Living in the Languedoc: Some Famous Residents: Gérard de Sède
Gérard de Sède was a historian who popularised the mystery
of Rennes-le-Château. The following is his obituary from the
Independant, 24 June 2004, by Marcus Williamson, repoduced
here by permission.
Gerard de Sede was responsible for introducing
the world to the mystery of Rennes-le-Château, a real-life
historical detective story set in the Languedoc in south-west
France. In 1967 he published Le Trésor maudit de Rennes-le-Château
(translated as The Accursed Treasure of Rennes-le-Château,
2001), in which he describes how, at the end of the 19th century,
a priest apparently discovered something in his hilltop village
which enabled him to amass and spend a fortune. Between 1891
and his death in 1917, Abbé Bérenger Saunière disposed of
more than one and a half thousand million old francs, valued
in 1913 at £60m. Was the village of Rennes-le-Château the
centre of a fabulous discovery? What was the secret possessed
by Abbé Saunière?
De Sède first became known to the anglophone book-reading
public in 1982, through the non-fiction best-seller The
Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard
Leigh and Henry Lincoln. Lincoln's introduction describes
how Le Trésor maudit had inspired the authors to start on
their own journey of discovery. Did Saunière discover gold
treasure in the area, or did he find parchments which attested
to the bloodline of Christ, who had survived the cross? Had
the bloodline since been preserved through history by a secret
society? Perhaps there was a more prosaic explanation for
his wealth, such as the selling of masses.
Their research led to several books and television documentaries on the subject, putting Rennes-le-Château alongside the Loch Ness Monster as one of the world's great unsolved mysteries. This quest has been joined over the years by many other researchers and writers, to the extent that there are now more than 500 books on the topic, numerous websites and a thriving tourist industry in the area, catering to grail seekers from around the globe.
Gérard de Sède's writing on "alternative
history" dated back to 1962, with the publication of Les
Templiers sont parmi nous, ou, L'Enigme de Gisors
("The Templars are Amongst Us, or The Enigma of Gisors").
It was this work which first hinted at the existence of the
Priory of Sion, the "secret society" which plays such an important
role in the Rennes-le-Château mystery. This book was followed
in 1967 by his first work dealing exclusively with Rennes-le-Château,
L'Or de Rennes, ou La Vie insolite de Bérenger Saunière,
curé de Rennes-le-Château ("The Gold of Rennes,
or The Strange Life of Bérenger Saunière, Priest of Rennes-le-Château").
De Sède was initially published as a Surrealist writer. In 1941, during the German occupation of France, and at the age of only 21, he was a member of the Surrealist group known as "La Main à Plume". De Sède himself had named the group in truncating a phrase from Rimbaud, "La main à plume vaut la main à charrue" ("The hand that writes is equal to the hand that ploughs"). His L'Incendie habitable ("The Inhabitable Fire") appeared in 1943 as the third of 12 issues of the group's periodical.
He received two citations for his activity with the Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur (FFI) during the liberation of Paris. Following a wide-ranging career in the 1940s and 1950s, which embraced newspaper selling, tunnel-boring and journalism, he became an "agriculteur" in 1956. Several of his publications, from the 1960s onwards, were written with his wife, Sophie.
More recently, de Sède looked critically at the mystery of Rennes-le-Château. In Rennes-le-Château: le dossier, les impostures, les phantasmes, les hypothèses (1988) he surveyed some of the publications which had appeared over the previous 20 years, analysing the theories and their proponents.
Through his more than 40 works, de Sède's writings on "alternative history" have remained controversial. Some authors have even suggested that the entire Rennes-le-Château "mystery" may not be real at all, but instead an elaborate prank hatched in the 1950s by de Sède and a coterie of friends. Whatever the secret may be, as de Sède himself pointed out in Le Trésor maudit, quoting André Breton, "The imaginary is something that tends to become true."
Gérard de Sède, writer: born Lioux, France 5 June 1921; married; died 29 May
books on the mystery of Rennes-le-Château, including
de Sède's book
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