Rennes-le-Château and Rennes-les-Bains

Rennes-le-Château and Rennes-les-Bains

GUEST POST - The Devil!

 The Devil’s in the Details by Leslie Cottle
   As you walk up the old stone pathway towards the Mary Magdalene Church, in the mysterious little town of Rennes-le-Chateau, in the heart of Languedoc, France, there is a curious latin inscription above the doorway etched in stone which loosely translates to "This place is Terrible."  Terrible you say? Oh my, what an interesting message our dear old friend L'Abbe Berenger Sauniere passes onto us from beyond the grave!  Though, if you keep an open mind, then perhaps it's not that ominous at all. The dictionary will tell us that it actually means "remarkable, formidable, familiar, great, fantastic or "pas terrible" meaning "nothing special."  So, he gives us something to ponder as we step through the passageway into this magical little chapel!  Perhaps its best to not take things too literally when dealing with this mystery, as one will discover, very little is as it seems. Perhaps the not so obvious message one might miss, at first glance is that this place is truly unique and a treasure to be cherished.  And "terrible" would not be my first choice to describe it, enchanting more comes to mind.
  It was he, the now infamous priest over a century ago who renovated this lovely little chapel and in the process was rumoured to have found a vast treasure and subsequently became a multi-millionaire over night!  Though to this day, no one has yet to reveal exactly what exactly he found but the speculations and rumours are endless!  Some say it was the Knights Templar Treasure or the Visigoth Treasure, others say the Cathar Treasure or several other elusive treasures  Others still, say it wasn't a monetary treasure at all but truth or knowledge, forbidden knowledge which someone paid handsomely to conceal perhaps.  Yet, it was the treasure trove of bizarre clues and encrypted messages in his not so traditional Catholic decor choices which have baffled scholars, researchers, historians, treasure hunters and mystery enthusiasts alike ever since.
Ladies And Gentlemen, Meet The Devil!
Though, without question, one of the more curious clues of all, eerily greets you at the door! As you step through the old wooden doorway, the first image which jumps out at you, quite literally, to your left, is something rather unique in a church and seemingly, quite frightful. There, crouching ominously, is a life size statue with the most ghastly expression upon his hideous face of, what some say is, the devil himself!
  Yet, that is just one of the endless arguments between researchers, treasure hunters, enthusiasts and anyone else who has a strong opinion on the subject because no one knows exactly who he is meant to represent and why he is crouched down staring gruesomely at the checkerboard floor with his eyeballs bugging out of his head and his mouth gaping wide open, as if he wants to share some deep dark nefarious secret with you.  But what exactly is this demonic secret and do we even really want to hear it?  What was Sauniere trying to tell us?  What encrypted message did he leave us here? The possibilities are in abundance. Perhaps was he warning us of something foreboding and "terrible" as the inscription may read?  Or, as the dictionary will tell us, maybe he was just telling us that this place is fantastic and formidable and not such a terrible place at all, nor is the little creepy demon at the door?  Though taking into consideration that this town and the church itself have been the subject of an endless string of unexplained and bizarre mysteries ever since, one must take pause and ponder.  Why, in Gods' name, would a priest put a statue of the devil at the entrance of a Catholic church unless it was a secret encoded message for those who came after him as a menacing clue to a dark mystery, only for those with eyes of which to see?  Or for the more level-headed ones, perhaps there is a much more logical and less nefarious explanation which weaves it's way into a much more intriguing meaning, upon closer examination. In all honesty, it is a tad difficult to know beyond a shadow of a doubt without asking him directly and we all know that no one can speak to the dead, right?  And thus we are left to our own devices, to study the clues, pour over the evidence and draw upon our own conclusions.
  Interestingly, there is a half clam shaped bowl or baptismal font, resting cumbersomely atop his crimson, red horned demonic head like a bold fashion statement. Which of course is meant to hold Holy water though more often than not, it's as dry as a bone. That in itself is a tad worrisome!  Does it perhaps boil and evaporate upon contact?  Recently I actually witnessed it filled to the brim and there was not a boiling bubble to be found!  I even touched it, just to make sure!
  And another interesting "coincidence" we can also see in one of the statues, Jesus is kneeling in the exact same position as our little devil while being baptized by John the Baptiste. Baptism, holy water on top of the head?  I would like to chalk it all up to a long string of mere coincidences but …really?  What was that connection supposed to represent?  If you have studied this mystery even remotely, you will discover that nothing is random, right down to the tiniest details, especially the "Devil's Details."  Everything has numerous possible meanings from the logical and obvious, to the totally obscure, far-fetched and bizarre. Thus, one must surmise that these clues are only left behind for certain people, perhaps "Initiates" with the gift or preparation to understand.  And for the poor unfortunate rest, they remain in the dark, theorizing and hypothesizing, until the cows come home!
Many refer to him as the powerful demon "Asmodeus," said to be the King of Demons back in the day. The first to make mention of this in print being Gerard de Sede, author of the well known book entitled "The Accursed Treasure" or "Le Tresor Maudit" which seemed to fuel the fires back in the late '60's that there was, in fact a vast monetary treasure buried in, or nearby this town.  And it is said that Asmodeus was the keeper or guardian of said treasure. So, was Sauniere trying to lead us to fortune and fame or something very different entirely?  Perhaps we should heed caution in taking things too literally and search for deeper, more symbolic explanations.  Though, the title did say "accursed treasure!"  Perhaps he was trying to warn us to stay away! Perhaps not all that glitters is in fact gold, as the old saying goes. Perhaps, he was warning us that we should not be tempted by the sins of lustful greed and stay true to our spiritual path. But you know humans, if someone whispers or even mumbles under their breath the words gold and treasure, they swarm like maniacal moths to that all too tempting yet deadly golden flame!
As Above, So Below
Asmodeus was also said to have assisted in building the Temple Of Solomon in Jerusalem by way of dark demonic sorcery.  And this brings up another interesting rumour, that there is another Temple Of Solomon hidden deep underground, beneath Rennes-le-Chateau or nearby.  A Temple Of Solomon in France?  How bizarre!  It is a well known fact that the area has a vast deep underground tunnel system which the Romans used in their mining of Iron and salt.  Yet these subterranean tunnels are also steeped in many mysterious stories and legends of danger, unexplained deaths and of course more hidden treasures!  We can't forget to mention that the Visigoths stacked Rome, made off with a vast treasure and promptly zipped up to, you guessed it, Rennes-le-Chateau immediately afterwards. There's proof that the Knight's Templar made their way there after finding the mysterious treasure under the Temple Of Solomon in Jerusalem.  Blanche de Castilles was said to have hidden her treasure in the area also. There was the elusive Cathar Treasure everyone keeps talking about which mysteriously vanished during the gruesome Albigensian Crusade. The Merovingian Kings were in the area and rumours circulated of a treasure as well. Marquise Marie de Negre D'ables, D'Hautpoul who actually lived in the famous Chateau Hautpoul in the town had her secrets and treasures buried there, perhaps in the crypt below the church and that's just naming a few!
  Also, above the statue are the two letters "BS" and I know what you're thinking but I don't think the first word was bull, Sauniere wasn't that comical!  Some assume this was simply his initials Berenger Sauniere but that would be far too easy!  Others say the B stands for Boudet, the name of Sauniere's good friend and fellow priest who was Sauniere's right hand man during the treasure hunting days and S for Sauniere. Still, far too obvious, I probed deeper, much deeper and pondered and something hit me right smack in between the third eye!  Sauniere was French, so I thought for a moment like a Frenchman, a very secretive Frenchman.
  King Solomon was said to have possessed a very powerful seal ring which he claimed was given to him from the heavens and it was engraved with the words "most great name of God," or true name of God.  It was said to have been made of brass and iron. Upon the brass part he wrote his commands for the good genii and on the iron part his commands for the bad genii or demons, which is how he apparently controlled them and got them to do his heavy lifting so to speak. It is also said that he received 4 jewels from 4 different angels which he set in the ring which gave him the ability to control the 4 elements.  Wait, did I just say 4 angels?   We'll get back to that in a minute. The legend goes that Asmodeus seized the magic ring and tossed it into the sea, thus relinquishing King Solomon's power.  But no worries, as luck would have it, King Sol went fishing and caught a random fish which just so happened to have his magic ring in the contents of its stomach, no sorcery there, I'm sure it was a total fluke!  That is reminiscent of another story of a certain masculine part of Osiris being cast into the river and being eaten by a fish. Its all very fishy indeed!
  So what does King Solomon's ring have to with the initials BS you ask?  Well, in French, Solomon's Ring translates to Bague de Solomon, "BS"!  Voila! Case closed, mystery solved, right?  If only it were that easy!  No matter how hard you try, the mystery never seems solved!  But we may be onto something here.
  Back in the church, above Asmodeus stands the statues of, you guessed it 4 angels, again relating to the legend of King Solomon's ring and the 4 magical stones. Each of them doing one sign of the cross and below them is the statement "Par Ce Signe Tu Le Vaincras" meaning "With This Sign You Will Conquer Him.  Did he mean the ever popular and Catholic church approved sign of the cross the angels were making would conquer said demon or the sign of the pentagram or Five pointed star of Solomon's seal Ring, BS?  Seeing as though that is said to be the magical ring which controls and exorcises demons? And considering how often you see pentagrams in the area, like the church in the mysterious nearby town of Alet-les-Bains or in the amazing sacred geometry of the landscape which our dear friend Henry Lincoln has discovered, they seem to be cropping up everywhere!  Another mere "coincidence?"
  So, was Sauniere trying to tell us in a rather roundabout and encrypted way that there is a strong connection linking this church and the legend of the underground Temple of Solomon? "As above, so below" they keep saying, thus, is this temple below? Below the church?  Below the landscape?  Was King Solomon's magical missing ring what perhaps Sauniere stumbled upon in his quest for treasure which coincidentally claims to have control over demons?  Did he perhaps discover this and bind the very powerful little demon Asmodeus beneath the church along with the accursed treasure and that's why the crypt has been inexplicably sealed, doors even walled up with stone, ever since? Or perhaps that's a little far-fetched. Are we digging too deep?
  There is another play on words I quite like when I put my French beret on, there are endless legends and rumours about certain mountains in the area being sacred and containing hidden treasures such as the stunning nearby mountain of Cardou which some say is the final resting place of Jesus Christ himself but that legend opens up a rather awkward can of worms with the Catholic church for obvious reasons!  So for now we shall let sleeping demons lie. Then there is the cave which was said to be the final resting place of Mary Magdalene not far from the town also. In fact, if you stand atop La Tour Magdala which Sauniere also had built, seemingly to honour Her you can see the cave!  Then, there is the mountain of Bugarach which ominously looms in the distance and is said to have contained or may still contain possibly "The Ark Of the Covenant of all things!  An amateur researcher in the late '80's by the name of Daniel Bettex was rumoured to have actually found this holy relic. Yet, oddly, but not surprisingly, he too died a strange and mysterious death, some say within the caves of this foreboding and strange mountain, taking his secrets with him.
  Also, there is a legend that the sacred mountain of Montsegur, a mere 22.2 miles away and the majestic chateau ruins atop her peak is or was rumoured to be one of the locations of a mysterious treasure. This was the last strong hold of the ill-fated Cathars back in 1244 who were barbarically slaughtered or burnt at he stake by the Catholic church.  And some say it was because they were the guardians of the Holy Grail  itself!  Though, none of these rumours have ever been confirmed nor denied, publicly anyway!
  Now, if you look at the word "demon", then you translate it to French, Daemon, it sounds eerily similar to "Des Monts" which translates to "the mountains."  There is a rather long and complicated theory I briefly touched upon, involving sacred geometry within the local landscape spear-headed by the very well known author and respected researcher Henry Lincoln which depicts pentagrams literally everywhere within the landscape.  And if you put all that together along with the theory of the checkerboard floor in the entrance of the church being somehow a map of the landscape which Boudet explains in his book "La Vrai Langue Celtique or "The True Celtique Language,"  we now have the "Daemon" in the church staring at a certain spot upon the checkerboard floor, along with a statue of Jesus in the church also staring at the same spot. Thus, one might let their imagination run wild with wonder that maybe, just maybe, our dear friend Sauniere was perhaps trying to tell us of a secret treasure hiding in "Des Monts" or the mountains nearby.  That, coupled with the fact that there is a stone in the shape of an armchair affectionately named "The Devil's Armchair"  just in the nearby village of Rennes-le-Bains. In Boudet's book he actually has the face of the devil within the landscape on his detailed map of the region, marking out a certain spot of interest, perhaps pin-pointing a very key location.  And lest we forget, not far from Montsegur there is a very remote lake named, you guessed it, Devil's Lake, high atop a mountain where some say the Cathars tossed their treasure into to protect it from the nasty crusaders and the church. And now you have yourself some rather compelling reasons to run out and buy a metal detector and head for the hills, shovel in hand, as many a treasure hunter has done, seemingly in vain for over a century!
  Asmodeus was also said to be the demon of Lust, one of the seven deadly sins of course. Some say he is responsible for twisting and contorting human's sexual desires and if you fall for his naughty trickery, you may find yourself headed straight for hell in a hand basket!  There are many conflicting stories as to who this little demon was and what kind of mischief he got into.  It is said that he fell in love, so to speak, with Sarah and each time a man tried to marry her, he killed him right before the wedding, out of blind jealousy, so that's proof alone that he was a die hard hopeless romantic, in demonic terms anyway!
  Another legend from the Talmud says he married the infamous "Lillith" and she became his queen.  And an even more bizarre and conflicting story is that he was said to be the love child of Adam and the angel of prostitution "Naamah," conceived while Adam was married to "Lillith," but then, that once again opens up another awkward can of Catholic worms doesn't it?  Adam and Eve being the first two people on the planet, according to the bible, where in tarnation did Lillith drop in from?  
  And then there was Elizabeth Van Buren's ground breaking research which stated that the true "Garden Of Eden" was in fact in the Rennes-le-Chateau area.  Are we seeing a pattern yet? But sadly, she was written off as a mad woman and not taken seriously.  But if you read her compelling book "Refuge Of The Apocalypse - Doorway To Other Dimensions," you may very well get an interesting perspective on this theory and so much more!
  Though, in truth, Sauniere never really confirmed to us that the devil by the door was in fact Asmodeus at all.  Was he trying to tell us to beware of the dangers of lustful desires?  Was he trying to warn us in some way that this place was filled with danger or is, in fact a "terrible place"?  Was it just another tool for the Catholic church to scare us into being good little boys and girls or else? Or, was his message a tad more complicated? I suppose we will never truly know for sure unless of course one day, the long sought after truth is alas revealed.  Like that's ever going to happen anytime soon!

  Until then, tourists will continue to pose for selflies with our little devil and continue to ponder and speculate.  And treasure hunters will continue to search feverishly in vain for that vast pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, apparently still lurking far beneath the Occitan soil, which may or may not even exist.  One must remember that the most valuable treasure of all is knowledge and that comes in many shapes and forms though is rarely in the shape of a golden cup!
  But I will add one little tidbit from personal experience. My first time entering this enchanting chapel, I was filming the long anticipated moment with my video camera and as I knelt down in front of him to get a better view of his ghastly face, something strange happened which I only discovered later. Upon viewing the footage, I noticed that the audio on my camera went completely haywire with a loud high pitched ringing and an over abundant amount of strange sound distortion, which seemed to get louder when I got closer and touched him.... almost as if he was reacting to my touch.  And come to think of it, the noise did sound an awful lot like a metal detector going off but I'm sure that  too was merely a "coincidence!"

Written By Leslie Cottle - October 7th, 2015 - revised October 15, 2015

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