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6.1 Introduction

Rennes-le-Chateau is about 4.5 km from Couiza up a very steep Road in the Aude department in the South of France (e)

The interest in this little village started when Mr Gérard de Sède published his first book on it in 1967 (L’Aventure Mystérieuse, editions Julliard). He was in fact helped or, better, inspired by a certain Pierre Plantard, or Plantard de Saint Clair. Mr. Plantard pretends to be the legitimate descendant from the Merovingian dynasty and as such the main pretender to the French Royal Throne. (n),(o)

Bérenger Saunière was appointed priest of the church of Rennes-le-Chateau in 1885. He had the church renovated and it is during these works that he found three wooden tubes in a hole on one of two pillars dating from the time of the Visigoths. These tubes contained some sealed parchments on which appeared some cryptic messages. These messages were thought important enough for his Bishop of Carcassonne to send him to Paris. It is not clear at all what the messages really were about. Rumours and uncertainties prevail up to now. When he came back from Paris he was a very rich man. (e)

Many explanations have been given for his sudden wealth:

a. One source believes that Saunière did not find a Visigoth treasure. In fact the restoration work to the church had already started when he made his discovery. Moreover the workers would have spread the word if it had been a treasure. What he found has been thought to be the genealogical records of Jesus’ family. These documents show that Jesus survived the crucifixion and escaped to the South of France where he founded the Merovingian dynasty of kings. He was also married to Mary Magdalene and had children who became the Merovingian dynasty of French Kings. Saunière received some money from the Vatican to keep quiet. According to this theory the Church was afraid of the dangers for the catholic faith if such a story was divulged. The whole base of the Catholic credo would be undermined. (e)

b. Another possibility is that Saunière could have been an adept of the Occult science and that he received some money from other occult adepts in Paris where he had friends. (e)

c. It has also be said that Saunière discovered alchemy books in Lavaldieu. Saunière would then have been able to transmute metals and create a fortune. Following occult tradition he did not use the treasure for himself. Instead he built the library, the villa and the community church as well as public roads to the village. (e)

d. Another theory would be that the “treasure” may have come from the Cathars. It could have been “valuables” or some “dangerous” Cathars writings. It is also possible that Saunière was in fact a late Cathars. The church he built would then be a reflection of his beliefs. (e)

e. Still others say that he found the treasure of Solomon first taken to Rome when Titus took Jerusalem in 70 A.D. In 410 AD. the Visigoths took Rome and hid the Solomon treasure in Rhaedae one of their capitals. Rhaedae is the present time Rennes-le-Chateau. (e)

Saunière used his sudden wealth in an even stranger way. First he rebuilt his church in such a way that it did not look like any other church. Above the entrance is the following sentence in Latin: “Terribilis Iste Locus Este” or “This place is terrible”. If Saunière was a Cathar then this inscription has a sense. The first statue to see once inside is a representation from Satan. Moreover it is consecrated to Mary Magdalene. Many pictures and statues of her are to be found in the church although she is not a very popular figure to the Roman Catholics. On the other hand it could be explained better within the Cathar faith that put a lot of stress on the equality of men and women. The baptismal font is supported by a demon. Here again the Cathars believed that this sacrament by water was the work of the Devil. That would explain the statue. They believed on the opposite in initiation by word or knowledge, If Saunière was a Cathar then the Devil supporting the catholic baptismal font makes sense. We must remember that Cathars regarded churches as worshipping places for Satan and the Catholic Church as the work of the Devil. They also regarded the material creation as Evil. For them an infant was a soul trapped in an Evil body. (e)

In his house Saunière built his own chapel. His library was installed in a tower called “La Tour de Magdala” after the name of the castle owned by Mary Magdalene. He had it built near the end of the village overlooking a cliff. The church is no longer consecrated and is only a successful tourist attraction these days. (e)

Between 1891 and his death in January 1917 Saunière admitted to have spent one and a half million francs. This is a fact that has never been explained. (e)

Of course the legend of the treasure attracted tourists. The tourists in their turn became interested in the old mysteries and religion. Perhaps this is the real treasure. (e)