Abbe Henri Boudet

Abbe Henri Boudet

Abbe Boudet was born Jean-Jacques Henri Boudet, on 16 November 1837 at Quillan, in the Aude.

His father was the director of the iron works near Axat. His mother, Marie Antonia, died in 1895 and is buried in the cemetary at Rennes-les-Bains along with his sister Antoinette (or Adelaide) who was Henri's housekeeper until she died in 1896.

His brother Edmond, who was born in 1840 and died on 5 May 1907, was a notary in Axat. It was he who produced the maps and sketches which are printed in Henri's book La Vraie Langue Celtique et le Cromlech de Rennes-les-Bains.

Henri, who may, or may not have been educated in his youth by Abbe Cayron, studied at the Petit Seminaire then the Grand Seminaire of Carcassonne. He was ordained a priest on Christmas Day 1861.

He became vicar of Durban on 1 January 1862, then was transferred to Caunes in the Minervois on 16 June 1862. On 1 November 1866 he was sent to Frestes, where he remained until his transfer to Rennes-les-Bains on 16 October 1872, replacing Abbe Vie, who died two months earlier on 31 August 1872.

It was during his time as the vicar of Rennes-les-Bains that Henri wrote La Vraie Langue Celtique et le Cromlech de Rennes-les-Bains, which was completed in 1880 and published in 1886 by Francois Pomie, the printer to the Bishop of Carcassonne.

At Boudet's own expense, 500 copies were produced for a fee of 5382 gold francs. Of the 500 copies, only 98 were sold, 100 being given to libraries and institutions and a further 200 given away by Boudet as gifts to friends and interested people who visited Rennes-les-Bains to take the cure. The remaining 102 copies were destroyed, with Boudet's consent, in 1914. This is said to have been at the insistence of the Bishop de Beausejour, and deprived Boudet of his income.

Boudet also wrote other works on the Languedoc dialect, which were presented to the Société des Arts et des Sciences de Carcassonne on 5 November 1893 and 3 November 1896. These were reviewed by the president of the Société, Louis Fédié, who was born in Couiza. Fédié was the author of Le Comte de Razes et l'Ancien Diocese d'Alet published in 1880. Despite a lack of recognition of his work, Boudet continued to contribute material to the Société des Etudes Scientifiques d'Aude until the end of the nineteenth century.

Boudet's other interests lay in walking the area, archeology and photography. He presented a variety of his archeological finds to the archeologists of the day.

In 1798 a sculpted head was found in the area known as Pla-de-la-Cote at Rennes-les-Bains. It was given to Boudet because of his interest in archeology and he had it placed on the garden wall of the presbytery. It became known as the Tete du Sauveur. In his book Boudet tells an interesting story concerning it and a local child. Following the inundation of 1992, the head was removed from the presbytery for safekeeping and remains in the local museum, where it can still be seen today.

Henri remained at Rennes-les-Bains until 30 April 1914, when, unable to pay the rent on the presbytery and in poor health, he retired to his family home at Axat. He died at Axat from intestinal cancer on 30 March 1915.

He was buried at Axat in the grave of his brother Edmond. The tomb has an unusual headstone bearing the inscription IXOIS (Jesus or Ixthios (Fish)) and a carving of a closed (rather than open) book. It is said that following Henri's death his books and papers were thrown upon the rubbish dump at Axat. It is said that they were recovered by a local family in whose possession they remain today.

by Frances Pearson