T H E   R E N N E S – L E  - C H Â T E A U  

T H E M E   P A R K










PAGES (Just click on the page you wish to go to):

Page 1—Abandon All Hope: Introduction to a Hermeneutical Hell

Page 2—“The Saunière Episode Who Wrote It?  

Page 3—The Plantard Subplot  

Page 4—The Lincoln Story & Its Aftermath

Page 5— Puzzling Pieces of the Story 

Page 6—Summing Up

Page 7—Links & Sources

All pages are best viewed by monitors set to 800 X 600 resolution.



Since there’s no way out now, on with how “The Saunière Episode” was even more entertainingly “written” by other authors.  De Sède’s 1967 book, which, it is surprising to realize, barely mentioned a Merovingian connection to “the mystery,” was then accidentally read in 1969 by a vacationing, French-speaking, BBC-TV documentarian named Henry Lincoln, who eventually made the Merovingian connection into a very big thing indeed and gave Plantard’s Priory of Sion considerable hope to be taken seriously as an ancient society holding great truths to its bosom.   Hopes that Lincoln eventually dashed, however.


In the next three decades, Lincoln brought “The Mystery of Rennes-le-Château” to the English-speaking world through a series of TV documentaries (beginning in 1972 with “The Lost Treasure of Jerusalem”) and also by authoring or co-authoring (with Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh) several books on it, beginning with Holy Blood, Holy Grail (1982), and lately by producing several provocative tour-guide videos.  It is largely the version argued for by Lincoln, Baigent, and Leigh, inspired by and partially based on the De Sède-Priory account, with similar subsequent work inspired by both, that I’ve been referring to here as “the popular story” or “the popular version.”  Popular because it’s by far the best written and the most intriguing and provocative and most historically wide-ranging account with the most significant implications.  It’s doubtful that most of the attention this case has received would have occurred without Lincoln et al.


Brits have been in the forefront of much of the serious research ever since Lincoln started broadcasting, “serious” in the sense of scientifically investigative and analytical and semi-scholarly, although Paul Smith, as said, is one Brit who thinks his fellows are chasing after wild geese.  Smith and at least some of his British compatriots seem to be known to each other, and so one can’t help wondering if there’s anything personal in their debate.  Bill Putnam and John Edwin Wood also appear to be Brits, so the civil war goes on.


At least with Lincoln it seemed this was being looked at from the outside by people with seemingly no particular axe to grind, who only asked that “the script” make good TV.   Ay, there’s the rub.   Ah, television, what crimes have been committed in thy name!  The need to “dramatize” is always distorting, especially when that’s not acknowledged, and, for another, you can’t tell a story on TV without making yourself part of the story.  And that’s what happened to Lincoln, who became a celebrity.  And a convenient target.


The targeting especially transpired when Lincoln met with the principals, the cast of characters, who, it turns out, did indeed think of themselves as “characters,” as in a play or TV drama, essentially four characters in search of an author—Plantard, De Sède, De Chérisey, Chaumeil.  As meetings, first with De Sède (beginning in 1970), and then, beginning in 1976, with Plantard and other members of the Priory (De Sède seemingly dropping out, apparently over some book royalty dispute) occurred in preparation for the TV documentaries, Lincoln realized that an attempt was being made to manipulate the media through him.  And he further came to realize that Plantard and the Priory had been trolling for someone like him for about a decade, for his researches turned up a considerable number of relevant articles and pamphlets published in popular media or privately published in limited editions and deposited in the Bibliothèque National from the mid-50s on (or, if pre-dated, from the early 60s on), many pseudonymously.  Some of it was wildly sensationalist (as some authors were presumed murdered or suicides!), apparently in the belief that the lure for a media type like Lincoln had to be gaudy (or were the baiters just inept, or were the jokesters just having too much fun?).  The man who supposedly prepared the parchments for De Sède’s book, the Marquis Philippe de Chérisey (now dead), had a passion for the theatrical that has to be factored in here as well, for when was he acting and when was he not?  For De Chérisey’s role, we will need an actor who can portray an actor, although apparently a discouraged one for his career was not a flourishing one.  That would account for his willingness to accept the role of Plantard’s co-conspirator, especially if it came with pay (did it?).


Strangely, however, the lure was at times withdrawn by a teasing strategy. As, intrigued but wary, Lincoln delved deeper, he became aware that he was sometimes being watched, and that occasionally evidence under his consideration was tampered with or deliberately denied him or even destroyed.  All of which was, according to the plot line here, being managed by Plantard.  Or “mismanaged” if you think the strategy was absurd or inept.  Or were the managers themselves simply absurdists, who were no more than playing postmodern games with truth? 


 Adding to Lincoln’s frustration, hostile treasure hunters, mistakenly thinking him one of them, sometimes tried to block his way or threaten him or ruin his evidence.  De Sède himself, perhaps gulled by others (Chaumeil?) and hoping to gull a Lincoln assumed to be fascinated by the treasure angle, later, after the first BBC-TV documentary was televised, claimed to have found royal Visigoth treasure, which he offered to provide a filmed documentary of.   A suspicious Lincoln did not rise to the bait and was vindicated when later the treasure did indeed turn out to be fraudulent.  It seems De Sède (who died in 2004) had a great desire to appear on television, which led years later to Lincoln being punched out by De Sède for not letting him appear in one of the early documentaries!  All this needed was fisticuffs!  


Early on Lincoln realized the effect he was having and tried to avoid skewing his investigation in the directions others wanted him to go.  In fact, realizing that so many of his “facts” were fed to him, especially by De Sède and Plantard, he himself has advised us to be skeptical of everything and hold fast only to that which is incontrovertible.  Regardless, his determined independent research has turned up enough on its own to keep the mystery alive as something perhaps partially tainted with fraud or maybe just accidentally fraudulent in some parts but not entirely fraudulent.  There is even the amusing possibility, as I suggested above, that the suspicions of fraud that have grown up around this have been deliberately planted and encouraged by the conspirators (real or bogus?) in order to deflect a spotlight they no longer want. 


Whatever “the truth,” certainly there is no gainsaying the fact that Rennes-le-Château has had an interesting and perhaps fabulous past, worth investigating for its own sake, whether “The Saunière Episode” with its Priory element pans out or not.  Especially if the “sacred geometry” and/or the Zodiac planisphere some have found on the ground around Rennes proves to be valid (more about this later).   With or without Saunière and the Priory, there’s plenty of grist for the hermeneutical mill.                




T H E   N O S T R A D A M U S   F A C T O R



And interpretation can get pretty wild.  Now we come to where we decidedly have to take the bad with the good, as if we haven’t already been doing that.  Lincoln’s broadcasts and books led to a deluge of irresponsible treasure hunting and mostly amateur sleuthing and, especially noteworthy, cult and occult enthusiasm.  To sum up the latter, Nostradamus lives, thanks to Rennes-le-Château!  And that’s always good business.   Not that Nostradamus can be ruled out as connected, for he had some doings in the area, seemed to have secret alliances with people associated with Priory of Sion or Knights Templar “history,” and is thought to have written his oracles in code to disguise a political agenda copasetic with the Priory or Templar families, but it’s just that Nostradamus always attracts those looking  for a true prophet, which he was not.    


A major amount of the writing being done about “the mystery” is of the very esoteric mystical mystery tour sort, New Age or Old Game, and it is so extensive and various that I’ll have to pass on providing anything more than a brief summary. Some of it is amazingly clever, showing how esoteric, astrologically-based mysticism/spiritualism has always followed around the Hermetic/ Alchemical/ Pythagorean/ Cabalistic/ Gnostic traditions; but, informative as it is, much of it is for the Crystal Ball and Horoscope set only.  That’s okay for fun, and I grasp the realities behind the Tarot and other esoteric symbolism and how seriously our ancestors took this symbolism, but this is not my cup of tea.  I don’t question the existence of the esoteric tradition from ancient times, and I grant its use through the centuries by secret societies (such as a real Priory of Sion or Rex Deus families, if such existed), but I see it largely as expression of a counterculture for intellectuals who either couldn’t abide popular delusions or who wished to lend truth to popular delusions by giving them extra dimensions appreciable by a spiritual elect.  Nor do I doubt that at times individuals in the esoteric tradition possessed unusual Wisdom and perhaps even unusual Powers—that, in short, the tradition has nurtured greatness from time to time, such as among the Merovingians, perhaps, or Jesus, if he was part of it.  But I doubt that it’s easily tapped into by just anyone in possession of “secret formulas” or that recondite rituals or Tarot card and Horoscope reading will get you closer to God or to Spiritual Triumph over the nasty material world.   Flat out, I don’t accept, at least literally, the dualism of spirit and matter that underlies all this esoteric knowledge, for life is all one, and always has been and always will be, world without end.  People have simply misunderstood what “matter” is.   But that’s matter for another time.  


A principal justification for this whole esoteric approach is partly in the fact that the Merovingian kings, more priests than kings, apparently, were known for their spiritual/magical powers, presumably inherited, and partly because many of the beliefs of local “heretics” past—Arians, Gnostics, Knights Templar, and Cathars mainly—have historical connections to esoteric traditions, all of which no doubt have some reality behind the astrological/ alchemical/ esoteric symbolism.  Dependent on the old Zoroastrian dualism of light and dark, spirit and matter, these esoteric traditions express the age-old attempt to satisfy our desire for immortality through a proper balancing of spirit and matter that will allow the adept to spiral out of material existence or the alchemist to transmute to pure spirit or an astral body of pure light.  But some of the people who are interested in this approach apply these traditions in ways that make Rennes-le-Château key to nothing less than an impending cosmic cataclysm that will resolve, once and for all, the old dualism. 


If you wish to pursue this apocalyptic angle, and also to see how Rennes-le-Château can matter even without Saunière, Elizabeth Van Buren’s Refuge of the Apocalypse: Doorway Into Other Dimensions is a good place to start, and that will lead you to other books.  However, please note that the standard of proof in such books is very low, logical gaps abound, every symbol needs to mean six or seven things to make sense of the overall scheme, and at times you will feel that you are being asked to acquiesce in the Rorschach ink blot test responses of the author, which are surprisingly sexist, given the times (as, for example, the male principle represents the “above,” the female the “below”). 


Van Buren amazingly finds the entire Zodiac laid out on the ground in the Rennes-le-Château vicinity and alluded to in Saunière’s church, which she also thinks constitutes a sort of map to an underground Holy Temple (perhaps meant figuratively, referring to the human mind, but some take it literally) that will serve as a portal to escape the coming apocalypse.  For those in the know. 


Well, if the pyramid complex that includes the Great Pyramid of Egypt is a mirror of the Orion constellation, as has been plausibly argued, it seems equally plausible that the cleverest of the ancients knew how to mimic the heavens in their terrestrial planning and building, and it's further plausible that such may have occurred in the Rennes-le-Château area at the hands of the Celtic Druids or some even earlier people.  Also plausible is the argument found in Greg Rigby’s On Earth As It Is In Heaven that the Celts established holy sites in northern France that mimicked on the ground the constellation of Ursa Major (the Big Dipper), with its handle pointing to Rennes-le-Château as the pole star.  Plausible, yes, but one must still question that this has any implications for an apocalypse.  And then there are the searchers for “Atlantis” (meaning any Lost Civilization prior to the Egyptians), who think the apocalypse that wiped out “Atlantis” is headed our way again, be ready to duck!  See Weidner and Bridges’ Monument to the End of Time: Alchemy, Fulcanelli, and the Great Cross.  For a history and criticism of apocalyptic thinking, see http://chuma.cas.usf.edu/~dietrich/apocalypse.html.   And then come back here.


And so as one group of True Believers after another finds itself fascinated by Rennes-le-Château, this Disney World for Heretics keeps bringing in new business.  Although the Hotel la Tour long ago went out of business, and the hotel keeper and his successor have died, other tourist accommodations in the area appear to be thriving.  One can now choose among a nearby renovated castle in Couiza, down the hill from Rennes-le-Château on the River Aude, and other less grand hotels in the area, such as in quaint Rennes-les-Bains, an old Roman spa town in a valley just east.   And it’s just a matter of time, I’d bet, before that Visigoth castle in Rennes-le-Château becomes habitable for tourists!                                                                                                                                

      TOP   END

Rennes-les-Bains, on the River Blanque,

formerly a Roman spa known for its hot springs.

Above, the mountain on the left

 and above Rennes-les-Bains is next to

Mt. Cardou, where God is said to rest.



I’m only half joking when I say that we decidedly have the makings of a theme park in Rennes-le-Château and vicinity, a kind of Disney World for the intellectually and spiritually curious, for aspiring heretics and impious pilgrims. But, then, genuine mysteries and insincere commercial exploitation of them have always gone hand in hand.  God-forsaken Lourdes is not far from this place, and that fact may have played a role too, of the sibling rivalry sort.  Saunière may have suffered from Lourdes-envy, it seems.


The Magical Kingdom of Lourdes.

A wider angle would reveal that most of Lourdes

seems to have been dedicated to Saints Getting and Spending.



Well, amateur and occult and commercial enthusiasm may be too often misguided or misinformed or misleading, but it keeps the spotlight on this thing, and we can’t have enough light here, Gnostic or otherwise.   Following, now, is a list of particular elements of the “mystery” that could use further light. 


Click her to go on to Page 5—PUZZLING PIECES OF THE STORY