A few weeks ago on America Unearthed, Scott Wolter claimed that the “precursors” to the Knights Templar came to Arizona because “some Muslim group” had forced them out of Europe in the eighth century. At the time, I thought this was simply an incongruous reference to the Islamic conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries CE. But in researching Vinland for more background on the Viking occupation of Newfoundland, I came across an interesting reference in Sir Daniel Wilson’s 1892 essay “The Vinland of the Northmen” that I think sheds some important light on this throwaway line and the thought process behind it. The results are surprising and somewhat disturbing.
Another tale comes down to us from the time of the Caliph Walid, and the invincible Musa, of the “Seven Islands” whither the Christians of Gothic Spain fled under the guidance of their seven bishops, when, in the eighth century, the peninsula passed under the yoke of the victorious Saracens.
Although he does not give a reference, I was able to track down a fuller version of the story. In most accounts it is not Seven Islands but rather an Island of Seven Cities, better known as Antillia. One version is recorded on Martin Behaim’s 1492 Nuremberg globe:
In the year 734 after the birth of Christ, when all Spain was overrun by the miscreants of Africa, this Island of Antillia, called also the Isle of the Seven Cities, was peopled by the Archbishop of Porto with six other bishops, and certain companions, male and female, who fled from Spain with their cattle and property. In the year 1414 a Spanish ship approached very near this Island. (trans. Charles Beazley)
Johannes Ruysch tells the same story on his 1507 map, in nearly the same words, adding that the people spoke “the Hispanic language” when they were first contacted but had since vanished.
The story is further retold by Antonio de Herrara in the 1601-1615 Décadas (vol. 1, dec. 1, book 1, chap. 2), in which the Island was home to the Portuguese
at the Time when Spain was overrun by the Moors in the Reign of King Roderick, for that seven Bishops, flying from that Persecution, embark’d with a great Number of People, and arriv’d in that Island, where each of them built his Town, and to the end the People might not think of returning, they set fire to the Ships. (trans. John Stevens)
It appears in several other places as well, with slightly different details.
The story of “pure” Christians escaping the infidel rather than submit is almost certainly mythical, akin to the Sleeping King myth and more generally the Returning Hero motif of folklore, for these “lost” people were believed in medieval times to be perpetually on the verge of returning to rescue Spain from the Muslim yoke. This is very similar to the British myth of King Arthur and his knights asleep on the far-distant Isle of Avalon until England should have need of them again. Nevertheless, in time Antillia became identified with America. By 1729, Gregorio Garcia could assert in the Origen de los Indios that the eighth-century “Spanish” had fled Moorish Spain and settled in Mexico—tying in with the then-popular belief that the Toltecs and/or Aztecs were the descendants of a lost race of “white” Europeans.
The Islamic writer and traveler al-Idrisi of Sicily was rumored to have recorded a variant of the legend, at least according to alternative writers like David Childress. This Idrisi claimed to have sailed as far as the Canary and Madeira islands and to have recorded all the lands of the world on a silver globe made for King Roger II of Sicily. The globe was soon lost, and a single Arabic description of it remained, translated into Latin in 1691. Here, Idrisi locates among a confused report of the Canaries and Azores an additional island, Sahelia, which he describes as having “three cities of equal size, much peopled, the inhabitants of which were now all slain by civil wars” (trans. Walter F. Walker). This island was almost certainly one of the Canaries, but it was roped in to support the Spanish story of the Seven Cities despite significant differences, not least of which was the fact that Sahelia maintained constant nautical contact with the mainland, while the Seven Cities cherished isolation.
Now here is where things get interesting. Holy bloodline writers make much hay of the fact that St. James the Just, often called the brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3, with Josephus, Antiquities 20.9.1), was particularly revered in Spain. Catholics do not recognize Mary as having given birth to any other children (the perpetual virgin), so bloodline writers think this means that any group venerating James must therefore be aware of secret holy bloodlines and the “true” history of Jesus and his kids. It is an article of faith among later bloodline writers, especially Laurence Gardner, that James the Just was actually Joseph of Arimathea and thus since James was believed to have traveled to and lived in Spain, Joseph must have brought the Holy Grail and the Holy Bloodline there with him. (As far as I know, the claim does not appear in the cult’s ur-text, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.) Gardner, we recall, believed that Jesus is descended from gold-hoarding, bloodthirsty extraterrestrials bent on world domination, an alien other derived from Zecharia Sitchin’s aliens from Nibiru, themselves unconsciously repurposed from anti-Semitic stereotypes.
If any of this be true (and it is not), then it follows that when the Arabs conquered Spain, the bishops who departed to found a colony in the mysterious lands to the west had to have been in on the secret and traveled to America to preserve the truth about Mary Magdalene’s and Jesus’ descendants.
What I thought was simply a throwaway line on America Unearthed turns out to be much more likely an expression of a conspiratorial mindset that sees all of European history entwined with the Jesus bloodline. I honestly thought it was just an offhand reference to medieval history, but in light of these revelations, it looks more and more like Wolter was referencing the deeper levels of the Jesus bloodline conspiracy he apparently believes in so strongly. Now we see why he wanted to dump the story of the Romans, Gauls, and Jews told on the supposedly eighth-century Tucson Artifacts in favor of a proto-Templar group unattested in the inscriptions on any of those hoaxed lead crosses and weapons. It all ties together with a hubristic faith in a hidden history where America plays a starring role as the refuge of God’s elect.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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