The experts who broke the Nazi’s secret codes are trying to decipher the mysterious 10-letter inscription D.O.U.O.S.V.A.V.V.M. on an 18th-century monument at an English country estate. Legends say it reveals the location of the Holy Grail.
Jill Lawless writes that former British World War II code-breakers met at Bletchley Park, where the letters are carved on a marble monument hidden away in the garden. Mathematician Oliver Lawn says, “The inscription is obviously a classical reference. It’s either Latin or Greek and based on some historical happening.”
Lawless says, “Based on a painting by French artist Nicholas Poussin, but carved in reverse, the etching depicts three shepherds pointing at an inscription on a tomb that reads ‘Et in arcadia ego’ (‘And I am in Arcadia, too’). Below the image is a line of letters – O.U.O.S.V.A.V.V?and beneath that on either end, the letters D and M.” Lawn says, “The picture’s a funny one. Why it’s a mirror image is very strange.”
The Anson family, who built the estate in the 17th century, were interested in the Knights Templar, who claimed to be guardians of the grail. Family spokesman Russel Gethings says the changes to Poussin’s painting in the carving contain clues to the code. “They changed what one of the shepherds is pointing to,” he says. “He’s pointing to a completely different letter than in the painting. And they’ve added a second sarcophagus to the picture.”
The grandmother of Lord Lichfield, who now owns the estate, believed it stood for the opening letters of a line of verse: “Out of your own sweet vale Alicia vanish vanity ‘twixt deity and man.”
Gethings says, “Inscriptions like this might be considered to be a family message, but there are no records within the family of what it means.”
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