In 1872 - 13 years before Berenger Sauniere would be appointed priest of the nearby village of Rennes-le-Chateau, Abbé Henri Boudet arrived as the new parish priest at Rennes-les-Bains. With a strong interest in history he joined the Society of Arts and Sciences of Carcassonne and immersed himself in studying the history of the area. By 1886, he had published a strange book called The True Celtic Language and the Stone Cromlech of Rennes-les-Bains. It dwelt on differences in dialectic pronunciation and advanced the bizarre thesis that English was the source of the Celtic language. Boudet also wrote in it of the key to a local mystery which can be accessed by a word in a foreign language, and of 12 chests which concealed a fabulous treasure in the countryside surrounding Rennes-les-Bains. Included in this book was a map of Rennes-le-Bains and is said by some to contain a secret. Read Map Article
A young Henri Boudet 1837 - 1915, the priest of Rennes-les-Bains
In 1893 l'abbe Boudet presented a forty page paper on differences in pronunciation in the Languedoc region to the Carcassonne Society of Arts and Sciences, where it was regarded as a very serious work. And again in 1896, he presented another paper on local dialects and their roots. But in 1890, when he is alleged to have written a book captioned Lazarus Come Outside, his Bishop supposedly banned it.
It is said that Sauniere and Boudet became quick friends but though I imagine this is probably so, they is no real evidence for this and they may have just been acquaintances. It is not know if Boudet ever visited Sauniere's redecorated church or his views on l'abbe Sauniere.
In 1988, Jean-pierre Motes had this to say about l'abbe Boudet.
"At the end of every thermal season in Rennes-les-Bains, Boudet would meet up with a friend who brought a stepladder with him and they would both disappear into the hills for some time. If you could comprehend the circumstances or the relevancy of these unexplained excursions, then you might come closer to understanding the true secret of Rennes-le-Chateau…”
Biography of l'abbe Abbé Henri Boudet by Frances Pearson
Abbé Boudet was born Jean-Jacques Henri Boudet, on 16 November 1837 at Quillan, in the Aude.
His father was the director of the iron works near Axat. His mother, Marie Antonia, died in 1895 and is buried in the cemetery at Rennes-les-Bains along with his sister Antoinette (or Adelaide) who was Henri's housekeeper until she died in 1896.
His brother Edmond, who was born in 1840 and died on 5 May 1907, was a notary in Axat. It was he who produced the maps and sketches which are printed in Henri's book La Vraie Langue Celtique et le Cromlech de Rennes-les-Bains.
Henri, who may, or may not have been educated in his youth by Abbé Cayron, studied at the Petit Seminaire then the Grand Seminaire of Carcassonne. He was ordained a priest on Christmas Day 1861.
He became vicar of Durban on 1 January 1862, then was transferred to Caunes in the Minervois on 16 June 1862. On 1 November 1866 he was sent to Frestes, where he remained until his transfer to Rennes-les-Bains on 16 October 1872, replacing Abbé Vie, who died two months earlier on 31 August 1872.
It was during his time as the vicar of Rennes-les-Bains that Henri wrote La Vraie Langue Celtique et le Cromlech de Rennes-les-Bains, which was completed in 1880 and published in 1886 by Francois Pomie, the printer to the Bishop of Carcassonne.
At Boudet's own expense, 500 copies were produced for a fee of 5382 gold francs. Of the 500 copies, only 98 were sold, 100 being given to libraries and institutions and a further 200 given away by Boudet as gifts to friends and interested people who visited Rennes-les-Bains to take the cure. The remaining 102 copies were destroyed, with Boudet's consent, in 1914. This is said to have been at the insistence of the Bishop de Beausejour, and deprived Boudet of his income.
Boudet also wrote other works on the Languedoc dialect, which were presented to the Société des Arts et des Sciences de Carcassonne on 5 November 1893 and 3 November 1896. These were reviewed by the president of the Société, Louis Fédié, who was born in Couiza. Fédié was the author of Le Comte de Razes et l'Ancien Diocese d'Alet published in 1880. Despite a lack of recognition of his work, Boudet continued to contribute material to the Société des Etudes Scientifiques d'Aude until the end of the nineteenth century.
Boudet's other interests lay in walking the area, archeology and photography. He presented a variety of his archeological finds to the archeologists of the day.
In 1798 a sculpted head was found in the area known as Pla-de-la-Cote at Rennes-les-Bains. It was given to Boudet because of his interest in archeology and he had it placed on the garden wall of the presbytery. It became known as the Tete du Sauveur. In his book Boudet tells an interesting story concerning it and a local child. Following the inundation of 1992, the head was removed from the presbytery for safekeeping and remains in the local museum, where it can still be seen today.
Henri remained at Rennes-les-Bains until 30 April 1914, when, unable to pay the rent on the presbytery and in poor health, he retired to his family home at Axat. He died at Axat from intestinal cancer on 30 March 1915.
He was buried at Axat in the grave of his brother Edmond. The tomb has an unusual headstone bearing the inscription IXOIS (Jesus or Ixthios (Fish)) and a carving of a closed (rather than open) book. It is said that following Henri's death his books and papers were thrown upon the rubbish dump at Axat. It is said that they were recovered by a local family in whose possession they remain today.
by Frances Pearson
Boudet's Rennes-le-Bains Church
L'abbe Boudet's Church
Looking at the style of the Stations of the Cross, I believe this is the oldest Interior photograph of l'abbe Boudet's Church
Interior of l'abbe Boudet's Church
Slightly different view of the Interior of l'abbe Boudet's Church
Henri Boudet's Grave
After his death, a memorial was erected outside the entrance to the Rennes-les-Bains Church.
Born Jean-Jacques Henri Boudet, his grave is now much visited by those interested in the Rennes-le-Chateau affair as supposedly some of the information included on the tombstone inscription conceals a secret, namely the small raised block of stone that looks like a closed book.
Boudet's Tombstone in the cemetery at Axat
Close-up of the Stone Book with IXIOS..
The raised depiction of the stone book, if that is what is is, is approximately 8 inches long and 4 inches wide. On its surface 5 curious raised letters that spell 31OXI. Most believe this refers to chapter 11, page 310 of his famous book, The True Celtic Language and the Cromlech of Rennes-les-Bains; a strange publication that is believed to contain codes and riddles which suggest that a hidden treasure or secret is preserved in the region. It also purports that a gigantic stone circle encircles the whole of Rennes-les-Bains. The book, like the code remains a mystery. In 1914, Boudet died of intestinal cancer aged 78 in the town of Axat where he is now buried. He died three years before the Abbé Bérenger Saunière.
Many of his possessions were rescued and kept safe by Francois Grassaud, he later donated them to the Rennes-le-Chateau museum.
Related Research Articles