The Golden Age Restored

The Golden Age Restored
Nicolas Poussin, Pope Alexander VII and Christina of Sweden and the Roman
“There is no higher religion than the truth”
Motto of the Theosophical Society
As we have already hinted at previously in April 1656 the Abbé Fouquet wrote to
his brother Nicolas Fouquet who was the superintendent of finances at the court of
Louis XIV. The passage is well known and its authenticity is not disputed. It says:
“He [Poussin] and I discussed certain things, which I shall with ease be able
to explain to you in detail – things which will give you, Through Monsieur
Poussin, advantages which even kings would have great pains to draw from
him, and which, according to him, it is possible that nobody else will ever
discover in the centuries to come. And what is more, these are things so
difficult to discover that nothing now on earth can prove of better fortune
nor be their equal”
This letter is even recognised by the Poussin expert Sir Anthony Blunt and is
probably one of the most enigmatic pieces of information to come out of this
whole affair. What are these “certain things” that the Abbé Fouquet talked about
with Nicolas Poussin? What is significant that Nicolas Fouquet himself became so
rich that his wealth began to rival that of the king and that Fouquet was eventually
arrested and kept in confinement? The king Louis XIV bought the painting ‘Les
Bergers d’Arcadie’ but kept it hidden in his private apartments in Versailles.
Perhaps I should point out that the letter says that these “advantages” will be
gained specifically through Monsieur Poussin. He does indeed appear to be the key
as the decrypted parchment text stated. However the Abbé Fouquet may have
underestimated the abilities of people in the centuries to come. What were the
influences in Poussin’s early development and who were his acquaintances?
Although of French birth Poussin spent most of his life in Rome and when he died
in 1665 he was buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucino close to the Via del
Corso in Rome itself. In 1830 the French nobleman Chateaubriand made a
dedication of a sculpture in the church to Poussin. Out of the 350 or so paintings
done during Poussin’s career that he could have chosen from, Chateaubriand chose
the theme ‘Les Bergere d’Arcadie as the sculpture. Why was this one chosen –
again? At the bottom is an inscription that says:
Do not cry piously, in this tomb Poussin lives
He has given his life without knowing himself how to die
He is quite here but, if you want to hear him speak,
It is surprising how he lives and speaks in his paintings
Poussin was born in Les Andelys, France in 1594. Les Andelys is a beautiful town in
Normandy where Richard Coeur de Leon (Richard I of England and Duke of
Normandy) had built the Chateau Gaillard on the site of a former Druidic Temple.
Poussin was from a poor family, his father had been a soldier, and he received
most of his early professional training at home. The story is that during this period
Poussin wandered around France plying his trade as a painter but nothing remains
of his work from this period. At the recommendation of Varin, Poussin left for Paris
in 1612 where he entered the workshop of the mannerist painter J. Lallemald. His
training was enhanced by independent study of Italian art from the Royal
Collections. By the end of the first decade of the 17 th century Poussin became a
master in his own right and received commissions for the decoration of the
Luxembourg Palace in Paris, and the altarpiece
Assumption of the Virgin. From this period of his Paris
period (1612-23) only his drawings based on Ovid’s
Metamorphosis have survived. In 1622 Poussin was
eventually commissioned by the Jesuits to do a painting
in a Notre Dame chapel and as a result he came to the
attention of Giambattista Marino, the celebrated Italian
poet then at the Tuscan court of Marie de Medici who
was the author of the epic poem “L'Adone” which was
dedicated to the young King Louis XIII. Marino was from
Calabria and had been greatly inflenced by the
polymath and scientist Giambattista Della Porta who
had written Magiae Naturalis (Natural Magic) and in this
book he had covered a variety of the subjects that he
had investigated, including the study of: occult
philosophy, astrology, alchemy, mathematics, meteorology, and natural
philosophy. Another subject that he was famous for had been cryptography about
which a collector of cryptographic historical documents Charles J. Mendelsohn
“He [Della Porta] was, in my opinion, the outstanding cryptographer of the
Renaissance. Some unknown who worked in a hidden room behind closed doors
may possibly have surpassed him in general grasp of the subject, but among those
whose work can be studied he towers like a giant.”
Giambattista Della Porta described the first known digraphic substitution cipher
which foreshadowed the concept of polyalphabetic substitution cipher which the
Vigenère cipher used in the Shepherdess Parchment which introduces Poussin to
this story is probably the most well known example.
Marino had also followed the philosophy of the heretics Giordano Bruno, best
known as a proponent of the heliocentric theory (whom we shall discuss later in
more detail), and Tommaso Campanella who was also from Calabria. Campanella,
a Rosicrucian,
He had claimed that he could:
“Make a city in such a wonderful way that only by looking at it all of the sciences
could be learned”
He called this
He went on to predict that it would be Louis XIV that would eventually go on to
build such a city.
Poussin went with Marino to Italy in 1623, first to Venice then in 1624, he went to
Rome. The 1620s in Italy were years of intensive learning for Poussin with some
active creative work and after only four years he was commissioned to paint an
altarpiece for a chapel in St. Peter’s Cathedral Martyrdom of St. Erasmus which
occupied him from 1628 until 1629). At that period he acquired the style that we
now know as Baroque and this culminated in The Virgin of the Pillar Appearing to
St. James the Greater, which was ordered for a church in the Spanish Netherlands.
Marino had died in 1625 after only a few short months leaving the thirty year old
Poussin alone and without means in a strange city and he was forced to do manual
labour. Eventually Poussin made friends in Rome with other classical scholars, who
played the main role in turning Poussin into an erudite and intellectual
Eventually this work reached the attention of the influential Cardinal Richelieu and
finally came to Louis XIII and to the Louvre. Poussin was evidently frustrated and
disappointed by his lack of success in the intensely competitive field of baroque
altarpiece painting and he never attempted this style again. In 1629, Poussin
married his landlord’s daughter. During his first period in Rome (1624-30) Poussin
concentrated on mythological themes, with scenes of sweet love and inspiration
from poetical works. Towards the end of the 1620’s early 1630’s Poussin painted a
work that is currently in the Gemaldegalerie in Berlin called Helios and Phaeton
with Saturn and the Four Seasons. The theme alludes to Ovid’s story of Phaeton,
son of Helios, and his attempt to drive the golden chariot with four horses yoked
across the sky normally driven by his father. Hours yoked the horses for Phaeton
and Dawn threw open her doors and he set off. But he had no skill and was soon in
trouble and the climax came when he met the fearful Scorpion of the Zodiac and
he dropped the reins. The horses bolted and caused the earth to catch fire. In the
nick of time Jupiter, father of the God’s stopped the runaway chariot with a bolt
of lighting and sent Phaeton down to earth and into the River Eridanus where he
was buried by nymphs. The devoted friend of Phaeton was Cygnus who strove to
resuscitate Phaeton Jupiter took pity on Cygnus and turned him into a swan and
placed him into the sky. In the painting Poussin has used the Sun-God Helios in the
form of Apollo; Phaeton kneels in front of him asking if he can drive the chariot.
In the next decade history became the main subject of Poussin’s work. In his
paintings of the 1630s the compositions are complex and compound with many
characters, they remind of the classical tragedy on stage. In this period Poussin
painted his Les Bergers d’Arcadie. Poussin used a special box and moulded wax
figures. He first he built his compositions, then started to draw preliminary
sketches, and only then did he paint. Other best-known works of the period are –
The Rescue of Pyrrhus (1634), The Noble Deed of Scipio (1640) and very popular in
his time were the so-called bacchanal series, commissioned especially by Cardinal
Richelieu. One of these paintings is Triumph of Neptune and Amphitrite (1634).
Those paintings were supposed to decorate the cardinal’s palace, and this fact
indicates that the interest to Poussin in France grew. In the second half of the
1630s the young artists in Paris chose to follow Poussin’s style in historical genre.
The King’s officials wanted to return the artist to France but Poussin did not hurry
back. He came to France only in 1640, after being virtually threatened by the King
and it is interesting to note that also at this same time another invited to France
against his better judgement was Giovanni Domenico Cassini, the mapmaker (more
on the Cassini family in the next chapter). In Paris Poussin was immediately
appointed the person in charge of all art works in the King’s palaces. This caused
violent jealousy on the part of other court artists; Vouet headed the opposition.
For about two years Poussin painted altarpieces and canvases for Richelieu who
also supervised the decorative works in the Grand Gallery in Louvre. His time in
Paris was an unhappy time for Poussin and significantly in our story he only
produced two paintings during this period.
His schism with Caravaggio is well documented; Poussin detested the affected airs
of the ‘fashionable’ painters like Caravaggio. He declared that Caravaggio was out
to destroy painting and called his work “painting for lackeys”. From this it is clear
that Poussin sought to achieve by his doctrine of ‘imitation’ to reproduce nature in
his paintings with conformity and reality and in his letters it is clear that held a
great interest in archaeology and collected old coins and became a scholar of
Greek mythology. He used scientific methods, measuring statues, consulting basreliefs, studying painted vases, sarcophagi and mosaics. What is strikingly obvious
when one studies Poussin is that he never painted scenes from the Gospels and
when he did paint Christ he was always depicted as a weak or submissive
character, for example the painting called ‘Penitence’ where he has his feet being
anointed by Mary of Bethany (The Magdalene) painted for Versailles but now in the
Louvre. He produced few paintings whilst at the behest of Cardinal Richelieu in
Paris. ‘Penitence’ was painted for the church of St Germain en Laye at Versailles.
Another painting he produced during this period was “The miracle of St Francis
Xavier” which he painted for the Jesuit novitiate. The third is a round ceiling
painting called the ‘Triumph of Truth’ this he did for Richelieu’s chateau at Rueil.
The only portrait he ever painted was of himself and it is once again enigmatic for
in the background is an unknown painting of a Romanesque woman embracing
someone out of the picture, her headdress shows the Third-Eye.
In the late 1620s, Nicholas Poussin produced a number of sketches of the
Annunciation, culminating in two paintings from the 1650s, one of which still
survives at Chantilly. One feels the need to ask why Poussin should paint this
theme twice in such a short space of time. The Annunciation depicts Mary, mother
of Jesus receiving the word from the Archangel Gabriel that she will conceive
Jesus six months after Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharie conceived John the Baptist.
Internal evidence suggests a 15th-century influence in the first of Poussin’s
paintings of the Annunciation, and the relative positions of the figures in the
painting and particularly the wings are reminiscent of that in another Annunciation
painted by an unknown artist. It resembles that of the Aix panel, a triptych that
one London Times correspondent on the 21st January 1932 once wrote was, in his
opinion, painted by a “Satanist and probably an ecclesiastic”. This suggestion
carries some weight because the then Archbishop of Aix, Robert Mauvoisin was
accused of sorcery and convicted of having celebrated Black Masses with the blood
of small children and was condemned by Pope John XXII. There is no denying that
his early 1655 painting of the Annunciation clearly shows the Archangel Gabriel
with eagle’s wings and clearly is a copy of the triptych at Aix en Provence. On
studying Poussin’s earlier work this does appear to be a shift from what we have
come to expect, however in a short space of time he paints another depiction of
the annunciation and this time the angel is fundamentally different.
Annunciation 1655
Both paintings by Nicolas Poussin
But perhaps the most striking aspect of the Aix triptych is its title given to it by the
inhabitants of Aix. They have given it the curious nickname:
“Le diable a vecu tranquillement dans son stoup saint de l’eau”
“The devil lived quietly in his holy water stoup”
Curiously Poussin reproduced a second version of this theme of the Annunciation in
1657 (shown on the right) and one is reminded that Poussin’s enigmatic meeting
with the Abbé Fouquet took place in between these two works in 1656. The
iconography is very unusual; Mary sits cross-legged like an eastern woman, her
arms open wide, while the angel makes hieratic (priestly) gestures rare in 17thcentury Annunciations, but more common in the 15th century depictions. Dr Jane
Costello, an authority on the Valguarnera trial that involved Nicolas Poussin, is of
the opinion that this painting was a design for a funeral monument to Poussin's
friend and mentor Cassianio Del Pozzo, a distinguished antiquarian scholar. If this
is the case this is a decidedly odd theme for a funeral monument. Pozzo was to be
buried in the Church of Santa Maria Topa Minerva, which stood on the site of an
ancient sanctuary of the goddess Isis, and Friedlaender suggests that Poussin's
painting combines the characteristics of three divinities - Mary, Minerva and Isis.
He also observes that the posture of the female figure seems to represent the
sedes sapientiae - seat of wisdom.
What is the difference between the two paintings? Well the two most striking
differences are the wings of the angel and the clothing of Mary, in the 1655 version
they are eagle’s wings but in the 1657 painting they are the wings of a Swan.
Poussin is known to have been a profound student of ancient myths from original
sources including Ripa's Iconologia and apparently constantly carried Cartari's
Images of the Gods with him. He embodied Neoplatonic doctrines in his paintings
and it is widely accepted that Poussin's paintings contain multiple layers of
meaning, often blending Pagan and Christian themes and one of the major sources
of this learning was from the library of Pozzo.
The second Annunciation is the only late painting by Poussin that is signed and
dated. It also contains a large inscription to commemorate the fact that it was
painted in the reign of the Fabio Chigi otherwise known as Pope Alexander VII
(1599-1667). Poussin might have been thought to take quite a risk when he
mentioned the Pope in such a painting, but it seems that he knew exactly what he
was doing. Alexander VII, elected Pope in 1655, had put an end to the
Heliocentrism issue that had been proposed by Copernicus a century earlier and
had published his Index Librorum Prohibitor Alexandri VII Pontificis Maximi jussu
editus which he prefaced with the Bull Speculatores Dominus Israel. It should be
said that in 1655, when Poussin painted his first Annunciation, the astronomer
Picard had measured a degree and from it the size of the earth. At this point a
prominent Alchemist and Rosicrucian enters our story, she is Queen Christina of
Sweden who was born on a prominent astrological conjunction and whom Pope
Alexander VII personally baptised her into Catholicism on Christmas Day 1655 after
her abdication in 1654. She later fell out with the legate in Rome, more on this
enigmatic lady later.
The church of Rennes le Chateau has a stained-glass-window of Mary of Bethany
anointing the feet of Jesus. In the Catholic Church it is accepted that Mary of
Bethany is Mary Magdalene but not so in Protestant churches. Above is another of
Poussin’s paintings depicting this scene painted by Poussin in 1646 during his
second period in Rome after returning from Paris.
This painting is called PENITENCE and one is reminded of the pillar underneath
‘Our Virgin of Lourdes’ in the Rennes le Chateau church garden were Saunière
placed the words ‘PENITENCE PENITENCE’.
If you remember the reason we involve Poussin in this mystery at all is the mention
of him in the parchment text. It says
Whoever wrote this and whenever this was written it clearly refers to his most
famous painting and the one that appears to have been repeated again and again
from Italy to England the Classical Arcadian theme called Les Bergers d’Arcadie The Shepherds of Arcadia the second painting with this title and painted around
1638 and this currently hangs in the Musée du Louvre in Paris. It has been said that
Saunière took a copy of this painting from Louvre but there is no record of this,
although one is tempted to ask why one must expect there ever should have been
a record.
The scene is obvious and depicts the ideal utopia, the Golden Age where three
shepherds and a shepherdess looking over a tomb in the idyllic landscape of
Arcadia, first referred to by the Roman writer Virgil. This is a scene from what is
generally known as the ‘Golden Age’ of man. They are contemplating the message
‘Et in Arcadia ego’ written on this tomb suggesting that even an idyllic world there
is always death – “and in Arcadia I (death) am present” hardly the Christian
message of everlasting life and Poussin is by no means the only painter to have
covered this theme. The concept of a Golden Age is a common feature amongst
many cultures, in India for example it is called Satya Yuga and a few modernists
notably Walter Cruttenden have surmised in his book entitled Lost Star of Myth
and Time that these ages have a basis of fact that is indirectly due to the motion
of the solar system around another set of stars and galaxies.
Poussin’s rendering of Les Bergers d’Arcadie has been copied elsewhere and most
notably at the English stately home of the Anson family at Shugborough Hall. It
seems that it was Lady Anson who was the prime mover for placing the reversed
frieze of Poussin’s famous painting in an alcove that was designed by Thomas
Wright. The Earl of Lichfield George Anson had married Elizabeth Yorke, daughter
of Philip Yorke, Lord Chancellor of Hardwicke in 1748. Her portrait was painted by
Vanderbank before her marriage and she is dressed as a shepherdess. Another
picture can be seen at Shugborough holding a copy of the Shepherds of Arcadia by
Poussin. The Anson’s library contains works from Virgil, Ovid, Sannazaro, Sir Philip
Sidney and Spenser, all authors who used Shepherds in Arcadia as a theme in their
writings. One literary work which directly alluded to in Lady Anson’s letters is
“L’Astree” by Honore D’Urfe. She had five volumes of the 1617 edition of Astree
and these are still in the library at Shugborough. L’Astree is the French equivalent
of Sidney’s Arcadia but the idealised setting is in France not Greece it is also
mixed with Protestant propaganda. In this version the Shepherdess is Astree named
after the Goddess of Justice who is called Astrea by Virgil and Ovid. Astrea is the
Virgin daughter of Zeus and Themis and is likened to the constellation of Virgo and
is the Goddess of Justice because of the close proximity of the scales of Libra, she
is depicted on top of the Old Bailey in London, the British Law Court. In the French
version of l’Astree the shepherds and Shepherdess live on the banks of the river
Lignon just west of Lyon. Interestingly this story features a Druid called Adamas
and this appears to be the very first occasion in literature where the Druids are
mentioned. The story also includes Meroveus the principle king of the Merovingian
dynasty. Madam Helena Blavatsky also identifies Astrea as the constellation of
Virgo in her Theosophical Glossary.
Lady Anson’s letters are possibly one of the keys to this mystery. In a letter to
Thomas Anson on September 20th 1750 she speaks of the “Gentil Berger” and she
remembers that since she left “les delectables rives de votre belle Lignon”
(delectable banks of the beautiful Lignon) she has never ceased remembering the
happy moments among the “ces Vallons Fleuis, ces Collines ombrageuzes, ces Eux
claires et andoyantes, et sur tout ces Bergers et Bergeres so courtois et aimable
qu’un le trouve”. (These small flowered valleys, these ombrages hills, these Eux
Clairs and Andoyantes and on all these Shepherds and Shepherdesses courteous and
pleasant that one finds there), she continues that her heart merits the name of
“Mirroir de la Vraie Reconnaissance” (Mirror of the true Reconnaissance) a feature
of Astree. She also alludes to the “Fontaine de la Verite d’Amour (Fountain of true
Love) in the Palace of Isoure in which true lovers could see themselves before the
evil fairy put a spell on it. One month prior to her writing this letter in August 1750
Lady Anson wrote to her sister-in-law Jemima Grey informing her that she is
copying the Duke of Devonshire’s picture “5, 6, 7 or 8 hours a day” that had been
lent to her at her father’s London home at Carshalton, this is the first version of
the shepherds of Arcadia that Poussin painted which is still on show at Chatsworth
House, the ancestral home of the Duke of Devonshire. Lady Anson died in 1760 and
is buried in the Colwych parish church of Saint Michael and All the Angels and this
is very significant to our story.
This reference to Astree (Astrea) will be expanded upon in the final chapter
however in Virgil’s Golden Age this perfect world was under the rule of Saturn and
in his fourth Eclogue he includes the prophecy of the return to this Golden Age,
clearly an allusion to astrology. He says:
“Iam redit et virgo redeunt Saturnia regna” –
“Now returns Virgo, and returning Saturn reigns”
Shugborough is built in the neo-classical style and the shepherd’s monument is the
gateway declaring the link to Poussin’s ideal Arcadia. A drive at Shugborough on
the way to Tixall Hill crosses the river Sow and the bridge carries the inscription
that is straight from Ovid’s Golden Age:
Here is perpetual spring.
Large amounts of ink have been spilled in various publications over this painting
Les Bergers d’Arcadie and this phrase Et in Arcadia Ego. It is usually forgotten that
the only reason we discuss Les Bergere d’Arcadie with respect to Saunière and his
apparent wealth is entirely due to the large encoded parchment. The decryption
says ‘Poussin Teniers Guard the Key’ and as encryption rarely uses superfluous
lettering then we are talking of a specific key. This painting does indeed ‘Guard
the Key’ The Key of Solomon’s Temple and remember that the name Solomon is
made up of three words that mean the sun. Why should Poussin be able to discuss
“certain things” with a French priest who was brother to the king’s superintendent
of Finance? Well the king of France was about to undertake a large expensive
project to fix a meridian line and map the whole region of his influence and he
would employ the best astronomer of the time Cassini in order to do this.
Additionally Louis XIV (The Sun King) was also involved in a major project to
remodel Paris as a Sun Temple involving the Italian architect Bernini.
Poussin did not finish his work in Paris and fled back to Rome, the reason normally
given is that other artists, like Simon Vouet became jealous. It was in this period
that Poussin also stood in some kind of conflict with the monarch. From 1642 until
his death in 1665 Poussin continued to work mainly in historical genre back in
Rome and this included the Seasons series (1660-64) which includes the painting
for autumn entitled Grapes of the Promised Land showing some Blue grapes the
size of Apples being stolen, a passage from Numbers 13:23 featuring a place called
The Brook of Eshcol.
One will recall that a similar tomb as the one in Poussin’s painting used to be
situated at Les Pontils close to the road from Couiza to Arques and despite some
incredible and futile attempts to suggest otherwise the tomb was overlooked by
Rennes le Chateau up until 1989. It is said that this tomb was built in the 1930s
and that because of this the detractors insist that the whole thing must be a hoax
and once again we see the strange logic adopted by these people that because a
tomb was built there in the 1930s then therefore one wasn’t there before this. I do
not propose to waste reams of paper and at the same time bore the reader in
order to enter into this discussion save to say that the rebuilding of the tomb in
the 1930s in no way proves or even suggests that there wasn’t a tomb there in
Poussin’s day. Indeed one could reasonably ask as to why someone thought it
prudent to put a tomb in the 1930s (or any other time) on this apparently nonconsecrated ground in this very spot of rocky ground that is hardly suited for
burial. The site is not even overlooked but it seems that in recent years across the
Couiza to Arques road it has become a favourite spot to have ones relatives,
usually the female members only, buried.
Unfortunately one always looks instantly for sacred geometry in both the Poussin
and the Teniers paintings and indeed they may well have used this to compose
their paintings. But the paintings contain other features that are usual in their own
right, for instance the rather odd looking shadow on the tomb cast by the blue
shepherd’s arm which is particularly odd since the light source is behind the tomb.
The shepherds are usually named by the colour of their respective clothing and
that is another feature that must be significant, they all wear different coloured
attire. The red shepherd looks around awkwardly with wild eyes at the
shepherdess and has quite distinctive russet coloured hair and he points not at the
Latin phrase but at the vertical line. I personally am always drawn to the dove-like
cloud on the top right of the canvass seemingly holding a branch in its beak. This is
perhaps symbolic of
Semiramis (better known to some as the Statue of Liberty) or the branch bearer
but then again it could be simply reading into this something that isn’t there. A lot
of talk has been made about the similarity of the landscape this is however
subjective and may be correct or it may not be. Obviously the central steeply
rising mountain towering above the tomb carries come significance and many
people have looked for something resembling this in the landscape of France. But
as we shall see later a very well known landmark to the west of Rennes le Chateau
bears a striking resemblance to the central rock. The steep sides and the castlelike structure on the top is feature of some Cathar castles that seem to blend into
the rock foundation there is one such structure and it is shown below. Is the
central rock a depiction of Montségur?
The tomb in contains the phrase: ET IN ARCADIA EGO and this phrase is being
indicated only by the kneeling blue shepherd. The tombstone apparently over the
grave of Marie de Blanchefort also carried the phrase but written in Greek
lettering. What has been suggested is that the Abbé Bigou made this stone either
to cover Marie de Blanchefort’s tomb in the late 18th century or perhaps more
likely removed the stone itself that had been placed at the spot at Les Pontils in
the 17th century. It is really unlikely that we shall ever get any positive
confirmation of this so perhaps we can look at this tombstone itself and discuss it,
whatever the origin these two, the painting and the tombstone, are to be viewed
together because of the phrase ‘Et In Arcadia Ego’ that they both contain.
The slab stone of Marie de Blanchfort is shown below right, the most obvious piece
of lettering is the repeat of the phrase from the Poussin tomb ET IN ARCADIA EGO
written down the sides using the Greek alphabet. This tombstone is now missing or
possibly defaced, for there is a stone that has clearly been systematically defaced
in the Rennes Museum and a noble lady of Marie de Blanchefort stature would have
had a flat stone over her grave. There are many features here that are worthy of
comment. The presence of this stone was attested by an Ernest Cros in the 1930s.
It is important to know that older drawings of this stone feature the crosses inside
a triangle the one on the right having the letter ‘I’ also inside the
RÉDDIS RÉGIS you will recall was mentioned by a researcher from
the 1960s and means Return of the King. The CÈLLIS ARCIS may
well refer to the Celestial Arc, the arc described by the meeting of
the equatorial and the ecliptic (more on this later). Although this is
bad use of the French language (a common feature of this story) it
probably refers to the practice of Kings regaining their crown on
the alignment of some celestial event. This is of course precisely
what Jesus did, hence the Magi following the star of Bethlehem to
worship he that is called King of the Jews. The vertical line on the
tomb splits the phrase in two after the word ARC (a possible
reference to the RosaeCrucis) and before. The original author
clearly felt the need to place the I inside the ∆ so it must be
What remains is more interesting, firstly there is this unusual P – S with a crudely
drawn spiral around it. This is not, as some have said, a representation of the
Priory of Sion because it says P – S not PS, in other words it means P to the S and
spiralling back again. This immediately draws us to a document deposited in the
Bibliothèque Nationale and, perhaps wrongly in this case, referred to as the Priory
Documents called Le Serpent Rouge. Le Serpent Rouge is a stanza written by three
persons who a supposedly hanged themselves within a day of each other, most
likely names taken from newspaper articles. The poem is subtitled ‘Notes on Saint
Sulpice and Saint Germain des Prés’, it does not specifically refer to Rennes le
A characteristic of Le Serpent Rouge is that they are always linked to a Zodiac
sign. One of the verses called Scorpio says:
There is a celestial vision for the one who recalls the four tasks of EM. SIGNOL
around the line of the meridian; the same Choir (heart) of the sanctuary from which
radiates the source of love for one another. I turn looking at the rose of P then to
that of the S. Then from the S to the P until my mind is dizzy. The spiral in
my mind becomes like a monstrous octopus expelling its ink, the shadows
absorb the light. I put my hand to my mouth, biting my palm, maybe like OLIER
in his coffin. Curses, I know the truth, HE HAS PASSED, in doing GOOD as did
HE of the flowery tomb. But how many have pillaged the HOUSE, leaving only
embalmed corpses and a number of metal things they could not carry? What strange
mystery is concealed in the new Temple of SOLOMON, built by the children of ST.
That this refers to the Rose Line in the church of Saint Sulpice in Paris needs little
confirmation, the phrase ‘from which radiates the source of love for one another’
is obvious reference to the Rose and this church has been known for most of its
existence as the New Temple of Solomon. The writer of this verse in the Le
Serpent Rouge mentions Emile Signol and his controversial four works of the Rose
Line Gnomon much despised by the painter Eugene Delacroix and the rose is of
course the symbol of love for one another. It is important to state that the
construction of the gnomon was not thought of until 1727 by the then priest of
Saint Sulpice Languet de Gercy, this was 62 years after the death of Poussin. The
reason was to help calculate the time of the equinoxes (day and night equal) and
accurately mark the time of Easter, it being held on the first full moon after the
spring equinox.
If you stand on the copper strip that denotes the Rose Line of Saint Sulpice and
look north and south there are two ‘Rose’ windows that have a P and an S
intertwined. The authorities say that these refer to St Peter and St Sulpitus and
this is very likely correct. Saint Peter (feast day June 29) is of course Simon Peter:
The Fisherman. He is the first Pope and all Popes wear the Fisherman’s ring, here
he represents the Roman Catholic Church. Saint Sulpitus on the other hand is
Sulpitus the Pious (or the Débonaire). Saint Sulpitus’ feast day is the 17 th January,
a date close to the winter solstice that keeps recurring.
What the writer of the verse in Le Serpent rouge is referring to here is that the
fixing of the line is controversial and alternates between the two feast days.
Another church on the Rose line less than a ten minute walk away called St
Germain des Prés. This church has a rose boss in the ceiling that shows S – P
separated by a crown.
“….rose of P then to that of the S. Then from the S to the P until my mind is dizzy
The rebuilding of the church of St Sulpice commenced in 1645 on the site of an
older church that had been on the fields (prés) of the Abbey of St Germain and
interestingly now we find that this Abbey of St Germain had been the necropolis of
the Merovingian Kings of Neustria, an area of France that contained Soissons and
later Paris that stretched from Aquitaine to the English Channel and from the Bay
of Biscay to another Merovingian Kingdom of Austrasia. Dagobert II had reigned
over (he did little actual ruling) Austrasia but had never ruled Neustria. He was
assassinated probably on the orders of the mayor of the palace of Neustria who
went by the name of Ebroin on December 23rd 679CE. After this the two kingdoms,
Neustria and Austrasia, were united under the rule of Theuderic III. The Abbey of
St Germain became the richest place in France in the 11 th century and housed the
Scriptorium and was the centre of intellectual life. The Abbey was frequently set
on fire and plundered by the Normans and finally completely destroyed by them in
the 9th century. The philosopher Rene Descartes is buried in the church of St
Germain des Prés.
St Germain himself (not to be confused with St Germaine whose statue is featured
in the church of Rennes le Chateau) studied at a place called Avalon, a castle
outside the village of Pontcharra in Isère in Eastern France. The Merovingian king
Childebert I, son of Clovis I and Saint Clotilde detained St Germain in Paris in
555CE and made him bishop where he exercised great influence on the king
apparently healing him of a sickness. St Germain died in 576CE and is buried in a
church in St Symphorien which he had founded and dedicated to St Vincent. The
Abbey of St Germain des Prés in Paris was built by another Merovingian king
Childeric I and this too was originally dedicated to St Vincent and called SainteCroix-et-Saint-Vincent (Holy Cross of St Vincent). Thus the ‘Children of St Vincent’
are the intellectuals that studied at the Abbey of St Germain des Prés which is the
ground on which the church of St Sulpice is built.
What is the alleged tombstone of Marie de Blanchefort doing showing information
that pertains to a church in Paris? If we examine this stone in detail we have a
straight line going down the middle to the words PRÆ- CUM and underneath an
Octopus. This is the Octopus expelling its ink as described in Les Serpent Rouge
and the French for Octopus is the nickname for the pulpit in the church of St
Sulpice which is La Poulpe. The pulpit of St Sulpice was a gift from the Doge of
Venice to Francois I King of Portugal. This ‘joke’ is perhaps saying that what is
preached from that pulpit is designed to obscure and confuse like a monstrous
octopus expelling its ink, the shadows absorbing the light.
The words PRÆ- CUM are an enigma and other than it making up the letters in
order to get the correct 128 letters for the code, at first glance seems out place. It
can mean “Before – Since” or “Beside – With”. Taken in context it should mean
that the P – S with the spiral is on a line that is ‘Before’ and ‘With’ the Pulpit. P
probably is a reference to St Peter, one of the saints of St Sulpice and the S is St
Sulpice himself. P to the S may well involve the change between the two dates of
these two saints in order to fix the meridian.
But the curious thing to be considered is the crosses placed within the phrase ЕТ ІΝ
АРХ--А∆ІА ЕГΩ with an obvious reference to the meridian and St Sulpice on the
rest of the stone this does seem out of place here, irrespective of whether the
stone was contrived in the 1960s or not. Why is the phrase broken by these
crosses, which are not simply crosses but are Templar crosses? The Greek letters
Rho and Chi (ΡΧ) are placed side by side rather than vertically and Delta and Iota
(Δ Ι) are also placed thus this time with the cross in between, in its simplest form
this could mean a triangle plus a line and Rho Chi ρχ could be a reference to the
Rose Cross, however reversing this it becomes Chi Rho or Christ the anointed one.
A line drawn from this cross to the other cross cuts the vertical meridian at
Lastly we have the Roman numerals at the bottom right.
These numerals are ambiguous because there are no gaps and thus one can read
this in several ways but if one reads it as 59º 59’ 50” then this is very close to the
angle created by the two crosses.
The group of letters could of course, in the tradition of Poussin, have meanings on
several levels, but is so obscure one would need other information in order to
ascertain the exact meaning. Whether contrived during the 1960s or not the
tombstone is clearly associated with the Poussin Tomb through the phrase ET IN
ARCADIA EGO therefore its dating is irrelevant to our search.
This Latin phrase is Poussin’s reference to Virgil’s fifth eclogue and is the second
painting of his to carry this reference. Poussin’s first version is at Chatsworth
House and was painted in 1627, but Poussin was by no means the first to use this
phrase in a painting, Guercino had painted a version of two shepherds
contemplating a tomb with a trepanned skull on the top and painted five years
earlier both of these paintings are called ET IN ARCADIA EGO.
Yet another enigma exists here, why does the phrase start with the word ET
meaning AND, implying that something was said before this phrase is uttered.
Legend has it that the Arcadians were a native tribe that inhabited the
Peloponnesian area of Greece a tribe described as ‘older than the moon’.
According to Curtis N Runnels there may well be a tribe that fits the description
and they may well be 50,000 years old which he described in the March 1995
edition of Scientific American. The popular term Arcadian describes a utopian
garden paradise where people pass their time in a serene existence drinking wine
and dancing and generally having carefree existence until they come across the
message reminding them that all these things must pass.
The Rennes researcher Philip Coppens says this version of the phrase stems from
1640, he says:
This version goes back to ca. 1640. Poussin apparently used the poem of Jacopo Sannazaro, dating
from 1502, who transforms the Arcadia of Virgil in a Utopian world. Apparently, the specific lines of
interest of this poem are 257-267 and speak about the tomb of Phyllis: "I will make your tomb famous
among these rustic people. The shepherds will come from the hills of Tuscany and Liguria to adore
this corner of the world only because you were here in the past. And they will read on the beautiful
square monument the inscription which pains my heart at all time, and the scars strangle me with so
much pain inside: 'she who was always shown so haughty and rigid in Meliseo we now find buried,
soft and humiliated, in this cold stone'."
Le Serpent Rouge tells us how to interpret the tombstone containing the phrase
although the inclusion of the Latin phrase ET IN ARCADIA EGO written in Greek is
not explained. Poussin changed the design of the tomb in the second painting and
despite futile efforts to say otherwise is similar to the real tomb that was at Les
Pontils up until 1989. Prominent Rennes researcher Pierre Jarnac concluded that
this tomb at Les Pontils was started in 1903 by Jean Galibert who buried his wife
and grandmother there but later their remains were brought to Limoux in 1921 and
the land was sold. One is reminded that 1903 is during the height of Saunière’s
building activities at Rennes le Chateau and the tomb is overlooked by the village
despite over-enthusiastic if futile efforts to prove otherwise. The tomb was
apparently rebuilt in 1933 and nobody seems to ask the question as to why this
spot is so attractive in order to continually want to bury the female members of
one’s family on this particular rocky ridge. Today across the road there appears to
be some more tombs in what appears to an expanding graveyard. The photograph
one normally sees is the 1933 version of this tomb. Somehow all of this 20 th
century building activity is presented as proof that a tomb wasn’t there in
Poussin’s day, I am at present unable to see why this is so, surely if a tomb can be
rebuilt once it can be rebuilt twice or several times. The ‘it-was-all-done-in-1933’
story always smacks as an over-desperate attempt to play this down – They doth
protest too much methinks. That it was built in 1933 in no way proves that a tomb
wasn’t there in Poussin’s day and the similarity of the designs, whilst not offering
proof, gives one reason to give it our attention. This unconfirmed story surrounding
this is that the ET IN ARCADIA EGO tombstone was lifted from a previous Les
Pontils tombstone by the Abbé Bigou and placed over the tomb of Marie
d’Hautpoul in the churchyard at Rennes le Chateau. If it is the one that is normally
shown then there is a definite reference to the Paris meridian using the text from
the Scorpio verse of Le Serpent Rouge and thus the from P to S is the two churches
St Germain des Pres and St Sulpice both of which straddle the line and the Octopus
is La Poulpe the pulpit in St Sulpice. You are reminded that no actual tomb
appears to exist for Marie de Blanchefort despite her being a prominent landowner
in the area, this in itself is odd.
The Tomb at Les Pontils does seem to have been a popular place to bury only the
female members of ones family. The tomb which existed until 1989 was erected on
the edge of a rocky cliff by a little bridge that passes over the bed of a stream that
is now dried up. This stream was known as 'Le Cruce'. The story of how it came to
be there is a story that some people have felt it necessary to falsify for their own
subversive reasons but it is actually quite well known. The tomb was at the Moulin
des Pontils and in 1880 this property was purchased by Louis Galibert, who came to
live there with his wife Elisabeth. M. Galibert planned to transform the former mill
into a factory for the manufacture of epaulettes and braid for military uniforms.
This small factory was to take its power from the water flow which ran several
machines. M. Galibert’s grandson had a grave erected there in 1903 and a tomb
was constructed by a stonemason from Rennes-les-Bains called Bourrel on the
hillock located some fifty metres from the Couiza to Arques road. The following
year the remains of his grandmother were transferred there. Twenty years later
the Galibert family left to live in Limoux and sold their estate. In 1921, Louis
Galibert had the remains of the bodies (his wife Elisabeth had also since been
buried there) and their remains were transferred to a cemetery in Limoux. The
gate and the facings in freestone of the tomb of Les Pontils were removed and
used to cover the tomb in Limoux. The buildings of the Moulin des Pontils were
bought by Madame Emily Rivarès, a French woman born in Paterson in the United
States and her son, Louis Bertram Lawrence, born on 25 October 1884 in Hartford
(Connecticut). Lawrence’s daughter Madame Marie Rivarès died on 28 November
1922 a year after moving to Les Pontils and the body was embalmed. It was there
in the tomb prepared originally by the Galibert family that Louis Lawrence buried
the body of his daughter. Rather odd that he should consider a used tomb as
appropriate resting place for his immediate family. Some time later, in 1931 or
1932, he did the same thing again upon the death of his mother, Emily Rivarès,
whom he laid to rest in the tomb with the remains of two mummified cats.
Interestingly another painting by Poussin featuring a tomb similar to the one at Les
Pontils has recently come to light. The painting is officially listed as lost however a
seventeenth century engraving of the painting does exist. It is said that the original
was painted by Poussin for the Cardinal Rospigliosi in the period 1639-1640.
Cardinal Rospigliosi later became Pope Clement IX. This painting is called Le Repos
Pendant la Fuite en Egypte à l’Eléphant (Rest on the flight to Egypt and the
Elephant) and it depicts Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus and some angels resting
during their apparent escape to Egypt. There is also an unidentified male with a
beard reclining in the foreground to the right of the group. In the background is an
Elephant half obscuring a tomb of identical proportions to the one at Les Pontils.
So let us sum up here regarding this tomb at Les Pontils. A tomb resembling the
one in Poussin’s Les Bergers d’Arcadie was, up until 1989, within eyeshot of Rennes
le Chateau. This tomb is close to the Paris Meridian and is a feature in some
landscape geometry.
Despite painting some 300+ paintings Poussin’s Shepherds of Arcadia is by far his
most popular painting and is even featured on his tomb in Rome and a frieze at the
stately home of Lord Anson of Lichfield in England with a coded message
underneath. The wife of Lord Anson is also featured in a painting shown holding a
scroll with Les Bergers d’Arcadie on it. Clearly the painting holds some significance
and if the reason for the interest was mundane we would now be in total
possession of all the facts as to why the special interest.
The Poussin’s painting carries the phrase ET IN ARCADIA EGO as does a tombstone
purported to be that of local noble landowner Marie de Nègre d'Ables dame
d'Hautpoul Countess of Blanchefort and who despite being an obviously important
person in the area does not appear to have any other tombstone or headstone.
Poussin himself appears to have some secret surrounding him with regard to his
“speaking of many things…that even kings will have great pains to draw from you”
with the Abbé Fouquet, brother of King Louis XIV’s superintendent of finances
Nicolas Fouquet and possibly with his two curious paintings of the Annunciation
painted either side of this enigmatic conversation. Shortly after this Nicolas
Fouquet was arrested on nebulous charges of sedition and imprisoned for the rest
of his life having become exceptionally rich. However the superintendent’s mother
and the surviving brother mobilised the Compagne de Saint Sacrement whose
membership included one of the judges appointed to preside over Nicolas
Fouquet’s trail. Fouquet’s imprisonment coincided with Poussin’s death in Rome.
Nicolas Fouquet’s grandson however became some of the most important people in
France becoming the Marquis of Belle-Isle in 1718 and obtained many other
territories in France, one of them being Gisors. Indeed in 1742 he became also the
Duke of Gisors the place where Gérard de Sède had first learned of the secret of
Rennes le Chateau from a man who had been a guard there in the Castle.
But we must not lose sight of our starting point for this mystery, Beringer Saunière
and his apparent sudden wealth that is associated with some secret.
So can the phrase ET IN ARCADIA EGO be associated with Saunière? Not directly,
although we did hear from Gérard de Sède and Noel Corbu that he went to Paris to
obtain copies of three paintings including Les Bergers d’Arcadie. What can we be
certain of here? So far I have suggested that Saunière was involved in some
esoteric circles and whilst not being proven there is sufficient reason to suspect he
was involved by the indications within his church in his associations we know he
made, his choice of reading material and from known objects found within his
If we can pull all things in together we do find a long line of coincidences.
Apart from the close proximity of the Tomb at Les Pontils to the tomb on the
Poussin painting and to the parchment text another possible link can be made
through the phrase ET IN ARCADIA EGO and the phrase Blue Apples. We know that
Poussin was an almost passionate scholar of Greek mythology and we also know
that Poussin living at a time when enlightenment was showing up advances in
It is true that lights appear in Saunière’s church on the 17 th January at around
midday. The lights aren’t blue but they do emanate from a stained glass window in
the south wall of church which shows the raising of Lazarus which does contain
circles of blue glass. We have seen that throughout this whole story the name
Lazarus keeps showing up time and time again. He is reported by many to be the
brother of Mary of Bethany (who also appears in the church) from this we can
assume that Roman Catholic sources would regard him as the brother of Mary
Magdalene also.
These so-called Blue Apples fall on the altar of the church at midday on the 17 th
January. Obviously it is the timely movement of the seasons which are critical for
this timing.
The key here is Greek mythology and astronomy and with this in mind we will take
another look at the famous Poussin painting Les Bergers d’Arcadie (The Shepherds
of Arcadia). We know that Arcadia is an idealised place in the Peloponnesus; it
takes its name from the mythical character Arcas, son of Zeus and Callisto. Here
we have our first clue because Callisto is the Goddess of the Great Bear Ursa
Major. In Greek mythology Hera (Zeus’ wife) got jealous after her affair with Zeus
and turned Callisto into a bear. Years later Callisto recognised her son by Zeus and
approached him, in his fear he tried to kill the bear not recognising his mother.
Zeus seeing this took hold of them and turned them into neighbouring
constellations. When she saw them both as glittering stars Hera went to the Ocean
to meet Thethys and Oceanos. She told them the story and asked that neither of
them Callisto and her son Arcas should ever touch the sea and these constellations
never do in the northern hemisphere. Nicolas Poussin painted the seduction of
Callisto by Zeus whom he calls Jupiter.
This story is found in Metamorphoses Book II by the Roman poet Ovid, a book which
we know was dear to Nicolas Poussin, where he talks of the seven stars of the
And fondly gaz’d the boy in a fright
And aim’d a pointed arrow at her breast
And would have slain his mother in the beast
But Jove forbad, and snatch’d em through the air
In whirlwinds up to Heav’n, and fix’d em there
Where the new constellations nightly rise,
And add lustre to the northern skies.
Take another look at this important painting Les Bergers d’Arcadie. Three
shepherds and a shepherdess contemplate a tomb and several features are worth
pointing out and we will deal with them in detail from right to left.
The shepherdess has her hand on the Red Shepherd’s shoulder. She has a half
moon like face and there is a hint of the rest of the moon made with the leaves of
the tree. She wears orange and blue clothes. She is staring at the Blue kneeling
shepherd; hand on hip possibly in a gesture of anger. For some reason she is not
happy with the kneeling shepherd.
The Red Shepherd looks around at the shepherdess, he is watching her. He
has quite distinctive red hair and he points not at Et in Arcadia Ego but at a
line running down the middle of the tomb.
The Blue kneeling shepherd points at the phrase ET IN ARCADIA EGO. His
right arm forms a rather unusual shadow on the tomb in the shape of a bow
or horn. His right leg is firmly planted on a patch of earth that appears to
be separated from the rest of the ground. As though it has been disturbed,
even a hole is appearing to the right of his foot. This right foot coincides
with the bottom of the white shepherd’s staff.
The white shepherd leans languidly on the tomb and is the only one
touching it. He doesn’t look at tomb or what the other shepherds are
indicating. He appears to be staring at the piece of disturbed earth or the
hole in the ground.
All the shepherds carry a staff two leaning left and one leaning right and a
vertical line on the tomb separates the ones going left and the ones going
to the right.
All the shepherds are encapsulated in what appears to be a pentagon.
In the mind of Poussin the shepherdess is Callisto the mother of Arcas from whom
Arcadia takes its name.
Callisto is Ursa Major, Ursa being the female bear in Latin.
Arcas is the constellation of Boötes and Arcturus is the alpha star. Arcas is known
as the Bear Watcher hence he looks around in the painting at the bear Callisto.
The arm of Ursa Major points toward Boötes in the sky and this arm is bent in the
middle like the handle of the plough. The centre star of the arm of Ursa Major is
and double star comprising of Alcor and Mizar they are coloured orange and blue
respectively, the same colour as the shepherdess clothes. This double star was
discovered during Poussin’s lifetime in ancient times these two stars could be seen
separately with the naked eye and seeing these two distinct stars was used as an
eye test. They are currently arranged almost one behind the other.
We must assume from this that as the finger of the Red shepherd is on the line
down the centre of the tomb that coincides with the source of light behind the
peaks in the distance. So we are looking for a time when Arcturus appears on an
east/west line.
Ursa Major has also been known as St Peter’s Barque and it is believed by some to
be the Boat of the Dead, which ties in with phrase I (death) am also in Arcadia.
Tradition says that Saint Peter was crucified in the Circus Maximus in Rome which
is now Saint Peter’s square in the Vatican. This where there stands an obelisk
placed there by Pope Sixtus V that acts as a sundial and repeated by Saunière on
the cross in the church garden. Saint Peter is said to be buried at the Vatican and
Jesus said he is the rock upon which the church is to be built. His feast day is June
29th and you will remember that the Church of Saint Sulpice is dedicated to St
Peter as well as to St Sulpice.
From the past it seems that star worshippers have been venerating the Bear as a
God for millennia. This period has been given the enigmatic name of the
Magdalenian Era. A skull of one of the very first Homo sapiens was found in the
Dordogne area and curiously it has been nicknamed ‘The Magdalenian’ and still is
described as to have come from “L’Age du Renne (The Age of Rennes)”, described
as the “Age of the Reindeer” from the simple, comfortable translation. The
veneration of this constellation as a bear has been repeated in North America by
the Cherokee, Algonquin, Zuni, Tlingit and Iroquois Tribes.
The Sicambrian Franks with whom the Merovingian bloodline intermarried
worshipped the bear in the form of Artemis or more specifically in the form of
Arduina the patron goddess of the Ardennes. This form of worship was centred on
Lunéville which is close to Stenay (the place where Dagobert II was murdered
during the winter solstice and Orval where the Cistercian Abbey called Sion now
Rennes le Chateau was initially called simply Rennes in the nineteenth century and
what is now called Rennes Les Bains was called simply ‘The Baths at Rennes’, so it
is clear which village is senior here, not the Spa town that was popular in
Saunière’s day but the other with the Chateau on the hill despite the fact that it
had no road leading up to it, Rennes le Chateau dominates the whole area from its
high position. The whole area is honeycombed with cave systems some natural
some dug by gold mining from Roman times and sometimes strange water coursing
phenomena can be found indicating an intricate linked underground cave system.
From Sauniere’s Tour Magdala it can be seen that we are surrounded by this history
of the Albigensian Crusade, Raan’s crusade against the Grail and Blanche de
Castille, whose “baggage” it is said has been hidden somewhere around Rennes le
Chateau. It was Blanche de Castille who had said immediately prior to the attack
on the Cathar stronghold of Montségur that “The Dragon’s head must be chopped
off”. What did she mean by this statement? The kneeling Blue shepherd is the
close by the Red shepherd as the constellation of Boötes is close by the
Constellation of Hercules and to Hercules was given the twelve labours.
Like a toiling man, revolves in a form
Nor to what toil he is attached:
But, simply, Kneeler they call him
Labouring on his knees, like one
Who sinks it seems
And his right foot planted on the twisting Serpent’s Head.
Phenomenon – Manilius
Is the twisting Serpent underground is this what the snake charmer is staring at? Certainly because if the tomb forms part of the constellation Ophiuchus then the
Serpent snakes underneath this constellation with its tail one side and its head the
other. The white shepherd is the head of the snake charmer Serpentarius who is
sometimes separated from Ophiuchus (the tomb shaped constellation) but he is the
only shepherd who is actually touching the tomb and other connections make him
the tomb shaped Ophiuchus. The actual head star is Theta Serpens and is called
Alya and is from Al Alyah and is Arabic for ‘Fatty tail of the sheep’. To some this
star is the snake’s tail and others the Head of the snake charmer.
The blue shepherd Hercules points at the phrase ‘And I am in Arcadia’ and so he
was at one point during his labours. In the third labour of Hercules we find that his
task was to capture the Cerynitian Hind. Though a female deer, it is fleet footed
and had golden horns it was sacred to Artemis, goddess of the moon (Diana,
goddess of the hunt), so Heracles (Hercules) dared not wound it. He hunted it for
an entire year before eventually running it down on the banks of the River Ladon
which rises from the ground in Tripoli in Arcadia. Taking very careful aim with his
bow he fired an arrow between the hind’s tendons and bones of the two forelegs,
pinning it down without drawing any blood but breaking off its horn in the struggle.
Artemis wasn’t happy, but Heracles (Hercules) dodged her wrath by blaming his
task master for the twelve labours who was Eurystheus, King of Argos. Argos may
be an allusion to the Constellation Argo Navis which contains the second brightest
star in the sky Canopus which you will note has a very significant place in our sky.
The twelve tasks of Hercules are most definitely to be associated with the twelve
signs of the zodiac.
Hercules is normally painted with a outstretched arm and is normally holding a
bow which in French is ‘arc’. Sagitta is the arrow which is pointed in the direction
of constellations depicting two birds: the eagle, Aquila, and the swan, Cygnus and
you are reminded here of the two paintings of the Annunciation by Nicolas Poussin
painted within two years of each other. Even though our person in the painting is
not holding a bow or an arrow it can be seen that this kneeling shepherd Hercules
and his outstretched hand indicating the letter R of Arcadia or indeed the word arc
and the shadow on the tomb is in the shape of a bow.
Hercules – The Kneeling man
Ladon was the guardian of Hera’s Golden Apples which grow in the
Garden of the Hesperides, Hercules (the Blue Shepherd) later killed
Ladon to steal the Golden Apples in the eleventh labour. The
kneeling blue shepherd is the Constellation of Hercules. The labours
of Hercules go like this:
Zeus having made Alcmene, mother of Hercules pregnant proclaimed that
the next born son of the house of Perseus would become king. Hera, Zeus’
wife, hearing this, caused Eurystheus to be born early as he was of the
house of Perseus, while Hercules, also of the house, was three months
overdue. When he found out what had been done Zeus was furious; his
rash proclamation still stood. In a fit of madness Hercules slew his wife
and children. Realizing what he had done, he exiled himself living alone
in the wilderness. His cousin Theseus, king of Athens found him and
convinced him to visit the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle told him that as a
penance he would have to perform twelve labours, set by King
Eurystheus, the man who had taken Hercules’ birthright and the man he
hated the most.
Labour 1 Skin the Nemean Lion
Labour 2 Kill the Hydra
Labour 3 Bring back the Cerynitian Hind
Labour 4 Bring back the Erymanthian Boar
Labour 5 Clean the Stables of Augeas
Labour 6 Scare away the Stymphalian Birds
Labour 7 Capture the Cretan Bull
Labour 8 Cure the Mares of Diomedes of their taste for human flesh
Labour 9 Retrieve the belt of Hippolyte
Labour 10 Fetch the kine (cattle) of Geryon
Labour 11 Fetch the Golden Apples of Hesperides
Labour 12 Bring Cerberus from Hades
Again this story appears in Ovid’s Metamorphosis which is a book of 15 volumes and
we know Poussin studied it and used its themes in several of his paintings. Poussin
produced a set of drawings for Marino using Metamorphoses and these are part of
the Windsor collection. In his first version of Et in Arcadia ego, currently at
Chatsworth House in England and part of the Duke of Devonshire collection, he also
features Alpheus the Greek river God and once again this story is told for the first
time in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The poet John Keats also used Ovid’s
Metamorphoses as his central theme and referred directly to Poussin’s work on at
least one occasion. Poussin could read Latin at an early age as his mother was the
widow of a lawyer and she had hoped Poussin too would become a lawyer.
The white shepherd is also close by and also above the others on the same level as
the shepherdess and can be encapsulated in Cornford’s Pentagon. The identity of
this constellation is less obvious and instinct says that he is the constellation of
Serpentarius, the Snake Charmer or Asclepios, son of Apollo and Coronis and
demigod of Medicine. Coronis fell in love with Ischys. A crow informed Apollo of
the affair and he sent his sister Artemis (Diana) to kill Coronis. Her body was
burned on a funeral pyre staining the feathers of the crow permanently black.
Asclepios was bought up by Chiron, the centaur who was also involved with
Hercules in his labour to bring back the Erymanthian Boar. Asclepios (Aesculapius)
is the God of medicine and is always shown with a staff with a serpent around it
and symbolises doctor’s surgeries and hospitals. You will notice in the Poussin
painting that the white shepherd’s staff coincides at the bottom with the right foot
of the blue shepherd who is Hercules whom you will remember from the Manilius
poem as “Labouring on his knees, like one Who sinks it seems And his right foot
planted on the twisting Serpent’s Head”. You will also notice that the white
shepherd’s staff has a spiral running all the way up it.
On October 9th 1604 a supernova, the second within a generation, appeared in the
constellation of Ophiuchus and was known as Keplar’s Star and there is little doubt
that Poussin would have been aware of this. This is the last supernova that has
appeared in our galaxy and is 20000 light-years away and was visible to the naked
eye. However over the years there have been five supernovae reported in the
constellation of Ophiuchus alone. The first was reported by the Greek astronomer
Hipparchos in 134BCE followed by a second reported in 123CE, another in 1230, the
one reported by Johannes Keplar in 1604 and another in 1848. In the next chapter
we will discuss the Rosicrucians and this supernova of 1604 which forms part of
their doctrine along with another astronomical event that marks the Golden Age of
Returning to our theme: Shepherdess No temptation Poussin Teniers Guard the key
PAX 681 by the cross and this horse of God I complete this daemon guardian at
midday Blue Apples.
We know that the Blue apples appear under the altar under a cup with a
stone in it on the 17th January.
We know that this phenomenon is caused by the window depicting the
Raising of Lazarus.
We now know that the Poussin painting is primarily to do with the
constellations and their movement and gives an allusion to Lazarus.
Ursa Major (The shepherdess) is the double star Mizar/Alcor and the
Christian Arabs regard the ‘tail’ of the bear as a funeral procession that
includes Mary, mother of Jesus, Mary Salome and Mary Magdalene. The
funeral is that of the Magdalene’s brother Lazarus, the biblical character
that was born again who is mentioned alongside Mary of Bethany in the
parchment plain text.
The key linking this with Saunière here appears to be the raising of Lazarus, one of
only two people in the New Testament who were resurrected from the dead, the
other of course being Jesus. And one is reminded that the hand gesture of the Red
Shepherd is the same as the hand gesture used by Jesus in the painting of raising of
Lazarus. In the Masonic ritual for the ‘Poor candidate in a state of darkness’ , a
special hand grip is used to raise the new initiate into a state of being born again.
One important point must be made here that owing to the comprehensive
renovation of the church the Blue Apples phenomenon is likely to be either from
Saunière himself or is a more modern addition. It could not have been a
phenomenon before the early twentieth century unless Saunière merely rebuilt his
church in the manner of its previous layout. This either dates the clue obtained
from the parchment to after Saunière or the lights on the altar have been added to
the church since by Saunière himself or afterwards in order to fit the clue in the
parchment. This fact invalidates nothing however.
The parchment plain text talks about Jesus’ visit to Bethany immediately after the
raising of Lazarus. Couple this with artefacts in the garden dedicated by Lazarists
and it is a reasonable assumption that whatever it was that was providing an
income for Saunière likely involved Lazarus and his ‘Born Again’ experiences
coupled with astronomical phenomenon.
Perhaps it would be prudent to finish off this chapter with a discussion of the story
of Lazarus and it is not without some controversy.
Only the Gospels of Luke and John speak of him by name and it seems that he
suffered from Leprosy. As we know The Order of St Lazarus in Jerusalem was a
military order believed to have been founded in around 1123CE and run by the
Hospitaller brothers who established hospitals all over Europe to treat leprosy. In
the book of Luke Lazarus was described as being in the Bosom of Abraham. In the
book of Mark however there are two versions to the story owning to there being
two versions of the book of Mark. Lazarus is not mentioned by name but in the
secret Gospel of Mark reportedly owned by the Carpocratians and repeated by
Clement of Alexandria, ‘a certain woman’ approaches Jesus and tells him that her
brother has died. As Jesus approaches the tomb he hears a loud cry for the within
the tomb. Jesus rolls away the stone and raises the youth from the ground. It then
says ‘And the youth looked upon him and loved and began to beseech him that he
might be with him’. Together they go into a house, where Jesus and the young
man remained for six days, “instructing the young man in the ways of the kingdom
of heaven”. On the last day the two men spent a sleepless night together “naked
with naked”.
The Cathar historian Antonin Gadal regards Lazarus as John the Beloved, the
feminine looking disciple in many last supper paintings not just the Leonardo da
Vinci fresco. Some writers have regarded these six days together are some kind of
sexual rite, controversial to say the least, especially when you consider that the
tradition insists they were both male. There does appear to good reason to regard
Lazarus and John the Beloved as being one and the same person. Lazarus is Greek
for Eliezer which is another name for Elijah or Elias. Many people thought that
John the Baptist was Elijah/Elias reincarnated so by default Lazarus could indeed
have been also given the title John.
The stained glass windows in Saunière’s church all deal with either Lazarus or the
family of Lazarus; we are getting a pattern here. The theme seems to be
resurrection coupled with the movement of the stars and planets. Remember that
Philippe de Chérisey had said that he would leave things to the priests because
they were more concerned with the sky and earth and astronomy and geography.
The Poussin’s shepherdess seems to be Ursa Major and/or Virgo and the Prieure de
Sion seems to think so too, because they left us a clue right at the top of the
Lobineau document.
The logo on the right is the astrological symbol for Virgo but the letters inset say
OURS which is the French word for bear. The Bear (Ursa) is intertwined with Virgo
The two constellations Ursa Major and Minor are always seen in the northern sky,
as explained later these can be associated with a celestial cross. The analogy of
these two constellations to bears tends from their appearing the dance in a circle
seemingly tethered to a pole (Polaris) like a dancing bear. Böotes is the great
cultivator or Ploughman who drives the bears Ursa Major and Ursa Minor around
the Pole Star Polaris. The bears dance around the pole pulling the plough behind
them and tilling the heavenly fields and as Manilius in Astronomica said “in order
that the rotations of the heavens should never cease….they will be like kings and
ministers of state, and be charged with the guardianship of the people,
custodianship of great houses and treasures, who confine their business to the care
of another’s home so that the wealth of monarchs and temple finances will be in
their keeping”.
It seems also that the widow of a descendant of Girard de Roussillon (Duke of
Burgundy), Beatrix was once described as ‘living like a bear in a cave’ after her
husband’s death and Mary Magdalene ‘lived like a bear’ during her last days, the
legend says. In the old chartreuse apparently frequented by Beatrix there was
discovered in 1896 (at the start of Saunière’s building activities) a set of murals
dating from the 14th century, one of which was a crucifixion which shows Jesus on
a ‘green heart’ cross roughly trimmed in the same manner as the one shown with
the weeping Mary Magdalene under the altar. Was this finding the inspiration for
Saunière’s altar scene? Was this the discovery of a tomb that he mentioned in his
Was Saunière involved with a sect that believes in resurrection on certain days of
the year?
According to Claire Corbu and Antoine Captier, Saunière ordered the stained glass
window from where the Blue Apples phenomenon occurs, from the House of Henri
Feur at Bordeaux and he delivered his bill of 2478fr to Saunière in September
1887. You will of course immediately notice that this is prior to his enigmatic
entries into his diary has to having found a tomb and the word Secret. Why did
Saunière include (or repeat) this phenomena in his church and not make it public
knowledge? The placing of the phrase ‘Blue Apples’ at the end of the decrypted
text will prove significant and is straight out of alchemical practices of the 15 th