Abbé François Bérenger Saunière ( 1852 - 1917 )
Bérenger Saunière was born on April 11th 1852 in Montazels. He was the eldest of 7 children: 3 sons, Alfred, Martial, Joseph, and 3 daughters Mathilde, Adeline, Marie-Louise. He was the son of Marguerite Hugues and Joseph Saunière 1823 to 1906. Saunière's father managed the local flour mill and had also been the mayor of Montazels, as well as being the the steward of the Marquis de Cazermajou's chateau.
Saunière was educated in the school at Saint Louis in Limoux, the petit Seminary Secondary School in Carcassonne and then in 1874 the grand Seminary, (priests training school) also in Carcassonne. He was ordained as a priest in June 1879 and was assistant priest at Alet from July 16th 1879 to June 1882.
From June 1882 to 1885 he was a priest in the village of Clat. He was appointed to Rennes le Château on June 1st 1885, replacing the previous priest Antoine Croc who had only been in that position for three years. Read Timeline for more info.
After Sauniere's domain had almost been completed, in 1907 he commissioned a set of 33 postcards that featured images of Saunière’s Rennes-le-Château domain, the Hautpoul Château, and some nearby views.
The postcards sold for 10ct and seemed to have been place for sale in various places in and around Rennes-le-Château, including the nearby village of Rennes-les-Bains, where Saunière seemed to have done a brisk trade in selling them to tourist come to bathe in the thermal waters located there. He comments in a letter to a friend that: “All the bathers take the complete collection. The cards have so much success that I can hardly keep up supplying them"
Sauniere appears in 6 of the 33 postcards as well as in some old photographs.
Left: Notre -Dame de Lourdes and l’Abbé Saunière - Right: Tour Magdala et Terrace
Left: Façade principale de la villa Béthanie - Right: Close-up of Sauniere in the doorway
If it is Saunière, as in all likelihood it is, he is holding something in his hand that could be a book, documents or a letter. It bears a passing resemblance to something that the figure in the right-hand side of the Fleury painting might be holding.
Rennes-le-Château - Jardin potagers. Abbe Sauniere, Marie Dénarnaud and her mother, Alexandrine Marre, and foster sister Julie Fons.
Rennes-le-Chateau - Tour Magdala, terrasse et jardin. Abbe Sauniere, Marie Dénarnaud and her mother, Alexandrine Marre, and probably Marie's foster sister Julie Fons.
Villa Béthanie, église, jardin potager. Abbe Sauniere and Marie Dénarnaud
Rennes le Château - Villa Béthanie, église, jardin potager. Abbe Sauniere and his two dogs - Pomponnet and Faust, and an unknown helper - a workman Sauniere employed, or a local villager.
Incidentally, it is said that Saunière also had a monkey he named Mela. Guy Patton & Robin Mackness in their book 'Web of Gold' suggest it may be more than "mere coincidence that a first century Spanish geographer and writer, called Pomponius Mela, refers to an ancient treasure deposited in the mines of Pyrene, located exactly south of Carcassonne? Could Sauniere have known of both these writings and have had access to the treasure?" Read Web of Gold excepts - Introduction by Robin Mackness and Guy Patton and Chapter 1.
Abbé Sauniere outside the entrance to his church dedicated to Mary Magdalene and posing for a group photograph on the Repository Steps. Notice Sauniere's gaze and position of his hand.
Left: Abbé Sauniere on the 22 Steps - Right: Mission 1891
Sauniere on the Terrace and by the Villa Bethania with some workman
Top Centre: Abbé François Bérenger Saunière posing for a group photograph in the Presbytery courtyard
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