Volume 4 / Number 2  

Jean Cocteau: Man of the 20th Century
Secret History & Sacred Geometry in the Chapel of St. Peter
Tool Danny Carry's Interview: Subterranean Kingdom
Den of Thieves: A Toolean Interpretation of Rennes-le-Chateau
Pilgrimage: Cocteau's Message to the Future
Beauty & the Beast: The Hidden Story Behind Cocteau's Fairy Tale
Sleeping Beauty & the World Mountain
Omega & Genesis: Underground Cities, The Deluge, & the Holy Mountain Hypothesis
The Tower of Babel: Vessel of God
The Compass of Enoch
Cutting of the Orm: New Cabala, Ancient Astrology
13: Secret Powers, Sacred Number
9: The Digital Horizon
Le Serpent Rouge Reinterpreted
The Prophet


A Visit to the Chapel of St. Pierre
By Boyd Rice

As I sit on the balcony of my hotel suite at Villefranche-sur-Mer, the sun is setting on the Cote a’Azur. Twilight lingers for hours, and gazing out upon the mist-shrouded bay, the sea seems to blur into the night sky. The visage is not unlike that of the sea in Jean Cocteau’s mural-covered Chapel of St. Peter, in which the sky and sea seem to literally to bleed into one another. Having just written an article about the mural in Cocteau’s chapel, and finding myself in the Southeast of France, I couldn’t resist making the pilgrimage to this small port town. I’d wanted to see the chapel for myself, test my hypotheses about it and see if there were any clues which had escaped my scrutiny.

This is not an easy place to get to. There are no exits for Villefranche-sur-Mer on the main highway. To reach it, one must drive to Monte Carlo and then turn back, taking a tiny road that snakes along the coastline. The village is nestled above a magnificent bay situated between Cannes and Monte Carlo. Cocteau spent a great deal of time here, much of it redecorating the estate of his patroness, Francine Weisweiller. From the west side of the bay, one can spot the lighthouse bordering his property - the one which figured so prominently in his film Testament of Orpheus. Interestingly, her property is not terribly far from an ancestral estate of the Rothschilds. As the twilight finally vanishes, the bay and night sky take on the appearance of a vast black abyss. I retire.

The next morning, my companions and I forego breakfast to go directly to the Chapel of St. Peter. We descend along narrow cobble-stoned streets towards the seaside. Along the way, we spot scenes from Testament of Orpheus, such as the Rue Obscure where Cocteau passed his own double. If this passage looked ancient in the 1963 film, it looked even more so now, almost half a century later. We ask directions of the locals, who tell us to go all the way to the sea. "Just before you fall into the ocean, you’ll see it. You can’t miss it." Indeed, as we reach the dock, there it is. There’s a life-size bust of Cocteau on one side, complete with his signature and pentagram. It looks like a Giacometti, but it was in fact sculpted by a man named de la Patelliere. It’s bronze has turned green from decades of sea mist, and Cocteau is striking a familiar Masonic pose, with his arms crossed above his chest.

Even before entering the chapel I spot things of which I’d never read about. Atop the steeple was an equilateral sun cross composed of four fish, an emblem very much in keeping with the basic premise of my analysis. Inside, the chapel is much smaller than one would suspect; creating the effect of being in the midst of an overwhelming phantasmagoria of color, lines and images. The scenes seem so close that it is difficult to take them in in their entirety. Everywhere you look there are details that might well have gone unnoticed in the published photographs. And to say that the photographs don’t do justice to the actual images is an understatement of the highest order. The contrast between the soft muted colors and the bold black outlines employed by Cocteau creates an effect that is both striking in its intensity and understated in its subtlety. Even Cocteau’s style of painting seems to evince a kind of Hermetic union of opposites.

On either side of the entryway stand enameled configurations that Cocteau dubbed "The Candlesticks of the Apocalypse." The candles are comprised of abstract elongated faces, with a single eye perched at the top, where the flame should be. This likely seems a reference to the Illuminated of All-Seeing Eye. Some maintain that this is the ye of God, while others claim that the symbolism is more specifically Luciferian. In this context, in which the eye is substituted for the flame, the latter explanation seems more feasible. But the All-Seeing Eye is usually depicted as a single eye, and here we have two. Could Cocteau be implying that the illuminated eye has a dual nature, that it might represent both God and Lucifer? These emblems, you’ll recall, are called the "Candlesticks of the Apocalypse." Though in modern usage the word "apocalypse" is synonymous with the end of the world, in the original Greek it meant simply revelation. Lucifer is the light-bringer, the fallen angel who imparted wisdom to man, and wisdom often comes from revelation.

Elsewhere are other depictions which appear to echo this theme. Amongst the angels that cover the ceiling are strange creatures that have human heads and bodies like serpents. Their faces look similar to those of the angels, and they too are bald, androgynous, and somewhat inhuman-looking. These creatures appear to be amongst the angels’ entourage, and would appear to support the idea that these angels are of a Luciferian rather than heavenly variety. In fact, not far from one of the serpents is an angel depicted upside down, clearly falling from the sky. The hypothesis, then, that these are fallen angels would seem to be borne out. Furthermore, the angels in the primary mural would appear to be looking at & gesturing towards the serpents, and not (as I’d previously assumed) the sun. This, however, is not at all inconsistent with my overall conclusion, sine the serpent was in ancient times a solar symbol. Since snakes shed their skin, they represented eternal life, and of course, the dead and resurrected god whose genesis was in the solar cult.

In connection to this idea we turn our attention to an icon that dominates the altar. Directly in front of the large crucifix is the figure of a bird constructed of metal. Metallic rods emanate from it, seemingly representative of rays of light. On its breast is a triangle. It looks, at first glance like an eagle, but clearly it is not. Nor is it a dove, the representation of which one might expect to find in a chapel such as this. Given Cocteau’s interest in phoenixology ( the art of death and resurrection), it seems likely that the bird is in fact the mythical phoenix arising from the flames. Juxtaposed as it is with the image of a crucified Christ, it could be emblematic of his resurrection. Viewed in the context of this chapel, however, it’s undoubtedly an allusion to something far more profound than the stories of Christ or St. Peter.

Beside the phoenix on the huge trapezoidal altar are priest’s vestments designed by Cocteau. They are made of red velvet embroidered with gold geometric patterns that seem to mimic those painted upon the walls. And the angles of the altar itself seem to coincide with those of the inverted pentagonal grid discussed in my other article about the chapel, Secret History and Sacred Geometry. If one were top construct a pentagram based upon the angles of the altar, and using the altar’s surface as the base of the internal pentagon thus created, the only figures to appear inside that pentagon would be David (the youth in the center of the painting) and the Poseidon mast on the ship. In photographs, both of these figures seem tiny and insignificant. But photographs give a false impression of this mural. They show it in its totality, and it appears as one might see it painted on a flat surface. This is deceptive because the mural is in fact painted on a wall that is totally curvilinear. From the chapel’s north end, one cannot even make out the figures of Christ or St. Peter - they are painted high up on the archway of the ceiling. One only notices them as you draw nearer to the altar. It would appear as though there is but a single spot in the whole chapel from which to view the mural without the distortion inherent in its curved surface. It is from this vantage point that Cocteau’s deft use of geometry can be discerned. Stunningly, this point seems to be fixed by the inverted pentagram defined by the trapezoidal altar. The top four points of the pentagram are defined precisely by the width of the archway. The bottom-most point of the pentagram falls at a point in front of the altar - the very spot the viewer would have to stand for the geometry encoded in the mural to be discernable. A few feet closer or further away, or to one side or the other, and the perspective of the scene alters drastically.

The sheer depth of ingenuity exhibited here by Cocteau boggles the mind. His assertion that certain of his works rivaled the murals at Knossos may once have been dismissed as a braggartly conceit. In point of fact, it was more of a humble understatement. Indeed, it is the height of humility to create a work so complex, so rich in symbolism and content, and not even so much as hint that it might be more than merely decorative art. In the Chapel of St. Pierre, Jean Cocteau left behind a symbolic time bomb. He went calmly to his grave not knowing whether its secrets would be unraveled in ten years, twenty years, or even a century. A prediction: in the coming years the work of Jean Cocteau will be wholly reevaluated and viewed in a radically new light. At that time he will assume his rightful position alongside the great masters like Leonardo. And if you’re interested in a good investment, now would be a good time to pick up some Cocteau limited editions, while they’re still relatively affordable.