While sitting at a cafe in Hojbro Plads, I decided that my protagonist had to live in Copenhagen. It is truly one of the world's great cities. So Cotton Malone, bookseller, became a new addition to that busy square. I also spent time in southern France discovering much of the history and many of the locales that ended up in this story. Most of the plot came to me while traveling, which is understandable, given the inspiring qualities of Denmark, Rennes-le-Chateau, and the Languedoc. But it's time to know where the line was drawn between fact and fiction.
The crucifixion of Jacques de Molay, as depicted in the prologue, and the possibility of his image being that on the Shroud of Turin (chapter 46) are the conclusions of Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas. I was intrigued when I discovered the idea in their work, The Second Messiah, so I wove their innovative concept into the story. Much of what Knight and Lomas say--as related by Mark Nelle in chapter 46--makes sense and is likewise consistent with all of the scientific dating evidence amassed from the shroud over the past twenty years.
The Abbey des Fontaines is fictional, but is largely based on bits and pieces from many Pyrenean retreats. The locales in Denmark all exist. The cathedral at Roskilde and Christian IV's crypt (chapter 5), are truly magnificent, and the view from the Round Tower in Copenhagen (chapter 1) does in fact harken back to another century.
Lars Nelle is a composite of many men and women who have devoted their lives to writing about Rennes-le-Chateau. I read many sources, some bordered on the bizarre, others on the ridiculous. But in their own way each offered a unique insight into this truly mysterious place. Along that line, several points to be made:
The book Pierres Gravees du Languedoc by Eugene Stublein (first mentioned in chapter 4) is part of the Rennes folklore, though no one has ever seen a copy. As related in chapter 14, the book is catalogued in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, but the volume is missing.
The original gravestone of Marie d'Hautpoul de Blanchefort is gone, most likely destroyed by Sauniere himself. But a sketch was supposedly made of it on June 25, 1905, by a visiting scientific society, the drawing eventually published in 1906. But at least two versions of that supposed sketch exist, so it's hard to know for sure about the original.
All of the facts relevant to the d'Hautpoul family and their connection to the Knights Templar are real. As detailed in chapter 20, the abbe Bigou was Marie's confessor and did in fact commission her gravestone ten years after her death. He likewise fled Rennes in 1793 and never returned. Whether he actually left behind secret messages is conjecture (all part of the Rennes lure), but the possibility does make for an intriguing story.
The murder of the abbe Antoine Gelis happened, and in the manner as depicted in chapter 26. Gelis was indeed connnected to Sauniere, and some have speculated that Sauniere may have been involved in his death. But no evidence exists for such a link and the crime remains, to this day, unsolved.
Whether there is a crypt beneath the church at Rennes will never be known. As stated in chapters 32 and 39, local officials will not allow any exploration. But the lords of Rennes have to be buried somewhere and, to date, their crypt has not been located. The references to the crypt supposedly found in the parish journal, as mentioned in chapter 32, are real.
The Visigoth pillar noted in chapter 39 exists and is on display in Rennes. Sauniere indeed inverted the pillar and carved words upon it. The connection between 1891 (1681, when inverted) to Marie d'Hautpoul de Blanchefort's gravestone (and the 1681 references there) does indeed stretch the bounds of coincidence, but all that exists. So perhaps there is a message there somewhere.
All of the buildings and all that Sauniere fashioned relative to the church at Rennes are real. Tens of thousands of visitors each year experience Sauniere's domain. The 7/9 connection is my invention, based on observations I made while studying the Visigoth pillar, the stations of the cross, and various other items in and around the Rennes church. To my knowledge, no one has written of this 7/9 connection, so perhaps this will be my personal addition to the Rennes saga.
Noel Corbu lived in Rennes and his part in forging much of the fiction about the place is true (chapter 29). An excellent book, The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau: A Mystery Solved, by Bill Putnam and John Edwin Wood, deals with Corbu's fabrications. Corbu did purchase Sauniere's domain from the priest's elderly mistress. Most agree that if Sauniere knew anything, he may well have told his mistress. One part of the legend (probably another Corbu fabrication) is that the mistress told Corbu the truth before dying in 1953. But we'll never know. What we do know is that Corbu profited from the fiction of Rennes, and he was the source, in 1956, for the first newspaper stories about the supposed treasure. As stated in chapter 29, Corbu did pen a manuscript about Rennes, but the pages disappeared after his death in 1968.
Eventually, the Rennes legend was memorialized in a 1967 book, The Accursed Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau, by Gerard de Sede, which is recognized as the first book on the subject. A lot of fiction is contained there, most of which is a regurgitation of Corbu's original 1956 story. Eventually Henry Lincoln, a British filmmaker, came upon the tale and is credited with the popularization of Rennes.
The painting Reading the Rules of the Caridad, by Jaun de Valdes Leal, presently hanges in the Spanish chapter church of Santa Caridad. I relocated it to France since its symbolism was irresistible. Consequently, its inclusion into the Rennes story is my invention (chapter 34). The papal palace at Avignon is accurately portrayed, except for the archives, which I concocted.
Cryptograms are indeed part of the Rennes story. The ones contained herein, however, came from my imagination.
The castle reconstruction site at Givors is based on an actual project that is presently ongoing in Guedelon, France, where craftsmen are building a thirteenth-century castle using the tools and raw materials of that time. The endeavor will indeed take decades and the site is open to the public.
The Templars, of course, existed and their history is accurately reflected. Their Rule is likewise quoted with accuracy. The poem in chapter 10 is real, author is unknown. All that the Order accomplished, as detailed throughout the book, is true and stands as a testament to an organization that was clearly ahead of its time. As to the Templar lost wealth and knowledge, neither has been found since the October 1307 purge, though Philip IV of France did indeed search in vain. The account of carts headed for the Pyrenees (chapter 48) is based on ancient historical references, though nothing can be known for sure.
Unfortunately there are no chronicles of the Order. But perhaps those documents await some adventurer who will one day find the lost Templar cache. The induction ceremony in chapter 51 is reproduced accurately using the words required by Rule. But the burial ceremony, as detailed in chapter 19 is fictional, though first-century Jews did indeed bury their dead in a similar fashion.
The Gospel of Simon is my creation. But the alternate concept of how Christ may have been "resurrected" came from an excellent book, Resurrection, Myth or Reality by John Shelby Spong.
The conflicts between the four books of the New Testament relative to the resurrection (chapter 46), have challenged scholars for centuries. The fact that only one crucified skeleton has ever been found (chapter 50) does raise questions, as do many comments and statements made throughout history. One in particular, attributed to Pope Leo X (1513-1521) caught my attention. Leo was a Medici, a powerful man backed by powerful allies, heading a Church that, at the time, ruled supreme. His statement is short, simple, and strange for the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
Indeed, it was the spark that generated this novel.
It has served us well, this myth of Christ.