AN INTERVIEW WITH MAXWELL N. FIELD
Researcher and first time author Maxwell N. Field has quietly produced some of the most original research in the study of Rennes-le Château in quite some time. His new book, The Carthusian Connection: The trail from the Cathars to Shugborough, takes us on a fascinating journey through the French Savoy. Along the way, we learn how the history of the Carthusians, Cistercians, Kinghts Templars and the French Merovingian kings relate to the greater Rennes-le Château mystery.
While it would be unfair to say that Field is a protégé of Henry Lincoln, the similarities in his findings are unmistakable. While relating the peculiar lives of Saints Bruno and Saint Hugh, and their involvement in the sacred geometry of the Savoy region, Field provides a new and intriguing location for the setting of Nicholas Poussin’s painting, The Shepherds of Arcadia.
Arcadia attended one of Field’s recent lectures and met up with him afterwards to ask him a few questions about his impressive research.
Max, it’s great to have you on ’17 Questions’ . Welcome!
It’s my pleasure. I’ve been looking forward to it.
Great. So let’s start!
1. As a Sauniere Society veteran, what’s your view on Henry Lincoln’s work?
I had been fascinated many years ago by the first “Chronicle” series where Henry first divulged his findings about Rennes-le Château. Being a French student and teacher, I kept in touch with his later discoveries and eventually met him, after writing to him about this area of Savoy, at a Saunière Society meeting. I had always been interested in the Templars and darker periods of French history, so Henry’s line of enquiry opened up new possibilities. I did not know at the time where it would lead!
2. What first prompted you to conduct research in the Savoy?
It was Henry Lincoln’s article in “France” magazine of many years ago, requesting readers to inform him of any other examples in the rest of France of the repeated set distances he found between churches around Rennes-le-Château. This area around Chambéry is an important historical centre, with delineated massifs and striking peaks, as well as being a cradle of early monastic Orders, such as the Carthusians and Cistercians. Together with the major pilgrimage focus on Myans and its Black Virgin, the cumulative effect gave me an inkling that there might be an underlying greater purpose linked to the landscape to attract this much religious activity. Looking down on the valley and across to the other peaks from various mountains made me aware of the possibility of alignments and geometric patterns.
3. Tell us about the sanctity of the region. What makes it so special?
Several factors come into play here: the religious historical importance of Hautecombe Abbey, where the Dukes of Savoy have their ornate tombs, including Archbishops of Canterbury, takes us back hundreds of years; then there is the legend of Myans and the Black Virgin; the Holy Shroud was kept in the Château in Chambéry after it resurfaced in Lirey, owing to the fact that the House of Savoy were distant relatives of the de Charney family; the antiquity of the Lemenc chapel and crypt dating back centuries and highlighting the original road between Lyon and Turin high above the present valley floor which was swampland at the time; even the fortuitous physical layout of the mountains in the heart of the Chartreuse, when you look north from the summit of Chamechaude, its highest peak, to see le Grand Som directly opposite and the others laid out in an amphitheatre effect. It is no wonder St Bruno came here, when you imagine the stillness and savagery in the landscape of the time.
4. Saint Bruno and Saint Hugh settled nearby, in the Chartreuse. When was that and how is that significant?
St Hugues of Grenoble was a native of the area between Vienne and Grenoble in the later 11th century. He was a great organizer and was the first to establish exactly what constituted his large diocese, which included Chambéry and Myans. St Bruno arrived in 1085 from Reims without anyone really knowing why he chose this area.
The legend of Hugh’s dream of the seven stars guiding him up into the Chartreuse to found a holy place dedicated to God the day before Bruno’s arrival with his six companions has passed into history and folklore. Accordingly, Hugh understood his dream to be a propitious omen and he guided Bruno to a spot to locate his first cabins to live as a hermit. However, I believe the seven stars provide a celestial guide to his route and coincide with the topography of the area.
5. Were Saint Bruno and Saint Hugh initiates?
This is very difficult to determine. St Bruno was poised to become the primate of all France before suddenly renouncing it all for a hermit’s life. He was one of the most erudite and learned men of his generation and his studies would have included astronomy, maths and geometry as an integral part of the “Quadrivium”. He had had his battles with corrupt Church practices on his way to the top, but why go so far to seek wild seclusion? If the area was known to have these fortunate geometric predispositions, this could explain his long journey.
Another key player who could well have had “occult” knowledge was St Robert of Molesmes who was head of one of the oldest monasteries in France, St Michel de Tonnerre. Bruno stopped off on his way for about two years to stay near Robert before resuming his journey to Grenoble. Let us not forget that St Robert was the founding father of the Cistercians. Etienne Harding and St Bernard of Clairvaux were soon to take up the mantle of this Order.
So the question remains, did Robert help Bruno with information? We shall probably never be able to probe that far back with clarity but the sequence of events lends itself to the affirmative. St Hugh was certainly a learned man, not possibly at the same level as Bruno, but being a native of the area might well have appreciated its possibilities.
6. What was the first alignment you observed in the Savoy and how did you discover it?
I was looking out south from the little chapel on Mt St Michel across the Chambéry valley towards the Chartreuse. The view is magnificent as the ground falls away right beneath your feet. After doing this walk/climb for years, I suddenly realized that the line of sight crosses the semi-circular col de Granier and leads straight to the Grand Som in the distance.
In fact, it is a spike on the Grand Som ridge, aptly called la Dent de l’Ours (bear), which is the focal point. Just beyond in the valley is the Grande Chartreuse, the “mother” monastery of the Order. This alignment had never struck me before as significant.
Allied to this, from the same vantage-point, is the Church of Myans in the valley but to the left. In line is the old priory of St Jeoire (St George) and right in the distance is Bellecombe fort and church. Behind me in the same alignment is Curienne church, but this is out of sight. Finally behind me is Mt Margeriaz, rising up to the north, exactly in line. The alignment reaches from the Chartreuse to the Bauges massif. I was later to find out how significant this medium-sized mountain, its location and name, were to be.
7. Have you observed the same repeatable unit of measure as Henry Lincoln has witnessed in his original pentagram?
I did not find the repeated unit of measure, but on a different and larger scale, an interlocking pentagram and hexagram. What also did strike me as fascinating were the longest lines of the geometry – but in two different sections – being the same length, 32 kilometers. They are linked, in that one turned out to be an exact blueprint for a Golden Section which led to being the diagonal of a second huge pentagram and the other is the base of the final triangle/flat pyramid. The four end points of these two lines are three religious establishments and a collapsed mountain!
8. Who do feel is responsible for the creation of these structures?
A difficult question! The basic interlocking pentagram and hexagram were probably realized by the Celtic Allobroges who were the powerful tribe inhabiting the whole area around Grenoble and Vienne before and during the Roman occupation. Let us not forget that Vienne was very important in the growth of early Christianity in this region. There is also a striking argument that Pythagoras (whom most of us would equate with the upsurge of knowledge in number and geometry) gathered knowledge from many sources, including the Celtic Gauls through Massilia (Marseille) and the Rhône Valley. In this case the Allobroges would have figured largely. My research has unearthed speculation that the Allobroges were descended from the Burgundians who came originally from Bornholm! This fits in exactly with Henry’s comments on the Burgundian origins, although my source was completely independent, in a not very recent French volume about the “secret history of the Alps". It’s strange how important books almost present themselves purely by chance!
The larger geometry – the huge pentagram and the triangle/pyramid – were, I feel, imposed by the Carthusians and Cistercians/Templars with the backing of the House of Savoy.
9. What does Lincoln think of your work? Is he supportive?
Henry has been pre-occupied with problems in Rennes-le-Château and has not been present at my last two lectures. He was intrigued by an earlier one he attended, where I was explaining about the centre of the basic pentagram and my findings on the ground. Since then I have unearthed connections with Shugborough. He may have read the book but I’ve had no comment from him. As his work was centred on Rennes-le-Château, the idea of a completely different tangent dealing with the “treasure” of the Cathars might require a large shift in perspective. After my last (truncated) Saunière Society lecture, Henry’s campaign organiser, Sarah, said she was convinced that the Poussin painting was still indicative of the Rennes-le-Château area. I had no time to explain fully my reasons to her at the time for me stating a differing view.
10. Mt. Granier, near Chambery, as well as its surrounds, features heavily in your research. Tell us about how it fits into your thesis?
This mountain is the northern bastion of the Chartreuse and is the highest mountain around Chambéry. Its distinctive sheer face is the result of a calamitous collapse of its terminal section in November, 1248, just four years after Montségur and the Cathar nadir, while in the Templar heyday. This landslide obliterated five villages and killed 5000 people. According to legend, the monks living near the church at Myans took refuge inside the sanctuary and the tumbling rocks stopped at the portals, hence the sacred reputation of the Black Virgin here as protectress. The remains of the rubble are still obvious today and are the bedrock of the distinctive white wine called aptly “Apremont” – “Bitter Mountain”!
The section that collapsed marked one end of the pyramid/triangle baseline, the other end being a location chosen/confirmed by Hautecombe Abbey, whose location was chosen/confirmed by St Bernard of Clairvaux, himself! The baseline, if continued through Mt Granier, bisects the two northern points of the huge pentagram to arrive at its centre. My first inkling of any alignments was from Mt St Michel (above) through the col de Granier into the Chartreuse.
When standing on the other side of the col, to the south is Chamechaude, its pyramidal outline perfectly aligned over the col de Coucheron, in an A over V configuration. To the north is the flat triangle/pyramid stretching as far as the eye can see. The Granier is the physical signpost between the two massifs and central to the wider geometry.
11. Your proposal for the real site / location of Nicholas Poussin Shepherds of Arcadia painting really seems to resonate. Tell us about how you came to your conclusion.
While musing on the resurgence of national press interest in the Shugborough inscription, its ten letters suddenly began to fit in with the Carthusian motto. As it would be a Masonic message, a picture or diagram could well be involved, hence the Order’s emblem as well as motto formed the whole picture. The basic geometry involved in the Chartreuse, indicated covertly by the A and V from the inscription (and see above), gave me the hexagram. So the initial link with the Chartreuse was formed.
The Shugborough engraving has an additional pyramidal shape on top of the tomb. This is exactly my final piece of the geometry which I established before exploring Shugborough. An important geometric place in the pyramid pinpoints a site whose local meaning is “sheep pasture”, hence shepherds would be an obvious focal point. This mountain was also the terminal point of my first alignment.
The “Arcadia” of the inscription relates directly to the Bear, Arthur and the “Plough” constellation, which were integral in my delving into St Bruno’s arrival in the Chartreuse. The Pole Star location fitting that first part of the geometry highlights the apex of the later pyramid. The mirror image of the engraving, showing the mountain behind the tomb to be the main physical clue, gives me the silhouette and features of the peak of Mt Nivolet, directly overlooking Chambéry and the sloping flank is a direct parallel.
Poussin would have found it a simple break from his journey from Rome to Paris to stop in Chambéry rather than take a huge detour to the Languedoc. The view from the Sainte Chapelle, where the Holy Shroud was kept, towards Mt Nivolet is practically in the correct axis for the painting. The earlier painting by Poussin of the same subject matter has the distinctive and unmistakable outline of Mt Granier highlighted by the flowing robes of the shepherdess. These are the main reasons.
12. How does Shugborough in the North Midlands fit into your theory?
Not just the Shepherd’s Monument, but the other enigmatic features of Shugborough fit the location.
- The “Ruin”, of which only a partial third still remains, displayed graphically the three distinctive points of the pyramid. The main feature is a pictorial representation of the pyramid apex mountain.
- The Colonnade, now gone, based on the Temple of Saturn in Rome, has a direct representation in the area which stands in the same perspective of the Shepherd’s Monument engraving.
- The “Cat’s Monument” has a mountain of the same name in the same relative location as at Shugborough.
- The Cascades have an equivalent in the same mountainside.
- The medallion portraits of Isis, Dionysis (Bacchus) and Osiris in the Dining Room, above the fireplace where the Shepherd’s Monument engraving was originally supposed to be, have definite echoes in the immediate area.
13. Interesting. So how then does your discovery tie into the Rennes-le-Château mystery?
The Cathar “treasure” which Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh postulated was smuggled out of Montségur just before the surrender comes into the reckoning, as does the sacred geometry Henry found in the region. The Merovingian bloodline connections are paralleled by my finding that the House of Savoy’s founder was descended from Clovis the Riparian, a close kinsman of Clovis the Great. Bérenger Saunière’s preoccupation with Mary Magdalene and his connections with the Carthusians during his investigations, come into focus.
What if the “treasure” was documentary proof of Mary Magdalene’s and Jesus’ relationship and bloodline, or even an Artefact, is it likely it would have been safe, hidden in the same area as the occupying army and Inquisition? Otto Rahn and hordes of researchers have scoured the area. Would it not have been more sensible to move it well away and to safety?
My theory shows a possible escape route via the Templars (who were not diametrically opposed to the Cathars) and areas loyal to the Cathar calling. Powerful people in the House of Savoy could also have played a part, as this dynasty was one of the longest pedigree and extended longevity in Europe. Henry talks much of the Templars and Freemasons, whose beginnings are inextricably linked to the Stuart Dynasty.
The Stuarts conferred its male line to the House of Savoy in 1807 when an heir was not forthcoming. This House of Savoy had conferred favours and land to the Carthusians and Cistercians, including St Bernard himself. It had procured ownership of the Holy Shroud. They had become the Kings of Italy – not an ordinary family! Templar and Freemason involvement was inherent at Shugborough and in the life of Poussin. Hence his paintings become pivotal proof for me.
14. Tells about your insights since the book? In your lectures you allude to certain Arthurian related discoveries. Can you elaborate?
Since the book, further discoveries have left me impatient to get back to the area to substantiate them in person. They are quite startling!
The recent book by Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller, “The Dance of the Dragon”, relating in detail the St Michael / Apollo axis from Southern Ireland to Israel, fits in perfectly with my final conclusions, highlighting at least five sites of great importance to me.
There is an Arthurian legend about the naming of Chambéry and Montmélian, involving the Mt du Chat (cf. Shugborough). This is a strange area to find Arthur! On the other side of the Chambéry – Grenoble valley is a key site which has led me first to the huge pentagram and now to the main players, Templars, Cistercians, and Carthusians, with the addition of a primordial Plantagenet connection with England. This in turn has taken me to Lincoln Cathedral(!) and the first History of the Grail by Robert de Boron. Thence back to Arthur. Actual historical figures fit quite neatly into the pattern.
15. Fascinating. So is it possible to summarise what you have found? What is being referenced by the geometry? A body? A treasure? Or is the discovery simply the geometry itself?
The crux of the whole question! It’s impossible to be precise. The Cathar “treasure” is what I envisage, hidden by the complicit actions of the Templars, Carthusians and the House of Savoy, although some steps taken might well have been unwitting to those involved. The higher echelons of Freemasonry in the past were also probably in on the secret. I think documentary evidence of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is most likely, although the tomb motif of Poussin could relate to an Artefact.
Michael Baigent has speculated in his latest book, “The Jesus Papers”, that Jesus survived the Crucifixion and went to Provence with Mary and that an Artefact went from the South of France to Switzerland and back to France. This seems to concur with my research in general terms. What I can say with great conviction is that the complexity and size of the geometry can only be explained by something momentous and important that needed hiding and could only be teased out with some difficulty.
16. Have others followed in your footsteps or are you still championing this avenue of research alone?
I was approached by a fellow researcher about a year ago, whose casual perusal of my book made him very excited. He had researched the Shugborough inscription through an entirely different approach and system for years and had arrived at encoded messages and a (place)-name he could not understand. The name was identical to a vital one I had arrived at via the geometry and the baffling physical descriptions of the location made perfect sense to my knowledge of the area. I have since found the common link hidden in the geometry (he had not used it, oddly enough!).
This has led me to the Greater Arcana of the Tarot and possibly the earliest known deliberate linked use of one card and the mystical Kabbalah! It may seem outlandish, but these latest widely differing strings are all linked to the same bow. We will probably be combining efforts in an updated version of the book, provided I can get it reprinted!
Margaret Starbird’s observations in her books about Mary Magdalene and the Cathar Heresy have dovetailed with my research, especially in the small detail, such as when she shows how the A and V (male blade and female chalice) is the basis of the hexagram and the notation for Mary Magdalene. I had not yet read her book dealing with these two letters, so important to her, when I found my answer to the Shugborough inscription.
Michael Baigent’s research is convergent to my own, but I am still the only one, to my knowledge, delving into this region of France and its history with regard to the Cathar question.
17. So what’s next?
I would like an updated version of the book with many more (plate) photos. My research continues, despite the demands on my time of my Police Staff work. I would like to get in touch with Margaret Starbird and Michael Baigent to discuss common areas of interest. The dream result would be a documentary, which would necessarily be very scenic while proposing these controversial new ideas.
The Coumesourde Stone enigma is leading me to one place in particular, which is my next immediate goal, closely followed by the site highlighted by Robert de Boron’s history of the Grail.
Well that all sounds fantastic! We will look forward to that very much. Thank you again for you insights Max, and best of luck on your continued research.