The château des Seigneurs de Rennes.
It was this chateau that gave the village its name by which we know it today. The castle we see today is thought to date back to the 16th century. Probably it was originally a Visigoth fortress, though I have so far been unable to see it, apparently there still exists a vast, remarkably well-preserved room in the north of the castle, and is said to date from this era. (Photo now added below)
Upstairs Chateau room in good condition with a picture of M. Fatin's Father on the wall
In 1210, the chateau was destroyed, like so many others, by Simon de Montfort at the time of the crusades against the Cathars and was rebuilt around 1250 by Pierre de Voisins, a Baron from the North to whom it fell, and who then left descendants in the Rhazes. In 1362 it was again destroyed, this time by Catalan 'Routiers.'
It was rebuilt by the d'Hautpoul family in the 16th century. Marie de Negre D'ables Dame d'Hautpoul de Blanchefort, who died on January 17th 1781, was the Royal to dwell in the chateau. It is said her bed, complete with her coat of arms emblazoned on it, still exists in one of the rooms in the chateau.
Today the chateau consists of four main buildings on a central courtyard, and four corner-towers. a circular one 17m high, and three square ones. The twelve stones over the threshold show the twelve apostles. It was sold at auction by Elisabeth de Rennes, daughter of the last marquise, and purchased in 1816 by Julie Avignon, daughter of Elisabeth's farmer who later sold it to the Dalbies brothers.
Two old photographs of the Hautpoul Chateau from Sauniere's 33 Postcards Collection
Around 1946, it was bought by Mr. Marius Fatin, honorary commissaire in the merchant navy, who moved in with his wife, their two daughters, and their son Henri, who currently resides there, and who is a fine sculptor of wood and was often seen around the village gardening and tidying up, usually pushing a wheel barrow. Unfortunately, now day, ill heath and disability confines him in the most part to his large crumbling chateau.
I would like to thank Mr. Fatin for allowing us inside his Chateau and for showing us around his interesting Museum and for the photographs shown on these pages.
Mr Fatin said that the mayor of the village (at that time - it is now a different mayor) had tried more than once to buy the Chateau from him but as he did not like the mayor, (he used stronger language than this,) he would not sell it to him, ever!
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Ariel photograph of Rennes-le-Chateau with Hautpoul Chateau indicated
Four views of Chateau Hautpoul 2010
Inside the Chateau.
I was keen to get inside the Chateau to have a look around. I was told by one of the villagers that Mr. Fatin had a lot of artefacts in a museum he had set up in one of the upstairs rooms and thought this may hold some interesting objects perhaps linked to Sauniere or the Rennes-le-Chateau mystery. As luck would have it we saw Fatin in his garden and he agreed to show us his museum. The first room we entered was the kitchen which was very dark after the bright sunshine outside. Leaving the kitchen we entered a hallway. To the left some steps led up but to my right were the fabled double arches.
Left - Two Arches seen through the hallway arch and Right - The Stairway I had just climbed
In the left photo can be seen the two arches. These arches have been linked by some to the 'Knights Stone' discovered by Sauniere in his church during renovations of the altar. The photo on the right is the first stairs we came to from the two arches hallway. (taken from the top looking back the way we had come) In both photos you can see the clutter and cobwebs, which was also in every room we saw. One of the openings leading off to the left by the two arches probably lead to a staircase to a lower level, maybe to the dungeons or the secret passages that are said to exist under the castle.
The Knights Stone with two arches
Old photographs of the two arches before the renovation
Hallway Leading to the Chateau Museum
Notice how worn the stairs have become over the hundreds of years of use.
Further along the hallway I passed the stairs leading up to the top floor. As you can see by the daylight streaming in through the window and the roof tiles, just visible under the top of the arch in the photo below, the chateau is far from draft proof. I got the impression the downstairs rooms leading off from the kitchen are the only ones lived in, as these were warmed by the log burning fire I smelt on my way in.
A View up to the top floor of the Chateau
The Hautpoul Chateau museum
Mr Fatin has put a lot of work into presenting his collection of fossils and artefacts, though some of the fossils seem nothing more than lumps of rock to me, I am no expert and will give him credit for his efforts. Though he comes across as a strange person at first, he seemed an okay bloke to me. He even gave me a pot of fossils. It is a shame the Museum is now closed to visitors as I am sure Mr. Fatin would make some money if he opened it again and included a tour of his chateau in the price. The funds could then go towards the upkeep of the chateau.
Left - Mr Fatin's collection protected from theft by chicken wire.
Right image - I assume these to be old roof tiles from the chateau. I am unsure if these symbols were originally there and have just been highlighted in gold so they can be seen, or Mr Fatin has been artistic and just painted them on. Whatever the case, what is interesting is that Graham Simmons' partner, Ingrid, showed us an ancient looking book discovered by Graham and Henry Buthion, who was the owner of Sauniere's domain at the time. The old book had been hidden, presumably by Sauniere, behind a skirting board in one of the upstairs rooms in the Villa Bethania. Written in Arabic, the book also contained similar looking symbols as those seen on Fatin's roof tiles. When Graham had it translated he discovered that it contained, among other things, protection spells to ward off evil. Why would Sauniere hide a book containing spells against evil in the villa Bethania? Very strange.
Left - A smiling stone carving that once adorned the chateau walls. Right - Another cupboard containing more of Mr Fatin's precious objects. What is of interest is the square object middle-left, it is a metal chest.
The Ancient Chest
This Ancient looking chest interests me a lot. Mr Fatin, becoming suspicious of all our questions about the chateau and not his beloved fossils, was reluctant to talk about it but did say he it was very old, it was found in the Chateau -either in the attic or under a floor, I cannot remember, and it was empty. We know the Hautpoul family were connected to the Templars, so it is not difficult to assume this chest may have once contained Templar documents. There is a story, (unproven as fact or fiction) that on her deathbed marie d'Hautpoul gave some family documents given to her for safe keeping, to her priest Antoine Bigou. Maybe the documents could have been taken from the chest and given to the priest Bigou for safe keeping and he placed them in another chest and then hid it somewhere before he fled to Spain. Perhaps Sauniere discovered the documents, or hopefully this chest still exists and is still waiting to be found somewhere.
M Fatin showing off one of his hundreds of fossils
I was surprised to see a copies of Sauniere's Headstone in Fatin's museum. Perhaps it was he that made the headstone to mark Sauniere's grave as it was not there originally but a later addition. The actual image is that of Sauniere's brother, Alfred. A mistake that happened a lot in the early days of the mystery. Alfred has appeared in many books mistaken for his brother Berenger Sauniere. (
left - This is the first cast Mr. Fatin made, laying amongst the clutter of his museum and Right - Another version
Mr Fatin's Plan of the Chateau Hautpoul
Mr Fatin's Plan of the Chateau -notice the key design highlighted in gold
Before leaving, we tried to persuade Mr. Fatin to show us around his chateau, unfortunately he wasn't interested. I wanted to see if the rumoured secret dungeons and the blocked-up underground passages, which once led off in several directions to join natural rifts in the rock, actually existed, maybe next time he will be more favourable.
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