Priory of Sion Archive – Interview with Jean-Luc Chaumeil

Grateful Thanks to Johan Netchacovitch, for giving permission to use this interview from his French website Gazette de Rennes-le-Château

Sole survivor of the Priory of Sion



La Gazette de Rennes-le-Château has been meeting the last musketeer of the Priory of Sion quartet, Jean-Luc Chaumeil. Editions Pégase have just published his book, Rennes-le-Château – Gisors – Le Testament du Prieuré de Sion – Le Crépuscule d'une Ténébreuse Affaire, certainly the publishing event of 2006, as it contains Pierre et Papier by Philippe de Chérisey.

The book has also been translated into English and published by Avalonia Books entitled The Priory of Sion: Shedding Light On The Treasure And Legacy Of Rennes-le-Château And The Priory of Sion.



Jean-Luc Chaumeil Photo © CBS News 60 Minutes (2006)


In sunny August the editorial team of Gazette de Rennes-le-Château had an in-depth discussion with Jean-Luc Chaumeil in his art gallery in Carennac, "L’Atelier du Prieuré". This journalist, writer and artist is the sole survivor of the Priory of Sion in the version according to Pierre Plantard. After the deaths of the Surrealist apologist Philippe de Chérisey in 1985, the self-proclaimed Grandmaster Pierre Plantard in 2000, and the mouthpiece for the group Gérard de Sède in 2004 there remained just one survivor of what, depending on the individual researcher's viewpoint, is a farce, a new renaissance or a trail of fascinating clues.

In his book Jean-Luc Chaumeil, who styles himself an investigative journalist, actually has very little to say about the Priory of Sion and "Pierre et Papier". A score of pages at the most out of more than 240 are devoted to these themes. What's more many passages are virtually incomprehensible even for those who have made a special study of the subject. We could even go so far as to say that the explanations of the alleged hoax provided by Philippe de Chérisey are excessively complex and even self-contradictory. Many researchers we have met either at Rennes or in the surrounding area and many web surfers (via the forum and e-mail) are also asking lots of questions!

Jean-Luc Chaumeil, with the haughty manner and peremptory tone that he's always used ever since the Priory of Sion was founded, sets out his stall right from the outset: the Priory of Sion was just a hoax, Philippe de Chérisey forged two parchments, Pierre Plantard was a lonely man whose imaginative creations took on a life of their own, there is no treasure at Rennes-le-Château (or, more fashionably, at Rennes-les-Bains), the only line of enquiry worth following is to try and track down Reda, which is located neither at Rennes-le-Château nor in its environs, only one character is worthy of our attention and that is Roncelin de Fos, etc. etc. It should be noted that Chaumeil had already developed a number of these ideas in various articles dating from the 1970s: in particular the issues of Pégase and Le Charivari devoted to the Priory of Sion and the Templars!



Interview with Jean-Luc Chaumeil


Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
Jean-Luc Chaumeil, when and how did you first come into contact with the mystery of Rennes-le-Château ?

Jean-Luc Chaumeil :
A painter by predilection, a poet in some of my other leisure hours, a journalist to earn a crust, I very early on made the acquaintance of Daniel Réju, who asked me to write some articles for the magazine "L’ère d'Aquarius". I also worked for "Europe journal", the first European weekly, and I was also doing media monitoring for a motoring organisation.




In 1971 I read the book "L'or maudit" and my editor-in-chief, Claude Jacquemart, asked me to guest-edit a special edition, number 18, devoted to "The archives of the Priory of Sion" (Charivari magazine) a young writer, Claude Pimont, who wrote "Dieu n'existe pas, je l'ai rencontré" ("God does not exist – I know, I've met him"), along with a friend of Réju’s, a Monsieur Renard, told me the story of a curé who had claimed to have found "billions" in the south of France! The book they were referring to was by Gérard de Sède, the author of another book that I had long pored over, "Les templiers sont parmi nous". Knowing that the history of Gisors bore an uncanny resemblance to the story of Rennes I mistrusted "L’or de Rennes", and I think I was right to do so.

Anyway, Daniel Réju gave me Plantard’s telephone number and, in parallel, I met Gérard de Sède in the Rue Danrémont (Paris). Around the same time Mathieu Paoli, a friend of the Romanian writer Doru Theodoriciu, began making a film for T.S.R about Arginy and Rennes-le-Château. Right at the start of 1972 I left for Rennes-le-Château with my photographer Bernard Roy.



Pierre Plantard




Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
Tell us about Pierre Plantard. Was he as mysterious as they say he was?

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
After several telephone conversations I finally met Pierre Plantard. As for questions, there were thousands of those, but when it came to answers these were allusive, irritating for several reasons, often contradictory, sometimes naively disconcerting, always carefully thought-out – a little too carefully thought-out perhaps. But he was a cheerful soul even so, with a great sense of humour, although a bit crazy perhaps. You might describe him as Joan of Arc in a 1930s-style suit, a "Man in Black" wrenched out of the present time, his pockets bulging with documents. But I also knew that he had been both a sacristan and a practising clairvoyant (under the name "Chyren") during his days in Aulnay.




Although he believed in the importance of his official responsibilities he devoted himself utterly to his clairvoyance work. He dreamed of one day becoming a priest but was only a sacristan; having failed in his ambition he lost his faith and never recovered!




I remember our visits to the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris. Whenever he saw a priest he would start raising his voice and things would just go downhill from there. He also transformed the Chapel of the Saints-Anges into a treasure-map and made St. Peter, with his two keys, into a messenger pointing to the crypt of Notre-Dame-sous-Terre, with a pagan temple of Artemis thrown in for good measure. He was a practitioner of what is known today as historical "revisionism", based on the idea of the legitimacy of the Merovingian bloodline.




Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
How did Pierre Plantard meet Philippe de Chérisey ?




Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
That's all rather hazy! I've heard several different versions. They certainly knew each other in the 1950s, and joined Gérard de Sède in excavating the cellar of Monsieur Jacques Rouët in Gisors in 1962 (Editor's Note: see letter in the appendix to the book on page 106).



The magical trio

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
The trio had very different personalities, didn't they! How could such a group have come together?



Pierre Plantard, Philippe de Chérisey and Gérard de Sède


Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
Oh that's quite easy to understand if you know their backgrounds...

Pierre Plantard had gone right through his money and was living in an attic. He was mesmerised by de Chérisey’s aristocratic origins, something that he himself didn't have and which he later created for himself. Philippe's erudition also fascinated him.

As for de Chérisey, the black sheep of the Vaudémont-Vaudressel family, rejected by them because he'd become little more than a vaudeville entertainer, he paid Plantard’s bills for him and also found in Plantard the father that he'd always dreamed of. He also exploited some of the murkier aspects of his father's title of nobility in an attempt to discredit his father. De Chérisey was actually a count but he styled himself the Marquis de Chérisey! He tried to ridicule nobility by creating a sort of anti-nobility!

All that this duo from hell lacked was someone to write up their exploits, and they found such a person in Gérard de Sède. For this aristocratic Trotskyite, who was certainly sui generis, this was a chance to get back to doing something a bit different from working in the fields. He would of course end up by being completely taken in by the deception. So, lo and behold, the scene was set, the curtain rose!

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
It seems that Pierre Plantard compiled an enormous dossier on the affair.

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
(Smiling) Yes he certainly did! Especially documents and articles he picked up here and there, everything was grist to his mill. He followed the news via "Ici Paris" and similar rags, and he also listened to the radio. To be precise, his dossier comprised of 1014 pages.

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
Pierre Plantard claimed the support of some of the leading men of his time, for example Maurice Lecomte Moncharville.




Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
Yes, but he was first and foremost a past master at putting words into the mouths of the dead. Once someone had died he produced all sorts of documents, letters and so on, all forgeries of course. No one could contradict him.

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
In "L'Or de Rennes" Gérard de Sède details some mysterious deaths linked to this affair, such as that of Fakhar Ul Islam.




Jean-Luc Chaumeil :
Pierre Plantard even spread the rumour that the French intelligence service the DGSE was interested in the matter and that the information must be trustworthy because it was provided by my father, who was a member of this particular branch of the French security services.

Once again Pierre Plantard was deliberately leading people astray! If my father did pursue enquiries into this matter then it would have been in his capacity as Chief of Police in Melun. The accident to Fakhar Ul Islam took place on his patch. What's more, Fakhar Ul Islam was an international drugs trafficker. He had no connection with Rennes-le-Château but Plantard was able to achieve his aim because the information was given out in the press!



Pierre et Papier


Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
Now let's talk about "Pierre et Papier"...




Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
(Not waiting for the question) It was Philippe who drew up the parchments. He explains everything in this book. Everything is explained there and I cannot understand why people keep asking about this text.

I myself have already explained in detail the context in which the Priory of Sion was founded. Just read my books and articles – I am most certainly NOT going to constantly repeat myself!

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
Jean-Luc, you've certainly had a lot to say about the subject – several books, special editions of magazines, articles and so on - that's why a synthesis would be useful for our web surfers...

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
(Silence) OK, go ahead! I'm listening!

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
The forty pages or so of "Pierre et Papier" are rather vague. Philippe de Chérisey repeats himself and is sometimes quite obscure. He also makes some extraordinary errors considering that he himself forged the parchments. The publishers Pégase had to mention several times in footnotes that de Chérisey got the two parchments confused in his explanations. OK, so he makes the same mistake each time, but surely he could have read the text through after he’d written it? Did he write it all at one sitting? You get the impression that it's all just a rough draft, and yet he asked you to publish it. You would have thought that he would have given you a finished product!

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
Philippe was a poet, and a Surrealist poet to boot! He had a keen sense of farce and satire. What do you expect? In this document he expresses himself just like he expresses himself in his other writings, by allusion, shifts of meaning, implications. He always liked to play to the gallery, to be a sort of illusionist. That was how he was working here too.

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
His style is very close to that of the novel "Livre à vendre", which he co-authored with Roland Dubillard and which was published by Jean-Claude Simoën in 1977. The only difference is really the kind of writing? That was a novel, this is an essay!

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
(In a peremptory tone) No, absolutely not! I repeat: he liked to play around with words and ideas. Philippe was a Surrealist poet – his whole life was based on word-play, on humour. That was his trade!

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
So if we understand you correctly, we shouldn't really look to the second part of "Pierre et Papier" – the bit devoted to the explanation of the text "Bergère, pas de tentation..." – for an interpretation of anything? It's just a Surrealist text and is meant to be taken as such... Isn't that rather strange for someone whose stated aim was to "finally show how this little farce was actually put together" (as you say on page 78)?

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
(In a conciliatory tone) OK, I'll give you some explanations... Philippe de Chérisey was a great sentimentalist. Few know about the tragedy that occurred on a certain road near Rennes-les-Bains.

It was there that he lost his loved one in a road accident... For him, the tearful poet, the phrase in the encipherment of the Small Parchment, "A DAGOBERT II ROI ET A SION EST CE TRESOR ET IL EST LA MORT", is not a reference to gold, to documents of enormous important to humanity, to a Christ-like revelation or whatever! No, it's Philippe de Chérisey paying homage to his loved one, who is "LA MORT(e)" ("there dead"). Should we regard the LA as an article (la = the) or as an adverb (là = there)? Well, it was certainly intended as an adverb, but it's not a reference to a sacred treasure, or to the cave of Ali Baba, it's a reference to a loved one lost forever.




Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
But he also undertook researches with Pierre Plantard and yourself at Serbaïrou in Rennes-les-Bains.

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
Yes, but his treasure, the treasure he's talking about, was his fiancée! He has said so elsewhere.

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
Yes indeed! "My dear Roseline, who died on 6 August 1967, the feast of the Transfiguration, while leaving the zero meridian by car." (p. 108).

The heart of de Chérisey's explanations relates to the "Large Parchment". Many passages are vague and...

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
(Interrupting) But there's nothing to be understood – Philippe was wearing his Surrealist hat when he wrote that. None of the passages that you’re quoting need to be deciphered – they lead nowhere. Philippe was simply amusing himself by laying a few red herrings, by saying something and then saying just the opposite...



The Tisseyre document




Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
OK, that's as may be! But de Chérisey writes: "For as long as the inquisitive are able to get their hands on this old issue of the Bulletin I shall remain only a semi-successful hoaxer (sic), in other words the inheritor of a hoax that was put together some 60 years ago" (p.100). So unless he is successful in persuading the reader that the Tisseyre document, which appeared in the Bulletin of SESA (Societé d’Etudes Scientifiques de l’Aude) in 1905, never actually existed, his explanation is simply worthless! He is counting on the article disappearing at the hands of the "researchers" after the publication of "Pierre et Papier"! So he obviously wanted wanting to get his book into print very quickly. Let's recall that he drafted the document in 1970.

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
(Ignoring the implied question) Look, I'm going to tell you something... The Tisseyre document is an invention. Or, more precisely, Tisseyre invented a so-called summary, which was written in 1905, and which he published in the Bulletin of SESA. Thanks to this article he is able to give credence to the existence of the tombstone at this period in the cemetery of Rennes-le-Château and to cover up a trafficking in relics and archaeological finds which he had launched with Bérenger Saunière. Obviously they could not be accused of stealing a stone that had been catalogued in 1905...!!!

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
... That's a rather strange explanation, especially since the Tisseyre document was published in "L'Or de Rennes", along with the reference to SESA, in 1967, in other words THREE years before "Pierre et Papier" was drafted. The researchers would have had plenty of time to check it out... As for the trafficking, Tisseyre mentions several people in the article who would obviously not be able to respond to this false allegation!!!

But why mention and explain this extract when it would have been sufficient just to say that in 1970 de Chérisey had all he needed to create these parchments...

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
(Continuing his theme) It's a real scoop! I should add that "Pierre et Papier" was annotated by Philippe de Chérisey but that, for publishing reasons, the editor Pierre Jarnac of Editions Pégase did not reproduce the annotations.

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
That's a shame – they might have shed some light on the document!

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
Yes, I told the editor as much but, to make the document more legible, he left the annotations out. (Editor's Note: Jean-Luc Chaumeil confirmed these statements during two telephone calls in September and October 2006)



The Codex Bezae




Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
One problem with de Chérisey's sources was raised by the discovery of the original text of the "Small Parchment", the famous Codex Bezae. Why doesn't he mention this unique source?

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
Ah, that takes us to the very heart of the Plantard-Chérisey system! I'm not going to go over again what I've already written on your (internet) forums, but certain people obviously just don't want to understand... It gets annoying in the end.

Pierre Plantard knew about the book by Fulcran Vigouroux and decided to "arrange" for the paternity of the parchments as it were to be attributed to Philippe. Citing Dom Cabrol was a red herring, a blind. It was the same with the magazine "CIRCUIT", another blind that appeared in several different versions. I'll give you another example... In an interview that Philippe granted me in 1973 he explained the origin of the Codex: "..I took the ancient uncial text at the Bibliothèque Nationale from the work of Dom Cabrol, Christian Archaeology, Shelf C25". I went there in person and what did I find in the shelf next to the one you mentioned? On shelf B was the Fulcran Vigouroux. That's a good example of the sort of traps and red herrings that those two specialised in. They would give a vague indication of something, but only the really curious inquirer would ever get onto the right track!!! In the light of that example I can state that Pierre Plantard was aware of the Fulcran Vigouroux manuscript! And anyone who’s not prepared to admit that are leading themselves astray...

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
Let's talk about how this quartet worked. What were relations like between them? Who made the decisions?

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
Pierre Plantard pulled the strings and presided over everything. He often gave us only partial and often differing information. That created tensions. Often I found that I didn't have all the information I needed to follow up a line of enquiry and that Philippe and Gérard had received different information! That was how Plantard worked. The unspoken word, the allusion – it was a way of setting people against one another. It also sprang from a desire to keep us all under his thumb!

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
And that eventually caused the group to break up...

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
I was the person chosen by fate to witness it all. In 1981 Pierre Plantard called the Convent together in Blois. Philippe learned about it on the grapevine and found out that he'd been expelled... I had firm evidence that people were up to no good. I tailed Plantard. Instead of attending the "pseudo-convent" in Blois I took up my position in front of his house in Colombes. He didn't come out on the day fixed for the meeting in Blois, nor on any of the days preceding or following... From that moment on the breach was complete. As evidence of that, he didn't even attend Philippe's funeral in 1985. By the way, Philippe was also godfather to one of Plantard's children.

"L'Enigme sacrée"
(The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail)



Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
The advent of the English contingent of Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, the authors of "L'Enigme sacrée" (The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail) and "Message" (The Messianic Legacy), seems to have heightened tensions still further.

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
Exactly! Philippe found himself left out in the cold when the English trio arrived. Plantard had "created" the American Priory of Sion and ratified the secession from the French Priory of Sion. But I always sensed that someone very important was hiding behind the English trio. Their aim was different and seemed to focus on political manoeuvring... Plantard got out of his depth. The man who laid claim to a Merovingian ancestry found that the English trio were assigning to him descent from Christ !




Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
Jean-Luc, when are you going to tell us what this matter is really all about?

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
Very soon! In about five minutes, intuition tells me... To prove my sincerity I have conducted a counter-enquiry. I was sure of my facts as early as 1973 when the special edition of "Charivari" about the Priory of Sion appeared.



At last an end to the matter... ?


Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
And what should we be looking for today in Rennes-le-Château and its environs?




Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
(in a categorical tone) But there never has been anything in Rennes or its environs, be it in 1900, 1956, 1967 or 2006 !!! Rennes-le-Château is just a black hole which sucks in all our atavisms, a place to which everyone can bring his own ideas and be sure to find them reflected somehow. Why do you think you find the word "mirror" repeated twenty times in Philippe's book! Rennes-le-Château is just a myth and should be treated as such!

Here's one final scoop for you... Did you know that the story won't end at Rennes-le-Château? Before Rennes there was Mont Saint Michel, Gisors, Stenay... Other sites would have been visited in their turn. That's why you need to study the nature of myth in order to then transcend it. The Templars, on their return from Jerusalem, transposed local placenames in the light of the part of the world they'd just been chased out of. They drew maps. Le Verdon is a good example. Philippe de Chérisey met Alfred Weysen, a researcher and the author of several books on Le Verdon. Information circulated among the Belgians. Philippe gave him a document, the map stolen from Monsieur Fatin, but Alfred Weysen applied it to Le Verdon... So the story could easily have started all over again down there...

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
So you would recommend all Rennes enthusiasts to find another hobby, everyone making a living out of it to close down their businesses and the webmasters to shut down their website?

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
(in a qualified tone) Even if there is no treasure of any kind whatsoever to be found there, each human being can still undertake a personal quest there, a recharging of their batteries as it were.

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
But other places are just as good for things like that?




Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
Yes, I'll grant you that.

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
So if there's no treasure in Rennes but the search can be undertaken somewhere else, that means that, in spite of everything, you've identified another location in the département of the Aude !

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
Yes, and the only one worthy of interest! It's a place very close to Limoux, called REDA. Look, it's not a placename that we can trace back to Rennes-le-Château, it's the name of a hill on the heights of Limoux... It's there that the archaeological researches should be focused.

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
And what will your next book be about?

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
I've been working on Taillefer on 20 years now. I'd really like to get that book finished! I also have a considerable postbag about the Priory of Sion.

Gazette de Rennes-le-Château:
I'm sure the public would like you to share it with them in "Le testament"

Jean-Luc Chaumeil:
(Cryptically) All in good time my dear Johan!




© Johan Netchacovitch, 4 November 2006










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