From the Orders legacy, we can highlight the Exemplary Buildings, meaningful of a deep Hermetic knowledge, which goes back to the Hebrews. Amongst them, the Tabernacle was a portable sanctuary that they used in the desert after they “left Egypt”(1), (The first Temple was built later, by Solomon) (2). It’s worth noting that the dimensions and decoration of this Sanctuary mirror the Harmony and balance of the world as it emerged from the act wherein the Creator “called the foundations of earth and Heaven and ordered them to abide together, Fixed its dimensions, laid the pillars and placed the angular stone” (Job 38 5-7;Is 48,13).
Therefore, the special reality of the Tabernacle it’s the perfect crystallization of the Universal Order. With Shapes, proportions and fair dimensions in all its different parts, trying to keep, at least, symbolicall. The fundamental continuity between the Creation, as an imposition of an Harmonious order and peaceful to the “Chaotic” elements, and the knowledge of the divine science which allow to create harmonious relationships, both between men, and The Creator and its own children.
The Tabernacle foreshadows the Temple of Jerusalem, Built by Solomon and, also, the Christian Churches (3).
The Dome of the Rock
In The place where it seems to have stood the terrace of Solomon’s Temple, The Muslims erected, in 691 A.D., a reliquary. They called it “The Dome of the Rock”. It is also known as Omar Mosque. It is a master piece of beauty and elegance. Its architecture preserves on the whole, the line of the Byzantine constructions of the IV century. According to some masters of architecture, this monument is more of a reconstruction of earlier buildings than a work of Arab architecture. In fact, the ideas and geometric practices of the classical world were apprehended by the Arabs after they conquered culturally important cities, as Alexandria, centuries before.
The Dome of the Rock harbours a rock of extreme value for the three religions. The Jews believe that, it was there, the sacrifice altar of Solomon’s Temple and where Abraham was about to immolate Isaac (4). The Christians associate it with the episodes of the sellers in the Temple expulsion and other episodes of the life of Christ. The Muslims believe it to be the rock, from where Muhamad ascended to Heaven. There is an enormous interest in this relic, both from the Historical and symbolical point of view.
When, in 1099, Jerusalem was conquered by the Crusades, this reliquary was transformed in a church served by the Saint Agostino Canons (5). Besides the plan of the Dome of the rock, which is the 8th, doesn’t fit with the rectangular proportions of the Solomon’s Temple, The Crusades and the pilgrims, had already associated it to the Templum Domini, Or Temple of the Lord, and to the Solomon’s Temple. It was this Octagonal shape of the Dome of the Rock that, might have inspired the construction of the round, in Tomar’s castle, commonly known as “Charola” (6).
The First Stone
The construction of Tomar’s Castle, which was the headquarters of the Knights Templar, in Portugal, started on the 1st April 1160. Until 1564, The 1st of March was the beginning of the civil year (7). Its construction reflects, as we will try to demonstrate, the Hermetic knowledge of the Templars.
The inner fortified part of Tomar, mirrors the map of the sky, on the day the first stone was launched (Maurice Guinguand)
Amongst our ancestors the foundation of a city, didn’t happen as it does nowadays, where it happens due to the increase in number of residents and houses. A city was born at the moment of the allocated land’s consecration, which had been previously chosen according to precious rules. At That moment, a religious ritual was celebrated. As a rule, it’s location should be “revealed” by a divinity. According to N. V. Oliveira, Tomar’s Castle place of Construction “was selected through the geomantic practice of cast lots, as we can understand from King Dinis’ investigation. Even the city limits and its entrance and exit gates were ritually traced and marked. The new city should be a “celestial city” replica. It would be an act of impiety or manifest madness, to begin any construction, without obeying to these principles. It was, like this, that the foundation of Rome, occurred, based upon a heavenly model. According to M. Eliade, Nineveh, an Asian ancient city, in the surroundings of the actual Mosul, in Iraq, is, also a “heavenly city” replica.
The “Charola” (Circular barrel, vaulted aisle)
The Convent of Christ uses — by the master masons initiative or, under the command of their superiors — symbolic, pedagogical and mnemonic elements. Profane elements are only seen with an aesthetical or decorative function. But, to those, within the order, it was, for sure, a hermetic language with an educational and reminding function. Its origins might have had several influences. The rosicrucians seems to be the strongest. It shows itself in a strong way in the “charola” symbology and the trace of the walls. In all the complex, signals of regular exercise and of a reflection about certain level of knowledge, only accessible to through an internal journey, unveil themselves. We could designate them “initiatic”, in the sense that they permit a conscient interaction with the spiritual plans, though a process of human-divinisation. They reveal a transcendent knowledge, even for actual times, which goes much further than that way on thinking which puts the Creator “up there”, or “out of the world” and identifies the language of the confessional theology with Ptolemean cosmogony.
Charola (round) and the choir inserted in a double square (Silvia Leite)
We have seen that the layout of the “Charola”, has an octagonal base. The octagon is the mediating figure between the square and the circle. It shares, therefore, the symbolism of both geometric figures. If the square evoques harmony, the octagon represents the perfect manifestation of form and the balance of universal creation. As F. Marques Rodrigues reminds us, the Round sits on eight powerful pillars, which are formed, each one, by four columns: two of them support an arch; The other two, stronger, provide support to the Dome, topped by an eight-point star. Therefore, these pillars have thirty-two columns. The addition of these numbers (3+2), marks the number of Jesus’s sacred wounds. This number “5”, also represents, the four elements, which form our physical bodies plus the spirit which on them inhabits (forming the pentagram). The number eight appears in all the “charola” points (8).
Portugal, Tomar – Monument of Christ – Interior and altar of the “Charola” (circular barrel-vaulted aisle)
Now, the symbolism associated to the architecture of this temple doesn’t fit with the practice of the current cult, in which, by external and social acts, we search for communion with the divine (9). Positioning the “communion table “at the centre of the space counteracts the, so called “to the East”, in which the priest celebrates with his back turned to the public and is turned to the East. Where the Sun, as a Symbol of the Cosmic Christ, raises every day. It is the problem of those who express the relationship with the creator through mundane categories and taken in a literal sense, without understanding that the centre of all our being is part of the centre of the whole being; and that the centre of the whole being is in the centre of our being. The initiated, however, he understands that the Creator’s place(if it needs to be placed), is not so much “outside”, in the space, but, it is within one self, as we can read in the famous excerpt of the Saint Agostine “Confessions”(10,27): “ I loved you late! Because I saw that you were inside me and I was outside, and I looked for you outside”.
Portugal, Tomar – Monument of Christ – Arch of the entrance of the “Charola”
A brief reflection on this matter- and the “Charola” architecture- suggests, inevitably, the possibility of it reflecting the homology Heaven-Earth. These sacred places, which contribute to the gradual conscience ascending, are the product of concrete experiences. One of these places is referred in the dream of the Jacob’s ladder during the escape to Laban’s land (Genesis 28, 12-13: 16-19). The ladder, as the “Charola” benefits of the rich symbol of verticality. It is the perfect representation of the communication of a cognitive bidirectional afflux, between different levels of different realities-Where, included are the great intelligences which penetrate and sustain our world (10).
It is certain that the expression, “interior journey”, may suggest an ascension movement, but, in reality, it is a deep interiorization of ourselves. And, according, to our conception that Man is a micro-cosmos, it corresponds exactly to the cosmic life, on a smaller scale. And, therefore, the more distant in space, the more inwards in the Human conscience. It is the conscience focus which moves. In “tune”, with the other plans, as we said before. The several plans, or worlds, are conceived overlapping, like the steps on Jacob’s ladder, to facilitate the study. But that, doesn’t mean that there’s a special or geographic distance. The plans inter penetrate themselves, they are simultaneous, occupy the same space. So that, the journey happens without risks, it is necessary, naturally, personal discipline and institutional, perseverance, spirit of sacrifice, purity of intention; in one word: Service.
The Dome’s Ceiling
Let’s now discuss the double symbolism of the “charola’s” Dome, With the blue background and the golden stars, according to King Manuel I (1469-1521)(11).
In one hand, following the tradition, still followed by the Rosicrucians, the symbolism of the colour blue refers us to a hierophany of the Creator (12). The first think to be pointed out is, the action of the Supreme Being, Who the Indo-European ancestors, called Father (in Latin Pater and in other invocations Zeus Pater, etc.), is evocated in the splendour of the natural visible sky. In second place, the domed ceiling marks the physical sky (in Greek Ouranos, in Latin Coelum), showing that the “Heaven” where the creator is, it’s a distinct plan from the celestial Dome. The “Charola” is, therefore, the actual example of the “Mountain” — or iniciatic place (13).
We can, now, understand how the lay-out of the sets of towers and turrets, on the walls, may reveal more than simple solutions for the topographic accidents, and mark, at the same time, a co relation with the aspect of the sky on the 1st of March of 1160, which is the date in which the foundation stone was laid.
Portugal, Tomar - Monument of Christ - Thematic Crafts
If we recognise the possibility that the artistic engineering, structured rationally and functionally the building, The practicality of the location of the Templar Castle and of the Convent of Christ, etc., We can easily recognise, as well, the possibility that its constructors have related, with the synesthesia, an allegoric language , which easily refers the sensitive and material things to spiritual realities. But with the diachrony of times, the new sensitivities and new mundane tastes, we have lost the sense and meaning of the symbology, which as become as obscure as the Enigma of the Effigy of Thebes.
Translated by Angela M. B. S.
Rosacruz Magazine, nº 409, July-September, 2013
(1) Cf Max Heindel, Ancient and modern initiation, Rosicrucian Fellowship Portugal, Lisbon, 1999. Page 10. About the meaning of “Desert” and “leaving Egypt”, look into “Moses and the sea of reeds”, in "Rosacruz magazine", number 355, March 2000, page 17.
(2) Solomon erected his first Temple, on the fourth year of his Kingdom, according to the architectonic plan given by David, his father (Holly Bible, 1 Kings 6:1; 1 Cr 28:11-19). The construction work lasted seven years (1 Kings 6:37, 38). The Design was identical to the tabernacle but the areas were different, according with the symbology of the triple square. The first Temple was vandalised several times. Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia destroyed it in 586 BC. Its treasures could have been taken to Babylonia. This Episode began the, so called, “Babylonian Captivity”. After this, in 516 BC, King Herod ordained to rebuilt, on the same place, The second Temple, which was destroyed again, this time by Tito’s Roman troops, in 70 BC.. Today, what’s left of Herod Temple, is the Wailing Wall, used by the Orthodox Jews as a place of prayer.
(3) The dimensions of the desert sanctuary are vastly represented on Exodus 26, 15-30; 36, 20-34. The book of Kings records the area of construction: 1 Kings 6, 2-10; and also 2 Cr 3, 3-17. The Prophet Ezequiel equally gives great importance to the dimensions of the Temple, as we can verify, in chapters 40-42.
(4) Max Heindel, Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, 4th edition., Rosicrucian Fellowship Portugal, page 253.
(5) A little while longer, in 1187, Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and Syria, who distinguished himself on the III Cruzade (1138-1193), takes over Jerusalem again.
(6) The term “Charola”, normally used to designate this building, it’s incorrect, as it designates a semi-circular structure. The rectangular plan of the Solomon’s temple fits more easily with the lines of the El-Aqsa Mosque, located a little further south. It was Baldwin I, one of the fourth crusade chiefs, Emperor of Constantinople from 1204 to 1205, who transformed it into real Palace and renamed it “Solomon’s Palace”. The military and religious Templar Order was created at this time, built its monastery at the palace’s side. The vast domed room, known as The Templar’s weapon room, was used for military training.
(7) There is an incomplete inscription, in the interior of the tower house, which marks the here of its foundation: 1198, Era of Caesar, corresponds to 1160 AD. The difference between the two eras is 38 years. In Portugal, the Era of Caesar was substituted by the Christ’s Era in 1422.
(8) “The Symbolism of number 8” in "Rosicrucian Magazine" number 278, 1980, page 13. The symbolism of the number 32 is well represented by the double headed Eagle, which marks the balance of the Vital force reached by the candidate.
(9) The construction of the “High Choir”. Which adapts the “Primitive dignified sanctuary, able to receive the Graal”, to the rules of more recent cults, respects the rules of the double square tabernacle.
(10) The symbolism is identical to the Nordic cosmogony Yggdrasil tree, the pillar-axis which sustains the Celestial Dome and unifies the kingdom of Gods (Asgard) to the kingdom of death and primordia chaos (Hel). Cf. Max Heindel. Mystery of the great Operas, Rosicrucian Fellowship Portugal,1997, page 93; The metaphor of the incarnated God- The Christian field, in “Magazine Rosacruz”, numbers 383-384, from 2007
(11) King Joao II might have contributed to it to be created an aura of mysticism around King Manuel I. He offered him, whilst still Duque of Beja and Governor of the Order of Christ, a present which would become His personal insignia: The Armilar Sphere, attribute of Hermes Trimegistus. The three times great Mago. In an illuminated manuscript of the time, King Manuel I is Shown as King David, but now “Rex Pacificus Magnificatus Est”. This predestination lead to hime being treated as Magi King. Let’s look at “the Adoration of the Magi”, by an unknown artist, in the Torres Vedras municipal Museum, an the “Sao Bento retable”, by Gregorio Lopes, in the National Antique Art Museum.
(12) Max Heindel, Ancient and Modern Initiation, Rosicrucian Fellowship Portugal, Lisbon 1999, page 14.
(13) Cf Max Heindel, Rosicrucian Cosmo- Conception, Rosicrucian Fellowship Portugal, Lisbon 2005, page 135.
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Carreiras, Jose Albuquerque; I International colloquium-Cister, The Knights of Christ and the Order of the Temple (From The order of the Temple to the Order of Christ; The transition years), notes, 2012.
Carreiras, José Albuquerque; The Order of the Temple extinguishing, 2012.
Leite, Silvia; The Manuelin Art as a symbolic road; Caleidoscopio, 2005.
Guinguand, Maurice; The Templars gold-Gissors or Tomar? Bertrand, 1975.
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