For those who still prefer – and will always prefer! – to hold a real book in their hands The Rose of Sharon (Mariana de la Mar prequel) is now available in paperback format from Lulu.com.
Al Cazar, Los Alcazares, a village in
the south east of Spain, during the 1360s
Sulking, and wanting to worry them, I spent all day in the sea.
And all night.
But when I came home next day, no one cared where I’d been, only that I was back. For Papa was dying and had been calling for me.
What was it he wanted to tell me? I shall never know. He tried desperately to speak and I tried as desperately to help him, to say it for him, but this produced no response except that it obviously was not that and I was wasting his strength, wasting the precious moments.
And then he was dead.
I didn’t start screaming and wailing.
Should I have done?
I sat there with him for an hour, two hours, three, holding his hand still as I had been holding it when he died, when he was still trying to speak.
The afternoon went by.
Khadija came and went, reluctant for once to disturb me, but when it began to grow dark, she took me by the shoulders, turned me towards her.
‘You must leave him now, Maryam. You must come with me, have something to eat, something to drink.’
‘If you do not, you too will get ill, will die.’
I could have spent so much more time with him [I wrote that night], I could have made him happier both from day to day and from year to year. He was so lonely, so sad. And watching me all the time, knowing that I preferred the company of Yacoub, of Pedro even.
And there the paper is smudged, splashed with tears. I remember it happening. I cried all night.
Next morning, it was terribly hot, one of those days you get in Spain when the hot weather gets hotter, hotter than hot. The sky is like white-hot metal and the sun molten gold polishing it. Yet, despite the heat, Don Lope came, with two of his men. He had not come for me, he said – that could wait. He had come to rifle through Papa’s papers and effects.
When he had the papers he wanted, though, and was ready to leave, he suddenly said ‘Are you ready?’ Then to Khadija, ‘Get the muchacha ready.’
He had come for me! He meant to take me with him, now!
Khadija started wailing.
He gave up on her, said it didn’t matter, he would take me as I was.
Unprotesting – I had been in a daze all day – I was hustled out of the door.
Khadija’s wailing turned to screaming.
Don Lope signalled to one of his men, a big brute with sloping shoulders, who stepped over and hit her hard on the face to silence her.
That woke me up.
I broke free and ran towards her, intending only to comfort her, to see how badly she’d been hurt, but the man raised his fist again and instantly my dagger was out, the handle smooth and tempting in my hand, the stiletto point poised at his back. ‘You hit her again, you die!’ I screamed.
Laughing, and without even bothering to turn round, he hit her again, full in the face as she looked up, looked at me in horror.
The stiletto slid between the ribs exactly as it had that other time on the road back from Córdoba.
It took him minutes to die.
He tried at first to shout, to threaten, then lay there bubbling and gurgling, and neither of them went to help him.
All through the long minutes, I held Khadija protectively, glaring around like a lynx from the high sierras cornered in a farmyard, and she sobbed in my arms.
They kept back, Don Lope and the other man, a younger man I was going to come to know much better in the next few days. Well, they would: I was still holding the blood-smeared knife in my right hand. Mariana la Loca.
But when the man was dead, and Don Lope had promised, ‘No one will lay another finger on your slave, Mariana – only she cannot come with us,’ all the fight went out of me. We left her there, protesting from the doorway that I needed a duenna with me, a chaperone, that I could not travel alone with two strange men.
‘I’m not a strange man!’ roared Don Lope. ‘I’m her father’s business partner, and now I’m responsible for her!’ He waved the sheaf of papers at her then put them away in his saddle-bag. ‘And get that body buried before anyone else sees it – unless you want the muchacha accused of murder.’
A quotation from The Rose of Sharon (Mariana de la Mar 1)
I alighted on the prow, sat there as I always had – teasing him in my innocence, I realised suddenly, now that my childhood world had vanished like flames over a fire when the fire goes out. The fire had been Sebah and Grandpapa, and Papa.
Now, all at once, I was a woman.
He looked at me. Looked away again.
He couldn’t see me, but he knew I was there.
His eyes filled with tears.
I went to him and kissed him on the cheek, then drew back, watched him put his fingers to his cheek in wonder.
I stretched backwards, raising my knees out of the pool of piss, resting only on my toes and ribs and taking most of my weight on my wrists.
How long would they leave me like that? And what would they do to me when they came?
I was frightened. Frightened of being raped. Frightened of dying.
But if I lived, I must remember the insight my visit to Pedro had given me. I was no longer a flame, dancing, free, irresponsible. From now on, I had to be the fire.
A brief history of the Knights Templar, who, though they play no active role in these novels (the Order was dissolved before Mariana was born) are very prominent in the background (in The Rose of Sharon) when Ferchard returns from Outremer (the Holy Land) to France then turns south and commences his scouring of Spain in search of his old friend Sir Andrew MacElpin, which results in his finding and joining up with Sir Andrew’s daughter Mariana soon after she is given her freedom by her master, Abderrahman ibn Khaldoun.
Foundation and Growth
This celebrated order of soldier-monks was founded in Jerusalem at the beginning of the twelfth century by a group of nine French knights led by Hugues de Payen. According to Guillaume de Tyre, the date was AD 1118, but it was probably several years earlier. They were known originally as the Poor Knights of Christ, and their symbol was two knights on one horse.
They were recognised initially by the Patriarch of Jerusalem and King Baudouin (Baldwin) II of “Outremer” – Jerusalem and “overseas”.
One of the nine knights was André de Montbard, uncle of the extremely influential abbot who would later become St Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard supported them in their early years and it was almost certainly he who drew up their Rule in 1129, when they were recognised by the Pope at the Council of Troyes.
The Order had four groups of members: Knights (of noble birth), Sergeants (who were commoners), Chaplains (only these were priests), and Servants. Of these, only the knights took perpetual vows (of poverty, chastity and obedience).
In 1139, Pope Innocent III (formerly of Clairvaux) declared in a Papal Bull that from now on the Templars would owe allegiance to no one but himself, thus making them independent of kings, governments and Church authorites.
Their fame spread and the numbers joining their ranks grew. As Patten and Mackness point out in Sacred Treasure, Secret Power, “A potent mix of military virtues, such as courage, discipline, fortitude, and strength, together with the spiritual values of self-sacrifice, compassion, charity and chivalry, form a powerful archetype, which may explain something of the Order’s appeal.” And they prospered. Their fortresses made good safe-deposits, and in other ways they acted as bankers: they could convey money securely, and they had money to lend. In the thirteenth century, the Paris preceptory was (in effect) the Royal Treasury.
Their downfall was sudden. After the Fall of Acre (1291), the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and Outremer was no more; in the eyes of the world, the Templars had lost their prime purpose, though they themselves set up headquarters on Cyprus and planned a return to Palestine.
In 1307, the new Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, moved the Order’s headquarters to France. There, on Friday 13th October, 1307, Philip IV (the Fair) ordered the arrest of all Templars in France. He already had the papacy in his hands: between 1303 and 1305 he had got rid of two popes (Boniface VIII and Benedict IX) in order to get his own man, the Archbishop of Bordeaux, elected as Clement V.
The arrest of the Templars was not an entire success. They must have been forewarned, for no ships of the Templar fleet were taken – they had all sailed away and were never seen again; nor were most of the knights; nor was most of the “treasure”. This latter may have been because in the Languedoc, Philip’s order to seize the Templars and their Houses was not obeyed, and it was probably there that the treasure was stored.
Philip’s reasons for persecuting the Order are clear. An unpopular king, he had once had the embarrassing experience of having to take refuge in the Templar preceptory in Paris when he was being hunted by the mob. While there, he was able to compare their palace with his own. He then applied for membership of the Order (no doubt intending to become Grand Master and lay his hands on all their wealth and their secrets) but was turned down, no reason given. He owed them vast sums of money (as he had the Lombards and the Jews: he had reneged on his debts to the Lombards and had expelled all Jews from France). Their military might and organisation was vastly superior to his won. They planned to carve out their own independent state in the Occitan (Languedoc) – no doubt de Molay’s reason for the return to France.
A former member of the order testified that had been covert Muslims for years and had also practised sodomy. Under torture, De Molay confessed to blasphemy, including denying Christ and spitting on the Cross, and worshipping a devil called Baphomet. Other Templars confessed to prostrating themselves before “a head”. On March 22nd, 1312, the Order was dissolved by the Council of Vienne under Pope Clement V.
De Molay later recanted, and was burned at the stake in front of Notre Dame in Paris in March 1314.
All the kings in Europe were instructed by the Church to follow suit. Not all did.
Edward II of England at first defended them, then under extreme pressure, arrested a few, but these were given light prison sentences which they served in abbeys under generally comfortable conditions. (This may indirectly have led to his deposion and death: his wife, Isabella, was was the sister of Philip IV. On a visit to her brother’s court in France, she met Roger Mortimer, an English nobleman living in exile: it was with him that she later invaded England and deposed her husband.)
Robert Bruce of Scotland had already been excommunicated himself. The Order was never dissolved in Scotland.
The Duke of Lorraine (Lorraine was not part of France then) supported them loyally.
In Portugal they were reborn as the Knights of Christ: both Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama were Knights of Christ, and Prince Henry the Navigator was the Grand Master.
In Germany, most Templars joined the Order of Teutonic Knights – who later supported Martin Luther: revenge indeed!
The first mystery is the founding of the Order. Guillaume de Tyre seems to have many things wrong – including the date, which was probably 1111 or 1112, not 1118. Was the whole story of the nine poor knights either a legend or a cover-up? (For a thorough sifting of all the evidence see pp85-86 in The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail, and for a full discussion of its relevance to the “Temple Treasure”, see Sacred Treasure, Secret Power.)
Asrly as 1208, at the beginning of the Albigensian Crusade, Pope Innocent III called them “unChristian” and “necromancers”. Why? Was it true, and known, even then? Or was it because they refused to support the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars? “The Grand Master at the time … made the Order’s position clear when he declared there was only one true Crusade – the Crusade against the Saracens.” (The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail)
Another mystery is how close they really were to the Cathars? Templars and Templar castles, houses and fortresses, were thick on the ground in Languedoc, the heartland of Catharism. They provided refuge for Perfects during the Albigensian Crusade. Many of the noble families of the area who supported Catharism also had Templar knights in the family. Bertrand de Blanchefort, fourth Grand Master of the Templars, came of a Cathar family, and his descendants fought with the Cathars against the Albigensian Crusaders. The Blanchefort lands in the Razès are also mentioned in Sacred Treasure, Secret Power in connection with the Visigoth treasure.
Then there is the question of the accusations against them, especially that of worshipping Baphomet. Was “the head” Baphomet? There does seem to have been a head, but whose? That of Hugues de Payen, the Founder? Or was it believed to be the head of John the Baptist? Were they Mandaeans (a heretical sect who believed that the true Messiah was John the Baptist not Jesus of Nazareth)? There were still Mandaeans in the Jordan area, and the Templars must have come across them. It is possible, but in my opinion unlikely: for a start, it is incompatible with the Templars’ close links with Catharism. Could it have been a copy of the head of the Turin Shroud, which was in the Templars’ possession until 1307? And was the so-called “repudiation of Christ” really only a repudiation of the Cross (which was also abhorrent to the Cathars)?
The Cathars, who considered themselves Christians, but not Roman Catholics, flourished in the south of France (and in Corsica and the north of Italy) in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. By the end of the twelfth century there were eleven Cathar ‘bishops’, six of them in Italy. Their equivalent of the Catholic priest was the Goodman or Perfect, and the ordinary believer was known as a ‘credens’. Also (like the later Quakers) they had no sacraments as such, though they did practise the ‘consolamentum’, a ‘laying on of hands’, when a man or woman was ordained as a Perfect or was approaching death. They had little time for the Old Testament: their Scriptures were the four Gospels (they especially revered the Fourth Gospel) and the letters of St Paul. They were, to some extent at least, dualists, distinguishing between this world, the world of the children of darkness, and the Kingdom of God, the world of the children of light. They identified ‘the Prince of this World’ with the Pope of Rome. They seem to have believed in reincarnation, and were in theory against all forms of killing (including war and judicial execution).
A distinction must be made between the two categories of Cathars, the perfecti and the credenti. The perfecti were those who had attained a high level of not only initiation but purity. Having received the consolamentum on request, they could be regarded as the only true Cathars. Practising austerity, sexual abstinence, and vegetarianism, they were, according to Cathar belief, ready to return to the kingdom of God with no need of reincarnating again to purify and free themselves of the slavery of matter, a satanic creation. They could not bear arms or perform tasks considered degrading, and they devoted themselves to meditation, preaching, and cultural practices. The credenti were not held to the same austere standards because they had not attained the same degree of wisdom and purity. They knew they would have to live again in order to complete their initiation and become entirely purified. They did not have the same prohibitions, particularly concerning food and sex. (Jean Markale, Montségur and the Mystery of the Cathars)
It should be said that the Perfects were non-meat-eaters rather than strict vegetarians; being a Perfect was a capital crime, and the Inquisition could always distinguish Perfects by their habit of eating fish.
These Perfects wandered the countryside in pairs, preaching their gospel, and the ordinary people had only to compare this with the rich, corrupt Roman Church to decide which they preferred.
During the twelfth century, the Cathar Church grew exponentially. Many of the noble families of the Midi (Languedoc) became converts.
A clash was inevitable.
In 1209, Pope Innocent III launched the so-called Albigensian Crusade against them. At that time, Languedoc was not officially part of the Kingdom of France, so the Crusade had the enthusiastic support of the King of France, intent on enlarging his kingdom, and of the French nobles from the north, greedy for land. Slowly the Cathars were driven back to their final stronghold, the hilltop fortress of Montségur. Here, after a long seige, they surrendered. Hundreds were burnt.
It was over.
The Albigensian Crusade and the fall of Montségur and of Quéribus was the beginning of the end for the Cathars. However, descendants of the survivors of that brave “crusade” lingered on in Italy and in the south of France and north of Spain for several generations, generations (for a full account of these survivors see The Yellow Cross by René Weis) and it is one of these who makes an appearance in The Rose of Sharon, the first of the Mariana books.
This painting by Simone Martini, which was painted in 1333, is discussed in The Rose of Sharon (Mariana 1). It depicts Jesus carrying the Cross, with Mary Magdalene, a wound on her face, given seemingly equal status behind him.