KNIGHTFALL: The second episode!


Episode 2: Find us the Grail

So now Knightfall is creating a dramatic and tense conflict between Pope Boniface VIII and William de Nogaret, chief adviser to the king of France. Scroll down and you’ll see the two historical profiles I provided you of these two very real-life characters.

Pope Boniface VIII in Knightfall
Pope Boniface VIII

As I explained in blog posts previously – and do search – De Nogaret was from a family tainted by association with the Cathar heresy. This was a large-scale rebellion in the south of France against the Catholic church led by a Christian sect that rejected the power of Rome’s bishops and priests. In my view, De Nogaret was possibly over-compensating for his family’s treachery towards the French state through being ultra-loyal to the king. But he remained hostile to the church – and especially the pope.

Boniface existed and was reviled by the poet Dante as an utterly corrupt and venal pope. However, in relation to the king of France, he was simply refusing to be his puppet. The king wanted to tax church wealth without seeking Rome’s permission and the Vatican was refusing to comply. This would eventually result in a violent physical conflict between De Nogaret and Boniface – and I wait to see how Knightfall depicts that.

As I suspected, the clash between these two medieval heavyweights has somewhat overshadowed Landry, our Knight Templar hero. But it’s a delicious and spiteful battle to watch! Ostensibly, they are duking it out over a royal marriage but we can sense there are bigger themes underlying this that will eventually lead to the destruction of the Knights Templar – an army of monastic warriors protected by the pope.

This episode flagged up King Philip of France’s hefty debts to the Templars, which we know will provoke their downfall. He’s a monarch always in debt and on the look out for treasure he can grab to balance the books. Meanwhile, the Templars, oblivious to their impending doom, are desperately looking to recover the Holy Grail – which they have carelessly lost. Click on the tab above for more information about the Templars and the Holy Grail.

The Grail plot for now is less compelling than the scheming between De Nogaret and Boniface but it’s clearly going to erupt to the surface as the series progresses. So far – so good. Your thoughts?


Since I was a child, I’ve been captivated by gigantes and cabecudos – as they are called in Portugal. I realise there are variations on those spellings in Spanish and Catalan. In religious processions, they appear and the effect is hypnotic. Gigantes are huge dummies carried by a single person and gyrating to the rhythm of the music. Cabecudos are youths wearing large heads and moving around with more agility ahead of the gigantes.

A procession I saw many years back in Barcelona referenced medieval nobles and moors. But the one I’ve just experienced in the Portuguese town of Viana do Castelo portrays more recent figures. And whereas the style of the Barcelona gigantes is quite realistic – those in Viana are made in a deliberately crude folk art style.

The music that accompanies the Viana gigantes is a mixture of manic drumming – gosh, the Portuguese love their drums! – and a local bagpipe instrument that sounds very Arabic. Here is a video and some images I took this weekend in what was huge fun. The festival is called the Romaria da Senhora d’Agonia (Our Lady of Agony) and every year it’s held over four days in late August – I thoroughly recommend a visit.


Medieval Barcelona – San Jordi and the dragon

Barcelona is today the most exciting city in Spain from a cultural and economic point of view – though I have always had a big soft spot for Madrid, the capital.   Not a view shared by many citizens of Barcelona who are fiercely proud of their Catalan culture and language.  Barcelona is also a much older city than Madrid.  The latter started life as a Moorish village and only became a city in the sixteenth century when the Spanish kings wanted a central point from which to view their realm.

Barcelona, in marked contrast, was a Roman town centred on what is now the Gothic quarter.  You can still see where medieval palaces were just plonked on top of Roman walls, used as solid foundations.  Here is an example – from half way down, it’s a Roman wall and then the top half is all medieval.  Can you make out the divide?

Bottom half is Roman and top half is medieval

After Roman rule fizzled out in the fifth century AD, the Visigoths emerged as top dogs on the Iberian peninsula until 711 AD when the Moors conquered up to the Pyrenees.  The church of Sant Pau del Camp is an interesting remnant of Visigothic architecture – smaller in scale than later Gothic cathedrals but charming and constructed in the Romanesque style.

Sant Pau del Camp – Visigothic church in Barcelona

Every year, the people of Barcelona celebrate Saint George’s Day – like England, they venerate this saint.  Sant Jordi – as he is called in Catalan – brings out the best in the locals.  There is a huge book fair and below is one chap dressed up as San Jordi.  Behind him is a dead dragon on the table.  I was there this year – just a month ago – and it was great fun.

San Jordi day 2011 in Barcelona

Barcelona ended up in the kingdom of Aragon in the twelfth century and one of its kings bequeathed his entire domain to the Knights Templar.  His will was modified so that didn’t happen to the letter but the Templars did end up with vast holdings in the region.