City of Secrets

An interview with author Patrice Chaplin
by Ani Williams on November 24, 2008

Additional commentary © December 2008
by Ani Williams

All photos copyright © Ani Williams unless otherwise noted.

“…the Grail is a living force, it will never die;
it may indeed sink out of sight, and for centuries even, disappear…
but it will rise to the surface again and become
once more a theme of vital importance…”

‘From Ritual to Romance’
by Jesse Weston

Chalice of Love by Salvador Dali
Chalice of Love by Salvador Dali

Background on Author and Mystic Patrice Chaplin

Patrice Chaplin is an internationally renowned playwright and author who has published more than 25 books, plays and short stories. Her most notable work includes Albany Park, Siesta, which was made into a film staring Jodi Foster and Isabella Rossellini, Into the Darkness Laughing, Hidden Star, Night Fishing, and Death Trap.

As a Bohemian in Paris during the 50’s and 60’s, she spent time with Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. She was married to Charlie Chaplin’s son Michael and during her avant garde journeys through occult circles, her friends included Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau (The last listed Grand Master or helmsman of the Priory of Sion, the secret society mentioned in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code), Lauren Bacall, Miles Davis, author Umberto Eco and experts on the esoteric practices of the Kabbalah in Spain. City of Secrets is the extraordinary true story of one woman’s journey to the heart of the Grail legend.

In Patrice Chaplin’s book City of Secrets, she traces her journey through the foothills of the Pyrenees, the land where the wanderings of the Grail and its Troubadours of the heart have left their indelible imprint.

Magdalene Church, Rennes le Chateau
Magdalene Church, Rennes le Chateau

In the 1950’s Patrice, then just a teenager, left England to study languages and taste the life of a true bohemian in France and Spain. She stumbled upon an ancient mystery in Girona, Spain, a town steeped in medieval grail secrets, Kaballistic documents and a mysterious history. According to Chaplin, Girona was host to numerous famous European actors, mystics, priests, alchemists, and artists mentioned earlier and including the 19th century mysterious priest Berenger Sauniere. This priest and his little church dedicated to Mary Magdalene in Rennes le Chateau, France became famous in the many books written in the last century on the grail legends and the heretical Bloodline stories as posed in Holy Blood Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code.

Patrice was enchanted by the magnetism and power that exudes from the region surrounding the Pyrenees’ Mount Canigou. Over her many subsequent journeys to Girona, Patrice was told of numerous appearances there of a Lady of Light with a cup, thought to be Mary Magdalene. She was pulled into a strange series of experiences regarding ancient Kabbalah grail traditions by her associations with her Spanish lover, a member of a local secret mystical sect.


Map of Jewish Princedom from ‘Holy Blood Holy Grail’, used by permission of author Henry Lincoln. (Click the image for a larger view.)

Mystical Septimania—Southern France
and Northeastern Spain

It may be helpful to the reader to know some basic history of the region covered in Chaplin’s book. During the 1st century C.E., surviving Jews had to flee the devastating Roman persecution in Palestine and some founded centers of learning and mystery schools in Alexandria and in the lands far to the West on the Mediterranean coast in France and Spain.

According to the groundbreaking book ‘Holy Blood, Holy Grail’ by Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh, there was a curious commingling of renegade groups not in resonance with the church of Rome beginning in the 5th and 6th centuries in the region: A Jewish princedom, Merovingian kings, said to be descended from the lineage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and Visigoths, who sacked Rome in 410 C.E. and brought Jewish temple relics and treasure to the region. (See Septimania–Jewish Princedom map).

Scattered throughout the foothills of the Pyrenees, centers of Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah flourished into the medieval era. A loosely knit Grail Community which existed then included The Knights Templar, Cathars, Troubadours, the purveyors of Courtly Love and Cabbalists.

This area of Septimania has long been a hotbed for legends of our mistress of the Grail, Mary Magdalene. There are many stories telling of her widespread ministries in this region during the years following the crucifixion. In both Rennes le Chateau, France and Girona, Spain there were matching towers built in her honor.

Two Magdalene Towers

6-24-2006-09-medChaplin states in City of Secrets that the two Magdalene towers created a magnetic path that was connected to Egypt, thus energizing the land so that access to other dimensions was possible. She says that Torre Magdala in Girona was built in 1851, perhaps to coincide with the date of Bernadette Subiros’ vision of Our Lady at Lourdes just across the Pyrenees. This Magdalene tower also marked the site of an appearance of the Lady of the Cup in Girona. One of the major pilgrimage paths to Santiago de Compostela, Le Chemin de Saint Jacques passed through Girona, and countless pilgrims through the centuries would have stopped here. The Hebrew scholar Gershom Sholom believes that the esoteric Hebrew text, the Zohar, or Book of Splendor, was compiled by a Jewish scribe in Girona in the 12th century.

TRLC-Tour-Magdala-tilehe other Tour Magdala, dated to 1901, was constructed by the enigmatic priest Berenger Saunier in Rennes le Chateau. It is located next to the famous Magdalene Church filled with coded grail imagery. Interestingly, both the small village of Soubirous (French spelling of the name of Bernadette Subiros, Our Lady of Lourdes visionary) and the Cave of Magdalene lie directly to the Southwest of the French Tour Magdala. This southwest alignment appears to be marked by an anomalous red tile in the floor of the Tour library.

Villa_Bethania-smSauniere built his home between the Tour and the Magdalene Chapel and called it Villa Bethania. Bethany was the town in Galilee, home of Mary, her sister Martha and brother Lazarus. Beth-El, Hebrew words meaning house of God, is the name given by Jacob in Genesis 28 to the place where he had his vision of the ladder reaching between heaven and earth.

In the Genesis story Jacob uses a stone for a pillow and falls into a deep sleep. He dreams of a ladder reaching into heaven, upon which angels are constantly ascending and descending. When he awakens, Jacob cries “Terribilis est locus iste”, how awesome or terrible is this place!

Over the entry porch of his Magdalene chapel, Sauniere inscribed the words ‘Terribilis est locus iste’. Why would the priest inscribe Jacob’s words if not to say that Rennes le Chateau is a Gate of Heaven, a place where the veil between heaven and earth is permeable.


Jacob’s Ladder and the Gate of Heaven

In Jacob’s dream, he has seen the opening between dimensions, normally only accessible to angels and prophets. According to Christian mystics and Gnostics, this Gate is available to all serious initiates. This ladder between the mundane and the heavenly realms is developed by practicing the ancient work of inner alchemy. As in Egyptian, Taoist, Vedic, Buddhist and Christian esoteric knowledge, one extends one’s sphere of possibilities with conscious breath work, meditation and using sacred sounds to vibrate and awaken the inner cauldrons of power, or energy centers.

Djed-Pillar-smThe Djed Pillar or backbone of Osiris is a more ancient version of Jacob’s Ladder. Many of the Christian esoteric traditions are rooted in Sumerian and Egyptian practices, which included the opening of the five senses to awaken the sixth and beyond. Ritual anointing with aromas of a high frequency, such as spikenard, frankincense, myrrh and cedar was practiced by the Myrrhophores, priestesses of the temple such as Mary Magdalene, Hathor and Isis. Sacred sounds, chants and incantations were used to open doorways of perception and raise the djed, or kundalini.

In the Naassene Sermon, a text said to be based on a teaching given by Jesus at the Last Supper, this raising of the Shakti, or Kundalini is called reversing the flow. This process creates the upward-flowing river, thus relieving the normal gravity and human focus on the mundane. Unlimited worlds of potentiality open in the initiate who develops the inner balance of connection between earth and sky. (For more reading on the Naassenes, see the book ‘Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes, The Initiatory Teachings of the Last Supper’ by Mark H. Gaffney.)

Map of Renne-Canigou-Girona alignment Image by Corjan de Raaf,
Map of Renne-Canigou-Girona alignment Image by Corjan de Raaf, (click for larger image)


France-Sept-08-154The Sacred Mount Canigou

Sitting equidistant between these two Magdalene towers is the sacred Mount Canigou, dedicated to John the Baptist. This great mountain was an important ceremonial center for the ancient Celts, the Mithraic Sun cults, early Christians and medieval pilgrims. Canigou’s high iron content exudes a magnetic pull to time’s eternal spiritual seekers, similar to Sedona, Mt. Shasta, Devon, England, Rennes le Chateau, Teotihuacan and other places with iron-rich red earth. My personal theory is that the iron in our blood interacts and resonates with the iron in the earth. Many hidden mysteries permeate the region between these two mysterious towers of Magdalene.

France-Sept-08-148-smAccording to Chaplin, ritual artifacts and secret documents had passed between Rennes le Chateau and the Girona Jewish enter over the centuries. She also mentioned in her book that Mary Magdalene had brought relics to this region after landing on the coast of France. This area of Septimania also has numerous sites dedicated to Isis from the era of Roman presence, circa 200 B.C.E to 400 C.E.

Patrice writes in City of Secrets about the chemistry of interaction between grail adepts and the energies in specific locations. “Calling up of the Cup could only happen in certain sites depending on the power of the ley lines and the pulse of energies in that precise site. One is Girona, the other is Rennes le Chateau, and the third is St. Sulpice. (The church in Paris) The sites have to be linked and energized so the process of initiation is possible.”

The following is a phone interview with Patrice Chaplin at her home in London on November 23, 2008:

Ani: Patrice, you were one of the first to write about these grail mysteries and Mary Magdalene, years before the recent popular books by Dan Brown and others.

Patrice: Yes, I guess I was.

A: I think it’s wonderful that as a young woman in the 1950’s, you were pioneering in this work at a time when few others were delving into the grail story. In City of Secrets you mentioned that in Girona, medieval Kabbalists were experimenting with ritual journeys into other dimensions. You describe their preparation for rituals, which included fasting, meditation, and of particular interest to me, their use of breath and continuous chants to reach a hypnotic state and open a portal… a Jacob’s ladder to other dimensions of reality. Do you know of any sources for further information on how these rituals were conducted?

P: You could look at Umberto Eco’s books, because he witnessed some of these rituals in Girona. He wrote a book called Foucault’s Pendulum and he got a lot of information from Luiz at the Girona bookstore. Umberto certainly witnessed a ritual, even though he will always deny he did. There’s also a Kaballist book called The Sworn Book; there are only a few copies of it in the world. Umberto Eco said he had based his ritual on the information in the Sworn Book. This book was in Girona, but the Caballists have it now.

A: Is the Sworn Book from the medieval times?

P: Yes.
Girona-Kaballah-SION-sm(Author’s note: The full title is The Sworn Book of Honorius of Thebes, or Liber Juratus, (Book of the Laws). According to author Joseph H. Peterson, “… is one of the oldest and most influential texts of medieval magic.” The Sworn Book lists the 100 sacred names of god and 42 angels, each representing a letter of an alchemical alphabet. The sacred names and letters constitute the vibrational aspect of Kabballistic initiation rites. Also listed are specific herbs and aromas suggested for purifying the archetypes of the twelve zodiac signs.
Regarding the Girona—Kabbalah initiation rites and the use of sound, the medieval Hebrew esoteric text called The Zohar (The Book of Splendor, and possibly written in Girona) references numerous times the use of chants and sacred music to precipitate the prophetic state. The Zohar sites that musicians would play the harp, lute and cymbal to prepare the prophet to open to the voice of heaven. One of the Hebrew words meaning song, Shir (Shin-Yod-Resh), is very closely related to the word Shur (Shin-Vav-Resh), meaning “to see. This is another indication that song and mystical vision are related.)

A: What are the titles of your two upcoming books?

P: The second one is called Mr. Lazarus. Lazarus is a nickname they gave to Sauniere. The other book is called Make the Next Call to God, which is about the journey through the portal. Both books are a continuation of all the material which keeps coming. The second book has a lot about Salvador Dali. I spent time with Dali at his home in Porlligat on the Mediterranean.

A: Oh I look forward to this book, I love Dali. I visited his museum in Figueras, Spain, and was fascinated by an entire room dedicated to his study of alchemy. I remember a series of drawings there that seem to depict the initiate’s journey up Jacob’s ladder. In the 1980’s I was selling Dali’s art and he would come to me in dreams and demonstrate his magical abilities and rituals.

P: Dali was into all these transformation mysteries and going into other dimensions. He did an amazing painting of his going into another dimension at Perpignan train station…it’s in the Figueras Museum.

A: I was interested in the Kaballistic sound traditions mentioned in your City of Secrets book, as I have sung and observed the transforming power of Hebrew, Aramaic and Egyptian chants for many years.

P: A lot of the work I’m doing now is on F# sustained, I’ve witnessed transformation with F# sustained. Some of the physicists know about it. It’s the tone I’ve been told about. It comes from one of the portals. It certainly transforms blood and DNA. It’s like in Roslyn Chapel, with the musical instruments on the ceiling. When they are played together, they form an F# tone. And if you play an F# sustained on a drum with powder on it, it makes the maze at Chartres Cathedral. F# does many things. The second book Mr. Lazarus has a lot about that.
(Author’s note: Patrice refers above to the principle termed Cymatics, in which grains of sand, powder or liquids form coherent patterns when specific sounds are generated. Although I am not familiar with the research in F# that Patrice refers to, in my work with sound, F# corresponds with the Heart Chakra. Is it a coincidence that the bell in the Magdalene Chapel in Rennes le Chateau rings in F# every day? Each frequency has unique correlations and qualities and each individual responds differently to specific sound frequencies, according to their needs. For more information on specific tone correlations see

A: The suggestion that you mention in City of Secrets, that Mary Magdalene may have landed south of Narbonne at Leucate, do you know of any documents that mention this?

P: It’s all heresay. I really don’t know. The area has amazing waterways and it’s just parallel with Rennes le Chateau. It’s a wonderful place. It’s worth looking at. And that’s where Magdalene would have landed if it’s true. We don’t really know if it’s true. I have no proof. I get my information from things that come in the back door from the Vatican or from things that people tell me in Girona and materials that have been given to me that have been hidden away in people’s cupboards. They will pull out a paper, and there will be Sauniere’s face looking up at me.

(Most French legends speak of Mary Magdalene traveling in a rudder-less boat without oars or sails, arriving at Saintes Maries de la Mer in Provence, where the gypsies still celebrate in an annual festival in late May. The stories tell of Magdalene arriving with her sister Martha, brother Lazarus, Mary Jacobe, Mary Salome, perhaps Joseph of Arimathea, and a young girl named Sarah. In several ancient traditions, the person arriving in a rudder-less boat would have been the heir to the throne. Many believe Sarah was the daughter of Jesus and Magdalene and would have been the female heir to the Davidic royal line.)

A: You have been on quite a trek. Are you still going back to Girona?

P: Oh, very much so, but I don’t do any searching anymore, although I have been offered things that are interesting. Girona has many secrets.

A: I’ll have to explore more in that area. There are many mysteries and legends there. You mention in City of Secrets that Isis worshippers brought a secret to Spain when they came ashore at L’Escala 4000 years ago.

P: It was actually at L’Empurius Brava, which is above L’Escala, which is the more well-known name. The Phoenicians came there and the Greeks, and we know the Romans came there. The Phoenicians came in their ships and went to Mount Canigou to mine the salt.

(Note: Since my interview with Patrice in 2008, I have explored and studied the ancient temples of Isis, Serapis, Asklepius and Artemis at Empuries. There is an ancient camino connecting the many sites dedicated to Isis, Artemis and Mary Magdalene in Catalonia, which will be published in an upcoming book on the region.)

A: In your book you mention the ancient ritual sun stones. I was shown one near St. Michel de Cuxa, at the foot of Mount Canigou. There is also a mysterious large rectangular stone with symbols at Rennes le Chateau. These could be the relics of ritual traditions in the region more ancient than we know. We do know of Druid and Mithraic sun worshipping groups that were active in the region of the Pyrenees.
Regarding Magdalene and the appearances of the Lady of the Cup in Girona, did you ever meet anyone who witnessed this vision?

P: Oh yes, many. Some experienced perfume, others perceived her made of smoke or honey colored light and she gave the feeling of great healing, unlike anything else. The people who witness the vision are completely changed.

A: Many of the other appearances of Our Lady are experienced with sounds of bells, chimes and birdsong, such as Maria Guadalupe in 1531 at Tepeyac, Mexico. In your book you mentioned chimes and a gong being heard when she appeared.

P: Yes, that’s right. In another appearance of the Lady of the Cup, she came to the well by the barraca near the French Lady’s garden near the Torre Magdala. It’s where Charlemagne stayed when he first came to Girona. He also had a vision of Our Lady there. When she came they said at first that it was a fallen angel and then it appeared clearly to be the Lady with the Cup.

The effect of the Lady with the Cup is like a million gurus in one, so that the divine nature of that apparition or presence, is such that people feel that everything is alright and always will be. That is what the people who were there have said. Her appearances have occurred repeatedly there, but the church won’t accept it. They say that it’s Jesus and they created a shrine to him where her mark was left at the site. Those who witnessed the appearances were never allowed to say much about it. The woman who voiced her experience of the vision of The Lady was put into a mental home until she agreed to say that it was really Jesus. All the witnesses there saw the Lady with the Cup and they were familiar with it. They have images of her in the Catalan art, even from medieval times…it was the lady with the cup.

A: Is there a message that you would like to leave the readers?

P: The important thing in the story is that people work with the resonance, the energies to bring about good. All of the other details are less important. One must be prepared, though and sufficiently developed on the path of awakening. Also when working with the strong energies at these sites one should use protection, spinning golden light from the top of the head downward and around the soles of the feet.

Patrice’s final recommendation is similar to what the medieval alchemists termed the Great Work, the true journey of transformation and awakening. For two millennia the French and Spanish foothills of the Pyrenees have been a place of refuge for displaced groups considered heretics by the Roman church and kings who were threatened by the spiritual power of these groups: Cathars, Basques, Jews, Merovingians, Gnostics, healers and Knights Templar, all persecuted for their dedication to a path less traveled. And yet these ancient keepers of the grail mysteries chose the path of love and the original Christian creed — do unto others as you would have done unto you. Do what you will but harm none.

Ani Williams is a harpist, singer and sound therapist residing in Languedoc, France and Sedona, Arizona.

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More articles and information are available on the following links:
Mary Magdalene: Mistress of the Grail
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All photos copyright © Ani Williams unless otherwise noted. Torre Magdala, Girona from City of Secrets, used by permission of Quest Publishing; Map of Rennes and Girona alignment with Mt. Canigou by Corjan de Raaf,; Map of Jewish Princedom from ‘Holy Blood Holy Grail’, used by permission of author Henry Lincoln; Chalice of Love by Salvador Dali; Caballah—SION image from City of Secrets, used by permission of Quest Publishing.