Lost Relic Hunters S2: Episodes
Sky HISTORY returns to follow Hamilton White and Carl Cookson as they hunt for the secrets behind historical artefacts that could change our understanding of the past, forever.
Aided in their adventures by cultural and art historian Dr Janina Ramirez, Lost Relic Hunters sees Carl and Hamilton journey to breath-taking locations around the world, including Venice, Istanbul, Barcelona, Jerusalem and the Pyrenees in their quest to authenticate the rare and precious antiquities from Hamilton’s collection.
The items include a priceless collection of Celtic gold and stone carvings, which promise to shed new light on the Celts’ beliefs and forms of worship; a sword and helmet believed to have been used by warrior knights in the First Crusade from 1096 CE; a mysterious white marble chalice believed to have been one of the most coveted possessions of the Knights Templar; as well as some extremely rare items decorated with the Jerusalem cross, thought to have been in the possession of Christian pilgrims on the road to the shrine of St James in Galicia, northern Spain.
Episode One: The First Crusade TX Date: Monday 6th September
Carl Cookson and Hamilton White investigate a Crusader sword and helmet that date back more than 900 years. Oxford historian Dr Janina Ramirez helps them decode the symbolism on these ancient relics to show that the sword may have been used in the First Crusade when Christian knights retook the holy city of Jerusalem, and that the helmet, embossed with the Lion of St Mark, was made in Venice.
Travelling to Italy’s ‘floating city’, Carl and Hamilton learn more about how and why Venice adopted St Mark as its patron saint and went on to become a leading maritime power – eventually supplying crucial ships for the Crusades. They also discover that, on the way to Jerusalem, the Venetians chose to attack the Christian city of Constantinople to recoup losses they had sustained in building the fleet.
In the archives Janina discovers a powerful and vivid first-hand account of the “Sack of Constantinople” by a government official who was living in the city at the time.
Travelling to modern day Istanbul, Carl and Hamilton learn how the Crusaders managed to breach the city walls from the sea and went on to loot many of Constantinople’s treasures, ultimately using them to decorate St Mark’s Cathedral. They also make an extraordinary archaeological find in a ruined church and visit the last resting place of the Venetian Doge who led the attack on Constantinople in the magnificent Hagia Sofia.
Episode Two: Celtic Gold TX Date: Monday 13th September
Carl and Hamilton investigate an extraordinary collection of Celtic gold from the Iberian Peninsula that dates back thousands of years. Amongst the rare artefacts are a gold bowl worth over £1m, fine pieces of jewellery depicting the goddess Astarte, and a stone altar to the god Endovelicus which might have been used in rituals that involved blood sacrifice.
Travelling to Portugal, where most of the Celtic gold is from, Carl and Hamilton meet up with Joao, their long-time local guide and collaborator. The three men travel to the site of a very rare temple devoted to Endovelicus and explore how the temple might have been used to worship the god.
Carl and Hamilton meet up with forensic archaeologist and former police detective Roger Box. They want to find out more about the Roman symbolism that appears on the Celtic altar, and Roger takes them to the site of a Roman temple in the Cotswolds. He shows them how the Romans often assimilated the religions of other cultures, which helps them to precisely date and interpret the meaning of the altar.
Episode Three: Knights Templar Chalice TX Date: Monday 20th September
Carl and Hamilton are back on more familiar ground with a stunning white marble chalice from Hamilton’s Knights Templar treasure hoard, where the relics they explored in the first series came from.
They travel to Chartres Cathedral in France, believed to have been built by the Templars, to examine a depiction of a very similar chalice on the north portico. Inside the Cathedral they also come across a famous depiction of a black Madonna which is at the centre of a Christian cult and was also revered by the Templars.
Wanting to find out more about the cult of the black Madonna, Carl and Hamilton travel to a spot in the south of France which has given rise to an extraordinary theory – made popular by the novel and movie The Da Vinci Code – that Mary Magdalene travelled from the Holy Land after the crucifixion and was carrying Jesus’ child.
Back in the UK, Janina looks at some of the sources that inspired The Da Vinci Code and how the novel and the blockbuster movie came to grip the public’s imagination.
Carl and Hamilton end their journey in Scotland, visiting an expert stonemason who shows them evidence of how the Templars took refuge after they were outlawed by the French king and the Pope in 1307. He also shows then a chalice of his own, found buried beneath Rosslyn Chapel, another famous Templar site made famous by The Da Vinci Code and believed by many to be the last resting place of The Holy Grail
Episode Four: Pilgrim Warriors TX Date: Monday 27th September
In Hamilton’s possession is a wooden chest stuffed full of relics from medieval Christian pilgrimages. These include clamshell pendants from the Camino de Santiago in Spain and Jerusalem crosses from the Holy Land. In addition, Hamilton has two stone carvings. One is of a pilgrim clad in a cloak and carrying a book and staff; the other is very similar except that he is carrying a spear.
Carl and Hamilton’s journey starts in the south of France, the traditional starting point of the Camino. They traverse the Pyrenees, stopping off at key landmarks like Charlemagne’s Cross, where pilgrims lay tributes and say prayers to St James. Meanwhile Janina examines a manuscript of the medieval Codex Calixtinus – sometimes known as the first tourist guide – that was used as a handbook by medieval pilgrims.
Descending the other side of the Pyrenees and crossing into Spain, Carl and Hamilton come to a strategic castle that was a flashpoint during the bloody war fought between Christian and Muslim forces for control of this region in the Middle Ages. They visit the Cathedral of Santiago, home to the shrine of St James, and learn more about the clamshell symbol.
Their destination is Jerusalem, where they visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Carl gets a tattoo of the Jerusalem Cross from a man whose family has been tattooing pilgrims here for 900 years. He also learns more about the symbol’s deeper meaning.
Episode Five: Nazi Relics TX Date: Monday 4h October
Hamilton has amassed an extraordinary collection of Nazi memorabilia. These include a collection of Nazi badges that were sold to raise money for the German poor, and an ammunition box full of silver bullion bars that were found buried close to a concentration camp in Poland. The badges incorporate many symbols from other ancient religions and cultures that the Nazis used to promote the myth of an Aryan master race.
The Nazi relics have a deeply personal resonance for Janina as she is Polish, and her grandmother was interned in a Nazi labour camp during the war. Janina begins her part of the investigation into the Nazi obsession with religious symbolism by looking into Nazi Grail hunter Otto Rahn, the inspiration behind the Indiana Jones movies. She discovers documents that reveal Rahn, who eventually committed suicide, was gay and had Jewish ancestry.
Carl and Hamilton begin their investigation at a stunning mountain-top monastery at Monserrat in Spain. Heinrich Himmler came here in 1940, after Rahn’s death, to continue his obsessive search for the Grail.
Carl and Hamilton discover that the silver bullion bars, made from melted down jewellery or even fillings from concentration camp inmates, could have been used to purchase materials for armaments had they not been buried.