Rennes-le-Château and The Shepherds of Arcadia

Paul Smith

24 June 2012

During the 1970s and 1980s, Adrien Bourrel – the second son of Louis Lawrence – told French authors “Pierre Jarnac” and Franck Marie how he witnessed the construction of a tomb in the estate of Les Pontils during the early 1930s as a young boy. Both authors used the information provided by Adrien Bourrel in their respective books. The estate of Les Pontils is located on a road between the villages of Serres and Arques in the commune of Peyrolles.

The estate of Les Pontils was purchased in 1921 by Madame Emily Rivarès, an American of French origin who moved there with her son Louis Bertram Lawrence and her grandmother, Mary Rivarès. Mary Rivarès died in 1922 and Emily Rivarès died in 1931. Their bodies and the bodies of two dead cats were embalmed, interred in graves left behind by the previous owners, the Galibert family (who moved to Limoux). They were all later re-interred together in the tomb that was built by Louis Lawrence in 1933. Louis Lawrence died in poverty in Carcassonne on 25 July 1954 having squandered his maternal inheritance (and who was buried in Carcassonne).

The Louis Lawrence tomb was demolished on 9 April 1988 by its owner, Monsieur Rousset, with permission of the local authorities, following persistent trespassing on his property by treasure hunters.

During the 1970s, the Louis Lawrence tomb became associated with a tomb depicted in Nicolas Poussin’s painting The Shepherds of Arcadia, located in Musée du Louvre, Paris, France and most famous for its inscription “Et In Arcadia Ego”.

That the Louis Lawrence tomb was the same as the tomb depicted in Nicolas Poussin’s painting was first claimed on the BBC 2 “Chronicle” documentary The Lost Treasure of Jerusalem…? aired on 31 March 1972, and later in the article by Jean Pellet and Gérard de Sède entitled Le Secret de Nicolas Poussin (Le Grand-Albert Number 9, pages 46-48, July-August 1972; reproduced in Gérard de Sède’s 1973 book La Race Fabuleuse: Extra-Terrestres Et Mythologie Mérovingienne). It is claimed the background landscape of the tomb in Les Pontils matches the background landscape in Poussin’s painting, although de Sède got the names of the mountains wrong in the article he co-wrote with Jean Pellet.

This “information” originated from French author Gérard de Sède – who wrote about popular conspiracy theories relating to the subject matter of Rennes-le-Château – and the estate of Les Pontils lies in close proximity to the village of Rennes-le-Château.

Prior to this, Pierre Plantard and Philippe de Chérisey used the Latin phrase “Et In Arcadia Ego” within the framework of the myth of the Priory of Sion. Pierre Plantard claimed it was used as the motto of his ancestors and produced a coat-of-arms; it also featured on a tombstone linked to their framework of events relating to Rennes-le-Château.

Madeleine Blancassall, Les Descendants Mérovingiens ou l’énigme du Razès wisigoth (1965)

To support the testimony of Adrien Bourrel when he stated during the 1970s and 1980s he witnessed the building of the tomb at Les Pontils in 1933 as a young boy, there is an article written by Louis Fédié from 1878 about the history and folklore of the Peyrolles area (“Étude Historique sur le des Haut-Razès”, in Mémoires de la Société des Arts et des Sciences de Carcassonne, Volume 4, pages 42-92). Fédié’s starting point to his article was the area of Les Pontils itself, because it contained a menhir – the oldest man-made structure found in the area – and he failed to mention the existence of any tomb. Had the original tomb existed and was used by Nicolas Poussin for The Shepherds of Arcadia, Louis Fédié would not have ignored it.

Menhir at Les Pontils