By Tracy R. Twyman and Boyd Rice
Originally written for Dagobert’s Revenge Magazine, Copyright 2000
(Does not necessarily represent author’s current viewpoint.)
The Languedoc region of France is a strange part of the world. It has been centuries since the Albigensian Crusade, but signs on the freeway constantly remind you that you are in “Cathar Country.” A sign with a picture of a pig superimposed upon a family having a barbecue reads, “Demand pork in Cathar country — It is part of a tradition of good taste” — never mind the fact that the Cathars were strict vegetarians. Pull into a roadside shop and you can get Cathar soap, Cathar letter openers, and even Cathar. There is even a museum called “the Catharama.” The Cathars may have been wiped out by the Inquisition in the thirteenth century, but they live on as a powerful source of tourism in this part of the world where seemingly nothing else of consequence has taken place in the intervening 700 years.
We had come here on behalf of Fox TV to do a segment for their updated version of “In Search Of,” the show dealing with unsolved mysteries and unexplained phenomena. Our episode of the show was about secret societies, and we had come to comment on the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau and the Priory of Sion. It was in this village that a poor parish priest named Berenger Sauniere discovered four parchments that were to change his life, and the surrounding village, forever. Two of these parchments were genealogies of Dagobert II, the last of the Frankish dynasty of priest-kings known as the Merovingians. The other two contained ciphered messages which, when decoded, displayed the following:
“To Dagobert II, King, and to Sion belong this treasure and he is there dead.”
“Shepherdess — No temptation that Poussin and Teniers hold the key; Peace 681 by the cross and this horse of God I destroy this demon of the guardian at midday blue apples.”
After finding these parchments, this once-poor parish priest became suddenly and inexplicably wealthy, perhaps because of having found some buried treasure. He started associating with members of the Parisian upper-crust occult demimonde, such as composer Claude Debussy and opera singer Emma Calve. He began redecorating his church and surrounding property in a most strange fashion, leaving behind odd clues in an effort to communicate to future generations the secret that he had learned from the parchments. These clues, many involving the use of occult, cabalistic, alchemical, Masonic, and Templar-oriented symbolism, seem to indicate the involvement of a secret society known as the Priory of Sion, who were and are dedicated to the service of the Merovingian bloodline, which they claim, contrary to popular belief, has survived until the present day. Sauniere’s clues lead to the unshakable conclusion that Jesus did not die on the cross, that he fled to France with his pregnant wife, Mary Magdalene, and that his descendants intermarried with local Frankish royalty to eventually become the Merovingian dynasty. They also indicate that an artifact commonly known as the “Holy Grail” may be found there as well. These clues led us and a five-man Fox television crew out to Rennes le Chateau in October of 2000.
Statue of Berenger Sauniere at the Sauniere Museum in Rennes-le-Chateau.
After a lengthy overseas flight and an unpleasant encounter with local hospitality at Charles de Gaulle airport (named after a former President of France and suspected puppet of the Priory of Sion), we were driven to a nice little hotel right next to the village of Rennes-le-Chateau, an intimate “family-style” environment heavily saturated with motifs of seashells, mermaids, busts of horses, and bad taxidermy. We got the feeling that our hosts knew a lot more about the mystery of the nearby village then they let on, a feeling that was confirmed later when we found an empty bottle of Berenger Sauniere brand wine — with a picture of the priest on the label — in the hotel dining room. On the very first evening, the Fox crew took us to the church grounds to scout the location. Having both studied the subject of Rennes-le-Chateau with enthusiasm for a number of years, it would be an understatement to say that our first glimpse at this mysterious property was absolutely overwhelming. We had heard Henry Lincoln talk about the “stunningly beautiful landscape” in his documentaries before, but the natural grandeur of the scenery is minisculed by the drab medium of videotape.
We pulled up next to the Tour Magdala and clamored out of the car. Immediately we noticed something that previous authors had not commented upon — a long, slender window with the bricks around it shaped like the double-barred Cross of Lorraine. Around the corner was another tiny window, and Tracy had the pleasure of climbing up the side of the tower in high-healed plastic boots in order to get a peek inside, but all she could see were some dusty old tables. On the opposite side, protected by a thick fortress of bramble bushes was a crude Templar-like cross patee etched into the brick, probably by some modern graffiti artist.
The Tour Magdala.
After that, we walked over to the Church, and for the first time laid eyes upon the “house of God” that hid so many terrible secrets. We searched for the curse that Sauniere had placed over the door, “This Place is Terrible,” but unfortunately it was covered with scaffolding. No one was there, though, so Tracy took the opportunity to climb all over the grotto, which held a tiny little statue of Mary Magdalene, and which, Boyd noted, was made of coral.
The entrance to the Church of Mary Magdalene.
The following morning, we were treated to a complete tour of the Sauniere domain by the current curator of the Church, an English lady named Jane. She was very knowledgeable about the layout and past history of the grounds, but not terribly interested in the theoretical implications of it. She delighted in telling us about all of the details that Henry Lincoln and other researchers had gotten wrong. This was not discouraging to us in the least. For every fascinating, mysterious fact that turned out to be either made up or misinterpreted, we learned or discovered half a dozen true mysterious facts that have never been noted before in the genre literature. We had read about the statement “This place is terrible” above the church door, which is a quote from The Book of Genesis, specifically the story in which the patriarch Jacob falls asleep on a stone and has a vision of a ladder leading up to Heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it. This stone is the same as the Stone of Destiny brought to Scotland by the prophet Jeremiah, and it became the stone upon which British monarchs are coronated to this very today. What is noteworthy is that beneath the words “This place is terrible” on the doorway, we have the rest of the quote from Genesis: “This is the house of God and the gateway to Heaven.” It is thus not a curse but a statement upon the dual nature of divinity. This is actually how the quote from We also found quite a bit of iconography etched over the doorway that has not been previously noted, including two Templar crosses, two Crosses of Lorraine, and the Masonic image of the “Blazing Star” which purportedly fell from the heavens to enlighten mankind.
As soon as the door was opened, we were smacked in the face with the image of a horrible, grimacing demon, which we recognized to be Asmodeus, the diabolic statue that Sauniere had placed inside the door to hold up the holy water stoop. This was the demon who, according to cabalistic tradition, was the builder of Solomon’s Temple, the keeper of buried treasure, and “the destroyer,” as well as “Rex Mundi,” the “Lord of the Earth.” Above the fountain are two fire-breathing salamanders, and above them, four ceramic statues of angels making the sign of the cross, marked with the caption “Par Ce Signe tu Vaincras” (“In this sign you will conquer”). The entire display, then, can be taken to represent a “marriage” or “crossing” of the four elements. Each element of this configuration represents one of the four primary elements of magic or alchemy. Asmodeus represents Earth; the holy water represents (of course) Water; the salamanders indicate Fire; and the angels signify Air. Across the hall from the demon stand statues of Christ kneeling before John the Baptist, a sorrowful look on his face, waiting to be blessed. As has been previously stated, all of these statues are looking at the floor, tiled in the black and white chequerboard style used by Templars and Freemasons to symbolize the co-equal powers of light and darkness.
The Asmodeus Statue. The figures on top of Asmodeus, together with his statue, represent the four elements.
One noticeable variation from popular myth is that in the Station of the Cross featuring the black child wearing what has been called a “Scottish kilt” by other researchers, it appears that he is actually wearing some kind of yellow and orange grass skirt. The Station with Christ being placed inside the tomb — or perhaps, as many have claimed, being removed from the tomb — is indeed as peculiar-looking as people have said. Across from this, there are two figures of Christ, seemingly identical in representation, and placed in such close proximity to one another that one could not help but notice the seeming redundancy. Both Christs are pointing skyward with their right forefinger, and are separated by a few feet, with one situated just above the other. Closer inspection reveals that they aren’t identical, despite initial appearances. The one on the bottom holds a symbol of papal authority in his left hand, and is surrounded by his chief disciples. The one above, whom the lower one points up towards, stands alone. His left hand is at his side pointing down, ala the Eliphas Levi etching of Baphomet. This Christ, placed as he is above the other, seems to indicate that he stands above the Christ of orthodox Christianity. And if one follows the path of his pointing finger, he seems to be pointing to a cupola affixed to the wall far above him. At the top of the cupola is the sign of the rose cross.
Statue of Jesus and John the Baptist.
The dual Christ-children, one held by Joseph, the other by Mary, which flank the altar, seem equally redundant. Joseph is not generally shown holding the baby Jesus. Is this a reference to Joseph’s patrimony, or to Christ’s reputed twin brother, Thomas? Or could it be something altogether different? Except for the inscriptions reading “St. Joseph” and “St. Virgin Mary,” one could easily mistake this couple for Christ and Mary Magdalene. Is this meant to tell us that Christ and Mary had two sons, perhaps even twins? Wherever one encounters these dual sets of two, a coded story is told. Most often, the story echoes the thesis of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, but sometimes it hints at something more as well.
Joseph and Mary holding dual Christ children.
The statues of the five saints, whose initials spell out “G.R.A.A.L.” (St. Germaine, St. Roch, St. Anthony d’Padoue, St. Anthony the Hermit, and St. Luke) were certainly there, in the “M” shape that has been previously described by author Gerard de Sede. This letter “M” stands for “Mary Magdalene,” he says. Upon the altar we see another image of the Magdalene, kneeling in prayer before her trademark skull, and a cross made from two wooden branches, out of which is growing a live branch. This, some say, represents the bloodline of Christ living on after his death. Above this scene is a depiction of a holy chalice with a sun descending into it. The Sun is often used to represent the alchemical Philosopher’s Stone, and the Grail is often depicted as a stone inside of a cup, so that is, logically, what this symbol on the altar represents. But the predominant symbol found in the church is not Christ, nor Mary Magdalene, but the rose cross. It is everywhere — above Christ, above John the Baptist, even above Asmodeus, and it is above every Station of the Cross. It is depicted both as a red Christian cross, and as an equilateral Templar-type cross with a rose at the center. The only symbol which is more prevalent than the rose cross is one not commonly found in most Catholic churches — the fleur-de-lys. The confessional is covered with stylized fleur-de-lys. Christ is crucified on a cross whose ends blossom out into fleur-de-lys. The ends of the rose crosses turn into fleur-de-lys. A series of intersecting circles on the wall are decorated with the letters “S.M.” (Saint Mary), and gold fleur-de-lys. This monarchist symbol is more prevalent here than any Christian symbol, and surprisingly, no previous researchers have seen fit to comment on it. This is odd, because surely this recurring motif is intended to indicate a connection between the Grail family and French royalty, and as such would represent a strong piece of circumstantial evidence in favor of the “Holy Blood, Holy Grail theory.” Yet it seems to have gone unnoticed.
We were also surprised to learn something that no one has ever before commented on, which is the fact that the church wall features the telltale marking — a yellow stripe embedded into the foundation — which was used when it was placed there in the eighth century to indicate that someone of royal blood was interred inside the church. No one knows who, but this is a rather out-of-the-way spot for the final resting place of royalty. It is strange that someone of importance was brought all the way to this obscure location, and stranger still that their name has been forgotten by history. It is yet another indication that this place was viewed to be important even in the distant past, centuries before the whole Sauniere affair.
Bas relief on altar featuring Mary Magdalene, painted by Berenger Sauniere.
The pews are all numbered, for the most part consecutively, except for a few anomalies. As we were ushered into the “Sauniere museum” next door, where certain relevant artifacts have been housed, we learned from our guide a little bit about this numbering system. It seems that only members of certain noble families in the area were allowed to attend this church, with the peasants being assigned to another across the way, and each attendant had an assigned seat number. These seat assignments would be changed every season, with a different section of the pews left clear each time. Our tour guide believed that these sections were being left unused because Sauniere was digging under those particular areas at the time.
We also learned that there seems to be a disagreement about which pillar Sauniere found the parchments in. One candidate, which she showed us, is a wooden pillar that is hollow with a removable piece on top. Then there is the famous “Visigothic pillar,” which bears the words “MISSION 1891.” In this year, the “Children of St. Vincent,” a subsection of the Priory of Sion, was created. This pillar had been holding up the altar, but Sauniere had it turned upside down so that it read “1681,” which is significant, since the words “Peace 681″ were mysteriously mentioned in the parchments he found. Interestingly, 1891 is the same date that can be found etched next to an inscription on a rock at nearby “Lover’s Fountain” that reads “E. Calve,” illustrated by a heart with an arrow through it. Author Henry Lincoln believes that this is an artifact of Sauniere’s love relationship with Emma Calve, but our tour guild assured us that “there is absolutely no evidence that Calve and Sauniere ever knew each other!” Yet she also told us that there was no evidence for a connection between Rennes-le-Chateau and the Knights Templar, and considering the Templar imagery we had already seen, it was hard to take her dogged assertions too seriously.
Outside in the courtyard we got to see the very Visigothic pillar itself, now holding up a statue of Mary with the face painted blue, although which “Mary” is depicted (Virgin or Magdalene) may be open for debate. On top of her head is a crown made of towers. Because the name “Magdala” means “tower,” we suggest that this is a statue of the Magdalene, not the Virgin. Directly across from her is placed the Calvary, on top of which is a crucified Christ, with a Sun shape behind Christ’s head. It just so happens that at sundown every night, the real Sun shines directly onto the sun shape behind Christ’s head and reflects onto the mirror behind the statue of Mary Magdalene. Because the Sun metaphorically represents the seed of God inseminating the Earth, we speculate that this represents the seed of Christ inseminating the Magdalene. It is on this same Calvary that we find the words (in Latin) “Christ Defend — AOMPS,” which Henry Lincoln says stands for “Ancient Mystical Order of the Priory of Sion.”
Next, we visited the inside of the Tour Magdala (the Magdalene Tower), and walked up the twenty-two steps through the narrow stairway to the roof above with its twenty-two turrets. In the hallway, we were shown how one of the tiny square tiles on the floor was a different color from the rest, indicating that some of the treasure might be buried there. Outside, underneath the “Glass Tower” is another set of twenty-two steps leading down into a dark basement, which we were not allowed to visit, and nearby, two sets of eleven stairs each leading down into the garden. There Jane showed us a huge tunnel which someone had haphazardly dug underneath the foundation of the tower. As we made our way into the graveyard, she pointed out that on the skull and crossbones relief above the gate (a Templar and Masonic symbol, by the way), the skull has twenty-two teeth. Then, embossed onto the gate itself, we noticed another Masonic symbol: the winged hourglass, an emblem of fleeting time, and the temporary nature of our short lives. But unlike the angelic wings we usually see with this symbol, we noted that these wings were distinctly bat-like, emphasizing the demonic and infernal themes at Rennes-le-Chateau. Surrounding this symbol of mortality is an oak wreath, a symbol of eternal life.
Satanic winged hourglass on the gateway to the church graveyard.
After the tour, we broke for lunch at the nearby Le Pomme Bleu restaurant, named after the “Blue Apples” reference in the Sauniere parchments. We sat outside and enjoyed some Marie de Blanchefort brand wine while looking across the fence at the Castle of Blanchefort which stands right next door. The Blancheforts were related by blood to the Merovingians, and one of the Blancheforts had been a Grand Master of the Knights Templar at one point. Furthermore, it was the gravestone of Marie de Blanchefort, once situated in Sauniere’s graveyard, that had at one time been inscribed with a coded cipher which contained the message “Et in Arcadia Ego,” a phrase which relates to the Rennes-le-Chateau mystery on many levels.
Following lunch, it was time for our interviews. The actual interviews were rather restricted in scope, the subject matter limited to the details of Sauniere’s life, his discovery, and his possible connection to the Priory of Sion. It was a bit frustrating, and yet even within this narrow context we were able to slip in a number of details that have seemingly escaped the notice of most researchers. For instance, many still dismiss the Priory of Sion as a mere hoax, yet it can be demonstrated that as early as the late 1940s the Priory was advocating a United Europe. Today the European Union is a reality. The emblem that the Priory suggested for a United Europe was a circle of stars — the very emblem that adorns the flag of the EU today. Is this a coincidence? The specific bloodline that the Priory was so obsessed with was that of Dagobert II and Godfroi de Bouillon — a bloodline from which numerous US Presidents have claimed descent (including the Bush family). While it is easily conceivable that any organization could construct for themselves a false pedigree by stringing together bits and pieces of past history, it is impossible to ‘fabricate’ what hasn’t yet happened.
Part of the interviews took place in front of the Tour Magdala, just as the Sun was going down. And guess what drunk old lady decided to pay us a visit just then? Why, none other than a relative of Noel Corbu, the man who had bought the Sauniere property from the priest’s housekeeper, Marie Deneraud. She stumbled up to us while we were getting ready to tape and slurred:
“Are you the Americans?! Yes, I’m sorry, but Martin will be absolutely unable to do an interview right now. Please understand, we’ve been tormented enough by reporters, who blow this story all out of proportion. It’s all because of that fool Henry Lincoln! I mean, he’s just a journalist! The Visigoths had nothing to do with this place! If you lived here you would know! One of you should just do a documentary that demystifies all this rubbish, because that would be really interesting! But you guys are just going to do what you want to do, I know! So I’m sorry but Martin will be absolutely unable to do an interview, and I don’t think I can fit one in until tomorrow. You see, I’m very sorry but I’m just bored with the whole thing, and I don’t want to talk about it…!”
On and on she continued like this for forty-five minutes without taking a breath. The group listened politely, all the while wondering who on Earth this woman was. And too, who was Martin?
Following the interviews, Jane showed us to a room that most tourists do not get to see: Sauniere’s sacristy. This is where Sauniere donned his robes prior to commencing services. It was a small room that featured a stained glass window depicting Christ on the cross, and was empty but for a table, a box of old candles, and a white robe adorned with blue silk fleur-de-lys patterns. Toward the back wall was a wooden door, nailed permanently shut with an ancient rusted nail. It had been a closet, we were told, but the closet had featured a secret panel in the back that lead to Sauniere’s secret room. Jane had no idea how long the room had been sealed off, but with a little coaxing, saw no reason why we couldn’t pry out the nail and have a peek inside. So we pried out the nail, popped open the secret panel, and stepped inside Berenger Sauniere’s legendary treasure room. We could not help wondering who had last come into this place, or whether any of the writers who had referred to this room had ever laid eyes upon it.
The floor of the room was dirt. Whatever floorboards were once here had long since been torn up, and the dirt was soft from digging. A pile of rubble was heaped into one corner. From ground level, one could peer beneath the floor of the sacristy, but there was little to see except cobwebs and mounds of oxidized dirt that looked as though they had not been disturbed for centuries. The room was decaying, squalid, and entirely unimpressive, and yet we could not lose sight of the fact that within this filthy cubicle with its peeling paint, a great treasure of some sort had at one time been secreted away.
Boyd also made another strange discovery while we were walking around in the graveyard. On Berenger Sauniere’s gravestone there was a bas relief of him on his tombstone, but it looked like someone had chipped away at his face to make it resemble a skull. We continued walking around, and on the other side of the graveyard, Boyd found, in a pile of rocks, the missing piece of Sauniere’s face! He held it up to the tombstone and it matched perfectly. If this is a clue of some sort, who left it? It is clear from the weathering on Sauniere’s face, and on the missing piece itself, that this was no recent alteration. Could Sauniere himself have added this embellishment while he was still alive? There was no telling how many years this oddly-shaped piece of rock had laid at the other side of the cemetery until we happened upon it. Looking at old photos or footage of the stone bearing Sauniere’s profile was no help in making a determination, because except for a few hours each day when the position of the sun cast a harsh shadow, the alteration was so subtle as to be virtually imperceptible. Any person viewing the stone in the morning or afternoon could easily never have noticed anything out of the ordinary.
Later, we visited the occult bookstore next to the church and got some really nifty stuff: medieval maps, Templar key chains, Rennes-le-Chateau cigarette lighters, a Henry Lincoln video — things of that nature We also got to meet the mayor of Rennes-le-Chateau, who welcomed us warmly and made the peculiar remark that “This place is the center point of the world.” Center-point of the world is a very odd choice of words. Every mythology or religious ideology has some specific geographical location they declare to be the “center-point of the world.” At one time, Solomon’s Temple was claimed to be such a place. Heinrich Himmler maintained that his Grail castle, the Wewelsburg, was such a spot. And of course, for Islam, Mecca is the world’s center-point. Clearly, this was no ordinary small town mayor. He obviously viewed Rennes-le-Chateau not as a mere township, but as a holy place.
In our hotel that evening, we met some interesting characters. One was an old Flemish man who was convinced that he had discovered the origin of all Indo-European languages, and that it was Old Flemish. He said that this language was very similar to Old English, and thus the explanation for the global success of the modern English language. He had discovered a book which he claimed was the oldest book ever written in Europe, and the title translated to History of Atlant. He said that “Atlant” is the actual name of the ancient lost continent of lore, and that “Atlantis” really means “Atlantish,” or somebody from Atlant. He showed us the book in question. There were indeed many recognizable words in there, and they were written in characters that were more than a little bit Runic. We inquired as to the original meaning of the word “Cathari,” and he explained that it was a conjunction of “cat” and “ari.” “Ari,” he told us, was the same as “Aryan,” meaning “noble,” “lofty one,” “shining one.” This much we knew. So the Cathars were Aryans and Cats. Who then were the Cats? “Cats,” he replied. “You know, cats.” One of us made a meowing sound, almost as a joke. “Yes!,” he exclaimed. “Cats, as in Catholic or Catalonia — cats!”
We found this intriguing, since one of the most notable aspects of the village of Rennes-le-Chateau is that it is covered almost carpet-like with swarms of stray cats, which the local farm women keep well-fed, and we had wondered if these cats had been allowed to proliferate so much as a deliberate attempt at symbolism by the townspeople — one which we did not, at the time, understand. But only a week or so later, while perusing the works of Sumeriologist L.A. Waddell (a man who believes that the world’s first civilization, in Sumer, was built by “Aryans”) we discovered that the word “cat” came from “Kad,” a title used by the kings of this first civilization. Waddell convincingly argued that this civilization had once colonized the entire globe, and had invented the world’s first written language, which he compares both to Sumerian, and to Old English! Later still, we surmised that this original, global civilization was the same as the kingdom of “Atlant” that the old Flemish guy had been talking about. Everything he had said to us had been correct, and has since served as a springboard for some of our most revelatory ideas regarding the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau. If only we had understood then what he was getting at back then, we could have questioned him in more detail.
At any rate, we had come to Rennes-le-Chateau fully confident that we would discover much that had escaped the scrutiny of previous researchers, and indeed we had — far too much, in fact, to fit within the confines of this short essay. The bits and pieces we have detailed here represent a small fraction of what we found at Rennes-le-Chateau, the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Not only did Rennes-le-Chateau live up to our expectations, it far exceeded them. And in so doing, the place has become for us (as for the mayor) the center-point of the world.