Friday, March 28, 2008

This Place is Terrible

One does not normally pour a fortune into building at a location described as "terrible." But one man did, and he inscribed "this place is terrible" on the gate of his church. His name was Fr. Berenger Sauniere. The place is the village of Rennes le Chateau in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in France.

This bizarre story begins with Abbe Antoine Bigou who was the priest in the village a century before Fr. Sauniere arrived in 1885. Abbe Bigou was apparently the one who came into possession of two parchments and hid them in a hollow Visigoth pillar under the altar in the church in Rennes le Chateau. Fr. Sauniere found these parchments during restoration of the church in 1891. Their origins and what is written on them have been the subject of mystery and intrigue ever since, including suspicious deaths of those in possession of them.

Were the parchments merely Latin texts of the Gospels or a code? Translated, one parchment reads: "Shepherdess no temptation that Poussin Tenniers hold the key peace 681 by the cross and this horse of God I complete this daemon of the guardian at noon blue apples."

The other parchment says: "To Dagobert II King and to Sion belongs this treasure and he is there dead."

Seeking the meaning of these words, Fr. Sauniere went to the mayor of Rennes Le Chateau and found that he could not decipher the meaning either. The mayor sent him to the Bishop at Carcassone who was just as puzzled. He sent Sauniere on to Paris where he came into contact with a man named Emile Hoffet. Hoffet was a priest in training as well as an expert in cryptography. While in Paris, Sauniere reportedly had an affair with the opera singer, Emma Calve. Calve and Hoffet circulated in the company of various occult organizations in Paris at that time.

Did Hoffet and Sauniere decipher the parchments? No one knows for sure. Yet upon Sauniere's return to Rennes le Chateau, he found a headstone in the churchyard beside the church that had been erected by Abbe Bigou. The cryptic message on the stone related to the writing on the parchments. Sauniere defaced the stone, removing this public display of the writing. Many have speculated that this action and his strange behavior from that time forward indicated that he did, in fact, discover something for Sauniere suddenly became a very wealthy man. Some believe he may have found treasure from the Merovingians or the lost treasure of the Knights Templar. Others think he may gotten his wealth through the secrets of alchemy or might even have been extorting money from his parishioners through blackmail. The source of his wealth has never been brought to light.

Sauniere began spending large sums of money in the village, and his projects included redesigning the church into a puzzling layout and furnishing it with items having meanings known only to him. For example, his plaques depicting the Stations of the Cross are in backward order with one picture of a child wrapped in Scottish plaid. Pontius Pilate wears a veil. His statues are not according to Catholic tradition either. Joseph and Mary are each holding a Christ child. St. Anthony holds a book. St. Germaine holds roses in her apron, and Magdalene holds a vase. All give the impression that they depict a hidden message not yet deciphered. A statue of a demon called Asmodeus who represents the vice of impurity and is the guardian of hidden treasure stands near the door. Sauniere also built a library and study called the Tour Magdala which hangs over a cliff.

When anyone speaks of Rennes le Chateau, to be sure, the Priory of Zion and the Holy Grail are soon to be mentioned. Some believe there is a link to Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. The church of Rennes le Chateau is included with a number of other Cathedrals in that area of France which when connected by straight lines on a map, form a pentagram.

Is the location of Rennes le Chateau really terrible? Is it, as some say, that the Rennes Valley has a message encoded there from a lost race of long ago and may be an opening to Hollow Earth where some of them still dwell? Or as others believe, could it mark the place of a trans-dimensional doorway to another reality?

Perhaps Sauniere's message on the gate of his church was referring to Genesis 28:16-17 where it reads: "And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not." And he was afraid and said, "How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the House of God, and this is the gate of heaven."

Fr. Sauniere died at the age of 65 of a sudden stroke on January 17, St. Anthony's Day, but a priest from a neighboring parish refused to give him absolution and communion on his deathbed upon hearing his confession. And what of his secret? Enter the housekeeper into the story who is said to have been Sauniere's only confidant. To be sure, a mystery is alive and well at Rennes le Chateau.

Unfortunately, I could only scratch the surface of the mystery in this short article. Be sure and visit the links in my source list below to get the full story.

Rennes le Chateau, the Mystery
Mysteries of Rennes le Chateau
St. Francis of Rome, March 9
Mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau
Nicolas Poussin

No comments: