Great – Unknown – Work
The glass pyramid
of the Louvre, La Défense, even the quaint “Monument
to the Rights of Man” are known to sit within the French
President François Mitterrand’s enigmatic building
obsession. But Cergy-Pointoise’s “Axe Majeur”
is both the largest and never cited work developed under Mitterrand’s
reign. So why is it so unknown?
Khufu built the Great Pyramid, little may he have known that millennia
later, his pyramid would be remembered as the greatest monument
ever erected by a head of state. Still, it is logical to assume
that even in his days, the pyramid was seen as a major accomplishment.
In modern France, President François Mitterrand, nicknamed
“the Sphinx”, may – or perhaps should –
go down as a man who tried to accomplish as much. His modifications
of Paris, specifically with the pyramid of the Louvre and the
extension of Paris’ main axis towards La Défense,
have captured the imagination of many, including Dan Brown and
Robert Bauval, the latter who has seen this “Great Work”
as a series of subtle modifications with a hidden, esoteric meaning,
in line with sacred Egyptian town planning and stellar alignments.
Some authors have also drawn attention to the “Monument
to the Rights of Man and the Citizen”, a small building
in the shadow of the Eiffel tower, modelled on an Egyptian funerary
temple. It is aligned to the summer solstice, when the sun at
noon penetrates a shaft between its two columns. It is said that
Mitterrand sometimes came here during the night, apparently to
think, meditate or reflect.
Few, however, have noticed one of the grandest, most enigmatic
and impressive creations that Mitterrand’s regime accomplished:
the “Axe Majeur” in Cergy-Pontoise. As the name indicates,
this is a veritable “major axis”, in a town –
La Pontoise – where one of the most infamous alchemists
of all times, Nicolas Flamel, was born.
As to Cergy: contrary to other new towns that derive their names
from existing villages or geographical features, there was no
place named Cergy. The story goes that someone observed that paths
in the upper part of the Axe Majeur, which was already integrated
in the general lay out of the project, looked like the letter
Y, and proposed to name the new town Cergy, the inversion of "Y
Grec" – the Greek Y – in French. The letter Y
was one of the favourite symbols of the Pythagorians, indicating
that the path of anyone’s life divided into the two paths
of vice and virtue.
axis is the feature of Cergy-Pontoise, a suburb of Paris, roughly
between the city centre and Charles de Gaulle airport. The axis
is the creation of artist Dani Karavan and is the “soul”
of this new town. It stretches for three kilometres and, if ever
archaeologists were to stumble upon its remains in future centuries,
would be classified as a leyline. Though it is doubtful leylines
have any earth energy attached to them, the “axe majeur”
actually might. But, primarily, the axis was to be the creative
energy for the local community, offering the town’s inhabitants
a site to walk, relax and attend festivals.
Karavan was an artist born in Tel Aviv in 1930 and from 1963 devoted
his life to monumental art. He started with the “Negev Monument”
in the desert around Beer Sheba, and created similar works in
Spain, Italy, Korea and Germany, where in Nuremberg he created
a sculpture in homage to human rights.
The idea for a feature for Cergy-Pontoise existed as early as
1975 and became more than just talk when, in 1978, the works of
Karavan in Florence were noted by those in charge of the Cergy
project. A long exchange of letters began and in 1980, Karavan
visited the town and accepted the project, making a wooden model
of his plan over the next month, which he submitted for approval.
idea of the “Axe Majeur” thus predates Mitterand’s
regime, which began in May 1981. This may explain why it does
not feature on his list of Great Works. But, as was so often the
case with this French president, things are not that easy. Furthermore,
even though Karavan’s project predates Mitterrand’s
Great Works… it is – remarkably – also the last
to be completed. Hence, it is the alpha and the omega, encapsulating
Great Works were spread not only in a precise location, but also
in a precise timeframe. The greatest work, size-wise, that Mitterrand
accomplished was La Défense, or the “Grand Arche
de la Défense”, commissioned in 1982 and completed
in 1989. A gigantic inverted U-shape, the structure was meant
to express Masonic and Pythagorean symbolism. The design was by
Johan-Otto von Spreckelsen, who called it a “porte cosmique”
– a cosmic door, or star gate. It sits at one end of the
major axis that runs from the Louvre through the Champs Elysées.
Bauval has noted how on specific days of the year, the sun can
be seen to set along this axis, its disc framed by the Arch.
In front of the Arch, there is the commercial centre of the “Four
Times”, a reference to the four ages of the esoteric tradition,
the Age of Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron. Here, time and space
has thus become entwined.
But it was definitely not a coincidence that the Arch itself was
inaugurated on July 14, 1989, the 200th anniversary of the French
Revolution, when the G7 Summit was hosted in Paris. As Jules Boucher
observed: “It were of course seven masters that participated
in the search.” Seven is indeed one of the most holy numbers.
And, of course, the letter G is an important Masonic letter, referring
to God. Masons normally depict the letter G in the centre of the
Blazing Star. All of these “coincidences” make it
clear that Mitterrand was working to a preconceived timeline,
with subtle clues, containing major significance.
focusing our attention on the “Major Axis”, indeed,
its name implies there is a smaller axis. This “Minor Axis”
runs from the local train station, with the “place de l’Horloge”,
a giant watch, which is visible from one end of the Major Axis.
Hence, both Minor and Major Axes are linked… but, especially,
time, with the giant watch, is a main component of this Great
Furthermore, just like the Minor and Major Axes interrelate, some
have argued that the "axis" of the Champs Elysées
is integrated with the “Axe Majeur”. Plotting the
two axes, they cross – or link –on an island in the
river Seine, in the town of Carrières-sur-Seine. Coincidence,
mentioned, the “Axe Majeur” had – and has –
several phases. It remains a work in progress. As a whole, the
axis has twelve stations, some of which are more recognisable
than others. The twelve stations are: the observation tower, the
“place des colonnes Hubert Renaud”, the Impressionists’
Park, the Esplanade de Paris, the terrace, the garden of Human
Rights Pierre Mendes France, the amphitheatre, the scene, the
bridge, the astronomical island, the pyramid, and the “Carrefour
The axis is thus a complex artistic realisation, involving several
components. Its origin is a tower, known as the “Tour Belvédère”,
which is a phenomenal structure, rising to a height of 36 metres.
Originally, the now square tower – with sides of 3.6 metres
each – was going to be circular. It sits in the centre of
a semi-circle of buildings, and at the centre of a ring of 360
paving stones, each 36 centimetres big. At its foot, the axis
commences, cutting its way through an opening between the two
semi-circular buildings, the passage having a width of 3.6 metres.
The number 36 is obviously key in the overall design.
The tower thus acts like a solar gnomon, casting its shadow on
the surrounding pavement, while the axis throws itself in between
the buildings that were created by Ricardo Bofill, but which were
not originally part of the design. The two buildings of Ricardo
Bofill are exactly oriented East-West. One is a semi-circle, symbolising
the sky, oriented westward, and the other, half a square, symbolises
the earth, oriented eastward, the inversion of the traditional
orientation. Bofill incorporate the same orientation to two other
buildings, located on top of the highest hills around Paris.
the other side of the building are well-maintained gardens, in
which apple trees grow. It is said to be an homage to the impressionists
that loved to paint the countryside and especially fruit trees
that were covered by flowers in springtime. Of course, the apple
is a very symbolic fruit – and what to make of the fact
that Mitterrand labelled one of the skyscrapers to be designed
around La Défense “Eve”? Unfortunately, the
first series of planted trees did not produce any apples. In 2007,
new trees were planted – which hopefully will bear fruit.
lot has been made about the Glass Pyramid of the Louvre, if only
because of its prominent inclusion in Dan Brown’s “The
Da Vinci Code”. Brown adjusted the number of glass panels
to 666, to imbed even more symbolism into this structure. But
what is often overlooked, is that to create this structure, some
of the old – and beautiful – paving stones of the
“Court Napoleon” had to be removed, to make room for
the pyramid. These paving stones were carefully dug up, and transferred
to Cergy-Pontoise, where they are now positioned in a semi-circle,
an official part of the “Axe Majeur”. Coincidence?
It is not the only Louvre connection. Perhaps the axis’
signature feature is the twelve columns, which have the same dimensions
as those of the arch of the Carrousel of the Louvre. These twelve
columns, as well as the twelve components that make up the axis,
underline that apart from the number 36, the number 12 is equally
important. And 12 and 36 obviously are no strangers to each other.
Twelve is a primary number in the zodiac and timekeeping, whereas
36 and 360 were key features of the Egyptian calendar –
a time, and a place, with which Mitterrand was enamoured by. In
fact, some argue that Mitterrand believed he was the incarnation
of an Egyptian Pharaoh! Do these twelve columns also refer to
the twelve columns of the New Jerusalem? Furthermore, some claim
that the Arche de la Défense is also built on twelve columns.
Its outer shape is that of a cube, like the New Jerusalem, though
it is empty (to some extent, it is the same in the Axe Majeur
where the twelve columns support nothing), while the New Jerusalem,
although containing no temple, is filled with God’s Glory.
site’s “leyline” connection is concretised between
the slabs that were formerly in the Louvre and the twelve columns:
the “Fountain of Vapours”, which was designed to evoke
the geothermic qualities of the site, as underneath the site sits
a hot water reservoir. One could even wonder whether this feature
– less impressive than most others on this line –
may nevertheless have been one of the primary reasons why the
axis was located in this precise location. The vapours emanate
from the Dogger Phreatic layer, found at a depth of 1000 to 1500
metres beneath the Ile de France. Its temperature varies from
56 to 85 Celsius degrees and is used to provide heating to 34
locations, Cergy being one of them. Some observers have seen the
vapours rising from below as symbolising the Underworld.
From the twelve columns, a series of steps descends to the river
Oise below. It is in this garden that the personal involvement
of François Mitterrand can be proven: on October 18, 1990,
he planted an olive tree… which had been especially imported
from Vinci in Italy. Some may wonder whether that was a coincidence,
or a symbol, and whether this is yet another, if not the real,
Da Vinci Code – or Vinci Code.
mentioned, the project was conceived as one whole, yet certain
sections were only constructed at a certain time. Though this
would often be given logical explanations (such as funding, a
special occasion, etc.), sometimes, its phased realisation resulted
in higher costs. Hence, some have suggested that the project had
a prescribed timeline, which was not necessarily communicated
to all. Hence, though the project is often not seen as a Great
Work of Mitterrand, largely because of a timeline that preceded
and post-dated the French President, such purely three-dimensional
considerations might be totally wrong in the realisation of a
– and this – Great Work.
Though conceived in the 1970s, it was only in 1986 – well
into Mitterrand’s regime – that the first three sections
were completed: they were the “Place de la Tour”,
the “Tour Belvèdere” itself and the “Vergers
des Impressionistes” – the apple tree garden.
Then, on August 26, 1989, the year France was celebrating its
bicentenary, and six weeks after the G7 summit in Paris, the twelve
columns were inaugurated in the presence of 10,000 people. The
following year, the laser light between the Tour and the Carrefour
du Ham became operational, materialising the axis into an axis
of light. As mentioned, the following year, Mitterrand personally
came on site… to plant a tree. Any Great Work has an idea,
a realisation and a completion. And the realisation definitely
third and lowest level of the Axis are the structures around the
river and an artificial lake. No doubt the most ingenious of these
constructions is a pyramid that seems to be emerging from the
lake’s surface, and which sits just off the axis itself.
The pyramid was completed in 1992 and is meant to symbolise the
harmony between Man and Nature. It was designed so that the wind,
one of the Four Elements, would play with its layers, so that
a type of natural music was created on this island that is only
reachable by boat. Those who arrive, will find the pyramid is
hollow and open on one side, revealing its blue azure-like interior.
By coincidence or design, it has become a breeding site for migrating
birds. Are they to represent the Egyptian Bennu bird – the
phoenix – or are they instead references to those birds
that carried the soul of the deceased? Or is it just coincidence?
for several years, little if anything happened. In 2002, a red
bridge was added to the complex, which ran from one side of the
river to the other. In 2007, work began on completing “the
Path”: the possibility that Man walks from one end of the
Axis to a circular island next to the submerged pyramid: the “Astronomical
Island”. This island is a highly intriguing feature, both
in visual appearance and in name, adding a stellar connotation
to the project. A remnant of an old sand pit, the island is equally
unfinished, as it is expected to see the installation of a sundial,
a meridian stele, an observational staircase and various other
instruments that will make this island true to its name. Whatever
the axis of the Champs Elysées might represent, it is clear
what the Axe Majeur is meant, and will one day, represent.
mentioned, in 2007, the bridge over the Oise was extended, so
that it would finally reach the island. Why someone would build
a bridge in 2002 and then wait five more years to build a relatively
small extension that would complete the design, is a question
that few have posed, and for which the reason cannot be due to
funding or other excuses. It is here that it becomes clear, that
this was intended as such and that the entire project conforms
to a specific timeline. As with any sacred building, the creation
of sacred space, requires a knowledge of sacred time. And only
by mixing those ingredients, correctly, can one potentially realise
the Greatest of Works.
article appeared in Les Carnets Secrets 9 (2007) and Atlantis
Rising (September - October 2011).