Above: Shugborough Hall Shepherds MonumentAbove: L'Hexagone of France on the Paris Meridian
Plantard's Image of the Sword, Meridian and Solomon Seal
Above: Rosslin and the Hexagram on the Scottish Meridian
Rosslin Chapel and the Hexagram
Greenwich and Hexagram on the Global Merdian
There has been much sensationalist speculation in recent years about the mysteries of the ‘Poussin Tomb’ near Rennes-le-Chateaux, the site said to be featured in Poussin’s painting The Shepherds of Arcadia II. Similar excitement and curiosity have surrounded the site of Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland as a supposed Grail location, and Shugborough Hall in England where there is a shrine containing a stone relief version of the same Poussin painting, together with an enigmatic code. Since the worldwide success of the Dan Brown novel The Da Vinci Code the glass pyramid on the French meridian at the entrance to the Louvre in Paris has acquired similar status. Perhaps it is now time to draw the sword and with it cut through the tangle of speculation, breaking through to the clearing of understanding where we may see what these things are really about. At their common central core these mysteries are all about meridians as the foundations of hermetic nation-making on a scale that turns out to be mind-boggling. We shall start with France.
The Historical Background
To start, a little historical background. Paris was first established as a capital in the Dark Ages, but the name of that period should not be taken as an indication of a complete loss of all the knowledge that had been acquired by the classical world. For example, unlike a geocentric universe, a flat Earth was never, in fact, a Christian dogma. Although there were one or two Christian writers that didn’t believe in the globe, Classical Antiquity did bequeath this knowledge to the Dark Ages of early Christianity. The Greeks had worked out that we live on a globe, and from at least the time of Eratosthenes around 235 BC even the rough size was known from calculations based on shadow lengths at different latitudes in southern and northern Egypt. In the second century BC the Greek philosopher Hipparchus had been working with a system where the Earth was divided up into lines of longitude and latitude and to an extent he measured the positions of certain stars in a similar manner. This Hipparchus was in fact a great admirer of Pytheas the Massaliot - a Greek from the Greek city of Massalia, now called Marseilles, located at the mouth of the Rhone in Southern France. Hipparchus made references to Pytheas' now lost book, On The Ocean, and specifically refered to the way that the Massaliot had calculated relative distances north of Marseilles by measuring Sun shadow lengths. Some of the measurements he took are known from Hipparchus, such as one near the north point of Britanny, at 48'42" degrees north, as well as a latitude from the north of Scotland at 58'54". Pytheas actually visited these places, being the first person in recorded history to document a visit to Britain. We also know from Hipparchus that Pytheas' book refered to a method for finding true north using the positions of the stars. By this time trade connections up the Rhone from Marseilles were very strong, stretching up to the Celtic power centre in Bourges, which happens to be on the Paris Meridian. By Claudius Ptolemy’s time longitude was measured with respect to a Zero Meridian through the Canary Islands (a line running due North-South), and Ptolemy had even used projection formulas to transfer the map from the curved surface of the globe to a flat representation. No-one seemed to be writing about longitude or latitude during the Dark Ages, but by the turn of the eighth century the Venerable Bede certainly had no doubts of a spherical Earth. Then by Chaucer’s time in the ancient method for calculating latitude by use of an astrolabe to gage solar or stellar inclination angles was certainly known about, for Chaucer actually wrote a poem about it. This is knowledge that allows one not only to plot out a north-south meridian line, but also to divide it up into particular ratios, based on relative latitudes. Then we enter the Renaissance propper which of course sees a massive surge in interest in the ancient writers, with this interest being centred on the Medici family and their connections in royal courts across Europe, including the likes of Good King Rene in the South of France, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Regent of England resident in Bella Court in Greenwich, London, and Sir William St Clair with his learned tutor Sir Gilbert Hay both resident in Rosslyn Castle due South of Edinburg in Scotland. Long after the period now called the Renaissance there were still aristocratic European families cultivating a passion for the same fields of interest that had inspired the Itlalian humanists and before them the ancient classical writers themselves, and notable among such groups is the Dilettanti society centered around the Anson family at Shugborough Hall in the centre of England. But for the moment let us return to the French question.
In the late Dark Ages the classical writers were still being studied at the School of Chartres, in Northern France, around the time that Hugh Capet made Paris the capital of France. But Paris had been a regional capital even before that, established by the Merovingian kings. These kings were well lettered and even before their Christian conversion had been Rome-friendly to the extent of building amphitheatres as the Romans had done. Much of the heritage of classical antiquity was there for the reading, and these founders of Paris were not the simple barbarians some have imagined them to be. It is with this in mind that we turn our gaze to the mystery of the French meridian.
The story of the north-south line that forms the French Zero Meridian, from the official historical point of view, is that during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, the masterminds behind the French throne decided they wanted France to be properly mapped so that the country could be developed, with roads and bridges and canals and so on, according to a cartographic master plan. The Paris observatory, so the history goes, was built just outside Paris, and it was placed on the French Zero Meridian, upon which the subsequent surveys - the first proper scientific cartographic surveys in the world in the modern sense - were based.
Looking at a map of France reveals that this meridian line goes from the northernmost point in the country to the southernmost, a fact which may raise an eyebrow of initial curiosity. It goes, of course, through the capital city of Paris, and it also runs down through the city of Bourges that has long been held to be the centre of France, as well as through Amiens half way between Paris and the north point on the coast. Bourges and Amiens, like Paris, have great gothic cathedrals. Bourges has an even older history of being a geodetic spot, for it was Roman Avaricum, the capital of Aquitaine, and even before that, way back in the 7th century B.C., it was the centre of the Celtic Kingdom of the Biturges Cubi. There is a gold line that has been inserted in the floor of the cathedral of Bourges to show exactly where the Meridian runs. Is it just a coincidence that the line runs directly through this awesome Gothic cathedral built long before the Sun King’s time, i.e. before the meridian was officially plotted out?
Another anomaly is Poussin’s painting Les Bergers d’Arcadie II. It is linked to the meridian because of its involvement with the Rennes-le-Chateaux story. Whether or not they were the ancient society they claimed, (and consensus opinion now is that they were not), the fact is that a great deal of effort was expended by a group calling themselves the Priory of Sion to connect the painting with a site near Rennes-le-Chateaux. Their message was delivered through a series of ‘leaked’ documents, such as the now-famous Dossiers Secrets, which said that ‘Poussin wished to declare the mystery [i.e. the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateaux] in his two pictures, the ‘Shepherds of Arcadia’, there is without doubt the secret of the treasure before which the descendants, country folk and shepherds, of the proud Sicambrian Franks reflect on ‘et in Arcadia ego’, the [image of hexagram] and King ‘Midas’.’
Once the link has been made with the Rennes-le-Chateaux area the painting is revealed as containing a fairly obvious pun. Poussin painted a tomb, or arca in Latin, which, it transpires, actually existed in this very area and was still around in the last century but turned out to be empty. It was destroyed in the last century but there are photographs of it that match the painting, and the landscape in the background of the painting has also been matched with the area of the tomb, as described in The Holy Place, by Henry Lincoln. This tomb or arca in Southern France was located less than a quarter of a mile from the French, i.e. the pre-Greenwich, Zero Meridian, down here in the South of France. Grouped around the arca are three male shepherds who are holding long, straight staffsand are shown as inhabitants of the ancient, classical world.
The reason this is anomalous is that The Shepherds of Arcadia II was painted in the early half of the 1600’s, while the official mapping out of the meridian occurred later in that century. Intriguingly, this business links to a mystery concerning Poussin and the French Crown. In 1956 Abbe Loius Fouquet, the brother of Nicholas Fouquet, the Superintendent of Finances to Louis XIV paid a visit to Poussin in Rome, and from here he sent a letter back to his brother, the Superintendent, part of which reads:
He and I [i.e. Poussin] discussed certain things, which I shall with ease be able to explain to you in detail - things which will give you, through Monsieur Poussin, advantages which even kings would have great pains to draw from him, and which, according to him, it is possible that nobody else will ever rediscover in the centuries to come. And what is more, these are things so difficult to discover that nothing now on this Earth can prove of better fortune nor be their equal.
The whole of the communication was confiscated by the king, who locked the Superintendent up for the rest of his life, according to some forbidding him to utter anything to anyone, and the king also promptly set about obtaining the original of Poussin’s Les Bergers d’Arcadie.
As noted above, it is intriguing that when we run a line due north and south of the capital Paris it happens to go to the north point and the south point of the nation and also through the city held to be the nation’s centre, namely Bourges. Would this not be a more likely result had the capital been placed on the meridian, rather than the meridian placed through the capital? History tells us that this would put the original plotting out of the Meridian at least as early as the Merovingian period in which Paris was chosen as the capital.
A relatively recent addition to the mystery of Paris is the glass pyramid at the entrance to the Louvre. That it is part of some greater plan than mere decoration is obvious, even just from the incongruity amongst the classical architecture that surrounds it, but there is much more to it than that. It was commissioned by President Mitterand as part of his Grands Travaux or ‘Great Works’ programme, which also included the Monument to the Rights of Man and the Citizen, which includes, amongst other things, two bronze figures based on the shepherds in Poussin’s painting, a shaft aligned to the Sun due south at the Summer Solstice, Masonic symbols and two obelisks. In light of this it would be difficult to claim that the Louvre pyramids are purely decorative without some deeper significance. In fact, the glass pyramid is really the fulfillment of a long-standing plan for a Parisian pyramid, with various versions of the plan being the ‘Cenotaph dans le genre égyptien’ of Etienne Boullée, and the great pyramids planned by the Freemason Nicholas Ledou. In fact even before Napoleon, during the reign of Louis XIV a pyramid to the glory of the Sun-King had been proposed for the Cour Carrée of the Louvre by architect Francois Dubois, and later a large baroque pyramid with a statue of Napoleon on top was designed by the architect Louis-Francois Leheureux to be located on the exact spot where the glass pyramid now stands! Details of these plans are given in the penultimate chapter of Talisman, the 2004 book of Bauval and Hancock. It seems that whether it was the king or the emperor of a republic - or indeed a 20th century president - was far less important than the real aim - to get a Paris pyramid erected here. Why?
The structure that has now been built is rather more complex than just a pyramid, for there is also, below ground level, the inverted pyramid, a further mystery. Robert Bauval suggested in The Secret Chamber that this combination of pyramid and inverted pyramid may be a reference to the esoteric pattern known as the Seal of Solomon of the interlocking triangle and inverted triangle, that is to say the hexagram, and others have, famously, taken up this theme. For Dan Brown the inverted pyramid is like a feminine chalice, the pyramidon on the floor below it being the corresponding male symbol of the blade. Others have linked the two glass pyramids to the Freemasonic symbol of the square and compasses that form a kind of Seal of Solomon.
The Hexagram or Seal of Solomon
In The Da Vinci Code the final clue relates this pattern to the location of the Grail:-
The Holy Grail ‘neath ancient Roslin waits.
The blade and chalice guarding o’er her gates.
Adorned in masters’ loving art, She lies.
She rests at last beneath the starry skies.
Roslin becomes reinterpreted as the Rose Line, the Paris Meridian; the masters’ art becomes not the stonework of Rosslyn chapel but the works of the Old Masters in the Louvre gallery; the starry skies refer not to the stars on the ceiling of Rosslyn chapel but the night sky seen through the glass of the Louvre Pyramid, and the blade and chalice become the Louvre Pyramid and La Pyramid Inversee, i.e. the smaller pyramid on the floor beneath the glass pyramid. Such is the climax of the world’s best-selling novel.
One of the things that Dan Brown got right in The Da Vinci Code is that the French Meridian, as plotted out now with around 130 bronze circles placed across the city, does go exactly through the inverted pyramid, and this is the key to understanding its significance. Napoleon’s Freemasonic scholars who traveled to Egypt were convinced that the Great Pyramid marked the central Egyptian meridian - a fact which they may not have been entirely correct about - and this explains the logic in part, but there is more to it. What about this hexagram?
This is where the mystery really deepens, because it is not the first time that the Paris Meridian has been linked to the hexagram. In the quote included above from the Dossiers Secrets we are told that ‘Poussin wished to declare the mystery’ in his painting and that in the painting the shepherds are contemplating an image of a hexagram, otherwise called a Seal of Solomon, while the subject of the painting is, as we have seen, also linked to the French meridian. The next question is what the hexagram has to do with the meridian. A clear answer to this is to be found in the cover of Circuit, a small magazine brought out in the 1950’s by the man who claimed to be the secretary of the group calling itself the Priory of Sion, namely Pierre Plantard. In Plantard’s image, which predates The Da Vinci Code by half a century, the blade of a sword runs along the Zero Meridian, with the hexagram placed over the map. This reminds us that the map of France is hexagonal, to the extent that the French even have a nickname for their country: L’Hexagone. Here we have our pyramid and inverted pyramid linked to the Meridian.
Plantard’s Hexagram with Blade as Meridian
Now we are ready to turn the key and unbolt the mystery, as everything slides into place. In Plantard’s image the bottom of the hexagram is exactly on the southern border, but, perhaps so as not to give everything away too easily, he has not made the top of the hexagram map onto the north point. It is when we redraw that hexagram so that its central vertical axis is exactly the same length as the meridian that everything becomes clear (below). Paris, being exactly ¾ of the way up the Meridian measuring from the French south point to north point, is at the place where the inverted triangle (the Chalice) intersects the Meridian (the Sword). This also maps the hexagram more closely to the hexagonal shape of the country.
Francois Mitterand, who commissioned the Louvre pyramids that actually got built, was certainly interested in sacred geography and hermeticism. He himself drew attention to Bourges as a mystical French centre, and in Ma part de vérité (p.14) he mentions a field called Champs de Mitterand 20 miles south of Bourges, at the exact centre of France, with ‘Mitterand’ - his own name - coming from ‘milieu de terres’, ‘middle of the land’, which gave him a sense of destiny. Looking for this location, which is in Bruère-Allichamps, we discover it is still marked as ‘Centre de la France’. It corresponds to the centre of the French hexagram.
The French hexagram with Paris at the upper intersection is a grand notion indeed, a beautiful idea, and in its realization a project quite awesome in scope. Who conceived that plan originally? How far back does it go?
Any link to the Templars can only, without more evidence, be said to be a conceptual one, for they called themselves the Knights of the Temple of Solomon, and the hexagram is called the Seal of Solomon, as well as the Star of David. David was Solomon’s father. In the book of Chronicles in the Bible we read how David sent out men to ‘number Israel’, and then ‘David looked up and saw the angel of the LORD standing between Earth and Heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem.’ This is reminiscent, of course, of Plantard’s map with a sword stretched along the meridian. (Pindar, in the Pythian Odes, speaks of Apollo’s Golden Sword. Apollo was the god of sunbeams, and the site of Delphi where the Pythian Games were held is sacred to him. The sword of the meridian is almost certainly the beam of the Noon Sun due south.) David asks what should be done to rectify things, and he is commanded to go to a particular place to build an altar. He is inspired to build a great temple, but is told that because he was a man of war he may not do so, but that his son will be a man of peace, and it will be he who builds the temple. This son is of course Solomon. (The name even includes ‘Salem’ - ‘Peace’.) ‘And David commanded to gather together the strangers that were in the land of Israel; and he set masons to hew wrought stones to build the house of God… So David prepared abundantly before his death. Then he called for Solomon his son, and charged him to build an house for the LORD God of Israel. David also commanded all the princes of Israel to help Solomon his son, saying…arise therefore, and build ye the sanctuary of the LORD God, to bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and the holy vessels of God, into the house that is to be built to the name of the LORD.’ Then in the next part of Chronicles Solomon begins the work of creating this temple, and it is a part of the Bible that has been important for Freemasons, for it is here that Solomon enlists the help of King Hiram of Tyre. According to a strand of Masonic tradition Hiram’s craftsmen were the Dionysiac Artificers who had come from Bronze Age Greece, and they were the proto-Freemasons.
In Chronicles we read that ‘Solomon determined to build an house for the name of the LORD, and an house for his kingdom.’ Notice that the temple is to be built ‘for the name of the Lord’. Legend says that Solomon had a gold ring with the name of god on it which brought good luck and warded off evil, and this same ring is also behind the name ‘Seal of Solomon’, for it was said that the hexagram was the symbol upon it. If the ‘name of the lord’ and the hexagram are one and the same, and the temple of Salem was built for this ‘name’, we could say that the French hexagram is also intended to be a good luck charm that wards of harmful influences. In the Bible the sword that stretched across Jerusalem represented God’s wrath towards David because of his transgressions, while the temple David told Solomon to build at a special place was definitely intended to appease this wrath - just building it would bring health, peace and plenty to the kingdom.
The idea of such a sword of justice is also linked to a goddess of the Graeco-Roman tradition, Astraea, the goddess of justice often shown in the Renaissance with sword and scales. It was said that Astraea had ruled during the bygone age associated with the concept of Arcadia.
Regarding the Seal of Solomon, we should keep in mind that, although the hexagram was used occasionally in early Jewish art, the legends of the Seal of Solomon are from a later time, and seem to be from Arab sources. Perhaps these legends were brought to Europe through contact with the ‘Holy Land’ during the Crusades, but this does not necessarily mean that it was the Knights Templar who conceived the notion of the French hexagram.
If we were to choose to plough the worn furrow of a Templar theory, we might wander whether the hexagon scheme was one of the secrets the French King Philip obtained from the Templars under torture, but this would be an imaginative theory. The core of the mystery is the existence of the scheme rather than the question of who originated it.
All the same, it is intriguing to ask, who was responsible for this? The technology required is not so complex. Setting out the meridian itself would have been easy by methods similar to those by which the Romans built their straight roads, and the idea of meridians - and their plotting out - does certainly go back to at least the Hellenistic period of antiquity. Then to find the Paris point along the line doesn’t require accurate measurement of distances if you can measure latitude, which can be found from the Sun’s shadow on the equinox, or even more simply just from the Pole Star in the Little Bear. To find the position ¾ of the way up the meridian you would actually only need to find the location where the Sun angle is ¾ of the way between its angle at South Point and at North Point.
Does the French hexagram concept go back to at least the time of the Merovingian kings who established Paris as their capital long before the Templars even existed? When did the map of France become hexagonal? Actually, analysis of the changing shape of the country over the years shows that from the Middle Ages up to the eve of the French Revolution the shape, rather like a snowflake forming, gradually became more and more hexagonal until she reached the shape she has today. It was also upon the eve of the Revolution that the great cartographic survey of France begun in the Sun King’s time was finally completed. Then when Napoleon came into power the borders suddenly expanded as a result of the conquests. However, after the defeat of Napoleon at Elba a group of European royals and their officials met in Vienna and, as well as taking in the odd Beethoven performance here and there, came up with new agreements about the European borders, and in the case of France this resulted in the shape of the nation reverting as if by elastic memory to the hexagonal shape. It was a royalist meeting that didn’t have democratic aims high on its list, but it did result in about a hundred years of peace between European nations, quite a significant result.
Although a mist veils the origin of this scheme, it seems to have had at various times connections with the French royal court. Given that the hexagon of France formed gradually during the post-Templar period, and then reformed after the royal meeting in Vienna, it is interesting that the re-emergence of such themes as the French Meridian Sword, the Seal of Solomon, the map of France and so on came from a group with confessedly royalist intentions, for those calling themselves the Priory of Sion claimed to have on their agenda the extraordinary notion of the re-establishment of a Merovingian king on a French throne! This has since been taken as a surrealist practical joke, and it is easy to see why, but all the same we must note that it is highly coincidental that at every stage the geodetic pattern we have uncovered here was connected with royalty, from the establishment of Paris as the royal capital in the Dark Ages to the official measuring of the Meridian in the Renaissance, from the gradual snowflake growth leading up to the Revolution and the reassertion of this pattern after Napoleon’s defeat, and now the re-emergence comes about through a group claiming connections to ancient French royalty.
The Priory of Sion has been exposed as a phony ancient secret society, or else has now deliberately retreated from view by claiming to have been so. It appears to have been attempting to invent a history for itself, and few really believe that people such as Leonardo Da Vinci were its past Grand Masters. But how is it that its front man, Pierre Plantard, was working with the idea of the blade as the upward thrusting meridian as part of a Seal of Solomon pattern placed over France back before the Rennes-le-Chateaux thing came to prominence, and as part of a project that does indeed seem to go back at least as far as Poussin?
Is there not the possibility that the group really did have links to French royalty, and that having gauged public reaction to the concept of a Merovingian come-back as hinted at in the Rennes-le-Chateaux mystery they got a reality shock and had a rethink? This does not of course mean that their claims of having Da Vinci as one of their past grand masters are true, of course. We can’t be conclusive about this, but, in uncovering L’Hexagon, we can at least acknowledge now that the whole-scale dismissal of what we might call the ‘Matter of the Meridian’ is missing something. Though the Priory of Sion probably wasn’t all it claimed to be, the word ‘hoax’ is inappropriate.
Moreover, regardless of how this landscape scheme has re-emerged, the plain fact of the matter is that something major has been going on here, affecting the very choice of national boundaries; France as a nation has been conceived hermetically according to a Platonic pattern, a harmonious, geometric form, with her capital at a significant place in the plan. But the mystery doesn’t end here.
The Chapel of Revelations
“Now, gazing up at the spires of Rosslyn, Langdon could not escape the hollow gnaw of Rosslyn’s unsolved mystery. Is the Grail really here at Rosslyn? And if so, where are the blade and chalice that Sauniere mentioned in his poem?”
In 1546 queen Mary of Guise, consort of James V of Scotland, after visiting Rosslyn Chapel south of Edinburgh, wrote to its owner Sir William St Clair mentioning a secret that he had shown to her and promising not to reveal it. Sensing some great mystery, many have speculated about what it is that Rosslyn guards. Mary of Guise was herself of royal French stock, and the chapel’s founder was called The Knight of the Cockle and Golden Fleece, while it was his descendent, a later William St Clair, who would be the first Grand Master of the Scottish Masonic Grand Lodge when it was formed. The Masonic myth of the murder of Hiram Abif involves him being struck at noon by a man standing at the south gate of the temple who is holding a plumb line. The noon-day Sun is always due South of the viewer on a meridian time-line, and a plumb-line can then be used to align to a further sighting post. In other words someone standing at the south gate at noon holding a plumb-line is hardly likely to be doing anything other than plotting out a due North-South line…a meridian. Incidentally, back in Egypt, in Thebes, the strong time of the sun-god Amun-Ra had been noon, and this was when he triumphed over the night serpent Apoph. If Apoph was slain at noon by the Sun in Egypt, and Abiff is the name of the character struck at noon in Masonic tradition, it is pretty clear that the latter, ‘Abiff’ derives fairly directly from the former ‘Apoph’. But back to Scotland.
There are many connections between Rosslyn and the French crown. Rosslyn Chapel was founded by the former Sir William St Clair in 1446. This Sir William had in fact traveled himself to the royal court in Paris as ambassador and escort to the Scots Princess Margaret, who went on to marry the Dauphin (i.e. the heir to the French throne.) When he returned from France the earl set about a major building programme that included remodeling Rosslyn Castle in the French style. In addition, Sir William’s friend and tutor was Sir Gilbert Hay, a top scholar of the time who, after leaving St Andrew’s University in Scotland, went to France and lived in the royal court in Paris for twenty years, becoming the chamberlain of the future French king. When he returned to Scotland he lived at Rosslyn under the patronage of Sir William, and it was while he was living there that Rosslyn Chapel was built. These facts are given in the work of the Scottish historians Oxbrow and Robertson, Rosslyn and the Grail, which, despite the sound of its title, is based on historical documents rather than speculation, and makes no great sensationalist claims.
Rosslyn Chapel with is incredible forest of rich carvings and the suggestion of some great ‘secret’ is most intriguing, and the close connection to the French court might cause us to wonder if the Scottish mystery has any similarities to the French one. It has been suggested that some significant meridian runs through Rosslyn, and that this is why it is named ‘Rose-line’ or, more likely, visa-versa, since the name makes sense in the Scottish language as the “hill in the water”. So the obvious thing to do is to draw in this line running due north and south of Rosslyn. We find that it goes up through Edinburgh and over the Highlands to effectively the north point, and in the other direction down to a point at the southern part of the border with England. Next we measure how far Rosslyn is along this line, and as with Paris discover that it is exactly 0.75 of the way along - it is at an intersection of an added Seal of Solomon with the meridian.
In the bookplate designed by the real-life Sauniere, the priest who is said to have discovered the treasure of Rennes-le-Chateaux, the dot in the centre of the concentric circles is in the Rosslyn position and the dot in the centre of the cross is in the Paris position, a direct reference that cannot possibly be just coincidental.
Left: Sauniere’s Bookplate, Right: Rosslyn including buttresses as Square Root of Three Rectangle
The Mystery of Shugborough Hall
With France and Scotland under our belts we now arrive at the English mystery well equipped to understand its secrets.
The Image from the Shugborough Shepherds Monument
The same Poussin painting that we looked at in connection with the French Meridian, The Shepherds of Arcadia II, is copied, with some variations, in the Shepherds Monument of Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire, north of Birmingham. Another link with the French scheme is that a pyramid has been added above the tomb in the image, just as it has been built in Paris. Shugborough is at 2 whole degrees west of the Greenwich meridian, so that the Sun is due south exactly eight minutes later than at Greenwich. But there is much more to it than that. If this longitude line is extended due north from Shugborough, it goes directly through the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the sharply defined northernmost town in England, also at exactly 2 0’0’’ West. So just as with the Scottish and French geodetic schemes, Shugborough is on a meridian line that extends to the northernmost point in the country. This longitude line was chosen because it is exactly half way between the most easterly and most westerly longitudes of Britain. Its positioning half way between British East Point and West Point is what governed its choice as the English ‘Rose-Line’, and then the English border was extended north to the point where this meridian line touched the coast, and this place brought within England for this reason, to make it the northernmost point.
The English royalty negotiated a special deal giving the northern-most town of England (Berwick-on-Tweed) a unique dual Scottish-English status, so that it could be ‘of England but not in England’, suggesting that the English really wanted this town even if it meant bending the rules of nationality. In all cases the positioning of the monuments and the setting of national boundaries seems to have been done with these schemes in mind, covertly, secretly. We are reminded of the royal influence behind the French Hexagone.
The existence of a thinly veiled reference to the plotting out of meridians in the third initiation of Freemasonry greatly supports the theory that it was Royal-connected proto-Freemasons that plotted, or rather re-plotted out the north-south ‘rose-line’ of England.
A connection to this English rose-line may, perhaps, be found in Shakepeare’s work. On the Internet a certain Paul Smith has put together a very useful list of dates that connect to the Et In Arcadia concept, and one of the entries reads:
Harry Morris, As You Like It: Et In Arcadia Ego (Shakespeare Quarterly, Washington DC, Vol. 26, Nr 3, pp269-275).
Rosalind: “Well, this is the Forest of Arden”.
Touchstone: “Ay, now am I in Arden”.
William Shakespeare, As You Like It, II.iv.11-12.
It appears that an article appeared in the Shakespeare Quarterly of Washington in 1975 drawing attention to the similarity of the line ‘Now I am in Arden’ to the ‘Even in Arcadia I’ carved on Poussin’s tomb. It is surely also worth noting the similarity of Rosalind to ‘Rose-line’. The reason this is significant is that the Forest of Arden, which was once bigger than it is today, encompassed a region through which this English rose-line does indeed run. Rosalind guides us to Arden, rather as Dante makes his way up to Paradise and beholds their the glory of his love Beatrice. We might even note that on the Scottish rose-line Edinburgh seems once to have been called Eden Borough, and that Arden is similar to Eden.
How do Eden and Arden link to Arcadia, and what do these have to do with plotting out geodetic schemes? One of the early works in which the theme of Arcadia was brought to the public in the Renaissance was Sir Philip Sidney’s book Arcadia, which is full of characters that are intended to be archetypal, the most absolute expression of their type. It was published in 1593, by which time the philosophies of antiquity had diffused through Europe from their place of translation in Renaissance Italy. One of the most influential of these philosophies was that of Plato. This Platonic philosophy spoke of a Realm of Ideas, a realm with objective existence, in which those ideas and forms that are intelligible, universal and eternal - in other words concepts that will be the most resonant between individuals and across time - have a particular presence and significance. This philosophy is evident in Sidney’s approach to his book, and it suggests an association between Arcadia as a timeless, aboriginal world of mythical characters and the Platonic Realm. Some in more recent times have called the Realm of Ideas Platonia, but the original blue print of the pastoral hunter-herder-gatherer human lifestyle may be thought of as a kind of Platonic Form of original humanness for which an appropriate name is Arcadia, partly because the inhabitants of the Arcadian region of Greece were said by the ancients (e.g. Pausanias in his Guide to Greece) to be the oldest and most aboriginal people, and partly because a link may be imagined between the word Arcadia and the Greek root arche which is found in words like ‘archive’, ‘archetype’ and ‘archaic’ and also Latin arca, ‘tomb’, which comes from a word meaning ‘strongbox’. The same root, meaning ‘to endure’, is even found in Egyptian. Possibly this explains also arcas, ‘bear’, as the enduring constellation, the one which, as Homer says, never dips into Ocean’s stream, i.e. is always in the sky, like a mountain that survives all floods.
If an idea has a great Platonic presence if it is more collectively resonant in the group mind, then clearly the first stage in the making of a nation is to create an agreed foundation in terms of a concept of place. This requires, first and foremost, the establishment of a centre, and then if the nation can be conceived of in terms of a simple, intelligible geometric pattern, so much the better. Plato had made particular mention of the beauty and significance of geometric forms in the Realm of Ideas, for the absolute definability makes them universal, that is to say mentally resonant.
Cosimo Medici commissioned the translation of Plato in the mid 15th century, although the use of geometry in architecture had never actually ceased, and had been highly prevalent in the ecclesiastical architecture of the Middle Ages.
The Greenwich Meridian
What comes as a real surprise is that similar mysteries pertain to the current international Prime Meridian, that of Greenwich in the East End of London. As with the Louvre in Paris, London too has its modern pyramid, namely the one that is raised up high on the top of Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs not far from Greenwich. The Greenwich observatory was designed by Sir Christopher Wren for Charles II as a counterpart to the Paris observatory built for the Sun King.
And sure enough, if we measure along the Greenwich Meridian line from where it reaches the sea at the south coast and to the north at the entrance to the Humber Estuary, we then find that Greenwich, where this line crosses the great old Thames just east of the Isle of Dogs, is ¾ of the way along, a repetition of the same Seal of Solomon ratio as used in Scotland and France for the sites of Rosslyn and Paris! This line is where international time begins and ends, reminding us of Blake’s line: “All things begin and end of Albion’s druid rocky shore.” This Seal of Solomon pattern of course links into a once widespread Blakean tradition of London as some kind of New Jerusalem. But this is not to be taken in the sense of a Zionist plot, after all it is from the Arab take on the story of Solomon that the traditions concerning this pattern derive, and it is simply in the literal translation of Jeru-Salem as ‘City of Peace’ that it is best viewed. In fact in these sensitive times we may be safest dropping entirely any use of the name Jerusalem, and using instead simple English terms. The place where the Greenwich Meridian meets the south coast is in fact called Peacehaven, complete with its Greenwich House and Meridian Leisure Centre to mark the fact. The Meridian passes closed to Edenbridge on its way up towards Greenwich, reminding us that Edinburgh in the Scottish scheme was once called Eden Borough, and of the forest of Arden on the Rosalind’s Shugborough line.
The Greenwich mystery looks more and more interesting as we look into it more deeply. The history goes back way before Charles II commissioned the observatory by Wren. The land came into the hands of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Regent of England in 1427, and he started building a palace by the river at Greenwich, named Bella Court. He was a learned humanist scholar who was in communication with the leaders of the new Italian humanism, and was a patron of scholars and men of letters, just as was William St Clair of Rosslyn in the same period. Humphrey was called ‘Good Duke Humphrey’ rather like the ‘Good King Rene’ of Anjou who was a champion of the Renaissance idea of Arcadia and also, like Humphrey, in contact with the movers and shakers of the early Renaissance, such as the Medici.
In fact Rene is a clear link between Greenwich and Rosslyn. William St Clair is thought to have had direct links to Rene I of Anjou; they both appear to have been members of the royal knightly Order of the Golden Fleece, and certainly William commissioned his scholar Gilbert Hay to translate works by Rene. Greenwich too has its links to the House of Anjou.
When Humphrey of Gloucester died in 1447 and the manor reverted to the Crown, Margaret of Anjou, a direct descendent of Rene, decided to adopt Bella Court as her place of residence. Margaret was the wife of the English King Henry VI. This year, 1447, was the year after William St Clair started building Rosslyn.
Margaret was the daughter of Rene of Naples, Duke of Anjou, King of Naples and Sicily and Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine. Rosslyn for its part would later be visited by Mary of Guise, also descended from the House of Anjou, who as we have seen, visited and wrote of a ‘secret’ there.
The palace at Greenwich was renamed Placentia, from the Spanish word meaning “Pleasant Place to Live”. It went on to be the principal Royal palace for the next two centuries, during which time it was extensively rebuilt. Skipping over various royal connections, we come to the reigns of James I and Charles I during which time The Queen’s House, designed by Inigo Jones, was erected at the site, highly significant in British architectural history since it was the first classical building in England.
Then in 1660 Charles II had Placentia rebuilt in the new classical style. Later the Royal Naval hospital was built, another fine classical building built by Wren. Within it is the Painted Hall, a masterpiece of decoration said to be the finest dining hall in the Western world. The artist of the great painting on the ceiling was Sir James Thornhill, and it took him nineteen years to complete it. Though it was finished in 1727, long before the French Revolution, his amazing work shows Peace and Liberty triumphing over Tyranny, a theme which seems highly Freemasonic and Napoleonic. No doubt it was a theme related to the re-establishment of the Monarchy on a new footing in Britain after the Civil War, and the Sword / Solomon Seal connections to the wrath of God towards the transgressions of a king may even have played a part.
So we seem to have support here for the idea that the Seal of Solomon was seen as having the talismanic power to invoke peace and shake off tyranny. The sword of the angel stretched across Jerusalem caused King David to seek a solution to the problems he had brought through his actions, and how as a result David was guided to the place for the Temple, but he could not build it because he had not been a man of peace. And remember how we saw the sword stretched across the Solomon Seal of France in Plantard’s diagram. Now here we are on the Greenwich global meridian.
It would be David’s son, Solomon, whose name even includes Salem, ‘Peace’, that would go on to build this temple, thus restoring good order, peace and plenty to the land, while course Rene, who had inherited the title King of Jerusalem, surely saw himself as following in the path of Solomon, a previous king of that place. Recall again that this Greenwich line officially meets the southern coast - the lower point of the Solomon Seal - at the appropriately named Peacehaven. The Greenwich palace names of Bella Court and Placentia - the Pleasant Place to Live - also indicate an understanding of the hermetic power of geodetic harmony.
So does England then have two rose-lines? The Shugborough rose-line to Berwick at English North Point is the real English Meridian, and the Greenwich meridian is the agreed international, global zero longitude, where the Olympics are to be held in the summer of 2012.
Freemasonry, according to its myths and traditions, aims at rebuilding the Temple of Solomon, the original of which stood in Jerusalem, but the ideals of architecture are liberated from that strange allegiance to a troubled Near Eastern city in the realization that the directive is in fact simply to create the architectural basis for a City of Peace - a peaceful city - for this is what Yuru-Salem means. The ideal is thus revealed as no different to that which Pericles commends the Athenians for in The Funeral Speech, because of the wonders they have created that future ages will marvel at, and particularly the way that ‘the beauty of their establishments eliminates the spleen’. The idea is that beautiful, harmonious architecture reduces violent tendencies in the populace, and it is this that our architects and masons are really supposed to aim at when constructing a Yuru-Salem; it is simply a City of Peace, surely, that St John saw descending onto the Earth. The divinity of it is the beauty of it; it can be secular and still be sacred.