The dream story of Rennes-le-Château (D. Rossoni)

There is the real story of Rennes-le-Chateau, which fits on a postage stamp, and its dream story, which fills entire libraries. Rehashed for decades, the latter does not require a long presentation: which, among history lovers, has never heard of the extraordinary discovery attributed to Father Bérenger Saunière (1852-1917), parish priest of this locality from 1885 to 1909?

The capital of French pseudo-history

Today, after several decades of “embroidery”, the literature concocted by Rennes, the “specialists” in the affair, attributes to the small village of Aude a role of choice in multiple decisive but obscured episodes of our political and religious history. . A crazy farandole crosses the pages of books - there are currently nearly five hundred on the subject - and websites, led by Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Alaric II, Dagobert II, Blanche de Castille, des Templiers, des Cathars, Nostradamus, Nicolas Pavillon, Louis XIV, Nicolas Fouquet, Nicolas Poussin, Vincent de Paul, Louis XVII, Habsburgs, Jules Verne, Maurice Leblanc, Emma Calvé, François Mitterrand… The chain is still long.

No wonder that so far professional historians have cautiously kept away from "the enchanted Hill", which since the media launch of the affair in 1956 has become a den of treasure hunters, pseudo-historians, para-archaeologists, Forteans, neo-occultists, neo-Templars, Rosicrucians ...

The serious historian is not, however, limited to the study of reality: historical deceptions and objectively unfounded collective beliefs can also be part of his field of investigation. Historical criticism makes it possible to show without difficulty that the adventures and the treasure / secret of the “Curé of billions” are based on a whole bundle of esoteric-fanciful interpretations of monuments, objects and texts, themselves partly invented or falsified.

From the ecclesiastical fact to the legend

Basically, the Rennes-le-Château affair therefore presents itself as a retrospective forgery or a mythical construction. A minor news item but taking on an unusual character and a symbolic dimension - the unexplained enrichment of a poor country priest who became a builder - was first skillfully narrated by a first author - in this case a man of not very scrupulous local business, novelist in his spare time, named Noël Corbu (1912-1968) -, who used and manipulated the “collective memory” of Rennains. This mythographer knowingly omitted the ordinary points of the priest's biography and underlined, or purely invented, details likely to strike the imagination. Other people with varied motivations - foremost among them the journalist-writer Gérard de Sède, author of l'Or de Rennes (1967), and his “documentalists” Pierre Plantard and Philippe de Chérisey - then took up and echoed this version. sensational, with successive elaborations and embellishments.

Much like the story of Louis XVII, this collective narrative, born during Saunière's lifetime, has in fact changed genre over time. The sumptuous character - according to the criteria of the contemporary Rennains of the abbot - of his constructions and his lifestyle as well as the uncertainty about the origin of the money spent first gave rise to village rumors - otherwise told to stories presented as authentic but whose veracity it was not possible as it stood.

An embryo of traditional legend relating to the discovery of a treasure (golden legend) or / and a posthumous penance of the priest (black legend) will develop from these rumors after the death of Saunière. In the thirties and forties, some Rennains tell for example that the pretty buildings were built "with the money of a found treasure", while for others the striking statue of the devil carrying the holy water font at the entrance. of the church is "the former priest who was turned into a devil". The discovery of a buried treasure or the condemnation of a secular priest to a posthumous penance for sins committed during his life - especially because he did not say the masses which had been paid to him - are common narrative motifs in the legendary French of past centuries.

French society, however, modernized quickly after World War II. The original events will be altered again in the contemporary legend, forged, a sign of the times, with an immediate commercial aim - Corbu has just opened a hotel in the village - by this inhabitant of urban origin and by journalists. , for the most part: the invigorating meals served in the former private domain of Saunière and his servant / mistress, are transformed into princely feasts, the local notables invited to his table are changed into a member of the government, an Austrian archduke or a Parisian singer, etc. Other classic legendary motifs, more or less rationalized, thus enrich the beautiful story in just a few years. In general, a historical legend is formed by amplification, displacement or / and reconstruction of real facts, in other words by their exaggeration, their transposition into a foreign context, their amalgamation with independent events or / and their remodeling to espouse a pre-existing scenario.

From southern legend to world myth

This legend of the discovery of a fabulous material treasure - according to the inclinations of the authors, the treasure of the Visigoths, the Templars, the Cathars ... - will soon be largely replaced by that of a spiritual treasure, which will in turn flow in the myth of the Grand Monarque with the episode of Merovingian descent - forged by Plantard and De Chérisey, the duo that hid behind the alleged Priory of Sion, a fictitious organization subsequently popularized on a planetary scale by the Da Vinci Code (2003) by Dan Brown - then in the great myth of the West, the Christian myth, with the appearance of nothing less than Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene.

The contemporary myth forged by the Rennes players is of Gnostic inspiration: a humble person - Saunière or his colleague from Rennes-les-Bains Boudet in certain recent versions - discovers the existence of a secret that can change the world and accesses the state of great initiate. Gnosticism offers an individualistic spirituality well suited to our era of generalized tinkering of religious beliefs: from the Sacred Enigma (1982), a bestseller composed by the Anglo-Saxon trio Lincoln, Leigh and Baigent, a host of authors will thus produce a multiplicity of “heretical” theological opinions by exploring various variants of the Rennes myth.

The little history of Rennes-le-Château now makes it possible to recap - and discuss - the entire mythological history of the Western world: Kabbalah, Hermeticism, alchemy, Catharism, Order of the Temple, Rose-Croix, Freemasonry, Martinism, etc. . The last mediatized story to date testifies to an additional inflation of the myth, which now also swallows up the Mayan calendar: Bugarach, the “sacred” mountain which dominates the local landscape, will be for certain followers of the “New Age” the only one. land site spared during the end of the world scheduled for December 2012 ...

Historian by training and archivist by profession, David Rossoni is interested in the scientific imagination in all its forms and, critically, in pseudo-scientific approaches. In this last field, he notably co-wrote in 2007 "CNES UFOs, thirty years of official studies (1977-2007)", historical and critical assessment of the action of the controversial study group of unidentified aerospace phenomena, dependent on the National Center for Space Studies.

David Rossoni, The Dreamed History of Rennes-le-Château - Insights into a contemporary collective narrative, BoD, 2010, 288 p.

Video: Henry Lincoln Speaks 02: Rumors of Treasure at Rennes-le-Château (January 2022).