The medieval town dominates the ordinary landscape of Carcassonne. It conceals extraordinary wealth, often unknown, which s guarded jealously amid the ramparts. Among them, a beautiful Roman mosaic from the first century.
Under several beds of gravel and lime which allowed it to survive the centuries without damage, it appears there at our feet. A Roman mosaic dating from the first century, at the time of the colonia Iulia Carcaso founded under Emperor Augustus in the wake of the colonising of Narbonne, then first Roman city outside Italy.
To find this mosaic of 2,000 years, you have to cross the courtyard of the Comtal castle and climb the flight of stairs that lead to the large slab. There, cross the door surmounted by a cross indicating that it was once access to an ancient chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary and adjoining the former Bishop's Palace.
Going down the spiral staircase leading to the mosaic, we see the apse of the chapel gutted.
Unearthed in 1926 by the first curator of the city, Peter Embry and fitted in 1974, this mosaic of 40 square meters likely covered the floor of a Roman noble house. "Located on the north side, oriented Atax - the Roman name of the Aude River - the most comfortable houses belonged to the nobility," says Jean-Louis Gasc, National Monuments tour guide.
The mosaic shows a frieze of interlacing doubled amazon shields meant to protect incursions of enemies from outside. It also shows a flower with four petals and a man kneading bread.
It is not impossible that under the soil of other private homes there are housed other Roman mosaics in the city. Curiously, however, in 1967, the villa Gourgouli in Peyriac-Minervois, next to that of a Comtal castle, a Gallo-Roman mosaic, red and blue tiles, was found.
Unfortunately, these two testimonies of the Roman past of Carcassonne are still inaccessible to the public. In 2006, the director of the city at the time, Patricia Corbett banned access for security reasons. The slab of Comtal castle courtyard covering the mosaics had - and still has - some fragility. "Significant structural problems some of which question the overall strength of the building," wrote the director, based on a diagnosis made by the specialist control office Socotec.
Not to be a sensationalist or anything like that - but looking at this painting it suddenly struck me about the blood flow from the feet of the obvious corpse. Being a Nurse i have been around many dead bodies. I can tell you that blood does not flow after death. Not even from gravity, as some might suggest is the reason why the blood is flowing from the feet of this corpse.
Perhaps it could simply be that the painter was painting in an era where the dynamics of blood circulation were not known - however, i'm pretty sure people in van Dyck's time and even van Dyck himself had seen dead bodies - and all saw that blood didn't flow after death.
Anyway - is this an interesting conundrum or just poetic licence? I only raise the issue because so many 'theories' about the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau or Rennes-les-Bains arrive back at the idea that the historical Christ is buried in between the environs of these two villages. Lincoln first reported these ideas in his 1982 book 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail' saying that there were persistent legends of Jesus' mummified body being buried in the area.
Also the other obvious point of interest in regards to the painting. The Magdalene has been left out. The painter however made no attempt to re-portray the hand of Christ - as if a dead Jesus could hold up his own arm and hand! So, in respect of the many legends of Mary Magdalene being in the area - perhaps she is the important point to note?
Also she has been removed so that the viewer can see a local landmark of Rennes-les-Bains. Is there anything being intimated here?
Welcome to the blog of Rhedesium
My name is Sandy Hamblett, inspired and passionate researcher of the mysteries at Rennes-les-Bains.