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 1024 X 768 resolution.





Okay, let’s recapitulate now and then go on to look more specifically at some of the pieces of the puzzle.  The bibliography on this subject is growing huge (and the websites multiply), and I can only review and point to a few of the English-language books that offer interesting theories that attempt to solve these puzzles.  

The modern story, then, as put together by Corbu, De Sède, Plantard, and Lincoln et al, among others, with the initial debunking counterpoint from Charroux, Cholet, and Descadeillas, among others, begins in 1891 or soon after with Bérenger Saunière, the poor priest of Rennes-le-Château, suddenly spending huge sums of money, after supposedly discovering some strange, coded parchments while trying to renovate his dilapidated church and thereafter digging in the cemetery and elsewhere and going on surreptitious hunting expeditions in the surrounding countryside and bringing back “rocks.”  Putting two and two together, it’s assumed by many that the parchments were treasure maps of some sort and the “rocks” disguised treasure in some way.


 Exactly where in the church Saunière found the parchments  (if indeed he did!) is a subject for debate.   The “Visigoth” stone altar pillar in which it was first said he found them turns out not to be hollow (and maybe not even Visigoth), so it couldn’t have been there.  A wooden newel post or balustrade, indeed hollow, is now promoted in the Saunière museum behind the church as the hiding place. Locals have contributed stories that provide further variations but still focused on the discovery of documents.  Obviously there could be deliberate misdirection here, for a number of reasons, and Saunière himself is not above suspicion of deliberately concocting various “mysteries” to take the eye off the mystery that mattered, if there was one. 


Whatever, supposedly there were four ancient parchments relating to the local aristocrats, the Hautpoul/Blanchefort family, and their inheritance. The debunkers believe that Plantard’s Priory conspirators either made the parchments up entirely or copied them from other sources (in which case, Saunière could have been one of the sources).  Indeed, De Chérisey has confessed as much, but remember the point that hoaxers of the secret agent kind are to be least trusted when admitting to a hoax.   Hoax or genuine, what did the parchments look like and what are some of the way they have been decoded?




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




 Of the four parchments of the popular story (some versions count more, some less, depending upon how they are divided up), two were genealogies (parchment 1 supposedly dating from 1244 and testifying to Merovingian descent & parchment 2 covering 1244 to 1644 and testifying to the continuance of that descent), and one was a family testament containing a “state secret” (parchment 3 supposedly dating from 1695).   Parchment 4 contained coded biblical texts on front and back (often referred to as Parchment 1 and Parchment 2 because those are the only ones published) but were shown to Lincoln only as separate sheets and not in their original scale.  One text is a coded passage from the Gospel of John regarding the visit of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, Martha, and Lazarus at Bethany, the other a coded composite of passages from Luke, Matthew, and Mark, each telling the parable of the ears of corn picked on the Sabbath day, the moral being that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”  Both passages may contain hidden dynamite that could blow up a Church!   Below are the two coded sides of parchment 4, the first side as it is usually published, followed by the translations of both sides:


Above, the Dagobert Parchment, so-called because its code refers to the last Merovingian king, Dagobert II, assassinated in 679 A.D. when he was betrayed by the Church with whom a predecessor king, Clovis I, had made a deal. Were the Merovingians direct descendants of Christ?  Did the son of Dagobert escape to continue the line?


Below is the bottom part of the message usually cut off from published versions.  Note that the same device appears in the message on the right but upside down:


Above, the Poussin-Blue Apples parchment, which I so call because of the way it has been decoded (see below)







Research by Ian Campbell, as published in The Rennes Observer of July, 2003, following the model found in Stanley James’ The Treasure Maps of Rennes le Chateau, reveals that a strange device appearing at the end of the document has been cut off in most published versions, the same device that appears near the end of the message on the back of that parchment but upside down.  Campbell further compares the two devices to show that they could not have been written by the same person, thus calling into question De Chérisey’s claim that he forged them both.   The device on the left below is usually cut off of the message on the front of Parchment 4; the one on the right below, from the message on the back of Parchment 4, Campbell turned right side up so that the two could be compared in the same position.  The lettering and handwriting are quite different.


The coded message of the Dagobert parchment in French:




Which has been translated as:


“This treasure belongs to Dagobert II King and to Sion and he is there dead.”


Since Dagobert II was supposedly buried in Stenay, a perhaps more favored, alternate translation is the following proposed by John Pollard:


“This treasure belongs to Dagobert II King and to Sion and it is death.”


The other parchment produced this message:




Which has been translated as:





I won’t even attempt to explain the second message or how it was decoded; you’ll have to read the books!   One possible account is to be found in Putnam & Wood’s The Treasure of Rennes-le-Château: A Mystery Solved, which also tries valiantly to explain the code used.  Conveniently, almost directly across the street from the Rennes-le-Château bookstore  is the “Café Blue Apples,” next to the “Visigoth” castle ruins, where you can read and drink at the same time, not a bad idea in any case.  [Sorry, the Café Blue Apples is now itself a ruin!]



A reminder about those “blue apples,” however, insofar as they are apparitions associated with Saunière's church (an argument has been made that they refer to a phenomenon to be seen at St. Sulpice in Paris!).   As noted previously, the "blue apples" seemingly appear, during sunny days in January at noon, as luminous projections on the wall opposite the stained glass window on the south wall of the church depicting the raising of Lazarus.  A curiosity here is that, as reported by Patrick Mensior in Pegase, this phenomenon was the consequence of the sun’s rays passing through the stained glass windows installed in 1887 by Saunière.  Ooops!   If this phenomenon did not exist until 1887, then what is a reference to “blue apples” doing in a document supposedly dating from 1781? 

An even more interesting phenomenon is the way pentagonal geometry keeps showing up all over the place, in documents, paintings, ground measurements, etc.   As below:

Illustrated above is what Henry Lincoln calls “the geometric substructure of the parchment.”  Supposedly this echoes the pentagonal geometry that has been found all over the Rennes-le-Château region, in both natural and man-made features of the landscape.  Note the “P S” signature at the bottom right, which the Priory wants everyone to believe stands for “Priory of Sion.”



The closest Henry Lincoln ever got to the original parchments, by the way, was in viewing photographs of them shown him by one of Plantard’s men, which revealed that the parchments shown in De Sède’s book had been somewhat decoratively doctored in places to make them more theatrical!  Although the message part was unaltered, Lincoln said, this doctoring of the originals suggested that the Priory was both conscious of the need to interest the sensationalist media but at the same time was naïve or careless about the consequences of such doctoring, for it may have unnecessarily thrown them into suspicion.  However well deserved the suspicion is!


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Whatever the “treasure” was that the parchments apparently led him to, in the popular story, whether it was gold and/or other valuable artifacts (including even more ancient documents) or special mystical knowledge or the use of one of those in some way that made money for him or whatever, Saunière apparently shared the wealth and the secret of its source with, among a few others possibly, his “housekeeper” and “companion,” Marie Dénarnaud, 15 years younger and no doubt a nubile young miss when she first went to work for the thirty-something Father Saunière.  Marie was from the nearby village of Esperaza, just southwest of and these days almost joined with Montazels, Saunière’s hometown, and both just below Rennes-le-Château to the northwest of it.   For a priest’s housekeeper, Marie reportedly lived a life of relative opulence and high fashion through most of her 30 years with Saunière (although there’s some disagreement over how many years she spent with him) and most of the 36 years she outlived him, though the story has it that she lived penuriously at the end when she felt forced to burn her money rather than answer questions about it when France changed its currency after WWII.


Marie Dénarnaud and Bérenger Saunière are now enshrined as a

romantic couple in the museum his presbytery has been converted into. 

These photos have since been moved to a different spot and are in a

different relationship in the display they are a part of.



At the end Marie subsisted on money from the sale of Saunière’s guest house, the Villa Bethania, to Noël Corbu, whose family took care of her in her old age and who turned the Villa into the aforementioned Hotel la Tour.  She died by stroke in 1953 without revealing the Secret to Corbu, although it is said, by De Sède, that she had promised to and struggled on her deathbed to do so.   A dramatic scene, indeed!   Masterpiece Theatre!   Regardless, Marie apparently left instructions that she was to be buried next to Saunière, and no woman climbs into a man's grave unless she thinks she is "married" to him, in one way or another.   


Because the Saunière Secret may have nothing to do with the Priory Secret, and the Priory has more and more come under suspicion, investigators who sense that there’s a worthy mystery here anyway have looked beyond Priory motivations for linking of “the mystery” to other possible Secrets.   What else could it be?    Is following the money trail of any help?         


Assuming that knowing the total of Saunière’s expenditures would give us a clue as to how much income he needed to at least break even and that knowing that would also tell us if even excessive trafficking in masses could afford the expenditure or that other sources of income would be needed, how did Saunière spend his money and how much did he spend altogether, never mind what’s on record?.  To begin with personal expenses, he supposedly spent huge amounts on lavish living and entertaining, but do these amounts ever get figured into the debunkers’ calculations?   I don’t think so.  Because, for the most part, he didn’t keep records of this sort of spending.   Lots of money also went to Marie, seemingly, and all the property was apparently put in her name, so one of the curiosities of the debunkers’ case is that, despite having references to Marie’s lavish spending, estimates of Saunière’s income and expenditure never seem to factor in the sizable amount he must have given Marie.   Saunière also spent much on improving the village and on travel, and at least some of this does not seem to have been reported.   Saunière’s spending, therefore, seems to be mostly “off the books,” which the notion that he had bank accounts in several European cities supports.   What is recorded about his spending, apparently, is that much of the recorded part, according to both the evidence of our tourists’ senses and his account books, went into restoration of his church and the buying of property and construction of his estate.  Although some wealthy people clearly contributed to church restoration, perhaps for the usual pious reasons (but also perhaps because they were paying for special masses, according to the debunkers, but that could have been a cover for blackmail or sponsorship in any event, and, if so, what was that about?), Saunière seemingly spent well beyond such contributions on his various building projects and on his flamboyant and gaudy restoration of and mysteriously coded redecorating of his church.  (I should note that the debunkers, who tend to take things at face value, don’t see any codes in that church other than conventional orthodox symbolism, just as their calculations of how much he spent is considerably less than most estimates.  Although I’m unable to arrive at an independent evaluation of his wealth, because so much of it seems to have been “off the books,” my own sense of Saunière’s character is that he was definitely not a man to be taken at face value.  He may have had nothing to do with the or a Priory, but he definitely had something weird going on that he took great pains to disguise, but seemingly in a way he knew the like-minded {initiates?} would see through.).


The entry door to Saunière’s restored church, with perching doves at the corners facing east and west.  A Latin motto over the door reads “Terrible [or Awesome] is this place,” and a devil poised perhaps to play chess with Jesus awaits just inside that door

Just outside the church door is a statue of the Lourdes Virgin (or some other Mary?) in the shadows on the left and across from it a sunburst calvaire on the path to the grotto of Mary Magdalene.


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The church of “St. Marie de Madeleine” is a very strange church, and De Sède’s book rightly made much of this strangeness (By the way, how did Plantard know to send De Sède to the specific sites referred to in his book, or did De Sède do this on his own?  Putnam & Wood cite evidence that Plantard cased the RLC area before De Sède did, before the story broke and before he started depositing documents in the Bibliothéque National).  To begin with, how many churches are dedicated to “the Magdalen,” as this one was in 1059?  More than you’d think, probably, especially in this part of the world which thinks it knows something about Mary Magdalene the rest of world doesn’t know and that the Church has suppressed; but, even so, that Mary Magdalene was the patron saint of Rennes-le-Château is itself a curiosity, given her ambiguous characterization in popular and probably misogynistic readings of the New Testament—a woman of ill repute, on the one hand, and, on the other, a penitent who was the first to see the risen Christ, for which she was sainted.  Actually, the New Testament never identifies her as a prostitute; this was later inferred on very flimsy evidence by a misogynistic Church, the same Church that blamed Eve for “The Fall,” and it so stuck that in Saunière’s time harlots were known as “Magdalens,” as “fallen women,” and the theater of his day was full of plays about them because they were, ambiguously, “New Women” as well.  But the New Testament suggests that she was a woman of some standing and wealth, who seemed to hang around with Jesus a good bit, as did what may have been her brother, Lazarus, especially at the family house in Bethany in a Jerusalem suburb.   For an aggressive putting of the case for Mary Magdalene and her connection with John the Baptist, especially in the Languedoc-Provencal region, see The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ, by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince (Touchstone, 1997).  


Saunière multiplied the emphasis on the Magdalen here several times over by naming a tower he had built after her birthplace (supposedly), Magdala (from "Migdala," which is Hebrew for "tower"), by constructing a grotto with a statuette of her (since stolen) in it, and by naming a guest house he had built after her residence in a Jerusalem suburb (Bethania).  [Van Buren speculates that the Tower Magdala and the Villa Bethania mark the periods of the Magdalen’s life before and after repentance, as she lived in Magdala before and Bethania after.  If so, what then did Saunière mean by associating his phallic tower with the unrepentant Magdalen and his nesty guest house, where Marie eventually lived, with the repentant Magdalen?].  In addition, Douzet’s book, Sauniere’s Model and the Secret of Rennes-le-Château, presents evidence that Saunière traveled often to regions to the east and northeast of Rennes to sites associated with Mary Magdalene.  Both Provencal and the Languedoc are brimming over with Magdalene legends and “Black Madonnas” associated with her and the Egyptian goddess Isis, evidence of syncretism.  

What is the meaning of Saunière’s fascination with Mary Magdalene?  [He’s not alone, by the way. Time magazine, of July 11, 2003, contains a substantial treatment of the many views of Mary Magdalene over the centuries, an article that was inspired by the  bestseller success of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.]

A vigorous and generally feminist school of interpretation argues that this fascination reinforces and is the key to a strong and persistent reference to Goddess worship and evidence of an anti-patriarchal bent in many of the clues to “the mystery.”  This alone, some argue, might account for the Vatican’s hostility and need to buy secrecy, if that can be considered a credible source of income. 


Let’s consider a variation on that.  Lincoln informs us that Mary Magdalene’s celestial representative, astrologically speaking, was the planet Venus, the consequence of the ancient habit (Hermetic in origin?) of trying to make sense of things by connecting the celestial with the earthly with the logic of “as above, so below.”  That is, following this long-established logic, celibate Church fathers peddling chastity, and connecting heaven with earth, associated the celestial sex bomb, Venus, with the earthly one, the Magdalen, the “fallen woman.”  Both known for their dance with the Devil, a dance purely in the minds of the Church's holy perverts, for they were just doing what was "natural."


I speak figuratively of a dance in the case of Venus.   A surprising wrinkle, which Church fathers may or may not have realized, although it was known by astrologers from ancient times—namely, that pentagonal geometry reflects the orbital path of the planet Venus through the heavens as seen from Earth, the only planet to have such a pattern (a pattern that takes 8 years to complete, leading John Pollard to note that “8” is the number of Paradise, which is a good way to describe the heavenly dance of “The Venus Pentagon.”  As for how far back in time the orbital path of Venus was known, check out Knight & Lomas’ Uriel’s Machine, which traces Masonic ritual back to an advanced pre-Druid, Neolithic culture that built monuments like Newgrange in Ireland that were precise calculators of Venus’s orbit).  This knowledge of Venus’s orbit may help to make sense of the finding (by Lincoln and others) of various juxtapositions and overlappings of hexagrams and pentagrams on the ground in the Rennes-le-Château area.  For, according to ancient Indo-European symbolism, the five-pointed pentagram symbolizes the female (a head, two arms, and two legs) and the six-pointed hexagram symbolizes the male (a head, two arms, two legs, and a penis).  The Star of David, banner of perhaps the first exclusively patriarchal religion, is six-sided. 



Using as markers churches, castles, calvaires, tops of mountains, and megaliths, as pinpointed on official surveyor maps, investigators have found a number of exact circular, triangular, pentagonal, and hexagonal formations in the Rennes-le-Château region.  Above is one from Henry Lincoln called “The Esperaza Circle of Churches” in which within the circle a hexagram (solid black lines) is placed over a pentagram (dotted lines).  Most and possibly all of the sites chosen for this diagram, currently occupied by churches, seem to have been ancient pagan holy sites, perhaps Druidic-Celtic. This means the patterns must have been established by ancient surveyors, who remarkably used the proportions of the Golden Section in laying out their intricate geometry, which further meant that they had employed what was considered “sacred geometry,” geometry that pointed to the brilliant, mystical perfection that lies behind the seemingly chaotic outward aspect of the physical world.



What is suggested by the occurrence of “simultaneous” or “juxtaposed” hexagrams and pentagrams on the ground in the Rennes-le-Château area (as above) is the interconnectedness and interdependency of male and female.  Not only was such symbolism often an integral part of ancient “pagan” worship, centered on life-affirming fertility rituals, this might also explain why both Joseph and Mary appear as statues within Saunière’s church to each side of the altar and why both are presented as nurturing parents of a baby Jesus—perhaps they’re there to represent this fruitful gender relationship principle, as Saunière echoed for his own syncretic purposes the ancient pagan ideas.  Could this also be why Marie, perhaps following the instructions of her long-dead love, had herself buried right next to Saunière, the pentagram lying down with the hexagram, so to speak, to fulfill the symbolism of regeneration through the mystic marriage of male and female?  Except the “regeneration” they may have been hoping for was “the resurrection.”   


Incidentally, many of the schools of interpretation here, pagan and not, orthodox or heretic, seem to convene on the idea of a quest for immortality.  The ancient torment of impending death is the motive of motives, the prime mover in all things human.


If pentagram and pentagon are sexually related, then Saunière may have been attempting with such symbolism the same sort of balancing of his patriarchal Church with a female principle that other priests attempted through the centuries and still do attempt with “Mariolatry,” the elevation of the Virgin Mary to a central figure of worship. As the Catholic Church replaced “pagan” religions that worshipped a Great Mother, the patriarchy politically but ambivalently substituted the Virgin Mary for the Great Mother, often bowing to Her popularity among the people by allowing festivals and iconography that celebrated Her, but at the same time insisting that She be kept out of the all-male Triune godhead.  Some popes have even encouraged worship of the Virgin, though perhaps with trepidation and mixed motives, for there are many churches in Catholic lands where the Virgin Mary seems to be far more important to worshippers than the male trinity. 


Whatever, right outside the entry to his church, and just steps away from the grotto that once contained a statuette of the Magdalen, Saunière in 1891 had a statue of the Lourdes Virgin (supposedly) placed on an upside-down “Visigoth” pillar he had taken from his church (the same pillar in which it was said at first that the parchments were found).  Given how many reversals of themes and iconographic details various commentators have uncovered in his church decoration and in other clues, it’s fair to ask what exactly Saunière was trying to reverse in this case?  What, specifically, is accomplished by putting the Virgin on a reversed “Visigoth” pillar? 


Or is this not the Mary we think it is?  De Sède argued that Saunière’s putting on the pillar under the statue the words “Pénitence, Pénitence” refers us to a Virgin Mary “who in 1846 appeared in tears to two young shepherds at La Salette near Grenoble”(126), for that Mary is reported to have said exactly those words, whereas the Lourdes Virgin reportedly said, in 1858, “I am the immaculate conception.”  The Salette Mary went on to prophesy a widespread war that would be stopped only by the restoration of the monarchy, which would seem to be an obvious exercise in Catholic occultism to achieve political aims, and that would square with Saunière’s public persona as a rabid monarchist.  De Sède further thought the Salette Mary’s weeping connected with the motif of the weeping Magdalene, which he associated with “a spring called The Well of the Magdalene” that “weeps” just where the Sals River connects with the Blanque River near Rennes-les-Bains.                        

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The Lourdes Virgin or the Salette Mary Saunière placed on the “Visigoth” pillar in 1891.  The sunburst calvaire is

directly across from it.

The sunburst calvaire on the left, with an inscription from the anthem for the coronation of a king, on the way to the man-made grotto where a statuette of the Magdalen used to reside and which John Pollard thinks marks the entrance to Saunière’s treasure trove.



Incidentally, note that Saunière dedicated this statue of the Virgin on June 21 of 1891, which is the summer solstice.  One finds solar imagery and symbolism, with frequent allusion to solstices, all over the place here, but it can be given orthodox interpretation.  Smith thinks this refers merely to the Sun-Rising Christ-King every French monarch symbolically was acknowledged to be on the day of his coronation.   The Gnostics, however, know that it refers to the “dawn” of understanding that comes to the adept at the end of “The Way.”    Could be both.  Or something else.               END   TOP


Solar symbols figure prominently in Saunière’s vestments and crosses and sacred heart symbols, including the large sunburst calvaire outside his church that the Lourdes Virgin or Salette Mary is looking directly at.  And his Tour Magdala appears to be aimed directly at the setting sun.  Are the sun positions of the solstices somehow favored in the tower’s alignment or architecture?  The Cathars were solar worshippers, it seems, as were many other ancient religions that vied with Christianity in the days of the Roman Empire, such as Mithraism and its worship of Sol Invictus. The Sun of course is necessary to Life and was often worshipped as the male counterpart to the Great Mother Earth.  But, if given a strictly orthodox reading, it could refer only to the French King, who was spiritually/symbolically the Risen Christ of Catholic tradition.  There’s no reason that a syncretizing Saunière could not have put the two traditions together.



 Some have speculated that what Saunière was about was a sly substitution of one Mary for another Mary, for he may have been among those who thought the apparition appearing at Lourdes or Salette (and elsewhere) was really the Great Mother, the Venus, the Magdalen, the Bride of Jesus, mistaken as the Virgin Mary, and that the real center of his subversive religion was Mary Magdalene, Maternal Source of the Merovingians (supposedly) and the first to acknowledge the true Christ (radiantly emerged from the darkness of the tomb).  That would amount to a reversal of history and of a celibate Church that Saunière perhaps thought overemphasized sexual purity.  Was that the reversal he was cluing us to?


Well, Saunière certainly did put the Magdalen’s name on everything, and the Magdalen seemed to be the object of his constant quest outside of Rennes.  And Marie’s insistence upon bedding down in a grave right next to Saunière’s is not the sort of thing a mere housekeeper does!  If Marie was Saunière’s unmarried consort (their “marriage” being strictly of the mystical sort, perhaps), then she was another “fallen woman,” another Magdalen, from the Church’s point of view, which makes Saunière a rebellious and defiant priest indeed, with his own version of Christianity.   Perhaps we’re all overlooking the obvious.  Saunière may have been a castles-in-the-air sort of intellectual and intellectually curious enough to collect an esoteric library, but everyday he lived his secret life with a very real woman in a very real, intimate environment, and he would be only one of a zillion such men who have devoted their lives to justifying, intellectually, the illicit love circumstance had brought to his door.  He may simply have been a man who needed a philosophy and a theology to justify that love.  Half the world’s intellectual systems may have started that way!  Cherchez la femme” is always wise advice.


If that’s the case, one might also make a case for his accepting the view that the Virgin Mary was another “fallen woman,” a woman who, after all, did not have her husband’s child, according to the myth.  In which case Saunière wasn’t subverting an impossibly “pure” Mary with another, more human Mary but rather suggesting that “the virgin” and “the whore” are one and the same woman.   This would also put him in step with all those pagan religions that celebrated the ever-renewing virginity of their fertile Mother Goddesses, an interpretation very popular with some contemporary feminists as well, of course.

That is, this Saunière, of this version of the popular story, may have been a subversive but he was no atheist or agnostic. He was a man who thought he had found the True Cross, the real Christianity, a more life-affirming version of it, in the same way the old “pagan” religions had been life-affirming by worshipping the Great Earth Mother and the gift of the Sun and the balanced relationship between Mother Earth and Father Sun.  And damn any theology that said otherwise!  (André Douzet argues for Saunière’s connections with Martinists in Lyon, another esoteric society with assumptions at odds with the modern Church but focused on Christ nevertheless.  Saunière may not have been interested in throwing over Christ but in seeing Christ in more human terms.   An idea that could lend some credence to the notion some have that what he found was evidence of Christ’s humanity and possibly even marriage to the Magdalene).           


This further suggests a way to reconcile Saunière’s supposed subversion with his reputation as a right-winger.  Is it possible that he saw a Church that was compromising with Republican France as to his left, politically?   Is there a way to interpret his presumed subversiveness as actually a manifestation of authoritarian right-wing ideas?   Well, consider the examples of the Cathars and the later Protestants.  One thing they had in common was that they both thought of “Primitive Christianity” as the true Christianity, which the Catholic Church had perverted at least by the Fourth Century, even to the point of the Vatican’s becoming the abode of the devil in their eyes.   Catharism and Protestantism were attempts to get back to the original Church and thus could be seen as right-wing reactions to a worldly, leftward-drifting Catholic Church.  Without necessarily having anything in common doctrinally with Cathars or Protestants, Saunière might also have been trying, in his own way, to get back to his own view of “Primitive Christianity,” before priests were compelled to be celibate, and his being a right-wing monarchist might have been logically in step with that, logical in his own mind, at any rate.  It’s possible, in other words, that the subversive Saunière and the right-wing Saunière were one and the same person, according to the logic of a subversion that he maybe thought led to a more “correct” and more catholic Catholicism.    

That is, Sauniere’s subversion may have been to the right of his Church, not to its left, and he would not have thought of it as “subversion” at all but as a calling back of a wayward Church to its roots.   The confusion may stem from the fact that he may indeed have been interested in all the same ancient, esoteric material that anti-Church subversives of the “heretic” tradition were interested in, but this material can just as easily lend itself to defending the ur-Church as to attacking it.   T. S. Eliot, for example, used to point to the anthropological discoveries of a pattern of crucifixion and resurrection among pagan gods as proof that Christianity was right, all the pagan religions simply being foreshadowings of the True Religion to come.   It just took a while to get it right.   So too with the entire Hermetic, Alchemical, Gnostic tradition, from this point of view.   It was all heading toward the True Cross and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, if it were just "corrected" a bit!   Spin City is the town we all live in, no matter how many insist that its name is Jerusalem!!    

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T H E  V I L L A  B E T H A N I A



We need to grant that what Saunière did with his wealth may not tell us anything about how he acquired it or what it was, but we also need to cover the possibility that they are intimately connected, that, in short, he was not a frivolous man but a man who would use at least part of his money to make an important statement.   As appears to be the case in that so much was spent on the complete makeover of a church and the creation of a considerable “estate” around the church that somehow “speaks” of a grand vision, one that he wished to share with those qualified, perhaps even in a participatory way, in keeping with his being a ritual-performing priest. 

As said, this estate included the architecturally out-of-place, two-story “Villa Bethania,” a separate guest house next to the church and presbytery for Saunière’s many, often famous guests (such as, reportedly, the opera diva Emma Calvé, Claude Debussy, the French secretary of state for culture, and the Archduke Johann von Hapsburg, cousin of the emperor of Austria, Franz Joseph).  Smith thinks this clientele was invented by Corbu and/or the Priory conspirators, which opens up the possibility that Saunière boarded simony-abettors there instead, but, regardless, how many priests have you heard of, especially of small village parishes, having guest houses built with their own money?  Or was that not perhaps its original purpose?   Smith thinks this fervid monarchist may have built it as a refuge for “the Grand Monarch-in-hiding” until the time was ripe to reestablish the monarchy (which, incidentally, could just as likely be of Rex Deus or Merovingian descent, especially if the subversive Saunière and the right-wing Saunière were the same person).  But in that case, the True Believers want to know, who did he think was the monarch-in-hiding?  Emma Calvé?  Of course if Marie Dénarnaud was his unmarried consort, there’s some difficulty in imagining the likes of Emma Calvé being welcomed here!   Or was their mystic marriage an “open” one?


At any rate, Saunière’s naming the Villa “Bethania” reminds us that the Church then thought it likely, as some scholars do now, that Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene were the same person (and although apparently the Vatican has recently backed off from the identification, what matters is what Saunière thought was the case).  As Van Buren suggests, Mary could have been from the town of “Magdala” and also, perhaps after her repentance, lived in a house in “Bethany,” a suburb of Jerusalem, a house to which Jesus seems to have frequently repaired (her brother was Lazarus!).  What matters of course is what Saunière thought was the case, and it appears that in naming his guest house he meant to put the stamp of the Magdalen on another key part of his “theme park,” which I show again below:                                                                                                                                                                  END

Above is the museum’s model of the west part of Saunière’s “theme park.”  Note that both formal walkways, to the side and in front of the Villa, are suggestive of solar symbolism as well.  Today this pattern is obscured because overgrown with trees and bushes.  Presumably, a model of his estate that Saunière himself had commissioned just before he died has recently been discovered that reveals that he was just getting started in his building plans!  Corbu’s son-in-law questions this, however.



So, according to the popular story, he used the Villa as a guest house for VIPs.  While it’s reported that Saunière often made secretive trips outside Rennes with a laden suitcase—Mohammed going to the mountain, so to speak—it’s also reported that the mountain frequently came to Mohammed.  The Villa Bethania sits there today as mute testimony to a need to accommodate the Rich and Famous, whether monarch-in-hiding or wealthy simony-abettors or whoever. 


A good argument against the notion that Saunière was just selling buried treasure to his VIPs is that it seems unlikely that such wealthy and influential people would have visited Rennes unless it had something special to offer that couldn’t be carted off.  Would they have come for mere gold or other material treasure, no matter how historically important or exotic, when they could just as easily send for it or have agents pick it up?  Or would they have come even just to have special masses said for their souls, if he was a simoniac?   It makes sense that this charismatic priest attracted this crowd because he had something special to offer them HERE!  Something that could be seen and/or done only here.  What could that have been?  And what was his price?  Or did he not even have to ask a price?



At any rate, the Villa Bethania apparently lost its magic after Saunière’s death, perhaps because Marie lacked priestly credentials or expertise.  The wealth he gave her, presumably converted into cash, lasted a long time, it appears, but although she apparently possessed the Secret of its source she seemingly didn’t possess the activating magic or the will to use it.  When, according to the story, she burned her money after WWII and sold the Villa to the aforementioned Nöel Corbu, Corbu tried to restore the magic in a way by telling Saunière’s romantic story to the hotel’s guests and eventually to the press.  After going through at least one more owner as a hotel, the Villa is now part of a Saunière museum.                                     

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Is the name, evoking Mary of Bethany, another clue?  Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene

may have been the same person.

The Villa Bethania,

no longer a guest house nor a hotel,

but open to visitors to the museum.


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T H E   T O U R   M A G D A L A




According to the story, Saunière, acting like the Lord of Something, also paid for significant improvements to the town and festivities for the villagers, and, adjacent to the church, as part of his “theme park,” the building of zoological gardens, formal gardens, two greenhouses, fountains, a grotto, and a rare-book and special collection library in the form of the castellated Tower of Magdala (see above), built over a cave that descends into the earth.  The following photo of the cave is from Torkain’s website at http://www.rennes-le-chateau.com/anglais/magdala.htm, where additional photos are available.   Torkain reports that a dig there in August of 2003 turned up nothing.   Don’t dig in the obvious places, say I, for surely they’ve all been cleaned out long ago, if there was anything to clean out..   



It’s said (but disputed) that he had made plans to build even further, including a second, larger tower, but died before they could be realized.  This strange Tower of Magdala, standing tall on the edge of the cliff, faces due west toward the setting sun (more solar imagery), and from which runs northward a long, curving esplanade, constituting a belvedere with fantastic views.  The top of the tower in Saunière’s time had a remarkable 360° view of the mountains in all directions and in turn was and still is (despite trees having grown up) visible for miles around.  When Lincoln first saw it, he thought it “a rich man’s folly.”  Perhaps it more likely was a lookout post for a man who may have fancied himself Emperor of All He Surveyed.  There’s something of Hitler’s Berchtesgaden “Eagle’s Nest” here.  This need to see clearly and keep watch over the entire surrounding area was echoed in a large postcard collection Saunière had that featured views from all directions of the same area.  Aerial reconnaissance?                                                                                                       

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The esplanade curving north from the Tour Magdala to the left. The walkway ends in an Orangerie, a greenhouse where Saunière kept exotic plants.

Looking through the now skeletal Orangerie at the church on the right and Mt. Cardou in the distance.   Saunière and Marie, his “companion,” are buried in the cemetery just over the wall straight ahead.



Especially with binoculars, one can clearly see the Tour Magdala, for instance, from the odd plaza with the griffin fountains Saunière played in as a child in the village of Montazels a few miles to the northwest (but not with the fountains in it, apparently, for 1869, when Saunière was 17, is the year cited by Frances M. Pearson in The Rennes Observer for the fountain’s construction.  Saunière’s father Joseph may have had something to do with its construction, right outside his front door, because as mayor twice of Montazels and related by marriage to the mayor at the time of construction, he seems to have been very influential in local politics.  And if the father chose the mythological details of this fountain, then this perhaps reveals something important about this family.   A family, by the way, from which the adult Saunière estranged himself, refusing to pay his share of his mother’s care, for instance, and embroiling himself in nasty disputes with his siblings).  It is reported that Saunière grew up listening to tales of buried treasure common to the area and loved nothing better than a treasure hunt.  But, if the popular story is correct, as an adult he seems to have gotten more than he as a child had bargained for in his wildest dreams.  As an adult, one imagines, he must have occasionally stood up there on that Magdala esplanade looking down on his relatively humble roots with a certain amazed smile on his face.          

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La Place Griffoul in Montazels, Saunière’s boyhood playground, presumably.  Or did he prefer to spend his time indoors reading about the Knights Templar, the Cathars, and other local ghosts?

Saunière as a boy could see Rennes-le-Château off in the distance, perhaps even from his bedroom window.  The Montazels church is to the right of the griffin fountain, so that too was a constant presence.


But what was this Tower Magdala for, other than for viewing the area?  It was used as a library, yes, but it doesn’t look like a library.  What it looks like is a symbol of something, a sample of greater splendor, say, a miniature of what Saunière was dreaming of.  This is a tiny castle.  A castle that suggests or leads to a larger castle, perhaps a “castle-in-the-air” to those who have eyes to see, the castle in which a lost monarch could feel at home, if Smith is right, or perhaps one of the mansions referred to in “in my Father’s house there are many mansions.”   Or perhaps it’s meant as a gateway to some sort of spiritual Grail Temple or Refuge, as others have speculated.   Whatever, it may be significant that its door does not open to the outside.  You must be inside Saunière’s park to climb up to the esplanade to enter the door.   Does this symbolically convey that one must be an “insider” to enter the Mystery?   If so, this supports the argument of those who think Saunière was an initiate of at least one secret society and that his communications to the future were all directed at other initiates, not to the world at large.  Was that secret society esoteric?  Or just monarchist?  Or some combination?   And was it essentially Catholic or not?


There is a well-known notion that the Gothic cathedrals were “books in stone,” and possibly even “alchemical books in stone” (See Weidner and Bridges’ Monument to the End of Time).   It would seem that Saunière’s entire estate, but especially his tower, combine with his church to add up to some sort of non-verbal book.   Which says, “let those who eyes to read, read.”



D I G G I N G   F O R   T R U T H   O R   T R E A S U R E?



Many of course insist that the source of Saunière’s wealth must have been nothing more than buried treasure, probably of ancient vintage, because he not only apparently went on frequent treasure hunts, or what looked like treasure hunts, and dug secretly at night in the church and the church’s cemetery, but also he may have left behind what amounted to a treasure map in the decorations and designs of his church and estate, which seem to contain coded references to local spots (brought to our attention by De Sède), often natural, geological formations (like a huge rock called “the Devil’s Armchair”) or megalithic markers.   And Marie herself reportedly spoke in old age of the villagers “walking on gold,” though they didn’t know it.  “Walking on gold” is ambiguous language to all but treasure hunters who take their “gold” literally.  Thus some diggers have thought the basement of the Tour Magdala contains a gateway to a network of tunnels laden with treasure.   There is a cave opening there, but so far no one has reported that it leads to anything revelatory.   Again, if somebody found something, would they announce it?  [Well, the “Tomb Man” has!  See Page 1 at the top.]           

 TOP      END

In addition to the elaborate abstract decorations on the church’s walls, there are representations of the 14 stations of the cross and statues between, all of which are capable of orthodox interpretation but many of which seem to hint at local spots, as though amounting to a treasure map. 

Click Here to See Plan of the Church (mark this spot)



Well, in addition to the tunnels and caves still there, the idea that Saunière found buried treasure gains credibility from the fact there was ample opportunity and occasion for Celtic Druids, ancient Gauls, Visigoth royalty (after sacking Rome, where at least part of the treasure of the Jerusalem Temple may have been kept after the Romans’ sacking of Jerusalem), Merovingian aristocrats, beleaguered Cathars and Knights Templar, Carolingian and Capetian kings, among others, to have deposited treasure in this area, the wildest speculation running to even the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant.  The Nazis, inspired by the modern Cathar Otto Rahn (1904-1938), dug in this general area for that reason, some saying that they at least found gold, others saying they did not find what they were looking for (for which Rahn may have been murdered, in either case).  And the possibility of the Holy Grail’s being here seems to be why Richard Wagner came here before writing Parsifal (if that legend is credible).   So, Grail or Ark, a certain “Raiders of the Lost Ark” mentality is sometimes encountered here.  There’s actually a town called “Arques” not far from Rennes-le-Château. 


This “Raiders” mentality adds an element of the sort of danger that attends upon large-stake treasure hunts where there’s a race to the treasure, and De Sède made much of this by devoting his entire last chapter to an account of the deaths that made the treasure “accursed,” to which, as I said earlier, he and other Priory members may have added by assigning authorship of Priory documents to people murdered or “accidentally” killed.   (Chapter 9 of Secrets of Rennes-le-Chateau, by Lionel & Patricia Fanthorpe, gives a rather blood-curdling account of these and other murders, if you’re interested.)


Although the talk of material treasure may have been mostly a cover for something less tangible but more valuable, nevertheless treasure hunters of the materialistic sort abound in this region, some seemingly desperate and dangerous.  In this story, serious damage has been done to important artifacts by their like, some even stolen, and people have been threatened and maybe even killed.  The murder in Saunière’s time (1897) of a nearby fellow priest--Abbé Gélis of Coustaussa, who had caches of gold hidden about--by someone he seems to have known, may or may not be treasure related, for the murderer was never discovered, but it certainly adds to the atmosphere of danger.   Incidentally, Saunière himself  is now a suspect in that case, though not at the time.  Beyond this grisly and ambiguous episode, several of the principal investigators of “the mystery” report attempts to scare them off or interfere with or frustrate their investigations, which I might dismiss as good detective story plotting had I not experienced something like it myself on a rendezvous I planned with Marie de Blanchefort.




M A R I E   D E   B L A N C H E F O R T

a.k.a. Marie de Négri d’Ables,

Countess Hautpoul de Blanchefort



Castle Blanchefort, its ruins situated on Mt. Blanchefort to the east of Rennes-le-Château and across the road west from Mt. Cardou, is the castle in the area Lincoln says was last to be inhabited by local, pre-Revolutionary aristocrats (related to Plantard, Plantard tried to convince us) who supposedly knew and kept the Secret and whose genealogy figures in the parchment and cemetery codes.  In fact, the parchments are supposed to have been family documents of the Hautpoul-Blancheforts, whose family genealogy the cemetery codes were deliberately meant to provide a key to.  (It should be noted here that there is much historical confusion caused by the fact that many families, in various parts of France, used some variety of “Blanchefort” as their name, which has led the authors of Rex Deus to state flatly that if there were local Blancheforts, and there may not have been, they are not the ones pertinent to this “mystery.”  Nevertheless, there is a mountain just east of Rennes-le-Chateauu called “Mt. Blanchefort” and castle ruins on it designated as “Castle Blanchefort,” and the presumed inhabitants of that, even if only imagined as Blancheforts, figure significantly in Lincoln’s account, so on with that, the time not wasted because it leads to roughly the same conclusion as the Rex Deus authors.)


Taking off from the village of Rennes-les-Bains one day in the summer of 2001 with the intent of climbing to the ruins of Castle Blanchefort, I encountered, first, a kennel full of snarling dogs at the entrance to the path, and then what appeared to be deliberate, progressive roadblocks on a rather scary wooded path marked as leading to the ruins.  As that path seemed to disappear on the other side of a small stream, I gave it up.  The locals may just be having fun with tourists, but this is precisely the kind of thing that creates “The Raiders of the Lost Ark” atmosphere around here.  (For photos of Blanchefort and views from it, go to http://smithpp0.tripod.com/psp/ upg/ublf.html).                                                                                                          

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The path to Chateau Blanchefort through the woods from

 Rennes-les-Bains is not for the faint-of-heart.

 There may be an easier route from the other side.



At any rate, is there a clear connection between Lincoln’s Blancheforts and buried treasure?  Well, it’s not only in the coded messages but also in the family history that Lincoln et al found suggestions of buried treasure.  One of the Blancheforts, Bertrand de Blanchefort, is known to have been a Knights Templar Grand Master in the Thirteenth Century, the fourth or fifth Grand Master (the Rex Deus authors say he was the sixth and not local!), and he is even thought to be the master spirit behind the transforming of the Templars into international “players” and entrepreneurs.  It’s also known that he (or at least a local aristocrat associated with the castle) imported German miners into the region to do some mysterious excavating for him near Château Blanchefort.  And with the ruins of a Templar commandery known to exist to the south, among other known Templar spots in the region, and with the sympathy of some Templars for the Cathars and their even taking in some refugees from the massacre of the Cathars, it’s not surprising that attempts have been made to connect the local mystery with the larger mystery of what the Knights Templar were up to.

Before we get into what the Knights Templar were up to from the perspective of the Rennes investigators, we should note that most professional historians do not think they were up to anything special.  Remarkably, the Saunière Society on Oct. 4, 2003, listened to a lecture from a Dr. Helen Nicholson about the Templars that must have contradicted what most in the audience believed.   She took the view, based on surface readings of Templar and other documents, that the Templars believed in much the same things as orthodox Catholics of the day did and were different only in their more active role in living those beliefs, as warriors entrusted with the defense of pilgrims.   She sees the mindset of the typical Templar as being similar to today’s Islamic suicide bombers, for they too justified extreme and often reckless warlike actions on the grounds that martyrdom would ensure their entrance to Heaven.   But this view overlooks a lot of evidence that at least some of the Templars had secret agendas, and that secret societies are secret because they are not orthodox.   

According to the view of them preferred by Rennes investigators, The Knights Templar were originally commissioned by Pope Honorius II, supposedly in 1118 (and officially proclaimed in 1120) but maybe earlier (because an earlier Pope, Sylvester II, may have actually been the one who initiated the plan), supposedly to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land but privately to dig around in Jerusalem and see what they could find, probably following up on rumors or deduced clues of important artifacts buried there (Bernard of Clairvaux and the Count of Champagne being somehow involved in all this eventually, but Pope Sylvester II’s tutelage at Islamic universities in Spain as a young man, where ancient lore was taught, may have been the precipitating factor).  Some think this was a typical pre-emptive strike by the Vatican to find what they didn’t want others to find, but Lincoln at first thought the Priory of Sion of the Twelfth Century, then known as the Ordre de Sion, was behind it, and perhaps behind the Crusades as well (the first regent of the captured Jerusalem being, perhaps, a descendent of the Merovingians!).  By the way, that there was a documented Ordre de Sion, located on Mt. Sion (Zion) in Jerusalem after the First Crusade, is the basis for the notion that a Priory of Sion, if not Plantard’s Priory of Sion, continued as an influential group for centuries and still does exist.  And it could be the organizing force behind the Rex Deus families, although the authors of Rex Deus do not argue that.  At any rate, the Templars apparently found plenty in Jerusalem, for they soon became a wealthy and powerful order all over Europe  Did they discover the alchemical formula for making gold?  Did they bring back the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail?   Did the Shroud of Turin originate with them?  (And is Jacques De Molay, the Templar’s crucified Grand Master, the man pictured on that shroud?  Or is it Leonardo, as The Da Vinci Code proposes?)   Did they find documents that would shed startling new light on the events of the New Testament?  Or other documents that would cause us to revise our history books?

Yes, there’s ambiguity in the nature of Templar “treasure,” as with all the “treasures” in this case.  The Templars behaved as though they had found both a sizable material treasure and a Big Secret of less tangible character (perhaps from esoteric Islam and/or cabalistic Judaism and/or the Essenes) that gave them unusual powers, powers that put them in conflict with subsequent popes, such as Clement V, who had been schemed into the papacy to do the bidding of a French king, Philip IV.  Among other reasons for hating them, Philip was deeply in debt to the Templars and ultimately destroyed them to avoid paying the debt.  This drove Templar survivors underground and abroad, apparently taking their treasure with them or hiding it, for the king never found it.  Rennes-le-Château has long been favored as one of the possible hiding places.   But the Templar flag (and later piratical flag) of the Skull and Crossbones appeared as well on many ships that sailed from France at the time of the massacre, and much speculation has centered on where they landed, Scotland for sure, but maybe Nova Scotia, as well, well ahead of Columbus.


Arguing on the side of the Templars’ most important “treasure” being some sort of “Great Truth,” possibly acquired from Moslem mystics schooled in Hermetic lore, it may be significant that one of the Templars’ specialties was building according to the principles of “sacred geometry.”  Some have even wondered if the period of great Gothic cathedral building that followed in their wake wasn’t directly attributable to them, since “Masonic” architectural knowledge is one thing they were thought to have acquired in Jerusalem, knowledge also considered part of the Hermetic/ Alchemical/ Pythagorean/ Cabalistic/ Gnostic inheritance passed on to the Masons (and which Knight & Lomas in The Hiram Key and Uriel’s Machine argue came from a pre-Celtic Neolithic culture in Western Europe that was largely wiped out in Noah’s flood).   And of course such knowledge connects with all the sacred geometry seemingly found around Rennes-le-Château.


At any rate, the last of the Blancheforts, according to Lincoln’s account, was Marie de Blanchefort, the grande dame of the Rennes-le-Château area, who died without male heirs in 1781, but not before apparently divulging the Secret to her priest, the Abbé Bigou.  Before fleeing into exile in Spain to avoid the Revolution, Bigou, in addition to composing and/or hiding the parchments, duly put a coded message on her tombstone, as on the left below, and on a slab laid on the ground of the tomb, as on the right below.  According to De Sède, Saunière dug in and made alterations in the cemetery behind the church, some of which affect interpretation of the parchments, particularly noting his effacement of the coded tombstone and tombslab of Marie de Blanchefort.  Luckily, according to De Sède, copies were made of these before Saunière obscured the messages, which De Sède reproduced in his book, without decoding  {The debunkers question the authenticity of the copies, naturally.   Or think that one of the tomb slabs was entirely invented.  See especially the account of Putnam & Wood}. 


So this gives us a Saunière who was trying to transmit clues to initiates about his Big Secret but not this clue.  Why eliminate this clue?  Was it too obvious?  Or was it misleading?   Or did it send the decoder off in a direction Saunière thought not fruitful or not advisable?   Or, if it was a planted clue, was it just a teaser, meant to imply dark forces working against the Plantards?


Headstone and slab on the tomb of Marie de Blanchefort, supposedly, before Saunière effaced them.   As an example of the less difficult coding, the vertical columns on the slab on the right, a strange combination of Latin words in the Greek alphabet,  translate as “Et in Arcadia Ego” (maybe), literally translated as “And in Arcadia I…” and usually taken to be Death’s announcing his grim presence even in idyllic Arcadia, a clue that leads some to the painter Poussin (about which more below) and others who used this theme.



On now to some of the even more tenuous theories about what “the treasure” consisted of, but perhaps “tenuous” only because they are more difficult to prove, for good reasons.  “Treasure” that is, say, valuable knowledge made even more valuable by having been kept secret over a long period of time is less susceptible to empirical testing.  And some knowledge is simply knowledge of how to do something, as much of a priest’s knowledge is how to conduct certain rites.  At any rate, if knowledge was Saunière’s principal wealth, and “knowledge is power,” it’s then a question of what he did with the knowledge.  Was he responsible with its use?  And is there any clue to its nature in what he did with it?                                                                                                                                 

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T H E   T O M B   O F   JESUS



Some think he did not behave responsibly.  Some think that while the priest probably did find some buried treasure, his wealth mainly came from blackmailing the Catholic Church (or some other similarly interested party) with the threat of exposing proof that Jesus was strictly human, married to Mary Magdalene, and a father of children whose descendants became the Merovingian kings, the first kings of France.  Such “proof,” if he had it, would have given support to a long-held but suppressed contrarian history of the crucifixion.  This tradition has it that after the crucifixion, from which he recovered and was rescued, possibly because that had been pre-arranged, Jesus, his family, and Joseph of Arimathea fled the Roman persecution in Palestine and moved to the Languedoc region of southern France, where there were Jewish settlements. A less ambitious legend has it that just Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene and, perhaps, her children by Jesus, came to this part of the world, bringing with them the Holy Chalice and an understanding of “the True Cross” (Joseph of Arimathea in either case then going on to Glastonbury to establish “Celtic Christianity” in England).  In the latter case, the body of Jesus was later dug up from its resting place in Jerusalem and transported elsewhere, perhaps to the Languedoc.


Whatever the case, this bloodline of Jesus (the real Holy Chalice), it is said, is alive today, the Secret of which has been maintained by certain dynastic families (“Rex Deus”), of which Pierre Plantard tried to convince us he was a part.  (See Rex Deus, by Hopkins, Simmans & Wallace-Murphy, which argues that these interlinked families all claim descent from the 24 High Priests of the Temple of Jerusalem in the First Century AD, Jesus being one of them, and that they have conspired together over the centuries to affect the course of European history, such as in creating the Crusades, the Cistercians, the Ordre de Sion, and the Knights Templar, as well as Gothic architecture, modern banking and mercantile methods, the Italian Renaissance, the Scottish Enlightenment, and many other features of a high civilization.  See also Laurence Gardner’s Bloodline of the Holy Grail, which focuses on one particular strain of the Rex Deus group of families).


Some credence is leant to this blood line argument by the fact that, as said, the Merovingians seemingly claimed Davidic descent, and there’s relevance to the area of the Languedoc in that there are numerous ancient churches in this region which have stars of David somewhere in their decoration (which may be another thing that accounts for the Church’s centuries-long anti-Jewishness and repeated attempts to purge this region of “heretics,” at times amounting to genocide).  Perhaps the Holy Grail is nothing more than the Gospel of Love Jesus passed on to his disciples, as some maintain, but Lincoln’s first book presents the theory that the Holy Grail, conventionally the cup into which the blood of Jesus was caught by Joseph of Arimathea when he was hanging on the cross and maybe also the cup Jesus used for the first communion at The Last Supper, is actually a metaphor for the veins through which flow the blood of those descended from Jesus or the womb of Mary Magdalene in which that descent had its beginning.   Lincoln made much of this possibility in his early books.  Of course those who wish to revive the Merovingian monarchy especially favor the Holy Blood explanation!  This myth or legend is energized by the further belief that the Grail, as with the Ark of the Covenant, has and/or gives special powers and perhaps grants immortality.

So it’s popular with some to think that Jesus is buried around Rennes somewhere, which also gives those who think that Saunière got rich blackmailing the church another good rationale for such blackmail.  Some (see Andrews and Shellenberger’s The Tomb of God) even think they know exactly where Jesus was buried—in Mt. (or Pêche) Cardou (“Cardou” perhaps being a local corruption of “corps dieu,” meaning “body of God”).  Cardou is a mountain to the east of Rennes-le-Château, across the road from Mt. Blanchefort, on the road into Rennes-les-Bains.  For what it’s worth, Saunière’s and Marie’s side-by-side graves in the cemetery behind the church look directly toward this mountain. (For a time a webcam was directed at Mt. Cardou 24 hours a day, by the way, which may or may not be available for viewing on the Internet at http://www.rennes-le-chateau.com/live/default.htm .)   But this idea, along with many other favorite explanations of “the mystery,” was heavily debunked in a 1996 BBC-2 documentary, “History of a Mystery.”                                           

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There are signs of recent excavation on Mt. or Pêche Cardou,

as the temptation to dig up God becomes irresistible.

Also noted, on the day I visited, were a goodly number

of shotgun shells on the ground. 


Well, the knowledge of where Jesus is buried would be pretty powerful “heretical” knowledge, all right, especially if it and his theorized marriage to Mary Magdalene were confirmed by authentic documents.  The fact that Saunière was in 1910 tried for simony (thought by True Believers to be at least partially trumped-up charges by a new bishop who wasn’t in on the game, as the old one had been) and suspended by his bishop from priestly duties indicates that the Church certainly was unhappy with him.  Interestingly, he defied the Church at that time by refusing reassignment and continuing to perform mass at an improvised altar outside his guest house (as the villagers ignored the new priest).  What happened after his suspension is subject to debate.  Lincoln says that in 1915 the Vatican, which had always “seemed to treat Saunière with kid gloves,” mysteriously annulled his suspension.  If Lincoln’s account is correct, then he’s right to ask: what did the Vatican know that their bishop didn’t?  Incidentally, Lincoln reports that the name of Abbé Saunière has been expunged from all Vatican records.  If so, one of the Church’s most notorious priests has become a non-person, which is the way powerful organizations tend to treat people they hope will vanish, given enough time.  Paul Smith’s debunking view, on the other hand, argues that there is no proof of Vatican action in Saunière’s behalf in 1915, and he cites a document that suggests that suspension was lifted only “at the moment of death.”  There ought to be a way to resolve this, but a Church that is notoriously secretive or tight-fisted with documents when it suits its purpose, and has even been known to fool with and destroy documents, cannot be counted on to resolve this issue.


For what it’s worth, let’s throw in a couple of De Sède’s stories that confirm the rogue priest image.   These may be “made up,” but if so what point was there in making them up, other than narrative enhancement?


Just before Saunière’s death by stroke in 1917, the priest called in to administer “extreme unction” to Saunière refused to do so, De Sède told Lincoln, upon hearing the dying man’s confession and was seen hurriedly leaving with a horrified expression on his face!  A tale of mere buried treasure surely wouldn’t have had this effect.  So did Saunière tell his confessor about Jesus?  Or about Mary Magdalene?  Or his murder of Abbé Gélis?  Etcetera, pick your fantasy.  Or was De Sède embellishing the tale of this deathbed confession as someone embellished the parchments?


Another element of the mystery is that, although the dates may simply have been recorded wrong, Marie is said to have ordered his casket a few days or, according to De Sède, months, before he had his stroke on January 17!!   Whatever that implies, that he then died on January 22 gives us two magic numbers two conjure with—17 and 22—both of which have special significance for the esoterically-inclined.  


[By the way, certain numbers, in themselves or as geometric measures and degrees, really matter in this mystery, to the delight of numerologists and mathematicians, but all the attention to number is justified by the fact that number mattered even more to the ancients whose esoterica is now called upon to explain the Rennes mysteries.  When the ancients discovered how mathematical the universe is, how number seems to underlie everything in creation, they came to the conclusion that number preceded creation and determined the shape of things, as in a sense it might.  When St. Bernard of Clairvaux asked himself “What is God?,” he replied that “God is length, width, height, and depth.”  In The Dimensions of Paradise, John Mitchell summarizes the point this way: “Ancient science was based, like that of today, on number, but whereas number is now used in the quantitative sense for secular purposes, the ancients regarded numbers as symbols of the universe, finding parallels between the inherent structure of number and all types of form and motion….They inhabited a living universe, a creature of divine fabrication, designed in accordance with reason and thus to some extent comprehensible to the human mind.”


 “Gematria” is the process of numerical analysis by which the particular number of a thing is determined and that number’s symbolic value can be determined in itself and by combination with other numbers through addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  For example, the number “22” is important because ancient Hebrew, the “holy” language man used, supposedly, to speak to God, had 22 letters in its alphabet.  And each Hebrew letter could be assigned a numerical value that combined with other values to reveal divine purpose, as certain rabbis did with interesting results.  So, too, the relevance of all the pentagonal geometry in the Rennes area may partly rest in the magical properties of the number “5.”  J. L. West, in The Serpent in the Sky, says that “To the Pythagoreans, Five was the number of ‘love’ or ‘life’, because it represented the union of the first male number, Three, with the first female number, Two.”  And so it goes.  


 However, if you consult enough guides to these symbolic numbers, you will find that there are disagreements or variations, no doubt partly because there are different traditions in different parts of the world.   In On Earth As It Is In Heaven, for example, Greg Rigby reports that “In ancient Egypt, the symbol for a star was drawn with five points.  The ideal of the realized man was to become a star, and to become ‘one of the company of Ra.’”  Yet there are lots of six-pointed stars on Egyptian tomb walls as well.  And earlier I mentioned an Indo-European tradition that assigned the pentagram to the female, which echoes the association of the planet and goddess Venus with the pentagram.  This would seem to contradict the Christian’s associating of the pentagram with Christ.  Of course, recognizing these contradictions, one can attempt to resolve them by finding some underlying thematic unity, as, for example, if in all cases the number 5 connotes “potentiality” and “creativity,” which could be applied to both Venus and Christ.  At any rate, suffice it to say that the number game is played avidly by certain of the Rennes investigators, with astonishing results!  Just read the books mentioned in this paragraph, and add Weidner and Bridges’ Monument to the End of Time to the list.  A website that goes deeply into numerological matters is http://www.rennes-discovery.com/index.html.  Perhaps the most intriguing number game played with the Bible in recent years is that recounted in Michael Drosnin’s The Bible Code, telling of a new kind of prophecy for those who like to think that “all is written.”].


But others accept Marie’s premature ordering of a coffin as fact and explain it by the fact that at his death it was discovered that Saunière owned nothing, for everything had been put in Marie’s name!  That is, they think that, financially insulated, she was either part of a plot to do him in or had reasons of her own, although they are hard put to come up with a reason for such actions except the conventional one of jealousy—there were insinuations of an affair with Emma Calvé!  Well, that Marie did Saunière in or contributed to doing him in seems unlikely if it’s true, as said, that she faithfully visited his grave on a daily basis and that 36 years after Saunière’s death she had her grave put right next to his.  That suggests the sort of serious love for a man that a woman would not betray.  But of course the human heart is capable of incredible twists.  At any rate, the possibility that “the mystery” comes with an illicit and possibly “tragic” romance doesn’t hurt trade either.

TOP      END

The back of the Church of the Magdalene and adjacent cemetery.  

Marie and Saunière are buried in nondescript graves on the back wall below the Orangerie.


                                                                                                                                           TOP        END


T W I N S   &   D O U B L E S



Back to “the burial of Jesus” motif.  Another question many are interested in is--exactly what Jesus is buried here, if that’s the case at all?  This question is raised by another, related motif popular among some investigators—that of the twin or double of Jesus—a motif perhaps embodied by the odd statues of Joseph and Mary on either side of the altar in the church dedicated to Mary Magdalene in Rennes-le-Château.  Both Joseph and Mary are holding a baby Jesus, or so it seems.  That the babies are twins or doubles is an alternate interpretation to the one I gave above, although that Joseph and Mary represent a balanced gender relationship could be complementary to the view proposed here if the two Jesuses are really Jesus and his twin brother.  The only problem with this, of course, is that Joseph was supposedly not the father of Jesus.                                                 

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The Church of the Magdalene features

 two baby Jesuses.

Relief of Mary Magdalene

beneath the altar, supposedly painted

by Saunière himself.



So it is conjectured that the Magdalen’s cloning altar, so to speak, refers either to a tradition that Jesus had a twin or to a similar tradition that there were two Jesuses whose lives were confused and conflated in the New Testament (“Jesus,” or actually “Yeshua,” being a common name in those days).  And so the “Jesus” believed to be buried near Rennes-le-Château, if not “the real Jesus,” is sometimes argued to be his twin or his double.


This motif partially stems from the very contradictory portraits of Jesus one finds in the New Testament, such as the contrast between the Jesus who preaches brotherly love and forgiveness of enemies and the warrior Jesus of the Book of Revelation who brings wrathful judgment to the sinners of the earth.  The latter Jesus was the source of what is called “muscular Christianity,” which later was used to rationalize the Crusaders’ attempts to “kick Moslem ass,” and here we go again!  That is, a schizoid Bible may be responsible for this tradition of a double or twin Jesus.  And note the echo of this in Leonardo’s and Poussin’s paintings of “The Last Supper,” where the Jesus in the center is doubled by the fifth man to his right.  


In an interesting variation, P. Silvain’s Jesus-Christ Bar Aba argues for a distinction between a “Celestial Jesus” and a “Terrestrial Jesus,” insisting that there is overwhelming evidence that one of the Jesuses, the one who escaped the crucifixion, is buried in an ancient Roman mine in Alet-les-Bains, a town just to the north of Rennes-le-Château on the road to Carcassonne(see map below), and a town whose ancient church has a star of David prominently featured.  And so Mt. Cardou has a rival for the tomb of Jesus.  Saunière, by the way, was briefly a vicar in Alet before moving on to Rennes-le-Château.   Alet-les-Bains is a town worth more investigation.



The Rennes-le-Château area, also known as “Cathar Country”


And now we have a third candidate for the burial place of Jesus, this one with perhaps more physical proof to substantiate its claims.  André Douzet, in Sauniere’s Model, tells us he has found a plaster model for what was to have been a bronze cast of “The Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre” ordered by Saunière not long before his death, a model of the true location of Christ’s tomb, not far from Lyon, a city frequently visited by Saunière and where he actually rented rooms, attended meetings of the Martinists, and visited goldsmiths, when he wasn’t out in the countryside exploring an area perhaps historically associated with the Hautpoul family.  Douzet believes that in researching areas around Perillos on the plateau of Opoul, he has found the models for Saunière’s tower and some of the key iconography in Saunière’s church, as well as actual treasure items!   The details of Douzet’s account are necessary reading, for this book points to the existence of something very rare in this investigation—actual objects that support the idea of Saunière’s Secret—although with the surprise that the objects of treasure, both physical and spiritual/intellectual, are not in Rennes-le-Château.  Rennes provided the key but not the place.



P O U S S I N ’ S   T O M B   IN   A R C A D Y



While on the subject of tombs, I should mention that there is a huge amount of attention given to certain paintings of Nicholas Poussin (1594–1665), especially “The Shepherds of Arcadia,” which shows shepherds pointing at an inscription--“Et in Arcadia Ego”--on an above-ground tomb, the very same inscription encoded on Marie de Blanchefort’s tombslab, as mentioned above (which, remember, the debunkers think is a fake).  A copy of this painting, according to De Sède, was purchased by Saunière at the Louvre, along with others that were relevant to understanding the Big Secret, when he was in Paris seeking help from St. Sulpice in decoding his newly found parchments.  But the surprise is that De Sède says Saunière bought these copies before the parchments were decoded.   Since it’s the parchments that mention Poussin and the other paintings as keys to the Secret, how did he know to purchase these particular paintings prior to receiving that clue?  This may be a tell-tale slip in De Sède’s chronology, but it could also suggest that Saunière had done more decoding before going to Paris than he is given credit for, perhaps getting enough of a hint from the Marie de Blanchefort tombslab (except that only Poussin’s painting is alluded to on that, not Teniers’), or that some tentative reading had been given him before he bought the paintings.  A strange discrepancy, at any event. 


 More stunning news, from De Sède (relayed from Plantard?), was that Poussin’s tomb was modeled on an actual tomb that existed on the south side of a road leading east from Couiza (below Rennes-le-Château to the north) to Arques, between Serres Castle and Arques Castle at Les Pontils, and that the mountainous background on the right of Poussin’s painting matches exactly the background of the tomb that existed near Rennes-le-Château.  I use the past tense because in 1988, after some numbskull treasure hunter used explosives to force entry into the tomb, an enraged landowner finished the destruction of the tomb that was causing tourists and treasure seekers to so often disturb his peace!  Or so the story goes, for who’s to say this wasn’t a cover for other motives?  At any rate, this tomb was more than once broken into before this, the first time just after Henry Lincoln investigated it.  Obviously this tale has its farcical elements as well. 


Well, if Poussin’s painted tomb and/or the local tomb are relevant, it seems they are to be taken, as part of this “mystery,” as symbolic signposts to the real tomb of Jesus (or his double or twin), not as the actual tomb.  The local tomb was certainly close to Mt. Cardou, if that means anything.  And Mt. Cardou, Lincoln says, is the model for the largest mountain on the right of Poussin’s painting, an assertion disputed by Paul Smith (and by Putnam & Wood).  Lincoln concedes that the left part of the picture’s background does not match that of the supposed model, but Putnam & Wood don’t think the right side matches well either, without moving well away from  where the tomb was.

TOP        END

Poussin’s “The Shepherds of Arcadia” in its (circa) 1640 version.  The staves, painted first, according to

 x-rays, may be keys to a hidden geometry. The mountains in the right background Lincoln identified with Cardou, Blanchefort, and Rennes-le-Château, an identification which some dispute.


The tomb a few miles from Rennes-le-Château, at Les Pontils, before it was dynamited by a treasure hunter and then destroyed by the owner in 1988.

 Photo from Henry Lincoln’s Key to the Sacred Pattern.

For other photos, go to http://smithpp0.tripod.com/psp/upg/uidx.html


There are two principal problems with this Poussin connection. 


First, there is no record of Poussin’s having visited or even come close to the Rennes-le-Château region.  He lived most of his life in Paris and Rome.  On the other hand, there are gaps in the account of Poussin’s early years, and he appears to have been on the road from Paris to Rome at about the time “The Shepherds of Arcadia” was painted (circa 1640).  If a visit occurred, Lincoln argues, certainly one could see why an urbanite, passing through, would think this area Arcadian. 


A more serious problem is that the chronology seems not to fit.    The tomb that was supposedly Poussin’s model, a few miles to the east of Rennes-le-Château, may not have existed in Poussin’s day.  Author of a 1988 book, Les Archives de Rennes-le-Château, Pierre Jarnac reported that the eventual site of the “Poussin tomb” had been a conventional grave site from 1903 on, containing deceased members of the Galibert family, their remains being moved to Limoux when the property was sold in 1921 to Emily Rivarès, a Frenchwoman from Paterson, New Jersey.  When Emily’s mother Marie died in 1922, she was buried in the vacated grave site along with two cats, to be later joined by Emily herself in 1931 or 1932.  It supposedly was not until 1933 that Emily’s son, a retired American civil engineer from Hartford, Connecticut, Louis Lawrence, had the “Poussin tomb” built, placing therein the mummified remains of his mother, grandmother, and two cats!  Obviously these dates don’t jibe with Poussin’s Seventeenth Century existence.  


It would be nice if we could at least let this matter “rest in peace,” but Lincoln insists that he could not find any official record of when the tomb was built, and the local “authority,” Descadeillas, did not even know that the tomb existed.  Further, Jarnac’s account seems to be based mainly on testimony from Adrien Bourrel, identified as the second son of Louis Lawrence, who curiously does not have the same last name as his father but instead carries the last name of Lawrence’s common-law wife, who it seems was related to the Rennes-les-Bains stonemason who, according to Jarnac, dug the original grave in 1903.  Well, such testimony makes one wonder--are the locals at it again?   Is Plantard the only one who was myth-making?   Because we need to stack this “testimony” up against contradicting testimony from the elderly owner of the land, given to Henry Lincoln, that the tomb does go back in time further than some suppose.  This old timer said that his grandfather said that it had always been there!  And David Ellsworth in an article on The Knights Templar seconds that by citing testimony from local “peasants,” adding that there is a specific mention of the tomb in a memoir dating from 1709 (but, alas, the memoir is not referenced).  And, if that’s not enough, consider another possibility that has been proposed—that the 1933 construction was modeled on an ancient tomb on more or less the same spot that fell apart and that determined where the Galibert family placed their grave sites, the ancient tomb thus serving as Poussin’s model!    Ad infinitum?


At any rate, since official records do not seem to exist to corroborate the time of the tomb’s construction, and the appearance of the tomb in photographs certainly makes it look older than a mere 60 years or so, we are left with contradictory testimony and perhaps an irresolvable ambiguity.  Well, would it help to do carbon-14 testing of what remains of the tomb?  Or has all the debris been removed? 


What does all this matter?  The Poussin motif got going because Poussin is specifically mentioned in the parchments Saunière found (according to De Sède), thus accounting for Saunière’s purchasing of copies of paintings of Poussin and others on his first visit to Paris. In one of the parchments, Poussin and Teniers (another painter contemporary with Poussin) are said to “hold the key.”   But are these Abbé Bigou’s or Marie de Blanchefort’s words?  Or just De Chérisey’s or Plantard’s?


So why then, according to De Sède, did Saunière later efface the inscription on the Marie de Blanchefort graveslab which echoed the theme of one of Poussin’s most famous paintings--“Et in Arcadia Ego”?  Did the Priory deliberately create a mystery here to intrigue the mystery hounds?  Did the Priory want to suggest that this made a connection between parchment and graveslab that they further wanted us to believe that Saunière thought unwise to let stand?  Because revealing of some element of the mystery he thought it not wise to reveal?   Well, one thing it makes clear is that Marie de Blanchefort, and the Hautpoul/Blancheforts in general, are connected to the mystery and strongly reinforces the idea that the found parchments came from them (through Abbé Bigou), and of course Plantard then insinuated himself into the family genealogy through an indirect means that he knew would please a sleuth to find.  {By the way, has anyone found authenticated samples of Abbé Bigou’s or Marie de Blanchefort’s handwriting and compared them to what’s on the parchments?  Paul Smith, although accepting of De Chérisey’s “confession” of having created the parchments, has also implied that draughtsman Plantard used a stencil to create the writing on the parchments, and, if so, can such stencils be found?  Of course the parchments themselves could be tested for date if they could be found, but they seem to have disappeared, fancy that!   And of course, if the Rex Deus authors are right, the entire Blanchefort segment of “the mystery” may have been invented.}


 At any rate, to continue with the deductions following from examination of parchments and graveslabs, which has a certain plausibility to it, since the parchments mention Poussin, it of course makes no sense that they were created before his time and a great deal of sense that they were created after his fame was secured, as presumably it was by 1781, when Marie de Blanchefort died. 


As for why Marie de Blanchefort or Father Bigou would refer us to Poussin, it’s been plausibly argued that Poussin was a member of a secret society (like the Priory of Sion or the Martinists) which was connected to and supportive of the blood line claim of the Merovingians and who thus colluded with the hidden royal family in passing down the secrets of a “mystery” from generation to generation, secrets which might include the location of the tomb of their ancestor, Jesus, and so Poussin deliberately left a record of his secret knowledge in certain of his paintings in which a tomb is pointed to (which in fact, the reasoning goes, points to the Arcadian area of Rennes-le-Château, which it further makes sense for him to have visited if he really had such knowledge.  But, in that age dangerous to “heretics,” not tell anyone except in code?).  The “Et in Arcadia Ego” is usually assumed to mean that “Death is in Arcadia too,” meaning in this case that even in the Paradisal regions of the earth death comes to all, including Jesus.  (Others believe anagrams are at work here as elsewhere, which would produce this translation—“Begone! I conceal the secrets of God.”)


There is also to deal with a mysterious letter sent from an Abbé Fouquet to his brother, Nicholas, Superintendent of Finances to the court of Louis XIV, that speaks of a meeting with Poussin in Rome in 1656:  “He and I discussed certain things, which I shall with ease be able to explain to you in detail…things which will give you, through Monsieur Poussin, advantages which even kings would have great pains to draw from him, and which, according to him, it is possible that nobody else will ever rediscover in the centuries to come.   And what is more, these are things so difficult to discover that nothing now on this earth can prove of better fortune nor be their equal.”   Whatever that means, it seems to have had quite an effect on the king, who had Nicholas Fouquet arrested and imprisoned for the rest of his life (making him the most likely candidate, say some, for “The Man in the Iron Mask”). [Consider, however, the claim made in Nick Dear’s play Power that King Louis’ extreme displeasure with Fouquet was caused by Fouquet’s throwing an extravagant party in 1661 that the young king did not have the resources to match, and thus he ruined Fouquet and stole his life out of pique and outrage.   See the TLS, July 18, 2002, p. 19]   Whatever the cause of his action against Fouquet, the king, after a long search, eventually procured Poussin’s painting and kept it at Versailles in private quarters.  Keep in mind that this king’s right to the throne was called into question by the House of Lorraine, supposedly Priory-controlled.  Or maybe these were Rex Deus families in a civil war.


It’s also deemed crucial to the Poussin theory that these paintings appear to have a “sacred geometry” operating behind the scenes, as established by art historians possessed of x-ray vision and good with rulers and calculators.  Much effort and mathematical ingenuity have gone into showing that the same Golden Section sacred geometry as appears in the Poussin painting is to be found in the parchments (see above) and in the mathematically precise layout of the Rennes-le-Château area, mathematics that were seemingly mimicked or alluded to by Saunière in his building and laying out of his estate and the decorating of his church.  Lincoln has argued that Saunière’s tower, for example, serves as the apex of a Pentacle of Mountains in which five key mountaintops apparently form an exact pentagram of Golden Section proportions, and that man-made structures on ancient holy sites form other complex configurations!


All of this geometry, like the pointing shepherds in the Poussin painting, is thought to “point” toward some Great Truth it would profit us to know or to provide a sort of treasure map to a Great Truth, so to speak.  The exquisite mathematics of Golden Section pentagrams and hexagrams themselves have for millennia been thought to be emblems of the ultimate perfection that exists behind the scenes of seemingly chaotic human experience.  [Those who wish to pursue this could read Greg Rigby’s On Earth As It Is In Heaven.]       


Of course the orthodox say that what is pointed to in such scenes as Poussin painted is how Christ’s redemptive sacrifice saves us from death (memento mori being the theme), but if what’s being pointed to, as Poussin’s shepherds point to that symbolic tomb, is where the body of Jesus lies (or his twin or double), in the Arcadian region of Rennes-le-Château, then obviously orthodox comforts are challenged.                                                                                                       

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S A C R E D   G E O M E T R Y   &   S E C R E T   S O C I E T I E S



And so another whole school of thought is devoted to showing that Saunière was funded by secret organizations who wished to share his esoteric, perhaps even magical, knowledge and encourage him to pass it on to initiates.  They believed that he possessed special knowledge, not only of the humanity of Jesus, but also of how to activate the special power to be derived from the incredibly intricate sacred geometry that seems to characterize the location of mountaintops and holy sites in the area and that somehow assists in instruction in the Gnostic “Way.”  The man-made sites originally, it seems, were Megalithic/Druidic sites, most of which later had churches or castles or calvaires placed on them in a way that maintained the original mathematical precision of the layout, described by Lincoln as a vast “Holy Temple” many miles square.  Lincoln has even come to suspect, after discovering in a triangular field south of Rennes-le-Château what looks like a deliberately tree-hidden ritual worship spot smack in the center of the Pentacle of Mountains, that Saunière may have presided over esoteric secret rituals of cosmic import, which may be why he drew such a wealthy crowd interested in the occult, if that indeed is the case. 


Of course as soon as you mention secret rituals in tree-encircled fields, the modern imagination is conditioned to think of Satanic cults and sex orgies, and that no doubt accounts for the most ridiculous of Henry Lincoln’s experiences.  When he made the mistake of agreeing to do a film on Rennes-le-Château for a commercial film company, thinking they would give him more freedom to do as he saw fit, instead he found himself trapped in the most farcical of film-making events, climaxed by the director’s fabricating wild nude sex scenes of a Satanic cult, supposedly presided over by Saunière, who was presented as having run some sort of proto-New Age Playboy club in the Pyrenees.  Mercifully, this film was abandoned when the producer was suddenly struck down by a brain tumor, which is enough to make you believe in a just God!   But of course this would just as easily lend itself to that theme park for heretics that may be aborning here.


Back to reality, now (although I note how relative the term “reality” has become!), it is plausibly argued that this mathematical precision and the amazing geometry it forms, which has also been rediscovered and elaborated upon in recent decades by professional civil engineers, surveyors, and mapmakers whose “proofs” seem convincing but that I have no way of checking, points to proof that the Gnostic tradition is correct in its “heretical” version of Christianity.  Gnostic Christians saw themselves as the inheritors of ancient mystical wisdom in which “salvation” is achieved only by special knowledge or “gnosis,” among which is the knowledge of “sacred geometry.”  This is a theory with some historical validity and would also account for the Church’s hostility and desire to keep Saunière quiet, if we give any credence to the blackmail hypothesis.


             A Knights Templar Church in Segovia (where the Arian Visigoths were pushed) may have been called “La Iglesia de la Vera Cruz”—“the Church of the True Cross”—precisely because the Templars were part of this Gnostic tradition that secretly maintained that the Catholic Church’s use of the Cross as a redemptive symbol was not based on historical fact, history’s truth being suppressed by the Church’s burning of Gnostic scripture and Gnostic “heretics.”  Jesus did not die on the cross and was not a redeemer, say the Gnostics (some of whose scripture was rediscovered a few decades ago in Egypt), but rather was an especially adept passer on of the “gnosis” which is the true redeemer.  “Let those who have ears to hear, hear,” the Gnostic Jesus kept saying.                      


One of the best examples remaining of octagonal Templar architecture is “The Church of the True Cross” in Segovia, just below the Alcazar.



The church within the church.  

One of the surprising things about the Templar church is that it had its inner sanctum in a two-story octagonal building within the larger, octagonal church.  The altar was upstairs, with benches around it for a select few, probably the highest ranking members of this knightly order.



The Church’s tendency through the ages to punish, torture, and often have murdered those who disagreed with its doctrine and its right to enforce the faith accounts, it is said, for the secrecy with which Gnostic belief was maintained, as witnessed by the wholesale massacre of such perhaps Gnostically-inclined groups as the Cathars (or Albigensians) and the Knights Templar by the pope’s men.  Everywhere one drives in the Rennes-le-Château area, incidentally, one sees signs announcing this as “Cathar Country,” and I even saw a Cathar exhibition in a small museum in Arques featuring the Cathar castles perched impossibly on the mountaintops in the region (see photos on Page 1).  Some locals appear proud of having “heretics” for ancestors!  But were the Cathars and/or Knights Templar really “Gnostically-inclined”?  That’s still open to question.  And open to question too is how this Gnostic theory would generate wealth for Saunière, if one dismisses the blackmail hypothesis.


Those who dismiss the blackmail theory have their own theories, and one theory, as said, is that Saunière was funded by Masons, Rosicrucians, and other secret inheritors of Gnosticism or Gnostic-like beliefs (which might have included the Priory of Sion) to establish some sort of physical record readable only by initiates, a sort of map or book of this “gnosis” in the decorations of the Church and the design of his “estate,” which point to and echo a larger design in the surrounding area and which is characterized by symbolic numerology, phonic puns, alchemical/Masonic imagery, and religious iconography that appears conventional but often, in its detail, invites interpretation the reverse of the conventional.  Certainly the motto over the door of the Church—“This place is terrible [or awesome]”—and the statue of a devil that greets one upon entering the Church are suggestive of a religious contrariness (though both are capable of orthodox interpretation).  Then, too, Saunière’s trips to Paris and elsewhere (if such occurred, for De Sède is the source here) seem to find him visiting occult-minded people, which fin de siècle Paris was crawling with, and perhaps even having an affair with the famous opera singer and occultist, Emma Calvé.  If Smith is right that the Calvé connection was fictional, then what do we make of Lincoln’s account of how on his first visit to Rennes he accidentally came across a protestation of love to Emma in the form of an arrow-pierced heart with the name Calvé and the year 1891 below it carved into a rock near Rennes-le-Château?  No proof exists, however, that it was carved by Saunière (So why was this carving amazingly erased by unknown parties minutes after Henry Lincoln took a photograph of it and left the scene?  Was Plantard or one of his men skulking in the bushes?  Who else could have done this ludicrous thing?).



A L I E N S   OR   G E N I U S E S?



And now we get into even thinner air, occupied previously only by Jules Verne.  Still others believe that the intricate geometry of the area, echoing in some respects what has been found at Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids and other ancient sites, clearly points to friendly visitors from outer space in Megalithic times (or earlier), or at least the presence in Europe of a Super Race from Atlantis or some other Lost Civilization, who left clues in the geometry about sacred wisdom left behind by them that is available to the intellectual elite (a version of the Gnostic belief).  Well, the idea of a Lost Civilization of some sort, whether of aliens or of Homo sapiens sapiens, existing between 15,000 B.C. and 8,000 B.C. is an increasingly plausible one, given what is being unearthed and deciphered about the ancient civilizations of known history, and the theory (see Finger Prints of the Gods, by Graham Hancock and Uriel’s Machine by Knight & Lomas) that this Lost Civilization is, after all, recorded in the mythology of ancient peoples, is also looking better and better, but there’s still a long ways to go to prove its truth or that Rennes-le-Château had any connection with it.

Most of this theory presents the Lost Civilization as being so morally (as well as technologically) advanced that its chief message was a civilizing one and ethically uplifting.  But, not surprisingly, given the times we live in and the realizations of modern astronomy, one branch of theory ingeniously argues that the knowledge left behind by these superior beings constituted a coded warning about an impending catastrophic collision with a giant comet in the not-too-distant future (see Wood and Campbell’s Geneset: Target Earth) or some other cosmic catastrophe such as radiation coming from deep space that will bring Apocalypse Sooner or Later If Not Now.  


The pentagram above is reproduced from Wood & Campbell’s  Geneset: Target Earth.   The authors think the sublime mathematics of this unusual pentagram provide a sort of celestial calendar that clearly signals the return to the solar system of a killer comet in 2085, a comet variously named Set or The Serpent or Typhon that has had great destructive or at least altering effects upon the earth in the past and will again.  Those who placed this calendar here were aliens who grafted their genes onto man, thus accounting for the startling acceleration in evolution marked by the arrival of Homo sapiens. But apparently it was assumed that our species would not be worthy of survival unless it had the brains to figure this calendar out in time to avoid the impending catastrophe!   Risky business!!



The astrologically-inclined, on the other hand, have found that the entire Zodiac has been reproduced on the ground in the Rennes-le-Château area, on such a scale and with such precision that only visitors from outer space could have done it, perhaps to clue their descendants (they mated with earthlings!) to a way to escape an impending natural apocalypse.  Well, again, it is hard to see how such knowledge of alien lore would generate wealth for Saunière.


If one sticks with the “superior aliens” thesis, however, it makes some sense that the Church, and perhaps others, would not want it known that Homo sapiens was not at the center of the moral and spiritual universe, just as today various religious leaders are not comfortable with the possibility of finding life on other planets, for that upsets their egocentric and homocentric view of salvation.  But would the Church have paid to suppress that?  Why wouldn’t they have tried to keep Jules Verne quiet, then?  And nip Science Fiction in the bud?


But if the earth wasn’t visited by superior aliens in ancient times, then the amazing mathematical precision of the area’s complex “sacred geometry” and/or Zodiac planisphere, not to mention that of Newgrange, Stonehenge, the pyramids, and other ancient sites, argues for the presence of mathematical genius in Homo sapiens long before conventional history is ready to grant that.  Because it means that the likes of Pythagoras, Archimedes, and Hiram Abif (the putative builder of Solomon’s temple), etc., were more the inheritors of ancient wisdom rather than the creators of it.   As the Hermetic tradition has always insisted.   Although, according to The Hiram Key, that wisdom may have come down in formulas which only mimic the original wisdom but do not possess the same evoking powers, as may be the case with Masonic ritual  (See The Hiram Key by Christopher Knight & Robert Lomas for an ingenious tracing of Masonic rituals back through Knights Templar and Jewish ritual practices to a 16th Century B.C. Egyptian king-making ceremony at the time of the Hyksos invasion.  The authors argue that the true wisdom and attendant magic was lost with the murder of the Egyptian king in 1573 B.C. and that all the rituals derived from it, beginning with Moses, ape and commemorate that murder but do not contain the magical power of the original king-making.  You’d first have to convince me that the original really had any special power!).


Henry Lincoln, by the way, now supports the view that a few of our ancient ancestors possessed mathematical genius and a command of technology way beyond what was common in their era.  For the moment, he thinks it’s either believe that or join the UFO club!  And recently he has gone far beyond Rennes-le-Château in his explorations, finding evidence of incredibly sophisticated prehistoric geodesy in Sweden and other parts of France, suggesting that these ancient geniuses he posits were capable of measuring and mapping the entire earth without benefit of satellites! {Those who wish to pursue this to an even greater extreme should consult Greg Rigby’s On Earth As It Is In Heaven, which argues for even larger patterns covering the whole of Europe}.


 One way out of Lincoln’s dilemma, which he seems disinclined to consider, is the possibility that myths of Atlantis or of a Golden Age or a Lost Civilization may have some reality behind them.  And no aliens would be required, necessarily, although there are those who believe that the myth of Atlantis is precisely expressive of a time when visitors from outer space colonized the earth.   See Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods for a full exploration of this idea.


          If I had to choose, I think I would prefer the thesis that the melting of the ice at the end of the last ice age brought catastrophic flooding to much of the world and could very well have wiped out great, possibly advanced civilizations that nevertheless left traces of themselves and their Wisdom in the myths and esoteric traditions of the ancient peoples who survived the flood.  After all, our oceans are mostly unexplored, and researchers in that realm are beginning to turn up some interesting, suggestive artifacts.  If you wish to pursue the “Lost Civilization” premise, read Weidner and Bridges’ Monument to the End of Time (although that will take you to Peru rather than Rennes-le-Château) and Knight & Lomas’ Uriel’s Machine, and the following websites will direct you to other books on the subject-- http://www. robertbauval.com/main.html and http://www.grahamhancock.com.              


TOP      END



A N   I D L E   P R I E S T   I S   T H E   D E V I L ‘ S   W O R K S H O P




Many other explanations of Saunière’s sudden wealth and what “knowledge” made it possible have been proposed, and I’ll just conclude by mentioning the one which involves other priests in the area because it has a certain down-to-earth quality to it which gets us back to the reality of the area and the times.  One of the things that really strikes a contemporary reader is how much time these country priests had on their hands.  It’s amazing what you can get up to in a small parish if there’s no TV to watch!   And of course that also meant you had to make up your own dramas.   And sometimes star in them!

How, for example, did the priest mentioned above, Abbé Gélis, manage to get himself murdered in tiny hilltop Coustaussa in 1897?  And why did they afterwards find that he had caches of gold stashed around?  Did his being a confidante of Saunière have anything to do with it?                                                                                                              END    TOP

The church of Abbé Gélis in Coustaussa,

 within walking distance of Rennes-le-Château


And then there’s Saunière’s first bishop, Mgr Billard from Carcassonne, who seemingly had no problems with what Saunière was doing, and, in fact, was in the process of being suspended for irregularities in the administration of his diocese when he died.  He not only funded Saunière’s initial trip to Paris in search of code-breakers, according to the story, but also this bishop died a millionaire, although much of that seems to have been inherited from a wealthy female benefactor (in which case, again, cherchez la femme!  Somebody needs to find out why this woman gave so much money to Billard as a person, not as a bishop.  Supposedly he then used part of this inheritance to purchase a certain church in Limoux, presumably because it marked another appearance of the Virgin Mary.  How is it possible to buy a church?   Who owns that church now?).  A story is told of locals seeing this bishop upon a visit to Rennes-le-Château exchange hats with Saunière, which puts the bishop’s hat on Saunière!  And a photo exists supposedly showing a dead Saunière reposing on a bed with a bishop’s miter on the table beside him.  What is this all about?  There’s a strong suggestion of collusion of some sort in this story.  It seems likely that Saunière didn’t keep either the wealth and maybe the Secret of it entirely to himself, although whether “it” refers to material treasure or to intellectual/spiritual wealth or to blackmail money or to the wages of simony or to something else is not known, along with exactly how unorthodox this “club” may have been.   And who else was in on it.   I haven’t yet mentioned Saunière’s brother, Albert, also a priest, from a nearby town, and the fact that there is clear evidence of collusion between them!


There are a number of other local priests who seemed to be involved with Saunière in various ways, chief amongst them being the Abbé Boudet (1837-1915).  Boudet’s fingerprints seem to be on many pieces of evidence, such as the fact that he was the one who sent Saunière to the bishop who sent him to Paris (again, all according to De Sède), and because of the many oddities and puzzles found in Boudet’s church and the cemetery behind.  There are times when I think we should be calling this “The Boudet Episode.”   A website that explores in some depth the idea that Boudet was the would-be puppet-master behind Saunière is at http://www.rennes-discovery.com/index.html.  


Boudet’s church in Rennes-les-Bains and the cemetery behind it. 

No signs of the flood of 1994 which may have messed up some key evidence.   Nor of Boudet’s grave, which has been moved elsewhere.

TOP      END


 Henri Boudet (1837-1915) was the priest of next door Rennes-les-Bains (from 1872) who appears to have been Saunière’s mentor when the young cleric was first appointed to Rennes-le-Château in 1885, and he appears to have encouraged Saunière’s staunchly anti-republican views, opposed to the day’s democratizing trends, and he was ahead of Saunière in his frequent explorations of the area and collecting of artifacts.  He seems also to have placed calvaires and raised stones at strategic spots around Rennes-les-Bains, spots now used in various geometric calculations.  One investigator even believes that Boudet was the one who introduced Marie and her family to Saunière and who later had Marie spy on Saunière and arrange for all his wealth to be put in her name as a means of controlling him.  And although Boudet died about two years before Saunière (dying what some think a suspicious death, it might be added), Boudet may have contributed to Saunière’s death by instructing Marie to act if Saunière got out of hand, from Boudet’s perspective, according to one plot line!  Boudet, by the way, was also relieved of his priestly duties, in 1914, before his time was up, and thus, like Saunière, seems to have run afoul of the same bishop.


This conspiratorial Boudet seems far-fetched, but it may be the scholarly Boudet who really holds the key to everything.  Boudet self-published a bizarre but very learned book, La Vraie Langue Celtique Et Le Cromleck De Rennes-les-Bains (published in 1886, but completed in 1880), which, as its title suggests, has two separate concerns, but one of them seems sensible, the other seems loony.  The book modestly proposes an idea that now can be seen as the forerunner of today’s far more extravagant geometric demonstrations, that the area contains a gigantic “cromleck,” a huge circle of standing stones (placed there by the ancient Gauls, Boudet thought) that stamped the entire area as a holy place.  But it also ridiculously insists that English was the planet’s ur-language, a claim he must have known was absurd but by which he may have meant to convey some sort of disguised and perhaps ironic truth (such as, it has been proposed, that the English mile and other English units of measure are much more ancient than thought and may have been used by whoever originated the Holy Place as a kind of “sacred language”).  Boudet’s book is now seen as a mostly coded document full of phonic puns and cartographic hints that are probably meant to point to and perhaps help initiates understand “the mystery.” The obvious coding of Boudet’s book is one of the things that lends credibility to the idea of coded documents and gravestones at Rennes-le-Château.  But the fact that a modern edition of this book contains a preface by Plantard is not comforting, although it may illustrate nothing more than Plantard’s skill in grafting his Priory claims onto legitimate mysteries.


But maybe Boudet’s hints were directed only at the mystery as he understood it and wished to see it developed.  In claiming the entire region as an ancient holy temple, Boudet’s goal may have been to create another Lourdes, a town or region where magic was available to the paying believer.  Or, more charitably, to create a spiritual center such as Rennes-les-Bains was during the time of the Gauls, where the sick could come for healing waters and spiritual uplift (see Michael Gabriel’s The Holy Valley and the Holy Mountain).  But of course that would be “good for business” too.  The mixing of spiritual and economic motive is certainly persistent throughout this investigation.  


There may be some important clue in the fact that although Boudet seems to have been influential at first in the way Saunière went about the restoration of his church, as funded at first by wealthy patrons perhaps steered that way by Boudet, a breach between Boudet and Saunière reportedly developed in 1891, when Saunière’s discoveries, whatever they were, sent him off in a direction Boudet apparently did not approve.  The imagination can get a little over-heated in forming reasons for this breach.  If Saunière was merely the pleasure-loving simoniac of the debunker’s case, then Boudet might simply have disapproved of that, but, if, say, Saunière further enriched himself by performing ancient mystical/magical rites in a hidden field near no church for a very special and unorthodox clientele, then this area did become a kind of ironic Lourdes, but not at all what either the Church or Boudet would approve of!   Or, more mundanely and perhaps more humanly, it may simply have been that Saunière did not share as Boudet expected him to, which would have been especially aggravating if Boudet in fact led Saunière to the “treasure.”   And on and on go the theories that attempt to explain this strange relationship, take your pick.


Certainly it can be said that any ambition to create a second Lourdes has had ironic consequences in the long run, whatever Saunière was doing, since the majority of the tourists who now flock to this place are either secularists, some looking for that which will debunk a faith they believe to be injurious to the progress of humanity, or others wishing to heed whatever warnings of catastrophe they think are hinted at here, and some, of a distinctly New Age cast of mind, looking for evidence of the persistence of a mystical faith older and truer than institutional Christianity.   Among others.


If the priestly collusion theory is pushed far enough, it takes us far away, to St. Sulpice in Paris, for one, where Saunière supposedly went for help in decoding his parchments, and ultimately to the possibility of a rogue element within the Catholic Church that Saunière joined.  Well, anyone who has studied the history of the Church knows that hardly a century has passed without various rogue elements cropping up, some of which settled into orders of nuns or monks when the Church was wise enough to find a way to absorb the elements, others of which became “heretical movements” subjected to Inquisition and/or “cleansing” when such wisdom was lacking.  Doctrinal orthodoxy, either too insisted upon or too hypocritically ignored, always inspires opposition, and that occurred with great frequency in the history of the Church.  So I wouldn’t rule out an intramural contest within the Church as having some bearing on “the mystery.”  One commentator even thinks Saunière joined a bunch of priestly Freemasons (see Michael Gabriel’s The Holy Valley and the Holy Mountain), and another thinks he was connected with the Martinists of Lyon (see André Douzet’s Saunière’s Model and the Secret of Rennes-le-Château).  And key members of the St. Sulpice crowd were known to be “modernists” and perhaps experimentally interested in the occult for modernist reasons as well.


Whatever “deviltry” Saunière and fellow priests might have been up to, if any, it all makes fascinating reading and makes visiting the site an unusually absorbing experience.  I’ve mentioned the possibilities this place has as a theme park for the intellectually and spiritually curious (otherwise known as “heretics”), and even the possibility that Saunière knew that that was what he was constructing, but it’s startling to see that transformation continue in ways Saunière would not have guessed.   With tourists in increasing numbers, and after hundreds of books and articles and over a hundred websites have brought attention to Rennes-le-Château, a museum (opened in 1989) has been established just to the west of the Church in the priest’s old presbytery that contains significant items of “The Mystery of Rennes-le-Château,” as it is commonly referred to, including Madame Tussaud-like wax figures of Saunière and his first housekeeper, the mother of Marie, and side-by-side photographs of Saunière and Marie looking the handsome couple that they were but also bearing what one could imagine as guarded expressions.   Question: Were Saunière and Marie, from neighboring towns right next door to each other, known to each other as children?   Or was Saunière too senior?                                                                          


Above are wax figures of Saunière and Marie’s mother in their kitchen in the Saunière presbytery/museum.   One wonders why the museum put Marie’s mother there rather than Marie herself.


The museum contains many artifacts of Saunière’s life, including his account books and his favorite vestments.  




This inordinately long website has just scratched the surface of “The Mystery of Rennes-le-Château” and reviewed but a few of the many theories and speculations that have attempted to solve the puzzle of it.   But the puzzle remains.    It’s time now to summarize where we are in our common quest for greater understanding.




Click here to go on to Page 6—SUMMING UP