I have just been up to Cathar country in the foothills of the French Pyrenees. I was visiting this region of so many mysteries to research material for the novel I am currently working on which I think will be called The Treasure House of the Templars. And while I was there I stumbled on my own modern mystery.
It was a beautiful afternoon and, for no particular reason except that we were passing close to it, I decided to walk the dog up to the remote castle of le Bézu which is the setting for much of The Secret of the Cathars that I published last year. It was a couple of years since I had last visited the place. Le Bézu is well off the main tourist routes and is fairly difficult to find.
When you get up there you do not have a lot to see – just a few half-ruined walls and some beautiful views. The only thing of note is that the threshold to one of the rooms has a Templar Cross with the equal-length arms carved into it. (See upper photo) Imagine my surprise when I went to look at this particular stone and found that somebody had gone to the trouble of completely removing the symbol.
This was not some casual act of vandalism. The threshold is granite which cannot be easily hacked about. I don’t know how long ago the cross was deeply carved into the stone. However I would guess it had been there for at least several decades – perhaps for centuries – perhaps since the thirteenth century when the Templars were still a force to be reckoned with.
Whoever had removed the symbol must have carried a bag of tools up to the site – at the very least a lump hammer and cold chisels. And it must have taken them several hours of hard work. You can see that all traces of the cross have been removed and the remaining hollow in the stone deepened. (See lower photo)
The question is – who would bother to do it? The site, for all its remoteness, is a national monument and it is a criminal offence to deface it without a government licence. Who would want to carry out several hours’ hard work and risk prosecution to remove a minor, fairly meaningless symbol from an ancient piece of stone? And why would they choose to do it? Is it because it not so meaningless after all?
On the Carte de Randonée 2347 OT the site of le Bézu castle is described as the “Chateau des Templiers” and it is referred to as such in a number of books about the area. Merely obliterating the symbol from a piece of masonry won’t remove the castle’s past links with the Knights Templar.
Perhaps the act may have something to do with the enigmatic organisation in Paris which I refer to in The Secret of the Cathars. Unfortunately I have neither the contacts or the funds to investigate further. For now the matter will have to remain a mystery as far as I am concerned unless somebody else can help.
Next week I will tell you more about the things I looked at in Cathar country.