Secrets of the Cathedrals

What Does the Strange Mix of Christian and Masonic Symbolism Mean?

The Gothic cathedral architecture originated in France in the early twelfth century during the heyday of the Knights Templar. The Templars officially called the ‘Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon’ formed a knight’s order of priests who ostensibly protected the pilgrimage routes to Jerusalem.

Founded in 1118 by Hugo de Payens the order originally included nine brave knight-priests. The group eventual­ly became one of the richest and most powerful in history. With the vast wealth, collected from financing the cru­sades, the templars were able to build Europe’s gothic cathedrals. With twin towers facing west, the cathedrals resem­ble the Temple of Solomon with its two pillars Jachin and Boaz standing in front. This explains why in many cases a statue of Solomon is placed at the West portal of the French cathedrals between the twin towers.

Much has been written about the mysteries of the French Gothic cathedrals and the sacred geometry employed in their architecture. One famous book, Le Mystère des Cathédrales was written in 1929 by Fulcanelli (1839 – 1953), the mysterious French alchemist. According to Fulcanelli a cathedral is an alchemical book written in stone.

The End of Time

Upon entering a French cathedral, the visitor is immediately confronted with ‘The Last Judgment’ displayed at the tympanum (mural) above the entrance. In the tympanum Jesus is surrounded by the four beasts of the Apocalypse. These four beasts are mentioned in John’s Revelations and by Old Testament prophets and have been equated with the four apostles of the four canonical books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They also have an astrological significance. The beast with the human face correlates with Aquarius (Matthew), the lion with Leo (Mark), the ox with Taurus (Luke) and the eagle with Aquila (John). The sign Aquila is often replaced by Scorpio in ancient zodiacs.

In Christian art Christ is often portrayed inside a Vesica Pisces along with these four zodiac signs and surrounding his head is a halo resembling the Sun. The cross in the halo in reality could therefore be a reference to these four signs of the Apocalypse, since Taurus, Aquarius, Scorpio and Leo together form a perfect cross in the zodiac.

Chartres Notre Dame Cathedral

One of the oldest French Gothic cathedrals is Chartres, which is aligned to the summer solstice. On that day the Sun shines through the window of ‘Saint Apollinaire,’ with a depiction of the Roman sun god Apollo, and its rays fall straight on an iron nail in the floor.

Strangely, within the cathedral can be found a zodiac—peculiar since in Christian tradition, astrology is regarded as pagan. Moreover, this zodiac seems to be saying something extraordinary. First the cross connects the four signs Taurus, Aquarius, Scorpio and Leo. As in the ‘Last Judgment’ this zodiac cross seems to emphasize the importance of these four signs and presumably must be associated with ‘The End Times’ as well.

The reason might be that these four signs rise heliacally (before the sun) during a Great Celestial Conjunction at the solstices and/or equinoxes. They are thus symbols of the true Galactic Cross determined by the places in the zodi­ac where the ecliptic and the Milky Way cross. The importance of the Great Celestial Conjunction of 2012 is that it marks the event after 6480 years when the equinox and solstice axis of the zodiac cross merge again with the Galactic Cross. This is when the 26,000-year precession cycle will be concluded and a new cycle will commence. This is what in John’s Revelations has been called ‘The End Times’. (For more on this see “Rosslyn Chapel & 2012” in A.R. #71)

The next thing that attracts one’s attention in the Chartres zodiac are the two semicircles intersecting to form a Vesica Pisces. The Vesica Pisces is an important ancient symbol, later adopted by Christians to represent Christ. When vertically depicted, the Vesica Pisces once represented the vagina of the goddess mother and as such was asso­ciated with fertility and birth. Christ is often depicted inside the Vesica Pisces in a vertical position as in the ‘Last Judgment’ of the tympanum above the West Royal Portal of Chartres cathedral. This symbolism therefore refers to the rebirth or Second Coming of Christ at the ‘End of Time.’

When the Vesica Pisces in the zodiac of Chartres is carefully inspected, something even more interesting is re­vealed. Its intersection aligns with the zodiac’s Pisces-Virgo axis, hinting that it should be associated with these signs. Esoterically, the astrological significance is that Pisces stands for Christ (the fisherman) while Virgo stands for Mary (the virgin mother). It was the virgin mother Mary (Virgo) who gave birth (Vesica Pisces) to Christ (Pisces).

Great Celestial Conjunction

Astronomically, there is only one rebirth taking place in Pisces around the year 2012 and that’s the rebirth of the Sun in the precession cycle on the Galactic Cross. This moment denotes the start of a new precession cycle. Could it be that the Chartres zodiac was meant to denote this astronomical event?

In the years of the Great Celestial Conjunction (1978-2017) the 5° Pisces – 5° Virgo axis of the Galactic Cross will align with the equinoxes, while the 5° Gemini – 5° Sagittarius axis (sidereal zodiac) of the Galactic Cross will align with the solstices. The Galactic Cross therefore occurs in the Chartres zodiac and is defined by the Vesica Pisces.

The cross—Taurus, Aquarius, Scorpio Leo—cross corresponds in addition with the cardinal directions. If this cross is interpreted this way interesting new insights come to light. The Sun depicted in the upper-right corner of the zodiac is now situated in the northeast at the place where the Sun rises during the summer solstice.

The symbolism used here suggests that the Christian doctrine of the ‘End Times’ is not about the rebirth of Christ at all, but actually about the rebirth of the Sun. This could be why Jesus is placed inside the vertical Vesica Pisces sur­rounded by the four beasts of the End Times in the ‘Last Judgment’ in the first place.

Black Madonna

Are there more reasons to suspect that the biblical ‘End Times’ in reality is about the rebirth of the Sun? There is actually a very convincing clue left in Chartres dealing again with the very same symbol, the Vesica Pisces.

Chartres cathedral is well known for its Black Madonna veneration. The Black Madonna however has nothing to do with Mary. In reality she represents the pagan Egyptian mother goddess Isis. In her arms she’s therefore not hold­ing Jesus but the immaculate conceived son, the sun god Horus. Isis like Mary was a virgin who gave birth to a son on December 25. This is exactly four days after the winter solstice, the moment of the rebirth of the Sun in the annu­al cycle after the Sun has ‘died’ on the cross of the zodiac at the winter solstice day.

In the Freemason’s Tracing Board Mary’s Immaculate Conception is depicted. She’s placed inside a Vesica Pisces in between the two pillars of the temple of Solomon with the All Seeing Eye of Horus watching over her. The mean­ing is that the birth of Christ in reality is mimicking the birth of Horus, the Egyptian Sun God.

Notice that the ‘virgin Mary’ in Chartres is placed on a pillar in a Vesica Pisces shaped cavity. The origin of this custom, to place the virgin mother on a pillar, in Christian traditions stems from the legend of ‘Our Lady on the Pil­lar’—the appearance of the virgin mother to the apostle James in the early days of Christianity on top of a column or pillar carried by angels.

In Masonic tradition this pillar however represents the Milky Way. The symbolism of placing the Black Madonna with Jesus on a pillar must therefore be equated with the Sun (Horus) on the Milky Way. The Sun will be at the Milky Way at the ‘End of Time’ during the summer and winter solstice of 2012.

Zodiac Window

In the ambulatory a stained glass window contains the twelve signs of the zodiac. On top is a four leaf clover, rep­resenting a form of cross, Christ is shown between the Greek letters alpha and omega. In Christianity Christ’s birth is represented by the letter alpha and his Second Coming at the ‘End of Time’ with the letter omega. The letters alpha and omega in this zodiac are therefore most likely representing the beginning and end of the precession cycle. The Great Celestial Conjunction of 2012 will be the alpha and omega point in the precession cycle, the moment when one cycle ends and another begins.

The four signs (Leo, Taurus, Aquarius, Scorpio) associated with the Galactic Cross appear similarly to Christ in a four-leafed clover. All of the other ‘regular’ zodiac signs are depicted in ordinary circles. There is however one seem­ing error in this zodiac. Taurus of the Galactic Cross (Aquarius, Scorpio, Leo and Taurus) has been deliberately re­placed by the sign Gemini. The summer solstice of June 21 takes place during the last day of Gemini (May 22 – June 21). By exchanging Taurus with Gemini, whereas Gemini must be associated with the summer solstice Sun, the sum­mer solstice Sun is placed on the Galactic Cross. The summer solstice Sun at June 21, 2012 will reside in Gemini at the Galactic Cross where the ecliptic and the Milky Way cross.

So this zodiac window in Chartres is clearly a reference to the summer solstice Galactic Alignment of 2012, the Great Celestial Conjunction of 2012.

Cross Rib Vaults

In my Rosslyn Chapel article published in Atlantis Rising (#71, August, 2008) I argued that the architecture of Rosslyn Chapel contains a secret message concerning 2012. This secret in my opinion is the best kept secret by the highest degrees in Scottish Freemasonry, the Royal Arch which has connected its name with this secret. The 2012 message has been cunningly embedded in the architecture by using cross symbols in the arches and cross rib vaults. These arches are not only found in Rosslyn Chapel but in most of the Gothic cathedrals as well.

The ground plan of a Gothic cathedral is a cross. This cross comprises a nave in the East-West direction (aligned to the solstice Sun) that is bisected by the transept that is perpendicular to the axis of the nave. From a bird’s eye view the cathedral forms a huge cross aligned to the solstice Sun.

The vaults of the Gothic cathedrals are for the most part four-pointed cross rib vaults with the exception of the vaults of the apse that form a semicircle. The only exception to the four pointed cross rib vaults is the eight pointed cross rib vault of the Crossing. The Crossing is the heart of the cathedral where the nave and the transept intersect.

On top of the Crossing in most cases a tower is placed. This tower is shaped in the form of an octagon like in the cathedral of Coutances en Conques (France). Other examples are the cathedrals of Amiens, Auxerre, Laon, Rouen, Senlis en Toulouse that have eight-pointed cross rib vaults at the Crossing of the cathedral.

An interesting detail is that the four main pillars on which the vaults of the Crossing rest are named after the Four Evangelists. The Four Evangelists as mentioned before represent the four signs of the zodiac, Taurus, Aquarius, Scorpio and Leo.

It is important to realize that the eight-pointed cross is at the heart of the cathedral. It is the only eight-pointed cross in the cathedral since the rest of the vaults are four-pointed crosses. In my opinion the four- and eight-pointed crosses of the cross rib vaults that are part of the design of the cathedral have been intentionally introduced to leave a message about the End of Time. The ground plan of the cathedral, in the shape of a huge cross, has thus, most likely, very little to do with the cross of Christ. It is far more likely that this cross represents the zodiac cross which explains why the cathedrals are aligned to the solstices.

The Notre Dame of Amiens, just like the Notre Dames of Rouen and Paris are aligned to the winter solstice. The axis of the cathedral runs from northwest (azimuth 295°) to southeast (azimuth 115°). The azimuth of 115° of the ca­thedral corresponds exactly with the azimuth of the sunrise at the old Celtic New Year’s Day Samhain (Halloween’s day) at 9-10 November.

The angle that the length axis of the cathedral makes with the east-west cardinal axis is 25°. Due to this angle the Sun at the summer solstice will reside exactly one hour before sunset at azimuth 295° (270° for the West + 25°). This means that the Sun is facing the west portal of the cathedral to shed its last light on the ‘Last Judgment’ in the tym­panum. The setting Sun symbolizes the ending of an era, the ‘End of Time’.

In the nave of the cathedral an octagonal labyrinth is situated so that during summer solstices it aligns with the setting Sun along with the ‘Last Judgment’. In the center of this labyrinth is an octagon with two different crosses in­side.

The first cross is formed by four angels, the second cross by four human figures among them the king, the local bishop and the architect of the cathedral.

The cross of the angels aligns with the cardinal directions and hence with the equinox axis. The intriguing fact about the octagonal labyrinth is that it aligns to the equinox (cardinal directions) and the solstice axis (with an accu­racy < 2,5°) at the same time.

It’s of course no coincidence that the summer solstice evening Sun aligns exactly with both the ‘Last Judgment’ and this labyrinth. In my opinion the message of this labyrinth with its eight pointed cross consisting of two separate crosses is that it is a reference to the Great Celestial Conjunction (Smelyakov/Wicherink 2006) of 2012 when the zo­diac cross after 6480 years aligns again with the Galactic Cross. This moment corresponds with ‘The End of Time’.

On top of the apse of the cathedral de Notre Dame de Paris an eight pointed cross is aligned to winter solstice sun­rise since the cathedral has an azimuth of 115° (South East).

This is not unique for the Notre Dame de Paris since most cathedrals and churches have similar crosses placed on top of the apse, hence the cross symbolism is not restricted to cathedrals. At the spire of virtually every church a weather vane in the shape of an eight-pointed cross to denote the ‘cardinal’ directions is placed. However it is com­pletely impossible to tell the direction of the wind by means of this cross. There are two reasons. The first is that this cross is placed vertically and not horizontally so it is not aligned to the cardinal directions at all. The cross is placed perpendicular to the length axis of the church and in case the church (or cathedral) is aligned to the solstice (which is often the case), it means that this cross is aligned to the solstice Sun instead of to the cardinal directions, albeit in vertical position.

Since the function of the weather vane can’t possibly be to tell the direction of the wind, it can only have a (Ma­sonic) symbolic and/or esoteric significance.

In conclusion, the French Gothic cathedrals bear an astrological message about the End Times of the New Testa­ment. As has been demonstrated here, the biblical End Times is the equivalent of the Great Celestial Conjunction around 2012. The Second Coming of the Redeemer at the End of Time must therefore be interpreted symbolically as the rebirth of the Sun at the ‘End of Time’ heralding a new age.

By Jan Wicherink

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