Presently a chained man of about thirty years was brought to the doorway. The Turkish lieutenant turned away from the smell. Murat did not have him enter the cabin. “What do you want?” He asked in Turkish.
The ruddy-faced fisherman, his shirt covered in scales and his hands blackened - like most sailors from handling tarred hemp ropes - was puzzled. He had not understood the question. The corsair captain soon realised that he had spoken in Turkish a language obviously foreign to the fisherman. Annoyed, Murat Reis repeated the question in heavily accented English.
Somewhat relieved that he would probably now be able to communicate the fisherman spurted out, “My name is John Hackett. You took me, my brother and ten others yesterday off the Waterford coast. I overheard some of your sailors saying that you are planning to raid Baltimore and I would like to offer my services as I know the lie of the cove and town well.”
“Why would you do this?” Murat was intrigued and it somehow added to the excitement ahead.
“Well there is no love lost between the men of Waterford and Baltimore. A number of years ago during a dispute between the towns my grandfather was one of those who raided Baltimore and burnt the abbey on Sherkin, the island that you can see on the western side of the approach. He was killed in the action and I would welcome a chance for revenge...” Hackett hesitated for a moment. “...I also hoped that if I served you well you might release my brother and me.”
Murat translated the conversation for the Turkish officers and receiving their consent instructed his boatswain to have Hackett put in the longboat, unarmed. Let his quick wits alone get him out of any trouble he may meet there, Murat thought to himself.

By this time the longboat and the two captured fishing seines were along the leeward side of the Yildirim and filled with mariners and Janissaries. Murat Reis and the odabasi left the cabin and on reaching the gunwale climbed down the rope ladders to take their places. The tide was turning and it took some time to reach the small bay that lay just inside the entrance to Baltimore haven. A low hill separated the bay from the cove beyond. Dawn was approaching fast as they cut the fishing nets strung between two small boats anchored about fifty yards from the shore. Three small cottages were visible but only one had a chimney and Murat Reis reasoned that it alone was occupied. He questioned Hackett about this.
The fisherman peered into the morning twilight before answering. He pointed towards the shoreline. “The chimneyed cottage is William Arnold’s place. He has a wife and children. I do not know how many. The other two buildings are the pilchard palaces.”
The boat rolled suddenly as it touched the shore. Quickly four of the sailors hopped over the sides to land waist-deep in water and to drag the bow forward. The rocky foreshore made keeping their balance difficult. Nearby a dog barked and Murat Reis cursed. At the same instant six of the Janissaries had jumped ashore and were rushing to the chimneyed cottage. On reaching it they had - without hesitating - rammed open the door. Initially there was a loud shout and the sound of children screaming but yet within a minute all was silent. More of soldiers were checking the other buildings and by the time Murat, the odabasi and Hackett had reached the compound a man, a woman and three small children stood ashen-faced in their night-clothes. Their hands were already tied and mouths stuffed with rags to prevent noise. The man was crouched, bleeding from a wound near his eye - the blood already seeping down his chest - and as his children tried to nestle against him it threw him off balance so that he toppled over. He lay there sobbing curled on the ground. 
Murat Reis hardly gave the family a glance as the soldiers prodded the man into standing and then herded all of them, roughly, towards the boats. He was already surveying the hilltop for movement, its brow now lit by the eastern sunrise. Behind him the Turkish soldiers were regrouping and checking their muskets. A barked order came from the odabasi and they smartly formed into file. Murat and the odabasi then led the troops up the gentle slope to the hilltop. On reaching the summit it was apparent that nobody was aware of what was about to befall. The early morning light showed no signs of waking life in the whitewalled houses.
Moving quickly the Turkish troops descended the hill and fanned out to surround the village. On a signal from the odabasi the doors of the cottages were rammed open almost simultaneously and with wild screams the Janissaries poured in. Above the sounds of screaming Murat thought he heard the sound of musket-fire. From the last house, nearest the road to the main town of Baltimore, he saw the figure of man running or at least attempting to run. He was dragging his right leg. At the same moment another figure appeared, a Turk this time, who chasing after the hobbling fugitive soon caught up with him. Drawing his sword he arced it down to sever the mans left ankle tendon. He then bent down over the suddenly felled and flailing figure, pulled his victim’s head back and butchered his throat.
From the same house another soldier appeared carrying the severed head of Jon Davys. He walked slowly towards the shore with his dripping trophy and past the group of herded captives so they could see the head, its mouth still twitching as if trying to speak. Their resultant fear and revulsion caused many to instantly retch. Having achieved his desired purpose the soldier casually tossed the head into a nearby pig pen and spoke to the odabasi.

In all about 100 captives including men, women and children were found in the cove. While one troop continued searching the houses for valuables another was delegated to get the captives to clear the pilchard palaces of their fumados and then to escort them with the smoked fish, back to the boats. Murat and the odabasi held a conference and after consulting with Hackett decided to make for the town of Baltimore itself. Hackett had pointed out that the majority of dwellings were on the near shore and that the only defences of note were walls which protected from a land attack. They quickly formed up the two remaining troops and began a quick-march towards the town. Passing by the still warm body of the cottager who had tried to run Hackett saw where his right hip had been shattered by a musket ball. His blood was trickling down the gentle slope in a crimson stream. Bending down Hackett turned the body and recognised that it was Timothy Carter the son of one the town’s most prominent men. A puzzled frown swept over Hackett’s face as he wondered silently why Carter had been lodged with Jon Davys, one of life’s true mongrels. Whatever pleasures they shared were now ended. His thoughts were soon interrupted by the sound of a beating drum. In the distance shouts of "To arms, to arms!" could be heard. Murat and the Janissaries had stopped ahead. Unsure as to the strength of any resistance they decided to retreat.

By ten o’clock they were all onboard and the captives safely restrained on the orlop-deck. Murat had watched everyone being loaded and had intervened at one point to order two of the captives to remain on deck. Once a preliminary identification and recording was performed by the ship’s clerk the captives were bound and transferred to the hold. The process completed Murat called his mate to one side. “Put Fawlett, Hackett and his hewer into one of the boats and sink the other. Send those two captives to me.” Murat pointed to two shivering people standing by the port rail. They had been tied to one of the demi-culverins - its barrel turned directly at them. They were released and shuffled towards him. “What are your names?”
The first to speak was a man of about seventy years, his left eye opaque with a large cataract. “I am Osbourne and this is Alice Head.” His voice was defiant.
Murat smiled sarcastically. “Well Osbourne, you and the crone are far too old for my purposes. You might not survive the journey and you are likely to be worthless in the slave market. Bosun throw them overboard.”
They started to plead with him but Murat turned away towards his cabin. They were immediately dragged to the ship side and their terror turned to confusion when they found themselves being lowered into the fishing boat to join Fawlett, Hackett and his brother. Murat Reis did not look back as the boat cast off and the three men rowed with as much force as they could muster expecting at any minute to become target practice. He noted the freshening wind and the turn of the tide and his barked order was met with the unfurling of the main foresail and mainsail. He could feel the vibrating grind of the capstan below his feet as the anchor was hauled up and even before it had left the water the sails had filled and the ship was making way.
“Anchors catted and fished, Captain.” 
Murat heard the shout from the bow. He paused on his way to his cabin for a well earned meal and sleep to instruct the helmsman. “South by south east, helmsman. We make for Finistere.”
“Aye Captain.”

©R.Derham 2001,2009

Chapter 6. 
Toledo, Spain. 25th December 1630

Moll map of the Mediterranean 

The Bishop was finishing mass in the fortress chapel. All communicants were kneeling with their heads bowed, to receive his blessing. For the most part the congregation were prisoners and as their hands and feet were chained he waited for the noise to subside before delivering it. “In nomine . . .”
Djivo was kneeling at the lower rung of the altar. He had been requested to serve as altar attendant and this privilege had necessitated the release from his chains. Two armed guards stood close by. He was unsure why he had been singled out but the freedom, although temporary, was welcome. The Bishop finished and standing up Djivo walked to the side of the alter and picked up a long pole decorated at its summit by a silver cross. He then lead a procession of the Bishop and his fellow concelebrant priests in a solemn march down the nave to the main doors. Once outside they turned to enter through a side door to the vestry where they were to disrobe. This would take some time as the heavily brocaded and embroidered silk dalmatics, albs, stoles and copes of the high-mass set had to be folded carefully. Once this was done the Bishop dismissed the priests and sacristan. With their departure the two guards responsible for Djivo wanted to enter to escort him away but were ordered to remain outside the door by two elegantly dressed officers, just arrived, and who continued on into the room. As they closed the door shut behind them Djivo was surprised by the Bishop addressing him directly.
“Dom Djivo we do not have much time, suspicions will be raised. I am Father Denis O’Driscoll of the Franciscan order and auxiliary Bishop of nearby Siguenza. These two gentlemen are Dermico and Daniel O’Driscoll, my first cousins and fellow Knights of yours in the Order of Sant’Iago.” 
Both men parted their upper tunics to display their insignia, a silver commanders star of the order, sewn over their left breast. Djivo recognised the espada and nodded. One spoke. “What news of your mission?” Djivo looked towards the Bishop and then back at the Knights. They recognised his reluctance to speak. “Our Franciscan cousin is fully aware of our quest and has sworn an oath of secrecy. We trust him completely.”
Djivo began his report, whispering. “I am certain now that the Scrolls do exist and are in the keep of the Venetian order, the Constantinian Knights of Saint George. Their exact whereabouts, however, remains a mystery.”
“Why?” The O’Driscoll brothers said simultaneously as both men leant forward to listen.
“Giovanni Andrea Angelo Flavio Comneno, Duke of Durazzo and Prince of Macedonia, former Grand Master of the Constantinian Order, ceded the grand magistery - because of financial problems - to Marino Caracciolo, Prince of Avellino, on the 20th July 1623. The magistery will return to the Angelo-Comneno family’s hereditary stewardship when Caracciolo dies. Up to the transfer of the magistery the Scrolls were held at Giovanni Andrea’s palace in Venice. It is my understanding that they were not part of the transfer arrangement and indeed I do not think that Caracciolo even knows of their existence. My information is that the Scrolls have been removed from Venice and deposited in secrecy elsewhere until such time as the grand magistery is back in Angelo-Comneno hands. My informant continues to search.”
“Who is this informant? No word of our quest must out.” The older looking O’Driscoll brother who had been introduced as Dermico questioned.
“That, my brother knights, is my secret,” Djivo said firmly.
The younger brother who was pacing the room behind Djivo asked loudly,“But what if you are killed?” 
Djivo turned to face him giving him an icy glare. “Then you must ensure I am not.” 

A silence descended on the room until a loud knock at the door disturbed it. The younger O’Driscoll opened it to allow the guards see Djivo. He assured them that their prisoner would be ready to leave very shortly and closed the door. Dermico O’Driscoll spoke again. “We are unable to intercede here in Spain, but have arranged for an escape from Oran as soon as you arrive. On no account accept an offer to serve your time in the mines of Almaden. If the mercury does not kill you first then the Fuggers will ensure that you never leave alive. The mines are the property of our brother Knights of Calatrava of which the late Captain de Bazan was a member.” Dermico O’Driscoll stopped speaking as the door opened again. This time, accompanied by an irate officer, the soldiers entered without apology and replaced Djivo’s chains. The others in the room said nothing as he was marched out and back to his cell.
Once there, the cold dampness of his dungeon reinforced his isolation particularly after the incense laden warmth of the sacristy. Djivo drew some comfort from the knowledge that efforts were being made on his behalf but recognised that it was because of the importance of his quest and not him personally, that these were been undertaken.
He began to think about how he had spent the last four years trying to unearth, perhaps, one of Christendom’s most important and hitherto secret relics. His urgent return to Spain had been ordered so that he could report on these efforts to the Council of Sant’Iago. In order to convince de Bazan to accept him as a passenger Djivo had told him that it was to seek further instructions for his negotiations with the Levant company in Naples with whom Djivo was trying to obtain their influence with Charles of England to allow Spain recruit infantry in Ireland. Plague in Spain, and the ongoing war in the Low Countries and Lombardy had meant a dearth of able bodied men and the Knights of Sant’Iago had promised Olivares, Spain’s chief minister, their help in recruiting Irish volunteers - whose reputation as soldiers meant they were much sought after. The story was plausible and partially truthful and de Bazan had accepted it willingly. 
Given his current predicament Djivo now felt he was paying for the deception. “Are the Scrolls worth all this?” he murmured aloud. As he drifted into a tormented sleep Djivo dreamt he was being tortured by the dead de Bazan and his Calatrava brothers. ‘Tell us what you know of the Scrolls,’ they screamed at him. He no longer had the strength to resist. The Sant’Iago order is under the rule of Saint Augustine and about fifteen years ago, the archivist of our order - while documenting material from Hippo Regius held by the Recollects in the monastery of Talavera de la Reina - came across a parchment written in 429 suggesting the possible existence of the original execution order signed by Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea, for Jesus of Nazareth. This order, apparently, gave a full account - with typical Roman efficiency - of the interrogation and trial of Our Lord Jesus. In addition there was also thought to be a copy of the forma or ‘wanted-poster’ produced by Pilate’s officers in which a detailed description of Jesus’ physical appearance was given. These are the Scrolls.
Djivo by now was curled on the floor. His hair was wet with sweat. ‘Continue you son of a whore.’ The dead de Bazan scowled in his dreams. 

The Augustinian archives in the Recollects’ monastery had originally come from the community of Hippo Regius, shipped out before the final destruction of that city in 430 by the Vandals when they invaded North Africa. The ancient document that mentioned the Scrolls was thought to be one of Saint Augustine’s own diaries. It was incomplete but the Bishop had written a few brief lines mentioning the fact that he had learnt from reliable sources about the possible existence of an execution order and forma relating to Our Lord’s death and that these had at one stage been in the repository of the Jewish community in Djerba. His informant also had suggested that they had been transferred to the Therapeutae community synagogue on the shores of Lake Mareotis near Alexandria about thirty years previously.
No further mention was made of the documents, and their obvious importance, in any of the other material he had studied and the Sant’Iago Order’s archivist was puzzled at Augustine’s apparent disinterest in such a possible find. This was probably deliberate, he eventually surmised, as Augustine at that time was in vigorous conflict with the schismatic Donatists, from nearby Carthage and possibly did not want to run the risk of bringing to their attention the existence of the Scrolls. It was also possible that the Jewish Community in Djerba had a similar concern about the violently anti-Semitic Donatists and thus removed the manuscripts to Alexandria.
The President of the Council of the Sant’Iago Order on learning of this discovery, realised that finding the Scrolls could provide a crucial lever in his efforts to achieve his Order’s independence of the regal and papal imposed amalgamation of Sant’Iago, Calatrava and Alcantera in the Council of Orders. He had immediately dispatched the archivist, with utmost secrecy, to Egypt. Here - after carefully researching all extant material relating to the time period in particular the surviving Coptic manuscripts of Severus, Bishop of Al-Ushmunain and others in the library of the monastery of Nahya - the archivist had determined that the Scrolls had probably came into the possession of Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria in about 414. Records of the time had shown that when Cyril had orchestrated the sudden and unexpected sacking of all Jewish synagogues in the city - by ultra orthodox Christians - in that year it was to try and obtain many of their most valuable manuscripts.
The archivist further determined that the Scrolls once identified had been most likely stored - along with the relics of Saints Cyrus and John - in the monastery at Canopus, east of Alexandria. Their existence was only made known only to successive Patriarchs of Alexandria... 
There was a sudden commotion in the prison corridor outside Djivo’s cell. The piercing screams of a convict’s suffering broke the spell of his demented dream. De Bazan’s ghostly image disappeared as Djivo woke wild-eyed with fear. It took sometime to get his bearings and yet he could not help continuing to think about his quest... 

Djivo had been told that the discovery of the involvement of Patriarch Cyril was a most vital clue linking the Scrolls with the Sacred Military Order Constantinian of Saint George. The Angelicks - as the Order was sometimes known - traced their origins to the foundation of the Order of the Golden Knights by Constantine the Great following his triumphal march into Rome in 312. This select brotherhood had consisted of fifty of the bravest battle-hardened nobles of Constantine’s empire and were to form an elite praetorian palace guard. They were also to follow his lead and convert to Christianity. Following the Emperor’s death in 337 the Order was renamed in his honour.
In 456 the Constantinian Order was formally recognised by Pope Leo I and placed under the rule of Saint Basil. At that time Alexius Angelus Flavio Comnenos was the Grand Master and as part of this arrangement one of his descendants was always to hold the hereditary position of Grand Master. Over the next eight hundred years - following the dictates of Saint Basil - the Order evolved into a philanthropic organisation promoting public works such as the establishment of xenon or hospitals. One of the last of these acts of charity was the hospital established by the Grand Master of the Constantinians, Issac Comnenos in Ainos in 1250. 
The re-birth of the Constantinian Order as a military force was to occur a short time later. This was to be painful occurring as it did amid the death-throws and final demise of the short-lived Latin Empire of Rum - established by the Fourth Crusade - when the Venetians and their puppet Baldwin were forced to flee the City of Constantinople in 1261. This allowed the Orthodox Byzantine Empire to be re-established under Michael VIII Palaeologus. One of the new Emperor’s most bitter enemies had been the current Constantinian Grand Master Michel II Angeli Comnenos, Despot of Epirius, who although distantly related to the Emperor had allied himself - and the Order - firmly to the Latin and Catholic cause. Angeli Comnenos commanded a mixed Albanian and Vlach mercenary force which were to hold out against the Byzantines until Michael II’s death in 1271. 
It was about thirty years later that the remnants of the Epirian Angelis were to recreate the semblance of a military rather than monastic order in the service of the Pope. The encouragement for this came from an opportunistic alliance with the mercenary Catalan Company of Roger de Flor. 
Following the Sicilian Vespers of 1282 - when they helped rid Sicily of the French Angevian overlords - the Catalan Company had supported the rights of Frederick II of Sicily against his brother James of Aragon, the Company’s liege lord. When peace was signed at Caltabellotta the Company knew they would not be welcome back in Aragon and under their leader Roger de Flor, decided to take their fighting force of Almuvagar light cavalry and infantry into the service of Bysantium. Roger had organised the higher echelons of the Company along the lines of the Templar Knights of whom he - Roger de Flor - had once been a warrior monk. They carried the banner of Saint George as their patron saint and their battle cries of ‘Arago’ and ‘Sant Jordi ’ were to strike fear into friend and foe alike.
The Catalans enjoyed immediate military success and quickly became very powerful - inviting envy and opposition within the Byzantine Court. Roger de Flor was eventually murdered - as were many of its subsequent leaders - but the Company however, maintained its Templar organisation and remained fierce in their loyalty to Aragon and the Catholic faith. This allowed them their final triumph in the Battle of the Kephissos in 1311 before settling into relative obscurity as rulers of the Duchy of Athens for seventy years. It was this group of nobles that joined with the remnants of the Epirian Angelis to reform the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George. 
During the sack of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmet II in 1453 the Order served as a mercenary unit with the Catalan merchants near the Hippodrome. By now it had an Angelo-Comnenos prince, Paolo, as Grand Master, a descendant of Michael II Angelos, the Despot of Epirius. Following the taking of the city some of the unit commanders had escaped the wholesale slaughter - including that of Paolo - by sailing from the Boucoleon harbour and making for the Morea. Here the Sant’Iago Order knew that the Constantinians under their new Grand Master Andrea II - Paolo’s brother - had gathered recruits amongst the staunch Catholic and anti-Turkish descendants of the Albanians settled in the Morea by the Emperor John V Palaeologus and who were now in open rebellion. These were formed into a light cavalry unit that fought with Iskanderbeg - the Albanian leader - in his continued war with the Ottomans. In 1463, following a treaty between Iskanderbeg and the Venetians, the unit entered the service of Venice, carrying the banner of Saint George and the Templar legacy of de Flor’s Catalan mercenaries. 
The Order re-constituted along the fused Templar traditions of the Catalan Company and its original Constantinian inheritance was recognised formally - once again - by Pope Julius III in 1551. It was unexpectedly placed under the spiritual protection of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria in 1575 as part of yet another attempt at reconciliation between the Greek and Latin Churches. Djivo had been told that, as part of this agreement, the Scrolls which the Constantinians had always claimed ownership of, were finally given back to the Order as their most sacred relic and covenant with the past. Only the Patriarch and the Angelo-Comneno hereditary Grand Masters were to continue to know of their existence and contents.
Djivo had also been told that further proof of the likely existence and provenance of the Scrolls had been provided by the inquisition of the former Catholic Arch-Bishop of Spalato, Marco Antonio de Dominis, in 1623. A native of the island of Arbe in Dalmatia de Dominis had been trained by the Jesuits and became Professor of Mathematics in Padua. As Archbishop of Spalato he sided with Venice in its conflict with Rome and condemned the Jesuits for the abuses of their clergy. In a most unusual move he suddenly had renounced his Catholic faith and was re-ordained into the Anglican religion and mysteriously appointed by King James of England to be the Dean of the Chapel of Saint George in Windsor and therefore Register of the Order of the Knight’s of the Garter. A few years later de Dominis just as suddenly appeared to tire of this role and after writing a retraction the wretched Bishop had returned to Rome and its Church, knowing full well he would face a counter-reformation inquisition. 
Most of the details of de Dominis’ inquisition were kept secret - securely hidden away as they were in the private files of Pope Urban VIII - but it was apparent that something the Bishop had discovered in Windsor had brought him back to Rome which he felt would protect him from the full sanction of the Holy Office. By all accounts he had paid dearly for this miscalculation and died ‘suffering great hurt’ two years later.

Arms of the Garter Knights in 1630s 

The Sant’Iago order had discovered that de Dominis’ defence had depended on his description of an unusual sculpture portraying a disfigured Christ and God the Father, holding an open book between them, which was present high on the east side of the choir of the Garter Chapel in Windsor. Beneath the book was an orb which had a raised equator demarcating a representation of land and sea and which was surmounted by an ancient crux commissa or tau cross. The sculpture had apparently been commissioned by Philip II of Spain about 1580. A number of Catholic nobles - including Philip of Spain who had married Queen Mary of England - were members of both the Garter and the Constantinian orders, Saint George being the patron saint of both. Nobody was quite sure, at the time, why such a seemingly trivial architectural detail of an English chapel should be mentioned in the context of an inquisition. It was now thought by the Sant’Iago Order that de Dominis was convinced that the carving was a hidden message deliberately commissioned by Philip to allude to the existence and provenance of certain secret parchments of immense importance. Its position high above the east window in Saint George’s Chapel was a signpost to their likely whereabouts. The carving showed a young, disfigured, and therefore military or ‘mishpat’ Christ on the left representing the Constantinian Knights being handed Pilate’s scrolls by the older established ‘tsedeq’ portrayal of God on the right, representing the Patriarch of Alexandria.
The Sant’Iago Order had long suspected that in select chapter, the Knights of the Garter, particularly under King James I’s direction - when he had elected Esme Stewart, the Earl of Lenox and James Hay, the Earl of Carlisle as Companion Knights - had seen themselves as the Regal and therefore purest lodge of speculative Freemasonry and thus the true inheritors of the Templar’s legacy. The appointment of de Dominis to the Garter Chapel was to be the final part of James’s, Francis Bacon’s and William Schaw’s reform of the Freemason organisation when they attempted to incorporate the Templar, Rosicrucian and cabbalistic mysteries.
Djivo had been entrusted with all of this information because the President of the Council of the Sant’Iago Order knew that Djivo, like himself, had been initiated while at university in Salamander, into the ‘Scottish Rite’ and some of its secrets. The president furthermore arranged for Djivo’s elevation to the fourteenth degree of the Scottish Rite. Armed with this insight Djivo had then been delegated the most secret mission to try and determine the Scroll’s exact location. This was to be Sant’Iago’s best opportunity, given the confusion and discord brought about by the recent, albeit temporary, transfer of the Constantinian Grand Mastership. What the O’Driscoll cousins did not realise, even now as they rode away at speed to make their report, was that Djivo already knew where the Scrolls were most likely to be found.
For Djivo - as he sat dejected on the cold cesspit slabs with crawling rats his only company - this knowledge was of little consolation. Although the provenance of the Scrolls seemed plausible, he had seen enough parts of the ‘True Cross’ and ‘Heads of John the Baptist’ in his travels to remain sceptical. He also realised however, that his future safety depended on keeping this information to himself.

©R.Derham 2001,2009 

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