Cayron: the fourth priest of a famous trio?
Part 1: a forgotten life and a wrong location
The name of Abbé Émile-François Cayron is largely unknown in the mystery of Rennes-le-Château. This is remarkable, for at the time when the enigma was conceived, both by Gérard de Sède and the anonymous deposits in the French National Library, a highly illustrious career of endless speculation was carved out for this priest too. In the end, Cayron never achieved the fame that Saunière, Gelis or Boudet would befall. Though this might seen fortuitous to some, it will become apparent that, though for sure it is a good thing that no endless and baseless speculation has existed, certain key elements of this man’s life have thus been overlooked.
An illustrious presence
so-called “Dossier Secrets” is now used for a collection of
diverse records that were deposited with the French National Library over
a period of several years in the mid-1960s. All of these documents referred
to the mystery of Rennes-le-Château in one form of the other. The
documents would specifically become the backbone of “Holy Blood, Holy
Grail”, whereas most of the French literature on the subjects treated
them with slightly more scepticism.
The sixth and final depot is known as the “Dossiers Secrets d’Henri Lobineau”, deposited in April 1967, and not only gave the name to the series of documents, but also contained the obituary of Cayron.
obituary, written by “a friend of the deceased”, states that
Cayron was born on December 11, 1807 in Aubin (Aveyron) and died on January
3, 1897, in Toulouse. It lists his full name as Emile-Francois-Henri Géraud
de Cayron and his primary posting as “Saint Laurent, near Montferrand”,
a small village between Castelnaudary and Villefranche-de-Lauragais, near
the A61/E80 motorway.
His first posting was as vicar in Mirepoix, on June 3, 1833; apparently, his father had been posted there by the state at the same time. Six months later, on January 1, 1834, he took charge of the parish of Issards; in November, his father was transferred to Villefrance-Lauraguais, and he transferred from the Ariège to the diocese of Carcassonne, which posted him in St Laurent de Montferrand. He spent the majority of his life there, from November 10, 1834 until December 31, 1885.
to his friend, he was the archetypal good priest, respected, and apparently
referred to as the “patriarch of the country”. He was apparently
a well-read man, specifically interested in the philosophies of Bonnetti.
In his parish lived an old noble family, the lords of Raynes, whom he apparently
slowly reintroduced into the village and his religious community.
More interestingly, the obituary lists how he largely reconstructed the church, the presbytery, etc. In the “Dossiers Secrets”, the following sentence is important – and underlined: “apart from that which the family de Raynes gave him, nobody knew from where he drew the funds to finance such great repairs.” It is clear that the Dossiers Secrets were setting Cayron up as another Saunière: another country priest, who was able to extensively repair and redecorate his village, but without any apparent funds.
friend states that the property, its ornaments, the beauty of the church
had been one of Cayron’s preoccupations. He then continues that he
learned on the grapevine that the diocese one day felt that it might be
good to move him towards a more important position, but that after a few
days of thinking, Cayron declined the offer, unable to extract himself from
the parishioners he had come to love so much, for so long. The authorities
understood, and let him be in St Laurent.
The bishop’s feelings seemed genuine, for when it came to celebrate Cayron’s fifty anniversary of his posting in St Laurent, the entire village had dressed up the church and the village as a whole, including Cayron, were apparently in tears, of joy. But the years were taking their toll and Cayron felt that he should retire, which he did, in December 1885, moving to Toulouse, close to one of his nieces.
The church of St Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse
The addition of this obituary into the Dossiers Secrets and the underlining of his name, his posting and that no-one could explain how he acquired his wealth, were obvious attempts by the anonymous author of the Dossiers Secrets to incorporate Cayron into the legend that would become known as Rennes-le-Château, but could have been known as “of Rennes-le-Château and St Laurent”.
was also worked into the “transmission” of the secret, i.e.
how Bigou’s secret at the time of the French Revolution somehow had
been passed on until the time of Saunière – i.e. one century
The standard version of this transmission states that Bigou had passed on his great secret verbally to Abbé François-Pierre Cauneille, formerly priest of Rennes-les-Bains, who in turn confided it to two others. One of these, the Abbé Jean Vie, became parish priest of Rennes-les-Bains from 1840 to 1870. It is the unusual inscription on his tomb in the church cemetery highlighting the date January 1 that has become part of the myth. The other colleague was Abbé Émile-François Cayron.
However, all renderings of this “transmission” argue that Cayron was the parish priest of St. Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse. Check books and websites, and he is listed as such. It thus seems that St Laurent near Montferrand somehow has become confused with St Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse, between Durban-Corbières and Lezignan-Corbières, and not far from Lagrasse. It is an incredible error, especially as the Dossiers Secrets underline the correct location in the obituary. Still, everyone has “faithfully” copied the error.
Fact or myth?
The “transmission account” then states that it was Cayron who financed the education of the young Henri Boudet of Axat, who was to succeed Abbé Jean Vie as priest of Rennes-les-Bains in 1872, some thirteen years before Bérenger Saunière arrived at Rennes-le-Château. As to why Cayron financed Henri’s education: it is said that he was a family friend of the Boudet family, allowing him to enter the seminary in Carcassonne. It is added that he was even a student of Cayron, who was apparently instrumental in allowing Boudet to study English – the language he would greatly abuse in his “masterwork” “The True Celtic Language”.
of this is highly confusing. Indeed, Cayron living in St Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse
is a much more logical choice, as it is near Durban-Corbières, and
we know that Boudet was posted there as a young vicar; we know that Saunière
visited Durban. In short, St Laurent de-la-Cabrerisse is largely within
the sphere of the mystery, if we were to define this as the area of Durban/Rennes-le-Château/Carcassonne/Narbonne
– though we of course argue this area should be extended slightly
eastwards, taking in Perpignan – and hence Perillos.
But St Laurent near Montferrand is very far westwards. And however good-looking and tempting the “official version” of the transmission of the secret is (from Bigou to Cauneille to Vie and Cayron to Boudet… to Saunière), the known facts of Cayron’s life do not fit well with these claims. How would Cayron have known of Boudet? How were they family friends? How did a priest from the Ariège know Cauneille, priest of Rennes-les-Bains? No-one has thoroughly addressed, let alone explain, these major hurdles that stand in the way of accepting the claims made in the “transmission account”.
Interior of the church of St Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse
makes for an altogether unlikely scenario and all the evidence speaks in
favour of the sceptics, who – if they had tackled Cayron – would
no doubt have argued that the anonymous author of the Dossiers Secrets had
taken Cayron’s interesting obituary and fabricated this line of transmission,
to write Cayron into the mystery. We would agree with this conclusion, but
would add that the obituary does state that Cayron, like Saunière,
had an obvious source of income that was not apparent, not even to his friends,
and that he, like Saunière, seemed unable to leave his village behind.
Leaving the sceptics beyond at this point, we also need to point out that the real “transmission” of whatever Bigou knew seems to have happened via Spain, and recent claims, e.g. those by Patrice Chaplin, underline the growing body of evidence that the true knowledge remained much longer in Spain, rather than being passed immediately back to Rennes-les-Bains and the likes of Vie, Cayron or Boudet.
what if… There are certain coincidences that no-one has underlined,
not even the anonymous author of the Dossiers Secrets who is nevertheless
willing to underline other things. First, Cayron retired on December 31,
1885, which is just after Saunière took up his posting in Rennes-le-Château
– on June 1, 1885. However, by December 1, Saunière already
had to go back to Narbonne, only to return in July 1886. Let us also note
that unlike Saunière, Cayron was willing to leave St Laurent upon
his retirement; he could easily have stayed in this village, but perhaps
did indeed need the nursing care of his niece in his old days – he
was 78 when he retired.
Still, he cannot have been too infirm, for he would live until January 3, 1897, i.e. until the age of 89. It is during the night of October 31 to November 1, 1897, that Gélis will be brutally assassinated, at a time when Saunière continues to build his “Great Work”.
Of course, we should not attach any specific significance to these coinciding events on the historical timeline – and we merely paint them here to put Cayron’s life into the “Rennes-le-Château chronology”, to show that the author of the Dossiers Secrets could have created much more intrigue, if he had desired to do so.
To St Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse
A discarded station of the cross in St Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse
At this moment in time, a question had to be asked: though there was obviously some mystery involving the wealth of Cayron, whether this had anything to do with the mystery of Rennes-le-Château was unknown at present. But why was St Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse worked into the story? Was it a simple error, or was it instead a hint, to go and see what might be in St Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse? So, investigate St Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse we did.
church of St Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse is dedicated to the patron saint of
the village, St Laurent. The church dates from the 17th century and apart
from being extremely large, most people point towards its porch, where there
are two large sculpted stones. They are reused stones of a pre-Roman sanctuary,
said to have stood near the river Nielle.
The inside of the church is an impressive, though not tantalizing display; the local guides tell us that in the 1960s, the priest sold most of the prized possessions of the church to install new seating for the congregation. The new seats are not impressive. In a side-chapel we find the sole survival of the Stations of the Cross; it indeed reveals that the church had a more glorious past than today, but nothing is out of the ordinary, or linked with something that somehow would drag St Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse into the enigma.
When we visit the local historians – one of whom lives in a nearby house that is on par with the Villa Bethania and must have cost roughly the same amount of money and is also quite similar in style – we are indeed informed that locally, no-one has ever heard of Cayron. And that, it seems, is the end of St Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse. Somehow, its incorporation into the mystery is an error – whereas Cayron’s omission from the mystery seems to be a stroke of fate – whether luck, or unfortunate, is too soon to define.