Thursday, June 21, 2007

Grail NOT in The Da Vinci Code

An Italian archeologist, Alfredo Barbagallo, claims to have found the Holy Grail right where it should have been: in the church raised above the tomb of St Laurence, the man entrusted with it in the 3rd Century. Thus on the floor, there is this 13th Century mosaic:

Image of a chalice on the floor of S. Lorenzo Fuori Le Mura
Directly under it and next to the saint's tomb

is a room of about 20 square metres with a vaulted roof ceiling. "In the corner of a wall-seat there can be seen a terracotta funnel whose lower part opens out over the face of a skeleton," he wrote.

Da Bra then explains that giving liquid refreshment (refrigerium) to the dead was part of ancient funeral rites. According to Mr Barbagallo, who heads an association called Arte e Mistero [Art and Mystery], this funnel is the Grail.

Giuseppe Da Bra is quoted because the catacombs of which this room is part are closed and Sgr Barbagallo has not been able to see the funnel/grail.

Saint Lawrence (c. 225 – 258) was one of the seven deacons of ancient Rome who were martyred under the persecution of Roman Emperor Valerian in the year 258. In 257, Lawrence was ordained a deacon by Sixtus, the Bishop of Rome, and was placed in charge of the administration of Church goods and care for the poor - two contradictory tasks, you might have thought, but it gave rise to this famous story about the saint.

The treasures of the church
After the death of Sixtus [martyred 3 days before], the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth. Lawrence worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, "The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor." This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom.

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