The story is by far not finished yet. After our departure from Monte S. Angelo we pay a blitz visit to Northern Puglia. Our first stop is Siponte, where we visit a beautiful white Longobardan church that just had been repaired, supported by Unesco. The church is famous because it was the Bishop of Siponte who was in the 4th century involved in the recognition of the apparition of Michael and the building of he Sanctuary on the mountain. Later on it was one of the points where the Templars embarked to cross the sea to the Holy Land. Above that it’s also a solstice church: at 21 July the sun shines through the central window straight into the church. Although the church is from a stunning beauty its energy doesn’t touch us so deeply as the other sanctuaries during our journey. To me it feels as if the ‘spirit of the place’ hasn’t survived the all too perfect restoration.
We travel through to Trani, a town where the Michaelsline touches land again after having traversed the sea starting from Monte Sant Angelo. The Cathedral of Trani is exceptional: it’s situated on a piazza on the seaside, with three churches on top of each other. A strong cold wind comes from the sea that prevents us from staying here very long. I have enough time, though, for a remarkable find. 35 years ago I was here, and made a picture of a sculpture next to the door: a lion with a human being between his legs. For years it has been hanging on my wall, without understanding its meaning. Writing ‘Queen of the Vatican I came closer, though. And now I find a mermaid behind the lion, with a being in her arms a creature that looks like a crocodile.
After having discussed the sculpture with some friends I have come to the hypothesis that the statue of the lion and the human person express the love between God (mediated by Christ) and Man. The crocodile could express the boundary (and its crossing) between the unconscious and the conscious, but also the whimsicality and the risk that goes with this crossing. I tend to see the entire sculpture as a message that we have to go through these boundaries in order to reach a state of divine love. And that would accord very well with all the instances right now where I have seen mermaids as guardians of the Gate of Heaven. But maybe it’s just my preoccupation…
We continue our journey in the direction of Castel del Monte, a huge octagonal castle on the top of a hill. You can see it from afar. And that was also the intention of its owner, emperor Frederick II, who commissioned its building in the 13th century. It was a display of his power over this part of his empire that he built from Sicily further eastwards. But it was never designed as a political power centre, but rather as a place from which spiritual power radiates in all directions. It’s built on an ancient sacred mountain, and – more significant still – it is completely constructed in accordance with the Golden Ratio.
Frederick II was at Sicily already famous for integrating Christianity with influences from Muslim wisdom cultures. Castel del Monte is a grandiose example of this. And it’s not only situated on a special hill, but also has a special connection with the waters. There is an underground river here, and in the heydays of the Castle there were also water containers on the eight towers. They brought the heavenly waters down to the rooms on the first floor where Frederick entertained his guests between the hunting parties held in the area around the castle, feet in the water. It’s a huge alchemical structure, unprecedented. Going around through the rooms we felt the strong energies here. We shouldn’t have missed it on our journey.
Still a little bit bedazzled we arrive at the B&B that we found through the Internet, Poggio Tafuri, an old farmhouse in the middle of the olive- and vine yards. We are welcomed by the owners, who make us a most tasteful meal with the vegetables from their garden. During our one-day stay here we discover a deep soul connection with the place and its owners: nothing happens by coincidence.The tiny village is not only an old Templars place, but is also laying on a straight energy line to Castel del Monte. Next day Cristina offers to guide us to another – unknown – Michaels cave nearby, close to the town of Minervino. It resembles the famous one that we visited in Monte S. Angelo, but it’s far more intact and it touches me far more deeply. The priest of the local Michael’s church is our guide here, what a gift, and what a privilege…
After descent along a long very ancient stair – again a walk of penitence – you reach the bottom of the cave, with a beautiful altar of Michael. From the stone formations it is clear that we are in a VERY ancient cave. What particularly strikes me are the four columns of an old Minerva temple, that has probably been here. In the Etrusco-Roman times Minerva was one of the shapes of the Earth Goddess, the protector also of the stonemasons. Again we find Michael in connection with the Goddess. And then, behind the altar, we find the masterpiece of the cave as far as I am concerned: a small natural baptismal font, made by the water that drops from the ceiling. To me it seems that the pilgrims were baptized here with the waters of Mother Earth. At our departure we have to promise that we come back, and – to tell you the truth – I can’t wait the day.