Saturday, 17 January 2015

1. The Manuscripts

This is the first chapter of the book Discovering the Keystone, Solving the Riddle of The Red Serpent after 40 years by Guillaume Brouillard (Griffel Media, Cape Town, 2009). In this chapter the focus is on the parchments that the priest Bérenger Saunière is said to have discovered in the church of Mary Magdalene in Rennes-le-Château towards the end of the nineteenth century. I present details about the Plantard genealogy that has not been published previously in English. It is recommended that the Background is read before this chapter.

Comme ils sont étranges les manuscrits de cet Ami, grand voyageur de l'inconnu, ils me sont parvenus séparément, pourtant ils forment un tout pour celui qui sait que les couleurs de l'arc-en-ciel donnent l'unité blanche, ou pour l'Artiste qui sous son pinceau, fait des six teintes de sa palette magique, jaillir le noir.

How strange are the manuscripts of this Friend, great traveller of the unknown. To me they had the appearance of being separate; however, they form a whole for the one who knows that the colours of the rainbow give unified white, or for the Artist who under his paintbrush brings forth black from the six tints of his magic palette.

The author of the poem Le serpent rouge kicks off this extraordinary riddle by referring to certain manuscripts that belong to a friend of his. The mere fact that this is the very first thing he mentions is surely indicative of its significance. Later on in the poem, he refers to these manuscripts as 'parchments'

There is little doubt that these manuscripts relate to the famous parchments the priest Bérenger Saunière is said to have discovered in the church of Mary Magdalene in Rennes-le-Château. These parchments allegedly bear on an invaluable secret, even referred to by some as a 'state secret'.

1.1 The parchments of Saunière

Since 1964, several documents besides Le serpent rouge were deposited in the French National Library in which the parchments Saunière had allegedly found are mentioned. From these documents it appears that Saunière, after discovering the parchments and on recommendation of the bishop of Carcassonne, Félix-Arsène Billard, took them to the priest Bieil, director of the St. Sulpice seminary in Paris at the time. Several of the parish priests in the Rennes-le-Château region most probably had direct or indirect ties with St. Sulpice, such as Eugène Grassaud, a close friend of Saunière's, who studied at this seminary.

While in Paris, Saunière apparently met the young Emile Hoffet at the home of a certain Ané - a cousin of the priest Bieil - whose house was the center of intense religious and spiritual activities in those days (see 1st Note). Although Hoffet was not yet a priest at that stage, he was already renowned for his expertise in the field of religious manuscripts. He apparently had a look at these parchments and also made copies of them for his own use. From the documents in the French National Library it appears that the young Hoffet could have been the connection between Saunière and the person who in time compiled these documents.

It appears that Hoffet subsequently showed his copies to a few trusted people, one of whom was Leo R. Schidlof. Schidlof, under the fictitious name of Henry Lobineau, compiled the first known document in which these parchments are mentioned. In this document, dated 1956, 'Lobineau' already mentions 'the parchments of the abbé Saunière, priest of Rennes-le-Château' in the title. The full title of this writing is Généalogie des rois mérovingiens et origine de diverse familles francaises et étrangères de souche mérovingienne, d'après l'abbé Pichon, le docteur Hervé et les parchemins de l'abbé Saunière, curé de Rennes-le-Château ('Genealogy of the Merovingian Kings and the Origins of Several French and Foreign Families of Merovingian descent, according to the abbé Pichon, Dr. Hervé and the Parchments of the abbé Saunière, priest of Rennes-le-Château').

It is possible that, after his death, Emile Hoffet's archives came into possession of Pierre Plantard and his friends, who would then have used them to compile different documents on the subject and subsequently deposited these in the French National Library. It is even possible that they also compiled the writing that is attributed to Henri Lobineau, or at least deposited this in the library as well. Philippe Toscan du Plantier, for instance, is mentioned as the 'compiler' of another document that also appeared under the name of Henry Lobineau, namely Dossiers secrets d'Henri Lobineau ('Secret Dossiers of Henri Lobineau'). According to the writer Guy Patton, the book Le trésor maudit de Rennes-le-Château [9] by Gérard de Sède, who is also associated with Pierre Plantard's circle of friends, 'most certainly [is] the result of access to the missing archives [of Hoffet]' [10].

That dubious information also appears in these documents can most probably be attributed to the fact that these writers did not have access to all the facts from the time of Bérenger Saunière. It is not an established fact, for example, that Saunière had ever been to Paris. Although it is said that he had signed the register for visiting priests who attended mass in St. Sulpice, other evidence shows that it could probably have been his brother, Alfred. It could be that Alfred acted as his envoy. In addition, questions also exist about the date of this alleged visit to Paris and whether Hoffet had indeed been present at the time.

1.2 Genealogies of the Merovingians 

The parchments Saunière allegedly discovered seem to comprise mainly of different genealogies. Most of the documents attributed to Henry Lobineau also contain genealogies, some of which are dated March 1954.

As indicated in the title of the oldest of these documents, these are the genealogies of the claimed direct descendants of the early Merovingian monarchs and their families. Lobineau apparently also consulted the works of Dr. Hervé and the abbé Pichon (whose real name was Francois Dron) in order to write his own. The latter supposedly compiled his genealogies in 1809 by order of Napoleon. There is also a reference to a manuscript of the abbé Pichon titled Les diplômes mérovingiens (1796) ('The Sovereign Sealed Deeds of the Merovingians'), which is said to be kept in the castle of Lys' private library.

According to Dossiers secrets d'Henri Lobineau, as well as some of the other writings, the following documents were among the parchments Saunière is said to have found:
  •  An old parchment with information in the form of litanies of Notre Dame. It is dated 1244 and bears the seal of queen Blanche of Castille, the mother of the French king Louis IX. This parchment contains the genealogy of the Merovingian bloodline through King Dagobert II, from 681 until 1244, when his direct descendent, Jean VII Plantard, married Elisende of Gisors. 
  • A parchment dated 1644, containing the continued Plantard bloodline into the 1600s. It also contains the last will and testament of Francois-Pierre d'Hautpoul, the baron of Rennes-le-Château, which was recorded on the 23rd November, 1644, by one Captier, the notary of the town of Espéraza, near Rennes-le-Château.
In his book Rennes et ses derniers seigneurs [11] ('Rennes and her Last Rulers'), René Descadeillas states that in 1780, this last will and testament was in the possession of another notary of Espéraza, Jean-Baptiste Siau, who deemed it of such utmost importance that he refused to hand it over to members of the Hautpoul family themselves and kept it under lock and key in his own safe. In 1644, after the death of the last heir, the countship of Blanchefort also fell to the Hautpouls.
  • A last will and testament, dated 1695, of Henry d'Hautpoul, the grandson of Francois-Pierre. In 1732, Henri's son Francois d'Hautpoul, married Marie de Nègre d'Ablès, the epitaph of whose gravestone was deliberately removed by Saunière. There are six lines in this will that are linked to the well-known church leader St. Vincent de Paul, a friend of the abbé Jean-Jacques Olier, founder of the new St. Sulpice Church.
  • Two documents with Latin texts. The first is compiled of three passages from the Bible: Luke 6: 1-5, Matthew 12: 1-8 and Mark 2: 23-28. The second contains a much longer Biblical passage from the Gospel according to John - chapter 12: 1-12. According to Dossiers secrets d'Henri Lobineau, the priest Bigou, who was the personal chaplain of Marie de Nègre d'Ablès, compiled these documents between 1781-1791 after her death. Both these documents contain coded messages, one in which a 'treasure' is mentioned.
Some of the most interesting genealogies among Henri Lobineau's documents that were published by Philippe Toscan du Plantier are those signed by the abbé Pierre Plantard, vicar of the basilica of St. Clotilde in Paris. These signatures differ from Lobineau's handwriting and were most probably by the abbé Plantard himself. There are four of these genealogies, all dated March 1939. They are numbered 5, 7, 19 and 22, which indicate that the abbé Plantard still compiled other genealogies that Du Plantier did not include in his document. According to the author of Le cercle d'Ulysse ('The Circle of Ulysses') - possibly Philippe de Chérisey - it was this abbé Plantard, a distant relative of the now well-known Pierre Plantard, who originally compiled these genealogies from Hoffet's documents, which Henri Lobineau subsequently only copied.

One of the abbé Plantard's other genealogies appear in Abrégé de l'histoire des Francs. Les Gouvernants et rois de France [12] ('Concise History of the Franks. The Rulers and Kings of France'), a book by Louis Vazart, another friend of Pierre Plantard. I came across this writing at the Dagobert II Museum in the town of Stenay in the north-east of France. This genealogy not only shows the Plantard bloodline from 1546, when Jean XIV Plantard married Marie, the heir of St. Clair, until the 19th century, but also where the abbé Plantard himself fits into this genealogy (see Figure 4). To the best of my knowledge, Discovering the Keystone marks the first time that this genealogy appears in an English publication and it contradicts many researchers' opinions that there are certain gaps in the Plantard bloodline.
A genealogy in Dossiers secrets d'Henri Lobineau continues where the above-mentioned genealogy stops. It shows the bloodline from Francois III Plantard (1761-1806) to the well-known Pierre Plantard's father, Pierre V. This is apparently in the abbé Plantard's own handwriting, and contains a note on his association with this family (see Figure 5).

From these it is clear that quite a few more Plantards than just the well-known Pierre Plantard are associated with these documents. The reason for this is that the parchments Saunière allegedly discovered involve this very bloodline. It would also explain why the Hoffet archives would come into Pierre Plantard's possession: These genealogies show the male bloodline from the Merovingian king Dagobert II - of which Pierre Plantard is the heir presumptive. 

1.3 In a vault in London 

So far, only the copies of the parchments that are said to have been in Hoffet's possession have been traced. The original parchments, it seems, were inherited by Saunière's cousin, Bertha Jammes. In the document L'énigma de Rennes [13] ('The Enigma of Rennes'), Philippe de Chérisey writes that in 1955, two Englishmen by the names of captain Ronald Stansmore of the British intelligence service and Sir Thomas Frazer, 'éminence grise' of Buckingham Palace, bought three of the parchments from Bertha Jammes. According to the article 'The treasure, the priest and the Priory' [14] by BBC researcher Jania MacGillivray, they acted on behalf of Pierre Plantard's uncle, Etienne I. Stansmore and Frazer then entrusted it to the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, after which it ended up in a safe-deposit vault at Lloyds International in London.

During a meeting between the authors Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln with Pierre Plantard on the 17th May, 1983, Plantard showed them notarized documents, of which he also gave them copies, relating to the moving of the parchments from France to England. One of these documents, dated the 5th October, 1955, also constitutes an application to the French consulate in London to bring three parchments from France to England. Another document, dated the 23th July, 1956, is an application to keep these parchments in England.

In the first document, the parchments are described as follows: '...three parchments whose value cannot be calculated, confided to us, for the purposes of historical research, by Madame Jammes, residing in France at Montazels (Aude). She came into legal possession of these items by virtue of a legacy from her uncle, the Abbé Saunière, curé of Rennes-le-Château (Aude).' [15] It confirms that the parchments comprise the 1244 genealogy, the 1644 genealogy and the last will and testament of 1695, and then offers the following statement: 'These genealogies contain proof of the direct descent, through the male line of Sigebert IV, son of Dagobert II, king of Austrasie, through the House of Plantard, Counts of Rhedae, and they are not to be reproduced in any fashion'.

The second document confirms that after 25 years, monsieur Plantard, the count of Rhedae and of St. Clair, born on the 18th March, 1920, would again have a legal right to the parchments. Should he not claim them, they would be taken up in the French National Archives.

Interestingly enough, the second application was submitted by Roundell Cecil Palmer, count of Selbourne, of whom a certified birth certificate is attached. In the Second World War, Palmer was the head of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), which had close ties with the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) - the forerunner of the CIA. It leaves a lot to the imagination that someone of this stature could be linked to these parchments. According to his daughter, Palmer was rather interested in genealogies and often vacationed in the Pyrenees close to Rennes-le-Château.

However, Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln discovered that this second document had been tampered with. Given the fact that the count of Selbourne was so closely involved with intelligence agencies, it could very well have been the handiwork of such an agency that would have wanted to keep the documents in England illegally. According to the mentioned authors, the culprits were most likely the Knights of Malta, which had close ties with both the SOE and the CIA. Whatever the case may be, it seems that the parchments later ended up in a safe-deposit box in Paris.

According to Pierre Plantard, these documents are the original parchments that Saunière had discovered. In an interview with Noel Pinot, published in the Vaincre (the internal bulletin of the Prieuré de Sion) of April 1989, Plantard said: 'The parchments that were in London some years ago are completely authentic'.

Only after these parchments have been examined by independent experts would one be able to get an objective opinion about this - and would the truth about the Plantard's claim to descend from Dagobert II be well and truly known.

1.4 The coded texts

The parchments with the Latin texts that contain coded messages ostensibly bear on the hiding place of a 'treasure'. In 1967, Gérard de Sède published representations of these two documents in his book Le trésor maudit de Rennes-le-Château, which, according to him, were copies of the parchments Saunière is said to have discovered in the church of Rennes-le-Château. Henry Lincoln later also published and discussed these parchments in his The Holy Place [16].

Most interesting, though, is the fact that those who had given De Sède the documents later on alleged that they were forgeries! In the document L'énigma de Rennes, Philippe de Chérisey explains how he himself cooked them up: 'I set about creating an encoded copy based on certain passages from the Gospels, after which I deciphered what I had just personally encoded. Finally, through a circuitous route, I made sure the fruit of my labour found its way to Gérard de Sède.' [17] He admitted the same to the writer Jean-Luc Chaumeil: 'I fabricated the parchments, whose ancient text I took, en onciale, to the Bibliothéque Nationale ...' [18] During a meeting with Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln in 1979, Pierre Plantard too said that the coded texts were forgeries that De Chérisey had fabricated for a short television programme in 1956.

However, compiling these coded texts would unquestionably have been a mammoth task - not something you concoct for a ten-minute programme on TV! In The Messianic Legacy, Beigent, Leigh and Lincoln state: 'The staggering effort required to devise the ciphers seemed inappropriate, indeed ridiculous, for such a purpose'. [19] According to an expert in code deciphering at the British intelligence service whom Lincoln approached, it is 'the most complex cipher he has ever seen and would have taken months of work to prepare'. [20]

When confronted with this, Pierre Plantard confessed that the documents were indeed 'forgeries' - but ones that correspond greatly to the originals: 'M. Plantard conceded that the forgeries were based very closely on the originals. In other words, they had not been 'concocted' by M. Chérisey at all. They had been copied, and M. Chérisey only made a few additions. What remained when these additions were deleted, would be the original texts found by Saunière.' [21]

But why pretend the documents De Sède published were complete forgeries to begin with, and why all the deception by De Chérisey?

To my thinking, it was clearly an attempt to divert attention from the published documents. By alleging they were falsified, they would never be taken seriously again by anyone. That, however, would serve to prove that these documents contain information that warrants such conduct. If they are indeed authentic, these documents could therefore be of great consequence.

1.5 Two sides of only one parchment!

In the above-mentioned meeting between Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln with Pierre Plantard in 1983, Plantard elaborated on the issue and volunteered the information that Saunière did in fact not discover two parchments with coded messages in Latin texts, but only one. The two documents De Sède published had originally been the two sides of one parchment!

Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln write: 'The documents found by Saunière, he said, were indeed only four in number. Three of them were those to which various references had repeatedly alluded – a genealogy dating from 1244 bearing the seal of Blanche de Castille, a Hautpoul genealogy dating from 1644 and the Hautpoul 'testament' dating from 1695. The fourth parchment, he said, was the original on the basis of which the marquis de Chérisey had devised a modified version. According to M. Plantard, there was one coded message on each side of the page. In some way, apparently, the two texts interact with each other – if, for example, they were held up to the light and viewed, as it were, in superimposition. Indeed, it was suggested that M. Chérisey's chief 'modification' had simply been to reproduce the two sides of the same page as separate pages, and not to the original scale' [22].

According to Plantard, the published texts are therefore unblemished. To reproduce the original document, however, the correct scale of these texts must be placed back-to-back in the correct position. Without the original parchment, this would be virtually impossible. The only person who had access to the original appears to have been Pierre Plantard himself, who would have made it available to De Chérisey.

As with the other documents, there is no way of knowing whether this parchment is indeed authentic. What we do know, however, is that one of the texts is an Oxford University translation that was in actual fact only published in 1889 as Putnam and Wood point out in their book The Treasure of Rennes-le-Château, A Mystery Solved [23], which proves that Saunière could not have discovered this parchment with the others. On the other hand, as Ted Cranshaw states in his excellent article 'The Second Parchment at Rennes-le-Château and the intrusive W' [24], the one coded message can only be deciphered using the old French alphabet, which does not contain the letter 'w'. The mere fact that De Chérisey believed the 26-letter alphabet could be used to decipher the message proves that he could not possibly have been the author. As Cranshaw puts it: 'De Chérisey has made so many mistakes in his account of the working of the cipher that it is impossible to take his claim to authorship seriously. We are forced to conclude that he acquired the array of letters from somewhere else and decided to pass them off as his own.'

All this tends to make one wonder even more about the significance of these texts, even though it is not exactly clear who devised them. An alternative view mentioned in Dossiers secrets d'Henri Lobineau is that they were compiled by the priest Bigou, the personal chaplain of Marie de Nègre d'Ablès, after her death between 1781-1791. Both these documents contain coded messages, one in which a 'treasure' is mentioned. Pierre Plantard's explanation about the compilation clearly makes sense. As was already mentioned, the attempts to discredit these texts are in all probability indicative of their actual worth. The original parchment could therefore indeed contain the key to the 'secret' of the Hautpoul-Blanchefort family.

1.6 The parchment and the poem

From the above it is evident that the 'manuscripts' in the poem refer specifically to the two-sided parchment containing the coded messages. In the poet's words: 'To me they had the appearance of being separate; however, they form a whole for the one who knows...'

It is also clear that the correct joining of the two texts is crucial. The poet draws on two metaphors to emphasize this, namely the colours of the rainbow integrated into white and the six primary colours that produce black when mixed. The antipoles 'white' and 'black' is a continuous theme in the poem, with the implication that, once these have been balanced, one will arrive at the 'solution'.

The mentioning of these texts right at the beginning of the poem obviously suggests they hold the key to solving the riddle. However, while the poet knows exactly what the ciphers contain, and mean, anyone else attempting to solve the riddle is clueless at this point. It would seem, then, that these texts are to serve as a map of clues to help the curious find their way through the 'unknown'. 

1.7 So who wrote the poem? 

One of the things that strikes one in this stanza is that only two words are written with capital letters – 'Ami' ('Friend') and 'Artiste' ('Artist'). One later on discovers that capitalizing letters is one of the ways in which the poet supplies one with clues.

The two A's could very well indicate the kinship between the poet and his friend, which would imply the poet is also an artist or painter – a clue as to his identity. Assuming that he was a famous painter, there is only one person who fits the bill – Jean Cocteau. Not only was he a famous poet – which would explain the exceptional quality of the poem – but also a renowned painter. Moreover, Cocteau was also connected with the same Rosicrucian Order as Plantard, of which the former was allegedly Grand Master until his death in 1963. Plantard is said to have succeeded him as one of a trio who subsequently headed the Prieuré de Sion. Cocteau's signature also appears on the Prieuré de Sion's statues.

What is furthermore noteworthy about Cocteau is that he unambiguously identified himself with the grand mastership of a Rosicrucian Order in one of his paintings, to wit the one in the French church at Leicester Square in London. In this painting, there not only appears a red rose at the foot of the cross in accordance with the symbol of the Rose Cross, but also a self portrait next to it. In addition, as Henry Lincoln points out in The Holy Place, the layout of this painting was so cleverly designed that if one were to fit a pentagram over it, the center of it would fall right on Cocteau's forehead! The ingenuity with which Cocteau incorporated his identity into this painting unmistakably corresponds with what one finds in the poem Le serpent rouge.

There is therefore reason enough to believe that Cocteau was indeed the writer of the poem. It would also imply that he formulated the riddle, as one would expect from a Grand Master of a Rosicrucian Order – á la Jacques Saunière in The Da Vinci Code. And throughout the poem, he lauds someone he calls his friend, who seems to be none other than Pierre Plantard. 

Note 1: The house of Ané 

The name 'House of Ané' ('Chez Ané' in French) figures quite prominently in the enigma of Rennes-le-Château. Just as this had been a house in Paris where many figures had gathered and where Saunière had also apparently called at, he himself had the Villa Bethania ('House of Ania') built in Rennes-le-Château where people from all over, even Paris, appear to have gathered. One wonders whether this is not connected with the 'arche' of the Prieuré de Sion called Beth-Ania, which, according to the Dossiers secrets d'Henri Lobineau, had already been active in Rennes-le-Château in 1481. Earlier the Templars, who according to the Prieuré of Sion documents were once associated with that group, had indeed sworn an oath of allegiance to 'Bethany'.

The key to the name 'House of Ania' possibly lies in Jean Markale's book, Rennes-le-Château et l'énigme de l'or maudit, in which he points out (although not in connection with Bet-Ania) that in The last days of Pompeii, the Rosicrusian and occultist, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, mentions a group called 'Anas'. They live 'under' the ground and are spiritually and technologically ahead of their time. This calls to mind the secret 'underground stream' of Arcadia associated with the Prieuré de Sion tradition.

 Is the 'House of Ania' connected with this Anas?

Markale also points out that the Anas not only form part of the 'illuminati tradition', but that the name could also allude to the 'Anaon' of early Brittany, the sons of Don in Wales and the Tuatha de Danaan ('The People of the Goddess Dana') of Ireland. In French, Dana ('d'Ana') means 'from Ana'. This had been the 'people of the Sidhe' (in other words, spirits). This Anas could therefore possibly be regarded as descendants and successors of the early Anaon – who perhaps also regarded themselves as spirits (angels?).

It is furthermore to be remarked that this Anas shows similarities with the so-called Angelic Society, which, according to some, can be linked to the Prieuré de Sion. In both cases it is a group who associates themselves with spirits/gods/angels (or the descendents of the fallen angels). Members of the Angelic Society included musicians, poets, playwrights and painters. Figures like Delacroix and Poussin are linked to this group. Their motto was 'Et in Arcadia ego'. Another name for this association is said to be Les Brouillards ('clouds').

[9] De Sède, G. 1967. Paris: J'ai Lu. Translation: W.T. & R.W. Kersey. 2001. The Accursed Treasure of Rennes-le-Château. Surrey: DEK.
[10] Patton, G & Mackness, R. 2000. Web of Gold. London: Sidwick & Jackson, p 205.
[11] Descadeillas, R. Toulouse: Edtions Privat.
[12] Vazart, L. 1978. Suresnes: Chez l'Auteur.
[13] De Chérisey, P. 1978. Paris.
[14] 1979. French translation in Bonne Soirée. 14 August 1980.
[15] Baigent, M., Leigh, R. & Lincoln, H. 1986. The Messianic Legacy. London: Jonathan Cape, p 305.
[16] Lincoln, H. 1991. The Holy Place. The Mystery of Rennes-le-Château: Discovering the Eight Wonder of the Ancient World. London: Jonathan Cape.
[17] De Chérisey, P. 1978. Paris.
[18] Chaumeil, J. 1979. Le trésor du triangle d'or. Nice: Alain Lefeuvre, p 80.
[19] Baigent, M., Leigh, R. & Lincoln, H. 1986. The Messianic Legacy. London: Jonathan Cape, p 301.
[20] Lincoln, H. 1991. The Holy Place. London: Jonathan Cape.
[21] Baigent, M., Leigh, R. & Lincoln, H. 1986. The Messianic Legacy. London: Jonathan Cape, p 301.
[22] Ibid., p 302.
[23] Putnam, B. & Wood, J. E. 2003. Gloucestershire: Sutton.
[24] Published on the internet in 1997.

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