Legend of the Paris Zero Meridian [pp 44 - 48]

The copper line then crosses the two transepts, and passes at an angle in front of the altar, and terminates at the foot of an obelisk made of black and white marble. On this at midday there is a projected ray of sunlight which passes through a circular opening cut into the stained glass window of the right hand transept. A long its whole length of the course of the meridian line are to be found the signs of the zodiac from Cancer [the summer solstice] to  Capricorn [the Devil] at the summit of the obelisk, known as a gnome [from Greek meaning an 'indicator']. The lay out of the signs are as follows;

On each side of the line are the paintings by Signol. Near the gnomon, the distance between the two paintings of 'The Sword' and 'Death' was originally planned to be 7 toises. The meridian line was to run 0.32 toises from the Death painting as marked out by Henry Sully, the English horologer and astronomer [died 1728]. It was then modified by Pierre Charles Le Monnier in 1743, and modified again by the engineer Claude Langlois in 1744. Finally when the painter Signol produced his works between 1875 and 1876, that is to say 130 years later, the metre had replaced the toise, and these days the distance is measured at around 14 metres.

It is interesting to recall that in 1748 a painting of the dead Jesus in the arms of his mother was to be found on this spot. It was similar to the one by Van Dyck [reproduced in the June '89 number of Vaincre]. This disappeared during the Revolution and was replaced by a canvas assigned by decree 25th February 1811. This new painting was 2.92 metres high by 2.14 metres wide, depicted a priest at the altar showing the people the bloodstained shroud of Christ. Victor Huugo mentions it in a note at the time of his visit to St Sulpice on 20th September 1822 [and where he was to be married the following 12th October]. This canvas was withdrawn in 1875 after a stay of 64 years and returned to Bourges from where it had originally come.


The place they called Chapelle-Saint-Ursine was formerly outside the city of Bourges but today forms part of it. It was here that certain Biturgies [kings of the world] settled, and that at the time of the Gallic Wars Avaricum saw 40,000 horsemen and their families file past, not counting those on foot. It was here, because of the dangers confronting the entire hexagon of Gaul, that Vercingetorix was elected. After the Gallic War, the camp of the Biturgies of Bourges became an agglomeration of wretched people - disappointed old campaigners, those who had not been n the war but longed for a return of the resistance, the inevitable down and outs, and augurs who had lost their north. A Christian called Ursine became chaplain of the community , and then the first bishop of Bourges. Deeply modest, Ursine asked that after his death there should be no memorial to his life. No stone let alone an engraved one, was to mark his burial. His efforts were in vain as legend relates that in the year 560 a miraculous event established that Ursin's body had been laid beneath a dolmen built by the Biturgies over where the dead man had reposed for generations with offerings. Ursin was then canonised and the sanctuary that bears his name was built upon the site. Some believe in a tradition according to which a secret entrance still exists today, and that Jacques Coeur [d.1456] and Jean Lallemont gave the key to it in some enigmatic sculptures such as the legend of St Christopher or the Golden Fleece.

Opposite is a superbly painted bas-relief in stone depicting Offerus who became St Christopher for the Christians, the one who carries the Son of the Sun. With the enormous tree trunk that he holds in his right hand, he is indicating an oath known to older inhabitants of this region. The rest of the information is to be found near the bas-relief of the Golden Fleece. In the course of the seventh century a colony of Jews settled in La Chapelle St Ursine and brought with them from Jerusalem a hexagonal bowl of red jasper. St Sulpice, the first bishop of Bourges, worked for the conversion of the Jews. He died 17th January 647. He is the patron saint of St Sulpice in Paris.

Bourges was the refuge of Charles VIIth [the Fool], known as the King of Bourges; the birthplace of Louis XI; the headquarters of Joan of Arc in 1429 to 1430; and the crossroads of the pilgrim routes to St James of Compostela. The city of Bourges used to have as many as sixty churches. Great veneration was shown to Our Lady of Sales whose statue was burned by the Potestants in 1562. In the Roussillon in Perpignan one can admire the building of the Loges, which the ARCH surmounts. In the foreground the symbolic Venus de Mailol. Six carved gargoyles of dragons furnish the monument. Did not a celebrated painter say that Perpignan was the centre of the esoteric world - Formerly their number was seven.

The Zero Meridian is signposted here by a tower of St Vincents Cathedral, which geographers knew well. It ;possesses the tomb of St Roch whose existence, though legendary, is deeply symbolic. The Meridian passes about 1 kilometre from this tower.


This ancient spa town has nearly 1600 inhabitants. The importance it is accorded is justified by the role given it by the Priory of Sion and by the curiosity it has attracted since 1967 and the publication of the book L'Or de Rennes, which launched a gold rush by people naive enough to mistake a treasure story for reality. The gold of Rennes certainly existed - it was the gold of two mines, one on the locality of Roc Negre and the other at Cardou. The Roc Negre mine has been exhausted since Roman times and what remains of the mineral is not now exploitable. The Cardou mine is richer in gold and it may be profitable to exploit it - perhaps it will be so for the Salsigne Company. Our interest in Rennes-les-Bains is the legend of the Paris Zero Meridian, for a document dating from 1808 and originating in Sabatell [the place of exile for the cures of Rennes-les-Bains and Rennes-le-Chateau in 1791 and 1792] came into Pierre Plantards possession in 1938 via his uncle, Etienne Plantard. This document, intended for the Priory of Sion - had escaped the auto-da-fe of 9th June 1851 and the burning of the books of Allan Kardec. It is thought to have been given by Henri Paul Elie de Fleury to abbe Henri Boudet, the cure of Rennes-les-Bains, at the beginning of the year 1874 and to have been passed on to Charles Plantard in 1892 from whom Etienne, his youngest son, inherited it.

This three page document deals with Les Bergers d'arcadie and the Paris Meridian, perhaps the basis of the myth of the famous shepherd Paris, which has been in circulation in Rennes for a number of years. Poussin's painting, Les Bergers d'arcadie calls for some discussion. Firstly he was not the first painter to make use of this theme, secondly there are two versions of this painting by Poussin - perhaps three. It has also been claimed that a tomb near Rennes-les-Bains [between Serres and Arques, about 6 kilometres on the road from Rennes-les-Bains] was the model for Poussin's picture [the second version]. People have compared the plantation of trees in the eighteenth-century canvas with the one that is visible in the landscape three hundred years later. The fact is that before the invention of photography there never was any photographic resemblance between paintings and landscapes. The academic artist was concerned with above all a harmony that was not given him by nature. He enriched it and embellished it and gave it some order, considering that his job depended on it. This is most certainly the case with Les Bergers d'arcadie', one of the few canvasses, perhaps the only one, by Poussin that cannot be dated more closely than by six years, because of the extent of the re-workings he did to it.

Poussin's biography between his arrival in Italy and his death is sufficiently well known to make it possible to positively deny his presence in Rennes-les-Bains. This effectively settles the question of direct copying in the painting. On the other hand, it is true than Poussin did work from sketches by Jean-Pierre Rivalz of Toulouse who was responsible in his studio for the architecture of buildings and also produced some paintings in his own right. It seems impossible, however, that Poussin ould have used sketches by Rivalz in 1636 or 1638 to produce his second version of Les Bergers d'arcadie. Rivals did indeed go to Rennes and produced the portrait of Blaise d'Hautpoul [preserved by his family] just as he decorated the Town Hall of Toulouse. But it was much later, because, as can be clearly seen in the portrait, Blaise is wearing a gold chain, the emblem of a dignitary of the Order of Sion. Now, in the painting he is an elderly man, and it could not have been done before 1681 or after 1694, the date of his death. It is much more probable that Poussin's paintings were a sequel to the work produced by Giovanni Guercino between 1621 and 1623.

However, the inscription on the dalle between Serres and Arques must go back to the Humanist circle of the Arcadian shepherds of Lorenzo de Medici and Politian. It can be dated without risk of error between 1490 and 1502 like Arcadia by Jacopo Sannazaro or the work by Lucas Signorelli, The Kingdom of Pan, discussed by Fritz Saxl in 1927. 

The document of 1808 gave the Priory of Sion [after years of research both on site and in Paris and provincial libraries] the solution to the problem that arose at the time of the French Revolution in 1789. In it one read; 

"Confronted in the year 1780 by certain serious events, I went to Bezu to visit my colleague Cabanie, who like me, had just been appointed to this place. He told me about an engraved stone at Pontils being re-located to the cemetery at Rennes-le-Chateau on the orders of the Marquise. Tiffou was put in charge of the transfer by horseback in the autumn of 1780. My colleague Cabanie, who was an extremely cultivated man, confided in me the secret of this stone which, according to him, went back to the time of the Templars of the Roussillon and had been under the protection of Pierre de Voisons"

The Marquise d'Hautpoul de Blanchefort was to die between the 15th and the 19th of January 1781 [not on the 17th] and the stone was laid flat over her tomb. A vertical stone was to be composed subsequently by Abbe Jean Pierre Cabanie [not abbe Antoine Bigou], who was only put in charge of its production]. Its installation was to take place during 1785 by a certain Jean Sacaze, a shoemaker by trade but also an engraver of gravestones, and perhaps the nephew or great nephew of Abbe Antoine Bigou.

One hundred years later, the Et in Arcadia Ego stone was to be destroyed or at least partly polished so smooth as to make it illegible. The vertical stone was likewise broken in pieces and thrown into the corner of the cemetery of Rennes-le-Chateau, and narrowly rescued by the curator of the library of Carcassonne, Rene Descadeillas. The myth of the treasure discovered by Abbe Sauniere cure of Rennes-le-Chateau, lingers on although no one has seen a scrap of it, or knows where it came from or can even say where it is. This is for the simple reason that no one has ever known the secret of Rennes. He was paid very generously indeed to look for some legalised documents hidden inside his church before the revolution of 1789. None of the three documents which were discovered is susceptible to the decoding of any kind or even to revealing the least mention of the name of Dagobert, being simply a genealogy of the Counts of Rhedae from the time of the Visigothic kings to Blanche of Castille. This geneaolgy includes several Beras and Sigeberts

Our brothers should know and distinguish two things; 

A. the secret of the Templar treasure buried in Rennes-les-Bains by the Templars of the Roussillon between 1290 and 1300; 

and B. the secret of Roc Negre i.e. the Round Table.

When Pierre Plantard was writing in 1978 in his preface to La Vrai Langue Celtique, he mentioned some sums given by Abbe Boudet to Abbe Sauniere, but omitted to make it clear to the uninitiated that the francs in question had been converted into modern francs; and that Sauniere received only thirty per cent of the amounts calculated by Boudet, through negotiations at Perpignan, the balance going to the Order through various French and foreign banks.

Was the discovery of a treasure involved? Absolutely not, at least not in the sense that the uninitiated use the term. The object was to recover from the Cardou mines gold nuggets, deposits forgotten in 1789 after the Dubosc affair. Here again the word forgotten is incorrect as Urbain de Fleury drew on this reserve in doing good, particularly to the children of St Vincent.

In September 1884 a convention was organised in Switzerland at which the Grand Master, Victor Hugo, met brother Schoerer; the Master of one of the Geneva commanderies of the Priory of Sion and decided the agreement to be made with Mgr Billard and Abbe Henri Boudet over the Cardou mines.

On 22nd May 1885, however, Victor Hugo died and it was only during the reign of Claude Debussy that it was possible to realise the plan, after the nomination of Sauniere as cure of Rennes-le-Chateau in June 1885. Our Brothers should remember that Schoerer was none other than the husband of Gabrielle de Fleury whose lands in Rennes-les-Bains had been appropriated by a gang of crooks on 17th June 1889 after proceedings lasting six years - Coll, a banker in Carcassonne; Boris, an attorney in Narbonne; Stage, an extortionate money-lender in Carcassonne known as Bugbear, and the head of the Johanist movement. The rights to the Cardou mines were revenue for Gabrielle de Fleury as well as her three sisters. Between 1885 and 1904 the whole reserve was exhausted, a total of 30 million francs. The treasure of the Templars of Roussillon has quite a different aspect. Its secret lies in Rennes-les-Bains and is still to be found there, but the cache is said to be beneath the bell tower of Arques church, built over an ancient monastery. Abbe Boudet, who knew the secret, is said to have confided it on his death bed in 1915 to Sauniere, cure of Rennes-le-Chateau.


The last point in France on the Paris Zero Meridian is the source of the Tech near the Pic de Costabonne [2319 metres]. According to the legend this was the birth place of the myth of Hercules. The line then continues into Spanish territory in the direction of Barcelona. These days the Paris Zero Meridian no longer exists, it is only a legend of history. And yet, 'They were only one hundred or so but they represented the 5000 or so French and Spanish school children who during the course of the last few weeks have measured the terrestrial meridian between Dunkirk and Barcelona, thus repeating the exploits of the scholars Jean-Baptiste Delambre and Pierre Mechain in the calculation of the French Meridian" [Extract from France-Soir, no:13.948, Wednesday 14th June 1989, front page, with a superb photograph of the children holding the Metre, the standard of measure serving from the Paris Zero Meridian].


NOTE - Victor Hugo was not a Freemason, but he was named symbolically by the Grand Orient of Mexico to the Supreme Council on 27th July 1869.