Gaye Mack’s Blog

RELIC OF JESUS’ CRUCIFICTION CROSS FOUND OR MORE OF THE SAME?

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Worth the Read, Writer's Work Leave a comment

 

Admittedly, the time frame here is far earlier than the 12th or 13th centuries I’m used to exploring and writing about, but yesterday’s piece in Huffington  was just too good to pass up here for those of you who missed it on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and every other social media outlet on the planet.  This said, once again a flurry of active speculation amongst archaeological and religious academics pitted against the faithful is sure to escalate.  As I’ve commented earlier, it seems that we’ve entered an era of, to borrow Hilary Mantel’s latest book title, ‘Bringing Up the Bodies‘(and everything with them), non-stop

Recent memory zooms to the controversy over remains now concluded to be England’s diabolical(depending on your point of view) King Richard the III.  This excavation was closely followed by discovery of remains speculated to be those of England’s more venerated king, Alfred of Wessex (the jury’s still out on this one as far as I know.)  Nevertheless, the contemplation of ‘what if’ continues to intrigue us.  However, it’s important to keep in mind that discovery of and hawking of, ‘authentic relics’ which are nothing more than fakes is big business that’s older than Methuselah that continues to flourish around the globe.

Still, every time such events are splashed across the media, many of us yearn in hope beyond hope that the real deal has been discovered…it does happen. As for the current ‘discovery’ at hand, we’ll just have to wait…but who knows?  There are so many treasure ‘truths’ waiting to yet be discovered and questions answered…Excalibur, the Grail, the mystical portal protected by the Sphinx, Nazca, Atlantis, Avalon, the pyramids, Stonehenge

In the meantime we can muse on the latest news from Huffington, et al:

“Archaeologists working in Turkey believe they have found a piece of the cross that Jesus was crucified on.

While excavating the ancient Balatlar Church, a seventh-century building in Sinop, Turkey, on the shores of the Black Sea, they uncovered a stone chest that contained objects that may be directly connected with Jesus Christ.

Excavation head Professor Gülgün Köroğlu definitively stated:

We have found a holy thing in a chest. It is a piece of a cross, and we think it was [part of the cross on which Jesus was crucified]. This stone chest is very important to us. It has a history and is the most important artifact we have unearthed so far.

The stone chest has been taken to a laboratory for further testing. However, the appearance of the chest suggests that it was a repository for the relics of a holy person, according to the team, who showed reporters at the site a stone with crosses carved into it.

Many churches claim to possess relics of the so-called “true cross,” though the authenticity of the items is not fully accepted by scholars and scientists. Protestant theologian John Calvin noted that, “if all the pieces that could be found were collected together, they would make a big ship-load,” referring specifically to the cross. On the other hand, the 19th-century French archaeologist Charles Rohault de Fleury supposedly said that all of the cataloged relics would only make up less than a third of the mass of a roughly 12-foot-high cross.

But what originally happened to Jesus’ cross, and why has it turned up now? Legend says that Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, found the cross in Jerusalem and distributed pieces of the wood to religious leaders in Jerusalem, Rome, and Constantinople.

Balatlar Church, built in 660, has proved an especially rich dig site, as Köroğlu mentioned that in addition to the stone chest, her team has found the ruins of an ancient Roman bath and more than 1,000 human skeletons since they started working in 2009.”

 

tintagel castle

King Arthur’s domain?

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

 

 

You can follow me on:

http://www.facebook.com/gayemackauthor, http://www.twitter.com/gayemack, http://www.plus.google.com or http://www.linkedin.com

   

                                                                                                                                               

 

 


THE MYTH OF THE CATHAR TREASURE

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work 2 Comments

 

History, especially ancient desert and medieval history, abounds with myths and legends such as Hermes and the Philosopher’s Stone, Glastonbury Abbey, the Holy Grail, Merlin, King Arthur and the treasure of the Templars, just to name a few…and then there is the legend of the Cathar Treasure. 

In my previous post wherein I introduced the subject of this medieval religious sect, I noted their propensity for eschewing trappings of the mundane world.  This rejection was based on their belief that the physical world and their incarnation in it was not a creation of God but rather a creation of Satan. In adopting this belief, the dedicated Cathars, known as Parfaits, not only rejected the idea of procreation, but they also did not partake in the consumption of any food which was a result of procreation.  As material acquisitions for their own needs were kept to a bare minimum, it begs the question, ‘how did the legend of a Cathar Treasure arise’?  

According to author and Cathar historian, Zoe Oldenburg, by the end of the twelfth century, the Cathar movement of the Languedoc had amassed a considerable fortune.  To begin with, the majority of Parfaits were men of substance who turned over their property to the church.  In addition, there were also credentes, ‘rank and file’ members, who left legacies of their entire fortunes to the church. And, while living, many credentes made generous donations of cash, land, houses and even chateaux.  While the Parfaits never broke their vow of poverty according to Oldenburg, they accepted all donations which were then put to the best use in the interests of the church.

 As a Community, the Cathars were known for providing support to the poor and those in need in the cities and surrounding countryside.  They maintained communes which incorporated schools, monasteries and hospitals.  Furthermore they founded working craft guilds, particularly in the art of weaving which not only provided product but also functioned as an educational training ground for the young and ‘novitiates.’ 

While such amassing of property and goods certainly would be considered a ‘treasure,’ references to ‘The Cathar Treasure’ often imply that it was something of far more importance and legend such as the Holy Grail… which of course has never been found.  Speculative circumstances surrounding the Treasure’s disappearance often tell of it having been hidden some two months prior to the fiery execution of  two hundred-plus Parfaits on March, 1244 at Montseguer. Possessing the secret of the Treasure’s hiding place, three Parfaits and another man, possibly a mountain guide, escaped the flames on the night of March 16 by repelling down the side of Montsegur’s pog.   The men then hid in caves protecting the secret and were never discovered.

 Oldenburg surmises that the Cathar cache consisted of goods for trading as well as gold and silver coins; this certainly makes sense given the atmosphere of persecution and brutality of the times.  However, perhaps even more precious to the Cathars was that for them, the Treasure consisted of their most sacred books and writings which were critical in helping maintain allegiance to their dogma and tradition.  This possibility makes even more sense as literature in the early middle ages onward, was considered as precious as gold in many cases.  Whatever the truth is, to this day the location and substance of the Cathars’ Treasure remains a mystery.

cave

 Caves with Secrets

 Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

 

You can follow me on:

http://www.facebook.com/gayemackauthor, http://www.twitter.com/gayemack, http://www.plus.google.com or http://www.linkedin.com

   

                                                                                                                                               

 

 


ARCHAEOLOGISTS REVEAL RICHARD III’S BRUTAL DEATH

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work Leave a comment

While final DNA testing on a skeleton believed to be England’s maligned king, Richard III is concluded, speculation as to how this king met his brutal death paints a grisly picture.  In a recent interview with the BBC, Dr Jo Appleby, an osteo-archaeologist from  Leicester University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, states that the skeleton had suffered ten  injuries, including eight to the skull, at around the time of death. Two of the skull wounds were potentially fatal.

According to Appleby, one wound was a “slice” removing a flap of bone, the other was caused by bladed weapon which went through and hit the opposite side of the skull – a depth of more than 10cm (4ins).  “Both of these injuries would have caused an almost instant loss of consciousness and death would have followed quickly afterwards.   In the case of the larger wound, if the blade had penetrated 7cm into the brain, which we cannot determine from the bones, death would have been instantaneous.”

Other wounds included slashes or stabs to the face and the side of the head. There was also evidence of “humiliation” injuries, including a pelvic wound likely to have been caused by an upward thrust of a weapon, through the buttock.

Dr Appleby added,  “The analysis of the skeleton proved that it was an adult male but was an unusually slender, almost feminine, build for a man.  Taken as a whole, the skeletal evidence provides a highly convincing case for identification as Richard III.”

Richard was killed at Bosworth in 1485 after only two years on the throne when challenged by Henry Tudor who became England’s King Henry VII.  Evidently the defeated monarch was given a rushed and clumsy burial beneath the church of Greyfriars in the center of Leicester. Excavation of the site has revealed no evidence of a coffin or shroud which would have left the bones in a more compact position than they were found.  Additionally, the arms of the skeleton were crossed which archaeologists believe could be an indication that the body was buried with the wrists still tied.

While initial DNA testing indicates that the  remains are  Richard’s, the drama isn’t over yet. In an interview with NBC news,Turi King, Leicester University geneticist who conducted the initial testing stated that mitochondrial DNA is not as precise an indicator as a paternity test. However, she also noted regarding the DNA found,  “It’s quite a rare type, so that adds to the weight of the evidence,” further adding that the mitochondrial DNA signature found with the skeleton is shared by only a few percent of Europeans.

The next step will be to analyze the skeleton’s Y-chromosome DNA and the more complicated reconstruction of the skeleton’s Y-chromosome DNA signature which is passed down from father to son.  Amazingly, four paternal-line descendants of Richard III’s family have already been identified and tested, awaiting further analysis.

black prince

KING RICHARD III OF ENGLAND

You can follow me on:

http://www.facebook.com/gayemackauthor, http://www.gayemack.com, https://plus.google.com, http://www.twitter.com/gayemack or http://www.linkedin.com


Food on Offer in Medieval Scotland’s 16th Century

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work Leave a comment

For today’s post I’m pleased to welcome Margaret Skea, author of  the debut novel Turn of the Tide,  the Historical Fiction Winner in the Harper Collins People’s Novelist Competition, released in Nov 2012 by Capercaillie Books.  You can find Margaret on Facebook and on her website www.margaretskea.com.  For her guest post today, Margaret offers us an ‘interesting’ perspective of 16th century foodstuffs and guidelines… surprisingly there seems to have been agencies remotely mimicking our own USDA or FDA !  However, not all of the offerings would be appealing to our 21st century palates…in which case, for those that view the Medieval culture as ‘romantic’, you might rethink this.  Bon Appetit!

Food Standards Agency 16th century style…Or…What’s in this meat pie?  

by Margaret Skea 

Readers in the UK may or may not be concerned about the current ‘horse meat labeled as beef’ scandal.  For those of you in the US or elsewhere who might not have heard, there is currently a Europe-wide crisis with horse meat DNA having been found in many supposedly beef ready-meals, burgers, etc., with Food Standards Agencies running rings round themselves, testing everything in sight to discover the scale of the fraud.  For the record, I’m not worried, though I would prefer to know what I’m eating.  And if I’m not currently enjoying any burgers, I am at least enjoying the host of jokes that the crisis has spawned–my (suitably historic) favourite:  “After finding Richard III in a Leicester Car Park, scientists have found his horse in a Tesco burger.”
 
Is the mislabeling and adulteration of food a new problem?  Definitely not.  I imagine it’s been an issue for millennia, but I personally haven’t delved further back than the 15th and 16th centuries.  It was certainly a problem then, however, and to protect the customer and avoid disorder there were strict market regulations governing what could be sold, where, and in what form.  

In Scotland, some regulations came from the burghs themselves, some by statute, and the penalties for breaching them were suitably harsh.  Take bread, for example.  Scotland, in common with most of Europe suffered from ‘bread riots’, with one notable difference–the rioters in Scotland were not the poor, desperate for reasonably priced food, but the bakers or ‘baxters’ themselves, protesting about price restrictions imposed by the burgh authorities in response to regular Acts of Parliament.

 
Most bread was made from wheat, though the poorest households probably made their own flat and fairly indigestible barley bannocks.  The price and weight of bread was set but fluctuated according to the price of wheat.  Burgh records describe the bailies taking flour ground from a firlot (roughly equivalent to an imperial bushel) of wheat to a baker and watching as the bread was baked.
 The resulting loaf was the standard against which all other loaves were measured.  Any baker selling underweight bread risked, at best, a fine and confiscation of his stock, and at worst, his oven being broken. 
Often the sale of bread, as of other foodstuffs, was restricted to freemen or women – those with Burgess status. ‘Outlanders’, coming into the burgh from outside, were sometimes allowed to trade, but only if they paid the burgh for the privilege. Quality was also controlled, different grades of bread being classified as ‘white’ or ‘gray’ – not the most appealing of names – but all was to be ‘good’ and ‘dry’, which probably meant well-fired and well-risen – nothing worse than a damp and soggy loaf! 
Ale was also strictly regulated – the price dependent both on the price of malt and the quality of the ale. Tasters, or ‘conners’ were appointed on annual contracts, and having graded the ales they chalked the set prices on the shutters or door of the brewsters so that they could be clearly seen. Anyone found to be over-charging could have the bottom knocked out of his brewing vessels. (Interesting that 16th century burgh authorities were concerned with imposing a maximum price for alcohol, while the current debate relates to minimum pricing.)

As now, horse was not a normal part of the 16th century Scottish diet – they were in any case much too valuable to eat. There is however plenty of evidence of the consumption of beef, mutton, pork and goat in the burghs, along with salmon, and seawater fish in coastal areas. Meat regulation was primarily concerned with quality and, as in the current horse meat scandal, with ensuring that customers knew exactly what they were buying.

There has been much discussion on the length of our food chain, with meat being shipped all round Europe before it lands on a British table. Back then the food chain was extremely short, animals were to be slaughtered outside, in public view, and importantly, at the point of sale .  One way to ensure that a customer knows what animal they’re about to eat.  There were other issues too – the sale of meat from ‘longsoucht’ (lung-diseased) animals was banned, as was the sale of damaged or poorly butchered meat.

Efforts were made to outlaw dishonest practices designed to improve the appearance of meat, for example blowing air into a entire carcass, which plumped it up – to much the same effect, I imagine, as the modern practice of the addition of water, or the bleeding of animals before slaughter, which masked last minute feeding.  Not everyone was so well protected though – a rather shocking regulation stated that putrid pork or fish should be removed from sale and given to lepers.

But to come back to the meat pie of the title.

One of the most interesting restrictions of all on the activities of butchers or ‘fleshers’ is found in the Ancient Laws and Customs of the Burghs of Scotland–prohibiting them from trading as pastry cooks–an attempt to stop them putting poor quality meat into pies? Perhaps, which begs the sobering thought – three hundred years on nothing much seems to have changed…There are many sources available for further information, here’s just one for starters for anyone who might be interested:

March M S (1914) ‘The trade regulations of Edinburgh during the 15th and 16th centuries.’Scot Geogr Mag 30 (1914) 483 – 88

 

You can follow me on: http://www.facebook.com/gayemackauthor, http://www.gayemack.com, http://www.twitter.com/gayemack or http://www.linkedin

 


MOVE OVER KING RICHARD III, MAKE WAY FOR THE BONES OF KING ALFRED OF WESSEX

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work 2 Comments

 Last week archaeological authorities in England’s north announced that indeed, the skeleton found last summer underneath a municipal car park in Leicester is that of the notorious King Richard III.  Now on the heels of this discovery, a team of archaeologists from the University of Winchester down in England’s southern Hampshire are hoping to discover the bones of Saxon England’s 9th century King, Alfred of Wessex believed to be buried in St. Bartholomew church in Hyde, located a little north of Winchester. 

The saga of Alfred’s tomb is a complex one with enough twists and turns of which medieval mystery writers dream.  According to various resources, Alfred was originally although temporarily, buried in Winchester’s old minster upon his death on October 26, 899 AD.  However, about 903 AD, a new minster was built and consecrated next door and at that point, Alfred’s remains were moved to the New Minster; but this move  proved to be another temporary one.

Roughly about 1109 AD, King Henry I ordered the New Mister to be moved north of the city to the suburb of Hyde Mead.  When the new ‘abbey church’ of Hyde was consecrated in 1110 AD, the bodies of Alfred, his wife Ealhswith and his son Edward the Edler, were interred before the high altar…until Henry VIII’s rampage against the monasteries and abbeys in 1539. 

Amazingly, although the abbey church was demolished by Henry’s enforcers, the graves of several royals were left intact only to be accidentally discovered in 1788 during the construction of a prison on the old abbey site.  As often happened in such instances, the tombs were robbed, the bones scattered.  One of the stories that continues to persist is that a vicar ‘bought’ Alfred’s bones, although from an ‘unreliable’ source, and moved them to St. Bartholomew.  Anything is possible of course; the bones could be Alfred’s, although the sale of suspect ‘relics and artifacts’ is a practice that dates back thousands of years and remains so today…often under the guise of ‘lost’ art that turns out to be expertly forged!

If permission for the excavation is given, radio carbon dating will be used to determine the bones authenticity and if it’s proven that they are the bones of England’s greatest king, experts agree that this would be one of the most significant archaeological discoveries ever made.  Stay tuned! 

 

saxon list

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

PARTIAL LIST OF BONES BELONGING TO ENGLAND’S SAXON KINGS AND BISHOPS BELIEVED TO BE CONTAINED IN THE MORTUARY CHESTS AT WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL

You can follow me on, http://www.facebook.com/gayemackauthor, http://www.linkedin.com, http://www.twitter.com/gayemack or http://www.gayemack.com