It will be the decisive test to prove that in the sarcophagus of San Fermo in Verona there are the remains of his brother, Arnau de Torroja, Master General of the Order of the Temple who died in 1184 in Verona. So far, multidisciplinary scientific research has provided clues that all lead to Arnau: the results previewed at a conference in Verona

Tuesday 24 April 2018 for the Catholic Templars Association of Italy is a historic date: the experts were allowed to proceed with the removal of a bone sample from the remains of Guillem de Torroja, preserved for nine hundred years in a tomb in the cathedral of Tarragona , to be sent to the Harward Medical School in Boston for DNA extraction, where the sample of the individual preserved in the sarcophagus found in San Fermo di Verona has already been sequenced. The archbishop of Tarragona has in fact finally allowed, after some rejected questions, the operation which in the hopes of Magister Mauro Giorgio Ferretti, president of the Catholic Templars of Italy, should be the decisive proof to affirm that in the sarcophagus, which he discovered more three years ago in the spaces of the former Benedictine chapter house of the church of San Fermo in Verona, there are the remains of the Master General of the Order of the Temple, Arnau de Torroja, who died in Verona in 1184 where, in a delicate mission diplomat with the Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Master General of the Hospitallers, he should have met Pope Lucius III and the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and convinced them to send more aid to the Holy Land encircled by the troops of Saladin, leader and sultan, who only three years later would besiege and conquered Jerusalem leading to the collapse of the Crusader kingdom. “I was no longer hoping for it. Fortunately, the climate has now changed ”, admits Msgr. Fiorenzo Facchini, anthropologist, professor emeritus of the University of Bologna, president of the Scientific Coordination for Research on Military-Religious Orders, who since the day of the discovery of the sarcophagus has followed the complex and ambitious multisciplinary research project to ascertain, with the best experts each of their own sector, to whom that singular sarcophagus of San Fermo really belonged. And it was precisely these studies, with their historical-scientific rigor, the results of which were presented on Saturday 21 April 2018 in Verona at the historical-scientific conference “The sarcophagus found in Verona and the Templars” that convinced the Catalan ecclesiastical authorities to give the ‘consent to the removal of a bone sample from the remains of Guillem de Torroja (see the-figure-of-arnau-de-torroja-and-anticipates-the-lines-of-the-historical-scientific-conference-of-verona-ce-l / ).

“Bombshell! The discovery of Verona is bombshell ”: Msgr. Facchini, at the round table that closed the conference, lets himself go, overcoming the proverbial sobriety and prudence of the anthropologist scientist. “Now I look confident. But it is certain that if all the studies carried out so far, with different methods and different disciplines, have provided us with clues that all lead to confirm that this is the tomb of Arnau de Torroja, it is evident that the DNA of a brother, Guillem, archdeacon of Urgell, bishop of Barcelona and archbishop of Tarragona, where he died in 1171, would give 100 percent certainty. So in a few months we hope to be able to tell the world that Verona preserves the tomb of a Master General, the ninth of the 23 that have occurred in the 183 years of the Templar order. And this would be the only one that survived the damnatio memoriae and that has come down to us through the centuries “. It is Facchini himself who summarizes the clues that lead to Arnau de Torroja: first of all the historical documents, which confirm that Arnau died in Verona in 1184; then there are the archaeological data that explain that that sarcophagus has the Templar cross sculpted and returned fragments of precious fabrics: all elements that lead us to the presence of a person of rank of the Order of the Temple; anthropological analyzes shed light on the infused: an advanced adult man with Mediterranean characteristics; while the genetic analyzes have not only confirmed that it is a male individual but that it has genomic similarities with the Catalans; finally, the calibrated dating of the finds with radiocarbon C14 returns a compatible time span between 1020 and 1220 AD. So let’s take a closer look at the various researches presented in Verona.

Arnau de Torroja, soldier, religious, Templar, administrator and diplomat. It is Giampiero Bagni, archaeologist and historian of Nottingham Trent University, who portrays the figure of the Catalan, his very rapid career, until his death in Verona at the age of 66. “Arnau de Torroja”, says Bagni, “was born in Solsona to a family of local lords in 1118. The family had already made itself known as early as 990 thanks to its ancestor Mirò, a valiant knight at the court of the Count of Urgell. They are in full Reconquista , when the Spanish knights were engaged on the Iberian front against the Muslims. The family took the name of Torroja with the conquest of the nearby castle of the same name by Arnau’s grandfather at the end of the 11th century. While Arnau’s father, Bernat Ecard de Torroja expanded the possessions by joining the entourage of the Count of Barcelona. When he died in 1143 he left five children, four of whom would have reached full adulthood with important careers: Berenguer was lord of Torroja, Guillem was archbishop of Tarragona, and Pietro bishop of Zaragoza ”. First Bernat and then his sons made substantial donations to the Order of the Temple, a situation that certainly facilitated the career of Arnau who, having participated since 1133 in the Reconquista campaigns, in 1166, after only four years after his entry into the Order, he became Master of Catalonia and Provence, and remained so until 1180 when he became Master General, on the death of Odo of Saint-Amand, in the prisons of Saladin, Master General of the Temple captured in battle the year before. “A strategist was needed and Arnau was chosen, despite the fact that he was not in the Holy Land, he was not French, he was elderly, and finally he was more a diplomat than a leader”.

His tireless diplomatic activity led Arnau to the embassy of 1184 to seek new aid for the Crusader states, an embassy – for the time – at the highest level: with the Master General of the Temple there were in fact the Patriarch of Jerusalem and the General Master of the Hospitallers. The three sailed from the Holy Land in June 1184. But are we sure that Arnau arrived alive in Verona? Bagni found confirmation in archival documents. “Baldwin IV, king of Jerusalem, who remained in the Holy Land because he was very ill, carefully follows the evolution of the diplomatic mission”, explains Bagni, “and in one of his letters congratulates him on the success of the voyage at sea and the arrival of the three to Brindisi, from where they continue by land to Verona. The documents instead speak of two delegates only on the way to Paris and London ”. Then Arnau arrived in Verona and from Ligato’s studies we know that he met Pope Lucius III (who would also die in Verona the following year, in 1185: buried in the cathedral), but the meeting with the Emperor Barbarossa is less certain. . On 30 September 1184, as the obituary of Reims records, Arnau died in Verona. Where could a General Master of the Templars be buried? “We know”, continues Bagni, “that the Templar church was San Vitale nell’Oltreadige, which, when the Order was suppressed in 1314, passed to the Hospitallers”. But why the tomb in San Fermo? An answer was given by Loredana Imperio, president of Larti – Free association of Italian Templar researchers: “Certainly San Fermo, which belonged to the Benedictines, had close relations with the Templars: the church stood on the banks of the Adige, outside the walls, therefore subject to raids. Nothing more likely that the Templars, who were very close, on the other bank of the river, provided armed defense to the monks of San Fermo. It is therefore not surprising that, upon the suppression of the Order, upon the transfer of goods to the Hospitallers, something – such as the tomb of the Master General – was brought to San Fermo. It is also true that some documents would suggest that in 1184 the Templars were not in full possession of the church of San Vitale, which was still involved in disputes with the canons of the cathedral. In this case San Fermo could have been chosen because there would have been a jus patronatus of the Templars on it “.

The sarcophagus of San Fermo, in very friable local stone from the Veronese hills, bears now illegible inscriptions, but on the short sides, better preserved, it has a beautiful patent cross (or croix pattèe , or the cross with arms equal that widen on the outside) with tip (barb), typical of the Templars. The study was investigated by Sergio Sammarco, head of the Italian Documentation Center on the Order of the Temple at the Casamari state library. “We know that different types of cross have been used over the centuries, starting with the Greek one”, Sammarco points out, “but there are few cases in which we can associate these crosses with Knights Templar, and all have the barb, as in Verona, which could resemble the knight’s sword ”. The barbed cross is represented in the seals of the Templar captains of Aquitaine. But we also find it in the church of Tempio di Ormelle in the province of Treviso, built by the Templars in the 12th century along the road to Oderzo. “Here are represented some Templar crosses, unfortunately poorly preserved”, continues the scholar, but in two you can see very well the barb “. And we cannot forget the church of Santa Maria di Norbello, in the province of Oristano: there are ten crosses with barb. “The sarcophagus of San Fermo has a Greek cross in which the barb is clearly visible. It is evident that it is not a decisive proof, but it is an important clue ”.

Precious fabrics worthy of a person of rank On the bottom of the sarcophagus two small fragments of fabric were found entrusted to one of the leading experts, prof. Daniele Arobba, director of the Archaeological Museum of Finale in Finale Ligure Borgo, in the province of Savona. Fragment A measures 32 x 60 millimeters, in good condition, has the selvedge on one edge, the weft threads are colored, the warp threads are twisted and double (warp rep). The manufacture with a plain weave provides a special 4-heddle loom, usually used by expert craftsmen. “The result is a light but strong fabric,” explains Arobba. “The analyzes revealed that they are silk threads, therefore yarns that in the 12th century were reserved for fine fabrics, and the weft threads are colored. Some of these colored threads, which today seem dark green to us, were originally deep blue, a color that was difficult to obtain in the Middle Ages, obtained from so-called blue plants such as indigo. So it was a distinguishing color for the wearer, and it was on a fine fabric “. Fragment B is smaller: 14 x 30 millimeters, in a reasonable state of conservation, without selvedge, and with uniform color. The thread is always made of silk, with a simple canvas weave, two-heddle loom, which give a very opaque fabric. “Fabric A is very worn, so it may have been a banner used as a shroud in the burial of a man of rank in the 12th century. This too is a clue that leads us to Arnau ”.

But what was inside the sarcophagus? The inspection was carried out by prof. Bagni, with the anthropologist Msgr. Porters and medieval archaeologist Paola Porta, and inside the remains of three buried were found, buried one on top of the other in successive moments, a sign of a probable reuse of the sarcophagus. “We have studied and dated them”, Bagni intervenes: “it is an elderly man (at the bottom of the sarcophagus) buried first, a woman from the early fourteenth century and, above, a young man from the fifteenth century. The sample of the elderly man, who was believed to belong to the oldest burial, subjected to radiocarbon dating C14 in the Dating and Diagnostic Center of the University of Salento, directed by prof. Lucio Calcagnile, is datable between 1020 and 1220 AD, with the highest percentage of results between 1140 and 1190: a dating compatible with the death of Arnau “.

“The recovered bones of the elderly man made it possible to reconstruct a large part of the skeleton, with the most important parts such as the skull, pelvis and long bones”, explains Maria Elena Pedrosi, anthropologist at the University of Bologna. “The study of the bones of the skull and pelvis has established that it is a male individual of an advanced age between 50 and 60 years. He must have been between 160 and 170 centimeters tall, and from the paleopathological study it can be said that he suffered from back pain and tooth pain ”. And Msgr. Facchini: “Genetic analyzes have found the Y chromosome confirm that it is a man, whose genome resembles that of the Catalans more than the Italians. So new and more stringent clues about Arnau’s figure Now we just have to wait for the comparison with the brother’s DNA ”.