Giancarlo Gianazza interviewed by Massimo Bonasorte – Hera Magazine November 2006
The eradication of the Order of the Knights Templar, ordered by Rome and Phillip the Fair in 1307, caused a dramatic shift in the age’s political and economic balances. The Knights Templar were mercilessly exterminated, imprisoned, tortured or burnt at the stake. It was only a matter of time before the warrior monks became the ghosts of a world no more. Many now believed that all the followers of the most powerful monastic order of the Middle Ages had been done away with; in fact, a number of Knights had secretly joined other orders or fled the more dangerous areas, seeking refuge in countries such as Portugal or Scotland.
Not everyone realised that the chosen Knights – the guardians of the Order’s gnosis – had survived throughout the centuries, protected by their complete anonymity. But who were these Knights? What secrets were they guarding? Were they the keepers of the Holy Grail? And what had they found in the temple of Jerusalem? Most importantly, where did they hide their treasure? To solve the puzzle, we must consider that there may be an ulterior link between the frozen plains of Iceland and the most prominent men of science and art of the age: Dante, Botticelli, Raffaello and, more than anybody else, Leonardo Da Vinci.
Does it sound like the plot of some esoteric fiction movie? Quite the contrary. This is in fact the scenario that emerges from the discoveries of Giancarlo Gianazza. In his book I custodi del messaggio (The keepers of the message), written with Gianfranco Freguglia and published by Sperling & Kupfer, Mr Gianazza explains his stunning theory, according to which the greatest men of science and art of the Middle Ages were the keepers of a secret that they passed down as cleverly coded messages woven into their major works. A secret relating to the search for the Grail, which – according to Gianazza – was concealed in a 5x5m secret chamber by a group of Knights Templar in the heart of Iceland, with the permission of the local authorities.
But what does the Divine Comedy have to do with all this? Well, according to Gianazza, Dante’s masterpiece is a coded account of an actual trip the supreme poet made to Iceland, possibly in 1319. At the end of the Divine Comedy Dante stands before the so-called White Rose of the Blessed, where Beatrice sits. The image depicted in Dante’s verses is somehow factual, as it corresponds to a natural amphitheatre near the Jökulfall river. It would appear that during his final quest in Iceland, Dante did indeed find that natural amphitheatre and much more. Experts have established that the subsoil features where Dante located the secret chamber match this theory. Tests performed with state-of-the-art measuring, prospecting and tomography devices all point in the same direction. Finally, hidden in the profiles of the characters of Leonardo’s Last Supper is a map showing the course of the Jökulfall river. The map can be discovered only by correctly decoding the path along which Dante follows Matelda to Beatrice in the garden of Eden.
Gianazza’s fascinating arguments are explored in the following interview and open up a ground-breaking approach to the study of esoteric knowledge, not only in the Middle Ages but in other times as well.
What pushed you to undertake this quest?
It all began one time when I was looking at Botticelli’s Spring. I noticed there was a number code in the painting. At first I simply wanted to figure out the concealed number. After a month’s hard work I realised it was a date: March 14, 1319. My curiosity was roused – I wanted to learn what the date meant.
One thing was for sure: Botticelli wanted to communicate something. After five centuries, number decoding was making it possible to come into contact with the artist’s most secret thought. I wanted to understand why Botticelli did it, so I decoded other paintings of his and found consistent reference to Dante’s Divine Comedy. By then I knew I was on to something: Botticelli was saying, “I have painted what is coded into the Comedy.” So the next step was to decode Dante’s masterpiece. And thus my quest began.
What kind of code is it?
The first code I figured out in Botticelli’s Spring is digital, in its aboriginal meaning: numbers expressed using finger language. The code refers to the gestures the mediaeval monks used in order not to disturb meditation and break the Benedictine oath of silence. The monks would resort to this code whenever they needed to communicate for practical purposes. Since I had no access to the codes of the time, I had to proceed by trial and error. Not very scientific, but it paid off. Remember that if a person decides to pass down a coded message, he or she will use more than one means to ensure that anyone trying to decode the message can interpret it correctly. Well, Botticelli also used an astronomic code, as it were. He painted in the morning of that very day by depicting the relative angular positions of the seven planets known at the time.
That’s not all: the same date is in the Divine Comedy as well. Everyone agrees that in the first verses of Paradise Dante refers to a spring equinox. So far, however, nobody had realised that the planet that forges the human souls (v. 41-42) and is rising with the Sun during this equinox is Saturn. Now, Saturn is in conjunction with the Sun only once every thirty years, so the conjunction must have occurred in 1289, 1319 and 1349. Dante wrote the Divine Comedy between 1300 and 1321, so the date indicated in the first verses of Paradise must be March 14 1319.
This is the part of the Comedy in Botticelli’s Spring: we are still in the garden of Eden and after the last rite in Purgatory Dante is pure and ready to rise to the stars.
Are there any astronomic correspondences in the Divine Comedy?
Certainly. For instance, Dante’s date of birth is concealed in two tercets (v. 112-117) of canto XXII of Paradise, which includes tenth-of-degree accurate reference to the position of the planets on June 13 1265.
But the issue is another one. Why did Dante choose to conceal his birthday in his greatest work and not simply state it directly? I believe he wanted us to discover it, because – in my opinion – he wanted to provide the clues to understand his code. Once you’ve figured out his birthday you have the key to the structure of the entire code used to conceal much more significant information.
Are there space indications as well as time indications?
The time indications have been cleverly coded into the work. They allow the accurate marking of a specific moment regardless of varying calendar customs. A similar criterion was used to indicate geographic distances – a criterion that relies on universal parameters and not on local measurement units. The method used refers to longitude and latitude. As regards the former, the meridian of reference is the one passing through Jerusalem; as regards the latter, the parameters are exactly the same as ours: the Equator and the Arctic circle.
Where does Leonardo come into play?
After a year spent working on Botticelli and Dante I realised that they could not have been alone in all of this. To substantiate my findings I needed further evidence, particularly in works of pictorial art. Since Leonardo, as a boy, had worked in Verrocchio’s studio – the same as Botticelli – it seemed plausible that Leonardo might have received the same up-bringing and partaken of the knowledge of the Divine Comedy. And indeed, Leonardo’s paintings feature the same type of code used in Botticelli’s works.
Tell us more about the anomalies in the Last Supper.
The bread that Jesus indicates with his left hand is not made in accordance with Hebrew dictates. It is a loaf, whereas a table laid for Passover should have unleavened bread on it – the type of bread eaten by the Jews during the eight days of celebration of their passage from slavery to freedom, their Exodus from Egypt under Moses’ guide.
How can Leonardo have made such a mistake in his most important work? Is it really a mistake? Or is there more to it?
There’s no questioning Leonardo’s extreme care for detail; therefore, I don’t believe he made a chance mistake – in fact, I think the “mistake” is there on purpose to provide the discerning observer with a very specific clue. Leonardo wanted to draw attention to the bread; in it, he concealed three indications. These indications, decoded on a cartographic basis, show three European locations: the Greek island of Kythira, Mount Cardou (France) and a place in the heart of Iceland. Using unleavened bread, which is flat, this would not have been possible.
The interesting thing is that the ratio of the distances – expressed in degrees – between Mount Cardou and Jerusalem and between Iceland and Mount Cardou is such that you can indicate the position of these locations with two adjacent squares the sides of which are in a two-to-three ratio. These two adjacent squares are the summation of a secret: the exact position of the location in Iceland in relation to Jerusalem. I have noticed these patterns in many of Leonardo’s paintings.
Where does Iceland fit into the code?
The message coded into the Divine Comedy tells us that Dante himself went to Iceland. If you think it sounds strange, remember that there is documented evidence that pilgrimages from Iceland to Rome and the Holy Land were taking place as early as the 12th century, so there is no reason why Dante should not have made the journey the other way. And Dante did indeed visit Iceland, probably in 1319.
The description of the journey is coded into canto XXVII of the Purgatory. Here, Dante passes through Luni, Sarzana, the Stura Valley and Colle della Maddalena; he enters the territories of the French king at Macon, passes through Reims and Amiens, boards a ship at Strouanne and arrives in Dover, carries on to Stirling Castle in Scotland and then to Iverness, where he boards a boat to the Shetland Islands and finally to Iceland.
When he eventually reaches the amphitheatre of the White Rose of the Blessed, he observes it “as a pilgrim redeeming himself as he beholds the temple he has pledged to visit.” Dante is referring to the natural amphitheatre near the Jökulfall river. In the amphitheatre there is a very particular stone, shaped just like a throne – the seat of Beatrice. In another tercet Dante tells us that about 20 m behind the stone there is a secret chamber: the Temple.
If your theory turns out to be correct, it will be an amazing discovery. How is the on-field research going?
Last year I located the area Dante indicated – a 13x13m (1" longitude) square. This year we worked on the prospecting. In July I went to Iceland with two geophysicists, Gianfranco Morelli from Livorno and Douglas LaBrecque from Nevada, and a geologist, Mario Ferguglia from Turin. Together we carried out georadar and electric tomography measurements. The data show that the area presents an anomaly matching my theory. Hopefully the Icelandic authorities will allow me to carry on with the excavations.
And there’s more. The Icelandic authorities have put me in touch with Thorarinn Thorarinsson, the president of the Icelandic order of architects and an expert of local history. Mr Thorarinsson has provided me with a further, very mysterious element. He has told me that in the official historic records of Iceland it is stated that in 1217, during the meeting of the Althing – the Parliament established in 930 – the leader and poet Snorri Sturlusson appears next to what the text defines “80 knights from the south, all dressed and armed in the same fashion” and is elected as commander for that year. Nowhere else in Icelandic history is there such a unique event. It is a sheer anomaly. Historians do not know who these “knights from the south” are, nor do they know what their role was in the election of Sturlusson. When I got in touch with Mr Thorarinsson, telling him that something had been hidden in the heart of Iceland in the 13th century, the link with the Knights Templar was immediate. I am convinced that in 1217 a group of Knights Templar travelled to Iceland and backed the election of Sturlusson in exchange for his support in the building of a secret chamber to be filled over the years with sacred books and objects from the Temple of Jerusalem.
I believe that the chronological journey matches that described by Leonardo, where the “treasure” is found by the knights around 1125, partly in Jerusalem and partly in Citera (Kythira), transferred to France and finally hidden in the underground chamber in Iceland, little more than a century later.
Where does Raffaello fit in?
I believe Raffaello was involved by Bramante. Leonardo coded much information into the Last Supper but must have realised that his work could be jeopardised and his message lost because of the terrible flood that struck Milan in 1500. My theory is that Leonardo expressed his worries to his friend Bramante, who may have suggested to Leonardo to give him his codes so that he could pass them on to others; this way, the message and the codes could survive throughout the centuries. So with the help of Bramante, Raffaello coded all the information into the frescos of the Stanza della Segnatura. The twelve paintings can be read on the basis of a single underlying theme: the Divine Comedy.
What is the link between Leonardo, Iceland and cartography?
Canto XXXIII of the Purgatory reads: “Dorme lo ‘ngegno tuo, se non estima / per singular cagione essere eccelsa/ lei tanto e sì travolta ne la cima” (Thy reason slumbers, if it deem this height and summit thus inverted of the plant without due cause, trans. by Rev. H. F. Cary). It appears that Dante is talking about the part of the plant in Eden. A plant with an unusual shape. He describes how the plant opens up at the top and is slit across the summit. Now, if we read the original tercets literally and not allegorically, the verses take on an entirely different meaning. I asked myself what kind of plant could have its “height and summit thus inverted.” If we use a cartographic code, we can see that the expression “eccelsa lei tanto” (literally, “so extraordinarily high”) refers to a place at a very high latitude. The numbers of the verse (66) and of the canto (33) correspond to the latitude of the Arctic circle (66°33’). Now, what is that place “so extraordinarily high”, i.e. so far north, and “thus inverted” near the Arctic circle? It can only be Iceland, which opens up to the north with two peninsulae and is precisely touched on the eastern one by the Arctic circle.
But why Iceland?
For two reasons: first, Iceland was the most distant land known in Dante’s time. It must have seemed like the perfect hiding place. Second, among the nine Knights Templar who made the discovery at the Temple of Jerusalem there was a member of the Sinclair family, of Scottish descent. The family owned the Orkney Islands, from which one could sail to Iceland in a matter of days. It seems reasonable to assume that the Sinclair family chose Iceland as the stronghold of the Jerusalem discoveries.
So what is the actual link between Dante and the Knights Templar?
After the Knights Templar’s downfall in 1307, brought by Rome and Phillip the Fair, admitting to being a part of the order was out of the question. Nevertheless, the gnosis and the secrets of the knights lived on. Many knights survived and joined other orders; many fled to Portugal and Scotland; others built up secret organisations. I believe there was also a secret elite above the Knights Templar that the repression failed to eradicate. I am convinced Dante belonged to this elite. There is a very interesting book by Robert John called Dante templare, in which the author points out the parts of the Divine Comedy where Dante shows his appreciation for the Order of the Knights Templar.
So you believe there was a sort of handover between Dante, Botticelli, Leonardo and Raffaello. When and how did this end?
I have managed to single out and document the passing down of this knowledge all the way to Raffaello. I cannot yet say whether it was ever passed down again. The book I have written with Gianfranco Freguglia suggests that the passing down may have ended with Raffaello simply because he died in 1520, only one year after Leonardo. Perhaps Raffaello never had the time to find a successor. I would like to point out, therefore, that the information decoded thus far dates up to 1520.
What has happened in Iceland since then I do not know. I do not know if the secret chamber with the Jerusalem findings has been broken into and destroyed. I believe it is still intact. The secret chamber may have resisted so long because the location is snowed under for most of the year and even today offers outstanding natural protection.