The Hidden Message Within Church and Renaissance Art
by Tim Wallace-Murphy
A heretic in medieval times was anyone who dissented from the established Church, and to be named a heretic invited torture and execution. Such dissenters included the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, the Cathars and scientists of the day. Their mission was to safeguard the truth about Jesus Christ and his ministry, which they believed was revealed in early scriptures that were rejected and suppressed by ruthless oppressors in the name of the Church.
Cracking the Symbol Code: Revealing the Secret Heretical Messages within Church and Renaissance Art explores how ingenious and complex secret codes for communicating with others of like minds were concealed in symbols hidden in art, artefacts and architecture of the medieval world to preserve the truth for future generations. While symbolism has always been used by man in his exploration of the world of the spirit, and Christian symbolism was prevalent throughout medieval religious art and architecture, it is a relatively recent discovery that there were deeper layers of meaning disguised within the symbolism; “heretical” ideas that were kept hidden from the prying eyes of a repressive hierarchy.
After twenty years of research, author Tim Wallace-Murphy takes the reader on a guided tour across Europe to medieval churches searching out the secret messages that were meant to be discovered. Decoding this “hidden symbolism” is on two levels. There are certain keys, but there will always be an intuitive element to the understanding of the coded messages.
It may come as a surprise to learn that there are two completely conflicting views of the ministry of Jesus as recounted in the New Testament; the orthodox church view is that He is the incarnation of God on Earth who came to redeem mankind from sin. The heretical view is that He was a divinely inspired teacher who came to reveal a Gnostic spiritual path to enlightenment. The author’s description of the development of mainstream Christian symbolism is a delineation of why and how heretical ideas were kept secret. He also discloses some of the indicators that will alert astute seekers to the presence of hidden symbolism before introducing the layers of meaning conveying this truly arcane art form.
Many of the symbols Wallace-Murphy discusses were left to us by the Knights Templar, members of a religious order founded in Jerusalem in 1118 (during the crusades) to defend the temple of Solomon and protect pilgrims. Their beliefs, however, put them well outside the doctrinal teachings of the Catholic Church, and included Manichaeism and Gnosticism.
Wallace-Murphy suggests that the Templars saw themselves as guardians of sacred secrets that had to be hidden from the lethal forces of the Inquisition. At the same time, they needed to find ways to communicate and transmit their secrets via secret symbols hidden in the Christian art of medieval and renaissance Europe. The symbols he discusses include:
The Black Madonna, who represents Mary Magdalene, not Mary the mother of Jesus
Images of the Milky Way symbolize pilgrimages of initiation
The images of the sun as a representation of the St. Clair family — a powerful Templar dynasty
The Lily as a representation not of Mary’s purity, but an emblem of a secret family line of the blood of Christ carried by Merovingian kings.
Europe’s heritage of sacred art symbolism is accessible to all, which, as sacred symbolism needs to be experienced rather than explained, should tempt readers to see for themselves. Direct experience of the mystical effects of sacred symbolism opens up not only the hidden world of medieval heretics, but also the inner world of the viewer.
Tim Wallace-Murphy studied medicine at University College, Dublin and is a licensed psychologist, author, lecturer and historian. He has written three bestsellers: The Mark of the Beast (with Trevor Ravenscroft), Rex Deus, The True Mystery of Rennes-Le-Chateaux and Rosslyn: Guardian of the Secrets of the Holy Grail. Rosslyn provided invaluable source material to Dan Brown for The Da Vinci Code.
Below is Tim Wallace-Murphy’s Introduction to Cracking the Symbol Code: Revealing the Secret Heretical Messages within Church and Renaissance Art
The phenomenal sales of Dan Brown’s thriller, The Da Vinci Code, and the success of Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum are a demonstrable sign of the public’s growing fascination with the idea that heretical thought has been secretly encoded within religious art. Despite the fictional nature of both The Da Vinci Code and Foucault’s Pendulum, the truth about ‘Hidden Symbolism’ is far more fascinating than any fiction.
This work is an explanation of the history and importance of symbolism in mankind’s long and tortuous exploration of the fascinating world of the spirit” one that focuses heavily on the development of Christian symbolism and then, within that, delineates why and how ‘heretical’ ideas were kept hidden from the prying eyes of a repressive hierarchy. It demonstrates some of the indicators that will alert astute seekers to the presence of hidden symbolism before introducing them to some of the many layers of meaning conveyed by this truly arcane art form. Direct experience of the mystical effects of sacred symbolism opens up not only the hidden world of the medieval ‘heretics’ but also the inner world of the viewer leading to transformative experiences that are hand-tailored to the needs and understanding of the individual.
Any study of works such as this should be followed, as soon as possible, by personal on-site visits to view such symbols in situ, for sacred symbols need to be experienced rather than explained. What a true symbol expresses is ultimately intangible; it conveys a mystery that can only be felt and cannot be adequately expressed in words. Such a symbol is the mysterious meeting-point between the material and the spiritual, the conscious and the unconscious that will act, at one and the same time, both as a signpost and as a transformative catalyst on the quest for spiritual enlightenment – the true objective of the search for the Holy Grail.
Introduction to Cracking the Symbol Code: Revealing the Secret Heretical Messages within Church and Renaissance Art. Watkins Publishers, 2005. Reprinted with permission.