The Rennes-le-Chateau mystery which was the centrepiece of the Holy Blood Holy Grail, the bestseller which launched an entire genre of speculative-history literature, has just taken a left turn. This is with publicity over the UK paperback publication of City Of Secrets: The Extraordinary True Story Of The Woman Who Found Herself At The Heart Of The Grail, by the novelist and biographer Patrice Chaplin. Oddly, a web search shows the book is not actually new, as press coverage implies, but evidently publication of a new UK paperback edition May 25th has just brought it to the notice of those who keep an eye on the Rennes mystery.
Because of her marriage to the son of film star Charlie Chaplin (who spent his last years in Europe), the British-born and now London-resident author lived in Europe as well as Hollywood and was part of a circle of artists like Umberto Eco, Dali and Debussy. (These two of course were named in various dubious documents quoted by HBHG etc as Grand Masters of the notional ‘Priory Of Sion’). She was also the lover of a Spaniard 'initiate' of a secret society, who told her the secret the Rennes-le-Chateau priest Sauniere was involved with so she could write a book about it, before the secret was lost forever. For Chaplin is a professional writer of long standing whose work has sometimes dealt with occult matters. Her writing includes a journey-into-death fable called Siesta, a novel which may have been inspired by her appearing in films by Jean Cocteau (a friend of her lover Jose), for the story has shades of his classic version of the legend of Orpheus in the Underworld, Orphee. A decade before the 1999 Bruce Willis film The Sixth Sense, her 1979 novel was filmed starring Ellen Barkin as a woman who doesn't understand she's dead; she journeys through Spain meeting former acquaintances who give her certain clues leading her finally to realise she is in an underworld limbo.
After he had a near-death experience, Chaplin’s lover Jose gave her certain information he and his fellow members wanted passed on. Chaplin says the Rennes secrets are related those of the Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical text which supposedly contains codes concealing powerful occult numbers (such as 22), which in this case were used as building dimensions for purpose-built towers. She documents how the Tour Magdala (Tower of Mary Magdalene) the priest Sauniere financed outside Rennes was a copy of one built by a private group in the Spanish city of Girona.
This eastern-Pyrenean town near the French border south of Rennes-le-Chateau area is the ancient Catalan capital where she took up residence, this being the "city of secrets" the book’s title refers to. (She says she was followed by men-in-black type state security agents acting on behalf of the secret society, and photos she was given were doctored in a way that would have discredited her book.) With its grail traditions and ancient Jewish quarter containing a famous mediaeval school studying the Kabbalah, it was a centre of mystical studies until 1492, when the Spanish crown with the backing of the Church ordered all Jews out of Spain, ending the ‘Golden Age’ of learning.
She says the towers formed a triangular alignment with St Sulpice in Paris (the church in The Da Vinci Code) a mystical triangle known as ‘the Golden Cut.’ The towers were used to obtain magnetic energies for a ritual that allowed them to visit other dimensions. This, she said, is the real Grail: a two-hour-long ritual of recited texts enabling someone to pass through a trans-dimensional portal to enlightenment. But if you are not spiritually fit, you could go mad or die, which is what she suggest happened to some of Sauniere's helpers. The key to ‘activating’ the Grail was a large stone called the Sun Stone.
The Rennes priest Sauniere himself visited for twenty years, being secretly paid by (wait for it) the Rosicrucian Order and the Bilderberg Group. The Rosicrucians, or Order Of The Rosy Cross, are of course often named in conspiracy literature, usually as the ones who took over the secrets of the Knights Templar when the Church suppressed them in 1307. The Bilderberg Group are a top-echelon secretive business-conference formation, who along with the Illuminati (the subject of Dan Brown's next novel) are the conspiracy theorists' favourite prime suspect. But Chaplin’s lover, who she says was also a Freemason of the Scottish Rite, and other members of this private society (not the Priory of Sion but the "Friends Of Ancient Girona") fell into strife as one by one their age group began to die off. They couldn’t agree whom to give their secrets or artefacts to - the Bilderberg people, the Freemasons, or the Church, eventually hiding them on a mountain that lies in a straight line between the two towers. The mountain is the sacred centre of Catalonia, where the summer solstice is celebrated. On it is a monastery dedicated to St Sulpice (again, shades of Da Vinci Code here, and the alleged “Rosy Cross” line) … and, says Chaplin, an invisible gateway to another dimension where lie powers that could destroy the planet as we know it.
… So we have a modern secret society with associated celebrity names protecting a mighty grail secret, clues in an ancient text whose study is forbidden to women, containing a secret code used in the dimensions of sacred buildings, a bit of suppression by the Catholic Church, and an ultimate power which “in the wrong hands …would have cast the world as we know it into darkness.”
Sounds to me like there's a bestseller and a movie there to rival The Da Vinci Code.