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Galibert Tomb from Pontil's in the Limoux Graveyard

Nicolas Poussin and the Pontils Tomb Landscape

Nicolas Poussin and the Pontil's Tomb

It has appeared in many books and many thousands of words have been written about this 'Pontils Tomb', but still controversy surrounds it. The tomb was once part of the landscape situated beside the river 'Le Cruce' which is now nothing but a dry river bed, but sadly all that remains today is a large slab of concrete.

This is how the Pontils Tomb once looked.

The controversy comes from its comparison with the painting 'Shepherds of Arcadia' by Nicolas Poussin, which he painted between 1638 and 1639. He could only have painted the Pontils Tomb if a tomb, it does not have to be the one shown above, existed at the location when he was alive.

nicolas Poussin

Nicolas Poussin

The Pontils Tomb that we know of today was constructed in 1903 by Bourrel, a stonemason from the nearby village of Rennes-le-Bains. The work was paid for by the grandson of M. Gilibert. It is assumed it was built as a family burial tomb, as in 1903 the remains of his grandmother were interred there, and later his wife Elizabeth was also placed beside her in the Tomb.

The surviving members of the Galibert family remained in Pontils for the next twenty years before moving to Limoux, a village situated a few kilometres away on the road to Carcassonne. There the family had a new tomb constructed in the Graveyard, utilising the facing stones and the metal gate from the Pontils Tomb. The two bodies from the Pontils tomb were then transferred to the one in Limoux. Read Article here.

Limoux graveyard.

Limoux graveyard.

The Pontils estate was then put up for sale and was duly purchased by Emily Rivares and her son, Louis Lawrence in 1921. Both were from America, though madame Rivares had French blood. A year later Marie Rivares, Louis's grandmother, died and was placed in the Pontils Tomb after being embalmed in accordance with her wishes. In 1931 or 1932 Louis's mother, Emily, died and she two was placed in the Tomb, apparently with the remains of her two mummified cats.

Inside Pontils Tomb

This photo was taken from this WEBSITE and is believed to be a photograph taken in 1972 of the interior of the Tomb.

Louis Lawrence

Louis Lawrence 1884-1954

Pontils Tomb

Pontil's Tomb - 1900's - More old photos of the Pontils Tomb HERE

This information was taken from the book, 'Histoire du Trésor de Rennes-le-Château’ by Pierre Jarnac. His sources for this information was the second son of Louis Lawrence. And the stonemason Bourrel who dug the first grave in 1903. It is unknown how reliable this information is.

So if the Pontils Tomb was only built in the1900's, it cannot be the same one that appears in the Poussin painting, Shepherds of Arcadia.

There is a rumour that the 1900's tomb was a copy of one that used to stand there some time earlier and which was destroyed by Colbert in his over zealous search for old mine entrances in the area.

Pierre Jarnac also reports that near to the Tomb was a mill, Moulin des Pontils - The Pontils Mill. It was this mill that the Galibert family purchased in 1880. At one time the mill would have been powered by a waterwheel, which were common place in the 1600's, so it is possible that a mill stood there during Poussin's time. The owners of the mill could have constructed a tomb in the same location as the later 1900's tomb.  It was not unusual for such tombs to be built along the roadside, a few still remain in the area today, so it is not inconceivable that an older tomb, long since fallen to ruin, or like the Galibert family, a previous owner of the estate could have built a tomb that was then transported to another location when the family who owned it moved on, which seems to have been the done thing back then; families took the bodies of their loved ones and the expensive stone tombs with them.

Old Mill Ruins    The Old Pontils Mill Ruins and Bridge

The Old Pontils Mill Ruins

Cassini Map

Pontils Mill on the Cassini Map

Pontils Mill on the Cassini Map indicated by the Water Mill Map Symbol which can be seen just below the 'n' of Pontils.

(Click above map image for large Cassini Map of the Rennes le Chateau area.)

Cassini Map Mill Symbol

Cassini Map Symbol for a Water Mill which can be seen at Pontils.

The Cassini map was prepared by order of Louis XV, and it is the oldest map of the whole of France on a topographic scale. It is also the first map in the world that was prepared based on geodetic triangulation; this was measured by Cassini de Thury of the Royal Academy of Sciences from 1683 to 1744; the field work and the engraving of the map on copperplate started in 1750 and were only finished in 1815. Many additions or corrections were made to the engraved plates between 1798 and 1812, involving ways of communication for the most part. More Cassini and Old Map info HERE

Though by the time the Cassini map was started, Poussin had already died some years earlier, the inclusion of a Water Mill on the Cassini map proves that people were living at Pontils around the time the map was made and so had probably been there for many years before hand and during the time Poussin painted the Shepherds of Arcadia. If people were living there, people would die there, so one of the families could have constructed a tomb where the 1900's tomb was built many years later.

Tomb Comparison

The 1900's Lawrence Tomb

The 1900's Lawrence Tomb

compared with

The 1600's Poussin Tomb

Even though it is almost certainly not the same tomb, the similarities are amazing. They are both the same shape. Both are built on a stone plinth. Both have block stone markings and both are built in a landscape with peaks in the background. It is easy to see why Pierre Plantard in the early sixties, linked this Tomb to the Shepherds of Arcadia painting, and why many people think the painting portrays the Pontils landscape.

Related Research Articles

Nicolas Poussin and the Pontils Tomb Landscape

Cassini map showing the area around Rennes-le-Chateau circa 1600 - 1700

Related Publications

Related External Research Articles

Nicolas Poussin Links:

Nicolas Poussin (French painter) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia

Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665)


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