Dr. Trevelyan's Da Vinci Conversation

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Priory of Finchelsea XXVI

'This is Llandaff,' Sir Richard Arcos waved his arms about, scaring off the attendant who had been meaning to show them around.

'Genuine Early English spendour...' Sir Teabag drooled over the nave.

'Nope,' Sir Richard laughed. 'Most of it's a fake. Remember that big tower with the spire outside?'

'The new one?' Dr. Barton volunteered.

'It fell on the nave back in the eighteenth century. Most of what you see here is no earlier than the 1870s.' Sir Richard strode up the centre aisle, between modern chairs, replacements for pews that got a bit bent after the Germans bombed the cathedral in the war. it was probably a mistake, as the cathedral can barely be seen from the ground, let alone the air. In common with all the Welsh cathedrals apart from St. David's, it could be mistaken for a large parish Church (on second thoughts, St. Asaph could be mistaken for an ordinary Parish Church).

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Priory of Finchelsea, XXV

Llandaff Cathedral, the Cathedral Church of Cardiff, is located in the little village of Llandaff, just outside the Welsh capital. During its long history it has suffered the ravanges of Owain Glyndwr, the elements, and the Luftwaffe, who dropped a number of bombs on it during the Second World War. Still, it is a majestic structure, if rather tiny for a cathedral (in this it is typical of Welsh Cathedrals, all of which are kind of tiny).
Lil Barton rather liked it. The mismatched towers on the West front, one in genuine 15th century Perpendicular Gothic, the other in the ornate and fanciful Victorian Gothic of J.P. Seddon, a somewhat eccentric Welsh architect who believed that the creation of his own personal version of Gothic was far more authentic than the mere aping of medieval styles. He had a point.
The party entered the cathedral through the great west door. Although it was the middle of the day, that cathedral was almost deserted, just a young man sitting at the souvenir desk reading an uplifting book in Welsh. Sumner looked around, an expression of senile satisfaction on his face.
"Aha!" he exclaimed. "Here we are! Look around! Centuries of history look down on us!"
Lil thought that what actually looked down on her was Epstein's 'Christ in Majesty', which she hated.
"Any reason we're in Cardiff? she asked suspiciously.
"The Priory of Finchelsea has a long connection with Cardiff. And wait until you see the Lady Chapel!"
"I can hardly wait," Lil muttered sarcastically under her breath. Arcos poked her.
"Do I detect unhappiness in your sweet voice, Lilian?"
"Sure. But Okay, I'll follow you."
She did, wishing she was somewhere else - like in her own garden at home.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Priory of Finchelsea, XXIV

Sir Richard Arcos' private jet soared through the Welsh skies, headed for Cardiff. Lil was very glad to be sitting up front with him, acting as copilot, not sitting in the back listening to Sir Teabag Sumner being a bore.
"Cardiff in early summer," Sir Richard mused. "when the streets are full of jolly Welsh folk, when students are sunbathing in the parks..."
"I wish I was," Lil sighed.
"Where is your sense of adventure, lass?"
"Sorry, I just prefer to be the one doing the chasing. Look, we are trying to clear my name, aren't we?"
"That's the general idea, yes. I wish we had your 'plane, lass, it's so much more impressive than this one."
"It is," Lil agreed. "But it's parked in a private hangar in Norfolk, and it would take too long to go and get it. Besides, yours is a pretty impressive 'plane too."
"But of course. Only mine can't land on a sixpence, while yours can."
"On a dime," she corrected him.
"On a dime then, dear lady. Aha! The spire of Llandaff!"
Lil looked and saw the form of the Cathedral church of Cardiff gleaming in the sun. Another stage in the journey, she thought, hopefully the place where she would be cleared.

The Priory of Finchelsea, XXIII

"There were many teachings that were well known in early Christianity that were quickly obscured by traditions," Sumner went on. "Some of these were, however, preserved by groups which the church declared to be heretics. Some have posited that one of these facts is that Jesus was married, possibly to Mar Magdalene. Note, please, that the letter 'M' often appears on grail-related objects. Because of this, I have tried to correlate these objects that the Priory of Finchelsea. That is why we shall be flying to Cardiff today."
"Flying?" Lil asked. Arcos nodded
"Well, of course. I have a private jet standing by at London City airport, and a friend has filed a flightplan."
"Can we trust the pilot?" Kathy asked, understandably worried.
"I trust the pilot implicitly, lass. He's me. Lil, do you still have your pilot's licence?"
"Do you think I'd give it up?"
"No, I suppose not. Good, that means you can be co-pilot, and we'll leave Kathy to be vitimized by Sir Teabag. All right, my brave lads and lasses, the Rolls is waiting outside, and the sun is shining in Cardiff."
Lil was overjoyed to hear that they were going somewhere.

Barsabbas sat in his spartan room which was decorated only with Norwich City flags and cheap Roman Catholic trinkets purchased at the local SPCK. He had just finished torturing himself with electricity, and felt nearly satisfied.
He was about to flagellate himself for the sin of presumption when his mobile rang. The deranged monk picked it up and saw that it was the Teacher.
"News, Barsabbas! Our target is going to Cardiff. You must go there too."
Barsabbas smiled. He was going to Cardiff!
"Master, who is playing?"
"Fool! Idiot! She is NOT going there for the football! Don't you see, the Hearthstone must be there!"
Barsabbas' heart leaped.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Priory of Finchelsea, XXIII

"The Priory of Finchelsea," Sir Teabag Sumner intoned, "was founded in 1067 by a group of nobles in a small village outside London, for the purposes of concealing a number of deep, dark secrets. Fortunately for us, I know of their existence through my reasearch of decades into the Holy Grail," the elderly knight/historian tittered in a senile manner.
"The Holy Grail?" Kathy, who had just entered, asked.
"It's in a bank vault in Aberystwyth," Lil told her firmly. "I know because Arcos and I stopped the Mad Monk of Maes-y-Neuadd from stealing it a couple of years back. Despite being assisted by a giant moth, the Mad Monk totally understimated us, and we were able to bring him to justice. Oh, we've had some fun, haven't we, Lil?"
"Great fun," Lil agreed. "Sir Teabag?"
"I was going to say that the Holy Grail is really a symbol of the divine feminine, but you two just said it isn't." Sumner sounded confused.
"I know," Lil grinned. "We do that sort of thing. Just go on with what you were saying."
"I don't think I can. Well, anyway, have a look at this." he took a picture out of a drawer and showed it to Lil. She smiled as she recognised it.
"That's Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper!"
"Exactly. And tell me what you see."
"A very decayed piece of Renaissance art?" Lil suggested.
"What does the picture show?"
"A group of lepers?" Arcos suggested, much to his friend's annoyance.
"Christ and the twelve Apostles," Lil decided to be sensible.
"So what about this one!"
"That's the Apostle John," Lil was unimpressed. "It was conventional to show him as a young man -because he was the last of the Apostles to die. That's why he's got no beard. And if you're going to ask me why there's no 'Holy Grail' on the table, I'll scream."
"I won't then. Anyhow, the point is that the Priory of Finchelsea was intended to hide a deep, dark secret about a woman in Christ's life that would destroy the Church, were it made public. o the Church has for centuries tried to suppress it, while the Priory keeps it alive. If Dr. Llewellyn Pryce-Rees-Evans-Jones was a member of the Priory, no doubt he was murdered by the Church, or by one of her agents."
"I'm back in the frame," the devout Presbyterian Dr. Barton complained.
This had better improve, she thought.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Priory of Finchelsea, XXII

Dr. Barton watched the TV screen with increasing horror and annoyance. According to the vapid-sounding TV reporter, Police were seeking Dr. Lilian Barton in connection with the murder of Dr. Llewellyn Pryce-Rees-Evans-Jones in the Church of Christ the King, Gordon Square. They showed an official photograph of her looking smart in a dark suit. That meant, she thought, that she'd have to wear her research clothes, which consisted of a scruffy pair of jeans and a faded olive green t-shirt. At least they were comfortable.

"You're a wanted fugitive," Sir Richard remarked. Lil groaned.
"Not again! I've only just got over the last time it happened! I keep telling people I'm not a murderer, or a thief, or a spy, or a clandestine associate of Al Mohler, but they won't believe me!"
"They would if you were actually present, lass. After all, you're so appealing, so sweet..."
"You're married." she shot back. "You're also far too old for me."
"I know. In any case, you're not my type."
"I'm exactly the same 'type' as your wife, as you well know."
"True, lass, true. Well, no doubt we shall be able to clear your name, as we were last time."
"Yes, but last time it was a plagirism charge from a Harvard Professor. This is rather different."
"No more different, lass, from that time you were facing that bloke who claimed to be the Antichrist. As I remember, he was about to obliterate New York with an atom bomb he had stolen from an Army, and he had convinced the New York Police that you had murdered a dozen people with a flamethrower. But you came through."
"Sure I came through," Lil sighed. "And Mr. Antichrist fell to his death from the top of the Empire State building. But this is kind of different."
"Symbols," the voice, that of an elderly old Etonian, came from the doorway. Looking, Lil and Sir Richard saw a man standing there. He wore a velvet smoking jacket and black trousers, his face was rather red, and his head mostly bald.
"Ah! Sir Teabag!" Arcos cried jovially. This is Dr. Lilian P. Barton, Professor of Symbology at St. Luke's College, Wymondham, and a wanted fugitive. Her friends call her Lil."
"Ah! You're the woman they want for bumping off that old bore Dr. Llewellyn Pryce-Rees-Evans-Jones in the Church of Christ the King, Gordon Square! Is she not guilty, Arcos, or did she do it on your orders?"
"Not guilty, old lad. Now, we've discovered that Dr. Llewellyn Pryce-Rees-Evans-Jones was in fact a member of the Priory of Finchelsea..."
"Aha!" Sir Teabag Sumner's eyes lit up in excitement. "The Priory of Finchlesea! Let me tell you what that is..."
Lil hoped it would be worth hearing.

The Priory of Finchelsea XXI

Our readers (assuming that there are a few) may have been asking themselves the understandable question,Where were the intrepid police? Jack Flash and his cohorts were doggedly trailing Lil's GPS tracker dot, which now registered as being on top of Mount Snowdon. While Miss Jones insisted that the government sponsored computer system was quite accurate, Flash declared that the whole thing was a disaster and ought to be smashed by men with large hammers.

Lil kipped down on the sofa in Sir Teabag Sumner's drawing-room, just glad to have somewhere relatively comfortable to sleep, and that she was small enough to be able to sleep comfortably on the sofa. Sir Richard, in the meantime, quietly broke into Lil's hotel room and removed some of her things so that her stay in London would not be too unbearable.
It was half-past nine on the dot when sir Richard Arcos loudly entered the drawing-room, turned on the television, and sat down on the sofa. Lil Barton awoke with a yelp of pain, as the knight had just sat on her.
"Ow! Sir Richard! I thought knights were supposed to be polite to ladies, not sit on them!"
"I know, lass, but you're on TV."
Lil looked up at the television screen, and she was not at all happy.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Priory of Finchelsea XX

"I'm afraid I don't keep tabs on every insane secret society in the U.K." Lil declared. "I have better things to do with my time. Like my job."
"Well, I have a more difficult job," Sir Richard told her, "and I do. Now, the fact that Dr. Llewellyn Pryce-Rees-Evans-Jones was engaged in an unmentionable ritual act with a goat means that we're limited to about four secret societies who practice that particular bit of depravity. The Yellow Druids of the Order of the Inverted Dolmen only admit men under five foot tall, so he couldn't have been a member of that one. The Black Druids of Llanfairfach all thew themselves off Cader Idris back in the 1990s, so it can't be that organisation. That leaves the Priory of Finchelsea and the Monkery of Borth. Which one do you go for, Lil?"
"The Monkery of Borth. I think I've been there."
"You have, it's a village just outside Aberystwyth. You were nearly strangled there by a giant moth, if you remember?"
"Like I could forget that! So that's what it's called! So what's the Monkery of Borth about?"
"They're involved in hiding the truth about the treasure of the last native Prince of Wales. Or they were until I found the boodle hiden in a castle fifteen miles away from where the Monkery of Borth thought it was. So I'm not sure why anyone would want to bump off anyone involved with the Monkery. So that leaves the Priory of Finchelsea. And I think, my dear lasses, that the Priory has to be the society that Dr Llewellyn Pryce-Rees-Evans-Jones was a member of."
"Why?" Lil asked.
"Only option, lass. So, we are on the trail of the Priory of Finchelsea! Laddie, bring beer that I may consume it! Oh, and I need to go around to Lil's hotel and abstract some of her things from her room under the eyes of the police. Beer, laddie! Beer!"
Lil wondered if she'd actually et any sleep that night.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Priory of Finchelsea XIX

"Dr. Llewellyn Pryce-Rees-Evans-Jones was your uncle?" Lil exclaimed.
"Yes. He... he practically brought me up after my parents were killed in a car crash."
Was she expecting sympathy? Lil wondered. If so, she'd come to the wrong irritated academic. After all, Kathy had had a family member to bring her up, and her parents had died in a tragic accident. Lil had watched helplessly as her only relative, her Dad, was gunned down in front of her. She wasn't the place to go for sympathy.
"So, did he tell you why he wanted to see me?"
"We... we drifted apart in the last few years. It... It was kind of sensitive. One summer, when I was at university... I came home to his house in Wales early. There were a dozen cars outside, and I went in. The house seemed deserted, but... I went into the great hall - he lived in a Medieval manor house - and I saw a ring... of masked people. They held orbs, and there was a man... he was stark naked, and I realised it was my uncle! He was... with..."
"Hieros Gamos, lass," Sir Richard observed laconically.
"'Sacred marriage?'"
"Of course. Well, that's what they call it. Lil here would describe it as a bizarre neopagan sex ritual, and she'd be right. Some of the ancients believed that the sex act was the key to union with the Divine. When I say ancients, of course, I refer to some aristocratic Victorian persons in the decade commonly known as the Naughty Nineties. They were completely bonkers, of course, not to mention as batty as a bloke who believes he's a poached egg, but what can you do? Still, the idea was the union of the male and the female..."
"But there wasn't a woman there! It was a sheep."
"A sheep!" Sir Richard exclaimed in disgust. "Goats and monkeys! My dear Kathy, what you witnessed must have been Welsh Rite Hieros Gamos, which is frankly even more revolting than the original, and is banned in every civilized country and quite a few countries that aren't civilized, including France. So your uncle was involved in that sort of thing. Lilian, I'm glad you didn't go to meet him."
"So am I. I'd probably have killed him myself!"
"But the question is, what organisation was it to which Dr Llewellyn Pryce-Rees-Evans-Jones belonged?" Sir Richard posed the question, and Lil started to think about it.