The Tombstone of Marie de Negri d’Ables, Countess of Blanchefort

Paul Smith

The tombstone of Marie de Negri d’Ables, the Countess of Blanchefort who died in 1781, the epitaph of which was used by Philippe de Chérisey during the early 1960s as a partial template for the creation of his hidden message in his large "parchment" (another "tombstone" with an additional "epitaph" had to be created during the early 1960s with which to form the complete puzzle) – has never been seen by anybody – except allegedly by Elie Tisseyre himself in 1905 – who made a "drawing of the tombstone" in his article entitled Excursion on 25 June 1905 to Rennes-le-Château – first published in the ‘Bulletin de la Société d'Ètudes Scientifiques de l'Aude’ (Bulletin of the Scientific Research Society of the Aude, or SESA), volume XVII, 1906 – then for the second time in a brochure-version of the article published in 1931, that was deposited in the Municipal Library of Carcassonne.

Here is the drawing of the "tombstone" that appeared in ‘Bulletin de la Société d'Ètudes Scientifiques de l'Aude’, volume XVII, 1906, page 101:

Here is the drawing of the "tombstone" that appeared in the brochure version of the article published in 1931, page 6:

The ‘Saunière Museum’ in the village of Rennes-le-Château holds a couple of ‘replicas’ of the alleged tombstone, but their dimensions differ from what Elie Tisseyre described in his article of the size of the original “tombstone”.

And there are also more ‘replicas’ of the ‘tombstone’ in existence, like the one below:

Here is the complete English translation of Elie Tisseyre’s article Excursion on 25 June 1905 to Rennes-le-Château:




The number of excursions to the ruins of Rhedae or Rennes-le-Château has grown over the years as more and more visitors come to trace the remains of bygone days.

Consequently the Society for Scientific Study of the Aude could not fail in its turn to venture thither in search of a new page of history concerning our region.

Thus on 24 June, the appointed day, a fair number of fellow-workers squeezed past the station ticket office to board the train, excitedly clutching their tickets.

At 6.15 the heavy load set off on its route through station after station. At Alet another colleague, M. Deville, who was mayor of that fair city, joined us, and a few minutes later we all arrived at Couiza.

It was going to be a very hot day, so we descended hastily so as to reach Rennes-le-Château before noon. Two more colleagues joined us now and we started on our way, admiring the castle of Couiza on route. It had been constructed on the banks of the Aude and the Sals in 1540 as the ancestral home of the Ducs de Joyeuse.

We could already see the pinnacle of the ancient towers of the castle of Rennes to our right but it took an hour’s walk to reach the old capital of Rhedesium. At times followed by and again preceeded by a humble donkey which carried our bags, we climbed the slope while the botanists amongst us were already embarked upon their researches.

By 9.30 we had reached the top. It was hot but at the height of 435 metres the air was fresh enough. Upon our way we noticed the new fragmentary remains of the encircling walls or ramparts.

We left our bags in a safe spot and immediately began our visit to the castle. There was nothing remarkable here apart from the size of the apartments with their very high ceilings. Everything was very old, worn and dilapidated. Some of the rooms were still habitable and in fact were being used by our hotelier. The visit was quickly over.

We followed a narrow twisting road to the property of M. Auguste Fons who had recently discovered a heap of bones at the foot of the ancient ramparts. At least, that is what we were shown. One of our party, armed with a pickaxe sought to discover its depth but tibias, skulls and femurs lay stacked upon each other and his quest was a lost one, so we left the gloomy spot.

From the top of a lately constructed tower we admired the panorama spread before us. To our left, the vast plain of the Lauzet and in the distance the village of Granes. Further to the right lay Saint-Ferriol and nearer, opposite us, on a rounded hillock, stood a fortress, which had defended Rennes-le-Château, named "le Casteillas". Nothing else survived and not a trace of any construction was to be seen.

The Aude traversed the village of Campagne and one could see Esperaza with its tall chimneys, center of the felt hat industry. Further along lay the village of Fa with its ancient semaphore tower, Antugnac, Montazels and Couiza. Further to the right was Coustaussa with its ruined castle. But it was getting late so sadly we had to leave our observation tower and continue with the visit.

Soon the church (1740) came into view. The interior is superb with pretty, fresh and pleasant paintings. In vain we tried to find some vestige of the past. However in a little garden next to the church one of us noticed a crudely sculpted flagstone dating from the fifth century. Unfortunately this was being used as a stepping-stone in a flight of steps and was consequently partially eroded. It would have been better placed inside the church instead of the varnished and guilded paneling.

We also noted in another little garden a stone pedestal supporting a Virgin. The pedestal was very old and beautifully worked but had been restored in order to deepen the relief work and in so doing the workman had robbed it of all artistic merit.

A visit to the cemetery lead to the discovery of a large slab in one corner, cracked in the middle, but with a clearly decipherable inscription.

It measured 1m30 x 0m65.

We were then called to luncheon, which was served in a room in the castle and proved to be a delicious meal. An excellent black coffee concluded the feast and with it the first half of the programme. We thanked M. Auguste Fons for his hospitality and at the suggestion of M. Fages, we elected him a member of the Society, with a round of applause.

We left Rennes-le-Château having noted that the formerly important town had succeeded a village of antiquated houses, small and badly constructed, several of which had fallen into ruins.

The twin villages of Rennes-le-Château and Rennes-les-Bains were not linked by a single road that one could drive a car on. The only routes were farm tracks.

We followed one of these up to a notice titled "trespassers" and then walked through "Pla de la Cote" for we had to reach the "trembling stone". Having reached it, twenty strong arms encircled the famous stone and must surely dislodge it, but the solid mass

hardly moved at all. The number of inscriptions engraved upon its face bore witness to the countless number of tourists who had tested their strength upon it.

A straight path soon led us to the Tiffou windmill.

We required a few minutes to wash and brush up before arriving finally at Rennes-les-Bains.

A great many people come here in Summer to drink the waters or take baths. This chill little place is instantly transformed into an agreeable and friendly small town. The bathers had already begun to arrive and tend to their fitness and we needed to rest our weary limbs and seek refreshment, which was duly found on the terrace of the Café Cadenat.

But already our coachmen were harnessing horses to take us to Couiza. Regretfully we left the shady terrace and hastily made our ablutions with such speed that it was impossible to judge how modern the conveniences actually were.

To horse! The animals were well rested and keen to get us back to Couiza at a brisk trot.

Couiza was festive and alive with music all along the main road under the plane trees.

After a summary repast at M. Igounet’s we walked to the station, the whistle blew, we were off, gone.

All in all, it had been a lovely day.


Bulletin of the Society for Scientific Study of the Aude, Volume 17 (17th year), pp 98-103 (1906).