10.The Rosary: a symbolic place Rodenbach has - Bruges-la
10. The Rosary: a symbolic place
Rodenbach has located the residence of Hugues Viane in the tourist heart of
Bruges: a "large, old house on the Quai du Rosaire, looking posh" equipped with
"three old cross"1 and one "reflected in the water." These indices, provided by the
author himself, incite to coincide with the "Spanish House" which stands at the
corner of Quai du Rosaire (in Dutch, Rozenhoedkaai) and Rue aux Laines
(Wollestraat). This is an imposing building built in Gothic style and natural brick,
which was an unheard of luxury in the 15th century (ca. 1480). It has two wings
perpendicular to the street, in line with each other but separated by a low building,
parallel to the road. Like the front facade overlooking the bustling Wollestraat, which
is located along the waters of the Rosary is pierced with three mullioned windows
and framed with arches niches. The description of "large, old house with three
windows and opulent appearance that reflected in the water" applies perfectly to the
patrician house of the mayor of the city of Bruges in the 16th century, Don Juan
Perez de Malvenda, death almost centennial (1511-1606). It faces the statue of
Prague St. John of Nepomuk who was thrown into the Moldau for refusing to betray
the secret of the confession of Queen Joan, wife of Wenceslas IV, King of Bohemia.
It is in this house in 1584, that Perez Malvenda (or more accurately Maluenda) had
hidden in a box of lead bulb of the Holy Blood while the iconoclasts were in control
of the city. The box is now in the museum of the basilica. This pious man (he was a
member of the Noble Brotherhood of the Holy Blood) occupied, with his wife
Madeleine Chantraines, the large house of his brother, the wealthy merchant
Jacques Broucqsault, an uncompromising Calvinist who had the presence of mind
to leave a city close to being conquered by the Spaniards thirsting for revenge.
Indeed, during the Protestant occupation, he had served as alderman, then chief
magistrate of Bruges. November 30, 1584, the feast of St. Andrew and the Order of
the Golden Fleece, the whole city began cheering to replace the relic in the chapel
of the Holy Blood. Today we can see on the front of the arms of Malvenda Perez,
"torn quarter gules a tower of gold, two-thirds azure, a fleur de lis argent 2 at the
edge of Azure charged with seven shells "(Compostela). In its “Traditions et
légendes de la Belgique” (1870), Baron-Reinsberg Düringsfeld recounts the heroic
behavior of Perez and confirms that the sacred place was still the object of curiosity
or public devotion in the 19th century, the lifetime of Rodenbach:
“March 20, 1578, the heretics have been introduced into the city by Jacques
Mostaert and his accomplices, several churches were plundered, and Juan Perez
de Malvenda, Spanish nobleman, leader of the churchwardens of St. Basil,
1 Georges Rodenbach, Bruges-la-Morte. Présentation par Jean-Pierre Bertrand et Daniel
Grojnowski. Flammarion, GF nº 1011, Paris, 1998, p. 52, note c. This basic topographic
data is not included in the final version. The transformations of 1906 gave a more neogothic home Quai du Rosaire "reflected in the water."
2 In general, the lily is omnipresent in the ornamentation of the house, which does not
necessarily indicate a symbolic commitment.
assuming correctly that Chapel of the Holy Blood does point to escape the fury of
the enemies, locked the relic in a safe lead and carefully concealed from him, until
the Catholic party had the upper hand again. It is said that in the cellar of this house
(on the Pont Saint John of Nepomuk, a form very picturesque, with a walled garden,
extending vis-à-vis the dock Rosenhoed3), we see even where this treasure was
An inscription written by Guido Gezelle (1830-1899) and sealed in the facade in
1892, the year of the publication of Bruges-la-Morte, is intriguing in itself; it
remembers that milestone episode in the history of the city:
ZOO OF OBEDEDOM ARKE BORG
ZOO'S PEREZ DE MALVENDA ZORG
BEWAERDE ONS HEEREN BLOED ALHIER
VOOR HAET EN NIJD EN OORLOGSVIER
Praise the Lord
Like Obededom hid the Ark
The care of Malvenda Perez allowed
In place to preserve the blood of our Lord
Of hatred, greed and rage of war
Years 1578-1584 of the Lord
But for the occasion, Gezelle was wrong: there is the relic that was kept during the
year 1584 and not six consecutive years. The text of the unusual large Flemish poet
alludes to the village, Obededom, where King David would have temporarily hid the
Ark of the Covenant of the Hebrew people before his entry into Jerusalem.
Registration is an initiative of the Countess of Savina de Gourcy Serainchamps, the
wife of Baron van Caloen who owned another property in Dyver (No. 7) nicknamed
"the house with windows of crystal," and Castle Loppem designed by Jean de
Bethune and EW Pugin, an English architect that I will discuss later.
The house on the Quai du Rosaire, shaded by an immense and ancient willow tree,
has long been the property of large families and Bruges van Caloen (Gillès) of de
Pélichy. The latter family by a strange coincidence had also saved the Holy Blood
during the French Revolution!4 Several of its members were part of the Noble
Brotherhood of the Holy Blood and the Order of Christ belong to the Templars.
Foundations and the walled garden of the Basilica of Holy Blood, which the relic is
closely linked to the plot of the story, bathed in the same waters as the "Venetian
palace" of Viane. In 1906 and 1914, inside the house was extensively renovated.
The architect has provided the north wall of a curious octagonal turret with spiral
On the rear facade, facing south, the owners have placed a seated Virgin and Child
(Seat of Wisdom). An additional argument reinforces my esoteric hypothesis in his
du Rosaire. "Rosary" translates "into Dutch by" Rosenkrans "and not" Rozenhoed"
which literally means "hat of roses".
Basement beams and original flooring are visible from the impasse that leads to the banks
of the Rosary.
4 The Pélichy and Rodenbach should know each others : Jean de Pélichy and Constantin
Rodenbach were both founding members of the National Congress of Belgium.
second great "Bruges" novel '”Le Carillonneur”, Rodenbach situates the home of the
main hero in Dyver, probably nr. 7, from the description he gives, and which
corresponds to old views:
“His old house at Dyver, with its tall blackened facade, leaded windows in wooden
frames, a green glass, color channel that is in front [...] 5
But that Perez Malvenda lived there several years before moving to one hundred
meters, at the corner of the Rue aux Laines (Wollestraat) and the “Quai du
Rosaire”, in the abandoned palace by his brother. The Dyver garden has also
served cache to the relic of the Holy Blood! Rodenbach seems fun creating a
symbolic treasure hunt in his chosen city.
Back side of the Quai du Rosaire. The Gezelle's explicit reference to Ark of the
Covenant is particularly welcome in the context of the story of Rodenbach. The
Latin "arcana" means a small jewelry box and other valuables. "Arcana" gave the
word "ark". This etymology can intermix the symbols of the box, the Holy Blood and
hair, the Ark of the Covenant and arcane or secret.
The Ark of the Covenant, also called the ark of Yahweh, or the Ark of the Testimony,
was a wooden chest covered with gold plates. It was the oldest and most revered of
Jewish religious objects. For some commentators, it represents one aspect of the
Grail. What about magical properties of the Ark? It defended herself, like the hair
that is vindictive and bloody at the end of Bruges-la-Morte, when the "profane
fingers"6 of the actress dare to seize it. Rodenbach himself insists on the absolute
sanctity of the Holy of Holies that is according to Viane reliquary room, living room
lit up like a "chapel". Here are the words he uses to evoke the tragic scene that
concludes the story:
“She was dead - for not having guessed the mystery and there was something there
to which he had to touch under pain of sacrilege. She had reached into it, the
vengeful hair, that hair that immediately - for those whose soul is pure and
communes with the “Mystère”7 - implied that the minute she would be desecrated,
itself become the instrument of death.”
That the braid becomes "boa", a snake charmer, to better kill the intruder referes to
Aaron's Rod inseparable from the Ark of the Covenant. Or the face of God warns
the ungodly: "No one can see my face without dying" (Exodus 33:20).
In his study of the almshouses, the Countess Marie Louyse des Garets has
recounted, consciously or not, magic and mysticism emanating from the focal place
“Slowly ascend the platform of the Rosary, we stop at the entrance of Dyver, with
St. John of Nepomuk - the boss of silence in these places is the only bearable
companion, here we are at the heart of enchantments.
Look right over there, the airlift, while gold, thrown at the entrance of the borough as
5 Le Carillonneur, Passé Présent, Bruxelles, 1987, p. 124.
6 Bruges-la-Morte, Chap. 15.
7 The word "mystery" refers perhaps to the “Magnum Mysterium”, the major work of Jacob
Boehme, containing all the mysteries of the Royal Art, or the "Magnum Arcanum" (Great
Mystery) of the Egyptian Rite created by Count Cagliostro, too often confined to the role of
trickster and manipulator while its rituals are equally interesting so many others of the time.
More generally, the Latin word "mysterium" means "mysteries, secret ceremonies in honor
of a deity accessible only to initiates."
a crescent moon, and see how he manages to leak also golden antlers ...
Look at our feet, and the constant shifting miracle water, without moving, took hold
of all things in heaven and earth [...] a beautiful p abandoned palace - Palace of
Melancholy - it washes bruises [...]8
As I tried to show, the place of literary Bruges-la-Morte is almost certainly the
"Spanish house" of Perez de Malvenda. By a strange twist, it housed the
headquarters of the Brugge 2002' activities. This association was responsible for
providing all its brilliance to the "European Capital of Culture." Today, she was
reassigned in typical Belgian food store ("2 Be"). Other times, other manners! But
the luxurious interior is surely worth.
Conclude this chapter with a view taken from the back deck of the "Palais du
Rosaire," Wollestraat 53. Hugues Viane had since his first floor room mystical and
stunning views on turrets and enclosed garden of the Chapel of the Holy Blood
which is always kept the Grail of Bruges.
8 Marie-Louyse des Garets, Bruges et ses Maisons-dieu, Soledi, Liège, [s.d.], pp.94-95.
11. Khnopff, the "admirable and immortal Master"
These paintings are masterpieces! We will notice later. This is the fate of any new
art of disconcerting at first, even displeasing. Bruges has a treasure more and a
great painter, whose name will live in the future. 9
Georges Rodenbach, The Carillonneur.
Before addressing other key of Bruges-la-Morte, it is essential to consider the work
of the painter who executed the drawing serving as frontispiece of the novel and
whose exegesis is later in the chapter.
The Symbolist Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921) shares with Rodenbach a fascination
for Bruges where he spent his early childhood. After entering the world of PreRaphaelites in Belgium, he decisively influenced Gustav Klimt by participating in the
Vienna Secession of 1898. But at the very beginning of his career, he is the darling
of Sar Peladan, who nicknamed him "admirable and immortal Master."
Like so many other artists, he will stand out quickly, afraid of the excesses of the
Southerner “Sar” Péladan. In manhood, he will follow the public education and
rituals inspired by the mystic philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). The
year in Bruges-la-Morte, his brother George, translator of Wagner and intimately
connected to Maeterlinck and Rodenbach, as evidenced by dedication of a beautiful
Princess Maleine, animated musical part, or column of harmony, of Kumris,
consecrated in July 1890, a Lodge of Templar and Martinist inspiration. It took its
name from Wales, the country of origin of Perceval, and represented the Belgian
branch of the “Groupe indépendant d’Études ésotériques” founded by Papus. This
movement will be much later marked by thought and work of René Guénon. The
circle had set a goal to take stock of occult knowledge and the Egyptian tradition to
contemporary times. His section was applicable to various practical experiences of
spiritualism, telepathy, magnetism, numerology, astrology or hypnotisme 10. In the
field of numerology, the Lodge made much of the number three, which represented
unoriginal perfection by its ability to unite the opposing forces. Highlighting this
would have inspired the painter Fernand Khnopff many works, including triptychs
entitled “L'isolemen” and “D'autrefois”. This is the central panel which acts as a
conciliator with chromatic progression towards blue, the color of spiritual ascent. It
is interesting to note that blue mystic and magnetic interpretations, as is the case of
lapis lazuli, has occupied a fundamental place in the work of Symbolist painter.
Kumris organized exhibitions at the famous Hotel Ravenstein in Brussels 11:
9 Le Carillonneur, Passé Présent, Bruxelles, 1987, p. 265. Khnopff is most certainly the
painter Bartholomeus in “Le Carillonneur”.
10 About the Kumris links with Symbolist artists, consult the article by Christel Mahieu
published in September 2003 on the site art-memoires.com and called “Jules Dujardin,
l'Idealiste (1863-1940): itinéraire d’une désillusion.” The Russian composer Alexander
Scriabin (1871-1915), friend of Jean Delville, was also clote to Kumris.
11 The princes of Cleves, lords of Ravenstein, were among the first members of the
Knights Order of the Golden Fleece. Edmond Picard organized in Brussels “Les Salons de
“Vurgey Francis had given it a ceremonial imitated of spectacular Peladan Salons
Rose + Croix, and offered a specific emblem: a Vexille (sic) bearing the name of
"Trident of Paracelsus," although a common inverted trident. This Vexille
"embroidered two ladies" in red and blue on gold was handed solemnly Sunday, 22
May 1892412, by Brossel, group president, and by Vurgey, the delegation led by the
Martinist Order Papus and Mauchel during an official visit to Paris of Martinists of
their counterparts in Brussels. On this occasion, Papus and his publisher stayed a
week in Belgium13.
In Brussels, Papus intellectual duty will be to go file a palm wrought iron offered by
Kumris at the monument dedicated to the Rosicrucian alchemist Jean-Baptiste van
Helmont (1579-1644) who is in New Grain Market. Before delivering a special
diploma of the Order to Charles Buls, Burgomaster esthete and a Freemason of the
Emile Dantinne14, Sar Hieronymus and self-proclaimed follower of the spiritual work
of Sar Peladan, summarized the history of the esoteric circle linked to the brothers
Peladan was often in Brussels. He organized his Salons de la Rose-Croix, painting
exhibitions installed in the beautiful premises of the House of Art, the oldest hotel in
Edmond Picard715 Avenue of the Golden Fleece. Several outstanding works by
Armand Point, Jean Delville and Dario de Regoyos figured these and other
exhibitions. The Belgian friends of Peladan were numerous among the most faithful
include Edmond Picard, Raymond Nyst, José Hennebicq, George M. Baltus.
The Rosicrucian philosophy in Belgium had found many followers. The Hotel
Ravenstein housed the esoteric activities of the Temple and when the Catholic and
Rosicrucian Rosicrucian Kabbalistic Stanislas de Guaita parted, the RCC continued
to hold its sitting, because there was in Brussels as the Rosicrucians . Only after the
death of Sar Hieronymus Peladan that rekindled the torch of the Order and restored
it in the direction of the primitive tradition of the true Rosicrucian initiation and
Also in 1892, one year decidedly eventful touching the domain of the occult
aesthetic Khnopff runs a frontispiece for a book Peladan, The Panthea, a statue
involving symbols or attributes of different deities. This is also the title of a famous
treatise of Kabbalah alchemical. On the other hand, Panthea Abraxas is the name
of the seal masterful senior dignitaries of the Order of the Temple, which fits
perfectly with the megalomaniac ambitions of Peladan. In 1885 already, the
Brussels painter had titled one of his works According Josephin Peladan. Vice
Supreme, sometimes called Venus renascens. The poet and art critic Emile
Verhaeren in Some Notes on the Work of Fernand Khnopff unveiled the meaning of
la Toison d'Or” in the eponymous Avenue (de la Toison d'Or) situated close to the first seat of the
Lodge Kumris, rue Dejoncker.
12 The period of the definitive edition of Bruges-la-Morte.
13 Marie-Sophie André et Christophe Beaufils, Papus, biographie : La Belle Époque de
l’occultisme, Berg International, Paris, 1995, p. 100.
14 Émile Dantinne, L’œuvre et la pensée de Péladan, Dervy, Paris, 1948.
15 Rodenbach had completed his legal training with the tenor of the Brussels Bar Edmond
Picard. Mallarmé's Conference on Villiers had been published in the journal « L'Art
moderne » led by the Picard. It is in his room "of the Golden Fleece" Maurice Maeterlinck
met the actress Georgette Leblanc, the sister of the author of « Arsène Lupin ».
this work. A character, perched on the "rock of Peter," to hand half lion, half sphinx,
represents the papacy worn and tyrannical and the decay of its dogmas. In the
foreground, a shameless Venus, seated on a pedestal covered with cabalistic signs,
in the shade rejects a statuette of the Virgin Mary, or rather a black Madonna. The
Eternal Feminine is thus given primacy over the official Church 16.
Several Khnopff compositions are related to be unambiguous references to the
author of Bruges-la-Morte, through the almost obsessive theme of the hair and
undulating landscape of Bruges. This myth of the hair, inherent in the symbolist
imagination, is perhaps originated in the fetishism of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (18281882): the Pre-Raphaelite had buried his last manuscripts between the hair of his
beloved. Later, they had to cut even in the coffin for publication! This theme will
inspire quivering Marcel Schwob's new “Lilith” (1891) 17, which is not unlike Brugesla-Morte.
Let's review the works most closely related to the universe of the poet of Bruges. In
1888, Fernand Khnopff had a painting in his studio who disappeared and who was
entitled “A Beguiling. And my hair was red with his blood ... Georges Rodenbach”.
This pastel showed a naked woman whose hair was dyed with the blood of a
"crucified poet" according to the testimony of poet Charles Van Lerberghe 18. The
English title, which means "a seductive," "a bewitching," is referring to Herodias,
one of the favorite characters from Mallarme, or to Mary Magdalene. The theme is
very close to “L'Amante du Christ” designed by his fellow Felicien Rops. Not be
confirmed. In 1912, Khnopff, nostalgic for the irretrievable loss of Beguiling, would
have declined the same theme under the title “Un sortilège”. It adds an Almighty
God, protector and Redeemer, which overlooks the crucified' covered face and the
goddess in the nude provocative. The set is clearly inspired by the Trinity: the
Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit who is feminine in nature. A griffin, a symbolic
creature of the Khnopff universe, seems to stand on a column. In Christian
iconography, this fabulous animal is a symbol of Christ's two natures, divine and
human, which leads to the presence of the temptress. In the solar religions of the
Middle East, as Mazdaism or Zoroastrianism, it represents the two fundamental
principles, Good and Evil. For the Greeks, to equal, the sphinx, the griffin was the
guardian of a treasure, especially that of gold of Hyperborea ... For the symbolists,
Bruges is considered as an Ultimate Thulé 19 , that we should by no means
amalgamate with sinister ideological extensions that have been fused to the 20th
century through the concept of purity?
“Du Silence” (1890) corresponds to a plate of Rodenbach published in 1888. It
closes the collection of the “Règne du Silence” (1891), a title that evokes the
Masonic ritual sentence, "Le Silence règne sur les colonnes", and the silence
imposed on Apprentices. John Palou relates that the traditional decoration of a
Lodge in the 18th century included "a statue of Silence, as a woman who carries
16 The Emperor Hadrian had built a temple of Venus at the place of the Holy Sepulchre
and a statue of Jupiter on Golgotha to erase Christian memories. On Friday, "Holy" or not,
is indeed the day dedicated to "Venus" in Roman antiquity.
17 Marcel Schwob, Double cœur, Paul Ollendorf, Paris, 1891.
18 Charles Van Lerberghe : Lettres à Albert Mockel, 1887-1906, Labor, Bruxelles, 1990, p.
19Georges Rodenbach, Œuvres en prose et Œuvres poétiques : tome 2, Le Cri, Bruxelles,
2000, pp. 1293-1294. In a poem of the “Miroir du Ciel natal” (1898), Rodenbach compared
Bruges to Thule and seems to evoke the Faithful of Love, a secret society of artists to
which Dante belonged.
the right index finger on the mouth"; it was placed behind the Secrétaire stall 20, a
function closely related to the "secret" as the name suggests.
An angel with feminine traits and gloved fingers makes the sign of silence. The
photograph of the painter's sister, who served as a layer, shows that her right hand
holds a scepter, a symbol of majesty, divining, mage or alchemist rod in order to
gather vital fluids. This winged figure equipped with a crook or a caduceus evoke
god Hermes-Mercury, which in this case is female, or better yet, angelic and
hermaphrodite. Recall that the word "hermaphrodite" is a contraction of Hermes and
Aphrodite, the union of Mercury and Venus. Hermes, the messenger of heaven, the
interpreter of the divine, the heavenly spirit has the power to sleep (his nickname
while "conductor of dreams") or to awaken humanity. He extended Eurydice in the
Underworld. He taught Pandora the art of seduction, deception and lies. In Greece,
when a heavy silence stood, it was to used to say: "Hermès passe" as they say
today "Un ange passe". In Egyptian mythology, the goddess Hathor is called "She
who loves silence" and the god Harpocrates, Horus the Younger or the son of Isis
the widow, made the sign of silence by placing one finger on his lips.
Coincidence or not, the act drafted by the character of Khnopff corresponds
essentially to that of the response to the sign named "Du Silence" Secret Master's
degree as described by Jean-Marie Ragon in his “Tuileur général de la Francmaçonnerie, Manuel de l’Initié”, published in 1861. Stephane Mallarmé, upon
receipt of the plate “Du Silence” from Rodenbach, seems to have understood the
title in this sense, while circumscribing its nuanced comment to the strictly literary
“Your title, before the open volume, initiated from someone within the meaning of
poetry which in fact has only to speak for all that is expressed tacitly and directly to
us, and moves the reverie, and this art is, is it not? the supreme, never in the
singing, abstract objects, subtle and watched, just the veil of silence under which
they seduced us and now permeates the Secret of Signifiance 21.”
On another note, the first Egyptian Rite have taken place in Bordeaux. The Mother
Lodge of the new Rite, “La Sagesse triomphante”, who claimed back to the time of
the pyramids, was created by the Count of Cagliostro on the premises of the very
ancient Lodge of “Le Parfait Silence” in Lyon, that could mean the drawing of
Khnopff. Especially as extraordinary in itself, these "Egyptian arcana" of the Royal
Art was accessible to women in mixed or androgynous perspective. The Master
who had guarded the Temple "the index of the left hand on the mouth" and was
holding a sword in his right hand which he threatened a sleeping Mercury 22. The
word "Silence" was embroidered on the cord of insider (s) and the lock of hair cut
(always that hair!) Were also an important symbolic role, from the Egyptian
20 Jean Palou, La Franc-Maçonnerie, Payot, Paris, 1972, p. 348.
21 François Ruchon, L’Amitié de Stéphane Mallarmé et de Georges Rodenbach, Pierre
Cailler éditeur, Genève, 1949, p. 48.
22 Alessandro comte de Cagliostro, La Maçonnerie égyptienne, Éd. Katanyktikon,
This ritual is online. The high priest appears in The Magic Flute under the name of
He relies in particular the Egyptian goddess Isis, one of correspondences of the Hebrew
23 Marc Haven, Rituel de la Maçonnerie Égyptienne, Édition des Cahiers astrologiques :
Les Maîtres de l'Occultisme, vol. XV, Nice, 1947.
Finally, the Valentinian Gnosis Silence combines the Pleroma (a Greek term
meaning "fullness" or "Grace" or the deployment of the divine in the manifested
universe), this heavenly world formed by all the aeons that the follower reach the
end of his earthly life. "In the beginning was the SILENCE, Aeon eternal source of
the aeons, the Invisible Silence, the unnamed, the ineffable, the ABYSS, the
vernacular is called God. "Reminds us of Jules Doinel. In all cases, silence is an
invitation to embark on the mystical path by the emancipation of material realities.
In Hiram and the Queen of Sheba, Julien Behaeghel connects the theme of silence
to that of the androgyne, a central figure in the world of Khnopff:
“In the Apocalypse, the time of transmutation is symbolized by a "silence of half an
hour." This short time symbolizes the eternal present, this time without duration that
represents the transition from man to split the Anthropos, the human results. It is
indeed breaking the seventh seal the Lamb (Christ symbol) causes silence. The
number seven of the androgynous, of being out of time ...” 24
During his literary debut in Paris, Rodenbach has deliberately placed his
imagination under the seal of silence: Bruges-la-Morte itself contains twenty-five
occurrences related to the "silence".
In 1893, the second Salon Rose+Croix exposes a Fernand Khnopff fascinating
composition titled “I lock my door upon myself”, according to one taken from the
Christine Rossetti's poem “Who Shall Deliver Me?” Both works bear a strong link
between its. She was the sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), author of
the famous “Beata Beatrix”, a title that is perhaps a pun on Beata Peccatrix, which
literally means "Blessed Sinner" , the nickname of Mary Magdalen. English PreRaphaelites were familiar for having visited Bruges, but also through Khnopff who
maintained friendly contacts with fellow British Burne-Jones, the two artists vowing
a mutual admiration. He probably conceived I lock my door ... sometime in the year
1891 before exposing it to Brussels, at the Salon des XX in February 1892, the
month of the publication of serialized narrative Rodenbach. This major work could
represent Jane Scott taking possession of the remains of the Viane's Quai du
Rosaire, but especially the soul of the deceased wife or Viane himself 25. European
painting, the Pre-Raphaelites in particular, had popularized the theme of the
mermaid who tries to seduce a man to conquer his soul and become de facto
immortal, but, paradoxically, could not live on earth at risk of her life, a theme close
to the myth of the fairy Melusine and snake ... Jane Scott.
The young woman, copper color hair (the actress who has coloured blond hair
shows her true colors at last chapitre 26), spectral and feline, is posing on what looks
like a piano covered with a black cloth. Three orange lilies at different stages of
Papus and Peladan had both literary projects on Cagliostro. Maeterlinck lamented that he
was unjustly underestimated.
24 Julien Behaeghel, Hiram et la reine de Saba : un mythe maçonnique, Maison de vie,
Paris, 1997, pp. 134-135.
25Georges Rodenbach, Bruges-la-Morte. Présentation par Jean-Pierre Bertrand et Daniel
Grojnowski. Flammarion, GF nº 1011, Paris, 1998, p. 105, note a.
The manuscript contains a symbolic phrase (Viane is described as charmed and
possessed) which is not included in the print version: "The charm of the resemblance was
operating. Gradually taking possession began.” Highlighted by the author.
26 Bruges-la-Morte, Chap. 15 : "Then she returned to the window, her hair exposed,
attracting the eye with bright flashes of their copper exposed haire. Highlighted by the
flowering, which may recall the Viane's dead wife - a final portrait shows her "with
lilies and bowing"27 -, mark the cleverly arranged canvas. This flower, emblematic of
the French monarchy, also in number three in the arms of the Bourbons, is found in
other major works Khnopff. Christian mythology, in turn, makes it the symbol of the
Trinity. The three lilies were also on the personal seal of the German mystic Jacob
Boehme, a follower of the Divine Sophia and whose thinking has greatly influenced
many Symbolist writers turned to the occult. Lilies represented for him the heavenly
purity, "the magical rapture and the flowered Aaron's rod" 28. In the Song of Songs,
the lily is associated with the Bride and her Beloved, King Solomon. In this case, he
wrote most often "lis" (and not “lys”) as in Bruges-la-Morte. This is the lilies of the
field to red petals, close to the anemone, the favorite flower of Rodenbach, who is
mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew (6:26-29). Finally, in alchemical illustrations,
flowers allegorise three different processes of the Great Work. I will discuss further
She looks at us with "fixed gaze" (this is the etymology of the word "dragon")
exhibiting a double alliance: the Old and the New Covenant between God and
Man? In the foreground, a broken chain - the golden chain of the relic of the Holy
Blood or insiders dating back to Hermes, the philosopher's stone, the chain of
aeons between the world and God, or that the collar of the Fleece Or - is
suspended in the air. A window opens on an alley in Bruges where a ghostly figure
wanders like that which is the background of Rossetti's Beata Beatrix. This is
probably the poet Dante himself. In the composition of the English, Elizabeth Siddal
(laudanum to suicide) is holding poppy and the flower the Dove of the Holy Spirit
picks is this of hypnotic sleep and that of Demeter. Similarly, the god Hypnos, the
twin brother of death, the guardian of the passage between two worlds (life and
death, conscious and unconscious) controls the imagined scene by Khnopff: it
symbolizes Bruges, the "beautiful asleep, the mothballed holy city. Anyway, on the
ancient tombs, Hypnos was the symbol of the Eternal sleep. As for the original
Egyptian Rite, he planned to paint a "sleeping Mercury" or Hypnos, at the left of the
door of the Temple. Finally, the Martinists resorted to "hypnotic sleep" or "magnetic
somnambulism" sessions during their ritual. According Khnopff, sleep was the most
perfect thing in existence ...
To the right of the table, in the opening of the composition, we guess three
concentric circles, almost intangible, which seems to emerge a blurred face. That of
his deceased wife replaced by lookalike who struts arrogantly? This type of Trinity
chimera is found in the “Isolement” (approx. 1890-1894), the central part of an
ambitious triptych which was dispersed after the artist's death. I learned of the
scenography “I lock my door ... “, every detail is carefully considered painting is an
extension of this passage in Bruges-la-Morte which compares the hair kept in a
"broken chain", a symbol taken by Khnopff:
“To see constantly, in the grand salon always the same, that hair that she was still,
he had placed there on the piano now silent, just lying there, - braid interrupted,
broken chain, cable saved from the wreck!”29
The frontispiece of Bruges-la-morte designed by Fernand Khnopff, actually a simple
charcoal drawing of a very wake elaborate graphics, could also play a symbolic
role. In mercantile and fallen Bruges, Jane Scott - the hair of the deceased young
are dark and the wife is not dead in the Flemish town - runaway front porch and
27 Bruges-la-Morte, Chap. 7.
28 Jean-Marc Vivenza, Qui suis-je ? Boehme, Pardès, Grez-sur-Loing, 2005, p.11.
29 Bruges-la-Morte, Chap. 1.
passes the Beguine, this "mystical pregnant" according expression of Rodenbach,
and lofty towers of the cathedral of Saint-Sauveur and Notre Dame. Is the Lady of
the Lake, the fairy Viviane of Arthurian legends? Has it sunk in the waters of Lake of
Love? Is the fairy Melusine animal party whose body is hidden under a shroud? 30
Shakespeare himself compared his busy heroine to a sinking siren. The drawing,
which is clearly inspired by the Ophelia's Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett
Millais, opposes the front instead of the more mystical Bruges, the Beguine, which
"saves" and "custody" as indicated by the inscription placed above the entrance
door, which reminds the scholar Paradise and Beatrice of the Divine Comedy. In
1889, Khnopff Rodenbach was honored through the fascinating pastel “Avec
Georges Rodenbach. Une ville morte”. The symbolism of this particular work will be
discussed in the next chapter.
A few years ago, through the personal and decisive intervention of Verhaeren,
Khnopff had agreed to draw a frontispiece "Bruges" to introduce “Mon coeur pleure
d'autrefois” (1889), a collection of mediocre verses of Gregory Le Roy (1862-1941 ).
The plaque was dedicated "To the most dear and most admired master Villiers de
l'Isle-Adam", which I related the occult leanings. Close the Lake of Love, a young
woman kisses her reflection in a mirror, symbol of the inner life of the mystical
experience or the superconscious, as confirmed by her closed eyes. Is the
reflection the mind of God, the spotless mirror as described in the Book of Wisdom
(7:26)? In this case, the kiss is it that of God himself ... a god who would have a
female face? The frame is formed of three concentric circles. Is it the three circles of
light, that is to say, the initiatory encounter with the divine, without beginning or end,
which appears to Dante in the last canto of the Divine Comedy in relation to the
Trinity or the Holy Spirit? In the background, called the bridge of the Vine, the porch
and pediment, which indicates the entrance of the convent and mystical space,
seem to confirm this targeted interpretation. Especially as St. Elizabeth of Hungary,
which protects most often enhanced by the triple crown, thus showing that it is in
turn a virgin, a wife and a sister ...
The design offered to Gregory Roy takes the foot against the frontispiece of Brugesla-Morte, the first referring to the closed eyelids, won by the inner life, the purity and
the transfiguration, the other death and desolation. In both cases, Fernand Khnopff
chose the Beguine place of Bruges as its focal setting scène 31. This is merely
speculation, but it turns out that the bridge, a symbol of passage to another world,
allowing access to the mystical enclosure has three arches, as there are three basic
grades of initiation in Western societies . In the traditional symbolism, the bridge
arches refers to the spiral staircase: it marks the gradation of knowledge.
The pediment of the porch, we find the sentence "Sauve” et “Garde" and the
chronogram "1776". If the statement indicates that the King of France Philip the Fair
had put the place under his personal protection, the second has mentioned, only for
the painter, the year of the death of Baron von Hund (1722-1776), the founder of the
chivalric Order of the Strict Templar Observance (SOT). This Obedience was a
great success among the aristocratic and artistic elites (Mozart) lands under
30 Robert L. Delevoy, Catherine de Croës et Gisèle Ollinger-Zinque, Fernand Khnopff : 1858-1921 : Sa vie,
son œuvre. Catalogue de l'Œuvre. Lebeer Hosmann, Bruxelles, 1987, n° 127.
This work appears to have first draft “Le baiser” that illustrates a book of Max Waller, a close friend of
Rodenbach (No. 50 of Catalogue). Christ takes the place of the Bruges beguinage. Later, in 1907, Khnopff
will draw a “Femme au linceul” near the frontispiece of Bruges-la-Morte.
31The Romanian-born poet Anne de Noailles, a relative of Georges Rodenbach, wrote “La Domination”
(Calmann-Levy, Paris, 1905). The hero of this novel says: "Do not you see that the Beguine is throughout the
whole city? "
Germanic influence, which Flanders was incorporated into the Austrian
Netherlands. On May 31 of that year, the Scottish Executive Boards of the SOT,
causing the Rectified Scottish Regime, had spent with the Grand Orient of France a
treaty of alliance and union. Thus, from their respective emergence, the Grand
Orient of France and the Rectified Scottish Regime, of inspiration and chivalrous
Templars, were if not friends, at least objective allies. The year 1776 also saw the
emergence of the Order of the Rose Cross of Gold Old system significantly forwardoperative alchemy, theurgy and mysticism, but also the sleep of “Perfecte Egalité”,
the only Lodge Bruges which several members participated in the Board of the city.
This vantage point could provide the opportunity to make their mark on an
emblematic spot : “the beguinage princier” 32. But not necessarily. This may in this
case a simple recovery by an esoteric group of artists. Recall that the brother of
Fernand Khnopff, and probably the painter himself, was part of the Lodge Kumris
both templar and Martinist. It is possible that Péladan himself has claimed the
spiritual heritage of the SOT. Historically, the beguinage is dedicated to St.
Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) who reigned over Thuringia. The Order of the
Teutonic Knights especially revered in Marburg where he had transferred his relics.
The Thuringian court, populated for scholars, had taken under his protection
Wolfram von Eschenbach, the Grail's continuator of of Bruges Chretien de Troyes in
a more airtight and more pagan conception called “Parzival”. It attaches importance
to the son of Parzival, Lohengrin, the Knight of the Swan, this ubiquitous mythical
bird on Lake Amour33.
“Mon coeur pleure d'autrefois” by the crossing of the third circle symbolizes
therefore the proximity of the sacerdotal initiation: in this case, a woman. The
"princely" Vine Beguine would serve as Holy of Holies, as mystical Temple, "walled
garden" of the Song of Songs (4:12). Of paradise protected by a "lake of love". Is
the vine not the blood of the earth, the blood of Christ himself, or Grail, as shown in
pétroglyphie cathedrals? Rodenbach has written that "the Beguines are the sisters
of the Holy Spirit"34. In his posthumous story, “L'Arbre”, the poet clearly associates
Joos Neele' love and to the Song of Songs35. The word "song" (“Cantique”)
appears five times in Bruges-la-Morte. On the other hand, the vines symbolize
fertility and the royal lineage of the princes of Judah, of Christ himself. Note that the
test of the mirror, put forward in the design of Khnopff, is introduced in 1778 in the
ritual of Masonry Lyon, birthplace of the Christian Rectified Scottish Regime clearly,
a Rite influenced by the SOT under the action of enterprising Willermoz (17301824) ...36
Marie-Louyse des Garets related that the sisters of Lake of Love since the 15th
century wore a narrow strip of embroidered red hidden under their cap, with the
inscriptions from the Scriptures: "Veni sponsa Christi" and "Esto Fidelis unto
death" . The first quote, incomplete, is a Psalm: "Come, thou Bride of Christ,
Parfaite Egalité” applied "Christian"rituals sent by the Marquis de Gages. See the
Acts of a symposium held at the ULB (2000) edited by Alain Dierkens under the title Le
marquis de Gages (1739-1787) : La franc-maçonnerie dans les Pays-Bas Autrichiens. Text
33 This subject has been extensively developed by Paul St. Hilaire in Bruges, le Temple et
le Graal, Sympomed-Edimed, Bruxelles, 1993, chap. 2.
34 Georges Rodenbach, Œuvres en prose et Œuvres poétiques : tome 2, Le Cri,
Bruxelles, 2000, p. 1123.
35 Georges Rodenbach, L’Arbre, Éditions du Boucher, Paris, p. 5. Text online.
36 A drawing of Fernand Khnopff, similar to the theme, is titled “La Conscience” (1905). It
is enhanced with a caption written by the artist: "Consciousness: a reflection of yourself but
more beautiful. "
accepts the crown that the Lord has prepared for you, for eternity." The second,
which is also truncated, comes from the Apocalypse (2:10) and means: "Be faithful
unto death, and I give thee a crown of life." 37 Under the porch, the visitor finds these
words of Isaiah (5:4) and other Bible verses:" What could I do to my vineyard, that I
have not done? "The works of Rodenbach and Khnopff, centered Bruges, the fallen
Jerusalem, they do not decline to infinity the main award of Masonry chivalric
Rectified Scottish Regime: Sic transit gloria mundi (" Thus passes the glory of the
Is this a nod to the world of Khnopff? In Bruges-la-Morte, Rodenbach draws
attention to the pastel portraits (the term appears four times), a special technique
which excelled his friend, that dot the shrine room of the deceased:
“[...] The center of a panel, a large pastel whose shimmering glass alternately hid
and revealed, in a intermittente silhouette 38.”
Similarly, the writer puts his hero, Hugues Viane, during his daily walk conceived as
a ritual, the Mill Bridge (“Pont du Moulin”), where still stands today the stately
Khnopff childhood home at the corner of the Langestraat. Finally, in his novel “Le
Carillonneur”, Rodenbach has undoubtedly taken as inspiration by Bartholomeus,
the painter of "the life of things" and "priest of an Art-Religion." We recognize the
features of Khnopff in this description:
“His black beard is bushy tapered stiff thin and pale, he offered one of these profiles
fever burned a monk adoration39.”
The Brussels artist had architectural designs and religious practices revealing his
mystical world. The configuration of his studio in the “Avenue des Courses” in
Brussels, which he had drawn up plans to detail, a personal interpretation seems
theurgic operations observed in the assemblies of Elected Coens and Martinists:
“The layout of rooms, their décor, colors, everything had been carefully crafted by
the master. The visitor, after passing two halls with white and gold, was presented
to the painter who stood at a selected location of the workshop or in the middle of a
painted circle on the ground and from another who, ceiling, hosted as its motto "I
have nothing but myself"40 (“On n'a que soi”).
Such an alchemical garden, the remains of the Master, a white villa surrounded by a
rose garden and accented with his monogram, was crowned with a statue of
Aphrodite, the consort of Hermes. The enigmatic facade bore the inscription "Past
Futur41", an award to mark the immortality of his work timeless. At the heart of his
studio, the artist had represented his ceiling zodiac sign, the constellation Virgo.
Hardware, formed outside the "Vesica Piscis" of the Pythagoreans and esoteric
37 Marie-Louyse des Garets, Bruges et ses Maisons-dieu, Soledi, Liège, [s.d.].
38 Bruges-la-Morte, Chap. 7. Georges Rodenbach, Bruges-la-Morte. Présentation par
Jean-Pierre Bertrand et Daniel Grojnowski. Flammarion, GF nº 1011, Paris, 1998, p. 53,
note a. The manuscript stated that the wife had a "pastel complexion".
39 Le Carillonneur, Passé Présent, Bruxelles, 1987, p. 82.
40 This unusual currency probably means that the artist has only himself, his world, facing
the manifestation of the divine and the sacred. It is therefore a mystical creed and not
egotic as has often written.
41 "Future" is also the title of a Khnopff bust depicting a young crowned with laurel woman.
This symbol, which the central form resembles of almond or mandorla, expresses
the geometrical description of square roots and harmonic proportions according to
the teachings of the Golden Number of School of Pythagoras, or the sacred
marriage, female gender, or matrix, as a source of life and even Christ himself.
The guest did not fail to notice a little home altar decorated with a head of Hypnos,
a medallion that seemed include the icon of a Madonna and Child and griffins, the
emblem of the hidden treasure, the struggle of light and shadow, of Christ Himself
or the Holy Grail in some cases. The mythical animal is taken on the family crest of
Khnopff. Anecdotally, the painter was married briefly. It is said that the unfortunate
wife was housed several hundred meters of the workshop, designed as a temple,
and that access was forbidden her! Was the sacred place playing a role equivalent
to the shrine room at the Quai du Rosaire subtracted under Jane? In the immediate
vicinity two other painters idealistic lived at the same time, Ciamberlani Albert
(1864-1956) at 27 Boulevard de la Cambre - Art Nouveau door of the destroyed
building, a work by Paul Hankar, is at the Museum of Orsay – and Jules Dujardin at
22 Avenue des Courses, almost opposite the Khnopff house ! Ciamberlani
participated in the decoration of “L'Etoile” of the Brussels Grand Place, a house
rebuilt under the leadership of Mayor Charles Buls and whose masonic symbolism
On the other hand, in the year 191043, Fernand Khnopff assiduously frequented the
Church of New Jerusalem in Ixelles. Many aspects of the cosmogony of the mystic
philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, whose book is titled The essential heavenly
Jerusalem or the spiritual world, agree with the theme that runs twice Bruges-laMorte:
“There are at "heaven" an ideal soul, Seraphita, which coincides with a higher
degree Seraphitus land and that it "likes", he applies all his lifetime here on earth to
find, which he seeks to prove himself worthy. But we situions in an optical
androgynous Platonic flatly: there is no sharp break followed by a desire to
reconstruct the primordial unity, given there are two stages, different, it is to merge
with a conscious, lucid, rational catharsis which the engine is called Love 44.
In the last years of his life, Khnopff continues to pay homage to the mystical and
sacred character of the Feminine Principle. The “Catalogue raisonné” of his work
shows two untitled drawings one of which depicts a woman carrying a lamb on his
shoulders, Rosicrucian symbol par excellence, the other a veiled lady who
embraces Christ on the forehead like a master towards his disciple. We discover,
always the same period (1917-1918), a young girl crowned with laurel and a pencil
and charcoal illustration entitled to St John, chap. XVI. 20. The legend takes a
Johannine phrase of verse that celebrates the Holy Spirit or Spirit of Truth: "You will
42 The Vesica Pisces is even clearer in “L'offrande” (1891).
43 Around 1900, Khnopff had frequented the Swedenborgian
circle animated by Sir William
Blake Richmond, a descendant of the famous visionary painter William Blake.
He recounted in detail his religious experience in an article published in Bulletins of the
Class of Fine Arts (1915-1918), Royal Academy of Belgium, Brussels, 1916. This lecture
was delivered March 2, 1916. More recently, the text has been reproduced in full in
Bulletins de la Classe des Beaux-Arts (1915-1918), Académie Royale de Belgique,
Bruxelles, 1916. This lecture was delivered March 2, 1916. More recently, the text has
been reproduced in full in Fernand Khnopff : 1858-1921, Ministère de la Communauté
française, Bruxelles, 1980, pp. 223-224.
44 Jean Servier, Dictionnaire de l’ésotérisme, PUF, Paris, 1998. Highlighted by the author.
be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy." In 1919, Joan of Arc in armor and
winged posing in front of a triple circle, a subject probably related to the 1918
victory. Finally, the ultimate pastel (1920), which revives the elegance of the heyday
of the Symbolist painter, is a winged woman's face, hovering over the waters like a
dove, a divine45 Sophia, or the Hebrew Shekhinah yet "the Spirit of God," or spirit of
Elohim, "which fertilizes the waters of Chaos," as it is written in Genesis.
With the disappearance of his colleague occurred in 1921, Jean Delville who will
write a biographical sketch published in “L'Annuaire de l'Académie”46.
To conclude, I mention here a detail that is far from trivial since it seems to confirm
the above: to 1888-1889, the time of the frontispiece of the Péladan novel Istar,
appears the signature stylized sketch of the painter . His monogram, initials F and
K, is inscribed in a circle. This will quickly take the final shape of a flower or
cranberry Trinity, a rose or a shamrock, the letters forming in turn a Latin cross, a
Johannine tau, a cross of Anjou (called Lorraine) and a low uppercase "m". Should
we not see a claw of the Master of the Rosicrucian symbol before his "conversion"
to metaphysical thought of Swedenborg?
45 Robert L. Delevoy, Catherine de Croës et Gisèle Ollinger-Zinque, Fernand Khnopff :
1858-1921 : Sa vie, son œuvre. Catalogue de l'Œuvre. Lebeer Hosmann, Bruxelles, 1987.
Those discussed in this paragraph are respectively the numbers 589, 591, 600, 610, 611
46Text in online on site academieroyale.be
12. The Dead
If you want a woman who is beautiful, rich, pleasant,
Then take only Wisdom, it's all for you 47.
But so far, no researcher seems to have paid increasing attention to the central character
of Bruges-la-Morte (if one makes abstraction of the role assigned to the city which is
anyway the double ), namely the deceased wife, the only one not to be named. This
anomaly of the novel gives it a supernatural character: indeed, the sacred name of the
supreme deity is indescribable, ineffable, mainly in the Egyptian and Jewish religions.
Similarly, according to Wolfram von Eschenbach, the author of Parzival, the Grail is a
stone whose name has no translation. Assigned to it a metaphor: "Lapis Exiliis", the "stone
of exile" or "fallen stone from heaven" according to commentators. Rodenbach, in turn,
suggests that the couple is childless, which could suggest a mystical marriage, and burial
of the wife is in another city, far from Bruges. Viane is the only one who knows the name of
his dead wife and the sacred place of his tomb, which gives him a place of Elected in the
city. Is the relic of the hair tantamount to "the invisible angel" outside the couple created by
the unique strength of their love, under the doctrine of Swedenborg recovery by Balzac in
his new Seraphita?
Theologians have not waited for the ambiguous success of Da Vinci Code to address the
controversial figure of Madeleine. Because multiple, polymorphous and elusive, she is an
archetype. In medieval thought, this is the model of divine love, but also of the Church as a
symbol of bringing people together in forgiveness. Madeleine embodies humanity and
repentant sinner who was redeemed by Christ's sacrifice. The Carthusians, Cistercians
and Carmelites of St. Bernard himself, but especially the Dominicans, who had made the
patron of the Order in 1297, had booked a role in their devotions. The Pope had personally
instructed them to develop the worship and to protect its relics in the Sainte-Baume in
Provence. The Dominicans, in full 19th century, once more attract the attention of the
faithful on the character of Madeleine. Among them, Father Lacordaire (1802-1861), who
considered the Sainte-Baume as the third largest tomb in Christendom, and who devoted
his life to the end to the reoccupation of the abandoned dominicain convent. The
translation in the crypt of St. Maximin Mary Magdalene' relics, placed in a golden reliquary,
was held in the splendor in 1860, a year before the death of the great preacher. It should
be mentioned in particular the name of Father John Joseph Lataste (1832-1869), founder
of the mission of Our Lady of Bethany. The Jesuits, which Rodenbach followed the
teaching at Ghent, held also her an unwavering worship. Béguines 48 communities, admired
by the poet, and the Rhenish and Flemish mystics, rediscovered and translated by
Maeterlinck, evoked her consistently in their Psalms : her hermit's life in the Sainte-Baume
was the epitome of mystique contemplation 49and love. We know that the author of Bruges47Angelus Silesius, Le Voyageur chérubinique, Rivages Poche, Paris, 2004, p. 253.
48 Marguerite Porete has devoted some beautiful poems. She was burnt alive ...
49The reader is referred to Article Noli me tangere. Marie Madeleine, Marie d'Oignies et les pénitentes du
XIIIe siècle. Dans Mélanges de l'École française de Rome. Moyen Âge, Temps modernes T. 104, N°1. 1992.
la-Morte had the Convent of the Vine §“Béguinage de la Vigne”), this "mystical vast
enclosure," the landmark site of Bruges, comparable to the walled garden, a symbol of the
Beloved of the Song of Songs. Canon Hoornaert, historian and archaeologist in his spare
time, which saved the place of final decommissioning, related a curious legend in his own
way which would explain the word "Beguine" 50:
“Once upon a time, in an unknown and distant time where princesses founded
monasteries, a very pious queen named Beatrice. This queen had two daughters, one
named Ghiselgune who had no taste for marriage, the other Nazarena, a widow. Taken
together, they decided to withdraw from the world and live as nuns.”
The first syllable of their respective name forms "Be-ghi-na" and who is at the origin of the
word "Beguine" (“Béguinage”). This explanation is absurd, unless the man of the Church
has sought to draw attention on Beatrice, Dante's mystical lover, and Nazarena, evoking
perhaps Madeleine, the widow of the Nazarene. This strange name would be that the
feminization of Nazarenus, or Jesus, as indicated by the inscription INRI, Iesus Nazarenus
Rex Iudaeorum. According to some authors, it should also hear instead of the Nazarene
Nazarite, "nazir" meaning "consecrated or separated in favor of the deity." Which sums up
the vocation of a beguinage cut for the secular world. The conventual institution was under
the special protection of the Order of Preachers or Bruges Dominicans, as I said before. I
reassure you immediately: it will not be talking about a hidden ancestry of Christ, let alone
a "sacred mystery". However, it is not impossible that the rulers who presided over the
destinies of France, the Eldest Daughter of the Church have thought exploit the character
of Madeleine as the wife of Jesus, the religious and political interest consisting to
strengthen the divine character of the monarchy by the tie of blood of Christ. In the same
vein, the minute ritual of coronation at Reims made King of France the terrestrial
equivalent of the Savior. As Madeleine had anointed the Lord to Bethany, the Church spent
the monarch with the Holy Chrism and Holy Ampulla sent by the Holy Spirit at the baptism
of Clovis. It was not doing much for the designated heir of the House of David, although
Louis XI, with some hidden agenda, had passed from the authority as king of Jerusalem to
his descendants! The Bourbons ascended the throne with Henry IV, venerated especially
her. Was it ever since Gaston de Foix had married Madeleine of France, daughter of
Charles VII, opening access to the Bourbons to the supreme power? Can not tell. Or that a
woman, Joan of Arc, "messenger of God" and devotee of the saint of Provence, had freed
France from English domination? During the reign of Louis XIII, Cardinal Berulle wrote a
sum entitled “L'élévation sur Sainte Madeleine” for the king's sister, Henrietta of England.
Based on the justification of Grace, the book acknowledges that Madeleine is comparable
to anyone because it is "chosen among the most chosen" to receive the grace that can
only be granted to it. In 1645, an anonymous angevin pilgrim wrote in “Les Sacrez
Parfums de Saincte Marie Magdeleine sur la France” : this country owes a special
obligation because she introduced it to the true god and that her preaching has allowed it
to be called “le Royaume Très Chrestien et ses Roys honorez du tiltre de Roys par
excellence et Fils Aisnés de l’Église"51.
In the 18th century, the link with the Provencal holy is still noticeable: Louis XV decided to
build the church of the Madeleine in Paris, in the axis of the Palais Bourbon ..., the current
pp. 209-268. Essay is online.
50 Chanoine Hoornaert, Ce que c’est qu’un béguinage, Desclée de Brouwer, ParisBruxelles, 1921 ; du même auteur, Le béguinage de Bruges. Son histoire, sa règle, sa vie,
Desclée de Brouwer, Paris-Bruxelles, 1930.
51 Article d'Yves Giraud, Une somme magdalénienne à l'époque de Louis XIII publié dans
l'ouvrage Alain Montandon et al., Marie-Madeleine, figure mythique dans la littérature et
les arts, Presses Universitaires Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand, 1999, pp. 207-214.
National Assembly. The sanctuary will be delivered to the cult in 1842 and consecrated by
Archbishop Affre three years later, the prelate who would be cited by reference in Brugesla-Morte. In the same parish, at the Restoration, Louis XVIII had erected an expiatory
chapel honoring the memory of his brother and his sister, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette,
the exact location of the ancient cemetery of the Madeleine, where the remains were
buried pell-mell after their execution and then recovered thanks to the presence of signs
willows and cypresses.
In early 1888, coinciding with the arrival of Rodenbach in Paris, the Legitimists had
managed to unite the various factions of monarchists around popular General Boulanger
to regain power: the partisans of the Bourbons, and even the Orleanist Bonapartists had
more than a common enemy, the Republic 52. But frightened by the prospect of civil war,
Boulanger that had generated so much hope fled to Brussels 53. September 30, 1891, the
candidate dictator committed suicide on the grave of his mistress, the Countess of
Bonnemain, who had died shortly because consumptive. Since his exile in the Belgian
capital, he lived in the nostalgia of its former political glory and continued to love the
deceased. The General had engraved on the tomb of his unfortunate companion these
touching words: "Margaret, soon." Note this curious detail that is not unlike the theme of
Bruges-la-Morte: the portrait of Margaret, found on him when the fatal act, was placed in
the coffin, and a lock of her mistress hair that the exile set in a pocket near his heart. Since
ancient times, the lock of hair represented the most precious tokens of love.
Did Georges Rodenbach limit the concept, an unassailable point of view of doctrine and
dogma, to a mediator Marie between God and Humanity seeking redemption? It's
possible. The fact is that his friend Fernand Khnopff runs a frontispiece in 1888 intended to
illustrate a Péladan novel, “Avec Joséphin Péladan. Istar.” Following year, title will serve as
a layer to his pastel dedicated to the poet of Bruges: “Avec Georges Rodenbach. Une ville
morte”, creating a deep and clear link between both paintings and both writers through
Khnopff. The composition, which presents itself as a riddle, seems emblematic of Brugesla-Morte. For this reason I dwell at greater length. The subject is a silhouette with angular
features, abundant hair raised in a bun. She has a nostalgic and languishing look on a
royal crown, perhaps that of Solomon. The character in front of a balustrade similar to that
bounded past the Quai du Rosaire. The turret of the Holy Blood emerges slowly from the
mist on the left side. The golden crown, wavering, based on a tabernacle that a cherub
protects with its wings. This ensures more than likely on the Ark of the Covenant itself or
on the foundation stone was hidden under the Ark in Solomon's Temple. In this context, the
crown would announce the coming of the heavenly Jerusalem. That of achieving the Great
Work, the victory of spirit over matter. Or the Supreme diadem of Kabbalah, which
dominates the Tree of the Sephiroth of the Kabalists, the ornament of glory of Wisdom.
Kether, as it is called, it is the Father, the living God, the cause of all causes, the origin of
all origins. The pastel, the crown is discreetly topped by a statue ... a haloed female,
sitting in a posture both hieratic and casual (his legs are crossed like the blade “The
World” of the Tarot), it emerges as a fountain of youth. It would include the Queen of
Heaven, the Sophia, Divine Wisdom often confused with Madeleine of Gnosis, or Seat of
Wisdom, linked to the cult of Black Virgin. These are related to the Beloved of the Song of
Songs, the goddesses Isis and Ishtar, the Babylonian androgynous goddess (the the most
archaic statues represent her with a thin beard) highlighted by Peladan and Khnopff.
Ishtar, goddess of life and death, fertility and sacred marriage, the cousin of double-faced
Astarte, Aphrodite or the Queen of Sheba.
The main character of the scene, meanwhile, would be the primordial Androgyne, the
52The dove of the prestigious Order of the Holy Spirit, created by Henry III and confirmed by Henry IV, is on
the crest of Péladan Rose + Croix was Legitimist (see Chapter 8). In Christian iconography, Mary Magdalene
is often associated with the Holy Spirit.
53 Là-Bas by Joris-Karl Huysmans ends with the election of General Boulanger.
original Beauty. Face with square chin and slightly marked female chest, clumsily drawn,
even unrealistic, say clearly the asexual character Khnopff's pastel dedicated to
Rodenbach. It could also represents Adam Kadmon which preceded the fall in the matter
and time, the creation of man likr God's image. Androgyny, via Kabbalah and writings of
German mystic Jacob Boehme, is first in the heart of the Christian Enlightenment in his
desire to return to lost unity54:
“Adam was naked, and yet he was invested with the greatest splendor, he was dressed in
paradise. It was a beautiful picture, clear clear, neither male nor female, but both together,
like a virile virgin.”
To conclude, I quote Julien Behaeghel which seems to provide the kabbalistic key of this
seminal work that inaugurates the artistic and favorite thematics of the poet who in 1889
set out to conquer a masterpiece devoted to Bruges, built fot the elite of mankind. A city
that will ensure for Rodenbach a portion of immortality:
“Wisdom is obviously not of this world, at best can we move toward that light, buried deep
in our darkness. Wisdom is divine, she is a goddess and is the supreme goal of all
initiation. Looking good in the third column of the tree of Sephiroth, we see that Wisdom
(Hokmah) leaves the absolute light (Kether-Crown) to give Eternity (Netzach) to men
through of Beauty (Tepheret) but also by compassion (hesed) and compassion is simply
sharing the pain. Wisdom shared our pain before we share his Eternity 55.
But back to Christ's Beloved. Jacqueline Kelen in his fascinating “Marie-Madeleine ou la
beauté de Dieu”56 emphasizes capital situation of Madeleine in Western iconography. She
has well highlighted her polymorphism character:
“This appears plural and moving, these divergent paths confuse many. Who is she,
Magdalene? A rich courtesan, a grieving daughter, a goddess who walks masked, a lover,
a repentant sinner, an insider, a saint recognized by the Church? ... Everyone follows his
penchant and eventually get confused by these multiple images. Mary Magdalene
escaped. You can not capture more than bright light.”
By the multiplicity of its interpretations and its strong erotic charge, the disciple, or the
Beloved of Jesus, was under the stencil art in the 19th century. Maeterlinck, Rodenbach's
protégé, underpins my hypothesis that the dead wife is an evocation (sometimes discrete
and sometimes supported) of Mary Magdalene . The author of “Pelleas et Melisande” wore
her in high esteem. On the occasion of the publication (1913) and the staging of “MarieMagdeleine” at the Theatre du Chatelet, who had just been crowned the Nobel Prize for
Literature (1911) entrust, without concern for the well predictable sarcasm of the rightthinking, she represented to him "the most admirable about that is in any literature: the
Magdalene' struggle to save man she loves ..." And to conclude on a personal conviction:
"If I felt more talent This would be the only subject that I would try. But I do not feel the
required force .57 "
54Peladan talked about this in two trials: “L'Androgyne/La Gynandre (1891), a year before publication of
Bruges-la-Morte, and “On the Androgyne” (1910).
55 Julien Behaeghel, L'Apprenti Maçon et le monde des symboles, La Maison de Vie,
Fuveau, 2000, p. 168 et fig. 38. Beauty is in the center of the Tree of Life of Kabbalah.
56 Jacqueline Kelen, Marie-Madeleine ou la beauté de Dieu, La Renaissance du Livre,
Bruxelles, 2003. Highlighted by the Author.
57 Maxime Benoit-Jeannin, Georgette Leblanc : 1869-1941 : biographie, Le Cri, Bruxelles,
1998, p. 332.
Thanks to a laudatory article of Octave Mirbeau, a personal friend of Georges Rodenbach,
dedicated to “Princess Maleine” (1889) 58 and published in the headlines of Figaro, Maurice
Maeterlinck has enjoyed early in his career of international renown. However, it is that
Maleine in Walloon regional languages of Belgium, means ... Madeleine. In English, the
title of the play leads “Princess Madeleine”, then that term, in Victorian times, was of a
negative connotation because it means "repentant harlot." Maeterlinck's topic is bound
only by referring to the character of the Gospels, with the central role of the tower
"between heaven and earth (Act I, Scene IV), with emphasis on the hair, etc.. The
Maleine's mother called Godelive, "the beloved of God." Finally, the court of his father King
Marcellus turned into a convent. As in Bruges-la-morte, the number fifteen, repeated
several times, appears in the age of the princess ... The drama is inspired by an
eponymous tale by the Brothers Grimm.
Anecdotally, Rodenbach himself had been baptized at Tournai in the church of St. Mary
Magdalene which has a high reredos altar composed of carved wood and polychrome
panels retracing the eventful life of the disciple of Christ. This short biographical page of
the writer's nostalgic childhood could establish an emotional bond with the recluse in
Provence. He was also intimately connected to Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914), author of the
famous “Calendau dedicated” to the Basilica of St. Maximin where the relics of the saint.
Rodenbach quote extensively Mistral at a conference in the Netherlands. Moreover, in a
letter to his friend Verhaeren dated 1894 he mentions the possibility of a thermal cure at
Aix. Probably Aix-en-Provence, the land of Mary Magdalen. It is known that the poet's
widow and son spent long seasons in their villa at Sanary-sur-Mer, a seaside resort on the
“Côte d'Azur” located a few tens of kilometers from the Sainte-Baume. Recognize however
that this is as biographical clues scattered and not irrefutable and decisive that would
confirm a definite intention on the part of the novelist.
Rodenbach, Maeterlinck and Khnopff fit perfectly into the spiritual power of the PreRaphaelite school. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John William Waterhouse or Frederick Sandys
had made of the fascinating character of Madeleine a favorite subject, not without
ambiguity on the traditional role of women in turn temptress and redemptive. In their
iconography, the British have regularly associated her with the Holy Grail and the Arthurian
cycle. For their part, the continental artists of the second half of 19th century evangelical
exploit extensively this for less sulfur vein, at least in those days: the Belgian Alfred
Stevens, a close friend of Rodenbach, including Mary Magdalene (1887) is recently at the
Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, the "firefighter" painter Jean Beraud (1849-1936), author of
“Madeleine chez le Pharisien” who finds himself weeping in the middle of a banquet of
bourgeois Parisian. Of feasts enhanced with the presence of the philosopher Ernest
Renan in the unusual role of Simon the Pharisee, with the napkin around the neck. One
who had insisted on the human side of Christ's person in his “Vie de Jésus”. Like the novel
Huysmans “Là-Bas”, published the same year, the canvas Beraud caused a huge scandal
in the second Salon de “la Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts” in Paris which took place in
early 1891. Indeed, the critics and the public attention had immediately recognized in the
voluptuous body of Mary Magdalene, the famous courtesan Liane de Pougy and in the
character of Christ the socialist columnist Albert Duc-Quercy. Among the Pharisees the
Radical deputy Georges Clemenceau sat on a chair himself in front of the composition.
The author of “La Dame aux Camelias”, Alexandre Dumas' son was also among te group
of Pharisees, that is to say hypocrites and self-righteous in the modern sense of the term 59.
The theme illustrated by Béraud still agrees with the current Pre-Raphaelite and religious
text is online. This allows you to search by keyword.
59Article de Gilbert Croué, Marie-Madeleine : du voile au dévoilé publié dans l'ouvrage
Alain Montandon et al., Marie-Madeleine, figure mythique dans la littérature et les arts,
Presses Universitaires Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand, 1999, pp. 265-275.
conceptions of Rodenbach who wrote, without publishing it, “Le Livre de Jésus”, imagining
the return of a disillusioned "social" Christ into a contemporary city.
We find the Holy Magdalene with “Madeleine ou la Douleur” (1869) by Paul Cezanne, a
native of the city of Aix-en-Provence, and “La Résurrection de Lazare” by Vincent Van
Gogh. More unexpectedly, the pantheist Rodin, who was very intimate in Rodenbach, who
had lost faith long ago carved ... painted “Le Christ et Marie-Madeleine” (1892-1894). This
is his only work in "erotic-Catholic"character Dutch Jan Toorop, a close friend of the poet
of Bruges drew “Les Trois Mariées” or “Les Trois Fiancées” : a forest of hair and veils
moves the hands of Crucified Jesus (1893). The saint has even inspired Jules Massenet
opera, entitled “Mary Magdalene, the sacred Drama” (1873) and St. Mary Magdalene
(1885) with Vincent d'Indy. This composer was close to Peladan one of the few privileged
to be able to enter the studio of Fernand Khnopff located in Saint-Gilles Saint-Bernard, nr.
1. For correspondence's Magdalene with the Brussels painter, it is necessary to mention
here a sensual and lascivious “Marie-Madeleine dans la grotte” (1880-1890), Khnopff's
Master of Paris Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836-1912), a scandalous work by its
"pornographic" according to the standards of the time.
But let's look at the etymological sense of Madeleine. In Aramaic, the language spoken by
Jesus, "Magdalene" is the notion of tower, "migdal" meaning "tower." More precisely a
tower for preserving fish. This translation is very ancient, since St. Jerome, a Father of the
Church, who defended this etymology from 412. He even gave a value of onomastic
predestination by his ardent faith, Madeleine recalled the citadel of the Psalms, the towers
of Zion or of David60. Should we see a coincidence in the conclusion of the perfect writer of
Bruges-la-Morte which contains a repeat of "tower" in six words only, an unusual
heaviness for French Rodenbach? :
“[...] We read that those who also experience the presence and influence of the City, the
contagion feel better water nearby, in their turn, the shade of tall towers lying on texte 61.
To illustrate the rapid spread of this myth of the tower, probably Magdalene original, the
Christian commentators imagined that Christ's tomb had been carved into a rock ... like a
tower! Note that the formula "There is a tower on top of life" (“Rien qu'une tour au-dessus
de la vie”) returns to obsessively in “Le Carillonneur”(1897). The physiognomist esthete
will be struck by the resemblance that unites the character of the Khnopff androgynous
staging in honor of his friend Rodenbach and imaginary portrait of Mary Magdalene (Mary
Magdalene), designed by Burne-Jones three years earlier ...
Pinto-Mathieu, Marie-Madeleine dans la littérature du Moyen Âge,
Beauchesne, Paris, 1997, p. 12.
61 Bruges-la-Morte, “Avertissement”. Highlighted by the author.
The term "text" seems to have aG ospel value in the narrative (see Chapter 15).