(Part 1 of a series of reports)
Why would an historic, 300-year-old church which is home to the remains of some of the most legendary figures in American history allow archeologists, at the behest of a determined group of metaphysicians, dig in their sacred churchyard? As unlikely as it seems, that's exactly what Bruton Parish Church of Williamsburg, Virginia did in 1992, and they may do it yet again. What is even more unusual is that this was not the first time the church had granted such a request. Another dig was authorized in 1938 at the request of a California woman named Marie Bauer, an amateur Shakespearean scholar and self-proclaimed mystic. Numerous core samples have also been taken in the churchyard. What were they looking for?
The answer is simple. They were looking for Francis Bacon's vault. However, the explanation of what that vault contains, and why they're looking for it so hard, is as mysterious and convoluted as the human brain.
Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), noted essayist, scientist and member of Parliament, never came to the Virginia colony, although many of his cousins did. Most notable of those were Nathaniel Bacon, Sr., member of Council, Burgess, and acting Governor of the colony, who is said to have brought the vault to the colony in 1653.
Rumors abound as to whether the vault ever existed, and if it did, what it contained. It is generally believed that the vault contained the original manuscripts of Bacon's collected writings.
Bacon's writings themselves are the subject of wide, and often wild, speculation. Bacon published many essays publicly. However, even noted scholars still debate over whether Bacon may have been the actual author of the works of William Shakespeare. Since none of the original Shakespearean manuscripts have survived, some believe that they are contained within the vault. (Note: there are no other surviving original play manuscripts of the Elizabethan era, so the loss of the Shakespearean manuscripts may not be as mysterious as it first sounds) Others believe that unpublished chapters of, or even a sequel to, Bacon's published work "New Atlantis", a utopian vision of a world of peace and prosperity for all, are included in the writings. Because Bacon was a high-ranking member of both the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons, some speculate that the writings include maps, codes, diagrams, ancient texts, and a grand plan to bring the world into global harmony and order. There is also an assertion that there was more than one vault, and that the key to finding the other vaults lies within the one in question.
Bruton Parish Church considerably postdates Bacon's life. It was formed in 1677 as a merger of two parishes, one of which dates back to 1633. Vault proponents claim that the vault was originally buried in Jamestown and later moved to Bruton Parish Church when the seat of government was transferred there in 1699. A splinter group claims that Thomas Jefferson was the last person to view the vault's contents and that he had the vault buried on the campus of the University of Virginia when it was being constructed prior to its opening in 1826. Jefferson was one of the notables known to have attended services at Bruton Parish Church. It has long been rumored that he, too, was a high-ranking member of the Freemasons. Secret societies within the university he founded have existed throughout its history.
Where the theory that Bacon's writings had been preserved and transported to Virginia originated remains shrouded in the annals of time. However, in 1938, Marie Bauer, who later married Manley P. Hall, a noted author of books revealing Masonic secrets, a Mason himself, and the founder of the Theosophical Society, arrived in Williamsburg. It was she who convinced church officials to agree to the first dig to uncover the vault.
Bauer claimed that all of the works of Shakespeare had a code embedded within them describing the secrets of Bacon's work with the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons, and that there were numerous encoded references within the works to Bacon as the author. She also claimed that she had found a manuscript slated for restoration on a shelf which was written by a man named Wither, and dated 1602. The book, which was used for divination of answers to questions posed by the reader, contained anagrams, poems, emblems and diagrams which, in addition to providing divination, Bauer claimed prophesied the future location of Bacon's vault.
Church officials agreed to the dig. Massive efforts were exerted to find the vault, to no avail. Bauer then, it was reported, found an inscription(encoded) on one of the gravestones within the churchyard which led her to believe that the vault was buried within the foundation of the original structure, which had been demolished when the seat of government moved to Williamsburg and a larger church was required. The location of the original structure was, at that time, unknown. Bauer herself then began to dig in the location which she had discerned from the encoded inscription, and soon uncovered a part of the old foundation. The dig recommenced, and the entirety of the foundation was uncovered, but still, the vault was not found.
Undeterred, Bauer spent the remainder of her life teaching her Baconian ideals and perpetuating belief in the vault. She was said to have received many divinely-inspired visions of a utopian world which would come into being when the vault was found. Her students carried her teachings with them into the modern day, and the year 1991.
(continued in Part 2)
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