Historical

The Byzantine church: Templar symbols and ancient mysteries in the shadow of Meteora (Part 2)

Knights Templars symbols and the church’s hidden history

 

In Part 1 we discussed the connection of the Byzantine church in Kalambaka with the local mythology, the ancient religion and the general historical context in which the Knights Templars left evidence of their presence here at Meteora. In this part, we’ll present exclusively and for the first-time actual evidence of what appears to be Templar symbols in the Byzantine church of Kalambaka. One of the least places around the world you would expect to find Templar symbols and yet they are there, hidden in plain sight under the shadow of the giant Meteora rocks. With this post, we’ll attempt to decipher their hidden meaning and symbolism so, buckle up and prepare to dive into the fringes of hidden history and the mystery.

The Byzantine church of the Dormition of Virgin Mary in Kalambaka today

Starting from the outside of the Byzantine church, located on the south wall are few carved marble stones that appear to belong to the ancient period. That by itself it’s not unusual for the Dark Ages, the period when the church undergoes extensive restorations. Because people at that time they were used to recycling marble stones from ruined ancient buildings that they’ll find on the building site or nearby. There are numerous Byzantine monuments spread all over Greece with such ancient marbles embedded on their walls. The ones placed on the church at first glance appear to be randomly arranged, but that’s deceptive the least. For someone who lacks any prior knowledge to Templar symbology, it’s very easy to walk away without ever recognizing their true meaning. But that was probably the intention of the church builders; to hide everything in plain sight. Only those who are initiated into the Templar secret code and its symbolic language would be able to recognize them immediately. On the southwest corner of the church’s outside wall, we see two triangular marble stones immediately standing out. The one on the left has the carving of two opposing snakes, while on the other side is the sun god, also known as god ‘Helios’ by ancient Greeks.

The southwest corner of the Byzantine church with the marble stones and the sealed door

If one takes a closer look of the stone with the two snakes it becomes evident that there are no visible snakeheads carved on the upper part. The heads of the snakes one would expect to find on the upper part of the relief are either missing or degraded completely. So, the snake carvings are headless and oddly enough this upper section seems quite disproportional to the rest of the snake’s bodies. To us, this would imply possibly a re-carving of this part taking place for whatever purpose at a later time. Then, we started searching for similar ancient carvings that would have the same motive in order to make a correlation if possible. We found nothing to make a reasonable match of similar style reliefs, but one exception: a mythical figure named Abraxas!

A closer view of god Helios carving

Abraxas is an Egyptian Sun God adopted by the early Christian Gnostic’s. Abraxas was no ordinary god, however, as a ruler of the ‘first Heaven’, he had dominion over the cycles of birth, death and Resurrection. The name Abraxas had also a mystic meaning in the system of the Gnostic Basilides; as the name of the “Great Archon”, the supreme ruler of all creation. This Gnostic system of Basilides (Basilides was an early Christian Gnostic religious teacher in Alexandria, Egypt who taught from 117 to 138 AD) it became quite popular and spread from Egypt to the rest of the Roman world, at a period when Christianity was not yet canonized by the Church. The name Abraxas is found in Gnostic texts such as the Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit, appearing also in the Greek Magical Papyri. It was engraved on certain antique gemstones, called Abraxas stones, which were used as amulets or charms, as seen in the picture.

Templar crosses found inside of the church, carved with intricate Celtic style knots around them

The first form of the word comes to us from that period and the 2nd century AD with the words Abrac, or Abracar; a name which Basilides, had given to God, who he said was the creator of three hundred and sixty-five heavenly realms. In the system of Basilides, the 7 letters spelling Abraxas, and 7 stars often found on Gnostic gems represent each of the 7 classic planets—Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. There some who speculate that the words “abracadabra” we used as magic words when we were kids originate from the name Abraxas. He’s always represented having the torso of a man, the head of a chicken or other animal heads and for feet he has two snakes. He is always associated with… well, guess who: the sun disc, or Helios as seen in the picture below. The latter was mind-blowing because to the right of the church’s headless snakes we find the relief of god Helios, the sun-god of ancient Greece. Now interestingly enough guess who else was using the depiction of Abraxas as one of their official seals: The Knights Templars of course!

On the left are different Templar seals while on the left we see depictions of Abraxas. Notice that the first Templar seal on the upper left is Abraxas with seven stars.

As seen in the picture on the left, Abraxas was among the official seals’ Templars used. In between the two triangular reliefs, there is a door sealed by bricks and stones. The sealed door, judging from the looks of it and the way how was constructed, it’s highly probable that never intended to serve as a functional door. It was rather made to look that way right from the start. The lack of a functional arch above and from the arrangement of the stones around or the absence of any visible door casing tells us that most likely the “door” was made and sealed off when the rest of the wall was constructed. Thus, it never served as a functional door as many locals believe, neither is older than the rest of the church’s south wall. We believe it was by stonemasons design to look in that way. It’s not coincidentally placed there either and in relation to the rest of the reliefs around it possesses a deep alchemical meaning. Such alchemical doorways always represent a secret passage, a gateway to other realms. It also represents secret knowledge safely placed and guarded behind the sealed door.

The bridge of Khazad-Dum, in the Dwarven underground kingdom of Moria where Gandalf had to face a Balrog, the ancient demon of fire from the deep, in Tolkiens’ LOTR.  

We won’t attempt to “wide open” that gate in this post because the Rabbit’s Hole in this one goes too deep and too dark for the taste of average readers. One may notice though the similarities between the Church’s sealed door and the Royal Arch of the Freemasons; Or the Moria’s magic gate of Durin, Tolkien described in his book “The Fellowship of the Ring” in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy he wrote. The gate of Durin in Tolkien’s book was the only passage to the subterranean dwarven kingdom of Moria and the Great city of Khazad-Dum. Moria, in Tolkien’s LOTR, was inhabited by the Balrog, a demon of fire of the Ancient World. In part 1 we made a brief comment about a persistent local belief of underground chambers existing in the church and alleged tunnels connecting the church with the citadel of ancient Trikki, Asclepius city! Not many people know there is a very important place in the world that has a similar name to Tolkien’s Moria: Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. It’s the Temple Mount, the site in Jerusalem where King Solomon made his Temple. The very same place where Knight Templars went upon their arrival in Jerusalem and settle down to start excavations of Solomon’s Temple. The order itself was named as Templars because of Solomon’s Temple. Persisted rumors mention to this day that Templars hidden goal was to search for secret underground chambers laying beneath the ruined Temple. Interestingly enough in Ezekiel’s vision in which the Lord took him to into the future and showed him how the Temple on Mount Moriah would be, we find this interesting reference of a hidden doorway he sees on the Temple’s wall:

“Then said he unto me, “Son of man, dig now in the wall”, and when I had dug in the wall, behold a doorway. And he said unto me, “Go in and behold the wicked abominations that they do here”. So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the walls round about…”                                                         

Ezekiel 8

 In the picture showing all three different types of “magic” doors, a common denomination of all three are the seven stars seen on the upper part totally missing from the church’s door, or maybe not? If our hypothesis about the snakes’ relief being the lower part of Abraxas figure is correct, and although the seven stars are not actually depicted there, one can assume that the stars are not entirely absent either since the seven stars always accompany Abraxas figure. If the upper missing part of the snakes’ relief is indeed Abraxas figure as we believe, then the seven stars are also present by definition! This is clearly visible in the Templar seal of Abraxas that depicts him having the seven stars around him.

From left to right the first door is the Alchemical door, the second in the Tolkiens’ Moriah door and the third one is the Royal Arch of the Freemasons

But as we said earlier the Rabbit’s Hole in this one goes too deep, so, for the time being, we’re not going to touch it any further. On the lower left of the sealed door, there is yet another marble stone, an embedded half drum taken from an ancient pillar. If our hypothesis about the rest of the symbols is correct, then it’s very likely that the half drum might represent the moon, thus again connecting to Abraxas and the rest of the symbols, since Abraxas he’s always associated with the sun and the moon.

The lady and the child relief and beneath is the “flower of life”

On the far right of the wall, towards the eastern side of the church we see the relief of a lady and a child and right beneath them lay a six-petal flower. The official explanation of the mentioned carvings is that the lady and the child probably is a depiction of the goddess ‘Estia’ from the Roman period, while the flower is mentioned to be a sacred symbol without much further explanation attached to it. The relief depicting the lady and the child definitely relates to the flower-carving beneath. The 6-petal flower depicts the ‘Egg of Life’ in sacred geometry. The shape of the Egg of Life is made up of 7 circles cutting into each other and referred to as the geometrical framework for the whole of creation. The shape of this ‘Egg of Life’ succeeds the “Seed of Life” as seen in the picture.

The flower of Life and the Egg as represented in sacred geometry

So, what we see in fact in this part of the wall is the feminine aspect of creation; the Egg and fertility, birth, Life and death. Death itself is represented by the Roman epitaphic stone placed beneath the lady and the child. So, in the southwest corner, we find the relief of the snakes potentially showing Abraxas and god Helios representing both the masculine force, while on the opposite southeast corner we see the feminine aspect of creation through the reliefs of the lady and the child and the “Egg of Life” beneath them. The duality within creation and the two pillars, one of the most favorable themes in Templar mystical tradition. And in between stands the sealed gate, a closed doorway to other realms and knowledge. Why the Templars marked this particular church? No one knows for sure today. Meteora above anything else it’s a place filled with spiritual energy. Something that all visitors experience, a powerful sense of an awe-inspiring feeling. It’s not coincidental that the monks and the hermit-monks before them all came to here to pray and to connect with the divine. They felt it too, and so did the ancients. The Templars were no exception to that and for whatever hidden agenda they might have, they decided to mark the Byzantine church!

Instead of an epilogue

We’ve tried so far to decipher the hidden meaning behind the marbles embedded on the south wall of the Byzantine church. We are going to leave the rest of things for you to discover and decode on your own; the more obvious Templar symbols inside of the church. It will be up to you to discover this fascinating monument in the old part of Kalambaka’s town if you ever visit Meteora. For the end and instead of an epilogue we’ll provide you with a few more tantalizing historical facts relating to the final days of the Templars, the Byzantine Empire, and the church.

Roger de Flor (1267 – 30 April 1305), also known as Ruggero/Ruggiero da Fiore or Rutger von Blum or Ruggero Flores, was an Italian military adventurer and condottiere active in Aragonese Sicily, Italy and the Byzantine Empire. He was the commander of the Great Catalan Company and held the title Count of Malta. At eight years old Roger de Flor was sent to sea in a galley belonging to the Knights Templars. He entered the order and became captain of a galley. After rescuing wealthy survivors during the siege of Acre by the Mamluk Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil in 1291, he went to Cyprus. Following some intrigues and personal disputes, he was accused by the rest of the Templars of robbery and he was denounced by the pope as a thief and an apostate. This resulted in his relegation from the order.

During the same period, emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus of the Byzantine Empire was facing siege by the Ottoman Turks, an Islamic tribe approaching the capital of his empire after defeating his armies and ransacking most of his domains. Looking for assistance from the European kingdoms he made Roger an offer of service along with the Almogavar army under his command. In September 1302 Roger with his fleet and army, now known as the Catalan Company, 6,500 strong, arrived at Constantinople. He was adopted into the imperial family by marring to the emperor’s niece Maria Asenina (daughter of Ivan Asen III of Bulgaria) and was made grand duke (Megas doux) and commander-in-chief of the Byzantine army and the fleet. He was able to successfully engage the Ottoman Turks in many occasions but in April of 1305, and after serving his own personal interests he was assassinated in Adrianople (modern Edirne in East Thrace) by Andronicus’ son Michael. The Company of mercenaries avenged itself, plundering everything on their path, from Thrace to Macedonia and Thessaly in what has been called the “Catalan Vengeance”. The plundering of the Catalans in Greece was so devastating that in Thessaly even up to the last Century, the expression “you are a Catalan” was considered as an insult.

 

Roger de Flor (1267 – 30 April 1305)

A few decades later Emperor Andronicus III, the son of Michael and grandson of Andronicus II, in 1333 he manages to briefly put Thessaly under his control and in 1336 he visited the Byzantine church in Kalambaka (known at the time as Stagi). Inside of the church, lays an imperial inscription located on the north wall, a letter of Andronicus III to the local bishop in which he validates the boundaries of his bishopric. Was Andronicus visit of the church a coincidental one or not? Why he had to write this imperial letter to the local bishop, who was a figure of no political importance compared to other parts of Thessaly? Is it unreasonable to assume that the local bishop received the privileges from the emperor in exchange of a favor he did to him? Did Roger de Flor accidentally reveal something he didn’t suppose to; something of great importance he had learned as a member of the Templars, resulting in his murder by the father of Andronicus III Michael back in 1305?  Those are all interesting connections and questions one may ask but it’s almost certain that historical research will never prove anything. So, the mystery remains to this day. Few years after Andronicus visit, in 1340 a monk named Athanasios, who had also arrived in the area at around the same time with Andronicus back in 1336, he successfully establishes the first monastery of Meteora, the Holy Monastery of Transfiguration, the monastery known today as Great Meteoron. Athanasios eventually became the founder of the 7-centuries old monastic community of Meteora! He’s also the one who named the site by giving it the name Meteora. The word “meteoro” in the Greek language translates into the thing that remains suspended between the heavens and earth…

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