The Grail Castle?
Is a deserted village
the best clue to the whereabouts of the Grail Castle?
Delivered at the
Sauniere Society Conference, Newbattle Abbey, April 2002
Grail and the story of King Arthur is a myth, in the sense that things
got added to it. The first Grail account did not mention the nature
of the Grail, whereas Wolfram von Eschenbach particularly identified
it with a black stone, speculated by some to be a meteor, by others
to be a cousin of the Ka’aba stone.
story of the Grail is like the myth of Jesus: From an interesting person,
believed to have resurrected, he grew into the son of god, to the child
of a virgin birth, its father the Holy Spirit. One aspect of the Grail
mythology is the addition of the “Grail castle” to the original
therefore, we need to enter the world of the Grail stories, to uncover
the basic theme. Malcom Godwin synthesised how ther were three distinct
trends in the Grail history.
The first Grail story was Chretien de Troyes, from Northern France.
The second tradition is Great Britain, with the Celtic and Arthurian
tradition. Third is a series of specifications, with the most prominent
one being Wolfram von Eschenbach, whose story focuses on the Grail keepers
as the Knights Templar and the Grail itself, which is labelled as a
stone fallen from heaven.
story of “Perilous” or Perillos resides in this third category.
It appears in the Perlevaus history of the Grail. Perlesvaus was written
between 1192 and 1225, and hence a dating of 1205 is often given for
The work itself is interesting. Malcolm Godwim states how the author
must have had access to a rare library, for he seems to be familiar
with most of the Arthurian literature of the period. This includes archaic
Welsh material. The central story line seems to be about the slaughter
of the pagans to embrace the New Order, that of Christianity. It seems
to be story derived from a Latin book, which was discovered in a holy
house in the Isle of Avalon, which at that time was identified with
material ties in with Stuart McHardy’s research in a recent publication,
The Quest for Arthur. It is in that material that we chance upon the
idea that Arthur might be a Christian, trying to convert Scotland to
Christianity, following and paving the path for such saints as Patrick,
Ninian, Mungo/Kentigern, and Baldred, the latter living in the coastal
town of Dunbar and on the famous Bass Rock, not that far from here.
It is McHardy who suggests that at some point, Arthur goes on a pilgrimage
to Rome, and hence deserts his country. This pilgrimage is therefore
important in the Grail, as the king at one point goes on a “grail
quest”, a vision quest, to revitalise the land.
or myth, who can say? Let us return to the Perlesvaus account.
short, the story is about the fertility of the land. Arthur notes how
his kingdom is decaying: harvests fail, society is in decline. Everything
“descends” into pagan ways. Arthur decides to go on a quest,
a pilgrimage, to the Perilous Chapel. Though expecting to be accompanied,
his compagnion dies before the start of the quest, making it a solitary
adventure for the mythical Arthur.
When he reaches Perilous, Arthur is told that his country is in decline
because one of the knights failed to ask the correction question regarding
the Lance and the Grail. Arthur is able to rectify the situation and
when he returns home, the status of his land is fine again.
is a classic story, with a novelistic element, of fertility, and how
decay has been rescued and has turned to rejuvenation, a concept so
central to pagan beliefs, but also Christianity, with the restoration
to life of the dead Jesus.
general region of the Pyrenees, at which foot Perillos is located, is
linked to the Grail.
Wolfram of Eschenbach, places the Grail castle, Montsalvage, in Montsegur.
He also identifies his principal heroes with genuine characters that
featured in the fight for the defence of that castle during the Cathar
era… defended by one Raymond de Perella, a man similar in name
to most of the Lords of Perillos: Raymond of Perillos – though
he himself is no predecessor to the Perillos family, despite claims
to the contrary of a modern “heir” of the Perillos family
promoting himself on the Internet very much like Glasgewian Prince Michael.
The Pyrenees was also the region where Otto Rahn came down to this region
to try and locate that precious relic.
If leaving Scotland for Rome, one can only wonder whether Arthur passed
by Perillos. Perillos is located just to the North of Perpignan and
as that town was important throughout history, one can wonder whether
one might have sailed towards Perpignan and have stopped there, before
continuing over land or by ship to Rome. (Perpignan was situated on
one of the most important “Roman highways”, the road passing
literally just in front of Perillos.)
If it did happen, the castle of what is now called Chateau Perillos,
but which is in fact Opoul Castle, in the 6th Century AD was, officially,
deserted. Though a site of great pagan importance, the rocky outcrop
was officially abandoned after the Romans. The lords of Perillos were
still 500 years removed into the feature – but were present at
the time when the Perlesvaus accounts were written down. At that time,
the Lords of Perillos began their dramatic and enigmatic rise into the
courts of Europe, in the end ending up as close confidants to the kings
of Aragon, as well as grandmaster of the Order of Malta.
historians affirm that the strengthened site really enters the history
books in 1172, with the inclusion of the Roussillon region to the crown
of Aragon. The formidable rock rise proves, then, to represent an effective
bolt on the passage of Languedoc in Roussillon. The fortress was restored
and fits proudly in opposing the Aragon defenses vis-a-vis the drawn
up citadels, by king Louis, in the front line of France.
The strengthened plate shelters also a sedentarized place whose vestiges
affirm a past going back to prehistory and especially to antiquity.
Under the Aragon king Jacques 1st, in 1246, the village that was
formed is known under the name of ‘Salvetera’. But the very
painful living conditions here will make the people, little by little,
give up the hamlet, until it is completely deserted in 16th Century.
One century later the castelet would also be definitively forsaken...
The place would fall into the usual sleep reserved for places that are
us now move towards a modern myth. What most people often forget is
that the Priory of Sion is a myth of the 20th Century. It is not a myth
of the Merovingians, or the Middle Ages; it was constructed and promoted
by the likes of Pierre Plantard and his entourage. It is, for this story,
unimportant whether or not the myth contains truth.
It was a myth promoted by Gerard de Sede and fortuitously picked up
by Henry Lincoln, who transported the myth outside of its original territory
of destination: France. In England, the story would start to live a
life of its own, and it is because of that “life abroad”
that we are all here today.
It was in the UK that a magazine, The Unexplained, picked up the consternation
surrounding the topic, and added to it. In the early eighties, it wrote:
than one of the romances of the Holy Grail tells how Sir Gawain is overtaken
by a terrible storm, and takes refuge in the Atre Perileus, the Chapel
Perilous. Some 30 miles (50 kilometres) across the hills from Rennes-le-Chateau
is the tiny village of Opoul, almost certainly the lands from which
Francis d’Hautpoul derived his name. Take a narrow winding road
that climbs among the crags behind the village and you will come to
an ancient chapel, above which loom the gaunt ruins of – Chateau
Perillos. Perhaps there is something in the theory that links the development
of the Grail legend – and the bizarre mystery with which it is
associated – with the country around Rennes.”
name of the author was Brian Innes. He is both a named and unnamed
star of the international best-seller Templar Revelation by Lynn
Picknett and Clive Prince. Brian Innes worked together with Lynn
Picknett (she as editor, he as director) on the magazine The Unexplained.
In the book, he features as a person connected to the magazine
whom the authors, Picknett and Prince, identify as a suspect of
being members of the Priory of Sion. The authors allege that though
there is no evidence for a historical existence of this order,
they felt that throught the writing of their book on the Turin
Shroud and the tradition surrounding John the Baptist, they had
come across people who claimed or were deemed to be members of
the Priory of Sion, including a mysterious “Giovanni”.
authors suspected Brian Innes to be a member of the Priory of Sion,
and therefore his “fingering” of Perillos as the location
of the Grail castle is interesting. It would put Brian Innes in the
same league as Pierre Plantard and co. Is it possible he was? We only
have the interpretations and suspicions of one person to build on. But
it is known that Innes had a house in the neighbourhood. It is however
most bizarre that a man like Brian Innes, believed to be connected to
the Priory, is promoting Opoul and its castle, and not Rennes-le-Chateau,
as one would come to expect.
Innes made the same mistake as the modern tourist: Castle Perillos is
actually “Castle Opoul”. The actual Perillos castle is a
very small castle and is, in fact, smaller than this room. It is impossible
to call it a castle and would have been more like a watchtower. This
does, however, leave the mystery of where the official residence of
the Lords of Perillos was in Perillos, but perhaps there never was one,
seeing that they were in essence rich beyond belief.
Some have speculated they lived at Castle Opoul. That castle is situated
on a dramatic, flat rock outcrop. The rock outcrop is by all accounts
dramatic. If anyone wants to experience the mythical power of nature,
this is the place to be.
shaped mountains, or rock outcrops, have been associated with kingship.
This is the case in Jebel Barkal in Nubia, in the time of ancient Egypt.
It is also the case with Traprain Law, in East Lothian, the capital
of the Goddodin, or the Votadini, the Celtic or Pictish tribe that ruled
the Lothians from the 2nd till roughly the 7th Century AD. Even in the
New World, in the recently uncovered city of Caral, we find platform
shaped hills linked with kingship and religion, in those days not split
apart as in modern times.
The link between Scotland and Perillos is very visible. In 1398, one
Raymond de Perillos went to Ireland, to St Patrick’s Purgatory,
one of those famous early Christianising monks. The family also had
extremely close links to the Beaujeu family, and it was that family
that was linked to the Douglas family, coming to Scotland to help fight
the family that at one point stood next to Robert the Bruce. It should
be pointed out that the castle of the Douglases at one point was known
as “Castle Perilous”. The castle of Lord Douglas was so
called in the reign of Edward I., because Lord Douglas destroyed several
English garrisons stationed there, and vowed to be revenged on anyone
who should dare to take possession of it. Sir Walter Scott calls it
“Castle Dangerous”. The link between Scott and Rosslyn Chapel
is well-documented, as is the link between the Douglasses and the Sinclairs.
It seems that chosing the theme of Arthur inside Newbattle Abbey was
therefore a very inspired decision by our organiser, John Millar.
That there might have been a link with Perillos was only uncovered through
the efforts of an Irish woman, who will for the moment remain nameless.
It is also the Lord of Perillos, returning from the Crusade, which is
very similar to returning from a Quest, who confronts the monster Babaos,
in a parallel to Arthur who confronted Melwas, who symbolises Hell and
the Diabolic Beast.
the most intriguing link between the Grail legends and the plateau of
Opoul is that in the middle of this plateau, one can still see the remains
of a chapel which was and is called “Salvaterra”; Terresalvache,
“Holy Land”, “Hallowed Land”, so closely linked
to the story of the Grail. The word Montsalvat is an Occitan term, whose
literal translation is "Mont Sauvé" /Safe Mountain.
Is this chapel the remains of the true Grail Chapel? If not the actual
grail chapel, the evidence does seem to suggest that someone who was
“Grail-made” to decided to build and name a chapel after
the Grail accounts.
should, however, not forget that Perilous is also linked to the Round
In the story of the Round Table, there is the story of the “Perilous
Seat” or the “Siege Perilous”. This is a seat on the
Round Table, which is kept empty. In the end, a character sometimes
named Gawain, Perlesvaus, Perceval and Galahad, takes this seat and
“mysterious items hit the fan”. In one account, the occupier
of the seat rides off to discover the Grail, whereas in another account,
the occupier gives off such radiance that the other knights decide to
search for the reason behind this radiance.
Whatever scenario is applied, the Perilous Seat is deemd to be the territory
of the “greatest knight” of them all, and hence was kept
empty until the righteuous one, The Chosen One, would lay claim to it.
The first in Arthurian legend was 'Perceval' and then in later legends
'Galahad' who became known as a Grail Knight deemed worthy enough to
sit in it when both embarked upon the 'Siege Perilous'. The siege perilous
was much revered and believed that it would crack if anyone not worthy
of sitting in it tried to do so. Other reports said that the seat would
devour any person who had presumed themselves worthy enough to sit on
The seat was said to have cracked when Perceval sat in it, but it was
later healed when he became a Grail Knight. This place is said to have
also been seen as the place where Christ would have sat.
royal notary, Courtade, wrote an inventory of the region, this
in the 17th history, as part of the preparation for the Treaty
of the Pyrenees.
He mentions that on the lands of Perillos one can find a “royal”
tomb, of a being that cannot be named and the land of the sepulchre
can not be divided or sold or leave the possession of the Perillos
family. He writes how this location cannot change ownership, even
through “spoliation”, the act of getting things done
within the law, but against the “spirit of the law”.
Of course, the French Revolution changed all of this, leaving
modern researchers with a puzzle, rather than a straightforward
Perillos the region of the Grail? The name definitely suggests so. The
history is definitely open to the suggestion and one suspected Priory
of Sion member has hinted as much. The Grail, and particularly Arthur,
has been connected to the Great Bear, amongst others by such authors
as Greg Rigby. When the Great Bear is doubled, we get the symbol of
the heraldic devices of the land of the Sabarthez represented by two
bears and … a Grail, between both animals. Let us also add that
the bear is the totem animal of the Roussillon, where the primordial
ally was the family of Perillos. Coincidence?
the end, one can only wonder whether a possible secret residing in and
around Perillos added to the growing body of lore surrounding a mythical
enigma, the Grail. That this occurred, should not cause much amazement.
Even in our own times, we often find how one mystery is added to another.
In fact, quite often, the addition of one myth to another adds more
power of belief in the combined possibility. This is the case with the
pyramids of Gizeh, to extra-terrestrial hypotheses, and particularly
the latter’s connection, or possible connection, to crop circles.
Two mysteries are added, and somehow melt in our mind into a coherent
self-explanatory myth. Why would the story of the Grail have been any
different? But if this is so, what is that linked Perillos to this story?
Though the answer might have been – if not likely have been –
unknown to the writer of the story himself, the answer might still be
out there, waiting to be discovered.