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The Mystery of Saint Francis’ Tomb

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The mystery of Saint Francis’ Tomb >Tomb or Sarcophagus?

> CODEX BROTHER ELIAS <

> Why did Brother Elias want to bury Francis’ body without witnesses, concealing it so well that it took 600 years to find it?

> What is the encrypted message of the objects Brother Elias placed around the mortal remains of St. Francis?
> Why has it never been decoded?
> Why have the ring and the 29 beads (17 made of ebony and 12 of amber) of the wreath placed at the feet of the Saint from Assisi been taken away or got lost, just like all documents and the secret archive of Brother Elias?
> What happened to the
12th silver coin?

> What happened to the piece of iron and the stem of an ear of wheat placed at his feet near the ring with the cornelian stone?

> Have they all gone lost or intentionally missing or hidden from profane eyes?
> Was Saint Francis a Templar Knight, initiated by Count Gentile delle Fonti ?
> Was he initiated during his stay in Egypt – just like Renè de Chateaubriand, a French Ambassador – to the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre with the sword of Godfrey of Bouillon, kept in the Sacristy of the Friars Minor Monastery in Jerusalem?
> Had Saint Francis been recognized and accepted as a SUFI Master, as the White Habit would suggest, together with the horn, and the ivory sticks given to him as a present by the Sultan of Egypt MaliK -al  Kamil and now on display in the Relics Chapel near his tomb?


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In the previous Chapters we have focused on the Basilica of Collemaggio and on the Secret of the Triple Eight, aimed at changing

"The Square – symbolic of matter -  into a Circle – symbolic of Spirit"

Unfortunately, this secret has been intentionally hidden and forgotten in the stone, just like the outstanding relics given by the Templars to Celestine that have disappeared into thin air. Actually, until a few centuries ago, they used to be shown to pilgrims during the Pardon Ceremony introduced by Celestine. They feature a thorn of the crown placed on Jesus’ head and Saint John’s right index finger, entrusted to the Order by King Baldwin of Jerusalem.

These relics have disappeared and long been forgotten. However, this was also the fate of one of the most important figures of those times, namely Brother Elias. He was the successor of Saint Francis as the leader of the Order of Friars Minor;

he was an architect and an expert in alchemic arts, as well as a close friend and consultant to the Blessed Francis and even to Emperor Frederick II. He used to advise the latter on the construction of castles and churches, identifying the most suitable sites, most often on the ruins of ancient classical buildings. This is the case of Castel del Monte in Apulia, built on an existing Roman castrum designed by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio and restructured to its current octagonal design; or the Basilica of Assisi, built, under his expert guide, by master masons.

A manuscript eloquently entitled "Speculum artis Alkimie Fratris Helyae O. Min. S. Francisci, qui ex dicta arte componi fecit seu fabricare Ecclesiam S. Francisci in Assisio" is kept at the National Library in Florence. This text explicitly confirms the "method" used by Elias for building the Basilica of Assisi.


This is also indirectly confirmed by several graves in the cemetery behind the church. According to the list compiled in 1509 by the Sacrist Brother Galeotto, they are the graves of "all the Master Builders of Assisi, who fared from Lombardy (another way to describe Comacine Masterbuilders)".
One of them is the grave of Master Giovanni, son of Master Simon, who died on July 7. On the tombstone background in red Assisi stone, two large eight-point stars are carved, with two rampant lions and a cross shield (the lion and the cross would then become Assisi’s coat of arms).
Another of these graves – of Ciccolo di Becca, who died in 1330 - displays an incredible number of masonic symbols: e.g. a Rose Cross as well as a square, a punch, and, once again, an eight-point star.




Helped by the greatest experts of those times - the “Comacine Masterbuilders"- Elias, the Order’s Vicar General, raised the money to build the "Santuario" and the  "Monastery" in 1228, where he would bury the body of Saint Francis (born in 1182 and died on October 3, 1226).
The cornerstone of the Lower Basilica was set by Pope Gregory IX the day after St. Francis was canonized, on July 17, 1228.

Construction works began two years after the Saint’s death. 

About two years later, the church was completed and Saint Francis’ body was translated there, from his temporary burial in the Church of San Giorgio (later named Chiesa di Santa Chiara).

The rocky land where the church was erected had been donated by wealthy landowners to the Friars Minor. However, to comply with the Franciscan rule of strictest poverty, the land was officially donated to Pope Gregory IX.
The Church and the Monastery still belong to the Vatican.


The hill, originally known as the "Hill of Hell" since it was the place where prisoners were executed, was later called "Hill of Paradise", because it became the site designed to host the remains of the Saint.
There are no records about the beginning of construction works of the Upper Basilica. However, they probably started in 1239, after Brother Elias, who had directed the works of the Romanesque Lower Basilica, had resigned as the Order’s General.




Both churches were consecrated by Pope Innocent IV in 1253, when they still had no fresco decorations.

The paintings in the vaults (1315-20) depict the "Apotheosis of St. Francis“ and Allegories of Obedience, Poverty, and Chastity by the so-called “Master of the Vaults”
.


After a recent restoration, some early frescos of the Basilica have been discovered on the nave walls, probably made by Giunta Pisano or by one of his disciples. A series of frescos depicting episodes from the life of St. Francis were damaged when new arches were opened to access lateral chapels.
The Basilica of Assisi was initially designed as a two-storey building, with the ground floor featuring the Shrine proper.
Brother Elias had intended the Lower Church to serve as a "crypt", hence the half-lit Romanesque nave.

The church floor features rosy-white marble tiles from Subasio, eliciting a unique colour effect and reminding of "Templar symbols".


Access to the Lower Basilica is through a Gothic style door crowned by a finely chiselled rose window, a work by Francis di Pietrasanta at the end of the 15th century.



 

Some relics of St. Francis including a "simple friar’s tunic" are on display in a chapel on the left of the entrance. This tunic, however, is not the original habit worn by the Blessed before he died and donated to him by Brother Elias, which is now on display in the Basilica of Cortona together with two other relics, namely the "pillow", on which Francis had rested his head during his death agony, and the "Evangelistary" that he would always carry with him.

The high altar dates back to 1230, while the canopy above dates from the 14th century. Originally, it was surrounded by “twelve columns, as a direct analogy to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Alas, these columns were removed in 1870 by ignorant and incompetent people, as is so often the case.

However, the decision by the Bishop of Chartres to replace the alchemic stained-glass windows behind the altar, because, in his view, not enough light was filtered through, is even more appalling.

Midway in the nave, there are two small flights of steps leading to the crypt, where the Saint’s mortal remains are buried. These openings were not yet in place when the corpse was translated there. 

An altar – a single block of marble stone where the corpse was kept for centuries - stands at the centre of the crypt. Behind it, lies the urn with the remains of the Saint. Within the walls of this small room, behind gratings, the bodies of four of Francis’ followers are buried: the Blessed Rufino, Leo, Masseo, and Angelo Tancredi. It is not clear why they had been chosen to be buried here. For sure, they were among the closest companions of the Blessed Francis. But there could also be other reasons linked to the Saint’s life and to the first 12 Friars, who were Francis’ companions since the very beginning of the movement created by him.

( Speculum Perfectionis,IV, 72).

As a matter of fact, Francis wanted twelve friars around him, as described in the "Fioretti" (Little Flowers) and whom he liked to call "my knights of the round table" (Speculum Perfectionis, IV, 72). Francis was born of a wealthy family and had attended the best schools of his time. He was a highly cultivated man, who could write not only in Italian, but also in Latin; was fluent in French, knew music well, and had read many novels in parchment codes, including Oliver and the poems of the legendary King Arthur and the Paladins of the Round Table, all quite fashionable in his times and social milieu.

According to history books, "Bernard of Quintavalle (a magistrate) was his first disciple, followed by Peter of Cattaneo (a well known canon of the Church of St. Nicholas and a law graduate) (he died on 10th March 1221). Some time later, he was joined by Giles (a farmer), later followed by Sabatinus, Moricus, Philip "the Long", and Father Sylvester. Others followed: John of Cappella, Barbaro and Bernard Vigilante, and finally Angelo Tancredi, the only one of the first twelve disciples who is buried near Francis. All together they were twelve; like Francis, all companions used to wear coarse simple habits tied at the waist by a white cord.
When Innocent III decided to recognize this first group, initially deemed as heretics, he appointed them as "clerics", while Francis was appointed "Deacon", a title he kept throughout his life, as also proved by the ceremony of the Christmas Crib, conceived by Francis when he came back from Syria. That "Mass" was celebrated by a "real priest", followed by St. Francis’ "blessing" to all the people present.

The Round table had been formed again, and, like in all fairy tales, history and legend mingle, while actual facts fade into myth.



As soon as the fateful number was reached, more disciples joined the first twelve ones: Masseo (from Marignano), Leo, Elias (Coppi) Juniper, Thomas of Celano (Sr. Francis’ first major biographer) and Pacifico (Guglielmo Divini). Today, the Blessed Angelo Tancredi (+1258), Leo (+1271), Saint Francis’ confessor, Masseo da Marignano (+ 1280),  Rufino, a cousin of  St. Clare and St. Agnes, and Brother William of England are all buried in the "crypt" of the Lower Basilica of Assisi, near Saint Francis’ tomb. Along the staircase that from the Basilica goes down to the crypt, is buried the Blessed Jacopa dei Settesoli, a Roman Lady and the wife of Graziano dei Frangipani, who had donated the "pillow", one of the "three relics" kept in the Church of San Francesco in Cortona, which was designed by Brother Elias, who is also buried there.



However, this crypt was built only in 1822, by enlarging the "hole" in the marble stone block known only to very few people. As a matter of fact, the actual reason for this hole was a secret to most people: namely, to preserve the Saint’s holy relics from any impure contact, as was the case with the embalmed bodies of Pharaohs in ancient Egypt, whose "sarcophagi" were inaccessible and inviolable.


We want to call it asarcophagus”, because, as we will see below, this had been its actual function for over 600 years.
In the sub-basement of the Lower Basilica, perpendicularly under the high altar, not yet erected, Elias had a room opened, with the same width and length of the altar, four meter deep, into which the 1.2 ton travertine sarcophagus was introduced. The sarcophagus, inside an iron cage encasing the urn, was then covered with three layers of travertine.




When the hole was covered with the high altar, a room of approx. 1.70 m was obtained, accessed through a narrow tunnel – allegedly featuring twelve steps - hidden under a secret trapdoor, entered through the corridor leading to the choir in front of the penetralia. Access to this corridor had been barred by a Franciscan Pope, Sixtus IV della Rovere, after he visited the Basilica in 1476.

According to contemporary reports, fear of profanation of the mortal remains of the Saint was the reason for hiding the entrance, in particular in order to prevent any fetishist cult of Saint Francis’ body, translated here on May 25 1230, with a strange ceremony. As soon as the funeral procession had reached the threshold of the newly built Basilica, and the holy relics were inside the church, Elias, with all his powers as Vicar-General of the Order, and in agreement with municipal authorities, ordered the municipal men-at-arms to close the doors, thus leaving outside the huge crowd, and, in particular, all the many notables and dignitaries who had come from all over Europe.
Brother Elias locked the door from inside, and, with the help of some loyal brothers, had the body of the Saint carried to the "crypt", that had been specially prepared under the Church. Nobody knew about its existence, except for a few masters, who had directed the works, and some of their own workers, who were paid and sent home, as soon as the construction was completed.

According to contemporary chronicles, Elias had asked everyone to leave. Probably left alone in the light of the "strange position and symbolic value of the objects" found around the body, he worked hard and meticulously to hide Francis’ mortal remains in the rock. Francis’ body was returned to worshippers and exhibited to the public only six hundred years later, in 1818.


For sure, the sarcophagus was placed under the high altar, in a place which, although inaccessible to the public, could be seen through a  “confession window", as claimed by some chroniclers.



Conversely, according to others, there was a narrow, cleverly hidden "access tunnel". Up until 1476, it was leading to a 1.70 m high burial chamber. Below it, there was the coffin with the mortal remains of the Blessed Francis, encased in an iron cage and cleverly disguised under three layers of travertine, plus two layers of concrete in between the last two travertine slabs duly fixed to the side walls with iron rods.

Even when kneeling down or lying on the floor, St. Francis’s mortal remains could not be seen or touched. As officially claimed,  this tunnel was allegedly closed in 1476, in order to ensure that the body would not be stolen by any invaders or enemies, who, as was customary in those days, were likely to steal the precious Patron Saint’s relics.

Over the course of the years, knowledge of the exact location of the tomb was lost (??). Only in 1806 was it decided to open the sepulchre, but, owing to Napoleon’s occupation, the opening was postponed to 1818, when a "sarcophagus" protected by some iron bars was discovered.

After this discovery, in 1822, under the direction of Architect Belli, the rock around the tomb was  excavated to form a crypt proper, which was later pulled down, because its neoclassical style clashed with the overall Romanesque style of the church.

Today’s layout, designed by Architect Ugo Tarchi, was built between 1926 and 1932.

Actually, even the most qualified historians have given contrasting versions of this event. Therefore, we have decided to devote a whole specific chapter to the "mysteries" around this strange and unusual "burial of Saint Francis’ corpse " and to the suspicious "silence" on the actual burial site of the Saint’s mortal remains, a closely guarded secret for such a long time.

We would like to understand the "real reasons" of Brother Elias’ far-reaching action. He acted in agreement with the 24 generals, who were governing Assisi, and with Pope Gregory IX, who was also his personal friend, a great admirer of Francis and a supporter of the Order of the Friars Minor, and who was also unexpectedly left out of the door.

Actually the Pope, Gregory IX, was initially annoyed by this apparently unjustified behaviour, so much so that, following the scandal that erupted afterwards, he even demanded that all municipal authorities be punished and the Basilica be interdicted "a divinis". However, when he heard the reasons for this behaviour from Brother Elias, he immediately calmed down, and so did the entire Curia and all the outraged representatives of all major European courts – the élite of European society in those times- who were attending the ceremony, and raised no more objections.

However, what happened next, namely when they had all calmed down, is most baffling!

Actually, we cannot understand why, for six hundred years, nobody has ever asked the reason for the behaviour of Brother Elias -  who was literally cancelled out of history, just like the corpse of the Blessed Francis concealed for centuries – but, above all, for the unexpected change in the attitude of Gregory IX and his successors, who had always endorsed and respected his decision up until 1818.

Gregory IX and very few others must have been secretly informed about the place where the saint’s body was to be buried and how to reach it. However, the Pope was most probably not informed about the ceremony that took place to transfer St. Francis’ body into the crypt.

The corpse was carried through the narrow tunnel or, most likely, lowered from the top already in its metal cage. At this point, Brother Elias, with few other chosen friars acting as "guardians", must have performed a ritual resembling a Masonic ceremony of more modern times. There are too many clues and symbolic messages confirming that he was a member of the Guild of Builders.
As a matter of fact, he placed "twelve" symbolic items around the holy relics, presumably following a specific and very ancient ritual he had learned during his stay in Egypt and Syria.
We believe that he was acting exactly like a High Priest in ancient Egypt, whose duty was to place some selected objects around the mummy of the Pharaoh to prepare him for the forthcoming journey in the afterworld.

These objects were found and recovered only in 1818, when the grave was opened, following an unofficial authorization by the Pope. However, their deep symbolic meaning has never been understood. These objects were thought to be offerings from worshippers, introduced after the burial through the small holes of the upper grating, covering the open travertine shrine.

However, Brother Elias, who was an alchemist, see chapter

> CODEX BROTHER ELIAS <


is the only one who might have placed them there, not as mementos of items that had once belonged to the Saint, but, presumably, to attach a specific esoteric meaning to each of them:

> the cornerstone?
> the twelve silver coins?
> Minerva’s ring?
> the wreath featuring 12 amber and 17 ebony beads?

> the iron fragment?

Until 1978, some of these items had allegedly been kept in Rome, in a jewel box within the Basilica dei Santissimi 12 Apostoli. As almost invariably happens, nobody ever mentions their meaning or the position in which they had been carefully arranged by Brother Elias around and under the body, just like the "cornerstone", on which the Saint’s head was probably resting, together with the 11 (+ 1?) silver coins and a silver statuette, now kept in the "Chapel of Relics" built in the Lower Basilica, and originally used as the Monastery "Chapter Room".

Among other found objects, there were also 11+1 silver coins:
> Three were immediately identified in December 1818, because they were clearly visible on the left side;
> Eight were found hidden under the dust, when the bones were taken out;

> the twelfth was found only two years after the discovery and opening of the sarcophagus.


On November 15 1820, the experts who were examining St. Francis’ bones also found this last coin (See Isidoro Gatti: " La tomba di San Francesco nei secoli" page 267, note 140. The photos of the 11 coins and the tomb have been taken from this book published by the Franciscan publisher).

Unlike the other eleven coins, this twelfth coin is not displayed in the glass case of the “Chapel of Relics”, and nobody knows where it is; neither do we know whether it was a silver coin, like the other eleven coins, or made of other metals, with templar symbols. This could have been a good reason for hiding it, since no clues were to be left that would affect the hagiographic image of the Blessed, never to be disproved or slanted.


The twelve coins as well as the 12 amber beads were found together with the 17 ebony beads, that used to form a wreath. However, based on available reports, we do not know how these 29 beads were arranged, nor which symbolic meaning Brother Elias wanted to attach to them.


The same is true for the piece of iron, 1 and a half ounce (2.79 cm) long and 1 ounce (1.86 cm) wide. This fragment is as big as a coin; it was presumably placed on the chest >  at the centre of the 12 coins < found among the chest bones. It means that Francis, while still the spiritual head of the Franciscan community – a sort of King Arthur of the Round Table - had remained humble and simple > like a worthless piece of iron < surrounded by 12 brothers, who are as precious as the> 12 silver coins <.

The choice and the arrangement
of the coins and the piece of iron are still >a conundrum<. Equally mysterious is the reason why Brother Elias had placed a wreath and a ring with the effigy of Minerva at the feet of St. Francis’ body.

As to the wreath, quite surprisingly, the actual arrangement of the 29 beads and their real use have never been investigated.

It could be a small rosary or an Islamic subha, which normally features 33 beads rather than 29.
In the chapter > CODEX BROTHER ELIAS < we have tried to provide a likely interpretation of the symbolic meaning of Francis’ ring. We do not know whether he wore it during his life, or whether the ring was placed by Brother Elias when he buried Francis, together with the silver coins, the wreath, and the corner stone, to leave an encrypted message to posterity.

Two hundred years after its discovery, nobody has yet asked this question.

Allegedly, the ring - so they claim- "went lost", just like the beads of the wreath and all other notes of Brother Elias, which most probably explained the ritual and the symbolic and mystic meaning of each of these objects connected with some mysteric cult.
It is a secret – as the saying goes - he took to his grave.

As soon as the ceremony - which presumably took a long time - was over, while the angry crowd outside was railing at Brother Elias and at the men-at-arms defending the closed doors, he carefully concealed the tunnel entrance so well, that it took many years to find it.

Only in 1818, was the tunnel opened again and the corpse examined. A recognition carried out in 1820 confirmed the identity of the Saint.

What is really perplexing, if not even disconcerting, is the passive acquiescence and the respect for Brother Elias’ decision, endorsed by all Popes, and the fact that it lasted almost 600 years. During all this period, no Pope has ever attempted to start excavations in order to recover the mortal remains of Saint Francis, especially after Brother Elias had left Assisi for good in 1239, following his forced resignations as the Vicar General of the Order of the Friars Minor.




Actually, the Spiritual Guide of the Order of the Friars Minor was forced to leave his position as Vicar General, according to an Order issued in 1239 during the General Chapter held in Rome at Pentecost of that year. In addition, all his writings and notes were meticulously collected and destroyed with an obstinacy typical of the worst Giordano Bruno: no traces of him were to be left behind.

His excommunication and his expulsion from Assisi were followed by the systematic destruction of his secret archive. Even pages that referred to him in the old register of the Sacred Convent in Assisi were torn away. Also the register where Brother Illuminato used to record all letters received and sent by Brother Elias "went lost": in other words, everything was carefully and subversively destroyed.



What is strange, however, is that Brother Elias and the Comacine Masterbuilders presumably followed the example of Egyptian priests, by setting aside a room, where they had placed a "sarcophagus", to host the body of the Saint - as it was the case with ancient Pharaohs -, and then carefully hiding the entrance to this room.

Access to the grave was only through a secret tunnel, where the body had been hidden and preserved for over 600 years, just like the Tomb of Pharaoh Sethi I, which had been perfectly concealed behind another mortuary, thus deceiving any violators who, after discovering the access tunnel, and entering into the first chamber, would not imagine that there was a second  –  indeed the actual - funeral chamber.



Neither Brother Elias, nor the Comacine Masters have ever disclosed this secret. Nothing too was ever disclosed by those who had looked for and destroyed his notes, presumably not to divulge – following Elias’ excommunication and expulsion  -  Gregory IX’s intention, who, as illustrated above, had shared and understood Elias’ reasons for his apparently insane behaviour.

Otherwise, there would be no explanation for the "absolute silence over the whole event, as well as for the confidentiality also his successors undoubtedly "recommended". Further, when appointed to the Holy See, they were carefully briefed on this matter and, in turn, would follow suit and impose the same silence. 

That this was actually the case was indirectly confirmed in 1442, with the decision to close any entrance to the tunnel for good, thus preventing any access – even by chance - to the tomb for the following 400 years.

It would indeed be too simplistic to think that Brother Elias and the skilled master builders of the Basilica were able to successfully hide the tunnel entry and the body inside the crypt and prevent its discovery for all these years. In spite of the thaumaturgic and divinatory powers Brother Elias had so many times proved to have - he had even predicted Francis’ imminent death -, he possessed no occult powers, such as to build an invisible wall, impossible to encroach, around the place where Francis’ body had been buried, and defy all frantic efforts by “outsiders” trying to find out where it had been hidden.

As per its usual habit, only the Vatican could intentionally block any information and keep avoiding the issue of Saint Francis’ burial, before and after his body was found.
Still today, information on this topic is quite difficult to find, while this incredible and very important event is generally minimized and intentionally underestimated, exactly like the "secret of the Triple>888<" and the events involving "Celestine V", who, - for many centuries too - was made out to be inept and incompetent.

Many of the explanations given over the centuries are indeed groundless, while reported events have been intentionally slanted and altered. At the same time, however, this gives evidence of the obstinacy with which these events were minimized and covered up, and Brother Elias discredited, by causing the loss of all his writings and scientifically and meticulously destroying even his simplest notes or records.


Cortona: Inner Basilica with orthogonal nave         Relics on display inside the museum

However, "three relics", taken by Brother Elias when he fled Assisi and escaped to Tuscany, could not be hidden: namely, a pillow fashioned with elegant and fine fabric, an evangelistary, and a monk habit. He personally kept these relics for years and, before he died in 1253, gave them to the Friars in Cortona, where he had built another Basilica dedicated to Saint Francis. This does not only prove the very close links between the two friars, but it also sheds some light on the reasons why Brother Elias had tried to preserve the most important "relic" for as long as possible.
All this was indirectly yet actually confirmed in 2003, on the 750th anniversary of Brother Eliasdeath in Cortona.
On that occasion, the Friars Minor Conventuals of the Tuscan Province restored and reopened Saint Francis’ church and monastery in Cortona and organized several cultural and spiritual events including scientific investigations of the relics held in the Church in Cortona, namely the three items which, according to tradition, Brother Elias took and kept with him until his death.  The most important goal of these investigations was to confirm the close and deep relationship between the Friar from Arezzo and Saint Francis, as well as to rehabilitate the image of Father Elias, as stated by the Conventual Father, Brother Antonio:
"Having established that the habit of Cortona has the sizes, length, and shoulder breadth of Brother Elias means to confirm that the friar was very close to Saint Francis, and, at the same time, to back up the story of Saint Francis’ death as told by Thomas of Celano".

As a matter of fact, modern scientific techniques have helped confirm that the Saint was always loyal to the vow of poverty preached in the Gospel. Further, these investigations have highlighted some circumstances that confirm the type of relationship between these two men, made to sit in heavenly places and chased to hell, respectively.
It is worth mentioning the conclusions of these investigations:
a) the actual pillow placed under the head of the dying Francis by Iacopa di Settesoli, a loyal friend of the Saint, was not the beautifully embroidered pillow on display in the Church in Cortona, but the pillow inside it, dating back to the time of Francis’ death, made of a raw fabric, to pay honour to Lady Poverty;
b)  the Evangelistary of Cortona is thought to be from Francis’ times, like the one kept in Assisi;
c) the Habit is fashioned in the same colour and fabric worn in those times by farmers in central Italy. It is a humble and much despised garment, with the shape of a simple cross that Saint Francis decided to wear to comply with Franciscan "rule”, with a simple belt that farmers would use to carry a sword and which, in the Franciscan version, also joins "three knots";
d) investigations carried out to prove that the habit belonged to Elias confirm the story by Thomas of Celano on Saint Francis’ death, who wrote that "Francis wanted to die naked on the bare earth, but Brother Elias convinced him to wear "his habit", which could actually be the one kept in Cortona. By lending him his own habit, namely by assuring Francis that it did not belong to him, Brother Elias was reassuring the Saint that he would not violate his vow of poverty.

Saint Francis’ life has always been told in a hagiographic and anti-historical way, highlighting in particular the most spiritual and mystic expression of his inner search, which came to an end in Verna, when, according to legend, he received the stigmata -  the first Saint in history to experience this – on the rock where he had been tempted by the Devil.

However, Francis’ life is actually much more complex and comprehensive, as variously described by several sources since 1228, when he was canonized by Gregory IX, as well as by the Saint’s first official biography, commissioned by the Pope himself to Brother Thomas of Celano. After joining the Franciscan order in Portiuncola in 1215 - the year of the famous Chapter of mats – Brother Thomas had become very close to Saint Francis. He is therefore a highly reliable witness, on pain of being accused of lying intentionally.

Brother Thomas was therefore a very important source of information about Francis’ life. In 1246-1247, he wrote (always in Latin) the Second Life, then a third biography, and finally the Treatise on the Saint's miracles, about all the miracles attributed to Saint Francis by popular tradition. The three different revisions of Saint Francis’ life done by Celano are undoubtedly puzzling, but even more unclear is the decision made by the Paris Chapter in 1266, ordering the destruction of all St. Francis’ biographies written before the one by Bonaventure.


At a time when many sects were proliferating, the Order had become so divided on how Saint Francis’ rule had to be complied with, that some friars feared that the movement as established by Francis and Elias could no longer hold together.

In agreement with some friars, Bonaventure made the terrible decision of destroying all biographies and images of the Blessed, and in 1266 wrote a new hagiographic and purely fabricated version, giving an image of Francis that was completely different from the real one.
Forty years after his death, the Order of Friars Minor had become very important, with thousands of adepts. For the current led by Bonaventure, it would have been too embarrassing to continue talking about a founder who did not look like a saint, but was a secular man voted to poverty, who had fought for social justice and peace between Christians and Muslims, and who had lived a whole year at the court of an arch enemy.
All these relations of friendship and mutual brotherhood had to be forgotten and "silenced”, without muting the inner relationship Francis had with his beloved "brother Silence".

Therefore, everything was deleted and the friars who had personally met Francis and who, in pairs, were going from town to town, were asked to change the story told in the 1st version of Thomas of Celano’s book and to give another version suitable for a child, a new Messiah, born "Holy" from a "Holy Mother" and from a father, who, like Joseph, was a very good and compassionate man, but unfortunately had no halo.

It was exactly what had happened with Brother Elias: all images of the Saint were removed, although not all of them could be destroyed, because some of them had been miraculously kept and jealously preserved by various people, like this image, the oldest one, painted around 1222 by an anonymous painter from Sibiaco.

This decision however was a real misfortune, because it completely distorted the human nature of St. Francis’, who had a secular and free spirit.
As done many other times in the history of the Catholic Church, thousands and thousands of manuscripts were meticulously destroyed.

For many centuries, Saint Francis was only the one described by Bonaventure and as portrayed by Giotto’s frescoes in Assisi. 

Only at the beginning of the 20th century, were the three biographies by Thomas of Celano - contained in one single manuscript, and gone lost for centuries - finally found again. This discovery made it possible to "see again" the true Francis and duly compare "truth" with  "legend".

Perhaps, in order to understand the reasons for such a drastic decision, we should examine the figure of Bonaventure more closely, and the various positions taken at that particular time in history, with the confrontation between Spirituals and Conventuals.

Bonaventure was born in 1217. According to a highly hagiographic version, which, quite strangely, exclusively quotes his most important work only to report about an unlikely miracle, in 1226 - the year when Francis died – when Bonaventure was allegedly miraculously cured by the Blessed, as he himself reported in his "Legenda minor" (VII: FF 1392). «I have personally described the above mentioned facts, I directly experienced them. As an infant, I was seriously ill; my mother’s vote on my behalf with our Blessed Father Francis was enough to tear me away from the clutches of death and return me, safe and sound, to life».

According to the same source, Bonaventure, after attending school in his home town, went to University in Paris (approx. 1236-1238), where he studied philosophy, and graduated in Arts (1242- 1243). When he was 25, he joined the Franciscan Order and changed his original name from John to Bonaventure.

In February 1257, at only 40 years of age, he was elected Minister General of the Order, a title he kept until his death in 1274, giving "a unique example of wisdom, foresight, utmost balance, so much appropriate in those difficult times of adjustment for the Order. Owing to his moderating role and constructive work fully in compliance with Saint Francis’ spirit, he earned the title of second founder of the Franciscan Order" (??????).
"He preached everywhere to the people and in particular to clergymen, nuns, at the University of Paris, before the Court of France, before popes in various concistories " (Orvieto, Perugia, Viterbo, Rome) and, finally, at the Council of Lyon (1274).
On 28th May 1273, Bonaventure was appointed Cardinal Bishop of Albano, after having declined to become Archbishop of York in 1265. From November 1273, he chaired the preparatory works and then the celebration of the Second Ecumenical Council of Lyon (May 7  - July 17 1274), where he most probably met Peter from Morrone, the future Pope Celestine V.
During the Council of Lyon, he successfully contributed to reuniting the Eastern Church with the West. Then, on July 7 1274, quite unexpectedly, he resigned from Vicar-General of the Order of Friars Minor, a position he had held for 17 years. A week later, on July 15 1274, he died. According to his official hagiography, he died of fatigue, but, most likely, following the harsh confrontation he most probably had with Peter from Morrone. The future Pope Celestine V, an inveterate spiritualist, had most likely expressed all his doubts and criticisms of the way he was managing the Order and, we strongly believe, of the History of Saint Francis’ life, which he had totally fabricated, starting from the famous, totally implausible miracle.

Quite honestly, we do not know whether what we are suggesting is actually what happened, since we have no objective evidence. However, I enjoy imagining that Bonaventure fainted when faced by the violent yet more than understandable reaction of Peter from Morrone, who was undoubtedly resenting Bonaventure’s highbrow attitude and culture. It should be remembered here that in 1482 the Church, under Pope Sixtus IV, canonized Bonaventure and, under Sixtus V, on March 14 1588, listed him as one of the  - «inter praecipuos et primarios» - Doctors of the (Latin) Church, the sixth one together with Saint Thomas Aquinas.

On the contrary, we have disqualified him and we have even thought of removing his Saint’s halo!

Indeed, we have refrained from formally recognising his "holiness", and have carefully avoided to qualify him as such, for he really "doped the figure of Francis", falsifying his life and, as a consequence, fabricating history as well.

The man Francis did not need this unwanted intervention, because he had shown that every "man" and every "woman" may reach "perfection" on their own, without intermediaries, interferences, but, first of all, they have to undergo the test of life, in order to get rid of their worldly impurities ..................

Nobody was born a "Saint"!!!

Under Bonaventure from Bagnoregio, a brand new biography of Francis the "Legenda maior S. Francisci," was specially written. For internal political reasons, the original message of the Saint and of the most rigorous Franciscans (“fratres qui cum eo fuimus” as they would define themselves), had been manipulated. Indeed, from his high-ranking position, Bonaventure in his "Costituzioni Narbonesi" officially condemned the current of the “Spirituals”, channelling the movement into a proper Order, like the Order of Preachers Friars, founded by Dominic.

The split of the Spirituals - the friars minor with the organisation closest to the original Franciscan community – took place in 1274. That year, Peter from Morrone went to Lyon to convince Pope Gregory X to guarantee the survival of his community, following the intention of the Pope to drastically stem the growing proliferation of sects and spurious splinter groups, that were giving a different interpretation of the Gospels. It was also the same year when Bonaventure resigned from Vicar General of the Order of Friars Minor.

Twenty years later, the staunchest and most extreme proponents of evangelic poverty, loyal to Francis ideals, were called "Fraticelli" (Little Brethren), in open contrast with Franciscan Minors, who belonged to the current of Conventuals, and had gathered around two figures, whom Peter from Morrone liked very much. Indeed, as soon as he was elected Pope, he authorised the "Fraticelli" to break away from the Order for good, and to found their own congregation. The leaders of this splinter group were Peter da Macerata, a.k.a Fra Liberato, and Pietro da Fossombrone, Angelo del Chiarino or Cla­reno, while their congregation was named "Poor Hermits of Celesti­ne", later renamed as "Fraticelli de paupere vita" (as Clareno, the congregation’s leader, used to call it).

This is yet another strange coincidence, since Clareno, an esteemed preacher with a saint’s halo, in order to escape pressures from the "Conventuals", had to move to the Baltic countries, where Celestine, after stepping down from the Holy See and fleeing from Boniface VIII, had attempted to reach him. However, having left on a small boat from the port of Vieste in Apulia, while at sea, Celestine was reached and captured by some emissaries of Boniface VIII, who captured and took him first to Anagni, and then to a prison in Fumone. Here, after ten moths, he died in prison in 1296, most likely killed with an ice-pick transfixed through his skull, which features a square hole identical to the one in the skull that legend attributes to Saint John Baptist.

Coming back to Francis and the clash between the two currents of Spiritualists and Conventuals on the interpretation of Francis’ message, some divisions that had already emerged during his life aggravated after his death, when the Franciscan Order further grew. This split led to two different currents of thought: the so called Spirituals, loyal to the spirit of the Rule and to Francis’ Spiritual Heritage and practicing the ideal of absolute poverty informed by the prophecies of Joachim of Flora; and the so called Conventuals, who were much more ready to adjust to the other religious orders, and acquire a more clerical hierarchy. In practice, the latter group departed from the ideals of the founder and of Brother Elias (who was the General of the Order from 1221 to 1227 and from 1232 to1239). Actually, he was the first and last General who belonged to the faction of Spirituals and who, following Francis’ instructions, had laid the foundation for a better organization, from an institutional point of view, of the religious movement created by the would-be Blessed. This movement was constantly growing, due to strong proselytism by Francis himself and by his most loyal companions.

Therefore, in 1217, the Order was organized by Brother Elias into Provinces, Custodies, Monastries, and Hermitages. Also, that same year, Francis sent Brother Elias on a mission to Syria and the Holy Land, where he later reached him and remained for quite a long period of time – at least over a year, from May 9 1218 to August 29 1219, (Manselli, Saint Francis, Bulzoni publisher, 1980, page 223 and following). Actually, Francis and Elias allegedly returned to Italy, landing in Venice, only in January 1220.

We have already presented the reasons why Francis had sent Brother Elias to the Sultan of Egypt in the Chapter "From Brother Elias <> Celestine V", to which we refer. Actually, nobody really knows the "true reasons" of this mission, since they have been obscured by the total lack of documents and evidence. At the same time, the version provided by official sources is unreliable.

Therefore, Bonaventure’s "Legenda maior S. Francisci," is the only official version of Francislife. As to all aspects concerning the relationship between Francis and Elias, it was integrated with sources that were highly hostile to Elias, for example the work by E. Lempp, (Frère Elie de Cortone, Paris, 1901), who accused the friar of having unholy dealings with astrology and alchemy, while he stayed at the court of the excommunicated Frederick II. Brother Elias had actually transferred allegiance to the Swabian king, when the latter had asked him so, following the defeat of the Christian army in the East and the capture of Saint Louis, King of France on Easter Sunday 1244.

Arcangelo Papi
, in an interesting essay published on the Web, (San Francesco, le stimmate e la Sindone: una possibile antistoria del cristianesimo - Saint Francis, Stigmata and the Holy Shroud: a Likely Anti-History of Christianity), refers to the First Official Biography by Thomas of Celano, found in 1770, which describes Francis and Brother Elias in a totally different way. Not by chance, the Author draws the following conclusions:

Sometimes the elements of history coagulate  … differently from what is initially presented by official historiography and, suddenly, a completely different and extraordinary picture is formed again.”


His reversed analysis, in our opinion, is worth being presented again, because some important clues emerge from his work:
1) Celano speaks about a Knight from Assisi, who was organizing a military expedition to Apulia with Walter III of Brienne, who belonged to the feudal family of Champagne, and who had married one of the daughters of King Tancred of Sicily: here is a first "link" with Frederick II.

2)  Celano tells us about a young Francis before his conversion, attracted by the knightly and military glory of an unknown ‘military recruiter’ in the land of Umbria, Count Gentile delle Fonti, most likely a French Templar linked to Walter (1165-1205), who was also a relative of John I of Brienne.

3)  John I of Brienne (1148-1237) King of Jerusalem, a poet and devotee of Francis; the white marbles of his tomb, intriguingly located in the Lower Basilica of Assisi, rest in the magic shade of the large entry wall at the back of the 'Tau' shaped room.

4)  Isabella, daughter of John of Brienne, married Emperor Frederick II.

5)  A key event in Francis’ life took place in Spoleto. As told by Celano, following a glorious dream of a Palace filled with weapons and soldiers, Francis had second thoughts or, rather, was strongly disappointed: like a new David against the armed giant (and, as pointed out by his biographer, quite appropriately for Francis), the son of a wealthy cloth merchant suddenly decides that he is no longer following the expedition to Apulia. By the way, Francis’ father, Pietro di Bernardone, was actually a converted Jew, and the fiduciary of the wealthy Cistercian monastery of Monte Subasio, based on manorial economy and a great producer of valuable wool that Pietro used to export to France and sell at markets and fairs in the Champagne region, stopping on his way at various monasteries.  As it happens, this is the same “Cathar” land where the Holy Shroud reappeared back in 1357!

6)    He feels that the only army suitable for him is the army of "God". His God is a  "God of Peace" (as described in an elegy by Propertius) and not a God "King of the Armies".

7) Therefore, it is not by chance that the 'three knots of the Franciscan habit (which, by the way,  is brown as the one worn by templar converts before they are allowed to wear the white habit of the knights), that worn out uniform of the new mystic Order promoting pauperism founded by Saint Francis, actually give away the 'military' origin of the Franciscan movement, since they exactly correspond to the ‘three votes’ of the templar rule, allegedly designed by Saint Bernard in the name of poverty, humility, and chastity. Francis got his inspiration from the very mouth of Saint Damian’s crucifix, which spoke to him with its lips, or rather to his ears – as told by Saint Thomas first and later by Bonaventure himself.

8)   This is the new uniform of Francis’ Order, with his poor friars being the 'Knights of Christ, who will always march on foot. Hence the "signature" used by Francis on the chartula with a blessing to Brother Leo, is also a 'seal', or 'templar signature', since it has resumed the ‘cross’ motif, marked as it is with bright red ink, like the blood of Jesus who has died on the scaffold for the sins of the whole world.

Plenty are the coincidences and legendary oddities!

These considerations by Arcangelo Papi and those contained in his very interesting essay offer much food for thought. And there are many more, equally convincing statements in this "reversed study", which is specular to the discovery of the

< secret of the triple  >

> 888 <

in the Basilica of Assisi, which was one of the questions we asked at the beginning of this chapter.

In our web search, we have opened many "potholes", and walked down winding staircases - just like those of Castel del Monte - that hide inscrutable secrets. We have also found other articles, all of them highlighted here with hyperlinks, that have given us more food for thought.

Therefore, it would be a nonsense to believe that Brother Elias, a highly cultivated man, philosopher and alchemist, as well as an intimate friend of Francis, with whom he shared important experiences, as well as principles and ideals, has been cancelled by history in such a drastic and unjustifiable way. Indeed, there are no traces of him, except for the many symbolic messages deliberately left on the sturdy walls of the Basilica of Assisi, designed by him. Actually, the Basilica stands as an everlasting testament of symbols created by the skilled hands of Medieval Free Masons, such as the compass, the square, a hammer hitting the raw stone with the chisel. These messages entail a complex system of hermetic ideas, which, although popular among arcane brotherhoods, had been "covered" up. However, luckily for prosperity, they have not been cancelled. Strangely enough, as reported by a chronicler, they can also be found in Saint Francis pilgrim bag.

The Clothing of Saint Francis
"Brother Francis thus began his Great Work in the company of Madonna Povertà, Brother Silence and Sister Peace, wearing a raw cloth tunic, he had sewn himself, taking inspiration from the cross, and tied at the waist by a white cord with three knots, and wearing poor sandals.
His
only luggage was a bag with mason’s tools: the square, the compass, the trowel, the plumb-line, the mallet, the ruler, and the scalpel, symbolizing, respectively, the rectitude of thought, brotherly love that cements everything, the rectitude of judgement, indefatigable work, and the subjecting of our spiritual imperfections to the working of the Spirit, which, by transforming everything, helps us reach perfection".

These are clearly Masonic symbols which, however, have been rejected by the official Church and, alas, underestimated also by Masons, who have failed to realize that the Saint Patron of Italy and Brother Elias, his mentor and spiritual Master, were actually "Freemasonry Forerunners".

The evidence is there, but nobody wants to see it. This is confirmed not only by the great number of symbolic items found in his tomb, but also by all the symbols present on the walls of the Basilica of Assisi, as well as by Francis’ behaviour during the 4th Crusade and his sudden and somehow incomprehensible decision to send Elias to Palestine as his envoy, and then to reach him and stay for a full year in a place that was quite dangerous for Christians.


The decision to send Brother Elias to the Holy Land, and to reach him later, and stay at the Court of Califf al- Malik was not accidental at all.


The decision - which even the papal Legate could not understand - to get in contact with the Sultan of Egypt, was certainly not due to idealism: it was a peace mission proper, a firm intention to change not the outcome of the war, but the very "relations" between these communities that had always been at war.
It was a bold, political and religious project, which, a few years later and not coincidentally, was followed up by Emperor Frederick II himself.  As a matter of fact, the latter, through diplomatic relations established by Brother Elias with Sultan Al Malik, was able to reach Jerusalem at the head of the crusaders’ army with no bloodsheds, and to sign peace agreements.


It is worth reading the report of that incredible experience, a report that was found at the bottom of one of the “secret trapdoors:

"We do not know how Francis, who was accompanied by Pietro Cattani - a family name associated to the 'Holy Face” of  Sansepolcro! - went to the Holy Land: most probably he joined the reinforcement troops from Italian cities sent by Honorius III. He reached Brother Elias, who had been sent to the East by the Chapter of 1217, and who, during his stay there, had successfully pushed to accept Cesario da Spira - an important man with university education - into the Order. Francis probably arrived at Damietta at the beginning of its siege. Jacques de Vitry writes about his arrival, in his letter VI, giving the impression that the newcomer was somehow disconcerting, if not even a nuisance (Manselli, San Francesco, Bulzoni, 1980, page 223 and following). Jacques de Vitry, surprised by the fact that some of his closest collaborators had converted to Franciscanism, wrote: their master and the founder of that order joined our army out of religious faith; he was not afraid to go over to the enemy and preach the word of God to the Saracens for several days, without much success. However, the Sultan and King of Egypt secretly asked him to ask the Lord, on his behalf, to inspire him to join the religion that would

mostly please God."





Detailed testimony of the Saint’s presence in the enemy field is provided by the biography of Fakhr ad-din al-Farisi, an Egyptian theologian and jurist, who in those years was very old and well known as "al-Kamil’s spiritual director and advisor". In this work, he tells about the discussion he, as an Arab sage, allegedly had with a Christian monk, in the presence of the Sultan (Manselli). However, Amin Maalouf in his book The Crusades Through Arab Eyes claims that, as far as he knows, no other Arab source ever mentions this episode.




In any case, the Sultan of Cairo was an open-minded man and a clever politician. He submitted a  proposal to the Christian armies, according to which he would not only give them Jerusalem, but the whole of Palestine West of the Jordan river, as well as the Real Cross (Maalouf, cited work). Even John of Brienne was ready for an agreement, opposed by Bishop Pelagius of Albano, the Pope’s short-sighted and inept Legate.

When, while surfing the Web, we came across another "trapdoor”, we found other references and evidence in the Lecture held by Professor Chiara Frugoni in January 2002 entitled "Chiesa e Islam all’epoca delle Crociate. L’incontro di S. Francesco d’Assisi con il sultano d’Egitto" (Church and Islam during the Crusades. The Meeting between S. Francis from Assisi and the Sultan of Egypt) (see link), of which we are now giving the following excerpt:

"Around 1218, the 5th Crusade was fought and Francis had this extraordinary idea. We have to imagine what it took to get to the Holy Land all the way from Assisi: it was an endless voyage. After this long trip, he went to the Crusaders’ camp and told them: You are Christians and you are killing other people!! But he failed to convince them. Therefore, with an appalling decision, he went over to the enemy, to the Sultan. Early Franciscan sources tell us very little. We know however that Francis stayed a whole year at the Sultan’s court and he would have remained even longer. We believe he travelled all over the Holy Land. Francis came back simply because a Friar, after a very adventurous journey, was able to reach him, bringing him the following piece of news: “Your Order is breaking up and, if you don’t come back, it will be a catastrophe” [...]

"Now, going back to Francis and the Sultan, when Thomas of Celano speaks about them, he recounts what I have been reporting so far. There is a painting on wood – the only one left in Santa Croce in Florence, portraying Francis speaking to the Sultan while the Muslims listen to him enchanted by his preaching.


Conversely, Bonaventure‘s version corresponds to the story told everywhere in Assisi: Francis inviting the Sultan to the following challenge: Light a huge fire, let me and your priests walk into that fire.. May the one who has the greater faith, may God protect him.” Bonaventure states that this proposal was made by Francis. And yet if you go to Assisi, you’ll see the Sultan and his priests running away and Francis about to walk into this huge fire... which was never the case, because this episode has never happened. Bonaventure is maintaining the typical view of all those within the Church who wanted to fight the heretics: the enemy must be defeated and possibly sent to the stake. This was the idea promoted by the Church and in particular by the courts of Inquisition.

There is something else about Francis and the issue of the Crusades: the Crèche of Greccio somehow repudiates the Crusades; it is another typical response of Saint Francis, who does not directly attack the Church, but suggests something which is completely different and, to some extent, also provocative.
Back from his meeting with the Sultan, he asked one of his followers to arrange a nativity scene on the mountain near Greccio, and to bring there an ox, a donkey, and some straw.
The Priest – Francis was simply a Deacon – celebrated the Mass and then Francis fervently preached about the child in Bethlehem born in abject poverty - God incarnate on earth for love of us – in such a passionate and involving way that a worshipper even thought Francis was going to the crib and reached out for a dead baby who opened his eyes
!"


What does this story, also told by Thomas of Celano, actually mean?

This is what Professor Frugoni asked the audience, and then she drew the following conclusions:

"What Francis wanted to say is that it is not necessary to go to the Holy Land in order to free the holy places, that Bethlehem can be anywhere, even in Greccio, provided Jesus is in our hearts. Francis opened the eyes of this dead baby again: in other words, in the hearts of believers he rekindled the love for the other that was completely dead. Therefore, the invention of the Crèche, I believe, is Francis’ response to the Crusades. Defeating and killing the enemy is not essential; what really matters is to live the message of Christ again. What is outstanding is Francis’ idea to speak to the Crusaders first and then to the infidels, as well as to preach in a totally different way from what the Church was actually doing, and then to come back trying to pass his message that what was being done was totally useless, and that it was only generating hatred."

Only shared roots could unite the two enemy fields: Jesus of the Gospels, and that same Jesus of the Koran. It is the common message of "Peace and Goodness", uniting all peoples of the earth  into one single " Oecumene ". All together, under one single civilization: yesterday like today, the unsolved problem of peaceful coexistence of peoples.

Francis knew perfectly well what he wanted and what was doing. His peace mission was way too much for the ordinary understanding of the Crusades’ promoters. Elias and Francis, who reached him later, both armed only with their Faith, were bringing the "holy word of a universal Lord" to the Muslim world, a message that the Caliph understood and accepted.
The Sultan of Cairo – as the above mentioned chronicles failed to report – had demonstrated to be open minded, interested in spiritual issues, as well as a clever politician. In particular, he was "a  Sufi Master",an Oriental Mason initiated in the Royal Art”. Therefore, they were able to establish a strong relationship, since, as indicated by much evidence, both Francis and Elias allegedly belonged or had strong links with the "masonry brotherhood".


On this issue, we have found another < secret trapdoor >, in a recently published book by John Tolan entitled "Le Saint chez le Sultan". The author writes about the encounter between the Sultan and Francis as well as about "two sticks" and an "ivory horn", gifts from the Caliph to Francis, and the same items contained in the glass case in the "Chapel of Relics " in the Lower Basilica.

In this book, the Author reports the opinion of Idries Shah, who believes that Francis had been initiated to Sufism in France, and had entered the tent as a "novice", and came out of it 10 days later as a "Sufi Master".

Therefore, it was not Francis who "converted" the Sultan, as maintained by his official hagiographers, but it was the latter who recognized Francis’ initiatory qualities, and passed on to him the teachings of the Prophet and of the Great Sufi Masters, like Rumi, whose poems are very similar to those written by the Saint from Assisi.

The Caliph gave Francis several symbols, deemed to be simple - even though a bit strange - "gifts", which however would show to eastern Muslims that Francis was "One of them", a Wandering Master, just like Sufi pilgrims, who used to walk from village to village and, to the children who were running to greet them, were telling stories about a mythical character called "asrudin". It is the "village fool", mocked by everybody, but hiding a great wisdom; with metaphors and tales, he would teach rules and social behaviours that are necessary for a successful coexistence.



The Sufi Master used to wear a worn out tunic with lots of colourful patches; actually, Francis would also wear his "tunic full of patches", summoning his friars with an ivory horn, given to him by the Caliph of Egypt: he also used to beat the two sticks – as also done by Muezzins – to invite his followers to keep silent while he was preaching.
The "Muezzin" on top of minarets reminds Muslim worshippers to attend the daily prayers prescribed by the Koran. Five times a day, from sunrise to sunset.



Francis allegedly received a white tunic from the Sultan. During his pilgrimages in Palestine, he would most likely wear it as a safe-conduct, together with the ivory horn hanging from his belt. According to some historians, the tunic was donated to Francis by the Roman Lady Jacopa dei Settesoli.

His wanderings in the holy places allegedly paved the way to many other Franciscan brothers, who founded Franciscan monasteries and homes on Mount Sion, in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the Holy Sepulchre, which, since 1220, has been under the custody of Franciscan monks. This is also confirmed by the French Ambassador in Palestine - the famous French writer Chateubriand – who, in his Memoirs from Beyond the Grave”, reports about some original documents that would confirm that the monastery was founded in that historical period, and that Franciscan monks had been appointed guardians of the Holy Sepulchre.

According to the account by John Tolan in the above mentioned book, Chateubriand received "an honour that he had not demanded nor deserved" from Franciscan monks, who were hosting him in their monastery.
In his book Memoirs from Beyond the Grave”, Chateubriand often mentions Francis as "my Patron in France and my host at the Holy Sepulchre, visited by him. He also reports about an astounding initiation to the "Knights of the Holy Sepulchre" (1122) using Godfrey of Bouillon’s sword and conducted by the Franciscan Guardian of the Holy Places, who is the only one entitled to introduce new members to the Order.
According to the French Ambassador in Palestine, he was invested as Knight - Guardian of the Holy Places following a ritual which – as maintained by John Tolan – was similar to the one attended in 1419 by Nompar de Caumont and by other Western people, such as the British Consul in 1856, who had also been presented with Godfrey of Bouillon’s spurs,  still kept at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Therefore, since the Monastery’s foundation by Brother Elias in 1218, the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre have been members of the Franciscan Order. Actually, Elias was not sent to Palestine to convert anybody, but rather to prepare Francis’ arrival, and obtain the respect and the custody of the Holy Places, a task Franciscans have fulfilled for over 700 years. This is confirmed by several - Franciscan and non Franciscan – authors, reporting that the Sultan Malik al Kamil had given them custody of the Holy Places during the Saint’s visit.

Most probably, also Frederick II, who in 1228-29 successfully completed the peace mission already started by Brother Francis and Brother Elias, had the same initiatory connections: following a smart political and diplomatic agreement with al-Kamil, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth were assigned to him without bloodshed. However, the outrage provoked by this settlement not only in the Arab world, but also among the Crusaders forced Frederick II to drastically turn his weapons against his own allies, something we should reflect upon.

These are "reverse analyses", not to be found in official historiography, because the events are indeed read and interpreted "in the right way", namely according to the view of the "winners". However, if they are read again correctly, they most often offer new elements that are in clear contrast with the “truth” advocated by historians. In particular, they give us important clues on the "actual relations" established between Francis, Elias, and the Caliph of Egypt, and later with Frederick II himself.
Indeed, if we look at the relations established by Francis and Elias with Frederick II and with the  Sultan of Egypt Malik el-Kamil from another point of view, their deep and intimate connection was based on friendship and a spiritual and exoteric brotherhood that kept them closely and indissolubly united. We have tried to highlight this relationship in the other chapters focused on this emblematic and "different relationship”, a relationship that is all too different from the one the official hagiographic historiography has always ‘told us’.

There are indeed too many "coincidences" pointing to the fact that Francis was not only the "little poor man” of Assisi, nor was Elias simply an "excommunicate", nor Frederick II the "Antichrist of the Apocalypse".

Prospero Calzolari, in a book that is no longer in print and impossible to find, [1] observed quite rightly that:
"the occult knot linking these three figures is far from being untied"as is also the case with Celestine V and the Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio - also thanks to those who diligently worked to destroy and hide not only documents and manuscripts, but also sacred items and important and unique relics.

To understand the true nature and quality of relations between Francis and Elias, and between both of them and the Emperor Frederick II and the Sultan of Egypt Malik el-Kamil, we would have to reconstruct their story as well as all the historic events as they actually occurred. These events have been distorted and hidden for so many centuries of obscurantism and deliberate historic opportunism (as maintained by P. Dallari in his book on Brother Elias, which is intentionally entitled Il dramma di Frate Elia (Brother Elias’ Tragedy) (Milan, 1974).  But, this is certainly not our task.

Conversely, we do believe that an in-depth "masonic interpretation" of the above described events, free from biased misconceptions, might perhaps make people accept this notitia criminis, also considering the bitter contempt generally demonstrated for those belonging to Masonic Obediences.

Finding out that perhapsBrother Francis and Brother Elias were "Masonic Brothers" would at long last extend the history of Masons in Italy by 8 centuries. It would no longer start with "Garibaldi", who has always been cited as a great example of Free Mason. It would rather go back to two "Knights of the Light", two real "Warriors of the Rainbow ", undoubtedly two "White Elephants", like "Malik", the elephant Frederick II received as a present from the Caliph of Egypt and which, intentionally, was named after him.

Actually, it will take many more years before this "truth", which is difficult to deny, appears again in the "Mirror of History", thus permitting us to read all the "actions" carried out by Elias on that May 25 1230 from a different perspective. For another fortuitous circumstance, May 25 is a particularly important date for me, since it is the birthday of my daughter Eleonora. Her dissertation entitled "Corpo, Mente, Cuore, nuove sinergie nella formazione contemporanea" (Body, Mind, Heart: New Synergies in Temporary Education) has significantly informed the texts of this Website. For a long time, we have been collaborating on a common project, namely to write a book together aimed at the "discovery of intuition". Some initial ideas of this book that we would like to entitle "An Innocent Sentenced to Life Imprisonment" are attached to the chapter "Initiatory Masonry ".

This was also the sentence imposed on Brother Elias, who took up responsibility for a crime he had not committed, and was sentenced to exile and oblivion, for he refused to disclose where and why he had hidden the "evidence" of his innocence.

Quite unbelievably, his sentence has never been cancelled, because this would have exposed the real culprits of this historical crime perpetrated against him.

However, this does not prevent us from looking at "new evidence", and examine again the meaning of the ritual carried out by Brother Elias that fateful day and the equally symbolic meaning of the 12 silver coins and 12 amber beads: twelve as the 12 semicircular red stone keeps around the church that neatly stand out off the white curtain wall.

Twelve is nothing else than the sum of "five" and "seven"; according to mystic exoteric language, this number represents the Cosmic Order, where the "Man Microcosm" (number five) meets the "Sky Macrocosm" (number seven) as part of the heavenly Jerusalem, featuring 12 doors crowned at the top with 12 precious stones.

But, perhaps, the most important meaning of the encrypted message left by Brother Elias to posterity that exculpates him was clearly illustrated by Brother Prospero Calzolari, a Free Mason himself - perhaps not a practicing one, but certainly a Mason in spirit. There are many important clues confirming this, such as having asked Alberto Cesare Ambesi also a Brother of proven Masonic faith, long ago passed to the eternal Orient, to introduce his book often quoted by us. Many years since his departure, Ambesi’s writings are still stimulating and encouraging us to continue along the path of knowledge we have undertaken.

Hence, let us quote Brother Prospero’s remarks again:

"These items linked to complex hermetic-alchemic symbology are full of meanings, well beyond appearance. Indeed, Brother Elias placed the head of the Saint on a "corner stone". According to traditional symbolism, its shape and position are a symbolic representation of the principle that the "corner stone" must become the "capstone", the only one left in the entire building and the one "with a proper place when construction is completed".

This same concept is also expressed in Psalm 118: "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. "

"The corner stone", secretly placed by Elias under Francis’ head indicates that  "his initiatory path had been completed", a path where he had first placed his head on the "occultum lapidem", the corner stone, "the last stone", which is actually the first, according to Brother Elias, who saw "the Philosopher’s Stone"in him, and believed he was a new Christ and World Axis: with his advent, he had accomplished the Master Work, thus opening the world to the new "Age of the Spirit", as predicted by Joachim of Fiore, who, in compliance with the rules of Jewish mysticism, was using "symbols" to represent  the "Truth".

"If this is the secret meaning of this cornerstone, it is easier to understand why Brother Elias chose the site called the "Hill of Hell" to build the Basilica and changed its name into "Hill of Paradise". He certainly had Matthew’s words in his mind (XVI, 18):" Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it".

"However, it was Francis himself to inspire Elias to build the Basilica of Assisi on the "Hill of Hell ", later renamed “Hill of Paradise by Elias, who said that "one day that hill would become the "Gate of Paradise" (see  P. Benoffi, Compendio di Storia minoritica, Aggiunta, page 355) > "Gate of Heaven", namely the "Ianua Coeli". A mere coincidence or rather a clear reference to the "three stages of Alchemical Work", according to - I would say - "Dante’s" vision (the ascent to Paradise through Lucifer).

"Even the triple structure of the Basilica points out Calzolari - leads to similar conclusions. Indeed, its division into a Crypt, Lower and Upper Basilica refers to the " initiatiory path ", which, through the decomposition of the flesh, and a gradual purification process, leads to the glory of heaven to "see, again, the stars ". This concept epitomizes the space-time condition of esoteric meaning, the condition of man, who has to go through the tests of life in order to shed his earthly impurities and reach perfection ".

With this analysis by Calzolari, we gain an understanding of Francis quite different from the account made by Bonaventure, with whom we cannot agree. Actually, he was motivated and justified by his particular historic time, as well as by the fundamental need to keep the Franciscan movement intact, in spite of all the divisions and the widespread misunderstanding of Francis’ original message, everyone claimed to correctly interpret and follow.

Francis had intentionally maintained his status of layman without taking - as believed by many, - "vows", hence without celebrating mass as a "priest". On this point, reference should be made to the story about the ceremony of the " Crèche of Greccio".

Conversely, he had most probably taken vows as a "Templar", acting all his life as a "monk-warrior", fighting for peace and not for war.

He was the first and only founder of the Order of Friars Minor, just as De Paynes was the founder of the Order of the Temple. Quite intentionally, he chose the symbol of the "Tau" rather than the Cross, although he firmly and fervently believed in Jesus of Nazareth, so much so that he wanted to relive the same passion and the same “via crucis” on his own body, and was the first one in Italy to receive the stigmata.


From his actions and behaviour, a clear "secular initiatory path" can be identified, which followed the typical method of esoteric groups, as evidenced not only by the symbols left on the stone, but above all by those left by Brother Elias around his corpse. We will leave further considerations to those who are more expert and better trained on symbolic issues.
We would like to end this analysis by referring to the allegory of the Graal and the Knights of the Round Table.
The word Graal comes from sangraal, namely royal blood, the blood that has the power to purify the sins of the world and come in contact with divine spheres.


The blood, Francis’ spirit, was certainly "royal" and of the"purest" quality, therefore it had to be preserved in a "royal cup", which was not to be made of "gold", nor of precious "crystal".



Brother Elias collected this blood in a perfectly polished "Stone Cup", under his very "Paradise", letting his mortal remains to be a continuous source of that inexhaustible divine energy, of that powerful, unabated energy released by the holy relics, and protecting it against negative and impure contacts.



This, we believe, is the actual reason why this magic Site has been so strongly protected and obstinately kept secret. Actually, Brother Elias had shown to possess clairvoyance qualities –he was able to forecast the future like the more famous Nostradamus. From his Medieval times, most probably he could see the current commodification of the mortal remains of another poor and humble little friar.



It would indeed appear that the Friars of the Shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo have forgotten the message of strictest poverty and simplicity promoted by Saint Francis and Padre Pio. Perhaps they should have followed the example of Brother Elias and Pope Gregory IX, who had perfectly understood his decision, respecting and protecting it, like all the other Popes who followed him until 1818.

Heart to Heart

Giovanni Salvati

A man cannot change the world
but he can spread
a  message
that can change the world

[1]  Prospero Calzolari, Massoneria, francescanesimo e Massoneria, Publisher Sear.

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