Tuesday, 15 July 2008

15/07/08: In Search of the Holy Grail

Today we begin our search for the Holy Grail!

After my Dad and I both read the book he found in the apartment yesterday (entitled A Traveller's Guide to the Mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau), we decided that we would spend the day there. The story behind it is a really interesting one and is really intriguing - a certain intrgiue that anyone who's read The Da Vinci Code can relate to.

Here is an extract from Wikipedia that will give you an insight into what it's all about.

"The controversy around Saunière centers on two topics: documents that he is alleged to have found hidden in his church, and his alleged wealth.

Supporters of the various conspiracy theories of Rennes-le-Château believe that while renovating his parish church in 1891, Saunière found ancient documents relating to a great historical secret. These theories allege that, through his possession of these documents, Saunière was somehow able to obtain much more wealth than would be expected of a parish priest. The documents were allegedly discovered in a "hollow visigothic pillar" according to the book Le Trésor Maudit by Gerard de Sede.

Following Saunière's death in 1917 a mystique developed about the priest's source of wealth. There was a theory that he was paid vast sums of money by the Catholic Church to buy his silence on a secret that would have seriously undermined the church's power: the most extraordinary claim being that he had discovered the grave in which Christ had been buried, implying that Christ had not ascended to heaven."

[From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berenger_Sauniere]

This morning we were all up by nine and we had breakfast. We then prepared ourselves a picnic and headed for Rennes-le-Chateau. Mum was very pleased as she managed to buy an English newspaper from the local 8-a-huit.

It was only a five to ten minute drive from Couiza so we were there in no time. We had a look around the village and then had our picnic before entering the Church and Saunière's house. The house was magnigicent and I would have loved to see it in its full glory - as it was lived in. It is basically a house beyond dreams. An estate that overlooks the whole valley. It was hard to not fall in love with the place.

Most of the church has a mystery about it and can be critially analysed. One of the most photograph and analysed parts of the church is the devil you see as you walk in:

"Asmodeus: The demon of lust who helped Solomon build his temple. Summon him with due respect and he can lead you to hidden treasure. Saunière put two carvings of such a devil in the church at Rennes-le-Château."

After we'd absorbed the place and had a good look around - and alas, finding no treasure - we headed back to Couiza where we rested our legs and cooled down. I started this blog and continued to edit all the photos from the past two days, Mum went downstairs to read her book, and Dad fell asleep on the seatee. It was so nice and cool in the apartment, and thank God. Today is the hottest day so far. It is still as crystal clear and beautiful as yesterday, but ten degrees hotter at a temperature of 38 degrees.

The heat was not only tiring us out, but also causing problems locally. To add to the drama, as I sat in the living room, tediously editing the days photographs, the one of air raid sirens that I so often admire went off. First thoughts were, of course, "AIR RAID!" until I remembered that France was not involved in any recent conflicts. It was strange. The only time I've ever heard one of those sirens put to use was in Normandy, but that was mostly for atmospheric (the whole town was dedicated to the D-Day Landings) and memorial purposes.

A few minutes later, a herd of fire engines raced down the main street outside. Dad's guess was that the siren alerts all off-duty firemen that they're needed. It's no Bat-Signal, but I suppose it does the job.

This was later confirmed by a small amount of smoke that could be seen from our apartment.

After more relaxing and, eventually, dinner, we headed out for Limoux to a night market. My mother is obsessed with market's. I don't remember a single holiday when we haven't been to at least two (usually one a week).

When we arrived in Limoux it was mostly deserted. There weren't many signs of people other than the odd person having a stroll and enjoying the cool evening (and a very welcome one at that after such a burning hot day).

The busiest part of the town was the sky above it. It was filled with more birds than I've ever seen in my life. They were catching insects as the sun went down and it was great. They were all Swifts (as far as we could tell); probably stocking up for the trip back to wherever they emigrated from.

We wandered around and walked down by the river for a while. There was a church that overlooked the river with some interesting gargoyles on and I fancied having a look down the alley that ran along side it. We climbed a flight of steps and were greeted by the smell of a creperie. We then saw a rabble of children running across the end of the alley. We reached the end, turned right and we were taken aback by the sudden explosion of activity seemingly out of nowhere. It was the night market and it had the most incredible atmosphere. There were so many people there. It was almost like a rerun of the Bastille Day firework display in Carcassone.

We looked around a bit and then took a detour back out into the rest of the town for some peace and quiet. There were some great views from the bridges.

We ventured back to the market and had a drink in the least busiest cafe (the other two in the market place were packed to bursting), and slowly made our way back to Couiza.

Once again, much like the night before, as I crawled into bed, I fell asleep almost instantly.

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