44 — Analysis

Ximene Trencavel – 23rd September 1355

They thanked Maurice for his advice and after he had departed studied the marquetry map in greater detail. John crouched down and crooked his neck so that he was looking across the marquetry map.

‘We have walked up and down the valley leading to the training ground and ridden to the mountains beyond so many times. I can identify the mountains, the valley and finally the position of the Château itself. Look there, that is the training ground, there is Château Mazerou itself and St Ferriol on the hill above it.’

Ximene also crouched and edged John out of the way. ‘Yes, yes, I see what you mean. The map is incredibly accurate, looked at from this angle the hills look exactly as they are when we are out riding.’

They were pushing against each other to get the best view. John moved to one side and then stood up. ‘It would be better to get this map to somewhere there is better light.

Xime nodded ‘The tower room’.

John examined the marquetry and decided it was a substantial structure its own right, attached to the cupboard door. He went down to the tackle store and found a long curved bar with a chiselled edge at one end. It was the ideal tool for the purpose.

Starting very cautiously he was able to prise the map away from the cupboard door. What they then lifted down was heavy, large and difficult to handle. Nevertheless, they managed to get it to the upper room.

Whilst lifting the map up the stairs John noticed some writing on the back of the board. He told Ximene about his discovery. They leaned the map against the wall. On vellum glued to the back of the board, there seemed to be a title and at least two sentences beneath. They were indistinct and in a language John did not recognise.

Ximeme screwed up her eyes, ‘The words are difficult to read, but I do know that it is Occitan.’

She paused considering not just the words but the translation which would inevitably have to follow.

‘The title says “Campestre de Diu”, literally translated it means “Land Of God”. But I am not sure, Occitan has many subtleties, it could mean “Holy Ground.”

John frowned. ‘And the words below?’ he asked.

Ximene apologized ‘I cannot read them all, it seems this is extremely old !’

She spent some time writing down what she could decipher. ‘Looking at what I have written I am not confident of its content. Occitan is still spoken by the majority of people in the south but there are many dialects, some of which I am not familiar with. The first few words are easy ”Given into the care of the lords of Razes who are known as Trencavel, the Nutcrackers” She turned to look at John with awe in her eyes.‘That is a direct reference to my family, my ancestors’.

She continued Totas las personas nàisson liuras e parièras. then somthing I can’t read, then itat e en dreches. Son, more I can’t read, e de consciéncia e mai lor se cal, Oh dear more I can’t read, entre elas amb un eime de frairetat. Oc!

She took a deep breath. “I think the translation should be “All human beings are born free and have equal dignity and rights. In freedom, they should use their consciences to act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Yes!’

Again she paused. “It is an interesting statement. It comes very close to the declaration of faith and duty professed by the Cathars. In fact, my knowledge of that piece of Cathar catechism has helped me make the translation. I think, therefore, that when the title is taken into consideration there are very clear religious overtones in this message. But why hide and then display it in this mysterious way?”

John was by now turning the map around in preparation for lifting it onto the table.

He pointed out that there was some writing in the form of marquetry on the front of the map

Ximene read it out. Viure lum de Linus. Oh! John it means ‘see the light of Linus’. I know who Linus was, he was the last Cathar Bishop of Rome, Some say he was the true founding father and the son of a British Prince. Cathars honour his name on the twenty-third of September, Oh! That is today! See the light of Linus that would be first light today!’ She paused, deep in thought. “But none of this makes sense. Glass for windows is, I am sure, a relatively recent invention, an arab invention and without that glass window all this would be meaningless!’

They placed the map on the low table. It was now possible to lie on the edge of the bed, in comfort, and spin the map to the required angle to study the arrangement of hills and mountains.

We now know that the bottom of the diagram on the wall is to the south and the top is the north. What we saw as the lance for the pennant is in fact just a north south line.

John sighed

‘Ximene, can you use your bottle of gold paint? I know that there cannot be much left and I am as fond of seeing you apply it as you are of using it but it would be ideal for transferring our lines onto this dark wood!’

He paused and stared at the marquetry. ‘Wait a minute the lines are alrady there, totally unnoticable because of the number of times it has been polished but they are there.’ He went and got one of his throwing knives from a drawer.

Ximene caught his hand. ‘No John the blade is too broad we need to to get a fine kitchen knife like the ones you used to cut up the meat when you were teaching me to cook.

‘They are still in the cellar.’ John ran down the stairs.

He returned with the kitchen knife and carefully followed the faint lines cut into the surface of the marquetry model.

It was nearly two hours before he had completed the task.

John walked slowly round the map examining it from every angle. “I dont believe this… the points of that large gold star…’

‘Pentacle, John, Pentacle.’

‘The Points of the larger pentacle are easily identified. They lie exactly on five high points on the map.’

‘What?’

The ridge on which village of Rennes le Château is situated, the Château of Blanchefort, La Soulaine which is a hill lying on the easterly side of the north south line of the triangle, La Bezu, and finally the peak of a ridge at the north western end of the Serre de Lauzet.

‘What? Let me see.’

She checked and re-checked. ‘There is no doubt about it! Five significant high points evenly distributed to form the points of a pentacle!

Ximene expressed her satisfaction. ‘So to me, it is now obvious that this is a guide to those intersections which we identified this morning the difference is that we now know where they are. Did you hear the mention of treasure?’

John nodded. “If you were going to hide away treasure, somewhere where it would be difficult to find, a key would have to be left intended for the rightful inheritors. This may well be that key. We have no means of knowing how this remarkable piece of marquetry was produced. However we now know that it is accurate with regard to the Château and the rest of the valley below St Feriole. There is no reason to suppose that it would be wildly inaccurate anywhere else in the surrounding area.’

Ximene was still trying to make sense of it.‘So what we have is a large triangle with one point known, at Brenac, and the other two points in the middle of nowhere on high ground on a north south line. The points on the north south line can be pinpointed by lines drawn through one of the points of the large pentangle. We can go out tomorrow morning and visit all of the important points and discover if we can make any sense of this. But right now I am exhaused and cold. I need a warm bath.’

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel