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On the trail of the Priory of Sion in Altomonte

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Altomonte is a municipality in the province of Cosenza, located at the foot of Mount Pollino and on the edge of the fertile plain of Sibari.

A first settlement built further downstream with the toponym of Brahalla or Brachalla or, still Bragalla, from the medieval Latin “bracus” or “bagus” with the meaning of ford or swamp; as a barrier in the central space where the Gronde stream and the Esarus.
The territory of Altomonte was crossed, in various historical periods, by an articulated road system, called “Delle saline” or “Delle forgie” to more easily reach iron mines, rock salt, restoration works commissioned by Filippo di Sangineto, lord of Altomonte in the fourteenth century. For further information, I refer to the historical studies of Pietro De Leo Pietro Dalena and Attilio Vaccaro.

For the purposes of my research, the analysis of the church of San Giacomo is interesting, whose origin is attested by historians as Byzantine (9th century); it differs from it because it ends in the south; three non-semicircular apses but with rectangular endings, the result of a new renovation that is however ancient. The building stands as the polarity of the inhabited center and towards which its entrance opens (door of San Giacomo). In the Middle Ages the orientation of the churches responded to mystical needs: with apse facing east and entrance facing west, preferably along the line of the equinox; another custom was to consecrate the sacred place at dawn on Easter day.

Frieze placed on the sword of the statue

The church of San Giacomo di Altomonte has a north-south alignment attributable to the lunistice. On the entrance portal, albeit in Baroque style, you can see, at the bottom right and left, symbols known as the “Egyptian key” or “key of” life.

This symbology is to be connected to a Jewish community, in particular, Essene Christians who had their Giudecca right in this church, made up of the mercantile bourgeoisie who owned oil mills and mills (Platea di Cassano, edited by Attilio Vaccaro). Another confirmation is the San Lazzaro district, reported in a report relating to the Dominican convent of Altomonte, dated 1650 (Historical Archive of Crotone).

Essene Christians have particular devotion to Saint Mary Magdalene, considered as the “woman Christ” (Olivier Manitara, world representative of the Essene tradition and religion).

A marble slab whose inscription refers to the consecration of Santa Maria dei Franchi, considering it larger and higher up, compared to another, which, according to my hypothesis, must have arisen near the primitive inhabited nucleus further downstream, as mentioned previously; it could be a rock church in which Saint Mary Magdalene was already venerated, whose cult was also dear to the Essenes, as explained.

Inside the church of Santa Maria della Consolazione di Altomonte there is a marble monument of a young knight, of excellent workmanship, without inscriptions; cracks on the slab suggest a relocation from another place.

Not having documented references, I carried out an analysis on the symbols present on the clothing and on the sword of the anonymous soldier; I was thus able to reconstruct his identity, recognizing him as Erberto d’Orleans (Herberto de Aureliano) executioner of the land of Benevento in 1274, and he was later granted the land of Brachalla by Charles I of Angio’. A prestigious and highly responsible position, but not only; Michele Amari called him a “dark minister”. The symbols also revealed another aspect of Herbert to me, namely that he was an affiliate of the mysterious Priory of Sion. At this point it is necessary to make some considerations.

The Priory of Sion, according to some scholars, was born from a group of Calabrian monks, who arrived in the territories belonging to Goffredo di Buglione to found a monastery there. Historical documents transcribed and published by the French archivist Jacques Soyer in 1919 “Actes des souverains”, unequivocally confirm the foundation of the Order of Notre Dame du Mont Sion by Goffredo di Buglione in 1099 and its continuation in Saint Samon d ‘Orleans (from which Erberto comes); a Bull of 1178 by Alexander III confirmed all the properties in France, Sicily, Spain and Calabria. The environment in which the Priory of Sion was born is not only for the protection of pilgrims and holy places, but also for a mysterious research and knowledge that is transversal to the whole crucible of knowledge preserved in the East and of which the Templars represented the arm armed. Different currents of thought converged in the Order of the Sion; from the Essenes (children of the Light) to the Gnostic currents, which determined its true potential.

The presence, or rather, co-presence, of a high exponent of the Priory of Sion, such as Herbert of Orleans, must have been justified by the necessary protection of either important relics or ancient parchments, or by agreements with the local powerful, the Ruffos for example, with whom Herbert was in touch.

Other wide-ranging scenarios open up on the history of an ancient and varied territory like that of Altomonte. In-depth research is required in order to make a still little-known cultural heritage usable.

Frieze placed on the edge of the tomb

Bibliographic note:

F. Rende,Monografia storica della terra di Altomonte a cura di Pietro De Leo, Altomonte,1980

A. Vaccaro, Poteri e società “ in la Saracina”e nel suo circondario ( secc.X- XVII sec), Miscellanea di studi storici, Rubettino,2008

P.Dalena, Società,economia e istituzioni ad Altomonte tra Medioevo ed età moderna ,Galatina,1990

V.Ricci, Strategie insediative e patrimonio fondiario dei Templari in Capitanata durante il governo normanno-svevo, Roma,2017

I Registri della Cancelleria Angioina, vol. XXV, a cura di Jole Mazzini e Renata Orefice, Napoli,1978

J. Soyer,Actes des Souverains, Besancon,1919

F. Romagnoli, Histoire de la ville d’ Orleans, Orleans, 1830

F. Russo, Regesto Vaticano per la Calabria, Gesualdo, Roma, 1974

M. Amari, La guerra del Vespro, a cura di F. Giunta,Palermo, 1969

C. Colafemmina, Per la storia degli Ebrei in Calabria, Rubettino editore, Soveria Mannelli, 1996

Per un Atlante della Calabria, ed. Gangemi, Roma, 1980

Il sistema feudale nella Calabria medievale, Atti del Convegno, Cosenza,2004

F. Cardini, La tradizione templare, Valleceli, Firenze, 2007

H. Charles Puech, Sulle tracce della gnosi, a cura di Francesco Zambon, Adelchi, Milano, 1978

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