"Rennes-le-Château and the Holy Blood of Bruges"
by Patrick Bernauw, Apr 3, 2009
Rennes-le-Château, a small medieval village in southwestern France, is internationally renowned for being in the middle of probably the greatest Conspiracy Theory of the 20th Century. A local restaurant owner wanted to increase business and spread some rumours of a lost treasure... And this was the origin for the non-fiction bestseller The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail or Dan Brown's historical faction thriller The Da Vinci Code.
Father Bérenger Saunière arrived in Rennes-le-Château in 1885. He soon was spending large sums of money, funding several building projects, such as the Church of Mary Magdalene. According to the rumours spread by Noël Corbu, who had opened in the fifties a restaurant in L'Hotel de la Tour, the former estate of Saunière, the source of his wealth was a treasure, hidden inside a pillar in his church.
An Elaborate Hoax
His story attracted Pierre Plantard, who wanted to play a vital role in the history of France and concocted an elaborate hoax, planting fake documents in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, that implied Plantard was a descendant of a royal dynasty. In 1967, Gérard de Sède published a book about his friend's claim to fame. They chose the area and history of Rennes-le-Château as their setting.
The next step was The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, in 1982 published by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. They said Saunière found documents implying that the descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene were connected to the French royalty. Saunière found them in his church, in a Visigothic pillar, in 1891.
Saunière had been a teacher in the seminary of Narbonne, but being undisciplined, he was appointed in 1885 to Rennes-le-Château. He renovated the church, built a grand estate for himself (the Villa Bethania) and a personal library which resembled the Tower of David in Jerusalem (the Tour Magdala). In 1896, the bishop of Carcassone investigated how Saunière had been able to fund these building projects. The bishop relocated him to a different parish, but Saunière refused and resigned. In 1910 he was tried for fraud; he had been selling masses he never performed. In 1917, Saunière died in poverty.
Some theories developing around Rennes-le-Château and Bérenger Saunière said that the Catholic Church was paying the priest vast sums to buy his silence, because he knew all about The Holy Blood - also known as The Holy Grail (Sang Royal, San Greal, Saint Grail) -, being "the bloodline of Christ". He might even have discovered the grave in which Christ had been buried. Arch-heretics such as the Templars and the Cathars once were the safekeepers of the Secret. It was also the reason why Saunière lost his belief and got involved with trendy occultist and maybe satanist circles in Paris, featuring the composer Claude Debussy, the Belgian symbolist playwright Maurice Maeterlinck or that other "decadent" writer, Joris-Karl Huysmans. He also knew Emma Calvé, the Maria Callas of her age, who was a high priestess of a Parisian esoteric sub-culture.
And Nothing More?
The Mystery of Rennes-le-Château is probably a hoax, made of facts and fiction, and inspired by hard facts that had nothing to do with southern France, but with the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, Flanders. I even strongly believe that the hoax was made up to turn the attention of the public away from the real secret that was kept in Bruges.
In 1891, the year Saunière allegedly "found" something in his church, Joris-Karl Huysmans - born in Paris from a Dutch father - published his novel Là-Bas (translated as Down There or The Damned) and was the cause of a public scandal because of his depiction of satanist circles in Paris. The novel had a very vivid Black Mass scene, calling Jesus Christ an "Artisan of Hoaxes", a "do-nothing King", a "coward God".
The "abominable truth" was that the canon Docre, Huysmans' black mass celebrant, could be identified as the Flemish priest Louis or Lodewijk Van Haecke, Chaplain of the Holy Blood Chapel in Bruges. Docre/Van Haecke was reputed to have the tattoo of a cross on the soles of his feet, so that he could walk continually upon the symbol of the Saviour. Huysmans said that Van Haecke paid three visits to Paris, where he moved in occultist circles. He was seen in an establishment known for "its clientèle of renegade priests".
Huysmans stated that the Chaplain of the Holy Blood, keeper of the Holy Grail, lost his faith because Jesus, "the Artisan of Hoaxes", didn't die at Golgotha... And who brought the one and only Holy Blood - or Holy Grail - in the 12th century to Bruges? The Knights Templar, together with a Count of Flanders, whose son later would commission Chrétien de Troyes to write the first Grail romance...
"Sacred Activism is the fusion of the mystic's passion for God with the activist's passion for justice, creating a third fire, which is the burning sacred heart that longs to help, preserve, and nurture every living thing." - Andrew Harvey
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