|A strange Carthusian prior: Polycarpe de la Rivière|
A prior who writes a lot
The coat of arms of Urfé
of the strangest priors of the Carthusian monks must be Polycarpe de la
Born about 1584, he is only known under the pseudonym of Polycarpe de la Rivière. Of his name, birthplace and family, we know nothing, except that he is from the area of Velay and of noble origin. However, recently we were finally able to locate his birthplace and the name of his family.
He was initially a master of music at the castle of Usson (in Forez), where he fell under the charm of Marguerite de Valois, a refugee (from 1586 to 1605) with the family of Urfé, who offered her protection.
Polycarpe regretfully left the services of Marguerite de Valois and the Urfé family, this as the result of some curious order that seems to have been given to him. He enters the noviciate amongst the Jesuits of Lyons, then quickly requests the admission to the Carthusians, where father Dom Bruno d’Affringues receives him and shows him, for the rest of his life, a close affection.
When he was 22 years old, Polycarpe made his “profession” on May 1, 1609. He wrote many works on religious subjects and his writings were warmly appreciated, specifically by his superiors.
: “Adieu du monde ou le mesprit de ses vaines grandeurs et
plaisirs périssables”, published in 1619.
In 1617, he publishes “Récréation spirituelle sur l’amour divin et le bien des âmes”. It is in this book that the anagram of Polycarpe de la Rivière is used for the first time: “J’ai de propre le ciel d’amour”.
1618 : “L’Adieu au Monde” (republished five times).
1621 : “Le Mystère Sacré de Nostre Rédemption” (3 volumes).
1618 : l’Eloquent Amoureux ou Pensée sur le Cantique de Salomon. The work cannot be located.
1619 and 1622 : “Récréations Spirituelles sur l’amour divin et le bien des âmes”. With the anagram of Polycarpe, an element appears of a phonetic system of cryptography that Polycarpe seems to follow to the letter.
1619, 1621, 1625, 1631 : republications of “L’Adieu du monde…”, but this time his heraldic device and his motto appear as well: “Solutido mihi provincia”.
1625 : “L’Ame pénitente auprès de la Croix”
1626 : “Angélique” It is at this moment that his superior reproaches Polycarpe for writing in French. He deplores that Polycarpe did not write in Latin, which was the language reserved for the monks and less accessible to the general public! The work contains curious observations on natural history and many innovative ideas that would only become known to the general public during the 18th century – the following century. It is clear that his superiors try to reserve certain information for their own ranks, whereas Polycarpe feels the public has a right to know…
He wrote the book at the Charterhouse of Bonpas, where Polycarpe was prior. But it is curious that the book is reproached by his superiors. Furthermore, the contents of his writings begin to change considerably. It is very strange that the subjects of his books drift away from the religious, towards the regular topics. He thus begins to write on topics that will be radically censured, if not prohibited by his superiors, including the Vatican. His anxious superiors tried to stop the prior on these subjects and he would even be invited to explain his work, writings and possible discoveries in front of the Inquisition.
: “Annales Ecclsiae. Urbis et comitatus Avenionensis”.
Manuscript in two volumes.
1638 : “Histoire de la ville d’Avignon”. This volume is the follow-up of the two manuscripts. This book is prohibited by Rome, despite the interventions of canon Maselli. We can only wonder what is so strange about the history of a town that it required the intervention of the Vatican.
1640 : ”Historia Ordinis Cartusiensis”. A request to interdict the publication was asked by the Carthusian order itself.
“Catalogus Priorum Majoris Cartusiae Gratinano Politanae”.
1636 : “Historia Ecclésia Gallicanae, seu Natilia Episco patuum Galliae”. The work undergoes so many censures and interdicts that only three volumes out of the seventeen will be published, the others will be refused by the printer.
“Annales Episcoporum Diensium“.
“Tractatus Paraenetiars ad Gallian, latine conscriptus”.
“Traite de la Sainte Eloquence”.
“Traité de l’oraison. manuscrit en l’état. Sans date”.
“De Rébus Gestis Episcoparum Diensium” This book will be published after the death of Polycarpe by the mysterious and anonymous admirers of the author, in 1668.
Non indexed manuscripts
Anagrams of POLYCARPE DE LA RIVIERE
collections of not classified documents.
Annals of the religious history of France and the Church.
Observations on the winds (? ? ?)
Letters of Peyresc.
Epitaph of Hypolyte.
Annals of the kings and princes.
Annals of Valbonne.
"Duae Magdeleine. Eternal rest and of the seven door frames."
Personal papers and correspondence of Polycarpe: 411 pages.
“Vents soubs les eaux –Eaulx sous la Terre”
“Modifius Archiep Hiérosolym Apud”
One realizes that the prohibited works are based upon untraceable documents, obviously known only to Polycarpe. His sources will be qualified as “impossible” by the detractors of this prior, who will refuse even in front of the Inquisition to give his sources. No historian will be able to ever find the bases of his works. Some will locate only partial confirmations, but the remainder is still sought by historians trying to figure out this enigmatic individual. But from this to treat Polycarpe de la Rivière as a liar, will be only one small step, one which many religious historians and writers, disorientated by the marvellous revelations of Polycarpe, crossed as quickly as possible… "misfortune for those who were subjected to scandal!"
Fragile assumptions about Polycarpe
We do not bring any assertion. We will simply follow a series of fragile
elements, non-founded, but unquestionably real when looked upon separately:
1- Dom Polycarpe is unquestionably a scholar of a very high level.
2- He is the prior who carries out the most work of the Charterhourse of Ste Croix en Jarez. When he left, the Chartreuse was basically transformed.
3- His presence in Bonpas coincides with a wave of writings that would all be censured and prohibited by the Church.
4- His works on historical subjects are too large and too voluminous that they could all be lies.
An inexhaustible treasure
The charterhouse of Bonpas... ancient Templar commandary
became prior of Bonpas in 1630 and disappeared into the mists of history
in 1639. He suffered, was often confined to bed, exempt from office…
The sum of documents that he gathered and that he named the "inexhaustible
treasure” would have taken many years of work of forgery before he
would have been able to exploit these falsified sources. Furthermore, these
data correspond in too many points with periods of our history that have
been labelled as “delicate” or are badly understood. Or: controversial.
An assumption always needs to be treated with the utmost care, but is it possible that the buildings of Ste Croix, when they were subjected to intense building works, offered to the monks a “treasure trove”, full of historical information, or other, forgotten documents?
Moreover, work on the Great Cloister, the exclusive domain of the Carthusian monks, required a colossal sum… Dom Polycarpe did not ask any contributions or funding from the Carthusian order, but instead self-financed the work to the monastery, without anyone touching the purses of the Carthusians. The obvious question is where Polycarpe was able to collect such enormous sums of money for these building works. No-one has been able to provide an answer, yet it is clear that the funding must have existed as the work was carried out.
The disappearance of Dom Polycarpe
In 1630, Polycarpe became prior of the monastery of Bonpas, which is an old Templar house, later belonging to the Knights Hospitallers and finally entrusted to the Carthusian monk in 1320, by Pope John XXII.
Dom Polycarpe corresponds assiduously with Peiresc since his nomination
in Lyon in 1616 and complains that he is almost unable to walk.
It is known that Peiresc brought all the scholars of Provence together in Aix and that he especially maintained close contacts with the Carthusian monks of Montrieux. Polycarpe is one of those listed among these scientists.
1638. On his own request he is discharged from his functions of prior, this for serious health reasons and requests to be able “to take the waters” of the baths of Mont Dore. His request would be accepted in 1639, and he is allotted a servant and two horses for this medical trip. He leaves Riom and from there onwards, no-one hears anything about him ever more… Polycarpe has disappeared in the mists of time and place…
The historian Launoy claims that Dom Polycarpe decided to leave the congregation. But Polycarpe has been defended by others who state that such a conclusion is not founded on any evidence whatsoever.
Ballaruc - ancient plan
has him arriving at the baths of Ballaruc. Another researcher, Eusèbe
Disier, assumes the same thing…
But the prior of Valbonne affirms that he “knew” that Polycarpe had taken refuge with the vicar of Mornas, then with a Mister de Châteauneuf (Vaucluse), a notorious benefactor of Bonpas.
Another persistent rumour states that he entered the service of the governor of Languedoc, Mr. de Verneuil, in the capacity as librarian…
Combis-Velleron believes he died of an unspecified disease at Mr. Raybaud in Arles.
Finally, the General of the Carthusian monks himself doubts that Polycarpe had secretly left the order …
months of investigation, no information will be found that resolves the
enigma of the disappearance of Polycarpe de la Rivière.
As for us, we will retain:
1- When he arrives in, he tells his servant to take care of the horses and that he will continue alone, on foot… How are we to believe in such a stupidity for a man suffering incredible pains and barely able to walk? The only possibility is that he would continue his journey, but by another mode of transport, and with a destination in mind which he wanted to keep a close secret. It forms a classic departure from an old life into a new life…
2- Another significant detail: Polycarpe, who cherishes his writings and documents, confides them to a close friend when he leaves Bonpas: "..Leaving Bonpas to go to stay with the new Chartreuse de Moulins, he gathered together all his writings and documents in the hands of a person who was to him a confidant…” (mail to Rome dated February 28, 1640). Then: "… He had with him neither papers nor writings…” (earlier mail to Rome dated February 18, 1640).
Polycarpe never separated from his writings, yet curiously entrusts them and, suddenly, to somebody… a little later he cannot support his pains any longer and “will take the waters”… It seems that Dom Polycarpe de la Rivière had been working for some time on some form of rescue or safety plan… because he entrusts several times to Peiresc his fears that he may be removed or that he might end up imprisoned for life…. It is clear that Polycarpe knew that his superiors were after him. Either he had to shut up and cease all his research, or otherwise he had to disappear, find a sponsor or friends who would support him during the rest of his days, so he could dedicate himself to his secret research…
He therefore thoroughly programmed his disappearance, as well as the safekeeping of his documents and files. It is also quite obvious that the Vatican seemed to be more preoccupied with knowing whether or not Polycarpe had his archives and manuscripts on him when he disappeared, rather than his welfare or even the circumstances of his disappearance!
View of Ste Croix en Jarez ca. 1820
identity of Polycarpe de la Rivière will remain a enigma …
as well as why he wanted to keep his identity a secret… also his personality
remained in the darkness as to the true reason why he was “guided”
towards Ste Croix and a fabulous overhaul of the buildings, the financial
resources of which will remain a mystery.
But it seems Polycarpe had a more than normal dimension. Professor François Secret, in his book "Les Kabbalistes Chrétiens de la Renaissance" writes: "… the most interesting character is still Polycarpe de la Rivière, Velaunois, who entered in The Great Chartreuse, in 1608, became Prior of Ste Croix in Jarez, Bordeaux and Bonpas. A scholar, who was in correspondence with Gasssendi, Peiresc, he composed the “Annals of the diocese of Avignon”, which remained handwritten, and he disappeared in 1640.// His "Adieu au monde ou les mesprit de ses veines grandeurs périssables” published in Lyons, in 1610, and republished in 1631, testifies to his culture and his taste for the Christian Kaballah…”
The discovery of another treasure
Let us look once again towards the possibility of a strange discovery which he might have made in the buildings of Ste Croix en Jarez, a discovery which might have some parallels to the strange discoveries Bérenger Saunière made in his church many centuries later…
Le Mystère Sacré - 1621- Polycarpe de la Rivière
It is about the handwritten documents this Carthusian monk brings back, the discovery taking place under strange conditions without a precise mention of the place of discovery: "… Which occurred at the foot of a large statue with this inscription “quad aux Kalendes d’avril le soleil battant fur ma tête m’aura entourée de fa lumière, j’avray la tfte d’or’, & veu qu’a ce fujet la plufpart de fes voifins y accouroient au jour none, l’un vec des marteaux, l’autre avec des hâches, frappas a dos & a vêtue cette povre ftatue, & lui defpeçâs la tefte dâs laquelle ils croyaiêt ce riche théfor eftre caché, lui don jugement beaucoup plus raffis é solide, accôpagné d’un autre philosophe sô femblable s’y trâfporta l’année après, & ayant diligêmment obfervé les rayôs du soleil, qui battoiêt fus la tefte de la ftatue, él’ombre qu’elle formoit fur une pierre proche de là, fit lever cette pierre, & trouva incontinent fous icelle, ce que les autres attendoient du cerveau de la tefte de l’image. Dôt fe tournant au même instant vers fon compagnon, le voyez vous ? Ô richeffes et quel autre lieu vous pouvoit eftre plus convenable ? l’ombre la pierre vous conurêt de cemmêt.” The documents were clearly hidden in and close to a statue, apparently carefully hidden away so that future generations might find it…
But that is not all, because on the following page another, much stranger text can be found. This text is transcribed below, without any additions or modifications of any kind, not even in its punctuations.
OE H X 7 lettres
Abscedens c’est à dire
Gradus vous reculant, creusez 4 degrés
Quatuor ou marches et vous trouverez un
Thefaurum Ces 7 lettres grecs trouvées écrite dans une
colonne de marbre
scattered and handwritten sheets of Polycarpe raised innumerable protests
and battles of scholars at the end of 17th and beginning of the 19th century.
It is certain that this prior had an enormous amount of very old documents concerning the origins of the Roman Church at his disposal, some information which seems to have been carefully forgotten over the centuries – and which Polycarpe was about to bring out into the public domain – in French even.
Moreover, according to Polycarpe, these manuscripts reveal transactions on the level of the first kings of France, or rather of the “war lords” of ancient times. Then the comments clearly make us understand that provisions were made, which were tightly controlled and which could serve a certain cause at some point in the future. Polycarpe refers, for example to the “second year of the reign of the lord Childebert, King.”
Book cover of Polycarpe de la Rivière - observe his coat of arms at the bottom
most recent general outcry, against the writing of the Carthusian monk is
hardly old, dating as it does from the 19th century. It enables us to note
that under the ashes, embers still shone, ready to set ablaze a new polemic
in which our prior seems to have ended up. The Church still does not seem
to have forgiven this prior who disappeared, leaving no clue as to where
his invaluable documents were. In 1875, the abbots Andre and Canron attack
him and the famous manuscripts once again with overambitious vigour…
but he is also ardently defended by Le Blanc and Albanès.
What were these famous documents? They were four historical manuscripts. Duprat summarily described them and formally attests their existence. The first document would be of a certain Savaron. The others belong to Dom Polycarpe de la Rivière, who got a hold of them from the Benedictines… and a mysterious Carthusian deposit! In this connection, let us see what the historians say:
"… We have the foundation documents of the church. D. Polycarpe who holds them, says to have extracted them from the files of an abbey for which it is unnecessary to search for. Books of St Denys, the pope and of a certain Accace, on which this Carthusian monk relies – in a century where the books rather multiplied then got lost – fell into a total destruction. Of the four manuscripts, correctly counted, which, in addition to the fragment of St Amat, were used by D. Polycarpe to compose our history, there is not one which exists for our consolation; let us acknowledge how such constant misfortune, which supposes so many others, is quite specific to adore the judgements of God, and to confuse those of men! However, these manuscripts contain astonishing speeches by St Amat, martyrized by Crocus, and the incredible episode of the “ashes of the martyrs of Lyon, thrown in the Rhone and collected by the people of Avignon”, the sermon that Asterius held into 257, with his flocks, to be buried with St Andre, the ancient inscriptions to Diane, Jupiter, etc. The epitaph of Patrice Dynamius, that of Remegisus, diplomas of Charles Martel and Charlemagne and numbers of other parts which would take too a long time to enumerate…”
Polycarpe, when he writes his documents entitles them: “Bonus et vere aureus codex”, “codex optimae notae et indubitatae fidei”, “Codex bene”, “Antiquus et probus noster codex», and for an epitaph “…quam cum alüs quibusdam fideliter nobis representat vetustissimus codex toties a nobis jam supra laudatus…” and when he is working on his document he expresses his feeling as such : “…ce qu’il faut descrire de notre thrésor…” : “what one needs to describe about our treasure…”
On August 28, 1717, Mr. Mazaugues writes: “I read with pleasure what you write to me on D. Polycarpe de la Rivière. What Mr. Raybaud has on this Carthusian monk is only one very small part of his collections, which are as unknown as the fate of its author…” Leon Ménard seems to confirm this report on May 28, 1764: “I have been assured that Mr. Raybaud offered to sell a cart-load of titles and documents that Dom Polycarpe had left…”
The strange crypt of Lazarus and the fresco of Mary Magdalene - St Victor, Marseille.
this could confirm that Polycarpe indeed discovered after "having extracted
it from the files of an abbey" a sum of files and documents that was
invaluable. He exploits and explores several historical aspects that die
with his disappearance, but which are searched for by several archivists
and historians, particularly those of Rome, who will actively seek, but
Let us suppose that this prior had such access to information concerning one, or several “deposits”… absolutely nothing implies that the term “Trésor” means monetary richness; it can be anything, a true treasure for a scholar such as Polycarpe, but of no real value for the common people of this time: historical files, documents or other notes and information or revelations. Then again, it might be the case that the contents of the documents might be of great interest to the people… if it somehow showed controversy surrounding the origin of the French monarchy or the church, the French Revolution could have occurred a few centuries earlier…
We now know that Polycarpe did not finish his days in the sector of Maguelonne, but close to Languedoc, hidden by faithful friends. But it should be added that the research Peiresc did, and with which the Carthusian monk maintained a close correspondence, was very often directed in the direction of Mary Magdalene and Lazarus, two enigmatic characters from the New Testament, who legends place in France after the Crucifixion. It is in Marseilles, under the abbey fortress of St Victor, that he made in-depth studies on the crypt of Mary Magdalene, St Andre, and Lazarus! One can still find a document of Peiresc (1626) concerning an inscription of Lazarus… One can still see St Victor with a dragon and one learns there that this saint, a former Roman soldier, was allured by a speech of Mary Magdalene and immediately converted to the new religion.
Inscription of Lazarus by Peiresc
We know from several mails of Polycarpe that he belonged to the first “Society of Angels”, since his stay in the castle of Usson. It is on his arrival in Bonpas and on the invitation of Peiresc that he seems to have belonged to a group called “Compagnie du Brouillard’”. These two movements were at the origin of a succession that would become masonry at the time of the installations of the pioneering lodges of France one century later!
before going further, can't one see the various analogies between Polycarpe
and Bérenger Saunière?
- Taking of the religious oath, under somewhat obscure conditions, in a place predestined by its history and its enigmas.
- Discovery of a significant monetary find, and for Polycarpe of the writings on the true history of the origins of the kings of France and of the church.
- Documents found about a “true treasure”.
- Complete repair of the Great Cloister of Ste Cross en Jarez.
- Serious troubles with the religious authority and suspension of their religious functions.
- Casting doubt on the origins of French royalty and the origins of religion…
- Putting into safekeeping various documents and manuscripts with or via friends. Consequently, there is a notorious interest by various scholars in the documents.
- The major discoveries of Polycarpe will be done in Pilat, and in a sector where much later Bérenger Saunière will arrive in his quest for elements than he will never reveal to anyone. Then he moves towards Provence and Languedoc.
- Persistence of details related to Mary Magdalene and Lazarus.
- Polycarpe is a member of the first “Society of Angels”, then when he is prior with Bonpas he adheres to that of the “Brouillard”.
Signature of Polycarpe de la Rivière on the bottom of a manuscript from Ste Croix
seems clear that the order of the Carthusian monks seemed to fear, at the
time of Dom Polycarpe, the clarity and details Polycarpe wove in his documents,
using material he had found in certain documents, discovered in the region
of Ste Croix en Jarez, in the Pilat. This curious deposit could originate
from, or be guarded by, the families of the Roussillon.
It is clear that Saunière closely followed in the footsteps of Polycarpe, and that both men are very similar in both their life, interest… and destiny. Did they follow the same path, or are these correspondences merely coincidences, “events” that befall all researchers?