As mentioned in my article about Sauniere's original altar pillar, the altar in Sauniere's church was originally supported by two stone pillars, but now only one remains. The second pillar has disappeared, but I think I may have found it. While visiting Boudet's old church in Rennes-le-Bains, I took a stroll around the graveyard to look at the old tomb stones. As I left the graveyard I happened to glance to my right and glimpsed something in the shadows of a large bush. Pulling back the branches I discovered an old stone pillar. On closer examination, its size and shape looked very similar to the one from Sauniere's church, now on display in the Sauniere museum in Rennes-le-Chateau. But if this is the missing altar pillar, what is it doing here in Rennes-les-Bains by Boudet's church? We know he had an interest in old stones and objects from around the area, he even hacked off a head from a stone in the hills and placed it in the presbytery wall, now on display in the Rennes-les-Bains museum. Perhaps he showed interest in this stone and Sauniere gave it to him. Sauniere already had the carved pillar so had no use for the plain pillar.
Stone Pillar situated outside the Rennes-les-Bains Graveyard
The pillar has suffered badly from being exposed to the elements over the years. No discernable carving remains. Maybe this pillar, unlike Sauniere's pillar, if it was ever in his church, had already suffered badly from the rain and weather entering through one of the supposedly many holes in the roof, before Sauniere ever arrived in the village. This may explain one of the reasons Saunière was so keen to carry out repairs or renew the altar. Perhaps when he first took possession of it some details of the carved decoration still remained. Later he might have defaced the information to keep it secret for some reason. Of course this is all speculation on my part It has been reported that only one of the pillars were decorated, the other was unadorned, this gives further credence to the Rennes-les-Bains pillar once having been in Sauniere's Mary Magdalene church.
"On 16 August 1908, members of the Societe d'Etudes Scientifiques de l'Aude make a second visit to Rennes-le-Chateau, having traveled through Rennes-les-Bains and Espéraza, they climb the hill to arrive at the village. Antoine Fagès, author of 'De Campagne les Bains a Rennes-le-Chateau' reports that he spoke with saunière about the pillar on which stood the statue of the Lady of Lourdes, and Saunière told him the pillar was once part of the church altar. Saunière told Antione that the old altar was formed by a large stone slab recessed into the wall with its front supported by two stone pillars, one plain and the other decorated with carvings."
Two Pillars - one plain and the other decorated with carvings
The old plain pillar, if turned upside down, would be a better match. But I leave you to make up your own mind whether this is Sauniere's Rennes-le-Château Church missing altar pillar. Perhaps it is an old pillar from Boudet's church?