The season at Rennes-le-Château is coming to an end and I have been astonished at how busy the village continues to be – which explains the gap since I last posted any up-dates.
Rennes-le-Château is still slowly recovering from the unfortunate effects of the previous municipal regime and a much happier atmosphere is now beginning to be felt.
For those who have never visited the village, the changes which it suffered under the last mayor may come as something of a surprise. For someone like me – with forty years of acquaintance – there is much to regret.
Saunière’s Domaine is in desperate need of repair and restoration. Brickwork is crumbling, the Tour Magdala and its belvedere require attention. And yet, more than enough money for the work was wasted on a totally unnecessary new Town Hall.
For me, the saddest of the changes has been the desecration of Bérenger’s last resting place.
He purchased his plot at the top of his cemetery, in perpetuity, so that he could forever watch over his flock, with Marie at his side. Now his tomb lies outside the cemetery wall – and in unconsecrated ground. Worse still, his grave is turned north/south ... a pagan burial. I consider this to be a cruel thing to do to a priest and I find it unforgivable. That the Church allowed it, I find astonishing.
However, as some small amends, APARC has recently placed a plaque at the original site. And Marie’s resting place beside him is now once more marked.
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I have promised to deal further with the curious attitude of Jean-Luc Chaumeil, the BBC’s now preferred “expert” in the matter of Rennes-le-Château.
The story is amusing if unimportant, but it demonstrates how easily fantasy can become accepted fact.
It began in 1973, when I received a letter from Gérard de Sède. (See my Key to the Sacred Pattern - pp116 et seq). In it, he told me that with ‘one of his colleagues’, he had found Bérenger Saunière’s treasure and he was prepared to offer me photographs. I did not fall for what was an obvious ‘con’ and the fraudulent photographs were eventually sold to a magazine. (Charivari, No 18, Paris, Oct-Dec 1973).
The accompanying article, titled The treasure exists – we have seen it, was written by de Sède’s colleague - who proved to be the said Jean-Luc Chaumeil. What sort of ‘expert’ is this? One must certainly question his reliability!
Some few years later, I was preparing my third BBC film on Rennes-le-Château. Pierre Plantard, in his role as Grand Master of the Prieuré de Sion, had agreed to cooperate and said that he would appoint someone to speak on screen as their spokesman. To my amusement, this spokesman proved to be Chaumeil.
All was prepared for the filming, which was to take place in a small Parisian art gallery owned by Chaumeil’s mother. As mama was brushing her son’s hair for his appearance before the camera Plantard, at the very last moment, decided that he needed no spokesman – he would speak for himself. I was delighted – Chaumeil and his mother were incensed.
I suspect that it was this incident that launched Chaumeil’s hostility to myself, the Prieuré, Plantard and all his works.
Time passed and then, at the height of the Da Vinci Code excitement, Chaumeil was interviewed by the French newspaper Le Figaro. After so many years, the filming fiasco evidently still rankled. Amongst other inventions he made the ludicrous claim that I addressed Pierre Plantard as “Your Majesty”! What, one wonders, makes someone decide to invent such nonsense?
However, I have since seen a Belgian documentary film in which this rubbish is repeated as ‘fact’.
De omnibus dubitandum ... (Don’t believe anything ... !)
Chaumeil is one of our least trustworthy of witnesses.
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While on this subject – another highly entertaining ‘witness’ appears in the recent film Bloodline, on which I have also been asked to comment. This is a person who gives the impression that he is one of the Prieuré’s Inner Circle and possesses a great deal of “secret” knowledge.
The director, seeking my opinion, showed me some material which was not included in the film. Here is the relevant portion of my e-mailed response:
... I gave up on his credibility (and read no more) after his e-mail description of Baigent & Leigh flying over the pool in the triangular field. Does his description not include ‘a stormy day’ (real) and ‘flowers on an altar’ (imaginary)? That garbage is total fantasy, born in a ... dream world somewhere! He read my account in Key to the S P (see p 135 et seq) and is embroidering his partial memory thereof. That trip happened a good six months before I’d ever met Leigh (who, as far as I know, has never visited R-le-C, either in the air or on foot!)
This is a very good example of how people half-remember what they have read and then are too lazy, or too foolish, to check their ‘facts’ before giving utterance.
I found the description of Baigent’s and Leigh’s ”flight” particularly hilarious. It stems from my statement that I needed “ ... to know more than a map can tell me. Aerial photographs seem an effective means of exploring the landscape ... ”.
Our ‘witness’ had forgotten the rest of the sentence: “ ... and are readily available from the French Geographical Institute," from whence, for a small fee, I acquired them.
Ignoring the fact that, at the relevant time, neither of my co-authors had yet heard of Rennes-le-Château, the thought of us having the resources to own – or even hire – a flying machine is too funny for words. Though I have learned over the years that many people ... (including an erstwhile Literary Editor of a supposedly responsible Sunday paper) ... are convinced that Holy Blood, Holy Grail made us millionaires ! If only ... !