“L'OR DE RENNES”: an alleged work of serious history… in which the “reality” on every page is certainly stranger than fiction!
In our editions of 18 November and 3 December we devoted articles to the alleged ‘treasure’ of Rennes-le-Château. During that same period there appeared in the windows of the book-stores a work by Gérard de Sède entitled ‘L’Or de Rennes ou la vie insolite de Bérenger Saunière, curé de Rennes-le-Château’ (“The gold of Rennes, or the extraordinary life of Bérenger Saunière, priest of Rennes-le-Château”). The least that one can say is that the author of this work has arrived at conclusions that are very different from our own.
Unfortunately, the thesis that Monsieur de Sède puts forward is not based on sound historical data. In ‘L'Indépendant’ of 29 November, Monsieur Jean Dunyach has shown that it is no longer possible to blithely accept de Sède's arguments.
Monsignor Boyer, for his part, has also examined this eyebrow-raising book. The talk that he gave on this subject just a few days ago to the Société des Arts et des Sciences is especially severe in its criticisms.
“We find ourselves,” writes Monsignor Boyer, “in the presence of an astonishing mélange of gross errors, a mélange that is quite simply unforgivable! It is basically just a ‘thriller’, the product of the extravagant imagination of an author who is certainly not untalented but who proceeds by way of insinuations and peremptory statements, without ever taking the trouble to provide any sources or hard evidence.
“We can, for example, find seven mistakes in just the last fourteen pages, which are intended to make researchers’ spines tingle, and which are entitled ‘A certain danger.’ I thought about making a page-by-page list of all the falsehoods with which the book is littered. But that would be to pay the book far too much respect. Here therefore are just a few of those falsehoods, provided by way of a sample.”
A very instructive list
And Monsignor Boyer then lists the major errors – the ‘enormities’ one might almost say – which litter Monsieur de Sède's book and which, in a way, give the book its entertaining character:
- Page 14: Was the Romanesque apse of Alet really a temple of Diana? How many contemporary archaeologists would dare to make a claim like that?
- Page 62: The author “has good reasons to think” (but does not tell us what those reasons are) that Monsignor Billard received from Saunière a gift of one million gold francs for the restoration of Prouille! None of the funds mention this gift and when Billard died the works were stopped because of a shortage of money and were never resumed.
- Page 30: Saunière returned to Carcassonne after a “relationship” in Paris with an opera singer. No doubt the author once again “has good reasons to think” that this is a factual statement? What is more, the Abbé had provided the old Bishop with such confusing explanations regarding the manuscripts that, so the author says, Billard did not hesitate in March 1901 to go to Paris in person to try and shed some light on the matter. But Billard, who was in poor physical health and was virtually in retirement at Prouille for the last two years of his life, died in December 1901, and would therefore simply not have been capable of undertaking such a trip to Paris in March of that year.
- Page 51: A priest simply cannot make a habit of celebrating three masses a day, which renders the dizzying calculations of de Sède completely useless.
- Page 190: Abbé Courtauly, to whom the book is dedicated and whose “voice recording on magnetic tape” I would certainly like to have heard, was never the “curé” of Villarzel. He was born there and he died there. He never “refused to open his door” to the Vicar-General, his friend and colleague, and it is incidentally because of my long-standing friendship with him that I have thought it necessary to spring to his defence and will continue to do so. It was in fact his elderly sister, the staunch protectress of her brother's health, who barred her door to visitors.
- Page 191: Abbé Boudet never had any problems with the Diocese, but rather with the town council of Rennes-les-Bains regarding the lease on the presbytery at the time of the separation of Church and State. And the Diocese never destroyed “in front of him” (or behind his back either) his book entitled ‘Lazare.’
- Page 56: It is inconceivable that Saunière received the sacraments two days after his death. And the statement that the dear old Abbé Rivière, curé of Espéraza, who died in 1929, and who was Dean of Coursan when I knew him, never smiled again after the death of Saunière at which he had administered the sacraments, is very far from the truth, as I myself saw him laughing his head off on more than one occasion.
- Page 107: This passage refers to Trastamare and his band of rovers from Aragon who, in 1361, allegedly fired cannon at the powder-magazine of Rennes-le-Château and blew it up. A reference to an artillery company composed of brigands in the middle of the 14th century and to a “powder-magazine” in Rennes-le-Château certainly makes me wonder when I recall that it was only in 1346, at the battle of Crècy, that the English first raised the subject of gunpowder. But, of course, Rennes-le-Château has always been ahead of the times!
‘A streak of madness’
Monsignor Boyer then deals with the chapter dedicated to the Cross in the vestibule of the church of Rennes-le-Château, and expresses his amazement about Monsieur de Sède's interpretation of the inscription on the plinth. But, of course, the author never misses an opportunity to indulge in fantasy.
“What conclusion should we draw from all this?” asks Monsignor Boyer. How can we explain all these suppositions, all these flights of fancy? The author himself probably answers these questions on page 184, when he refers to the disappointments encountered by the Rennes researchers:
“They don't seem to realise that the researcher’s main tool is not the pick and shovel but the head. They also lack that streak of madness that alone can spur on their powers of reasoning into the realms of discovery...”
And Monsignor Boyer endorses that comment: “a ‘streak of madness’ indeed...”