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Priory of Rhedae

The village of Rennes-le-Château, from the time of antiquity to the Albigensian Crusade, was called Rhédae and was a large city that stood at the crossroads of culture and commerce. The most prosperous time for Rhédae seems to have been in the fifth century, when the city became the capital and “Fort Knox” of the Visigoths after they had captured and looted ancient Rome, allegedly grabbing the Jerusalem Treasure brought to Rome by Emperor Titus Vespasian.

Following the Albigensian Crusade, Rhédae was in ruins and most of its population killed, so there was nobody to rebuild it and on the ruins of the city the village of Rennes-le-Château appeared. Due to certain historic and geographical circumstances, the mountains surrounding Rennes-le-Château are decorated with the ruins of Cathar castles or commandories of the Order of the Temple. At the end of the 19th century the village became a destination for people fascinated by occult speculation about treasures of either the Albigensians, Templars or Visigoths hidden somewhere in the vicinity of Rennes-le-Château. This happened after a local priest, Francois Berenger Sauniere, during the restoration of his church, found four parchments in the hollow column supporting the altar stone, which had been built by Visigoths. Indeed, the church that he was in charge of was built in the eighth to ninth centuries, but the basement of this church can be traced back to the fifth century, when Visigoths were in possession of Jerusalem Treasure looted by the Roman army in Jerusalem, including everything they managed to find in the second Temple. Three of the parchments found by Sauniere contained genealogical trees. The first was dated 1243 and was sealed by Blanche of Castille; the second was dated 1608 and was sealed by Francois Pierre d’Hautpoul; and the third was dated April 24, 1625 and was sealed by Henry d’Hautpoul. The fourth pergament contained an encrypted message that was signed by Canon Jean-Paul d’Negr d’Fondargan and was dated 1753.

Parchment "Daugbert".


Parchment " The Shepherd girl".

This last document contained passages from the New Testament in Latin, but on one side of the parchment the words were written inconsistently, seemingly out of order, and contained letters that had no meaning. Obviously in different reports by the media about the mystery of Rennes-le-Château these passages would be presented as encrypted message and in the programming aired by the Discovery Channel and the BBC it would be presented as

"B RG R PAS D T NTATION QU POUSSIN T NI RS GARD NT LA CL F PAX DCLXXXI PAR LA CROIX T C CH VAL D DI U J'ACH V C DA MON D GARD N A MIDI POMM S BL U S

Translation: The cowgirl cannot be seduced by the fact that Poissin and Tenirs keep a key and this horse of God I am killing this demon who is keeping in afternoon apples.

This text is confusing and the only thing that one can extract from it without serious decryption is the name of two famous artists, Nicholas Poissin and David Tenirs. On the other side of this parchment there is a pretty clear message, which says:

"A DAGOB RTII ROI T A SION ST C TR SOR T IL ST LA MORT"

Translation: “Dagobert II, the King and to Zion this treasure belongs, and it is death.”

First of all one should mention that the famous artist Nicholas Poissin indeed had a very close relationship with the descendants of King Dagobert II of the Merovingian dynasty, and this fact has been discussed by art historians quite often in connection with his paintings. For instance, even before Sauniere found the parchments, one of the most discussed topics in the history of art was the decryption of two pictures "Les Bergers d'Arcadie: Et in Arcadia ego."(“The Shepherds of Arcadia: Even in Arcadia I Exist”) by Nicholas Poissin, the first of which was painted in 1630, and the second one in 1639. Both paintings show the same plot, two men and one woman opening up a mausoleum in some idyllic country setting. In the earlier painting, one of the men is obviously a symbolic figure. The interesting fact is that the earlier painting appears to be the only work of Nicholas Poissin that lacks his usual careful composition but instead displays an uncharacteristic spontaneity in the look and dynamic design of composition and somewhat impressionistic portrayal of a personal experience or even shock stemming from events in which the artist obviously took part.

"Les Bergers d'Arcadie: Et in Arcadia ego."
“The Shepherds of Arcadia: Even in Arcadia I Exist”
Nicholas Poissin 1639 (click).

The later picture, painted in 1637, quite to the contrary appears to be a masterpiece of well thought out composition and near mathematical perfection that was exceptional even for Nicholas Poissin. In connection with these two paintings it makes sense to hypothesize that Nicholas Poissin, together with his friend and a girlfriend (probably Gaspard and Anne-Marie Dughet), sometime right before 1629 opened a mausoleum of some kind and found there something they didn't expect, something that made a deep impression on them as it had a sacred meaning to them as members of some esoteric society. It was probably exactly this event that not only forced Nicholas Poissin to paint the first picture, but also made him sick for over a year. Following his recovery in 1630, he married Anne-Marie Dughet, who took care of him during his illness and with whom he could share this shocking experience. Nicholas and Anne-Marie kept the secret of whatever they found for almost ten years, at which time Nicholas probably decided to show it to somebody very powerful, but after this mission failed he decided to hide the treasure again.



"Les Bergers d'Arcadie:
Et in Arcadia ego"
Nicholas Poissin1630.


Pussen's memorial in Shugborough Hall

Poussen's tomb and memorial established by Chautobrian.

The fact that the treasure of Poissin and the events connected with its discovery was known to, and held a sacred meaning for, an esoteric group can be proved by the amount of attention that these works of Nicholas Poissin continued to attract, even up to our day. For instance, almost 100 years after Poissin’s death in 1750, James Stewart, the very famous architect and follower of Poissin’s tradition of neo-classicism, erected in the garden of Shugborough Hall in England a monument that appeared to be a sculptural composition reproducing the 1637 version of the “The Shepherds of Arcadia.” He added even more mystery to this story by placing on the base of the sculpture eight letters – OUOSVAVV – and by radically changing the composition, making it a mirror image of Poissin’s painting. In addition, the compositional pentagon that was characteristic of all of Poissin’s pictures and of which James Stewart, being a famous architect, had to have been aware, disappeared and an additional stick appeared in the hands of one of the shepherds.

Another hundred years later, the very famous poet and ambassador of Napoleon to the Vatican, Francois René de Châteaubriand, found Poissin’s grave and commissioned a memorial obelisk, decorating it with somewhat black humor when he had it inscribed with a slightly different version of the title of the picture "Et in Arca Ego" (“Now I am in a box.”) In addition, he reproduced the picture, not the mirror image, containing Poissin’s pentagon, but it still had two sticks as in the sculptural monument in Shagborough Hall.

Considering that Nicholas Poissin is mentioned in the parchments of Rennes-le-Château, it is reasonable to speculate that this esoteric society, which was interested in the treasure found by Nicholas Poissin and the parichments of Rennes-le-Château, counted among its members the d’Hautpoul family, Nicholas Poissin and his family, Giambattista Marino, Cassiano dal Pozzo, the Dughet family, James Stewart and Châteaubriand. It is particularly interesting that the owners of Shagborough Hall, the Anson family, one of the richest families in England, famous for its connection with the English Templar Knights, were probably also members of this esoteric society and there is data hinting that the head of the Anson family, a famous English admiral, who managed to surpass Sir Francis Drake in his love for the treasures of the Spanish Fleet, was related to Norman d’Hautpoul, and correspondingly to Nicholas Poissin. This at least does not contradicts the hypothesis that some of the d’Hautpouls are related to the Merovingians, as it is indirectly suggested by many of Poissin’s paintings and graphics.

"Les Bergers d'Arcadie: Et in Arcadia ego." 1637.
Comparison of the landscape on the "Et in Arcadia Ego" painted by Nicholas Poussin in 1637 with the surroundings of Renneis-le-Chatau/ Compositional analysis(click)
It should be mentioned that the paintings of Nicholas Poissin indeed appeared to be a kind of synthesis of science and art, an expression of mathematical formulae in color. Even the smallest details of Poissin’s compositions are based on the golden section and inscribed into the general composition on the basis of extremely complicated drawings, making so-called “sacred geometry” a fact. It cannot be a coincidence that the landscape depicted in the 1639 “Shepherds of Arcadia” is similar in each and every detail to the countryside surrounding Rennes-le-Château, especially if one considers that the artistic manner of Poissin and his rock solid compositions exclude the possibility of intuitive brush strokes. This characteristic feature of Poissin’s paintings is so well-known in the art world that in many cases any deviation in the composition makes it possible for an expert to tell whether it is forgery.

Thus, if one hypothesizes that the documents found by Sauniere and the paintings of Poissin hold the secret of Rennes-le-Château, and that this secret is somehow connected with the genealogy of the Merovingian dynasty and contains proof of their descendants as the legitimate rulers of Europe, and may even be able to exert some kind of pressure on powerful contemporaries, it is very reasonable to come to the following conclusion:
Nicholas Poissin, along with his friends, in 1629 opened up a mausoleum and removed from it a genealogy of the Merovingians and supporting documentation in order to submit it to Cardinal Richelieu, as the absence of an heir of Louis XIII for 24 years threatened to destroy all the achievements of the prime minister of France and Joan d’Arc, and thus ruin the country. Together with this documentation they found something that could support their cause, but made such a big impression on Nicholas Poissin, that made him sick. This esoteric group, of which Nicholas Poissin was a member, was hoping to get some support from Richelieu to claim the Merovingian right to the kingship of the Western Roman Empire. After the birth of an heir to the French throne this hope disappeared and the documents were hidden again, as Nicholas Poissin understood that the possibility of peacefully restoring the rightful monarchy did not happen very often, and that probably the next opportunity would come centuries later. Therefore, concerned by the possibility that future members of the esoteric society would somehow lose knowledge of this secret, Poissin painted the second picture for the sole purpose of showing them how to find the treasure that had been found by him in the mausoleum near Rennes-le-Château. This would explain the mathematical rigidness of the composition and calculated execution of the second painting, together with the similar title. It also proves that there is no way that this treasure was hidden in the same place as it had been found by Nicholas Poissin ten years before. The landscape in the picture, considering it is somewhat vague, relates to the place from which this treasure was taken, so that the members of the esoteric society, which we will call the Priory of Rhédae, would be able to understand that “The Shepherds of Arcadia” (1630) points to the treasure that was hidden somewhere around Rennes-le-Château.

The emotional reaction of Poissin that he expressed in the first picture proves that, while he was not the least important member of the Priory of Rhédae and that he somehow knew where to look for the treasure, but didn’t know what the treasure was, and when he found it he was deeply shocked. It follows from this that the documents found by Sauniere, though more recent, are in addition to the pictures of Poissin, not the other way around. It is very doubtful that the d’Hautpouls would have moved their treasure and risked its discovery in the background of post-Napoleonic France. If one places himself in Nicholas Poissin’s shoes he would understand a great deal. It is clear that Poissin’s picture was sending an encrypted message across the centuries to his followers about the place where he hid the treasure, and obviously he did not want it to be decrypted by some “smart Alec” outside of this esoteric society. Thus it is obvious that the key to this message is not only cryptographic, but also symbolic, so that a man without access to the most sacred legend of the Priory of Rhédae would never be able to crack it. So God bless Poissin. I don’t know anybody who would want to crack his secret and break his peace.

© 2010 Alexander Brodsky
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