No treasure at
Excavations conducted beneath the Tour
Magdala at Rennes-le-Château on 20 August 2003 in search of treasure
yielded negative results – involving Professors Eisenman and Baratollo,
who have both been working on this project since April 2001.
The negative results should not surprise
informed researchers who have known for decades that no "treasure" at
Rennes-le-Château ever existed and is merely the fantasy of confidence
tricksters and catchpenny authors.
That an archaeological dig in the first
place should have been carried out at Rennes-le-Château during recent
years is in itself a statement of sheer ignorance on the part of those
archaeologists and scholars concerned – it demonstrates that they failed
to read reliable scholarly books on the subject matter that reproduced
primary source evidence relating to the activities of the abbé Bérenger
Saunière and were instead impressed by pseudo-historical and
The life of the abbé Bérenger Saunière
is very well documented and bears no relation to the fantastic claims that
have been written about him.
Saunière was just an ordinary Roman
Catholic French priest who happened to hit the jackpot when he sold masses
during the conflict between Church and State in France 1885-1905
(advertising in religious papers, magazines and journals around the
world). The fact is that he lived in poverty for most of his life except
during those years just mentioned. Saunière’s estate was valued at 18,000
francs by the Crédit Foncier de France in 1913 when he asked it for a loan
in order to clear his debts (he was offered 6,000 francs). 18,000 francs
could easily have been raised through the selling of masses. Saunière died
in both debt and in poverty in January 1917, following his interdiction as
a priest by the Carcassonne Bishopric in 1911 for accepting more money
than he was able to say masses for (his Notebooks demonstrate this).
Saunière never regained his priesthood, contrary to popular accounts, and
he did receive the Last Rites on his deathbed.
These facts have appeared in two French
notable books – Mythologie du trésor de Rennes by René Descadeillas
in 1974, and in Autopsie d’un mythe by Jean-Jacques Bedu in
1990. Both books contain references to primary sources.
That the priest Saunière got his wealth
from the selling of masses is of course droll and boring, and not half as
exciting as believing that his wealth came from discovering a "treasure" –
which of course produces sparkles in the brain.
The story of Saunière discovering a
"treasure" was created by Noel Corbu when he opened a restaurant in the
Villa Bethanie during Easter in 1955, and needed a publicity gimmick in
order to attract custom to his establishment. In 1967 a book by Gérard de
Sède was published that provoked a warning in the local religious journal
from Monsignor Georges Boyer, the Vicar General of Carcassonne, who was
later to outline the faults in de Sède’s book in a local newspaper.
Many archaeological digs – both official
and unofficial – have been carried out at Rennes-le-Château during the
1950s alone (both inside and outside the Church) and a very good account
of these activities can be found in Mythologie du trésor de Rennes
by René Descadeillas.
The most interesting account relating to
Bérenger Saunière came from a Monsieur Espeut, relating to his activities
of the 1920s:
"...I would like to
state that the Abbé Saunière never found any treasure. You see, I was
actually born in Espéraza. My family knew the Dénarnaud family. In 1925,
when I was 14 years old, I used to go up regularly to Rennes-le-Château. I
used to go and see Marie Dénarnaud. She was living in rather pitiable
circumstances. I did my harmony lessons on the organs in the salon, which
have now disappeared. In the library of the Tour Magdala, I read all the
correspondence of the priest with his ecclesiastical lawyer at the time of
his trial at the court of Rome. It was by collecting money for saying
masses that the Abbé Saunière was able to construct his estate. He
published small ads in the Catholic press throughout the world. I was able
to read their texts, and I have seen thousands of replies. I would also
like to state that, between the ages of 15 and 20, I thoroughly searched
the area within a 500-metre radius of the Villa and the Tour Magdala. I
never found the slightest evidence of a hidden treasure. I am telling you
this out of respect for the truth..." (Midi
Libre, 13 February, 1973).
It must be stressed that none of the
essential French books on Rennes-le-Château have ever been translated into
English, so the truth about the abbé Bérenger Saunière is never likely to
be made available to the English-Language world. English-Language
Publishers only accept Manuscripts for publication that further promote
the myths and fantasies. And publishers like Leyden Brill of Holland would
not accept any Manuscript of any sort on Rennes-le-Château simply because
it would be regarded by them as marginal lunatic-fringe material.
by Paul Smith