The Small Wooden Chest

The Rennes-le-Chateau research and discoveries on this page are part of my work with the producers of the Bloodline documentary.

By following the clues on the 'Sauniere messages' I was led to a cave in direct line of Sauniere's Tour Magdala in Rennes le Chateau. It was not the main ‘Magdalene’ cave that has had so much excavation over the years, but in a smaller side cave. On entering the cave I dug down almost a meter in the spot indicated on the clue, which was towards the back of the cave, and eventually found the small wooden chest.

The chest is old and though there are signs of rot, it has survived the years well, probably due to the mainly dry sheltered conditions of where it had been hidden.

Rennes-le-Chateau - small chest 1   Rennes-le-Chateau - small chest 2

The Old Small Chest

Extract taken from the Bloodline movie website:

"When Ben and I met with Antoine and Claire Captier to show them the contents of the chest, Claire recounted an interesting story. 

While Claire had been living in the Villa Bethania with Marie Denarnaud, the old lady had told her a story about how she had given a chest of ‘'valuables' to her sister's husband who had property on the land leading up from the Couleurs river. Given where we had discovered this chest, the story made us all smile, this of course could be the chest that Ben had found." Bruce Burgess

As previously mentioned, the chest was discovered at a location near to Rennes-le-Chateau and as well as a small Glass Vial, it contained an old pottery Cup, an Anointing Jar and some old coins. The cup, jar and vial have since been dated as genuine 1st century Relics. The coins date from 100BC all the way through to the 12th Century, some of which were in circulation in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

U-Tube link:Bloodline - Coins: Ben Hammott & Bruce show the coins from the chest to Richard Abdy, the curator of the Coin Department at the British Museum in London. He said that the 30 coins date from 100BC all the way through to the 12th Century, many of which were in circulation in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Many were in very poor shape and had reacted over time inside the chest and had been in the ground for a long time.

 U-Tube link: Bloodline - British MuseumWith Bruce filming with his handycam Ben Hammott takes the chest and its contents to be analyzed at the British Museum in London. The items turn out to be a 1st century drinking cup; a 1st century, Jerusalemite, ungentarium or ointment jar ; and a 1st century alabastra phial containing a rolled parchment, which was later dated by Oxford University to the 15th century.

The chest itself was shown to an expert in antique French cabinetry for analysis who confirmed, in his expert opinion, that not only did the chest date from the 18th - 19th century, but the paper lining was consistent with book binding in the region at that time.

In 1907 Saunière enlisted the professional expertise of Henri Barret a librarian/bookbinder from Castelnaudary, to organise and bind some of his collection. Henri stayed with Saunière for three months at a cost in excess of 1000 francs. Perhaps Sauniere or Marie Dernanaud, his faithful housekeeper and constant companion,  used some of the bookbinders end paper to line the chest with?


Chest Appraisal Report

Chest Appraisal Report

Chest Appraisal

We had previously shown the chest to an antique dealer in Carcasonne, France, who said it was French and dated it as being constructed in the 1900’s but could be as early as the late 1800’s.
To get a second opinion, when I was back in England, in March 2007, I took the chest to an expert in antique French cabinetry. Without telling him anything about the previous appraisal he described it as:

 “A simple country made pine lidded box of lapped construction, having a pair of wrought iron nailed butterfly hinges to the 5 plank roof like lid, all painted in a creamy water based paint over an undercoat. The interior is part lined, probably at 2 different periods:

  1. Possibly block printed on an off white paper

  2. overlayed by a border of marbled paper.

The whole box shows signs of having being buried or kept in a damp cellar... this box gives every appearance of being XIXC and could be as early as 1800...”

At our meeting he also added that the nails looked handmade, as did the hinges, (which was correct for Saunière’s era and even earlier.) He confirmed that not only was the chest almost certainly French, the paper lining inside, that has survived, seemed to be consistent with bookbinding in the region at the time.

The Chest Lid Motif

On the lid of the chest is a design that many people interested in the Rennes-le-Chateau Mystery may recognise as being similar to a design said to have appeared on a certain tombstone associated with the mystery. Although there is no absolute proof the tombstone of Marie de Negri d’Ables actually existed, its layout often depicted by some researchers today, bears the design of a spider or octopus that some say bears a resemblance to the design found on the lid of the chest.

Chest Lid Design Cutout and the alleged Marie de Negri d’Ables Tombstone Spider/octopus design

Rennes-le-Chateau - Chest Design
Chest Lid showing the position of the Spider like Design

(Image Enhanced to highlight the design)

It is, if we were not being too fussy, also similar in some aspects to the Priory of Sion logo.
Priory of Sion Logo Design

But it is probably a design that was sometimes used for decorative purposes in the past like the very similar one I found in the 6th edition of A Handbook of Ornament (1898), or earlier.
Rene, the Bloodline Movie producer, contacted and then sent some photographs of the chest and lid design to a small antique box expert, who replied, saying the design was unusual and he thought it was a “stylized honey-suckle motif”
He also said about the lining paper inside: “it looks like marbled paper of the sort that was mainly used for book end papers”

The Similar Decorative Honeysuckle Design appearing in an old 19th century design catalogue

I think we can conclude that the Chest lid motif is nothing more than an unusual decorative design sometimes used in the past as decoration or embellishment of certain pieces of furniture, and in all likelihood has nothing to do with the Marie de Negri d’Ables tombstone spider/octopus design, if it ever existed, or the Priory of Sion Logo Design.

The contents of this page and website may not be reproduced without the express consent of the author. Please, just ask before you copy something. Ben Hammott © 2007

The article that follows this page is the The Vial and the Vellum where you will find details of the small glass vial and the Bigou Document. Including scans of the Bigou Document Radiocarbon Dating results.

'Sauniere Messages' The Radiocarbon Test Results

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