The Galamus hermitage
Galamus is officially part of the community of Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet, though it is often linked with Bugarach – either to make it more part of the mystery of that area, or perhaps because there is a link that few have not been able to decipher.
When leaving Rennes-les-Bains for Bugarach, one can continue the journey towards the “Gorges de Galamus”, an incredible spectacle – except for the fearful driver, who will have his eyes firmly on the road, praying that no car will come from the other direction. If that is the case, then there is but one alternative: someone will have to reverse, as there are certain places where passing is impossible. Indeed, this road, carved out in the rock, is a feat of quite recent engineering, showing how nature quite often won out against Man.
Having reached the end of the gorge, most are happy to see the road widen. And almost immediately, on the right hand side, there is a large parking lot, with signs leading the visitor down towards the hermitage. Despite this descent, we are still at 576 metres above sea level. But, eventually, the walker will see the site, which is a series of natural caves, so close to each other that they appear to be but one cave.
The first hermits
It is said that the caves saw an early inhabitation, as everything Man could want for, was available. What was good for early Man, seemed excellent for a religious community, which seems to have settled here in the 7th century. That is relatively late, seeing how in previous centuries, such cave complexes, such as in Cappadocia, which is of course much closer to Jerusalem, were already the bailiwick of religious confraternities.
It is then that the small cave of the Galamus complex was chosen as the habitat for a hermit – thus becoming a hermitage. A spring provided him with the necessary water. Indeed, the river below also offered abundant quantities of water, but the descent and ascent would have been hard, if not dangerous.
In the 15th century, the site was rearranged by the Franciscans, at which time it apparently also became a very popular destination for pilgrimages.
In 1782, Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet was hit by a disastrous epidemic, similar to gangrene, which was often mortal in its consequences. There were already 14 dead in the village and it was then that the population placed itself under the protection of Saint Anthony of Galamus. And, behold, a miracle occurred. The epidemic stopped. As thanks for this divine intervention, a chapel was built inside the large cave. According to tradition, the giant plane tree that can be found in this cavity dates from that period.
Since, the sanctuary is thus also under the protection of Saint Anthony the Great, patron saints of hermits. Legend speaks of his temptations and his victory over the demonic traps that were placed on his road to salvation. As to the small pig that normally accompanies the saint, it symbolises evil that was conquered and converted into good.
As to the original grotto, in which the spring is located, this is under the protection of another saint… Mary Magdalene. Both Mary Magdalene and Saint Anthony are notorious hermits, and hence likely protectors for hermitages. Nothing out of the ordinary, were it not for the fact that both are dragged into the mystery of Rennes-le-Château.
Entry into the Otherworld
Parts of the cavities of Galamus are said to have a considerable extension, i.e. another gallery, whose access has now disappeared. Indeed, in 1597, Albert Fonçay Map (see archives of Louis P. Poincet) ventured into this circular network, accompanied by a nun, one Marie-Bernard Brauge. It is not known what happened to the latter, as only Albert Fonçay Map would be discovered three days later, by workmen from Bugarach. Gravely injured, he was said to have no memory. Sometimes, he nevertheless revived from his lethargic state, only to utter incoherent phrases. Three weeks later, he died, in a delirium that was apparently accompanied by incredible terror. The last few days of this poor man were written down in a manuscript dating from 1601, from the hand of one P. Poincet (only his initial is known) who said he assisted the surgeon, and who carefully noted all aspects of the accident and its sad ending. We note that Poincet was greatly interested in all the details to do with the site, even though his motive remains unclear.
It is no doubt as a consequence of this tragedy that Father Albouys decided to close the entrance to this cylindrical fault. The question, of course, is what these two people were going in search of in the first place?
With our present understanding of geology, and the information provided by Father Albouys, it is now relatively easy to identify the start of this fault… but in the interest of health and safety, we will refrain from providing this information… until a bit later on.
The magic square
The pilgrims considered Galamus to be the “Sacred Mountain” or the “Holy Mountain”. This designation would likely originate with the miraculous healing of 1782, but some sources claim the name goes back to the origins of the hermitage, even though at the time, there was apparently not a single miracle or religious imperative why the site would be designated as such.
Another detail needs to be highlighted here: since the 7th century, hermits occupied these caves and ever since, there has been a steady flow of pilgrims to the site. However, the primary note about becoming a hermit is that he has chosen to live alone, removed from the rest of the world. Living where there is a lot of human traffic, is therefore not the most ideal location for a hermit to find his desired peace. And this contradiction only worsened in 1782, when one cave was transformed in a sanctuary that would see even more visitors. And it appears – and we suspect – that ever since the unfortunate accident of 1597, involving that gallery that opened up in the cave of the Magdalene, the hermits were there largely to guard and protect the site. Rather than finding peace, they may have been there to protect the peace.
A bastion of faith
The location became a military stronghold, rather than a religious retreat, during the French war of religions. Today, there remain clear signs of these fortifications. It is a visible reminder that this period must have been traumatic for any hermits on site, as war was no doubt not at all a reason why they had chosen a religious calling. But it seems that at that moment in time, the hermits had to take up arms.
We know that it was a certain Hubert Labaut who was put in charge of equipping the site for its military purpose. We note his name, for he was known to be an expert in the mining industry. Though he may hence not have been ideally suited for the stated purpose, he may have been ideal for exploration of the subterranean aspects of the site. Of course, perhaps in these troublesome times, one had to work with the first available expert, rather than the best available expert. But perhaps the odd choice of using the cave as a stronghold in this war – and its defence – served other or higher purposes than at first may appear to be the case.
Saint Anthony’s chapel is renowned for containing a magic square: SATOR – AREPO – TENET – OPERA – ROTAS. It is beautifully executed. But what is a magic square doing in a structure that is purely Catholic in origin? For sure, as Galamus is not the only location where this “decoration” has been found, some have come up with explanations that make it appear that this has a significance within the Catholic doctrine. But it should fail to impress most, if not all.
Indeed, we note that the inscription was already found in the ruins if Pompey, which thus makes it definitely older than Christianity. Here, in Galamus, it may indicate that the site was in use prior to a Christian dedication too – or that at some point, a magical dimension was added to its “pure Catholic” purpose. Perhaps because people resorted to magic, either due to the enigmatic incidents that had occurred, or as part of the miraculous protection the Saint had offered to the village?
The word “arepo” is actually Celtic in origin, derived from “Arpennis”, which means “head, end of land” and which resulted in the French word “arpent”: a piece of land. Jean Chevalier and Alain Gueerbrant have argued that this type of symbolism should be traced back to Celtic times, specifically druidism, and argue that the inscription is linked with the Wheel of Fortune.
Of course, it was Boudet who spoke of a “True Celtic Tongue”, a book that he published in 1886 and which has become one of the enigmatic ingredients of the mystery of Rennes-le-Château. Furthermore, whereas everyone agrees that Galamus as a word is Celtic in origin, no-one has been able to explain its etymology conclusively.
Mary Magdalene, hosting Jesus once again
The Galamus cave
In the Mary Magdalene cave, there is the large basin that holds the water from the spring. Here is also a large sculpture, showing Christ rising to Heaven, accompanied by two female characters. One of them has her eyes bandages, but is nevertheless still looking into a mirror, trying to brush her hair, while the other is looking at Jesus admiringly. He has the stigmata on his wrists and feet. Though this sculpture is remarkably realistic, it is nevertheless interesting to note that Christ does not have any mark on his right abdomen of the blow of the lance, which he received from a legionnaire, Longinus. A regrettable omission by the artist?
It is here, near this statue, that the original entrance to this “subterranean realm” was once located.
The Blue Mammoth
In 1935, Luc Alberny saw his book “The Blue Mammoth” published by the "Bibliothèque du Hérisson”. When reading the book, it seems as if the author has been greatly inspired by the real-life tragedy that had befallen Albert Fonçay Map and his companion, as written down by P. Poincet.
The story goes as follows: lawyer Michel Chesnay and his geology friend Francis Jarain are walking in the Gorge of Galamus when they stumble upon the hermitage, which they believe to be empty, but is occupied by a mysterious hermit, Brother Anselmus. Jarain, however, recognises him as the famous André Vernon, the inventor of scientific speleology, who has been officially missing for more than a year. Returning to Cubières, they learn, from Father Laugé, that this hermit has retired from the “real world” after a disastrous love story. Next, the topic of discussion changes to the strange cave of Fauzan, where there is a phosphate mine, made up from the bones of a gigantic necropolis of mammoths. Laugé states that it is André Vernon who has offered the hypothesis that this “cemetery” was the site of a cult of the dead, involving these animals.
One month later, the hermit (André Vernon) has disappeared and his papers are found in total disarray inside the hermitage. A homeless person, Rudeau, is accused of murdering him. The judge making this charge is Etchepare, famous for his works on the Basque language and its mysteries. However, Father Laugé brings to Michel Chesnay the notes of the hermit, which reveal that he has gone about exploring the cave of Fauzan, which he refers to as “the cemetery of the accursed mammoths”.
In these notes, the speleologist writes his autobiography. In love with his cousin Geneviève, he is gravely injured during the war. Out of pity for him, she accepts to marry him, but the following day, she disappears in the Basque cave of Dargilan. Unwilling to accept that she has fallen out of love with him, he believes his fiancée has instead fallen into the cave and searches furiously for her body. He ends up falling himself in a crevice and is taken, unconsciously, down a subterranean river.
He regains consciousness in an immense cave, where he is watched over by a mammoth – of all things. But, horrors of horrors, the animal is able to speak a Basque that is linguistically pure. Basque is said to be the original language spoken by the mammoths. He explains to him that no harm will come to him, as he is protected by the “King of the World”, the “Blue Mammoth”.
The mammoth tells him that they, these remnants from a bygone age, are hiding in an immense subterranean cave, so large that it covers several countries. The subterranean land itself is called “Great Euscaria”. As the hermit becomes more and more familiar with this subterranean civilisation, he learns that a certain Angela also stumbled into this kingdom a few years ago. It soon becomes clear that this Angela is none other than his cousin Geneviève. Unfortunately, since, Angela-Geneviève has fallen in love with “Ibrida”, the king of the Centaurs, another subterranean race that was here before the arrival of the great knowledgeable mammoths.
He is told that both races are different. The mammoths have taken up the name “Khan” for their race and have a fertile capital, known as “Dhôme de Yalna”, and possess an enigmatic serum, the “Ohim”, which gives them immortality and health, as well as liberating them from any and all destructive or devouring passions. The Centaurs have “Pokmé” as capital and have however, in the name of love, refused the “law of Ohim” and thus continue to be subjected to passion, as is in evidence with the love Ibrida has shown for Angela.
Vernon finds Geneviève, but she decides to stay with the king of the Centaurs. The hermit thus returns and is received by the king of the mammoths, “Khan-Yalna-Khan, the Blue Mammoth”, who is several thousands of years old. He explains that he abandoned the Earth’s surface for the subterranean world, this so that his race would be safe from catastrophes. They had made sure that all points of access from the earthly realm into the underworld were closed off. He explains that it were the Basque people that the great mammoths had instructed before the catastrophe struck Earth.
Faced with the despair that Vernon has over his lost love, the king proposes to provide him with an injection of Ohim, so that he no longer suffers from passion and becomes immortal, but in return for this, he is not allowed to leave the subterranean kingdom. The king also tells him that love is the destructor of race, and that the mine of Fauzan is, in fact, the “accursed cemetery of the mammoths”, specifically those who, when revolting against the mass administration of Ohim, died, from love.
Like those dead mammoths, Vernon refuses to take the drug that the king offers him and decides instead to return to his world above. Nevertheless, the opening will remain passable for two months, in case the hermit will decide to re-descend towards knowledge and eternal life.
Rereading the notes of André Vernon (also known as hermit Anselmus), Françis Jarain understands that the date of his disappearance largely corresponds with the closing of the passage… though the day after the passage would be closed. It is hence in this cave that the dead body of Anselmus is soon discovered by miners, once they are instructed to validate the researchers’ conclusion.
Though labelled a science fiction novel, the novel does contain all the great themes that run as the central storylines of esoteric classics:
- A subterranean world that is far better, which sits underneath several countries, and which is illuminated by a strange light.
- Stories of immortal races, giants, in possession of all knowledge, as well as being educators of Mankind.
- Passages that have been forgotten but which nevertheless allow for communication between this world and the one below.
- The struggle of love and absolute knowledge.
- The gigantic cemeteries of those who believe that one can live of love alone.
- The elixir of immortality.
- Forgotten languages, left to us by our “Great Ancestors” that have disappeared or have been forgotten.
The remarkable aspect of this novel, of course, is that it is set in Galamus, in the hermitage that has seen its fair share of mystery. Though a novel, was it indeed perhaps deemed to be a fictionalised account of another “love affair”, between a man and a woman, in the 16th century, who also disappeared in Galamus, one who would never return, and the other, who leaves us with an enigmatic account that what we see today, is indeed only the outer layer of an invisible – subterranean – dimension that hides beneath Galamus - from Perillos.com