The Galamus hermitage from Perillos.com
Saint Anthony’s chapel is renowned for containing a magic square: SATOR – AREPO – TENET – OPERA – ROTAS. It is beautifully executed. But what is a magic square doing in a structure that is purely Catholic in origin? For sure, as Galamus is not the only location where this “decoration” has been found, some have come up with explanations that make it appear that this has a significance within the Catholic doctrine. But it should fail to impress most, if not all.
Indeed, we note that the inscription was already found in the ruins if Pompey, which thus makes it definitely older than Christianity. Here, in Galamus, it may indicate that the site was in use prior to a Christian dedication too – or that at some point, a magical dimension was added to its “pure Catholic” purpose. Perhaps because people resorted to magic, either due to the enigmatic incidents that had occurred, or as part of the miraculous protection the Saint had offered to the village?
The word “arepo” is actually Celtic in origin, derived from “Arpennis”, which means “head, end of land” and which resulted in the French word “arpent”: a piece of land. Jean Chevalier and Alain Gueerbrant have argued that this type of symbolism should be traced back to Celtic times, specifically druidism, and argue that the inscription is linked with the Wheel of Fortune.
Of course, it was Boudet who spoke of a “True Celtic Tongue”, a book that he published in 1886 and which has become one of the enigmatic ingredients of the mystery of Rennes-le-Château. Furthermore, whereas everyone agrees that Galamus as a word is Celtic in origin, no-one has been able to explain its etymology conclusively.