Paul Saussez has been officially appointed to prepare an application for archaeological investigations in the St Mary Magdalene church at Rennes-le-Chateau. This decision was reached unanimously by RLC's municipal council on 24/08/11
As the Church is a listed building, no excavation can be carried out without the approval of the French authorities, which have so far refused any permission without more concrete evidence there is something under the church to be discovered.
The Brussels architect and Rennes-le-Château researcher Paul Saussez has done extensive research into the church and the existence of a crypt. By studying the architecture of the church, its past renovations, the parish register, the archives of the diocese, and similar churches in the area, he has composed a number of 3D images that were published on the website www.renneslechateau.com - The Lords of Rennes's tomb - click link and scroll down to Paul Saussez and choose the link you want. Its in French so use Google to translate.
Paul Saussez published his findings and 3D images in 2002.
Rennes-le-Chateau Church ( Copyright Paul Saussez )
Saussez was able to locate and demonstrate in a 3D model the tomb of the Lords of Rennes and explain in detail how the tomb was hidden, how Saunière discovered it and how it has now been hidden.
Rennes-le-Chateau Church Crypt ( Copyright Paul Saussez )
Rennes-le-Chateau Church Crypt Steps ( Copyright Paul Saussez )
Crypt Excavation Plan of Action
The objective is to dig beneath the church, starting with the apse underneath which there is a strong possibility of finding a crypt (cavities detected by the Eisenman and Heygate GPR soundings in 2003 and 2008 respectively), then proceed westward underneath the nave, where, again, there is a strong possibility of finding the seigneurial burial vault, which is known to exist according to the 1694-1724 parish register found by Corbu & Captier in Saunière's papers, and -according to my sources- which has been detected by the Heygate investigations in 2008.
In order to proceed with minimal damage to the existing structures, Saunière's "secret room" (built in 1891/1892) will have to be dismantled then rebuilt after the dig; another possibility, with no dismantling/rebuilding, is to dig from the cemetery, provided there are no obstructing graves.
Whatever is found will have to be "stabilised", i.e. temporarily stored in a safe place nearby for cleaning, etc., and a decision will have to be made whether the material will be put back in place or prepared for exhibition in a museum or a similar facility.
A more delicate issue is how to handle and what to do with the human remains which will most certainly be found.
It is also anticipated that various artefacts such as engraved tombstones, items of clothing, personal jewelry, weapons, etc. will also be found.
One of my first asks will of course be to find a suitable archaeologist: I have a particular one in mind, but it's far too early to speculate.
Another hefty task will be to secure financing for the operation: I will have to approach various private foundations.
DRAC will of course come into the picture, but at a later stage.