The activities of Abbé Bérenger Saunière at Rennes-le-Château can be much better understood when placed alongside historical context. During the 1885 French Elections Saunière proclaimed his political sermon from his church pulpit resulting in the temporary suspension of his priestly duties (with three other priests in the region) by the Préfet de lAude ratified by M. René Goblet, the Minister of Religion and was opposed by Monsignor Billard, the Bishop of Carcassonne.
In 1885 most of the French Crown Jewels were either sold off, melted down or broken up some of the surviving remains are currently displayed in the Louvre, in Paris.
The French Law of Exile was passed on June 26th, 1886 forcing the Heirs to the Throne of France having to live on foreign soil the law was only repealed on June 24th, 1950.
All of this was happening during Saunières first years as a priest in Rennes-le-Château. Saunières writings during this period of time reveal him to be a Conservative and anachronistic Traditionalist Catholic Priest virulently opposed to the anti-clerical legislations of the atheistic Third French Republic and he would naturally have supported any opposition to the French politicians of his time Saunière noted in his diary entry for 30 September 1892, Mort de Boulanger ("General Georges Boulanger died"); in 1895 Saunière denied access to his water tank to put out a fire in the village of Rennes-le-Château on 14 July, that was Bastille Day; and in 1899 when Saunières name was put forward for promotion, it was refused by the Préfet de lAude on the grounds: "He professes anti-government views. Attitude: militant reactionary."
Below a sample choice of articles taken from the book Historical Dictionary of the Third French Republic, 1870-1940; edited by Patrick H. Hutton and published in 1986 by the Aldwych Press, London; that places Bérenger Saunières period at Rennes-le-Château into proper historical and political context.
Roman Catholicism: Church-State Relations (by A. Sedgwick) Church-state relations were a major factor in the politics of the Third French Republic, especially during the period 1870-1914.
Relations between the Catholic church and the governments of the Third Republic were conditioned by the divergent political interests of most French Catholics on the one hand and of most Republicans on the other at the time the regime was founded. The church had not fared well in the Revolution of 1789. Since that time it had opposed the liberal, secular tendencies that had been the Revolution's contribution to the French body politic in the 19th century. This opposition was stated in uncompromising terms by Pope Pius IX in his Syllabus of Errors promulgated only six years before the Third Republic was established. To be sure, there were those French Catholics Félicité de Lammenais, Jean-Baptiste Lacordaire, and Charles de Montalembert among them who believed that Catholicism and liberalism were compatible, but most French Catholics, clergy and laity alike, were politically conservative in the 1870s and for decades to come. It is not surprising therefore that curés denounced the godless regime from their pulpits, insisting to their parishioners thata vote for a Republican candidate in any election was a mortal sin. Republicans, on the other hand, believed that their regime would never be secure until the political and cultural influence of the church was drastically reduced. This staunchly anticlerical attitude received pungent expression in Léon Gambetta's battle cry at the time of the `seize mai' crisis, "Le cléricalisme. Voilà l'ennemi."
During the 1880s when the regime appeared to be fairly well established, the Republican majority in the Chamber of Deputies launched an anticlerical campaign to curtail the influence of the church in France. Under the terms of the Concordat of 1801, the government was able to control the activities of the clergy to a considerable extent. It could withhold the wages of members of the clergy who were particularly virulent in their attacks on the Republic, it could prohibit extensive contact between the French clergy and the Vatican, and it could nominate sympathetic candidates to Episcopal vacancies wherever possible. Although the Concordat drawn up between Napoleon and Pius VII in 1801 gave the state extensive power to regulate the affairs of the church, it had itself become a political issue among Republicans in the 1880s. Opportunists favoured retaining the Concordat as an effective means of controlling religious activities. Radical Republicans, however, favoured the seperation of the Church and State on the grounds that the Concordat bound the spiritual interests of the church too closely to the temporal interests of the state. While the Opportunists dominated the Republican majority in the legislature during the last two decades of the 19th century, the possibility of revoking the Concordat was remote. Yet it was clear to most Republicans in the 1880s that the Concordat by itself was not enough to reduce Catholic influence. The Church played a major role in French education through its own schools and universities and through the involvement of the clergy in the state educational system. The future of the regime would always be in doubt as long as French youth was vulnerable to the hostile teachings of the church. In order to curtail if not eliminate Catholic involvement in the educational system, the government enacted a series of laic laws during the 1880s revoking the right of Catholic schools to issue degrees, prohibiting religious instruction in state schools, and permitting priests and nuns to teach in state schools for only five more years, after which they were to be replaced by teachers trained in state-supported normal schools. Public schools were established for girls for the first time. The laic laws also reinstated civil marriage and divorce, banned religious insignia of any kind from public buildings, and subjected seminarians to military service.
The anticlerical campaign abated somewhat during the period between the end of the Boulanger crisis (1889) and the beginning of the Dreyfus affair (1894). The serious economic depression of the 1880s made politicians of the Left, Right, and Center more conscious of economic and social issues, and some were inclined to favour political alignments based on such issues rather than on issues pertaining to the constitutional structure. It was in this atmosphere that the ralliement developed on the Right, and socialism became a political force on the Left. But the Dreyfus Affair aroused political passions to the point where to many of its supporters the Republic appeared to be threatened once again by clerical influences. At the same time, influential Catholic newspapers such as La Croix interpreted the efforts to vindicate Captain Alfred Dreyfus as an attempt on the part of Republicans, Freemasons, and Jews to destroy the Fatherland. Dreyfus' cause eventually triumphed because it became linked with the security of the regime. The broadly based René Waldeck-Rousseau ministry (1899-1902) arranged to have Dreyfus pardoned in 1899 and at the same time launched a second anticlerical campaign that included the dissolution of such Catholic orders as the Assumptionists under whose auspices the offensive La Croix was published. Waldeck-Rousseau, an Opportunist, wanted to maintain the Concordat and through its provisions increase the government's political and financial control over the clergy. However, the Republican majority now dominated by Radicals soon indicated its desire to move towards the separation of church and state. Waldeck-Rousseau's successor, Emile Combes, formally introduced a proposal to that effect in the Chamber in November 1904, but property arrangements prevented separation from actually occurring until 1906. By that time, the church was in poor condition, with few material resources, a demoralized clergy, and declining influence. Yet the revocation of the Concordat of 1801, which had exacerbated church-state relations since the beginning of the nineteenth century, weakened the anticlerical impulse that had been such a force in Republican politics. That impulse revived from time to time throughout the period 1906 to 1940 but with an increasingly negligible impact. If because of separation the state was now free to concern itself with the pressing economic and social questions that confronted the country, the church was free of the burden of state control. As a free church in a free state became a reality after 1906 and not just the ideal of a handful of dissident liberal Catholics and as more Catholics came to accept the regime, relations between the two institutions improved to the point where they were no longer responsible for the bitter divisions that had affected France since the 1870s.
Roman Catholicism: Popular Devotions Cultic beliefs and practices that addressed the physical and spiritual needs of Catholics in an age of increasing disbelief. By the end of the nineteenth century, only a minority of French men and women received Communion at Easter each year and thereby qualified as practising Catholics. But to some extent this evidence of dechristianisation is balanced by the fact that a large majority still insisted on being baptized, married, and buried within the church. Moreover, religious practice was generally high among women, children, and the elderly. Attachment to the church varied across regions. While the Paris basin was not devout, religious practices remained widespread in western France, the Massif central, the Pyrénées of Southern France, and in some departments of the north and east. Although orthodox practice provides a basic index of French religiosity, practicing and nonpracticing Catholics also expressed their religious feelings in a variety of devotions that help define the substance and mood of Catholicism in the Third Republic.
The most important devotions of the Third Republic were those dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the late nineteenth century there were more than 1,100 shrines dedicated to Mary throughout France. Although local saints, such as St Radegonde of Poitiers and St Martin of Tours, were still venerated. Marian piety was gradually becoming predominant in Catholic devotional life. The popularity of Mary was encouraged by apparitions at the rue de Bac in Paris (1830), La Salette in the Alps (1846), Lourdes in the Pyrénées (1858), and Pontmain in the Mayenne (1871). The church investigated and sanctioned these apparitions, built major shrines to honour them, and created national confraternities linked by periodical publications to organise and maintain devotion to them. The initiatives of the church represented a departure from the eighteenth-century policy of scepticism towards popular religiosity.
The French Revolution and the urbanization and industrialization of France had contributed to a decline in the level of religious practice, and the church hoped to reverse some of its losses by adopting a more favourable attitude toward popular devotions.
Marian devotions also benefited from the intellectual and demographic environment of the nineteenth century. Romanticism, a fashionable current of thought, stressed the virtue of female purity while also idealizing the maternal role of women. As both virgin and mother, Mary was a symbol uniquely capable of expressing this paradoxical view of women. The importance of the nuclear family, in which affective ties between the mother and children were seen as balancing the power and authority of the father, also contributed to the popularity of Mary, who was presented in devotional literature as a model to be emulated.
The most important shrine in France, Our Lady of Lourdes in the Hautes-Pyrénés, developed rapidly in the Third Republic following the extension of the railroad line to the town of Lourdes in 1866. By the 1890s more than 500,000 pilgrims were visiting Lourdes each year. One of the major attractions of this and other shrines was the promise of miraculous cures for individuals who could not be helped by secular medicine. At Lourdes each year thousands bathed in the water of a miraculous fountain, and stories of cures were given prominent treatment in devotional pamphlets and Catholic newspapers such as La Croix and L'Univers. The healings at Lourdes were used by church apologists as evidence that established the existence of supernatural forces controlled by the church and refuted the claims of positivists who denied the possibility of miracles.
Pilgrims sought the help of shrines for collective as well as individual problems. Droughts and floods drew parishes together behind their curés in processions to local shrines. Following the loss of the Franco-Prussian War, there was a major religious revival marked by a series of mass pilgrimages in 1872 and 1873 to Saint Anne d'Auray, Notre-Dame de Chartres, Paray-Le-Monial, and Lourdes. At these shrines Catholics sought forgiveness for the sins of the nation that had led to the defeat by Prussia and asked Mary and the saints to intervene with God in seeking protection from further chastisements. The devotion to the Sacred Heart was especially prominent in the 1870s. The devotion was based on a seventeenth-century apparition to St Marguerite-Marie Alacoque in which Christ asked that France de dedicated to His Sacred Heart. Some Catholics blamed France's subsequent troubles on the failure to honour this request. The devotion became a political issue in 1873 when Catholic deputies in the National Assembly won majority approval for the construction of the basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart in Paris that still overlooks the city from Montmartre. The basilica was intended to serve as expiation for what was believed to be the apostasy of France that had begun during the Revolution.
Popular devotions traditionally have satisfied the needs of ordinary people for explanations and solutions of problems that threatened their individual and collective existence. In the Third Republic the church successfully channelled these needs into a series of national cults that served the intellectual and political purposes of institutional Catholicism. Anticlericals resented this exploitation of popular credulity, and there was some talk of abolishing the shrine at Lourdes and elsewhere at the time of the separation of church and state in 1905. Local officials, however, argued that shrines frequently were a crucial economic resource for a region and that persecution of them would further alienate Catholics from the Republic. The shrines were allowed to stay open, although they were now staffed with diocesan rather than regular clergy.
In the twentieth century devotional life was depoliticised as religion in general became a private rather than a public matter. National devotions, however, especially Lourdes, continued to be prominent in Catholic life, for they served as a way of uniting and consoling a Catholic minority in an age of increasing disbelief.
Law Of Associations (1901) (by T. A. Kselman) Republican and anticlerical measure designed to control the activity of religious orders in France.
These religious orders were regarded with suspicion by the French state throughout much of the 19th century. Republicans feared that the many schools and hospitals run by the orders were a source of division in France because of their advocacy of royalism and ultramontanism. In 1880 the government of Jules Ferry had made an attempt to enforce legislation that required all religious congregations to be authorized officially by the state. The attempt by the Opportunists stopped far short of eliminating the orders. In 1899 they had over 1,500 establishments in France, which housed over 37,000 priests and brothers and 120,000 nuns. Over half of these orders were not authorized.
The Dreyfus affair provided an opportunity for anticlerical politicians to expel the orders from France. The anti-Semitism of the Assumptionists in their daily "La Croix" antagonised the public opinion and made a general attack on the orders likely to succeed. The government of René Waldeck-Rousseau introduced legislation in November of 1899 that would grant greater freedom of association for laic organisations such as labour unions and learned societies while restricting the rights of associations with headquarters outside France whose rules implied a renunciation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, provisions clearly directed at religious congregations. By the time the legislation was passed in July 1901, radical deputies in the Chamber of Deputies, led by Georges Trouillot, had rewritten the bill to make it a more extreme measure. In its final version the Bill prohibited any member of an unauthorized organisation from teaching, even if he demonstrated that he was no longer affiliated with the order. Furthermore, the Chamber transferred the right to authorize associations from the administration to the legislature, which intended to use this power to eliminate rather than control the congregations.
Confusion about the provisions of the law led to a delay in its application until after the elections of May 1902. The Radicals won a clear majority and, led by the new government of the anticlerical Emile Combes, rigorously enforced the Law of Associations. Thousands of schools were closed, the property of the orders was confiscated and sold by the state, and those members of orders who wished to continue as religious had to leave France. Protests by the secular clergy against the measure led to the suspension of salaries and to administrative action designed to curtail contacts between Rome and the French church. The conflict over the Law of Associations formed the background for the separation of church and state that took place in 1905.
Legitimism (by A. J. Staples) The political viewpoint espoused by supporters of the eldest line of royalty in the house of France, the Bourbons, who had last reigned during the Restoration of 1814-30.
In the early 1870s, they were still a powerful force, with their main goal being the restoration of the monarchy by their pretender to the throne, Henri, comte de Chambord (Henry V, 1820-83), who had lived in exile since 1830 in Frohsdorf, Austria. During the Third Republic, the Legitimists were obliged to act in concert with the Orleanists, supporters of the collateral line descended from Luis-Philippe, who had reigned from 1830 until 1848.
Together, the Legitimists and Orleanists had a majority in the National Assembly, convened at Bordeaux in 1871. There the Legitimists were led mainly by the "chevaux legers" , the extreme Right-wing faction of about 80 deputies who remained staunch supporters of Chambord and his policies until his death. Outside the Assembly, they were backed by many diehard Legitimist notables and by the Catholic hierarchy. Communications with Chambord were carried out by the Paris Bureau du roi, a central executive committee of 12 members who held weekly meetings and were Chambord's only contact with France. The party also had an official newspaper, "L'Union".
Fidelity is the best word to describe the Legitimists. Always loyal to Chambird and to the principles of the monarchy, they showed considerable hostility toward the ideals of the Revolution of 1789. As they saw it, the Revolution had dissolved the ties to the Catholic Church and, more important, had ruined the traditional relationship between the aristocracy and the peasantry. Nostalgic for these lost days, they dreamed of a return to a hierarchical society, where all were loyal to the Church and everyone knew his social rank and function and where the socially superior notables could assume responsibility for the peasants. This society would be based on personal ties, as it was during the "ancien regime". The Legitimists saw in Chambord the embodiment of these principles.
The summer of 1873 provided the Legitimists with their best opportunity for a restoration. By that date, the head of state, Adolphe Thiers, an Orleanist leader, became too oppressive and was forced to resign on 24 May 1873. The political vacuum paved the way for Chambord's return, but he demanded conditions unacceptable to most French men. For Chambord, the white flag of his ancestors was the incarnation of the monarchist principle, a matter of honour and political integrity. He thus stated in his manifesto, published 7 July 1873 in the "Union", that there could be no compromise, that he would not accept the tricolor flag: "Henri V cannot abandon the white flag of Henri IV." Indeed Chambord would not compromise, and after final rejection of his conditions in mid-October, Maurice de MacMahon, an Orleanist politician, was elected president (19-20 November 1873).
Even as late as 1879, Chambord expressed his desire to return to rule France. Until this date, the Legitimists were still a considerable political force, though they realized that a restoration was no longer possible. When Chambord died on 24 August 1883, Legitimism as an independent cause died along with him, although many Legitimists, in concert with Orleanists and Bonapartists, constituted an important conservative coalition until the end of the century.
Orleanism (by P.H. Hutton) The ideology of an important segment of the political Right in the early years of the Third Republic.
The term is taken from the name of the royal family of Luis Philippe, who reigned over the July Monarchy (1830-48). As a political philosophy, however, its principles were derived from the French Revolution of 1789; equality before the law, constitutional government, the pre-eminent value of parliamentary institutions, and a rational and uniform system of administration. In effect, Orleanism was the primary political expression of French liberalism and as such among the most important ideologies in France until the end of the 19th century.
If in principle Orleanism possessed a universal appeal, in practice it acquired more parochial characteristics. Throughout the 19th century it was a political creed that served the interests of the notables of French society the industrialists and financiers of the cities but also and especially the landowners of rural and small town France. Therefore Orleanists defined their libertarian principles in a way that fostered belief in and commitment to an elite of wealth and talent. They made a sharp distinction between civil and political rights, the former equally applied to all but the latter reserved for the men of property. Nor did they have much sympathy for the poor or acknowledge the government's responsibility to deal directly with social and economic problems. Politically progressive yet socially conservative, promoters of industrial growth while spokesmen for a landed gentry, proponents of public education yet suspicious of the opinions of ordinary people, self-interested while often self-righteous, respectful of erudition but frequently crass in their political dealings, the Orleanists saw themselves as defenders of a moral order (what they called the "juste milieu") against Legitimists on the Right (who put birthright before wealth) and Republicans on the Left (who put social responsibility on a par with political liberty).
Their enduring prestige in the rural world enabled the Orleanists to survive the fall of the July Monarchy (1848) and to play prominent roles in both the Second Republic (1848-52) and the Second Empire (1852-70). Their capacity to adapt to, indeed to shape, these regimes to serve their interests revealed that Orleanism was not inextricably wedded to the institution of monarchy. Such allegiance became an issue among Orleanists with the coming of the Third Republic, when they were obliged to adapt once more to new political conditions.
The Third Republic was proclaimed and provisionally governed by Republicans during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). But Orleanists were soon directing the new regime's fortunes, more because of provisional France's fear of the Parisian radicals and its desire for peace than because of a preference for a restored monarchy. The National Assembly, convened in Bordeaux in February 1871, was overwhelmingly monarchist, including about 180 Legitimists and 220 Orleanists among its 645 representatives. Transferring its proceedings to Versailles while peace with Prussia was being negotiated, this body set to work drafting a constitution but with the understanding that the Third Republic might be only an interim regime before a royalist restoration. The first two heads of state of the new regime, Adolphe Thiers (1871-73) and Maurice de MacMahon (1873-79), were Orleanist politicians.
The dream of a restoration came to naught before the end of the 1870s, to some extent because of the rivalry between the Legitimist and the Orleanist pretenders but also because of divisiveness among Orleanist politicians themselves. There was widespread jealousy and mistrust of Thiers. Formerly Prime Minister of the July Monarchy, a leader of the Orleanist opposition in both the Second Republic and the Second Empire, Thiers was the chief negotiator of the armistice with Prussia and was chosen by the National Assembly as the Republic's first head of state. His personal prestige and tough-minded statesmanship notwithstanding, his colleagues, suspicious of his ambitions, abandoned him in 1873 for MacMahon, a more cautious policy maker and one more obviously committed to a restoration of the monarchy. More important, however, was the weakening appeal of the notables to the electorate in rural France. With the advent of universal manhood suffrage for the Chamber of Deputies and the rising ambitions of the lower middle class to play a role in the politics of the new Republic, the fortunes of the Orleanists began to turn. The prerogative of President MacMahon to choose his own Prime Minister became an issue when the Republicans gained a majority of seats in the Chamber of Deputies in 1876. The "seize mai" crisis (1877), while debated as a constitutional issue about the relationship between president and parliament, was at a deeper level a power struggle between Orleanists and Republicans, in which the latter prevailed. When MacMahon retired as President in 1879, the Orleanists yielded the last of their official powers.
The Orleanist quest to restore the monarchy nonetheless had an epilogue in the 1880s in the campaign of the Orleanist pretender, the comte de Paris. The hopes among conservatives during the 1870s for a restored monarchy had been frustrated by the intransigence of the Legitimist pretender, the comte de Chambord, who clung to the ceremonial trappings and absolutist conceptions of the monarchy of the Old Regime. His death without progeny in 1883 cleared the way for the comte de Paris, an aspirant better attuned to the democratic politics of the modern age. Seeking political accommodation with the Legitimists and the Bonapartists, Paris offered himself as the standard-bearer of a broad-based conservative challenge to the Opportunist leaders of the Republic. With his adviser, the baron Armand de Mackau, he pursued a shrewd and highly successful campaign in the legislative elections of 1885. His financial commitment to the campaign of General Georges Boulanger in 1888 as a means of undermining the Republic, however, proved to be a miscalculation and brought discredit on his cause. Paris' failure signalled the bankruptcy of Orleanist politics, dependent as it was on the vanishing prestige of the notables. As the peasants of rural France transferred their allegiance to the moderate Republicans and with the rapprochement between the Catholic church and the Republic (the "ralliement", 1890), the Orleanists ceased to be an effective force in politics.
What was left of Orleanism thereafter was a political style that other political formations would adopt. The right-of-centre political coalitions of the 1890s, the Progressists, and of the 1920s, the Bloc National, borrowed the traits that had marked Orleanism: elitism, a certain moralism, elegant rhetoric, and political pragmatism. Born of revolution, Orleanism ended by bequeathing to the Third Republic the essential elements of a moderate conservatism.