I found this book quite interesting as a discussion of theories explaining why Mary Magdalene looked pregnant in some art. Of course, for the Rennies and the rather unfortunately labelled 'Magheads' - this would be because Magdalene carried a bloodline through Jesus Christ. Its interesting to see the scholars interpretation. You can read some excerpts for the book HERE. Here is a review;
Penny Howell Jolly, Picturing the ‘Pregnant’ Magdalene in Northern Art, 1430-1550: Addressing and Undressing the Sinner-Saint (Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate, 2014). ISBN: 978-1-4724-1495-3, 290 pp. £58.50.Reviewed by Helen F. Smith
 In Picturing the ‘Pregnant’ Magdalene in Northern Art, 1430-1550, Penny Howell Jolly examines a fascinating aspect of the portrayal of Mary Magdalene during late-medieval and early modern visual culture: the metaphor of her spiritual pregnancy. The idea for the book was conceived in response to her students’ curiosity about the lady of Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Double Portrait, in which (to their modern eyes) she appears to be pregnant. Having noticed similarities between the Arnolfini lady and depictions of Mary Magdalene, it is in the endeavour to explore this trait of Mary’s presentation that Jolly considers the changing cultural significations of pregnancy, the female body and representations of the body of Mary Magdalene, in over one hundred years of art history.
 As a sinner-saint Mary Magdalene is a complex, ambiguous, and multivalent figure to explore. Yet, whilst the cult of Mary Magdalene has already been widely examined throughout the humanities, the visual metaphors of the saint’s spiritual pregnancy is an angle of inquiry that has been ignored by the academic community. The depiction of Mary Magdalene in northern art of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries also represents another area that is worthy of greater scholarly attention than it has received to date. It is in this respect that Jolly’s book makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of women and gender in art history, as well as late-medieval and early modern cultural devotion to Mary Magdalene.
 In Chapter One, Jolly begins her journey of enquiry with Rogier van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross. This image, which was commissioned in 1435, features what is believed to be the earliest example of Mary Magdalene with maternity laces on her clothing. It was the most widely copied image of the saint in its time. The artistic tradition of portraying Mary Magdalene as spiritually pregnant begins with this painting. Throughout the chapter, the author considers the complex significations of van der Weyden’s Descent, placing her analysis in the context of previous research. In this image, the pregnancy of Mary Magdalene is considered to symbolise her rebirth and renewal in terms of her moral and spiritual transformation. Mary’s ‘pregnant’ body is concurrently a symbol of her redemption and the carnality of her sin. Jolly supports these interpretations with a range of medieval sources, including the twelfth century Vita Beatae Mariae Magdalenae et Soraris ejus Sanctae Martha and the late-medieval Digby play of Mary Magdalene, both of which use the metaphor of fertility in the narrative of the saint’s spiritual transformation.
 The focus of the second chapter is van der Weyden’s Braque Triptych (ca. 1452). As Jolly continues to investigate the duality and contradiction in the significations of Mary’s body, she argues that the representation of the saint in this triptych is as a Wise and Foolish Virgin simultaneously. The Wise and Foolish Virgins feature in the Parable of the Ten Virgins from the Gospel of Matthew. Within the parable, ten virgins await the appearance of the bridegroom at a wedding, but only the five Wise Virgins have brought enough oil for their lamps. As the five Foolish Virgins have to depart to acquire more oil, the bridegroom arrives. Consequently, the Foolish Virgins are too late to join the celebrations. The lesson of the parable is to be prepared for the Day of Judgement. As a Wise Virgin, Mary Magdalene is spiritually pregnant in her identity as a Bride of Christ, an interpretation that Jolly takes from the opening laces of Mary’s clothing. The author also explores visual similarities between this image of Mary Magdalene and depictions of the Wise Virgins elsewhere in visual culture, such as a tympanum (ca. 1285-1300) from Freiburg Cathedral. This image of Mary Magdalene depicts her holding a jar of ointment, in a posture that echoes the Wise Virgins holding their oil lamps and Ecclesia (a female personification of the Church) holding a chalice. Significantly, the oil lamps and chalice are in direct alignment with Mary’s jar within the tympanum. Since the lamps of the Wise Virgins burn with caritas, Jolly uses literary evidence of Mary’s connections with charity to support her argument. For instance, in the Digby Mary Magdalene, which dates from the late fifteenth to early sixteenth century, Mary displays her charity by washing the feet of Christ. Conversely, Jolly argues that Mary Magdalene can be interpreted as a Foolish Virgin in van der Weyden’s Braque Triptych because her lavish clothing provides a visual suggestion of her vanitas and sinful past. The suggestion of Mary’s sinfulness is therefore an indication of the fact that Mary, like the Foolish Virgins, is not prepared for the Day of Judgement.
 Artistic representations of Mary Magdalene do not begin and end with her own body. In her third chapter, Jolly discusses Quentin Massys’ Mary Magdalene Opening Her Jar (ca. 1515-1525), in addition to other works of art that imitate Mary Magdalene and symbolically allude to her identity, such as Bernard van Orley’s Margaret of Austria as the Magdalene (ca. 1520), which displays Margaret of Austria opening a jar in imitation of the saint. Over the course of this chapter, Jolly considers the market niches of such works of art, the value they had to their owners, and how images of Mary Magdalene begin to adapt in accordance with contemporaneous expressions of religious devotion and changes within society and culture. Jolly outlines that cultural standards of the ideal female body had changed by the time of the sixteenth century. Instead of rounder or ‘large-bellied’ women, the slender female body dressed in fitted clothing prevailed as the ideal, which meant that the roundness of the womb became a more conclusive symbol of pregnancy in early modern visual culture. The fashions of this period, such as the lacing of overgowns at the back (rather than the front and sides), also affected artistic traditions of pregnancy, as Jolly discusses in relation to the Virgin Mary. These cultural changes, in turn, affected artistic representations of Mary Magdalene. Thus, for instance, in Massys’ depiction of Mary Magdalene Opening Her Jar, Mary’s open jar of ointment takes on the symbolism of her ‘spiritual’ womb.
 The fourth chapter is another in which the symbolism of the spiritual pregnancy of Mary Magdalene is examined and discussed beyond the realms of her physical body. Moving into the art of the 1520s and 1530s, Jolly devotes her attention to the numerous paintings of Jan van Hemessen that depict Mary Magdalene performing music, and she considers the responses of Catholic and nascent Protestant audiences to these works of art. In these images, such as Mary Magdalene with a Lute (ca. 1530-1530), Jolly explains how playing the lute could connote sensual love, and that the shape of the instrument could signify the pregnant womb through its roundness as well as its opening. Yet, even the lute could be a complex and multivalent symbol in sixteenth century art, for it could signal desire as well as fertility and pregnancy, therefore continuing to represent Mary’s duality as a sinner-saint.
 In the fifth and final chapter of her book, Jolly examines the portrayal of the melancholic Magdalene in the work of Flemish artists, Adriaen Isenbrant and the ‘Half-length Master’, during the sixteenth century. The images produced by these artists continued to innovate the iconography of Mary Magdalene by situating her portrayal within a wider landscape, allowing the viewer to focus on different areas of the painting such as the wilderness narrative in the saint’s hagiography. These landscape images of Mary Magdalene also portray the saint with a melancholic posture, mourning for the absent Christ. The focus on Mary Magdalene’s body changes once again in the work of these artists, with the exposed flesh and breasts of Mary Magdalene’s body on display either openly or through her diaphanous clothing. Jolly speculates that this is perhaps due to a conflation of the hagiographical narratives of Mary Magdalene and Mary of Egypt, although she offers alternative interpretations. The eremitical grotto of Mary Magdalene’s wilderness narrative in these images is itself another symbol of her spiritually pregnant womb.
 In Picturing the ‘Pregnant’ Magdalene in Northern Art, 1430-1550, Penny Howell Jolly makes a convincing argument that the visual symbolism of Mary Magdalene’s spiritual pregnancy is a consistent and evolving feature of Northern Renaissance art. One of Jolly’s great strengths throughout this work is her ability to comprehend and explain the complexity of signification within art history, and its capacity to subtly change meaning over time, even whilst, simultaneously, specific artists continue to allude to van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross in repeating his motifs. Jolly uses a formidable range of resources in the endeavour to support her claims, drawing upon the literature and drama of the Northern Renaissance as well as its art, thereby demonstrating the interconnections between these different mediums in terms of the complex significations of the body of Mary Magdalene. Whilst the idea that images of jars, lutes, and caves, were used as visual substitutes for Mary Magdalene’s ‘spiritual womb’ may seem tenuous, Jolly’s astute observations and carefully-considered evidence leave the reader firmly convinced in the validity of her interpretations.
 Illustrated throughout with colour and black and white images of oil paintings, manuscript paintings, triptychs and tympanums, this is an enjoyable and intellectually stimulating read and an accomplished and valuable contribution to the field.
University of Edinburgh, June, 2014
ISSN: 1759-3085 | Build with | Published under a Creative Commons License
Original review HERE.
Quite without any evidence at all, this website HERE makes the sweeping statement that the legend of the devils treasure was 'invented' by Auguste de Labouïsse-Rochefort to explain a detail that is personal to Auguste de Labouïsse-Rochefort and his first wife. Because Labouïsse-Rochefort's father-in-law was a self-made millionaire who later lost most of his fortune - this is why Labouïsse-Rochefort 'created' the myth of the treasure at Blanchefort. The evidence cited is because Labouïsse-Rochefort was the first person to write the 'legend' down.
It's a bizarre statement, especially as in the whole of the rest of the document Labouïsse-Rochefort wrote, he does not appear to have done the same thing anywhere else! I know Labouïsse-Rochefort was a poet, and he could use poetic licence - but i'm not sure that even he could implicate characters in this little fable - and name such as M. de Fleury.
For example Labouïsse-Rochefort wrote:
"The annoying thing about this affair [that of the legend of the Devils Treasure] was that M. de Fleury, then Lord of the villages of Montferrand, Bains, Rennes, as well as the ruins of Blanchefort, wanted to bring an action against them [the villagers] for having attempted to violate his lands…"
This echos suspiciously the trial of Blaise Hautpoul and Nicolas Pavillon some 200 years earlier!
Is there more to the statement by Labouïsse-Rochefort than meets the eye? We know that many people were already on the Fleury lands actively seeking artifacts. For example Catel, well before the arrival of Nicolas Pavillon to Alet, noted remains preserved in the church of Rennes-les-Bains. This proves the remarkable interest already expressed in Rennes-les-Bains in the sixteenth and seventeenth century's - reports of ancient coins being found on the territory of the commune abound. Catel had carefully reported an inscription on a cippus white marble stone which was engraved with the name "Pompeius Quartus." Later Antoine Delmas confirmed the presence of this pedestal in his office.
It was not just the local clergy who were interested in the area of Rennes-les-Bains. Outside of the circle of the local parish priests there were those such as Alexandre Du Mege (1780-1862) who reported that Abbe Bertrand Capmartin of Chaupy (1720-1798), an archaeologist born near Toulouse, had recovered more than 400 currencies of gold and silver coins in the region of Rennes! Du Mege, who had often stayed in Rennes-les-Bains, spoke of counselors at the Parliament of Toulouse who stayed at Rennes and found medals and coins. Jean-François de Montegut (1729-1794), from a family of collectors and a scholar himself, had more than 3,000 Roman coins including many from Rennes-les-Bains. Delmas even offered a beautiful sepulchral lamp to the President of the Parliament of Toulouse, M. Caulet!
Paul Urban Villecardet, Count of Fleury (1778-1836) had a nice collection of coins and medals, objects that he had put into a small personal museum he created. He asked Mr. Du Mege to help him appraise all of the artifacts. And in 1857, his son Henri-Paul Elie was awarded the Silver Medal of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, Inscriptions and Belles-lettres de Toulouse for his discoveries at Rennes-les-Bains - and his preservation of two wheels and various fragments of a bronze chariot found in the territory of the commune.
Finally, we should note that Alfred Sauniere [brother of Berenger Sauniere] was a member of the Archaeological Committee of Narbonne and that Henri Boudet knew Henri Rouzaud who was President of that Committee. Mr. Rouzaud made many study trips to Rennes-les-Bains and Boudet offered him several objects discovered on the territory of his parish: Vases, pottery and a beautiful gourd dated to the fifth or sixth century. How did Henri Boudet make such a find? (see HERE). In what context, archaeologically speaking, did Boudet make this find? One does not simply come across a fifth/sixth century gourd lying about the landscape that is so well preserved.
So lots of 'treasure' - such as the archaeology might be described - was being found by many people. The Fleury's were used to people then sto,ping over their land and essentially 'stealing'.
The M. de Fleury mentioned by Auguste de Labouïsse-Rochefort who was the Lord of the villages of Montferrand, Bains, Rennes, as well as the ruins of Blanchefort, at the time of the Devil Treasure story had certainly married one of the descendants of Henry and Blaise Hautpoul - and he indeed faced the same issues of people searching and pillaging his lands as his antecedents did!
We have several legends concerning Blaise Hautpoul and Henry Hautpoul, father and son respectively. One revolves around Blanchefort and Rennes-les-Bains and a shepherdess [which would appear to refer to Catherine Planel and the tomb of a Great Roman], the other a shepherd and Rennes-le-Chateau. It becomes all the more intriguing when we realise that there were some strange events surrounding these the Hautpouls in 'real history'. This includes the following:
In 1646 - Blaise Hautpoul, son of Francois, has the church at Rennes-le-Chateau restored and in this endeavour was helped by Nicolas Pavillon. November 1661 - Blaise Hautpoul then goes to court against Nicolas Pavillon, bishop of Alet, to prevent the Kings troops (Louis XIVth) searching and trampling over his lands and mines. Blaise's lands and possessions include Rennes, St Just, Le Bezu, les Bains (Rennes-les-Bains), Montferrand, Montazels and La Val Dieu. The long and complex trial will end in Grenoble in April 1666 to the advantage of Nicolas Pavillon, but after King breaks the judgments in favour of the bishop. This historical fact deserves to be noted as Louis XIVth and Nicolas Pavillon were particularly opposed. Why then give a judgment in favour of his opponent?
All lovers of the mystery of Rennes know Blaise at least in name, for his is a very special case. Just after the year 1645, there was supposed to have been a discovery of a fabulous treasure by the shepherd Ignace Paris, in one version, and a shepherdess in a second version, on land owned by Blaise d'Hautpoul. Labouisse-Rochefort, told in 1832 of the legend of the treasure of Blanchefort that was protected by the devil. The devil's treasure was 19 and a half million gold coins and a shepherdess surprised him one day when he was counting out his gold coins. By the time the villagers were called to see the spectacle the devil and the treasure had disappeared. The farmers appealed to a sorcerer in Limoux to enter into a relationship with Satan to recover the treasure, which he accepted only on the condition that he be assisted by his countrymen, but the 'sorcerer' could not count on their support because they fled frightened, after hearing the noise made by the demon. The experiment was abandoned.
Since then, a/the devil is always central to the treasure hidden in the ruins of Blanchefort.
Another kind of 'version' of the legend tells that in 1645 a shepherd of Rennes-le-Château named Ignace Paris had lost one of his sheep. When he saw that it had disappeared, he decided to go looking for it and thanks to the bleating of the animal, he spotted it in the bottom of a hole. He cautiously descended into the hole and found himself in a cave. The animal was there but so too were many skeletons and then the shepherd noticed that the ground was covered with gold. Paris, without hesitation, filled his pockets, his wallet and his beret and immediately went to tell his story to the villagers. After many questions, he refused to reveal the location of his find, and the people were perplexed by this story of rapid fortune, and they, believing he had done some trading with the devil, stoned him. The treasure of Paris remained buried deep in a crevice. And yet another variation of this story says that Henry Hautpoul, eager to know where the treasure was buried - had the shepherd tortured to answer questions about the find but the shepherd died of his torture/injuries without revealing his secret.
Which version is the truer?
There is also a later mention of a Jean-Pierre Cabanie that is interesting. He was a priest of the local area and may have known Sauniere. Another priest, Abbé - François-Pierre Cauneille, a close friend of the Abbe Cabanié, had some involvement in the 'affair' & was especially mentioned in the Sennier letter, as one who witnessed on 11 Feb 1781 Bigou's memoir authenticating the discovery of the tomb of Constant I by one Catherine Planel. It is this legend, according to Sennier, of Labouïsse-Rochefort's legend of the devil's treasure.
These events through the centuries interested Cherisey, who wrote:
"....there was a gold depot dépôt in ROCKO-NEGRO near Rennes-les-Bains, where stood the ruins of the famous Blanchefort castle belonging to Blaise I d’HAUPOUL. Nothing should have allowed the Royal power to dig up someone else's property. By chance, however, Blaise d’Haupoul had asked to reclaim the title of marquis de Blanchefort. Everything was set to proceed quickly on one side and very slowly on the other. In 1644, owing to Colbert's efforts, a team of German or Scandinavian miners landed at Rocko-Negro and started digging long tunnels which are still visible today. These workers spoke a language unknown to the occitans and [they] lived in camps on the spot: discretion was thus assured.
Meanwhile, Blaise d’Haupoul is informed that all is well regarding the marquisat of Blanchefort, but he is discretely dispossessed of Rocko-Negro where stands the BLANCHEFORT castle. On January 4th 1669, the Haupouls are made Marquis de Blanchefort. The trick had been to baptise "château de Blanchefort" - a mere pillbox measuring 2 by 3 m. at the top of a rock bearing the name Coume les Bains. The gold mining failed in 1667 and the miners decamped".
We must also remember the recent work of Buttegeg - who said that after surveying extensive evidence which included unpublished historical documents, archives from Colbert, archives of Dubosc, private letters of the Fleury family, Plantard archives and the works of Boudet it had to be concluded that:
"Everything suggests that there is a dark secret lurking in the bowels of Rennes-les-Bains! But is it a simple gold mineral deposit, a former monetary deposit or a sacred or historical treasure of an ancient temple? To discover this all [we need to do] is go back in to the history of mining in this country ... Whether in ancient times, the Middle Ages, the 18th or the 19th century, the mining of Baings de Regnes appears recurrently! Marie de Negre d'Ables and the Comte de Fleury jealously guarded these mines and Boudet seemed to attach paramount importance to them... " (Stephanie Buttegeg)
My point for this post? If, by trying to find the origin of a local treasure story, it is a toss up between the origin of the Devil's treasure being from a poet who was just poetically describing the loss of his father-in-laws hard earned wealth - or the traditions and legends persistently describing members of the same family through the centuries in the same area of land that this family owned - i think i know which one i settle for!
I think it is also pertinent to ask for the origin of these treasure stories involving the Hautpoul family. These legendary stories may be unverifiable - handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as historical. Mainly stories of this kind emanate from a particular people, group, or clan - in this case the Hautpoul.
The Story of Veronica's Veil is not found in the New Testament. It appears in early Christian history. This was not the real name of the woman alleged to have wiped Jesus' face, but rather a name ascribed to her. The name given was Veronica from the Latin Vera (true) and Icona (image) or Greek Eikon. Her name was Bernice in the Greek literature. Later legend says that Veronica brought the Veil to Rome where the Veil cured the Emperor Tiberius from an unknown malady. In addition, she is said to have given the veil to Pope Clement - the 4th Pope. However, other historical texts take the Veronica in a different direction, as we shall see. Veronica was also identified with the woman with the hemorrhage who touched the hem of Jesus' garment and was healed (Mark 5:29) of a 12 year problem of bleeding. Jesus stopped and asked who touched Him. He stated that power (dunamin in Greek) went out from Him and healed her. This woman healed by Jesus came to be identified in early Christian history as Veronica.
Readers of this site will know i have an interest in these legends as perhaps having a kernel of truth in them. It was interesting to read St. Irenaeus of Lyon, a Bishop living in what is now France, who was one of the great theologians of the second century. Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, a world renowned scholar of early Christian art, makes an interesting statement: "St. Irenaeus of Lyon (130-200) recounts in his work ‘Against Heresies’ that the followers of the Egyptian Gnostic heretic Carpocrates (2nd century), possessed and venerated images of Christ '...some are painted images, others made of other materials and are made according to the model executed by Pontius Pilate 'during the time in which Jesus was among men.'" [Francesco Barbesino, Cristianita n. 311 (2002) The Holy Face of Manoppello].
Research i am working on now looks at these icons and images, and also the main players - all figures from the Crucifixion death and burial of Christ - which becomes the basis of the Holy Grail legends. When you match this with a tomb of Jesus in Septimania - the research seems pretty interesting, non?
Welcome to the blog of Rhedesium
My name is Sandy Hamblett, inspired and passionate researcher of the mysteries at Rennes-les-Bains.