Update 24 September 2015: The Second Edition of The Key To The Sacred Pattern was recently published (Nashville: Grave Distractions Publications) containing the same text and photographs.


by Mariano Tomatis

6 May 2006

(With Thanks to Mariano Tomatis)

In his book Key to the Sacred Pattern Henry Lincoln tells about the meeting that occurred in 1897 between Bérenger Saunière and Bishop Felix Billard, adding these enigmatic words:

"From an elderly resident I heard an anecdote that seemed so strange and senseless that I am inclined to believe that it gives a glimpse of the truth.

In this second account the bishop remained anything but scandalised by Saunière’s activities. After the ceremony of dedication the two of them went for a walk in the garden of the church, deeply immersed in conversation, arm in arm, and they exchanged hats. A story so odd and unverified could yet contain a grain of truth. Especially if put with the strange detail of the bishop’s mitre put on the bedside table near Saunière’s death bed."

("I must make it clear that even today I can’t manage without putting an interrogation mark beside this strange photo. Like Henry Buthion, I have made an accurate examination of Saunière’s house and presbytery. We have not succeeded in finding a room that corresponds exactly to that in the picture. The resemblance to Saunière is remarkable, the provenance of the photo impeccable. And yet…" 1)

The interrogation mark posed by Lincoln disappears in some later accounts:

"There is a photo, belonging to the English writer, Henry Lincoln […] that shows Bérenger Saunière on his death bed; on the bedside table is clearly seen a bishop’s hat, as if, in reality, it was not the death of a curate, but a bishop 2."

After the statement by Lincoln, nobody before July 2005 had ever questioned the origin of this photograph. It was with the publication of No. 12 of Pégase that the mystery of the strange photo was solved. On the fourth [page of] the cover is published this photograph:

Comparing the two photographs, it is evident that it’s a matter of two different shots of the same corpse. The perspective is slightly different, and it is easy to see this from the position of the cross on the bedside table with respect to what appears to be a bishop’s hat:

But whereas in the first photograph Lincoln omits the bibliographic source (did he know it?), Pégase explicitly cites the source of the second photo, which it gives with the original heading:


The photograph comes from the book Le Père Jean, Père de Fontfroide, Toulouse, Libraire Privat, 1896 (published more than twenty years before the death of Saunière!) In No. 13 of Pégase the question is examined further: Père Jean really died in 1892, on 12 November, and the discovery of the photograph is attributed to Morgan Roussel.

The presence of the bishop’s hat is justified by the fact that Père Jean had been appointed "Mitred Priest" hence acquiring the same rights and responsibilities in the abbey as those of a bishop in his diocese.

However it is not a matter of just one false photograph published in Lincoln’s book. In order to link Bérenger Saunière and Emma Calvé, Lincoln tells about the drawing of a pierced heart with the inscription "Calvet", and affirms that it was found near the Fontaine des Amours, behind Rennes-les-Bains:

The photograph is actually clumsy and of doubtful authenticity. Whoever did the inscription has not even used a point and it is not anything to do with a carving made in solid rock, but in fresh cement. The right side of the heart shows clearly that a little cement is slightly raised with respect to the level of the drawing by the impression of the small stick used to make the inscription.

A true inscription on a rock would never show an effect of this sort. The inscription moreover does not seem at all ancient: on the contrary it has the appearance of a cutting made a few days before.

1 Henry Lincoln, Il codice segreto della croce (The secret code of the cross), Milan: Sperling & Kupfer, 2000, pp.114-115

2 Giorgio Baietti, L'enigma di Rennes-le-Château, i rosacroce e il tesoro perduto del Graal (The enigma of Rennes-le-Château, the Rosicrucians and the lost treasure of the Grail), Rome: Edizioni Mediterranee, 2003, p.55