05 Sep

I am currently working on an article for this site about the church of Mary Magdalene at Rennes-le-Chateau. I am interested in the terminology of the name of the church through the ages. Hence i had written:

"Rennes-le-Chateau was known since 1002 as Redae Castle, where a castle [castrum] is a building or plot of land reserved for or constructed for use as a military defensive position, or perhaps a castellum in its ancient sense - from the Roman - meaning a small detached fort or fortlet used as a watch tower or signal station. The Latin word castellum is a diminutive of castra ("military camp"), which in turn is the plural of castrum ("watchpost"); it is the source of the English word "castle".

Perhaps this little hill top village started life as essentially a defensive watchtower or signal station, with its early use already known and reflected as such in the name given it in 1002.

Local archaeologist Raynaud said: "It is unfortunately the case that there is a total absence of evidence of a Visigoth presence in Rennes-le-Château. 'Evidence' cited, such as the 'dalle des Chevaliers' and the pillar of the old altar can not be attributed to the Visigoths, but rather to the canons of Carolingian art. The remains of the walls that can still be seen around the land are from the Romanesque era (from the tenth to twelfth century). 

The only things that "may" belong to the time of the Visigoths are fragments of fortifications that surround the village. Raynaud cites for example, "the portion of a dry wall belonging to a circular tower". This would allow the architectural element to date to the Middle Ages, and Raynaud's does not mean that we are dealing with a Visigoth fortification. As the only witness of a building of defense, it can be attributed to a period of instability - perhaps erected by local people to defend themselves from the arrival of the Visigoths or by the subsequent Saracen invasion of the eight century. What we can say with a good approximation is the fact that the ancient Roman oppidum was surrounded by walls to defend against any external threat".

In 1002 the whole area of ancient Septimania would have been ruled by the Carolingians. It was the time of the Reconquista. This also ties in with the Carolingian remains found by the archaeologists at RLC."

In the early 9th century, Charlemagne began issuing a new kind of land grant, the aprisio, which reallocated land previously held by the imperial crown fisc in deserted or abandoned areas. This included special rights and immunities that allowed considerable independence from the imperial control. Historians have interpreted the aprisio both as an early form of feudalism and in economic and military terms as a mechanism to entice settlers to a depopulated border region. Such self-sufficient landholders would aid the Counts in providing armed men to defend the Frankish frontier. Aprisio grants (the first ones were in Septimania) were given personally by the Carolingian king, so that they reinforced loyalty to central power, to counterbalance the local power exercised by the Marcher Counts.

By 1179 Rennes is now described as a town and then a villa, or perhaps a farm/country home/estate, or a large country residence/seat, villa or village. In 1185 the large villa [?the chateau at Rennes] is described as being on the territory and land of Beate Marie de Reddis [1400-50; late Middle English < Latin territōrium land round a town, district, equivalent to terr (a) land + -i- -i- + -tōrium -tory]. Beate Marie de Reddis means Blessed Mary of Reddis. We may ask which Mary? Does Blessed Mary not suggest the Virgin Mary? [Interesting to note here that Reddis as a name for Rennes-le-Chateau first appears in 1185, Viz the mysterious Sauniere parchments which detail Reddis Cellis etc. Are we interested in Rennes at around this time?]"

As you can see here i question which Mary is being referred to in the name of this territory. It struck me as somewhat strange that a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene would describe her as Blessed. You can imagine my surprise when i saw the latest posting by my fellow researcher Patrick Mensior which post here below: 


Patrick writes:

"In his topographical Department of the Aude dictionary, Canon Antoine Sabarthès gives the extract of a document of 1185 from the archives of the Haute-Garonne indicating that the Rennes-le-Château Church was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin: territorium Beate Marie de Reddis.  The following century, this term shall be renewed in other forms: in 1246 Beata Maria de Reddas, and in 1255 Sancta Maria de Reddis. However, documents dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries show that the dedication to the Virgin Mary has [been changed] to that of Sainte Mary Magdalene. The exact period where this substitution took place is probably much older than the documents we have shown ..."

The French goes on to discuss the name change thus:

"Extract from the minutes of the pastoral visit of 1808  One does not know the reason for this change [ie the saint the church is dedicated to] but Andrée Pottie, tireless reader, discovered in a study of 1936 published in the annals of Burgundy under the pen of Mr. Chaume [a section] which deals specifically with this topic:        

"No doubt, during their history - documents are there to show - some of these buildings have seen changes [in] the word/s they received originally: but it is a fact, quite rare, and the ecclesiastical canons are to make it impossible" because "It was during the period that extends from the 5th to the 8th century that the saint [i.e the Blessed Virgin?] became the dedication of this Church - and after the dedication it can no longer be deprived of it without risk. The canonical laws also specify (and in this they will be punished) that no word must be replaced with a more ancient word, and that if a church is destroyed, it must be built with another, as much as possible in the same place, and dedicated to the same Saint.   In the case of a new consecration, it is true, one sees sometimes introduced alongside the original saint, a second one will little by little take the first place of the first."

He adds that the change in name might have been due to the movement of relics, or the giving of 'hospitality' [?] to a Holy Body in the 'life' of the building. As Patrick said:

"Since it is known that in the 12th century, the Church was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and later this term is lost in favour of that of Mary Magdalene, should we consider that this change was explained by the conditions Mr. Chaume mentioned?"