14-Jul-2004 -- IN THE CATHARS' LAND!
The reason I went so far Southwest was to see this country. For a person
feeling himself so much obliged to all kinds of history and tradition as I
do, a visit to this area is a must!
Much is written about the Cathars, which name comes from the Greek word
"Katharoi" (the "pure ones"). They were a religious sect, believing in
strict Dualism, who appeared in Europe in the eleventh century, probable
from Southeastern europe. In the Languedoc, famous at the time for its high
culture, tolerance and liberalism, Catharism took root and gained more and
more adherents during the twelfth century. By the early thirteenth century
it was probably the majority religion in the area, supported by the nobility
as well as the common people. This was too much for the Roman Church, some
of whose own priests had become Cathars. Worst of all, Cathars refused to
pay their tithes.
The Pope, Innocent III, called a formal crusade, appointing a series of
leaders to head his holy army. There followed over forty years of war
against the indigenous population. During this period some 500,000 men,
women and children were massacred. The Counts of Toulouse were dispossessed
and humiliated, and their lands annexed to France. Educated and tolerant
rulers were replaced by relative barbarians. The Dominican Order was
founded and the Inquisition was established to wipe out the last vestiges of
resistance. The Languedoc started its economic decline, and the language of
the area, Occitan, started its descent from one of the foremost languages in
Europe to a regional dialect.
At the end of the extirpation of the Cathars, the Church had convincing
proof that a sustained campaign of genocide can work. It also had the
precedent of an internal Crusade within Christendom, and the machinery of
the first police state. This crusade was one of the greatest disasters ever
to befall Europe.
From Limoux, where I spent overnight, I drove to Chalabre, and there i bent
right into the D16. Shortly before Sonnac sur l'Hers I stopped at a recently
mown field, from where I could already see the apple tree
It was not difficult to find a way down to the orchard, which contrary to
the last visit now was covered with nets.
The point was easy to find. I attach the views to North and East.
A strange single flower of which I do not know the name was growing close by.
Then I drove back to Chalabre with its impressive church and then I
headed towards the place I was most interested in:
RENNES LE CHATEAU!
What it so interesting in this small village high up on a hill and with not
more than 300 inhabitants?
There are many mysteries surrounding Rennes Le Chateau that link with the
Holy Grail, the Ark of Noah and the treasures of the Temple of Solomon. Much
of the mystery surrounding Rennes Le Chateau stems from its priest, Bérenger
Saunière who died of mysterious circumstance
in 1917 at age 65.
Saunière was an extremely low paid priest, but became unaccountably rich
after taking up residence at Rennes Le Chateau in 1885 and many authors have
speculated on how he got his wealth - though there is no proof.
Sauniere died in 1917, leaving the secret of where he got his fabulous
wealth to his housekeeper, Marie Dénarnaud, who promised to reveal it on her
deathbed - but sadly she had a stroke which left her paralyzed and unable to
speak before her death in 1953.
It is believed Saunière had discovered a treasure. Was it the lost treasure
of the Templars or the Cathars in the area? Might it have been buried
Visigothic gold? Or was he blackmailing the Church with some terrible
secret? The evidence that points to the last possibility is that Saunière's
confession before his death was so shocking that the priest who heard it
denied him absolution and last rites.
Sauniere also appears to have left certain other "clues" in the highly
unusual redesign of his church and of the other structures
in the area.
Clearly, to some degree, the puzzle lies in the layout of the redesign of
Saunière's church, and his other building projects. The village parish
church had been dedicated to the Magdalene in 1059. During the restoration,
he found the mysterious parchment (supposedly) in a hollow Visigothic pillar
underneath the altar stone. A statue of the demon Asmodeus guards near the
door. The plaques depicting the Stations of the Cross contain bizarre
inconsistencies. Station Eight shows a widow holding a child swathed in
Scottish plaid. Another, Station one, has Pontius Pilatus wearing a veil.
St. Joseph and Mary are each depicted holding a Christ child, as if to
allude to the old legend that Christ had a twin. Station Fourteen, the
burial of Jesus - contrary to the gospels - here happens at night! ... The
devil himself carries the basin with the sacred water, and above of the
entrance to the church there are written the words:
"TERRIBILIS EST LOCUS ISTE"
(this place is terrible) ... quite unusual for a church ...
Sauniere's library and study, the Tour Magdala, is placed precariously over
a precipitous chasm at a place where one would be foolish to build such a
permanent structure, unless...
More then 500 books have been written about Rennes le Chateau, and I cannot
put here a condensed version of all the theories. Whoever is interested will
know where to get more information.
Well, these were my French points, and now it was time to drive back to
recommened literature on the secrets of Rennes le Chateau:
Leigh, Lincoln, and Baigent, Holy Blood, Holy Grail