I visited Rennes-le-Chateau last summer and walked the steep three mile path up the hill from Couiza several times. I had studied the area in detail, and planned a ten day stay at a B&B in a house from 16oo. But when I left I felt that I'd barely gotten my feet wet in an ocean of mysteries. The charming tower Magdala, which Sauniere built at his humble rectory turned estate, symbolizes something I felt as a breathing pulse in the Languedoc landscape.
The first floor room of the tower is furnished like a library. It is small, only about ten by ten feet along the floor, but the room is charming. It's easy to picture the studious priest seeing his favorite book through the glass, before opening the cabinet door of the tall book shelf. He is taking out a leather bound volume and sitting down in an armchair by the fireplace. Or maybe Marie, his housekeeper, friend and companion, would join him during the day, and sit down in the window seat, near the draperies, and look out over the landscape, before opening her text to discuss it with him. To me the little library symbolizes a collection of knowledge, and a desire for learning.
But wait, there is something missing here. The space is too small for the vast volumes the good priest devoured in his time. The cute library is almost too obvious as a focal point proving his engagement in proper religious studies. I walked around the garden with the green house and the tower. They make the ends of the wall he built at the steep mountain side where he could get the best view of the breath taking countryside. I can see him as he walked his morning walks and sat down in the sunshine with another script to study.
Or is this, like so many other things in this area, a carrot, a red herring, a visual effect concealing something else. If so, I fell for it, for a while.
I look underneath the elaborate staircase going from the top of the stone wall down to the orchard and flowers. It looks like there are plenty of opportunities to hide an entrance you would want to conceal. Maybe a hidden tunnel to the crypt underneath the church which is now sealed off with concrete? Someone has apparently thought of this before and dug there without results.
Maybe I'm just a tourist looking at the most obvious solutions, which other people have checked a hundred years earlier. Maybe I'm the country mouse going wow...to everything I see.
Is this the way the Languedoc is hiding it's secrets? There are lovely things to explore on the surface, that will keep you from looking deeper, asking better questions, milling over the stories in your mind and allow new solutions to appear?
The secrets of the Cathars, of the Templars were so intangible, so etheric. We still seem to be looking for treasure, for the magical object that solves it all. What if their wisdom was of a different kind? What do we know about the elaborate teachings of martial arts masters? There is no ancient object to dig for, even though the teachings has been concidered a hidden cultural treasure for centuries. But there sure is a treasure trove of knowledge, techniques and inner wisdom to learn. And luckily, there are still masters in this art form that has the old wisdom and are willing to teach.
Is everything lost from the Cathars? Or is it so well hidden we have to recognize the carrots and dig deeper?