Nov 282011
 

Final extract from the fictional Journal of Phillipe de Saint-Claire – translated from the ancient Occitan language into modern English. Phillipe finds sanctuary in Templecombe, Somerset, England.

 

The next day I set off in clear weather over the rest of the mountains and, after four days walking, I came to the great city of Barcelona which was then home to the court of Aragon. There I felt I was able to disclose my identity to the court chamberlain whom I met, but not of course my object. Instead I gave him the tale that I was escaping from the wrath of the French and that I wished to obtain a passage by sea to England. I found the chamberlain most helpful and after an interval of two weeks one of his staff introduced me to the captain of a ship making for Lisbon. There I was able to transfer to an English ship and I landed in the port of London on the first day of September in the same year of one thousand two hundred and forty-four.

I had been given the names of two people whom I might contact for assistance if I should reach England. I met the first, a lawyer named Henry Bradburn, in his dwelling in a special court in London which was called the Inner Temple. His manner was dry and less hospitable than I had hoped and I feared I would get little assistance from him. He confirmed, when I asked, that news had reached London of the destruction of the Cathar cause at Montségur and other locations thereafter. He seemed to think that I should give great thanks to God for my deliverance from the French ‘crusaders’. As far as he was aware, I was the only human being to escape the hue and cry which had followed the fall of Montségur.

He also had knowledge of the other person whom I had been told I might contact – a gentleman by the name of Gérard de Molay. Apparently that man now resided in a small town in the West of England which was called Coombe Temple. Mr Bradburn thought that my best course was to travel to that place and seek out the said Gérard who was the person most likely to be able to help me. Mr Bradburn said he would give me a sealed letter to hand to de Molay.

Therefore I travelled west and met Monsieur de Molay on a day in late September when the leaves of the great trees in the valley above Coombe Temple were starting to turn to gold. Gérard revealed that he was a supporter of the Cathars who had escaped from France when he saw that our cause had become hopeless. He had been able to transfer some of his substantial wealth through his connection with the Knights Templar and had used a part of this to obtain possession of a substantial portion of land in the area. Because of his support for the cause he was prepared to sell me, for a very modest sum which I could pay him over the next few years, a section of that land where I might build a house and grow sufficient food to sustain me until such time as I might be contacted by an emissary from the Cathar convocation. With the blessing of the good God I was able to make a success of this enterprise and am now accounted to be a wealthy man with a wife and three growing sons.

As my life moves towards its close I have never received any approach from anybody in the Languedoc and I fear that I never shall. All the information we have received from France is that the Cathar faith is utterly destroyed. So I believe that I should set down my experiences of what occurred in the month of March in the year of one thousand two hundred and forty-four in case the treasure of the Cathars should ever be sought by my successors or members of my faith. This I now do as correctly and as fully as I am able to remember some forty years after the actual events took place.

I commend this account to the true God whose teachings I have always followed.

The photo shows Templecombe.  I have now completed the extracts from Phillipe’s journal. I intend to publish the complete journal on my website in the near future where it will be available free of charge. Next week I shall start to tell you about the village of Rennes-le-Chateau a few miles north of le Bézu.

Nov 202011
 

Extract from the fictional Journal of Phillipe de Saint-Claire – translated from the ancient Occitan language into modern English. Phillipe and his friend attempt to escape to Spain

 

Before Raymonde and I left the castle at le Bézu we considered carefully which direction we should take. In the end we decided the only safe course was to cross the high mountains to the south and enter the lands of the King of Aragon, who we believed was still sympathetic to the Cathar faith.

After two days walking we reached the snowfields of the high Pyrenees. The next morning Raymonde complained of feeling unwell. He had pains in his chest and was finding breathing difficult – a problem which I believe can be experienced by many people in the mountains if they attempt to exercise their bodies too greatly. For myself, being younger, I was still feeling quite well and wished to push on towards our destination. I understood the border with Aragon was only four or five leagues distant and could easily be achieved in the day, notwithstanding the fact that much of the way would be up steep snow slopes. Faced with my enthusiasm, Raymonde assured me that he was well enough to accompany me. Thus my intemperate nature was the cause of the tragedy which befell us.

Within a short distance of setting out we encountered deep snow. We were heading for a high col between two peaks and therefore had probably chosen to follow a shallow valley where the snow was deepest. As we climbed it began to snow and the visibility became very bad. Although he was flagging badly, Raymonde foolishly supported me in my wish to proceed.

As we drew near to the top the way became much steeper. There was a lot of projecting rock which was slippery with ice and with deep crevasses of snow in between.  Suddenly Raymonde slipped and fell on to his back. Because of the steepness of the slope he started sliding ever faster, bumping over rocks and flying through the air in places and landing with a crash on the icy surface until he came up with an awful impact against a large rock.

I hastened as speedily as I could to his side but the sight when I got there was enough to make my heart quail. His body was bent backwards around the sharp rock at an impossible angle and I was certain that he had broken many bones. His face was smeared with blood which was welling from his mouth. That made me believe he had also damaged some of his internal organs, perhaps even his heart or lungs. He was breathing very slowly and was deeply unconscious.

Despite my experience of seeing many men killed during the siege of Montségur, I had never been called upon to attempt to repair such damage to a man’s body. In the last few days I had come to love Raymonde as if he had been one of my family. I looked to Guillaume who was standing nearby for assistance but he simply shrugged and said, “That one is dead.”

I knew we were going to have to carry Raymonde the rest of the way. I looked at the rough terrain and my heart failed me. I knew we would never make it.

Guillaume was bending over Raymonde. “He is certainly dead,” he said.

I inspected the body of my companion. He had turned a sort of pale grey except for the clot of blood which had frozen in his mouth. I knew then that Guillaume spoke correctly. So I wept for the last man in the whole of the Languedoc whom I could call a friend. I knew then that I was alone in the world.

 

The photo shows the Pyrenees in early spring. I will complete the journal next week.

Nov 132011
 

Extract from the fictional Journal of Phillipe de Saint-Claire – translated from the ancient Occitan language into modern English. Phillipe hides the bamboo tubes and walls up the small cave.

 

The next morning we were up at an early hour. With Raymonde leading the way to ensure that we were not surprised and discovered, I carried the precious treasure to the store-room. Fortunately we encountered no other person on the way. We closed the door behind us and secreted the tubes in the shallow cave we had found, laying them on a bed of small stones in case any moisture should enter the cave, so that it could drain away without damaging or penetrating the tubes, which in any case were wrapped and waxed and sealed as I have previously described.

We then rebuilt the wall from the larger stones we had removed. This took the two of us a long time, particularly to firmly hammer back into place the stones below the timber floor of the room above. This floor of course formed the ceiling of our store room. We also pressed in a number of small stones between the large ones, using the mallet and the mattock to force them tight. By the time we had carefully finished reconstructing the whole of the wall in this way I felt assured that it would withstand the passage of time and would only be removed by the purposeful action of men who might wish to demolish it. I was hopeful that in such a remote location it would not be discovered except by persons directed to it by the Convocation of perfecti.

Using the barrels we removed almost all the resulting rubble from the floor of the room and distributed it in one of the courtyards of the castle, returning with soil which we rubbed into the face of the wall and spread about the floor in an attempt to disguise our activities of the last two days. Thus, weary from all our unaccustomed labours, we repaired to my chamber, ate a hearty meal and collapsed into our truckle beds.

When we awoke next morning it was to receive the alarming news that a messenger had arrived bearing tidings of the tragic happenings at Montségur. The man told us that all the remaining Cathar occupants of the castle, being more than two hundred souls, had marched out together to surrender their persons to the French besiegers. They had then been invited to forswear their heresy as the Church of Rome would have it. Not one of them had weakened and all had continued to swear their belief in the Cathar faith. As a result they had all been herded into a large timber stockade filled with firewood well soaked in animal fat. This had been set alight and every last one of them had died on that dreadful pyre, suffering terrible torment, and even then none had recanted in order to survive. Then the French seneschal, Hugues des Arcis declared that the Cathar faith was at an end and that any remaining adherents to the faith were to be sought out and burned at the stake.

Thus I, a mere lad of sixteen years, but a perfectus of the Cathar faith, was faced with a dreadful dilemma. I expected that some of the besiegers of Montségur, being cleverer than most and becoming aware that four of us had escaped the funeral pyre of the Cathars, would set up a hue and cry to discover our whereabouts and recover the treasure. Therefore, reflecting upon my position, I decided that it was my duty to escape my pursuers.

 

The photo shows the overgrown hillside at le Bézu. I will continue the journal next week.

Nov 062011
 

Extract from the fictional Journal of Phillipe de Saint-Claire – translated from the ancient Occitan language into modern English. Phillipe finds the place to hide the bamboo tubes.

 

Raymonde told me he had spent several hours exploring the furthermost extents of the castle and had located a deep store room which he would show me and which he believed would satisfy my requirements. I responded that I would wish to view his proposed hiding place as soon as possible.

Thus we agreed to go to inspect this room straight away and, having carefully locked my chamber to temporarily secure the bamboo tubes and having armed ourselves with tallow candles to enable us to see our way in the depths of the castle, I accompanied him as he directed. He took me through the silent, unoccupied buildings to the far end of the castle from the gatehouse and down a narrow stairway, at the bottom of which was a door into a small room. Raymonde explained that, because the room was so isolated, it was hardly ever used for any purpose. Indeed I was able to see that it was unoccupied at that time by any goods save two opened, empty and unused barrels in one corner. I also noted that the room was dry, which I judged to be important.

I looked carefully around the room. The wall facing the door was extremely solid and Raymonde confirmed that as far as he knew it was the outside wall of the castle which was almost certainly at least ten cubits thick in this area, as was the wall just to the left of the door from the staircase. The wall beside the staircase had been hewn from the bed-rock and was built in large rough stones above the descent of the stairs. The fourth wall was also mainly cut from the living rock as was a part of the floor. The exception was the top corner (about one quarter of the whole wall) which had been constructed from close-jointed random stonework. Being aware of the importance of maintaining the utmost security for the hiding place, I decided that we should see if we could secrete the bamboo tubes in the space behind this wall using suitable tools for the task.

It was a lot of work but the removal of the stones revealed a shallow cave behind the wall which was only about a cubit and a half deep and perhaps four cubits in height and six cubits in width which would have been approximately suitable to shelter a grown man on his knees. The recess was dry and still had the remains of some desiccated vegetation in it. So I judged it to be a satisfactory and secure place for the secreting of the treasure and I communicated such to my colleague.

 

The photo shows all that remains of the castle walls. I will continue the journal next week.