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the Degree Confluence Project
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France : Languedoc-Roussillon

1.4 km (0.9 miles) E of Sonnac-sur-l'Hers, Aude, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
Approx. altitude: 363 m (1190 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 43°S 178°W

Accuracy: 5 m (16 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: the Cathars' Land seen from Rennes-le-Chateau #3: a view of the area of the confluence #4: GPS #5: view to the East #6: a strange flower growing close by #7: the St. Pierre Church of Chalabre #8: entering Rennes-le-Chateau #9: Bérengar Saunière and his housekeeper Marie Dénarnaud - what secret did they know? #10: Bérenger Saunière's church - "TERRIBILIS EST LOCUS ISTE"

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  43°N 2°E (visit #2)  

#1: view to the North

(visited by Captain Peter)

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 orchard. 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 Sicily.


recommened literature on the secrets of Rennes le Chateau: Leigh, Lincoln, and Baigent, Holy Blood, Holy Grail


 All pictures
#1: view to the North
#2: the Cathars' Land seen from Rennes-le-Chateau
#3: a view of the area of the confluence
#4: GPS
#5: view to the East
#6: a strange flower growing close by
#7: the St. Pierre Church of Chalabre
#8: entering Rennes-le-Chateau
#9: Bérengar Saunière and his housekeeper Marie Dénarnaud - what secret did they know?
#10: Bérenger Saunière's church - "TERRIBILIS EST LOCUS ISTE"
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)