The first fact that must be explained is the origin of the 23 millions FF (value 1988) that the Priest Bérenger Saunière spent in 20 years. Two points are clear:
– Bérenger did not have this kind of money himself.
– The explanations he gave his bishop are not to be believed.
We are reduced to make some hypothesis:
i. The first explanation, and the more obvious, is the “traffic des Messes”. In clear Bérenger would ask and obtain money to celebrate masses in memory of some dead people or for any other reason. Apparently he was writing all other the world asking for help in exchange of masses in the name of somebody. This is what his bishop, Mgr. de Beauséjour, accused him. And we know that he could not prove it and Bérenger was cleared by the Vatican. It is true that Bérenger, like all the priests of that time and also to day, asked to be paid to say mass in favour of somebody. This practice was accepted as the salary they received was very limited. However he would have had to say more that 650.000 masses as the cost was normally one franc per mass at that time. Of course this assumes that he said the masses he was paid for. The publicity would have had to be very large too. In conclusion this does not seem to be the answer to the question.
ii. He found a treasure!
There are many variations on this theme that is the more often accepted:
– We know that he found some old coins and some jewels in 1891 in a tomb and at least one chalice. This cannot cover the cost of all the constructions he had made. Moreover he gave most of it as present to colleagues and to Marie’s niece.
– Many people believe that he found another and more important treasure. This would be compatible with the existence of gold mines in the region. Another possibility would be a treasure hidden by Blanche de Castille -or her daughter Blanche de France- in her castle de Blanchefort. But it is known that Blanchefort was built by the Visigoths and destroyed during the crusade against the Cathars in 1210. Blanche de Castille was very young then and Blanche de France was not born. Another story with a Queen of Castille called Jeanne in the 14th century does not seem more believable either. Another possible treasure is said to come from the Templars who were installed in the Bezu with a treasure of Majorca origin. When the French King Philip le Fair had all the Templars arrested on 13 October 1307 the treasure was left there and Bérenger got hold of it on the base of the documents found in his church.
– In 70 AC Titus besieged Jerusalem and the Solomon Temple. A lot of gold and silver had been used in its construction. The furniture, including the “Menorah” or seven branch candle-stick, was worth a lot of money but was also of great symbolic value to the Jews. The main part of it was brought back to Rome where it stayed for three centuries. When Alaric the Old took Rome on 24 August 410 he, of course, took this treasure. When his successor, Wallia, made Toulouse his capital the treasure followed him there. Clovis defeated the Visigoths but before Clovis took Toulouse the treasure was taken away to Carcassonne. The Visigoths lost most of their land in the South of France and, according to some historians, hid part of their treasure in Rhaedae now known as Rennes-le-Chateau. Saunière could have found this treasure. However it is really no believable that such a well-known treasure could not be sold and up to now there is no trace of it anywhere.
The hypothesis of Saunière having found a treasure is not more believable that his sale of mass.
iii. The mystic Occultist
– Two important changes in the life of Bérenger Saunière have been recorded. Between 18887 and 1891 he discovered some documents, went to Paris and then appeared to be rich. The second change arrived in 1903 when he was attacked by his bishop and following that he appeared that he ran out of money.
– The accusation of traffic of masses being cleared and the discovery of a treasure being difficult to believe, the only explanation of his fortune has to be found in the documents themselves. In another words Bérenger was mixed in a traffic of documents. The treasure was not in gold but in a genealogical document.
According to Gérard de Sède, the copies of the two documents, supposedly coming from the archives of the Maire of Rennes-le-Chateau, he was given in 1967 were false and had been made by a previous priest of Rennes-le-Chateau, Antoine Bigou, at the end of the 18th century. The original were then say to be in England in the safes of the “International League of antiquarian Booksellers” but this organisation denied it. It was also said that the copies had been made at the instigation of Francis Blanche but again after his death so he could not confirm. The Lloyds were then assumed to have the original documents but they too denied. (n)
iv. The church decoration is not accidental. It has been chosen by Bérenger Saunière for a given purpose. Already outside, the triangular Tympan with crosses and roses leads us to think about the rose Croix secret society and the Masons. The church from the outside shows that the building has two meanings: a Catholic Church but also a mason lodge reminding us of the “Rose-Croix”. The Latin truncated inscriptions on the tympan reinforce our first opinion. Terribilis est locus iste… and Domus mea orationis vocabitur… Inside the church we first notice a lame Devil that holds the holy-water vase and above two basilisks surrounding a red circle with two letters in it (BS) and then an inscription (“Par ce signe tu les vaincras”) on a pedestal supporting four angels crossing themselves and again above the emblem of the “Rose-Croix”. It could appear at first as a Christian symbol of somebody who crosses himself and by doing so defeat the Devil. However if we look closer a few details are strange: a word (le) has been added to the sentence(“Par ce signe…). This word is composed of the 13 and 14th letters of the Jewish alphabet and that evoke the date 1314 when the Grand Master of the Templar Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake. The total number of letters in the sentence is now 22 like in the same alphabet that is also the alphabet of the Cabal. The four angels could be thought to invoke the “Quatre frères Zélés” of one of the main book of the Rose-Croix, Fama Fraternitatis. Moreover the “chemin de Croix” is dextrorotatory and that is against the rule. Some of the scenes are not of the Passion but are easily explained in the Masonic symbolism of the Scottish rite. (n)
The discovery of the parchments had been witnessed. Some said that they were found in the pillar and others in the tomb covered by the “Knight slab” with the old coins and jewels. These differences can come from the fact that the witnesses were asked many years after the event or because documents were found in more that one place in the church. For instance a witness, Antoine Captier, said that he found a bottle containing documents in a baluster near the pulpit and that he gave it to the priest. A cavity had been dug in the dome to hide the bottle. The baluster is still in the possession of the Corbu-Captier family. In any case the discovery of the parchments was the reason for the journey to Paris of Bérenger Saunière where he met some Occultists, most of them from Languedoc. The Occult tradition was well implanted in Languedoc and in particular in the Aude region. In contradiction to the general view the masonry movement has never been homogeneous. Already at the end of the 17th century there were two main tendencies opposed between them. The mystical ones (among them the “Rose-Croix and the illuminists) and the Rationalists who are followers of the philosophers such as Descartes and Spinoza. The Languedoc, its nobility and clergy belonged to the first school. The Languedoc was then a fertile land for the introduction of the “Rose-Croix”. That Bérenger Saunière had some contacts with the Occult movement in Paris is without doubt. What we must ascertain is if these contacts continued afterwards. When he came back from Paris Bérenger found some new friends in the local Occult movement. Was he a member of a Masonic lodge or of an Occult society? There is no real proof of this. However it seems obvious from the decoration of his church in Rennes-le-Chateau that he was a member of the “Rose-Croix”. All these decorations and the Latin sentences -always truncated- show that the church was a place of worship but that it does not necessarily leads to God and heaven. If we assume that the church is a Masonic temple of the Scottish Rite then all the decorations and the Latin sentences make sense. It could also be that the presence of catholic priests among these masons was a way to bring back in the Church the brothers who chose another way to salvation. Bérenger Saunière probably had some documents useful for the history of the occult movement in Languedoc. We are not only thinking of the parchments that he discovered and whose copies do not bring much to us in this way. His brother, Alfred, a Jesuit, had also a close relationship with members of the Occult movements as well as with masons from whom he could have learned a few secrets. (n)
The year 1891 is a good one for Bérenger Saunière. He goes to Paris, he found a tomb and he discovers a “secret”. This secret must have been important but we do not really know what it is. It is something more that the coins and the jewels mentioned before. In his journal he wrote: “Découverte d’une tombe… Secret”. It is probable that it is the “Knight Tomb” and in this case it is the tomb of the family Hautpoul. This family has been linked to the masons of the Scottish Rite. It is possible that they have been buried with Masonic or “Rose-Croix” documents. After coming back from Paris Saunière was able to appreciate the value of such papers. These documents could also be linked to some royal dynasties. The Hautpoul were partisan of the Bourbons and also of Louis-Philip and the “Orleanists”. According to the “Rose-Croix” there is a cycle of 108 years at the end of which some members should discover important documents. In the meantime the organisation stays in the shadows. In 1783 the priest Antoine Bigou engrave a sentence on the slab of the tomb of Marie de Nègre d’Ables, Dame d’Hautpoul. Saunière will rub it off later. In 1891, 108 years later Saunière discovers a tomb and its secret. On the opposite 1903 is the beginning of a dark period for Saunière. Mgr. Billiard, bishop of Carcassonnes, who never asked anything from Saunière and even suggested his journey to Paris, died on 2 December 1901. He was replaced by Mgr Paul-Félix Beurain de Beausejour in 1903. The new bishop asked a lot of questions to Saunière and tried to destroy him. At the same time the Habsbourg, the ruler of the Saint Roman Empire, wanted to become again, as in the past, spiritual as well as temporal head of the Christian world with precedence on the Pope. At the death of Léon XIII in 1903, the Emperor put his veto to the election of Cardinal Rampolla that he did not like. The Cardinal Sarto was elected Pope in 1904 as Pie X and he abolished the right of veto of the Emperor. This was the end of the conflict on the precedence on spiritual matter between the Pope and the Emperor. With Pie X the Intregrists came to power. He went as far as to condemn the Modernism in an Encyclical letter and to create a secret society to fight the modernism in the church. Their members were soon called black masons. Pie X died in 1914 and his successor, Giacomo della Chiesa or Benoit XV was against the Integrists and he tried to close the secret society (this will be done in 1921 only) with the help of the Council Congregation. In October 1915 the same congregation cleared Saunière of all the charges his bishop brought against him. Saunière died on the 22 of January 1917. (n)
In 1886 Saunière, soon after he arrives in Rennes-le-Chateau, received 3000 gold francs from the countess of Chambord, born Habsbourg, widow of the pretender to the French throne. She was living in Austria and never came to France a country she hated. The only explanation is due to the fact that Saunière is a Monarchist Legitimist, that means that he supported the Bourbon and not the Orleans family. We remember that he was deprived of his salary for a speech made in church in favour of the Bourbon. There were enough Legitimists in Aude to pass the message. Some super-legitimist even thought that Louis XVII was not dead. A lot of impostors were found but a certain Naundorff (1785-1845) has been recognised as such even by the Dutch Government and by quite a few historians even these days. He had the Occultist movement behind him. A lot of indications show that Saunière supported Naundorff from 1891. The Martinist occult society supported him as well as two Popes, Leon XIII and Benoit XV. However there was no real proof of the identity of Naundorff, only presumptions. Some secret societies and the Vatican must have the answer but they keep it locked up. But there was another similar mystery at the same time. It concerns the Archduke that visited Saunière in Rennes-le-Chateau. It has been admitted for a long time that it was the Emperor’ s nephew, Jean Salvador who left the court in 1889 and travelled world wide under the name of Jean Orth. There was another Jean Orth. It was the son of Léopold II of Habsbourg-Toscane, cousin of François-Joseph, and declared still born on the 10 December 1858. He was brought up in Luxembourg by the Orth family. The reason of this is due to the fact that the Habsbourg-Toscane are more legitimate that the Viennese’s. He was assassinated in Egypt by the Austrian secret police. This Jean Orth was in the same situation as Louis XVII in relation to the Orleans. The absence of documents proving these facts gave a lot of blackmailing power to the enemies of the reigning families. In 1900 Saunière has already discovered the old coins, the jewels, the chalice and some unknown documents. All we know is that they were coming from the Hautpoul family. These Hautpoul were affiliated to the Masonic order of the “Rose-Croix” of a certain Péladan and Georges Monti. At this time both Monti and Saunière started spending money and the Archduke of Habsbourg visited Saunière. The only explanation for these visits is the consultation or the buying of documents. It is now believed that these documents were not authentic. As we know Saunière was not able to read them and had to go to Paris for help. These documents were not so old (100 years) and the writing was not too different and too difficult to read. The same would be true if they had been very old (before the 11th century). In both cases the Habsbourg family would not have been interested as they came to power in 1378.
For all these reasons it is assumed that there was two sets of documents.
-The first from the “Rose-Croix” and then from after the 16th century.
-Some falsified documents presented to the Archduke that interested the Habsbourg.
It is quite possible that these documents aimed to “prove” the survival of Louis XVII and his descendants. The heritage was worth 307 millions gold francs and if only for this reason it was worth to pay Saunière but this is only a hypothesis. However Saunière and Monti were the right type of persons to do it, in addition to belonging to the same Occult society. This would explain the visits of the Archduke to Rennes-le-Chateau, the opening by Saunière of a bank account with an Austrian-Hungarian bank and his wealth as well as the help he received from Mgr.Billard who was also mixed up in strange business. Pope Léon XIII, if he had known, would have considered it a small sin. But for his successor, Pie X, the Pope chosen by the Habsbourg, it would have been a major one. In effect the Commission charged to examine the recourse introduced by Saunière against his bishop took a lot of time. But under the next Pope, Benoit XV who was a follower of Léon XIII, a decision in favour of Saunière came soon. By checking Saunière’s accounts one can see that he did not spend all the money he received himself. This confirms that Saunière was only a link in a long chain of deceivers trafficking in false documents. Georges Monti is probably the organiser of this deceit. It is obvious that he kept some papers after the death of Saunière. Once again we do not know what they are but one thing is certain: they do not concern the Merovingian dynasty affair that was forged after 1964. The Merovingian legend is a direct copy of the story played by Saunière. We only have to replace Louis XVI by Dagobert II, his son Louis XVII by Sigebert IV and Naundorff by Pierre Plantard. One thing is certain: these games are not being play for fun. Some people are making money or obtaining big favours out of it. Even the politicians are interested. For instance François Mitterand visited Rennes-le-Chateau in February 1981. Who are these people behind the story is not known at the present time. But the story goes on. (n)