...brutally up on someone and that his last wishes may otherwise not be followed up correctly, Henri therefore decides to write everything down “as follows”:
“I desire that after my death my body is buried in the parish church of the aforesaid Rennes, in the tomb of my predecessors, and that the funeral honours are made to me according to the will of Lady Marie Dupuy my wife [...] I desire that during the year after my death, God is requested for the rest of my heart and that to this effect requiem masses are celebrated, namely one year in the church of the Capuchin Fathers [a branch of Franciscans] of Limoux, two years in the parish church of Rennes by the appointed priest of the place, a half-year in the aforementioned church by Deydiès, priest [...].”
It then adds that the will was made personally by Henry d’Hautpoul, the rightful heir of his father Blaise d’Hautpoul. Present were: “Master Jean Vernat, priest of Rennes, Messrs Sebastien Michel, vice-chancellor of Saint-Just, Antoine Saunière, master apothecary, Gabriel Captier, master surgeon of Espéraza, Messrs André Deydiès, priest living in Rennes, etc.”
Of course, we would have hoped that in this testament, Henri d’Hautpoul would have been more specific about his intentions, and perhaps even give details about the Cult of the Dead the rite of which he may have hoped to receive upon his passing. And indeed, such information may well be found in the other, missing pages.
But it is clear that though there is some detail about the masses that needed to be said, there is no mention of the money set aside for this. Still, we know that in his brother’s testament, such details were clearly identified, as of course if they were not, family members might dispute the correct amount of money that should go to them and what should go to some religious order – with the religious order no doubt losing out.
Logically, it would have been Henri d’Hautpoul’s entire testament that Saunière would have recovered and not just those pieces that found their way into the hands of Alain Féral. Still, though not complete, the little information we have is not without value. For one, it reveals that the local lords kept the local priests employed and paid them money to say masses for their souls. We also learn that Henri wants to be buried in the church of Rennes itself, in the “tomb of his predecessors”. As many have stated, including the architectural analysis of Paul Saussez, this is further evidence of the existence of a crypt underneath the church – although a crypt which apparently no-one now knows how to enter.
Henri’s will is further confirmation that the Hautpoul family was devoted specifically to the Franciscans of Limoux. In his will, he, too, asks for requiem masses to be said by this congregation for a period of one year. He adds that these are to ensure the rest of his soul, but somewhat curiously does not add here the total amount that he bequeaths to them. It means that such detail will be found in another part of the document, or another document altogether, though this latter option is less likely as it would not have formed part of the will and would thus come without the legal power a will can execute.
Stranger still is the fact that Henri mentions two other types of masses that need to be said in his favour: both are celebrated in the church of Rennes, the first by the priest of the village, Jean Varnat, and the other mass by a priest residing in the village, by the name of Deydiès. It means that in 1695, there were at least two priests present in this miniscule village. This is truly remarkable, given its small size and the near ruinous state of the church. The village only had about 300 souls to cater for (nevertheless, almost ten times the present population!) and it is clear that few people from neighbouring villages would feel any need to climb the hill (and definitely not in winter!) to celebrate mass in a ruined church. So there must have been another reason why two priests were resident there. One possibility is that there were so many mortuary masses to be said that the task could not possibly be accomplished by only...
...one priest – which is something of an echo of the life of Saunière himself, who also said that, on occasion, he received so many mortuary masses that he had to involve other priests in fulfilling the requests.
There is another possibility, which may seem odd to suggest, but which we will nevertheless offer: what if the Franciscans of Limoux had displaced the cemetery they cherished so much to Rennes-le-Château? In Limoux, all profits of the burial rights went to the Dominicans and no-one was allowed to be buried in the Franciscans’ cemetery. So why not change the location of their cemetery, away from the prying eyes of the Dominicans? It is at least a possibility and it could explain – although there is no evidence for this suggestion as yet – why the Hautpoul family wanted, no matter what, to have the Franciscans taking care of their souls. Furthermore, it would mean that the local lords of Rennes would not even have to displace themselves (or their mortal remains) to receive the Mortuary Rite. When we consult Voltaire, he notes that, in the case of the Lords of St. Mesmin and the penitent Franciscans of Orleans, there is no specific requirement that the Rite needs to be performed on the premises of the monastery.
Let us scroll forward in time, to François d’Hautpoul, husband of Marie de Nègre d’Ables, who died in 1753 and who desired that his body be buried in the Franciscan monastery of Limoux. It cannot be stated for certain, but it seems quite clear that the Dominicans would have objected to this. Still, to quote Paul Saussez, it is known what happens next: François d’Hautpoul paid the Dominicans and was then buried on their premises, in the church of Saint Martin de Limoux, in a secret chapel dedicated to Saint Sebastian. A “secret chapel” indeed, for according to Saussez, there is no such chapel in the church of Saint Martin, though he adds that this may be located “under the lane which skirts the church on the left, where some think that there are still remains.”
Anyway, we are certain that the Hautpouls did have a very clear preference for the Franciscan Cult of the Dead over its Dominican version. They did resort to the services of the Dominicans for their rites, yet only did so when they had no other choice, at a very late time (1753), and probably because by then their tomb in Rennes-le-Château (the “Tomb of the Lords”) was already blocked (37). Therefore, nothing forbids us to think that the Hautpouls could have continued to receive their favourite Mortuary Rites in secret, underneath the church of Rennes-le-Château, in a crypt built and prepared long before, for which need they would have displaced their dear Franciscan friars from Limoux to Rennes.However, such a scheme could only have lasted until 1740 at the latest (38), that is to say, not long before the French Revolution, when the Monastery of the Friars Minor of Limoux was destroyed.
But back in time: re-reading Henri d’Hautpoul’s testament, one name that is mentioned retains our interest: Saunière. When the act was written, on 24th April 1695, the notary made sure that a sufficient number of witnesses were present, so that any chance that the will might be contested was less likely. This list includes one “Mr. Antoine Saunière, master apothecary”. Is this an ancestor of Bérenger Saunière? We think so, for amongst the other witnesses, we also find a “Gabriel Captier”, and a descendant of his becomes embroiled in the story of the discovery of parchments at the end of the 19th century – the discovery that is identified as the beginning of the mystery of Rennes-le-Château and the wealth of the priest.
If this were the case, then the story of the mystery of Rennes-le-Château did not originate from out of nowhere at the end of the 19th century, but had its roots within the Hautpoul...
(37) See the following note.
(38) According to Paul Saussez, 1740 is the most probable date for the blocking of the Tomb of the Lords’ entrance (i.e the entrance of the crypt located underneath the church of Rennes-le-Château) to have occurred.
...family, and was “resurrected” by Saunière two centuries later. Also, we note that Henri himself expected to receive the Mortuary Rite and, for this purpose, transferred money to the Franciscans. At that time, both the Hautpoul family and the locals knew about the existence of the crypt underneath the church of Rennes, and that this crypt served as the resting place of the family. Over the course of two centuries, knowledge or a rumour could have made its way through the Saunière family – and the Captier family – before Bérenger Saunière either stumbled upon it by accident, or solved the mystery – and in the process, created one of his own.
Once Saunière had found the parchments, he had in his possession the 1644 testament of François-Pierre d’Hautpoul, of which we unfortunately do not have a copy, as well as the 1696 testament of Henri d’Hautpoul. In our opinion, the most probable possibility implies that Henri’s testament not only contained a “public” act (the transcript of which we have provided), but a “private” act as well. This second act would thus have had the purpose of specifying the rates of the “offerings” given to the Franciscans, of mentioning the nature of the rites performed, as well as the necessary invocations (39) that were to be said.
In short, these two testaments (Henri’s and François’) would not have been of any monetary value to Saunière, but may have contained key details about the Mortuary Rite and specifically the organisation of the Cult of the Dead… and certain practices occurring in nearby Limoux, practices which, two centuries after Henri’s death, may still have been in operation in that town. Did Saunière see in these documents a possibility to step into the footsteps of his predecessors and become a priest of the Cult of the Dead?
After the discovery of the parchments, Saunière’s first act was, according to Gérard de Sède, to “move […] the stone placed at the foot of the altar”. According to de Sède, “one side of the stone was sculpted, and represented two knights”. This apparently encouraged Saunière to think that he was on the right track, as he, still according to de Sède, ordered “that an opening was made that was one meter deep” and then told his people “it was time for lunch and remained alone in the church”. For de Sède, when the opening had been made, Saunière found two Merovingian skeletons. But in our opinion, what Saunière found was the entrance to the crypt – or at least, “an” entrance to the crypt. That entrance was probably blocked by a tomb containing two skeletons buried according to the ritual, the purpose of which was to indicate the nature of the place.
Saunière thus gained access to the tombs of the Hautpoul family and may have discovered an alien world, unlike anything that we would expect to find within a purely Christian setting, but which would have been common for human remains that had been subjected to the mortuary rite. Even de Sède, in his conclusion that Saunière had found Merovingian skeletons, states that the bodies showed the characteristics of a ritual trepanation. Their skull was opened with an instrument, so that their soul could escape. Such practice is of course part of a cult of the dead, particularly the Arian rites.
(39) This is only logical: the intensity and scope of the inner wars opposing the Dominican nuns of Prouilhe to the Franciscan monks of Limoux about these “burial rights” (300 years of uninterrupted, unmitigated conflict) suffices to prove the specifically religious importance that “mortuary offerings” had in the eyes of those penitents.
Competition must have been all the fiercer, in the present case, since lords don’t die everyday…
Therefore, the corpses of these “distinguished customers” were very much sought after: 2,000 pounds (such is the rate of the offering that Antoine d’Hautpoul, the brother of Henri, had ascribed in his will to the Franciscans of Limoux and of Notre-Dame de Marceille so as to have himself buried in their church) is no small amount of money! Let us add that such a rate was most certainly not chosen at random: it must have been, no doubt, the price asked by the Franciscans themselves in exchange for their so-called “salvation of the soul”.
Such discoveries, as strange as they appear to us, are nevertheless not unique, for Father Ancé and the archaeologist Bertrand Louis Polla have found similar tombs elsewhere in the region, in Limoux, to be specific. These tombs also showed the signs of an unknown mortuary rite. André Douzet has compiled the writings of these two researchers and notes that the terrain in which their discoveries were made was situated between Notre-Dame de Marceille and the Franciscans’ monastery. It involved the discovery of several “human skeletons”, some of which were “almost complete”. But the curious aspect of this discovery was that each skull was intact, except for the trepanation performed on them. Such consistency obviously betrays a ritual aspect of this practice. Father Ancé’s notes additionally mention that the few weapons unearthed there were all strangely set down on the ground outside of the burial pits, that is to say that they were lying down against the)graves…(40)
When Saunière entered the crypt of Rennes, he was thus confronted with hard evidence of the mortuary rite. He had the testaments in his possession. He saw first-hand how the mortuary rite had been performed on the former lords of his village. He realised that there was a powerful connection with the convent of the Franciscans in Limoux. He knew that this type of rite was expensive. If he did not yet know already, he would soon find out that the cult of the dead was not dead at all, but still practiced, both locally and elsewhere.
Saunière most likely informed his superior, Mgr. Billard, about his discovery – or perhaps Billard had even asked Saunière to commence his search. Billard had already tried and succeeded in taking possession of the sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Marceille, an exercise that...
(40) We are probably in the presence of the type of mortuary ritual that was described on the strangely written text of the epitaph engraved on Marie de Negre d’Ables de Blanchefort’s stele. Indeed, a series of peculiarities (small letters, obvious orthographical mistakes that would not have been tolerated if they were not intentional) allowed some researchers of the Rennes-le-Château enigma to discover the following phrase: “MORTÉPÉE” hidden inside Marie’s epitaph. At first some believed it was a contraction of « Morte Épée » (“Dead Sword” in French), which did not really make sense. However, it now appears that « Mortépée » was merely the juxtaposition of « Mort » + « épée » (“Corpse” + “Sword”).
The presence of this hidden message on Marie de Negre d’Ables’ tombstone would thus serve as a powerful reminder to indicate that her corpse had received the Arian (i.e Chaldean-Manichean) mortuary rites!
However, though it is certainly true that Marie de Nègre d’Ables received the Mortuary Rites, it was probably not from Bigou, as we will see, since he had to flee Rennes-le-Château to escape the anti-clerical fury of the French Revolution.
Being part of the attempt at covering-up Saunière’s activities and distracting attention away from him, such allegations about “coded” tombstones are quite recent, and have no basis whatsoever in history. Furthermore, Marie de Nègre d’Ables’ original stele, and therefore epitaph, was probably not the same as the version that later surfaced in Eugene Stublein’s book “Pierres Gravées du Languedoc”, a book which has never been shown to exist. Yet these allegations are useful here insofar as they reveal how the modern manipulators (notably Philippe de Chérisey) had their attention firmly fixed on Limoux and the Cult of the Dead.
The fact that these words (“Mortépée”: “Corpse” + “Sword”) also seem to appear in two other parchments allegedly discovered by Saunière (though such a discovery has never been proven) and which contain a montage of several Biblical passages mentioning Mary Magdalene (i.e the patron saint of all penitents) and her “burial ointments”, thus hardly seems coincidental. Although these particular parchments are certainly part of the “additional layer” spread on Saunière’s mystery in recent times (mostly during the 1960s), we have to acknowledge that this feature (the use of the phrase Mortépée) nevertheless does not make them less valuable sources of clues about the cult of the dead itself and its hijacking of the meaning of certain Biblical texts. These fabricated parchments also provide us with indications about who practiced the cult of the dead, with the exception that they were part of an effort to “clean up” Saunière’s reputation, to transform him into a suitable character for use in subsequent media campaigns.
References about Antoine Bigou:
* Gérard de Sède, « L’Or de Rennes, ou la vie insolite de Béranger Saunière curé de Rennes-le-Château », Editions Julliard, Paris, 1967.
** Pierre Jarnac, « Histoire du trésor de Rennes-le-Château » (The Story of the Rennes-le-Château Treasure), Editions Bélisane, Nice, 1985.
*** Jean Markale, « Rennes-le-Château et l'énigme de l’or maudit », 1985 (pp. 108 and following).
...involved a circle of people that Saunière knew, either directly or indirectly, via abbé Boudet, priest of neighbouring Rennes-les-Bains.
There are a few possible scenarios, but all revolve around one core fact, which is that with the discovery of the crypt of the Hautpoul, Saunière entered, or was fully accepted, within the group of priests inside the bishopric of Carcassonne that were involved with the Cult of the Dead.
'The Rise' was published in 2009 by Frontier Publishing: ISBN-10: 1931882878 / ISBN-13: 978-1931882873