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Santa María square

The Plaza de Santa María corresponds to part of the space occupied by the old Alcázar de Aryuna, of which barely the antemural remains, an imposing canvas of a sloping wall based on large masonry of pre-Roman origin, heir to a vast defensive system that would have its maximum splendor in Islamic times (S. IX). The square acts as an excellent viewpoint of the fertile and extensive countryside of Jaén and its spaciousness makes it an ideal space to start the literary route. A square, which the author himself describes in this way in The Templars and the Table of Solomon:

“(…) When I arrived I telephoned Pepe Alcántara, Councilor for Culture, Juan’s friend, and met him in the highest part of town, Plaza de Santa María, an esplanade from which you can see a long and beautiful landscape of the olive-growing countryside, with Sierra Morena to the north and Peña de Martos and the Jabalcuz mountains to the south. (…) “

The Templars and the Table of Solomon. Chapter 1.

In The Templar’s Tombstone, Plaza de Santa María is used to contextualize the location of the Sanctuary of the Sacred Relics (Sanctuary of the Saints or Sanctuary of the Alcazar in the work), as well as the Iberian origin of Arjona.

“(…) “Holy moly!” Iñiguez exclaimed. “We are on an Iberian citadel. These sloping walls and these stones are an Iberian wall, quite similar to that of Puente de Tablas”. (…) “

To make the most of our stay in the square, it is convenient to approach to observe an element that has a lot to do with Juan Eslava Galán: the “Stone of Desires” or “The Chances”. It is a ritual or ceremonial stone, since they were considered to be divinities associated with the fertility of the earth or of women and it is archaeologically named Betilo. From a geological point of view, the “Stone of Desires” is a sandstone / limestone sphere that is very eroded, with small concavities that dot its surface, which confer it a lunar appearance. Currently there is a ritual in the town that consists of placing the 5 fingers of a hand in holes of similar size and making a wish. The “Stone of Desires” comes from an excavation that was carried out on a site near the old Gothic Cathedral of Jaén and that reaches Arjona from the hands of Juan Eslava Galán, as he himself mentions in The Templars and the Table of Solomon

(…) “Is it the sphere of the cathedral of Jaén? How the hell did it get here?”

“Juan brought it. Twenty years ago it appeared under the foundations of the Sanatorio bar, in the basement of the primitive Jaén cathedral”. (…)

The Templars and the Table of Solomon. Chapter 1.

In the square, next to the Church of Santa María del Alcázar, there is also a monument to Ibn Alhamar, founder of the Nasrid monarchy, the work of the Granada-born sculptor Cayetano Aníbal González. It is a bronze bust, placed on a stone pedestal, beside two more pedestals with readings alluding to the character and the inauguration ceremony.

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Sanctuary of the Sacred Relics

The Sanctuary of the Sacred Relics (The Saints´Sanctuary or Sanctuary of Alcázar in The Templar’s Tombstone), is a classicist temple dating from the 17th century, the work of the architect Juan de Aranda Salazar.

The building rises on the ashlars of the Mocha tower (one of the towers of the old Alcázar) and resolves the unevenness of the land it is built on, structuring on two floors with differentiated accesses through an imposing exterior staircase.

On the lower floor, like a crypt, there is a Spanish-American colonial baroque altarpiece sometimes used as an auditorium for many different events. Eslava Galán presented here his work The Conquest of America Told for Skeptics.

On the upper floor, you can see the relics of the patrons of Arjona, the martyrs San Bonoso and San Maximiano, whose remains were found in an excavation sponsored by the ecclesiastical authorities.

The Saints are characters of great importance in the Templar Tombstone. In the search for the enigma the Table of Solomon treasures, they come up as a clear Templar symbol as they are dual saints, in the image of the shield of the Order, a couple riding on the same horse :

(…) I’ve also got news from Arjona: at the top of the hill the population sits, a 17th-century scholar and archaeologist, Martín de Jimena Jurado, carried out some excavations where they allegedly discovered the bones of many martyrs, including those of the patrons Bonoso and Maximiano.

Two patrons? – Isabel was surprised. As in a

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Church of Santa María del Alcázar

The robust Church of Santa María stands majestically in Santa María Square, on the remains of the old Main Mosque of the Alcázar de Aryuna.

It was transformed into a Christian temple after the conquest of Arjona by the Christian troops led by King Fernando III in 1244.

In The Templar Tombstone this temple is of great importance because on one of its facades there is one of the famous Templars Baphomet, a very significant element in the plot.

The Church of Santa María is a completely austere Renaissance building with external ornamentation, with stylistic approaches to Elizabethan Gothic art.

The temple stands as a church with a military or fortress aspect, surrounded by buttresses. In 1936, the Church was set on fire and suffered serious damage: doors, chapels … (a fact that the author reflects in the work The Templar Tombstone). The current appearance of the Church is a result of the reforms it experienced after this destruction.

Since 1843, the Church of Santa María has guarded the images of the Patrons of the town San Bonoso and San Maximiano to protect them since the seizure of Mendizábal.


(…) They crossed the esplanade of the orange trees and took to the church of Santa María. The side portal, with a beautiful Gothic arch, reproduced the original lost when the 1936 fire, which completely destroyed the temple, leaving only four walls. Fortunately, the Bafomet from the old pictures was still on the main facade (…)

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The Templar Bafomet

If we stop to contemplate the austere external ornamentation of the Church of Santa María del Alcázar, we can observe how a face carved in stone appears on one of its side facades as the only and striking decorative motif, the so-called Baphomet of Arjona.

Bafomet or Baphomet is a term originally used to describe an idol that the Templar Knights were accused of worshiping and which was later incorporated into different occult and mystical traditions.

Its symbolism is usually a head with a split beard and inclined on both sides and / or with two profiles that give rise to a front face.

The Baphomets are usually placed on the keystones of arches, whose symbolism is translated as the “support of the Church”.

In general, although they are not always located in the keystones of the arches, they are sometimes located in cornices, in angles, windows or other delicate spaces of the buildings.

The Baphomet of Arjona, of Romanesque origin due to its hieratic and rigid nature, is supported on two boards (which indicates that it was founded on the law), it is placed on the keystone of the arch of a side door of the Church of Santa María and not on the principal one.

The fact that Pope Clement V suppressed the Order of the Temple in 1312, some two hundred years before the construction of the temple, seems to indicate that the Baphomet was later embedded in the key of the door and that it belonged to a shaft or other part of a different building.

Juan Eslava Galán, an expert connoisseur of the Order of the Temple, takes advantage of the existence of the Baphomet in the Church of Santa María to incorporate it into the Templar Tombstone, as one of the main elements of interest in the plot.

(…) The Baphomet was a man’s face carved in succinct and primitive relief, rather Romanesque than Gothic, with a serious face, bulging eyes, well-combed parted beard, his hair tied back to the sides of his head like Hathor’s ancient hairstyle (…)

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Juan Eslava Galán Museum of Arts and Customs

The Juan Eslava Galán Museum of Arts and Customs is located in the old San Miguel Hospital (also called Casa del Rey as Ibn Alhamar is believed to have been born here) and shares a building with the Arjona Archaeological Museum.

This patrimonial landmark is not linked to the work The Templar Tombstone in itself, but to Juan Eslava Galán, who, in addition to giving the Museum its name, donated most of the collection on display.

Among the most representative elements on display in the museum, we should highlight the original throne used in the recording of the film Lawrence of Arabia.

Inaugurated in November 2012, it has an important collection of ethnographic and traditional objects used by the residents of Arjona throughout its most recent history: olive-growing culture, typical objects of pig-killing, typical dwellings of houses, etc. The two museums is forge a chronological route and with a marked didactic character, from prehistory to the present time, displaying some attractions such as the burial of El Algar, the Iberian culture, the Roman culture or famous people of the town, such as the founder of the Nasrid dynasty of Granada, Ibn Alhamar, or Helvia, mother of the philosopher Seneca.

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Almohade Water Tank

This water tank, built in the Almohad period, is the oldest building preserved in today’s Arjona and is located under what would have been the Main Mosque of the Alcazaba de Aryuna.

Its rectangular-plan structure is supported by three semicircular vaults, raised on Roman alabaster pedestals, reminiscent of the presence of the Roman temple of Urgavo, dedicated to the Emperor Caesar Augustus.

The water tank´s function was to contain water to supply the population of Aryuna, which is why the interior is not decorated, its walls being lined with mortar.

After a restoration and musealization carried out in 2008, with sound and visual effects that imitate the sound and movement of water, it has become a tourist reference in the town. The Aljibe is part of the Route of the Castles and Battles of Jaén.

Juan Eslava Galán uses the Aljibe Almohade to, once again, provide a religious symbolism in his novel and remember his Iberian past.

(…) On the ground, a few meters away from the Baphomet, there was an iron trap.

This must be the access to the Almohad water tank the secretary of the city council told us about – concluded Pío.

To the water tank and to the spring -Iñiguez said-. A spring in a high place sanctified a place in the religion of the Iberians. And here the people of Calatrava settled the church and the Baphomet (…)

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Church of Saint John the Baptist

The Church of Saint John the Baptist is located where most likely a Roman temple dedicated to Bacchus used to be, and later became a Jewish synagogue. In fact, the church is located in the old Jewish quarter of the city.

The temple, of late Gothic style, began its construction in the first third of the 16th century. Since then it has undergone several renovations, being practically destroyed in 1936 as a result of the events of the Spanish Civil War. Its typical Plateresque façade stands out, its beautiful and stylized octagonal tower and the rich Sagrario, made by the Archpriest of Arjona Juan Antonio León.

The Church of San Juan Bautista is only mentioned once in the book, specifically on the last page, but it is of great importance, since it is where the Templar Tombstone was found, in an underground burial (the Crypt of Baron of Velasco, aka Barón de Velillos in the novel).

Likewise, the fact of being consecrated to Saint John the Baptist is another nod to the Templar Order, since one of the theories of some scholars indicates that the Baphomet Templars symbolized Saint John, whose head they would have found in excavations in the Holy Land and that the Templars would have embalmed, so these representations would refer to the Saint.

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Crypt of Baron of Velasco

This family funerary crypt, neo-Byzantine style, was built by order of Fernando Ruano Prieto, Baron of Velasco, under the patronal Chapel of his family in the Church of Saint John. The design, by architect Antonio Flórez Urdapilleta, highlights its resplendent golden tesserae, the apse presided over by a Pantocrator, surrounded by four cherubs and three statues sculpted in Carrara marble by the Valencian José Capuz, representing the Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity).

The most unique thing is its ingenious movement mechanism through rails to access the mortuary niches. These were hidden behind the statues and were activated when someone had to be buried. This is the space that Juan Eslava Galán had chosen to hide the Templar Tombstone in his work, which in fiction he calls the Crypt of Baron of Velillos. The author also recreates the damage undergone during the Spanish Civil War.

(…) They entered a narrow room. To the right began a monumental flight of descending staircase, made of Carrara marble, badly destroyed and full of rubble. They descended with the flashlights on. The staircase described half a circumference and ended in a tiny underground room in the shape of a Greek cross. One side of the cross was occupied by a small altar so thoroughly smashed it was almost unrecognizable. They focused the flashlights at the ground. In the center, three monumental Carrara marble sculptures, two meters high, were piled up, one on top of the other, impeding the passage (…)

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Arjona Town Hall

The building that houses the Arjona Town Hall is a traditional Andalusian-style house from the 19th century that Juan Eslava Galán describes very precisely:

(…) The Arjona Town Hall was an Andalusian-style house with a bright, beautiful inner patio with marble flooring and surrounded by columns. Along the walls, a beautiful tile plinth ran halfway up. There were pots of aspidistras in the corners; on the walls, notice boards and large, faded aerial photographs of the town. At the end there was a marble staircase that led to the upper floor. (…)

The Arjona Town Hall is one of the last places that Pío Exposito, the protagonist of the novel, visits in the city. He only intends to return an umbrella to the secretary, but he will come across a surprise.

Once inside the building, it is convenient to visit the room called the Sala de la Antigua Alcaldía, which is used as a reception place for official visits and has a historicist decoration with Islamic medieval reminiscences, with typical elements of Mudejar, Nasrid or Caliphate artistic styles and, thus, differentiated from the rest of the townhall. This decoration was originally located in the palace-house owned by the Baron of Velasco, Fernando Ruano Prieto.

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The Templar Tombstone

The Templar Tombstone, the element that gives the novel its title and that generates its plot, is a marble stone that is located in an unexpected place that the author reveals at the end of the novel.

(…) He was on the third rung when he discovered her.

There it was, embedded in the wall to the right, under the inclined plane of the second flight of stairs. (…)

The Tombstone has the enigma of the Table of Solomon engraved on its external face, by means of a geometric mandala,, which hides the encrypted key to the dominion of the world, the “Shem Shemaforash”.

In its search a curious and strange group, conformed by an ex priest, a university professor and a librarian, compete; the Masonic lodge, “the twelve apostles”; two factions of the Vatican, among which the Vatican secret services; the Jewish Lubavitch sect; and the Israeli secret service, the Mossad.

A series of elements, which, after a frenetic action throughout the novel, surprises with an unexpected outcome.

Finally, the Templar Tombstone appears in the Arjona Town Hall itself, taken there by a neighbor who bought it from a gypsy from Granada and donated it to the Town Hall.

(…) On the white marble tombstone, occupying its entire surface, the remote hand of the marble maker Remigio Cobo had carved a series of concentric circles that started from a central checkerboard. Cutting the circles, the fine chisel had drawn a twelve-pointed star. The set formed a geometric network of straight lines and curves that contrasted with the empty smoothness of the margins in which three solitary Hebrew letters were distinguished, one on the top and two on the sides, the Three Mother letters of the Kabbalah. (…)