Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Glastonbury Legend

The Tin Merchant
An old Cornish legend claims Joseph of Arimathea visited Britain accompanied by his great nephew the Christ child. No one seems certain of the roots of this legend but Joseph is linked with the Cornish tin trade through his title as 'Nobilis Decurion', a term usually interpreted as a Roman title for someone with responsibility for the local mines. Similar legends persist in Somerset where Joseph is linked with the lead mines at Priddy in the Mendips. The Glastonbury Legend asserts that Joseph was responsible for establishing the first Christian church in Britain. How did this tin merchant from a town in Judea end up in Glastonbury?

Glastonbury Abbey
Joseph is a minor biblical character who features immediately after the Crucifixion. Matthew refers to him as a rich man and Mark says he is a member of the council, or Sanhedrin, but all four canonical Gospels are agreed that Joseph of Arimathea was responsible for the burial of Jesus after the Crucifixion, providing his own rock-cut tomb. The Gospel of John refers to Joseph as a secret disciple of Jesus who was given permission by Pilate to remove the body from the cross at Golgotha. Joseph, assisted by Nicodemus, took the body and bound it in linen clothes with a mixture of myrrh and aloes, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

Joseph of Arimathea then quickly fades from the Gospels. However, he returns in several later apocryphal and non-canonical works which expand the rather sparse accounts of him in the New Testament. Joseph is mentioned in the works of the early church historians through the 2nd to 4th centuries. An apocryphal work known as the Gospel of Nicodemus, dated to the mid-4th century, claimed to have been derived from an original Hebrew work written by Nicodemus himself is mostly a reworking of the earlier Acts of Pilate, apparently a report written by Pontius Pilate. Together Joseph and Nicodemus are always associated with the removal of Jesus' body from the cross; many medieval depictions of the Deposition show Nicodemus with Joseph removing the dead Christ from the cross and collecting the Holy Blood. The Catholic Church even commemorates Nicodemus on the same day as Saint Joseph, 31 August.

The early history of Christianity in Britain is obscure. The official arrival of Christianity in Britain is associated with the mission of Augustine in 597 AD but there seems to have been a traditional presence in these islands long before that date. Writing in the 6th century Gildas describes the execution of the first Christian martyr St Alban at Verulamium in the early 4th century during the Diocletianic Persecution, but claims the arrival of Christianity occurred during the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Roman Emperor from 14 to 37 AD, seemingly within a few years of the Crucifixion. But Gildas fails to mention the arrival of Joseph of Arimathea in Britain.

The Somerset Tradition
The legendary 2nd-century King Lucius of the Britons is also credited with introducing Christianity in to Britain. A 6th-century copy of the Liber Pontificalis (Book of the Popes) claims Lucius despatched a letter to Pope Eleutherius requesting to be made a Christian. Bede (Book I.IV) tells us that this was during the time of Marcus Antoninus Verus and his brother, Aurelius Commodus, who jointly reigned from 161 to 169 AD. In response Eleutherius is said to have sent the missionaries Faganus and Dumanus to Britain around 185 AD who established sees at London, York and Caerleon.

On the Antiquity of the Glastonbury Church, c.1130, William of Malmesbury also claimed it came in the 1st century from a mission by Philip the Apostle, concluding “No other hands than those of the disciples of Christ created the church of Glastonbury.” However, later versions of William's work, seemingly much altered by the monks of Glastonbury, claim Joseph of Arimathea established the first Christian church there in the 1st century. The revised version of William's work adds that Phaganus and Deruvianus (Faganus and Dumanus presumably) restored this first wattle church around 170 AD.

Although the details can only be described as murky at best, history and legend suggest in principal that there are two key events concerning the establishment of Christianity in Britain: the religion first arrived in Britain in the 1st century AD with a mission associated with Jesus' disciples, and by the 2nd century Christianity was reaffirmed among the Britons.

Abbots, Blood and Bones
Following the same route as the Mediterranean tin traders, as described by the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus in the 1st century BC, Joseph of Arimathea arrived in Britain, 37 AD or 63 AD depending on the source. Diodorus described the tin trading centre in Britain as an island called 'Ictis' which is usually identified as St Michael's Mount off the south coast of Cornwall, but another candidate is Glastonbury (the Isle of Avalon). Before the River Brue was diverted in the 12th century it provided a direct, navigable route to the sea at Burnham-on-Sea, thirty miles west.

Joseph is said to have sailed in-land down the River Brue and landed at the Isle of Avalon. He then climbed up to Wearyall Hill with his companions where he thrust his staff into the ground.  The staff rooted and grew in to the so-called Holy Thorn. Joseph and his followers built the first church at Glastonbury, a simple wattle building. Legend claims a local King named Arviragus presented Joseph with 12 hides of land, focused upon six dry knolls rising out of the surrounding Somerset marshes.

No one is certain of the origin of the 'Twelve Hides of Glaston' but a thousand years after the date of Joseph's traditional arrival in Britain the Domesday Survey of 1086 records the Twelve Hides as a privileged estate which never paid geld granted to the abbots of Glastonbury in a series of charters, in some cases of dubious legality, by the pre-Conquest Anglo-Saxon kings of Wessex. William of Malmesbury quotes a charter of 601 from the Glastonbury Abbey archives in which an unnamed king of Dumnonia granted the estate known as 'Yneswitrin' to the old church (vetusta ecclesia) at Glastonbury on petition of Abbot Worgret.

During the reign of King Ine of Wessex (r. 688 to 726) the first stone church was erected at Glastonbury. In the 10th century this church was enlarged by Abbot Dunstan, he who went on to become the Archbishop of Canterbury in 960. The Abbey continued to develop to such an extent that by the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086 it was recorded as the richest monastery in the country. However, tragedy respects no boundaries of wealth and in 1184 a major fire destroyed much of the church leaving it in need of an extensive rebuild.

St Joseph's Well
Memories of Joseph of Arimathea faded in time. Indeed, when William of Malmesbury was invited to write the early history of Glastonbury Abbey by Henry of Blois, brother of King Stephen and abbot from 1126 until 1129 when he became Bishop of Winchester, he made no mention of The Arimathean. A hundred years later, William's original manuscript was much altered to include the establishment of the first Christian church in Britain in the 1st century AD by Joseph and his followers.

This 13th century amendment to William's work failed to have any major impact on the Abbey at the time; thereby Glastonbury passed up the opportunity to host a major Apostolic shrine like that of St James at Santiago de Compostela in Spain. That venture was to come later. Perhaps it was unnecessary to introduce Joseph at this time owing to the recent discovery of the remains of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere in 1191 AD in the monk's cemetery. According to Giraldus Cambrensis, King Henry II had encouraged the monks to dig for Arthur's grave after he had heard of the location from a Welsh bard. However, Henry II did not live long enough to see the monks discovery.

In 1189, the year Henry II died, his cousin Henry de Sully was appointed Abbot of Glastonbury by Richard I who concentrated funds into the Third Crusade rather than church building. Two years later they discovered the remains of Arthur and Guinevere at Glastonbury. Two years after the discovery Henry de Sully left Glastonbury to become Bishop of Worcester in 1193.

By one of those odd coincidences an abbot of the same name was at Fécamp across the Channel, although we are told it was not the same person. Henry de Sully, Abbot of Fécamp, was the nephew of King Stephen of England and Henry de Blois. By another odd coincidence, he is said to have died 1189, the very same year that a man named Henry de Sully became Abbot of Glastonbury.

The Legend of Fécamp is remarkably similar to The Glastonbury Legend, and tells of two knives used by Joseph of Arimathea to remove the blood from Christ's wounds. Nicodemus scraped the dried blood from Christ's wounds with a knife which he then concealed in a small lead cylinder which he hid in the trunk of a fig tree. The fig tree was cast into the sea and finally washed up on the coast of Normandy at Fécamp in the 1st century. The trunk took root and sprouted leaves. At this spot miracles began to occur leading to the building of a church, later becoming a monastery. The relic of the Holy Blood was not discovered until 1171 during the rebuilding of the church that had been destroyed by fire.

St Joseph's Chapel - This place makes me shiver; 'something' was here.
Joseph and the Grail
It is significant that shortly before the interpolated version of William's account of the early history of the church at Glastonbury appeared two major Grail texts had been written. The French poet Robert de Boron gave the 'Graal' of Chretien de Troyes a Christian dimension, introducing the “Holy” Grail as the cup used at the Last Supper, the same vessel in which Joseph of Arimathea then collected the blood of Jesus after the crucifixion.

Robert wrote his story of the Grail around the turn of the 13th century in three parts; Joseph d'Arimathe, Merlin and Perceval. According to Robert, Joseph's family brought the Grail to the “vaus d'Avaron”, the valleys of Avaron in the west, interpreted by many as Avalon, identified with Glastonbury.

The second text, the anonymous Perlesvaus (The High History of the Holy Grail) was originally written in Old French sometime in the early half of the 13th Century as a continuation of Chretien de Troyes' unfinished work “Perceval, or the Story of the Graal”. Perlesvaus is said to be of the lineage of Joseph of Arimathea, and a colophon at the end of the text states “The Latin from whence this history was drawn into Romance was taken in the Isle of Avalon, in a holy house of religion that standeth at the head of the Moors Adventurous, there where King Arthur and Queen Guenievre lie”, thus confirming the Glastonbury connection between Joseph and the Grail. This link was reaffirmed when a fragment of a Perlesvaus manuscript was found at nearby Wells Cathedral.

The Cult of Joseph of Arimathea
In the later Middle Ages greater significance was placed on the Abbey's claim to be the oldest religious community in Britain. Indeed, as the Glastonbury tradition claimed an Apostolic foundation it was in a position to directly challenge the authority of Rome, a claim that would ultimately lead to the destruction of the Abbey and the execution of its last Abbot, Richard Whiting on the Tor in 1539.

A major contribution to the Joseph of Arimathea tradition at Glastonbury was when John of Glastonbury produced his mid-14th century chronicle of the abbey. John's Cronica Sive Antiquitates Glastoniensis Ecclesie (Chronicles or Antiquities of the Glastonbury Church) drew extensively on William of Malmesbury's earlier work on the Abbey, claiming to have added much which William omitted, and the Grail texts. Notably, John includes the episode at St Augustine's chapel from Perlesvaus, but in the Cronica it is St Mary's chapel at Beckery at the foot Wearyall Hill. John's work included, for the first time in manuscript, The Prophecy of Melkin.

Shortly after John's Cronica Abbot Chinnock (abbacy 1375-1420) did much to promote the cult of Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury with the abbey becoming a major object of pilgrimage. In the late 14th century Chinnock restored the ruined chapel in the cemetery, re-dedicating it to St. Michael and St Joseph of Arimathea. Chinnock also placed wooden boards at the Abbey which contained extracts from the Cronica encouraging those who came into the Abbey to read the legend.

St Joseph's Chapel
During the abbacy of Richard Bere (1495-1525), the penultimate abbot, Glastonbury embarked on extensive construction works. He built the chapels of King Edgar, Our Lady of Loretto and of the Holy Sepulchre. The numbers of pilgrims had now grown so great that around the year 1500 Abbot Bere excavated a great crypt below the Lady Chapel and Galilee, providing an entirely new subterranean chapel which he dedicated to St Joseph of Arimathea. A stone image of St Joseph was set up in the crypt for the pilgrims. He changed the Abbey's coat of arms to that of Joseph of Arimathea featuring the two cruets of Melkin's Prophecy containing the sweat and blood of Jesus. The cult must have spread throughout Somerset; a 15th century stained glass window of Langport Church shows Joseph with the two cruets.

The Return of the Grail
There is a tradition that the Nanteos Cup is the Holy Grail, brought to Glastonbury by Joseph of Arimathea. This cup, now on permanent display at the National Library of Wales, was in the possession of Glastonbury Abbey at the time of the Dissolution, so the story goes. Abbot Whiting sent the cup in the charge of seven monks to Strata Florida Abbey in Cardiganshire, mid-Wales. On the death of the last monk he revealed that the cup was the Holy Grail that had been brought to Glastonbury by their founder Joseph of Arimathea. The cup then passed into the Powell family at Nanteos House, near Aberystwyth.

The Nanteos Cup - is this the Holy Grail?
In 1938 Revd Lionel Smithett Lewis, vicar of Glastonbury, led a delegation to Nanteos to plead for the return of the cup to Glastonbury. But the cup remained at Nanteos which by now had acquired healing properties.

However, historians cannot trace references to the cup further back later than the 19th century. The Nanteos Cup has been identified as a medieval wooden mazer bowl made of olive wood or wych elm, dated to the 14th or 15th century, about 1,400 years after the crucifixion, around the same time as the cult of Joseph was established at Glastonbury and the first appearance of the Prophecy of Melkin.

Copyright © 2017 Edward Watson

Photographs of Glastonbury Abbey © Edward Watson

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Sunday, 26 February 2017

The Artognou Stone

“No evidence whatever has been found to support the legendary connection of the castle with King Arthur. The earliest reference to this connection is in the works of Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote when the first Norman castle was being built. Probably the then existing ruins of the Celtic monastery suggested to him that there was an earlier settlement on the site, and the rest was supplied by his vivid imagination”. - CA Ralegh Radford, Tintagel Castle, (1935).

The Cell by the Sea  
Geoffrey of Monmouth tells the tale of how Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall, on realising that Utherpendragon had fallen in love with his wife Ygerna, had her locked up in his strongest castle at Tintagel. He then shut himself up in another castle within sight of Tintagel, known as Damelioc. With the aid of Merlin's magic Utherpendragon entered the castle at Tintagel and seduced Ygerna. That night Arthur was conceived.

Arthur has been associated with Tintagel since Geoffrey wrote his “History of the Kings of Britain” c.1136; there is a complete absence of an earlier Cornish tradition from which Geoffrey could have based his account on, leaving many to conclude that the Arthurian events at Tintagel in his work were purely his own invention. After Geoffrey, Arthur's association with Tintagel quickly fades from the Romances and the connection is limited to the tales of 'Tristan and Iseult' as the seat of King Mark of Cornwall.

Tintagel Castle
The Cornish historian Henry Jenner believed that Geoffrey introduced Tintagel Castle into the story because of its dramatic setting upon the high cliffs of the north Cornish coast. At the time Geoffrey wrote there is no evidence of the medieval castle which was not built until 1230, nearly a hundred years later. Jenner maintained that the original version of the story refers to Castle-An-Dinas, near St Columb Major, and that the only Damelioc in Cornwall is in St Dennis in sight of Castle-An-Dinas.

The Iron Age hill-fort of Castle-an-Dinas is situated some 700 feet above sea-level, consisting of three concentric rings of 850 feet diameter, with a single entrance on the south-western side. Two Bronze Age barrows are situated in the interior. Since the 15th century the earthwork has been associated with the Arthurian legend; William of Worcester claimed that the hill-fort was the place where Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, died. The hill-fort is also known as 'Arthur’s Hunting Lodge’ (or Hunting Seat) from which Arthur rode out across Goss Moor. A stone in St Columb was said to bear the footprint that Arthur's horse made whilst he was out hunting.

Three miles south of Castle-An-Dinas, is a conical hill crowned by a small circular fort enclosing the Church of St Dennis, the old name of which was 'Dimelihoc' (clearly Geoffrey's Damelioc), now known as Domellick. Castle-an-Dinas is clearly visible from here whereas Tintagel is not, being some twenty miles distant. It would seem Jenner was correct.

Following Jenner, excavations at Tintagel by Courtenay Arthur Ralegh Radford in the 1930s and 1950s interpreted the Headland as an early Christian monastic settlement with no Arthurian associations, a view that endured for nearly fifty years before historians began to seriously question Ralegh Radford's interpretation.

He referenced the excavation Sites on the Headland as A, B, C, etc, with the first being the site of the earliest buildings of the Celtic monastery. Site A consists of a medieval chapel built across Post Roman buildings. These earlier buildings Ralegh Radford considered to be the site of the nucleus of the cult of the Celtic Saint Juliot, the medieval chapel being built across the Saint's cell. To the south-west of the chapel is the base of a tomb-shrine, a type well-known in Ireland used to contain sacred relics. North of the chapel Ralegh Radford identified four shallow, rock-cut graves that he considered to be evidence of the monastic cemetery.

St Juliot's chapel
The absence of a substantial communal hall, such as that unearthed at Cadbury Castle hillfort in Somerset, precludes the possibility that the site represented the seat of a Dark Age chieftain claimed Ralegh Radford. The modest dwellings on such an exposed and desolate location, together with an oratory dedicated to a 5th century missionary Saint wholly conforms to what was known of a typical early British settlement (monasteria) he argued. Ralegh Radford saw 'The Great Ditch' as defining the landward boundary of the monastery, forming the vallum monasterium and seems to have disregarded it in the context of a typical promontory hillfort.

The 'Lives' of several Irish saints refer to a site, known as 'Rosnat' where they would go to study theology and sacred scripture, that was clearly across the sea in Britain. The location of Rosnat has continued to elude historians but Galloway in Scotland and St Davids in Wales were favoured possibilities. In the early 1970's Cornish historian Charles Thomas speculated that if a Cornish monastery, perhaps associated with Mawgan, did indeed exist at Tintagel it could have been Rosnat which is always described as south-east from Ireland.

The ecclesiastical interpretation offered by Ralegh Radford, himself an Arthurian since his father (Arthur Lock Radford) took him to visit Bligh Bond's excavations at Glastonbury in 1910, was a considerable shift from the then current thought that saw Tintagel as an Arthurian site since it was popularised as such by poets such as Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Stephen Hawker, the eccentric parson poet from Morwenstow, during the Arthurian Revival of the Victorian Age.

Ralegh Radford never completed a full report of his Tintagel excavations; his lack of documentation and his monastic interpretation of the site were viewed with some suspicion; an enormous amount of 5th and 6th-century pot-shards, originating from the Mediterranean and Byzantine world, have been uncovered at Tintagel; more than almost all other sites in Britain combined. It seems highly unlikely that a monastery would be that involved in trade on such a scale. Indeed, the pottery evidence suggests a high status site.

The Song of the Western Men
In 1983 a grass fire on the island plateau exposed a much larger number of building foundations, casting further doubt on Ralegh Radford's monastic reading of the island.

English Heritage employed Professor Chris Morris to re-evaluate Ralegh Radford's excavations. Morris led a team of archaeologists from Glasgow University, embarking on an excavation program from 1990-99. The site of the east terrace, known as Ralegh Radford's Site C where the low remains of stone walls identified a building consisting of three connected rooms, was included in Morris's program for excavation.

Tintagel, the Headland (copyright English Heritage)
On 4th July 1998 the archaeologists discovered a broken slate 35cm by 20cm bearing an inscription. The stone (designated RF3486) was found used as a cover for a drain running around the south-western corner of a building on Site C in an undisturbed 6th century layer on the east terrace of the Headland. The inscription bears the letters: PATER COLI AVI FICIT ARTOGNOU COL[I] FICIT which Charles Thomas translated as “Artognou, father of a descendant of Coll, has had this made”. It is claimed that the name “Artognou” would have been pronounced as “Arthnou” hence the tenuously claimed link to the legendary King Arthur. The little-known name “Arthnou” is recorded in Brittany in the 9th century and may have been a Brittonic name in use in south-west Britain as well as across the Channel. The graffito may be evidence of a scribe simply practising on a small redundant slate prior to making the full inscription, if he ever completed one.

At the time of the discovery of the inscribed slate Geoffrey Wainwright, speaking for English Heritage, declared that while the King Arthur of medieval Romance did not exist, Arthur the Dark Age warlord who fought battles in the 6th century was a historical reality. Wainwright described the discovery at the find of a lifetime and saw it as evidence for the historical Arthur, “close enough to Arthur to refer to the legendary warrior king”.

A media frenzy ensued with newspaper headlines declaring that evidence of King Arthur had been found at Tintagel. A later newspaper article soon declared the find a hoax citing a Plymouth man who claimed to have inscribed the slate with a pair of compasses during a school trip to Tintagel in 1980. The hoax has since been disproven as the slate was discovered in undisturbed layers of earth deposited in the 6th century by the project officer and supervisor Kevin Brady. Further, surely a hoaxer would have inscribed the name “Arthur” not something obscure but similar sounding.

Above the “Artognou” inscription is part of an earlier inscription, given little publicity at the time of discovery, but initially interpreted as the deeply incised letters “VAXE”, possibly the tail-end of an inscription in classical form. Microscopic examination has revealed that the `ARTOGNOU' inscription post-dates this inscription.

The upper text consisting of four larger letters is typical late Roman period. Letter 1 cannot be 'V' as it has two descenders and is therefore said be either 'II' or 'H'. Letter 2 has been identified as 'A' and letter 3 as 'V' with an unusual downward prolongation. It is suggested that Letter 4 posses a downward hook on its lower terminal making it a letter 'G' of the type known as a 'sickle-G'. It should be read as Roman capitals, either 'II A V G' or 'H A V G'.

Accepting that letters 2 to 4 read as 'AVG' this would give the conventional abbreviation of the Imperial title 'Augustus' as found on Roman-British milestones of the late 3rd and early 4th centuries.
With letter 1 = 'II' this suggests the upper inscription should be read as [LEGIO] II AVG [VSTA], the Second Legion Augusta.

In the 1st century AD Legio II Augusta participated in the Roman invasion of Britain under the command of Vespasian. From 55 AD the Legion was stationed at Isca Dumnoniorum, Roman Exeter, presumably patrolling the lands of Dumnonia (Devon and Cornwall). About Twenty years later the Legion moved to Glevum (Gloucester) before being transferred to Isca Silurum (modern day Caerleon) in south Wales shortly after. Under Septimius Severus much of the II Augusta moved to Scotland in 208 AD. The last record of II Augusta is in the Notitia Dignitatum which lists the Legion at Rutupiae (Richborough, Kent) under the command of the Count of the Saxon Shore; Isca Silurum by then abandoned.

The evidence for a Roman presence at Tintagel in the 1st century AD therefore is slight, calling into question the validity of the interpretation of the upper text as a reference to Legio II Augusta. However, later Roman period activity at Tintagel cannot be ruled out.

In 1981 re-examination of ceramics found on the Tintagel Headland pre-1938 among Ralegh Radford's collection identified Oxford Red Colour Coated ware, widely distributed across Roman Britain during the 3rd and 4th centuries AD that had been incorrectly identified as post-Roman imports (Phocaen Red slipped ware). Furthermore, during Ralegh Radford's 1955 re-excavation of landward side of the Great Ditch a small coin hoard was discovered in a rock cleft. Ten Roman coins were found in a shrivelled leather drawstring purse dating from Tretricus (270-74 AD) to Constantius II as Augustus (337-61 AD).

The Artognou Stone
In consideration of the above, the first letter of the upper text of slate RF3486 is more likely to be 'H' which would give 'HAVG' and possibly an Imperial inscription 'H[onorius] AVG[ustus]'. The emperor Honorius was Augustus from 393 to 423 AD. This may indicate the slate was used as an notice or label on an official structure on the Headland around 400 AD which was still regarded as being within Imperial administration, perhaps related to the trade of Cornish tin.

Once the building went out of use with the termination of the Roman governance of Britain the slate would have become redundant, later inscribed with the second text relating to Artognou, Paternus and Coliauus, demonstrating the continued use of Latin in the southwest of Britain after the Romans, before finally being trimmed to fit as a drain cover in the 6th century.

The absence of any convincing archaeological evidence has led to the collapse of the ecclesiastical interpretation of post-Roman Tintagel. The Headland is now referred to as a “high status secular site” seasonally occupied by the kings of Dumnonia. A series of earth mounds around the parish church, dedicated to Saint Materiana, six hundred yards along the north Cornish cliffs on the mainland, may be the Royal burial site.

A new program of archaeological investigations at Tintagel has already declared the discovery of a 'Dark Age' high status building on the Headland in July 2016. The media circus that followed declared it as the discovery of King Arthur's palace. However, as with the inscribed 'Artognou' slate, this is not evidence for Arthur.

Ralegh Radford may have been wrong about the Celtic Monastery, but he was right about Arthur. 

Copyright © 2017 Edward Watson

R C Barrowman, C Batey, C D Morris et al, Excavations at Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, 1990-1999, The Society of Antiquities of London, 2007.
O J Padel, Geoffrey of Monmouth and Cornwall, CMCS 8, 1984, pp.1-27.
O J Padel, Some South-Western Sites with Arthurian Associations, pp.229-234, in R Bromwich et al, The Arthur of the Welsh, University of Wales Press, 1991.
CA Ralegh Radford, Tintagel Castle, HMSO (1935), Second edition 1939.
CA Ralegh Radford and Michael J Swanton, Arthurian Sites in the West, University of Exeter Press, (1975), Revised edition 2002, pp.26-37.
Charles Thomas, Rosnat, Rostat, and the Early Irish Church, Ériu 22 (1971), pp.100–106.

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Sunday, 12 February 2017

The Complete King Arthur

Few legends have had the enduring influence of those surrounding King Arthur. Many believe the stories are based on historical truth. For others Arthur represents the archetype of the brilliant monarch reigning over a fairy-tale kingdom, offering his knights the opportunity to prove their mettle in battle and find gnostic illumination through initiation into sacred mysteries like that of the Grail.

John and Caitlín Matthews have been studying the Arthurian legends and their background for more than 40 years. Recognised authorities on myths and legends of the Celtic tradition, they are the prolific authors of more than one hundred books on myth, faery, the Arthurian Legends and Grail Studies, including 'Arthur of Albion', 'The Arthurian Tradition', 'The Grail Tradition', 'The Grail Seeker’s Companion', 'Merlin: Shaman, Prophet, Magician', 'Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman', 'Sir Gawain, Knight of the Goddess', 'King Arthur's Raid on the Underworld'.

Their latest book "The Complete King Arthur: Many Faces, One Hero" presents the culmination of those many years of research in the Arthurian legend, in which the authors examine the historical and mythological evidence for every major theory about the existence of Arthur, piecing together the many fragments that constitute his image.

This new book promises to be a comprehensive examination of the historical and mythological evidence for every major theory about King Arthur, examining 1,800 years of evidence for Arthur’s life and the famous series of 12 battles fought against the Saxons in the 6th century.

In the "The Complete King Arthur" the Matthews' reconstruct the history of 6th century Britain, the period when the first references to Arthur and the core events of his reign appear. The book will explore the history of every Arthur candidate and the geographical arguments that have placed him in different locations,

Examining other literary figures from the 5th century such as Vortigern and Ambrosius, the authors also break down the plots of all the major Arthurian romances, including those by Chretien de Troyes, Sir Thomas Malory, and Robert de Boron, to reveal the historical events they are based on.


Arthur of the Battles 

"So where did Arthur of the Battles originate? There is a poem in the Book of Taliesin that gives us a clue to his antecedents and makes powerful sense. Already mentioned in chapter 1, where it has been seen as complementary evidence for the Roman origins of Arthur, “Kadeir Teyrnon” may also support the antecedents of a fifth-century northern Arthur. The poem discusses the ruler of Britain as a man born and bred on the Wall as well as one militarily qualified to its supervision. 

Declare the clear ode 
In inspiration’s own metre: 
A man sprung of two authors, 
Of a cavalry wing’s steel. 
His spear and his wisdom, 
His judicious course, 
His kingly sovereignty 
His assault over the Wall, 
His rightful seat Amongst the defenders of the Wall. . . . 

From the slaughter of chieftains, 
From the destruction of armies, 
From the loricated legion, 
Sprang the Guledic, 
Around the fierce old boundary.4

The “fierce old boundary” is none other than Hadrian’s Wall (see plate 3). This poem suggests a man who was born either of native stock and Roman lineage or perhaps one who is half-native and half-foreigner; we might take our pick from the men of Rheged, the Gododdin, or of Pictish or Dalriadan origin, which might help explain from whence the name “Arthur” was first introduced."

The Complete King Arthur: Many Faces, One Hero by John and Caitlín Matthews is due publication by Inner Traditions in April 2017.

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Wednesday, 1 February 2017

St Brigid's Cross

Imbolc, synonymous with Saint Brigid's Day, is celebrated annually on 1st February. One of the four major seasonal festivals along with Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain, Imbolc is one of the oldest feasts celebrating the arrival of spring in Celtic mythology. Since the earliest of times Imbolc has been associated with the goddess Brigid, the goddess of the dawn.

Imbolc is thought to have been significant in Ireland since the Neolithic period as attested by the alignment of some Megalithic monuments.

The illumination of the passage and chamber by the sunrise on the winter solstice at the Neolithic passage tomb at Newgrange is world famous. Similar solar alignments can be found at many other passage tombs.

Significant that at Newgrange it is only the light that enters through the light box above the main passage entrance that reaches the back of the chamber. Recently Michael Gibbons has claimed that the light box was “fabricated” during reconstruction by Michael O’Kelly in the 1960s. But when considered with solar alignments at other passage tombs in Ireland this claim seems nonsensical.

Today celebrated on 1st February, Imbolc is considered to mark a Cross Quarter Day indicating the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, astronomically calculated to fall between the 2nd & 7th of February.

At the 5,000 year old Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara the rising sun at Imbolc enters the passageway and illuminates the chamber.

At Loughcrew a cluster of megalithic cairns are aligned to display tricks of light at certain solar festivals. A beam of light at sunrise on the spring and autumnal equinoxes illuminates the passage and strikes the backstone of the chamber at Cairn T.

But on St Brigid's Day at Loughcrew Cairn L a beam of light from the Imbolc sunrise illuminates the passage and chamber and strikes a six-foot tall limestone standing stone in the cairn.

Perhaps memory of Brigid stretches back to the days of the construction of these Neolithic mounds. Her cult is certainly ancient. Saint Brigid's Cross is one of the archetypal symbols of Ireland, while today it is considered a Christian symbol, it seems to have its roots in the pre-Christian goddess Brigid.

Brigid's Cross was traditionally made of rushes on the eve of Brigid's feast and hung on kitchen walls, over doorways and windows to protect the the household from harm, a custom that can be found surviving in many Irish homes today, although it is likely far older than Christianity.

However the tale of the creation of Brigid's Cross is somewhat confused, and there are various versions, one story goes like so:

"There was an old pagan Chieftain who lay delirious on his deathbed in Kildare (some tales say this was her father) and his servants summoned Brigid to his beside in the hope that the holy woman may calm his restless spirit. Brigid is said to have sat by his bed, consoling and calming him and it is here that she picked up the rushes from the floor and began weaving them into the distinctive cross pattern. Whilst she weaved, she explained the meaning of the cross to the sick Chieftain. It is thought her calming words brought peace to his soul; he was so enamoured by her words that the old Chieftain requested he be baptised as a Christian just before his passing.

Since that day, and for the centuries that followed, it has been customary on the eve of her Feast Day (1st February) for the Irish people to fashion a St. Brigid's Cross of straw or rushes and place it inside the house over the door."

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Monday, 30 January 2017

The Arthurian Place Names of Wales

In The Giants of Wales: Cewri Cymru (Edwin Mellen, 1993), Chris Grooms lists no less than thirty-one instances of 'Coetan Arthur' (Arthur's Quoit) in Wales as the name most commonly occurring amongst prehistoric cromlechs and burial chambers, with the names of the capstones making the greater part of the listing.

Pentre Ifan (Arthur's Quoit)
The Arthurian place-name clearly suggests that Arthur played quoits here, throwing the capstone from some distant hill. The word "quoit" first appears on maps in the 16th century, but no one can be sure when these prehistoric megalithic sites were first named after King Arthur.

And these do not include all the other antiquities and natural features bearing Arthurian place-names such as Arthur's Chair, Arthur's Stone, Arthur's Grave and such like.

However, the earliest recorded onomastic tale to feature topographical folklore associated with Arthur is found in the 9th century Historia Brittonum within the Harlian 3859 manuscript. Chapters 67-75 of this work contain a description of various mirabilia, or 'Marvels' of the Island of Britain.

Two of these marvels are Arthurian in context. The first is the tomb of Arthur's son Amr at  a spring called Llygad Amr in Ergyng (Ercing), modern Herefordshire.

The other is in the country called Builth, Wales. Here a heap of stones is said to bear the footprint of the warrior Arthur’s hound when he hunted Twrch Trwyth. The pile of stones is called Carn Cafal (Carn Cabal). If a stone is removed from the pile the next day it will be found back on the carn.

Carn Cabal is one of the Arthurian sites that actually traces the geography of the tale, in this instance the Boar hunt across southern Wales from Culhwch and Olwen. Many sites associated with Arthur do not necessarily represent Arthurian geography, but in Wales there is an abundance of prehistoric site associated with Arthurian traditions. Many of these can be found scattered throughout books on the prehistoric remains in Wales and the Arthurian connection is noted but rarely explored.

Now a new book gathers together for the first time ever all the place names related to King Arthur that are found within Wales. These includes the multitude of Arthur's Quoits, Arthur's Seat, Arthur's Table and so on.

The Arthurian Place Names of Wales by Scott Lloyd (UWP, 2017) promises to offers full details on the history and mythology of more than one hundred and fifty sites in Wales, drawing on sources from the 9th to the 19th century. The result is claimed as a comprehensive look at the extensive traces of the Arthurian legacy on Wales and Welsh culture.

From the Publisher:

"This new book examines all of the available source materials, dating from the ninth century to the present, that have associated Arthur with sites in Wales. The material ranges from Medieval Latin chronicles, French romances and Welsh poetry through to the earliest printed works, antiquarian notebooks, periodicals, academic publications and finally books, written by both amateur and professional historians alike, in the modern period that have made various claims about the identity of Arthur and his kingdom. All of these sources are here placed in context, with the issues of dating and authorship discussed, and their impact and influence assessed. This book also contains a gazetteer of all the sites mentioned, including those yet to be identified, and traces their Arthurian associations back to their original source."

Scott Lloyd works at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, and has served on the committee of the British Branch of the International Arthurian Society. He lives near Aberystwyth.

The Arthurian Place Names of Wales by Scott Lloyd is due to be published on 15th May, 2017 by the University of Wales Press.

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Saturday, 28 January 2017

Arthur and the Kings of Britain

The historians tells us that in 409 AD the Romans withdrew from these Isles and left the Britons to fend for themselves in the face of the barbarian onslaught. Britain then entered a so-called 'Dark Age' lasting for nearly two hundred years until the Anglo Saxons took control of the island. It is during this shadowy period that the legendary King Arthur emerges from the mist to repel the invading Germanic tribes.

Historians like to construct an ordered chronology; the Celtic Iron Age ended with the arrival of the Romans. The Roman period ended in 409; The Anglo Saxon period began in 597, and so on. But in reality it's never that simple. Increasingly more historians now see the authorities in Britain rebelling against Rome, ejecting the imperial officials, and setting up their own government; an independent Britain emerged from the grasp of Roman control.

Our one British contemporary source, Gildas, tells that this was the time of the 'Proud Tyrant', which later sources identify with a man titled 'Vortigern', invited the Saxons to defend the island against attacks from the Picts and the Irish. In his 6th century De Excidio Britanniae (Concerning the Ruin of Britain) Gildas cetainly paints a dark picture of violent invasion.

In the 8th century Bede, following Gildas, provides an ‘English’ perspective in his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) in describing the conquest of Britain. Then, the 9th century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle used foundation legends to assert the right of the English dynasties to rule over the hapless Britons.

The British story was told in the anonymous Historia Brittonum (History of the Britons), often ascribed to a certain monk named Nennius, but this document's value as a historical source is unreliable to say the least.

Thus, the available sources for the period paint a very one-sided picture; we have the Roman version and the Anglo Saxon version. What of the Briton's own story?

In the 12th century Geoffrey of Monmouth produced the  epic work The Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) which traced the history of the Britons from the arrival of Brutus the Trojan to Cadwallader, the last of the British kings, in the 7th century.

Geoffrey claimed that his source was "a very ancient book in the British tongue". He never named his source and the absence of such a book today has added weight to the claims that he simply invented it all.

It is obvious to even the casual reader that Geoffrey’s work contains numerous fictional tales, he writes of a world of wizards and giants, so it’s hardly surprising that, within a few years of publication serious doubt were being cast on the authenticity of his research. In 1190 William of Newburgh declared that “it is quite clear that everything this man wrote… was made up”.

Nonetheless, Geoffrey's Historia was a medieval bestseller and copies spread across the whole of western Europe, over 200 manuscripts survive from the period showing the Historia's popularity. It was regarded as 'history' for some 500 years. However, today most scholars regard Geoffrey's work as a work of fables and untrustworthy, at best a literary work of national myth. It seems then that we do not possess a reliable account of the Britons in the period between the Romans and the arrival of the Anglo Saxons.

Now in his latest book, Arthur and the Kings of Britain (Amberley Publishing, 2017) Dr Miles Russell examines Geoffrey's so-called fiction and claims the Historia actually provides a priceless insight into what life was really like for the inhabitants of Celtic Britain.

Having examined the Historia in great detail as part of Lost Voices Project, Russell claims the current negative view of the epic does Geoffrey a huge disservice and argues that the Historia is actually formed from "a mass of unrelated stories woven together to form a grand narrative" and that, once this is accepted, "it’s easier to tease out individual tales".

Russell, a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology at Bournemouth University, sees the key to unlocking Geoffrey’s text lies in the account of Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain, the first ‘event’ in the book that can be independently verified from other historical sources.

Julius Caesar made two expeditions to Britain in 55 and 54 BC. In his own account of his second invasion, recorded in his Gallic Wars (De Bello Gallico), there are three main players: Caesar himself; a British king called Cassivellaunus, king of the Catuvellauni; and a Roman ally named Mandubracius, king of the Trinovantes of south-eastern Britain in the 1st century BC.

Mandubracius was deposed by Cassivellaunus some time before Caesar's second expedition to Britain in 54 BC. Mandubracius fled to Gaul under the protection of Caesar. When the Romans landed Cassivellaunus led the British resistance. The Trinovantes gave Caesar the location of his fortress who then proceeded to besiege him there. Cassivellaunus was forced to surrender and Mandubracius was restored as king of the Trinovantes. (Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico 5:20, 5:22)

Geoffrey replicates these events in his Historia, but sets them down as two separate events in what appears initially as a confused jumble. In the first, he has Ilkassar (Caesar) defeated by the Briton Cassibellaun (Cassivellaunus) at the 'Battle of Dorobellum'. In the second version, Geoffrey sets Cassibellaun as the aggressor waging war upon Androgeus (Mandubracius), when he receives news that Ilkassar has landed upon the south coast. At the battle of Durobernia, Ilkassar is victorious owing to the assistance of Androgeus acting as an ally of the Romans.

Russell argues that in describing the Roman incursion, Geoffrey appears to be using two different records of the same event, written from two entirely different perspectives. In the first account, generated by supporters of the British king, Cassivellaunus is portrayed as the hero; whereas the second is written from the perspective of Mandubracius; and suddenly Geoffrey's account of Caesar's expedition becomes clear.

Russell is a regular contributor to television and radio, appearing in Time Team, Timewatch, The Seven Ages of Britain. He is one of the few living archaeologists to have excavated at Stonehenge, having lifted the turf of the bluestone circle in 2008 with Geoffrey Wainwright and Timothy Darvill.

He is the author of fourteen books, including UnRoman Britain: Exposing the Great Myth of Britannia (with Stuart Laycock) (The History Press, 2011); and Bloodline: the Celtic Kings of Roman Britain (Amberley Publishing, 2010).

In his latest book, Arthur and the Kings of Britain (Amberley Publishing) due 15th March 2017, Russell argues Geoffrey's Historia was originally compiled from a variety of genuine sources, most of them generated from what is now the south-east of England, dating the first century BC.

Far from being a single fictional epic, Russell asserts, the Historia consists of a mass of unrelated stories woven together by Geoffrey in order to form one grand narrative.

When viewed objectively, he adds, the individual tales can radically change our understanding of British history, arguing that the Historia was set down by the ancient Britons themselves; recording how they dealt with the arrival of the Romans, and subsequently the events following the ejection of Roman authority in the early 5th century AD. It is, Russell maintains, their ‘lost voice’.

Arthur and the Kings of Britain: The Historical Truth Behind the Myths, by Miles Russell is due publication 15th March 2017 by Amberley Publishing.

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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Shepherd's Monument Solved – Again!

The Legend of Anson's Gold
Legend claims that around the year 1714 a Spanish nobleman, Don Juan Esteban de Ubilla took a special treasure from Northern Spain and hid it on the other side of the world. A Spanish galleon carrying treasure of gold bullion, silver ingots and rumoured to hold the treasure from Enoch's Vault from the Temple of Jerusalem, landed at Robinson Crusoe island (Mas a Tierra), part of the archipelago of Juan Fernandez off the Chilean coast in the Pacific, in 1715.

Ubilla was a member of the Spanish Military Order known as the Knights of Santiago. It is claimed that the Santiago Knights became the guardians of the Temple treasure (the Holy Grail?) after it was placed in their custody by the Templars who were fleeing from the persecution of King Philip IV of France  in 1307.

The ship's Captain-General Ubilla is said to have buried the treasure in a cave on this island. Ubilla died shortly after when a hurricane off the coast of Florida drove his ship onto a reef and he drowned along with over a thousand men of his fleet. Fortunately Ubilla is said to have transmitted directional details and a map to the English Royal Society before his death. A British expedition was then sent out to recover the treasure, known as the Treasure of Lord George Anson, or Anson's Gold.

Admiral Lord George Anson
In 1760 Cornelius Webb, an Englishman commissioned by Admiral Lord George Anson to find Ubilla's treasure, sailed out of Liverpool and arrived in Mas a Tierra in January 1761. It is said that he did indeed find Ubilla's gold, and carved the name “Anson” into the wall of the cave. Webb then left the island with the treasure but was caught in a storm which shattered the ship's mast and was forced to return to  the island. He re-buried the treasure at a secret location.

Webb sailed to Valparaiso, Chile to repair his ship but uncovered a plot in which the crew were planning to mutiny against him and take the treasure for themselves. He blew up the ship killing all hands on board and made his escape by rowing off in a small boat, being the sole survivor of the expedition. Webb sent two letters back to Anson telling him the location of the treasure but the Admiral died suddenly on 6th June 1762, some six months before the arrival of Webb's envoy and the documents were apparently lost. A third document was buried. Webb also died soon after and the whereabouts of the treasure remained a secret …..... until now.

Codes and Conspiracies 
The Shepherd's Monument at the Shugborough Estate in Staffordshire, now owned by the National Trust, had remained a mystery for nearly 300 years.  The 10 letter cryptic inscription bearing the letters D-O-U-O-S-V-A-V-V-M has defied some of the world's greatest thinkers including Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin and even the code-breakers from Bletchley Park.

Over the years theories abounded including the suggestion that  the inscription is a mysterious cipher used by the Knights Templar and their successors to point to the whereabouts of the Holy Grail. Another explanation is that the inscription is simply a private affirmation of love.

The Shugborough sculpture, set within a stone arch contains a marble bas-relief copy of Nicolas Poussin’s 1637-38 painting “Et in Arcadia Ego” (or “The Shepherds of Arcadia”) with the addition of an enigmatic 10-letter inscription beneath it, was commissioned by Thomas Anson, paid for by his brother, Admiral George Anson, and designed by the Flemish sculptor Peter Scheemakers in 1740.

Poussin painted two versions of The Shepherds of Arcadia, the original is held in the Louvre, Paris, and his earlier version, painted in 1627, is held at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. The painting shows a woman and three shepherds, two of whom are pointing to a tomb. On the tomb is carved the Latin text 'ET IN ARCADIA EGO' translated as “And in Arcadia I am…”  interpreted as referring to the true secret of Rennes-le-Château.

Et in Arcadia Ego II (Nicolas Poussin)

The Key to the Grail?
The Anson's were said to have been to have been members of secret societies and in the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (1982) Henry Lincoln, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh suggested that Poussin was a member of the Priory of Sion, a successor of the medieval Knights Templar, and that his Shepherds of Arcadia contained hidden meanings of great esoteric significance.

The Templars were famous for the capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade. They become self-appointed guardians of the Temple of Jerusalem which they inhabited for some time, tunnelling underneath. The Crusades seem to be intimately linked to the Grail Romances of Arthurian legend that appeared around this time. Legend claims that the Templars were the guardians of relics recovered from the Holy Land, including the Holy Grail, the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper.

Lincoln  and co drew attention to a poem from Erdeswick's Survey of Staffordshire (1844) which was read in parliament in honour of his memory when Admiral George Anson died in 1762:

“Upon that storied marble cast thine eye
The scene commands a moralising sigh
E'en in Arcadia's bless'd Elysian plains
Amidst the laughing nymphs and sportive swains
See festal joy subside, with melting grace
And pity visit the half smiling face;
Where now the dance, the lute, the nuptial feast
The passion throbbing in the lover's breast
Life's emblem here, in youth and vernal bloom
But reason's finger pointing at the tomb!” 

This stanza seems to relate unequivocally to the Shepherd's Monument at Shugborough.

The Shepherd's Monument at Shugborough

Dan Brown's bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code (2003) cleverly weaved together many of these themes, particularly from The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, asserting that the Grail was a Holy bloodline descending from Jesus.

Never slow to miss an opportunity for attracting attention and visitor numbers, the following year, the Shugborough Estate launched a promotional campaign asserting a connection between Shugborough, and in particular the Shepherd's Monument inscription, and the location of the Holy Grail.

Now, after a decade of research author George Edmunds claims to have finally unlocked the meaning of the mysterious cipher carved into the famous Shepherd's Monument. And it might just reveal the location of the Holy Grail.

Anson's Grail
 A retired engineer from Weymouth, Edmunds previous book exposed the so-called Captain Kidd's Charts as a convincing hoax. Edmunds has studied Admiral Lord George Anson, second son of William Anson, of Shugborough, for the last ten years and claims the inscription on the Shepherd's Monument is linked to the treasure hidden by the Spanish Captain-General Ubilla. Without doubt, Lord Anson's large fortune was amassed from foreign gold.

Anson, one of Britain’s foremost admirals is favourably compared with Francis Drake after leading a fleet on a circumnavigation voyage in the 1740s, in which he captured the Spanish bullion ship Nuestra Señora de Cavadonga. 

The Capture of the Spanish Galleon 'Nuestra Señora de Covadonga', 20 April 1743
(John Cleveley, the younger, 1756 - Shugborough Estate collection)

A month after England had declared war on Spain the highly regarded Anson was selected to lead an expedition to attack Spanish holdings in the Pacific Ocean. In September 1740 Anson's ships sailed from England under orders to raid and plunder the Pacific coast of South America, attacking Panama and with the intention of capturing the annual galleon which carried treasure and goods between Mexico and the Philippines. In 1741 Anson is known to have stopped off at Juan Fernandez  in his ship HMS Centurion.

Anson succeeded in capturing the Manila treasure galleon 'Nuestra Señora de Covadonga' on its voyage from Acapulco in June 1743. The amount of treasure was enormous, said to value about £500,000. He arrived back at Portsmouth in June 1744, to receive wide acclaim and great personal wealth; no doubt some of the booty was used to enhance the Anson's ancestral home at Shugborough. It was around this time that the Shepherd's Monument was commissioned.

Edmunds argues that Anson’s elevated position as First Lord of the Admiralty during the Seven Years' War gave him access to state secrets from which he learnt of the Spanish treasure. In 1760 he launched a secret expedition to search for Ubilla's treasure but died before its recovery.

The Shepherd's Code
In his latest book 'Anson’s Gold and the Secrets to Captain Kidd’s Charts' Edmunds claims that decoding the Shepherd's Monument cipher proves Lord Anson's involvement in the search for the treasure explaining that this is why the Shepherd's Monument was constructed.
George Edmunds at Shugborough

Edmunds claims that the cipher contains the co-ordinates to the location of the Spanish treasure, consisting of more than 160 chests of gold, silver, and possibly even the relics from the Temple of Jerusalem, buried on a remote island in the south Pacific ocean, and he believes it is still there.

The trail for Ubilla's treasure goes cold after the death of Anson and Webb. However, in the 1950s an Italian Jorge di Giorgio heard about the Legend of Anson's Gold. He contacted a Chilean friend living in England named Tita Diaz who visited the Anson family home at Shugborough. Diaz is said to have found some old letters written in code in an old writing desk at Shugborough Hall.

Girogio could not make head nor tail of the letters but his mother Angelica Lyon was an expert in cryptograms and interpreted the letters as referring to the “Horseshoe Expedition” led by Captain Webb on the Unicorn, specifically sent by Lord Anson to the South Seas in 1760.

The letter states that, “adverse circumstances forced me [Webb] to bury the property of the crown in a new place and blow up the ship.” A piece of paper attached to this letter claimed it “arrived from Chile six months after my Lord [Anson] passed away.”

The second document referred to “the map of the bay 'Pascoy'  with many lines; one indicating a point on the coast where the answer can be found.” Written in the corner, “This map arrived from Chile fifteen months after my Lord passed away.

A third document refers to “Altitude Schuba I Depth Yellow Stone 1.

Giorgio was convinced that the second document referred to the place the directional instructions for finding the treasure where hidden. He was convinced it was Horcon to the north of Quintero. Realising he needed more funds to carry out the exploration he formed a Company with his friend Louis Cousino.

Cousino went out at night to search the beaches of Horcon. He eventually found a box containing a document written in the same key as the Shugborough letters found by Diaz. Again Angela Lyon de-coded the text. It was written by Cornelius Webb Captain of the Unicorn, and only survivor of the Horseshoe Expedition. Webb detailed the treasure, consisting of 864 bags of gold, 200 bars of gold, 21 barrels of precious stones and jewels, a gilded trunk and 160 chests of gold and silver coins which he transferred, providing longitude and latitude, to a new hiding place, seemingly 15 feet below a great yellow stone.

Giorgio and Cousino assembled a team to carry out a search on Juan Fernandez island. After finding nothing they returned to the mainland empty handed in 1952. Forty years later a wealthy American named Bernard Keiser began a search of the island for the so-called Anson's Gold but after a seven year investigation also failed to find the treasure.

 Keiser was looking in the wrong place, claims Edmunds, because he had made a fundamental translation error of the Latin in looking for the 'yellow rock' when this was in fact a reference to a significant star in a constellation for the second bearing. Edmunds and his then business partner offered to exchange information with Keiser but the American declined.

Edmunds believes that the so-called Anson's Gold will not be found on Juan Fernandez island, as the “horseshoe” (expedition) refers to another island in the Pacific where Webb relocated Ubilla's treasure; the co-ordinates given on the Shepherd's Monument at Shugborough.

Further reading:
Anson's Gold: and the Secret to Captain Kidd's Charts 
by George Edmunds
Filament Publishing, 2016

The Story of Admiral Lord Anson's Treasure

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