Rennes-le-Château, Vindicta Salvatoris, Doumergue
Alternative Christianity

Paul Smith

1 May 2017
Expanded & Revised 4 May 2017

A “link” has been suggested between Rennes-le-Château/Rennes-les-Bains and the Christian apocryphal apologetic manuscript Vindicta Salvatoris, on the basis of a “reference to a cave built in Septimania in the name of Christ” (a reference to a cave in the name of Christ, not to his “tomb”). The significance of this allegation represents the early presence of Jesus Christ in Southern France.

The Vindicta Salvatoris is best known for its story of Roman Emperor Tiberius cured of his leprosy by Veronica’s Veil.

The oldest known manuscript of the Vindicta Salvatoris is located in the Bibliothèque Municipale of Saint-Omer, France, MS 202, fols. 20v-25v. This version does not mention the reference to “a cave in the name of Christ in Septimania”.

A later version of the Vindicta Salvatoris, located in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris (Parisinus Lat. 5327), states that “Tiberius went to Agde and from there to the Hérault and that he eventually arrived at the river they call Tincta, i.e. the Thongue” (Tiberius died in Miseno, Italy on 16 March, 37 AD).

The German textual critic Ernst von Dobschütz (1870-1934) claimed that the manuscript in Saint-Omer was a copy of an earlier version, but in the absence of evidence, this must remain a theory.

Ernst von Dobschütz has got his followers – Gisèle Besson, Michèle Brossard-Dandré, Zbigniew S. Izydorczyk, Rémi Gounelle. But this theory is not universally accepted by all scholars. Thomas N. Hall, who has contributed much to the scholarship of the Vindicta Salvatoris, who taught Old English at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Notre Dame, called it “just a guess” (as well as the theory by R. A. Lipsius [1830-1892], who claimed the Vindicta Salvatoris was written in Acquitaine).

A scholar has pointed out: “There is considerable variation between the versions of the Vindicta Salvatoris, which exists in many manuscripts (including six which survive in the British Library, three in the Bodleian Library and nine at Cambridge), and was translated into Anglo-Saxon, but it is possible to divide them into two versions of the text, an early recension such as that printed by Tischendorf, which dates from the ninth century onwards (Version A), and a later one contained in manuscripts of thirteenth and fourteenth century date (Version B)” (Bonnie Millar, A Study of the Siege of Jerusalem in its Physical, Literary and Historical Contexts, PHD Thesis, Nottingham University, June 2000).

A much later and a different version of the original Vindicta Salvatoris, written in Anglo-Saxon, was first translated into English by W. C. Goodwin, The Anglo-Saxon Legends of St Andrew and St Veronica (Cambridge, 1851). A translation was also published in M. R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924).

An English translation of the earliest manuscript of the Vindicta Salvatoris in Saint-Omer was published in J. E. Cross [1920-1996], Editor, Two Old English Apocrypha and Their Manuscript Source: The Gospel of Nicodemus and The Avenging of The Saviour (Cambridge University Press, 1996; pages 248-293).

A chapter by Frederick M. Biggs on the Vindicta Salvatoris was published in Kathryn Powell, D. G. Scragg; Editors, Apocryphal Texts and Traditions In Anglo-Saxon England (D. S. Brewer, 2003).

An English translation of the Saint-Omer Vindicta Salvatoris manuscript was also published in Bart Ehrman, Zlatko Pleše, The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations (Oxford University Press, 2011).

The Anti-Semitic nature of the Vindicta Salvatoris by Thomas N. Hall was published in Samantha Zacher; Editor, Imagining The Jew In Anglo-Saxon Literature and Culture (University of Toronto Press, 2016).

French conspiracy theorist Christian Doumergueposits that the text is adapted from the Gospel of John, where the ‘image of Christ’ is but a metaphor for the ‘body of Christ’. And it is Veronica, originally Mary Magdalene, who has custody of this image/body.

However, the Vindicta Salvatoris identifies Veronica with the woman that had an issue of blood – a different person to Mary Magdalene (Matthew 9:20-26; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48; KJV); and who is not even mentioned in the Gospel of John, which Doumergue claims was adapted into the Vindicta Salvatoris.

Also, Veronica was identified with different women in different manuscripts during the medieval period. For example, in the Nuremberg Chronicle (first published in Latin 12 July 1493), Veronica was also called Berenice, “niece of King Herod, being the daughter of Salome” (The Sixth Age of The World, Folio XCV recto).

Doumergue’s research credibility needs to be challenged, because just like the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, he blundered by mistaking ninth-century Rabanus, Archbishop of Mainz, with fifteenth-century Pseudo-Rabanus, in the process mistaking the story of Mary Magdalene fleeing to France as a ninth-century text, instead of a fifteenth century text (upon which Doumergue places great reliance on his theories about Jesus Christ).

Doumergue also treats the apocryphal traditions about Claudia Procula as if they were historically factual – the name Claudia in relation to Pilate’s wife only dates from 1619 (from the Chronicon of Pseudo-Dexter, or Omnimoda Historia). The full name Claudia Procula was a later addition. Claudia Procula first became associated with Narbonne in Sainte Flavie Domitille: Histoire du 1er Siècle de l'Église. Par M. F. (1851, 1854; republished under the name Mathilde Froment, 1869).

This earliest account, probably an intentional work of historical fiction, was later translated into Slovenian by Luiza Pesjak, published in the Slovenian Catholic journal Kmetijske in rokodelske novice (Volume 23, number 15, pages 117-120, 12 April 1865). It was later published as an English rewritten translation by Catherine Van Dyke, “A Letter From Pontius Pilate’s Wife” (Pictorial Review magazine, Special Easter Feature, April 1929). It was also published in La Semaine Religieuse de Carcassonne in 1886.

So Doumergue’s trust (ditto Kris Darquis) in the story of Claudia Procula in France was probably originally a work of historical fiction by a Belgian female author who had a reputation for writing moralizing religious works that were popular during the period.

Christian Doumergue treats Christian apocrypha of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the same way as Christian apocrypha of the first ten centuries – and conflates all the accounts together – as if they all represented a coherent whole.

Vindicta Salvatoris is a pious Christian text. It may be just another legendary and apocryphal story without historical provenance, but it clearly represents the New Testament version of Christianity and not the “Jesus Bloodline” version of L'Énigme Sacrée (The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail).

Everything that Doumergue has committed to writing about Christianity is inspired by the mythical story of Bérenger Saunière at Rennes-le-Château – the story of a priest who in reality amassed a fortune from trafficking in masses – for which there are thousands of pages of evidence – that was transformed into a twentieth-century conspiracy theory – and has nothing to do with the origins of the New Testament or with the early history of Southern France.

The link between the Vindicta Salvatoris and Rennes-le-Château is another failed candidate.

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