Welcome to my Rennes-le-Chateau Research Website
This site is dedicated to researching the Mystery created by Berenger Saunière, the priest of the small hilltop village of Rennes-le-Chateau in France. My website contains many articles researching the Rennes-le-Chateau mystery and includes many unique and exclusive articles for you to read. New original research will be posted regularly.
Researching the facts of this Mystery is no easy task. Due to the amount of conflicting information it is difficult to find any real facts. I soon realized that I would have no choice but to go back to the beginning of the story if I was going to make any progress in solving this mystery. I ignored anything that could not be verified as genuine, this included the 2 parchments associated with the mystery and anything they mentioned, the paintings for example. Instead I concentrated on what physical evidence Saunière had left us in the decorations of his small church, dedicated to Mary Magdalene, and his domain.
A brief outline of the Rennes-le-Château Mystery
In 1885 Abbé Bérenger Saunière is appointed parish priest of the tiny hilltop village of Rennes-le-Château. He was an ambitious young cleric, and probably unimpressed by the dilapidated condition of the ninth century church and the uninhabitable presbytery he found on his arrival. In October of that year Saunière campaigned against the ruling Republican Party and was sent from the region for a short time as punishment.
Abbé François Bérenger Saunière 1852 to 1917
After his return he eventually managed to find enough funds to start the much needed restoration work to his church. He first repaired the holes in the roof and then started on the altar. It is said, that after he removed the heavy stone altar slab, he found some old parchments hidden in one of the two ancient pillars on which it had rested.
After the discovery of any parchments, Saunière immediately began digging up the church floor and was later discovered digging in the graveyard in the middle of the night. His housekeeper, Marie Dénarnaud, was helping him.
Saunière recorded in his personal diary on 21st September 1891, “...Found a tomb.” Whatever was found in the tomb is unknown, but it seemed to have been something he could profit from as it was only after this year of discovery when he began to spend lots of money.
Now he had the funds he could decorate the church just how he wanted.
He ordered the finest religious statuary from the Giscard factory in Toulouse Although most of the stuff he ordered were off the shelf items, he did add a few unique details, the Demon holding the Holy Water Stoup being one of them. He has also added local landmarks to the paintings either side of the Fleury Tableau and the view from the Altar grotto depicting Mary Magdalene. An inscription Saunière added above the front door reads - “Terribilis est locus iste” (This place is terrible). The church took five years to complete.
Next he built an elaborate estate, which included the Villa Bethania, the Tour Magdala and the glass Orangey at the other end of the Belvedere that joined them. His landscaped gardens were full of exotic flora and fauna.
He entertained his invited guests with lavish dinner parties where only the best food, wine and lacquers were served. On 17th January 1917 Saunière had a serious seizure, and shortly before his death summoned the Abbé Jean Rivière to his deathbed to administer the last right and to hear his confession. The priest who heard the confession was so shocked he is said to have rushed from the room. Saunière died on the 22nd January 1917.
But the secret of his wealth did not die with him; Marie Dénarnaud also knew the secret. Some years later in 1946, unable to cope with the upkeep and demands of the large estate, Marie sold the domain to Noel Corbu, someone she had become friends with., with the proviso she would be able to live in the presbytery rent free until she died. In return, before she died she would reveal the secret to him. Unfortunately she suffered a debilitating stroke that left her unable to talk or write. She took the secret to the grave with her when she died in 1953. However, previously Marie had hinted to Noel at some aspects of the secret and its great value, with phrases like, “Do not worry Noel, you will be a rich and powerful man when I die.” And “The villagers are walking on enough gold to last 100 years without diminishing it.”
It seems Noel Corbu may have learnt something from her before her death, but it wasn't’t the secret’s location, because he started excavating various parts of the domain. He found nothing and gave up. He opened the villa Bethania as a hotel and called it La Tour. He entertained his guests with the story of the Mysterious Abbé Saunière. To gain publicity for his hotel he contacted a newspaper and they ran a story about the Rennes-le-Château Mystery. It soon reached a wider audience and slowly the village became a popular tourist destination. Many factors pointing to the truth behind Saunière’s wealth are still available for study. But despite the best efforts of countless experts, these mysteries remain hidden. Did Saunière find a legendary religious artefact, a horde of ancient treasure, or some terrible Christian secret? The answers may one day be revealed, but for now, Saunière and the source of his wealth remain a mystery.