The Secret of Rennes-Le-Château

Rennes the Village

Rennes-Le-Château lies near the foot of the Pyrenean mountains in Southern France.

It is a small village with a sparse population. At the heart of this community is a church dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene. This is the church that stands on the site today and built round about the eleventh century. Here is where a mystery lies.

The Renovations

In 1885 Father Bèrenger Saunière, is appointed the position of Parish Priest of Rennes. At that time the church of Mary Magdalene was in a rundown condition and Saunière was a simple poor priest. But what followed soon after was astonishing. He spent a vast amount of money renovating the church to a magnificent standard. Far above such extravagance that befits a village church. He refurbished the inside with acquired statues, fine paintings and elaborate decorations. He also built several orangeries. He had a tower built attached to the church. He named it Tour Magdala. The name refers to an ancient village in Israel in the North of the country on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. In Hebrew Magdalene means Tower Magdala. Said to be the birthplace of Mary Magdalene. Her name suggests this: Mary of Magdalene. A villa built some distance away that the tower by a walkway. Saunière added a sacristy {also known ax a vestre) for keeping church equipment. Such as sacred vessels, church parish records and specific furnishings. Saunière also renovated the run-down cemetery. He built a wall encompassing it and a set of wrought iron gates set in pillars each side. These had a lintel stone above, running across the gate head. It had a stone pediment on top with a skull and cross bones carved into it.

The Mysterious Inheritance

The mystery remains to this day on where Saunière acquired such wealth to carry out all this work. The renovations took ten years to complete. This also included the cemetery and Saunière’s living quarters. All this work required carpenters, stone masons, labourers and many other tradesmen. These people needed paying for their labours. Materials and fittings needed payment as the work progressed. The accounts and invoices relating to the works have survived. They confirm the amount to be over 11,500 Frank’s, which inflates to around £4,000,000 in today’s money, in 2020.

Asmodeus the Master Demon

There is a Latin inscription over the entrance to the church, terribilis est locus iste. This translates to “this place is terrible.” There are other inscriptions. One reads: “this is God’s house, the gate of heaven, and it shall be called the royal court of God.”

A figure inside the church, installed by Saunière, is of the demon Asmodeus perched holding up the font. Above are four angels. Asmodeus is in many ancient writings as a master demon, sometimes referred to as the king of demons. Could it be that the whole statue is portraying a message of good? Represented by God’s angels, subduing evil represented by Asmodeus underfoot? Ancient writings denote that demons were under Solomon’s power. Used in the construction of the temple. working as bound slaves. Power was given to Solomon over the demons by God through the archangel Michael by the possession of a ring.

Saunière embedded many symbolic references in the church for reasons unknown.

Buried Treasure

There are many theories about Saunière and the mystery surrounding Rennes-Le-Château. too many to put into such a brief blog, but what follows are some of the more popular ones.

Buried treasure has been one of the theories for Saunière’s wealth. One such theory is that Saunière found a hoard of buried treasure somewhere within the church or grounds. Possibly in a hidden vault underground.

King Dagobert II

There are several tombs below the church. One of the tombs refers to the final resting place of King Dagobert II. (Although other evidence suggests that Dagobert is buried at the St Dennis Basilica). It could have been that Saunière found the passage to this crypt. then finding the king’s treasure buried along with him. Dagobert II was from the Merovingian dynasty. They ruled Austrasia (the Franks, Gaul, Germany and Northern Italy) during the 7th and 8th century AD. Dagobert II had the royal title of King of Franks. He was born in 652 and died in 679 and ruled for 3 years before his death by assassination. Dagobert reintroduced the minting of gold coins. After an earlier ruler suspended the act. He was the last king to have coins minted in his name in Marseille.

The Goths and Solomon’s Treasure

Another theory is that it was King Solomon’s treasure that he came upon. About 37 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, in AD 70, Titus of Rome destroyed Jerusalem. Solomon`s temple was razed and the treasures carried off to Rome. This was later looted by the Visigoths in AD 410 after they sacked Rome. There is evidence that Rennes was once a stronghold of the Visigoths. Their spoils could well have been hidden on the site for safe keeping. During the times when the Romans and the Goths were constantly at war with each other.

The Goths were a Germanic race of people. They consisted of the Visigoths from the West and The Ostrogoths from the East. They drove the Romans out of much of Europe. They took over a large area from Germany and across the Eastern part of the continent. They settled in Southern Gaul, now France, to the Pyrenees and into Northern Spain. After the Goths had plundered Rome the treasures of Solomon’s Temple are took back to Rennes. Then hidden away for safe keeping. The Goths later converted from German paganism to Christianity. They would have considered the treasures of Solomon as sacred.

The Cathars

The Cathars also had a stronghold in the region. The Cathars were a branch of Christianity. They had differing views from the Catholic church. They were later persecuted and overrun by the Catholics, in a somewhat violent way. The Cathars occupied the regions of Northern Italy and Southern France. From the 12th to the 14th century AD. The Cathars` treasures could be hidden during their time of persecution. This was to protect them from the invading Catholics. It is said that they were the keepers and guardians of the Holy Grail. And that they acquired many other religious artefacts. Centuries later Saunière may have discovered their vast number of hidden treasures.

The Knights Templars

Another guardian of the treasures of Christ and Solomon was The Knights Templars. A Christian charitable order that had great input during the crusades. They were a military organisation and a strong fighting force. They received authority from the pope and grew to a large order. First founded in 1119, they were active until 1312. The pope of that time, Clement V, set out successfully to destroy them. The Templars accrued massive amounts of wealth and religious artefacts. . They considered it their duty to guard the sacred treasures of Solomon. There is speculation that The Templars had Solomon`s treasures in their possession. This also includes the Arc of the Covenant. They set up a headquarters in a wing of the royal palace in the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Temple Mount is built on the old site of Solomon’s Temple. This is how They acquired their name, originally the Templar Knights. They also had a stronghold in the region of Rennes-Le-Château. Another reason why the possibility of a great wealth was buried at the site.

The Jesus and Mary Myth

Another theory, one that has had much debate and at least one best seller written about it. It is the theory that Jesus bypassed the cross and emigrated to France with Mary Magdalene. Later, Berenger Saunière came across some documents, hidden away in his church. Indicating that the bloodline of Jesus’ family and the Merovingian Dynasty were related. As the story goes, the Vatican paid Saunière a vast amount of money for his silence on this matter.

Was this the case? If so, the Vatican would have carried out a less costly way of keeping this poverty-stricken priest quiet. What would have been the risk to the Catholic Church? To let a massive secret such as this left in the hands of a lowly priest. This theory seems to be one of the most farfetched of them all. But we must remember that the book in question was a fiction novel, so poetic licence is assumed.

Conclusion

Saunière was at Rennes as Parish Priest for 32 years, until his death in 1917. During that time Saunière appointed a housekeeper. Marie Denarnaud, who was about 20 years younger than himself. She became his trusted confidant and, on his deathbed, he passed the secret of Rennes-Le-Château to her. Denarnaud herself had instructions to convey the secret before her passing. Unfortunately, in 1953 she suffered a brain haemorrhage. This left her paralysed and speechless. So the secret remains that for future interested parties to ponder.

Many experts in various fields have studied this strange story. Journalists and authors have indulged their passion and much ink has been spread. Film crews have contributed their part. But no-one has ever come up with a cast iron explanation, only theory after theory. So, the mystery carries on and the same old questions keep coming up. Where did this peasant of a priest get such vast wealth? How did he become rich beyond his wildest dreams? What form of wealth or currency did he stumble upon? How did he manage to get such wealth, almost overnight? He spent the equal of four million pounds in today’s value, on renovating a village church and grounds? What are all those symbolic gestures about that he placed in and around the church? What did happen? We’ll never know the truth.

Published by Dave's Poetry & Mystery...

Hi. I am a retired builder. Born in 1954. My interests are: motorcycling, cycling, woodworking, wood carving, visiting countryside, reading, writing poetry, short stories, writing mystery and of course my new interest is blogging.

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