23 February 2018
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Searching for the Holy Grail?


Forget Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. Forget the Louvre Museum in Paris. If you're among the millions who have read Dan Brown's book 'The Da Vinci Code', you have probably also made some reflections on how the Holy Grail disappeared, virtually without a trace, after Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519. In that case I will now give you some hints and clues that you can begin to investigate. 

Let me first put on the table some facts Dan Brown missed in his book. Brown, and many with him, thinks of Florence, Rome and Paris as the cities da Vinci was linked to. Most people forget that he lived and worked in Milan for many years, and that it was precisely here he painted ‘The Last Supper’ that Dan Brown so strongly emphasizes in his evidence collection. 

Brown also does not mention that da Vinci for many years lived in the house of the Sforza family that ruled Milan at that time. But it is in this house the solution to the riddle lies. For it was here 42 year old Leonardo had the pleasure to live when a beautiful baby girl was born in 1494. Bona was the name she was given, and she and 'uncle Leonardo' had a lot of fun together while she grew up. But not just fun. Leonardo had great pleasure in sharing many of his thoughts and ideas with the wise little girl, so when she was a grown young lady of 20 she was quite well informed about many of ‘uncle Leonardo’s’ undertakings, not only in the public sphere but also in the secret. The future Grand Duchess of Lithuanian did, indeed, get a top education...

Deepest of all the secrets Leonardo shared with young Bona, was the story of the Holy Grail and the knowledge of Jesus' marriage to Mary Magdalene. When Leonardo reached his 60s and his health began to fail, he became increasingly concerned over what he should do with the Grail, which by then had been in his possession through two decades. The Milan area had for years been occupied by France, and the North Italian daily life was still strongly marked by war and strife, so Leonardo's concern was not without reason. He had got increasingly concerned that the Grail could come in wrong hands after his death.

It was then that the great idea arose. Leonardo was well aware that Europe's largest and leading nation at the time, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, was a country built on intelligence and peaceful coexistence between people of many nationalities and cultures, so in 1515, when he found out that the Lithuanian grand duke’s wife was deceased, he was not slow to contact his friends at the Holy Roman Empire to suggest that his young friend, Bona Sforza, should be married to the wise ruler of Lithuania and Poland, Grand Duke Sigismund. His idea was, if the plan succeeded, that he would use this connection for his own special purpose and secretly send the Holy Grail for safe custody in the Grand Duchy under the control of the new Italian-Lithuanian royal family. 

Leonardo's plan succeeded beyond all expectation, and already in 1517 Sigismund appeared in Milan to discuss a potential marriage with Bona Sforza. It soon became clear that the arranged marriage was acceptable to all parties, and Leonardo was thereafter not slow to share his idea and concerns with the prospective marriage couple. The idea was that the Grail should be 'camouflaged' as part of a book collection that would be transported to the Grand-Duke's Palace in Vilnius after da Vinci’s death.  Sigismund and Bona were married in 1518, and Leonardo died only a year later, in 1519. 

Sigismund the Old 
Sigismund the Old and Bona Sforza.

The scheme to move the Holy Grail to Vilnius went according to the plan, and the Grail was not long after incorporated as the secret key point in the library that was created in the Royal Palace. The library was based on a large amount of very valid books collected by Leonardo and Bona Sforza, all from the intellectual centres of those days in Italy and other European countries.

The royal couple then ruled successfully for many years over Lithuania and Poland from the palace in Vilnius, proudly aware that they were in possession of Christianity's top secret. When Sigismund died in 1548, widow Bona decided to share the secret with their son, Sigismund Augustus, who had succeeded his father as Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland. After the death of her husband, Bona herself moved to Masovia in east Poland. She stayed there for eight years and then moved to the city of Bari in southern Italy, where since her birth had carried the title ‘Duchess of Bari’

In 1558, a year after settling in Bari, Bona Sforza was poisoned by her trusted officer, Gian Lorenzo Pappacoda. He was acting on behalf of King Philip II of Spain, who wished to avoid repaying his sizable debts to the Grand Duchess. Bona Sforza was buried in a sarcophagus in the Cathedral of Bari. Her sarcophagus stands there, still today, as a sad but strong symbol of the close ties of that time between Italy and Lithuania.

Loyola and Jesuit Theologians
The founder of the Jesuit Order, Ignatius Loyola, sent
his leading theologians to Vilnius immediately after
having been contacted by Sigismund Augustus.

Eleven years after Bona's death, representatives of the Jesuit Religious Brothers came to Lithuania to establish their Order. The Brothers’ first and main task was to plan and build an educational institution of the highest level, and to move the library where the Holy Grail was hidden, from the Royal Palace to a safer place within the new institution, controlled by the Jesuits, Christianity’s leading brotherhood.

The background for this move by the Jesuits, was that Grand Duke Sigismund Augustus after the message of his mother's death reached him, had got into deep worries similar to those of Leonardo da Vinci 50 years earlier: How to best hide and protect the Holy Grail for the future?  An important element in his worries was that he was childless, and he had now to face the fact that he could be the last ruler of the world famous Jogailo Dynasty. No wonder he worried that the Grail could get into wrong hands when his reign and life came to its end.

In 1565 he had reached his conclusion; to share his big secret with the Jesuit Brotherhood that had grown to be one of the Roman Catholic Church’s leading movements during the mid 1500s. An open-minded, tolerant monarch and a loyal Roman Catholic, Sigismund had during his reign peacefully sought to counteract Martin Luther’s Reformation in Eastern Europe, and he concluded now that the Jesuits, who successfully preached the Counter Reformation, would be the perfect protectors of the Holy Grail after his death. The Jesuits organised their order along military lines and strongly represented the autocratic zeal of the period, characterised by careful selection, rigorous training, and iron discipline, so Sigismund was convinced they would be the right ones to protect the Grail against the Protestants or any military intruders.

It was with great force that the Brothers came to Vilnius by the end of the 1560s. They had access to large resources both from Vilnius and Rome, and had ahead of their arrival agreed with Sigismund to build an outstanding intellectual and spiritual teaching institution around the Holy Grail. The Grail was thus the beginning of the wonderful Vilnius University, which opened as a Jesuit College in 1570 and as a University in 1579.

Sigismund Augustas was only 50 years old in 1570, but it was already obvious that he didn’t have many years left to live. It was therefore essential to have the Holy Grail moved from the Royal Palace to a safe place where Lithuania's future rulers would not have access. With this in mind, in 1570, Sigismund gave the chapel next to the new college as a gift to the Jesuit Brothers. The Brothers then built, in record time, a bell tower that still today is the highest in Vilnius (at today’s Sts Johns’ Church). The tower was completed already in 1571, and the Holy Grail was immediately moved there from the Royal Palace. 

The rush proved to have been by virtue of necessity, for Sigismund died in the summer of 1572. The Grand Duke passed away knowing that the Grail was in safe hands, though he never got to see the University completed. Sigismund Augustus died childless and thus became the last ruler of the grand Jogailo Dynasty as well as of the Italian-Lithuanian dynasty that Leonardo da Vinci and the Holy Roman Empire had planned with so much energy earlier in the century.

File:Death of Sigismund Augustus at Knyszyn.JPG
The death of Grand Duke Sigismund Augustus in July 1572.

The story of the Holy Grail continued unabated after Sigismund’s death, with frequent communication between the Pope and the head of the Jesuit Brothers in Vilnius. And it was in a direct decree from the Pope that the chapel next to the new bell tower now was expanded to a glorious house of God and given the name Sts. Johns' Church. The name shows that the Catholic Church wanted the highest protection of the new church, the bell tower and, first of all, the Holy Grail. They therefore named and dedicated the new church, not to just one of the St. Johns, but to both John the Baptist and the Apostle John. It was the second time in Christianity’s history that something like this had happened. First time was when the Basilica of St. John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano), the first among the four major basilicas of Rome was built by Constantine the Great in the 4th century. This church is also the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, the Pope, and is thus known as Omnium urbis et orbis Ecclesiarum Mater et Caput: "Cathedral of Rome and of the World." The Holy Grail gave the Sts. Johns’ Church in Vilnius a similar glorious world value, thus the name.

In 1579, after just nine years of construction, the new university buildings were completed. And it was with great reverence the leading Jesuit Brothers that same year installed the library and within it hiding the Grail that Bona Sforza secretly had brought with her from Milan more than 50 years earlier.

And it is there, under the floor boards of the Vilnius University Library, that the Holy Grail has been safely hidden for 430 years now. The Jesuits have been extremely clever and careful not to share this tremendous secret with anybody. But now, dear readers of VilNews, also you know the truth.

Millions of people visited Louvre and the Rosslyn Chapel after Dan Brown's book was published seven years ago, and I wonder how many are going to visit Vilnius University this year, now that the truth about the Holy Grail is finally made public?

Aage Myhre

Here, under the floor boards of the Vilnius University Library, is where the Holy Grail was safely hidden
when the university opened in 1579. The Grail is located exactly beneath the centre (the top point) of
the library’s CROSS ARCH, which is typical and characteristic for the Jesuit Order’s Brotherhood.


PS: Please observe that the above article is pure fiction – though based on real historical facts.

Category : The world in Lithuania

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