The letter has been translated from French obviously. Every effort has been made to preserve the originality.
Nicolas Fouquet and Rennes-le-Chateau
Introduction by Octonovo
After the death of Marie Dénarnaud, the Corbu family decided to live [in the property] that the maidservant of Bérenger Saunière [had] left them. There contractor, Noël Corbu decided to arrange the [property] in order to be able to receive visitors and tourists. He transformed the rooms of the Villa Béthanie for one to make a hotel and the old cistern under the covered way of the Magdala Tower in room of restaurant. Quickly, the restaurant of "La Tour" had a good reputation thus making [the] arrival [of many] visitors. All were surprised in front of constructions which the priest had left. Perhaps tired always to repeat the same thing, Noël Corbu recorded a text telling the history of Rennes-le-Chateau, his area and Bérenger Saunière. This text was diffused at the time of the services thus making it possible to the customers of the restaurant to discover this fabulous history. It is this text which we reproduce below. We underline here that it results from the original documents of Noël Corbu pertaining to Mr. and Mrs. Antoine Captier. Note 1
We thank them for their agreement.
"The history of Rennes-le-Chateau is lost in the mists of time. One can affirm without fear that this plateau was always inhabited. Certain historians wrote and fixed the foundation of Rennes-le-Chateau by the Visigoths around the 5th century. This is absolutely contradicted by the quantity of vestiges much older than one finds with flower of ground, than they are prehistoric, Palaeolithic or Neolithic, Ibères. Gallic Romans (Gallo-Roman). Their abundance and their diversity prove, without possible dispute that Rennes-le-Chateau was, well before the Visigoths, a large city. Other historians think that Rennes-le-Chateau was the capital of Sociates, very strong Gallic tribe which held in Céasar failure for a long time. This last, in its comments, reporting the fall of their capital, speaks about the country surrounding and its description corresponds exactly to the panorama which one sees of Rennes-le-Chateau: peak of Bugarach in South-east, peak of Cardou in the East, Terre de Becq and the Plateau des Fanges au Sud l'Aude and her meanders with the West and its valley in direction of Alet and Carcassonne. Nothing misses there and one can reasonably suppose that Rennes le Chateau, before being powerful Visigoth capital, was the Gallic capital, then large Gallo-Roman city, and certainly before this time, large prehistoric habitat. Why this importance of Rennes-le-Chateau during these times?
1 By its geographical situation which dominates and orders all the valleys: that of Knowledge coming from Rennes-le-Chateau and Narbonne, that of the Aude towards Carcassonne and Sigean, that leading to Puivert and Chalabre, and that which of Rennes-le-Chateau made it possible to go to Spain before the road passing by the Gorge of the Pierre-Lys is bored. The road Rennes-le-Chateau/Spain was certainly a Roman way, because perfectly paved sections are still found, and with the locality one finds a bronze wheel and a tiller of roman chariot, currently with the museum of Toulouse.
2 By the number of sources which, on this piton give water in abundance and which were never dried up.
3 By its very moderate climate, much less cold and of fog and fog in winter, much less hot in summer than the valley.
These three points make Rennes-le-Chateau an absolutely privileged place, a kind of oasis in the basin which it dominates. As of the 5th century, Rennes-le-Chateau which was called Rhedae, is a large city. Visigoth capital of Razès, it counts more than 30.000 inhabitants. The street of the butchers included/understood 18.000 of them. Its importance is such as the Bishops charged by Charlemagne the évangéliser of Septimania, the Visigoths having embraced well before the Catharism, the Christian heresy of the Aryanism, mention in the report/ratio with the Emperor only two important cities: Rhedae and Narbonne. The citadel of Rhedae had a surface of at least three times larger than the current village. 7 strings were counted. The city extended to the South to another piton where another fortress was built which one calls Castella. Another belt of fortresses defended Rhedae: they are the castles of Coustaussa, Blanchefort, Arques, Bézu, Carderonne and Couiza.
1 The decline of Rennes-le-Chateau starts with the Albigensian fights. Partly destroyed, it, on the order of Saint Louis, is rebuilt. Philippe the Bold one pushed the works of his father, and one can say that under 13th century, if the city does not have any more the importance which it had front, the citadel, it, is always upright and also powerful. But a rather confused business of sale of the territory of Rhedae to king of Castille makes that the Spaniards, to recover their purchase, invade Septimania and destroy first Rhedae once. Rebuilt only partly, it undergoes one second destruction in 1370. It was the end. Never again Rhedae was concerned its ruins: gradually the inhabitants went down towards the valleys and Rhedae which [in poor condition] became Rennes-le-Chateau and was nothing any more but one small village instead of the proud town of 30.000 inhabitants.
Rennes-le-Chateau would certainly have fallen into the total lapse of memory if a priest originating in Montazels, close to Couiza did not come to take the job of curé on June 1, 1885. For 7 years, the Abbé Bérenger Saunière carried out the life of very poor priest of countryside, and in his files, on his book of accounts, one can read, at the date of February 1, 1892: "I must in Léontine, 0 Fr. 40; I owe in Alphonsine 1 Fr. 65", and his economies which he names his "secret funds" go up at that time to 80 francs 65. In this same February 1892, the Master altar of the current church was falling in ruins, he had asked a help the Town council which had granted it to him to give it in state. The workmen dismounting it found in one of the pillars of the wood rollers containing of the parchments. The abbot immediately alerted seized some and something had to hold its attention, because he made the work stop immediately.
The following day, he left on a journey for Paris, says one, but we have not have any confirmation of it. On his return, he resumed work, but there, he did not make any more make that the Master altar, but all the church, then, he tackled the cemetery where he often only worked. He demolishes even fall it from the countess of Hautpoul-Blanchefort and shaved, itself, the inscriptions which were on this flagstone. The Town council was moved by the thing and prohibits to him to work with the cemetery, but the evil was made, because this tomb was to have an indication. He built the walls around the garden, in front of the church, uses a splendid pillar of style Visigoth of the altar, which he mutilates while making there [Engraved] "Mission 1891" to support Notre Dame des Lourdes, in another small garden. He entirely makes restore the presbytery; then in 1897, he ordered the construction of the house: Tower, covered way, winter garden, the whole costs him a million in 1900, which represents 250 million our currency. He furnishes the house and the tower sumptuously. His way of life is royal. Does the Abbé Saunière receive whoever comes and tous.les.jours? are festivals. The rum consumption, which he makes come direct lies of Jamaica and of Martinique reaches 70 litres per month. Without counting liquors of all kinds, the wines fine; the ducks are fattened with biscuits with the spoon so that they are finer. It is a true sybarite.
He receives one year Monseigneur Billard, which, according to people of the country, sets out again... rather content. Mgr Billard was astonished by the life of its priest, but he does not say anything. But its successor Mgr of Beauséjour, immediately requests accounts from the Abbé Saunière and convenes him to be explained in Carcassonne. But this last not wanting anything to say, [using the] pretext that he is sick, which he cannot make the voyage from Carcassonne. And, in support of its statements, shows certificates of Dr. Rocher, doctor from Couiza, false certificates, since we have a letter of Dr. Rocher saying in substance this:
"My dear friend, I send the certificate to you that you ask me and I will have a pleasure of giving you satisfaction".
The Abbé Saunière cannot go to Carcassonne, but he can however go abroad: Spain, Switzerland and Belgium. Absolutely secret voyages, and to give the exchange, he leaves his good and woman of confidence, Marie Dénarnaud, with his already written letters all thus designed:
"Dear Madam" or "Mister" or "Miss",
"I received your letter: I excuse myself to be able to answer at greater length, but I am obliged to go to the bedside of a sick fellow-member. With you very soon."
Marie Dénarnaud opened the mail and if a letter required an answer, put one of these short missives in an envelope and sent it. For everyone concerned the abbot had not left Rennes.
However [in the] Bishop's Palace, the things worsened. In 1911, Mgr of Beauséjour, exceeded to be able to obtain any explanation of its priest, accuses him of traffic of masses and the interdict. Judgment by contumacy. The traffic of masses does not hold upright, because they cost 0.50 Fr, it is to tell it quantity of masses which it would have been necessary that the Abbé Saunière receives to cover his expenditure. But it was the only means which its priest had Mgr of Beauséjour "to wedge". The Abbé Saunière does not incline himself in front of the sentence and at once made call in the course of Rome. He takes to defend an ecclesiastical lawyer, the Canon Huguet, who, to the expenses of the priest, goes to Rome. The lawsuit lasts two years and ends in a withdrawal of case, the count of indictment not being proven. But informed by the bishop of the 'magnificences' and the way of life of the abbot, Rome in its turn requires explanations which the Abbé Saunière again refuses to give. And it is under the inculpation of revolt and insult towards his superiors that he is again prohibited, and that definitively, April 11, 1915. However, [he is] made [to] understand with the Abbé Saunière that if he made honourable fine, one could consider a softening. One would see. But the ulcerated abbot, wants absolutely nothing any more to hear, nor of Bishops Palace. nor of the Church. Prohibited, to counter his bishop, he rented the presbytery for 99 years. In the small vault, which he built, he says the mass and a large part of the population of Rennes-le-Chateau comes to listen to him, while the regular priest, named by the bishop, obliged to live Couiza with four kilometres from there, because nobody wants him, said his mass in a so to speak in an empty church.
Throughout all his lawsuit with the Church, the Abbé Saunière did not make construction any more. But all being consumed, he remakes projects: construction of the road of Couiza with Rennes-le-Chateau with his expenses, because he intends to buy a car; water conveyance among all inhabitants, construction of a vault in the cemetery; construction of a rampart all around Rennes; construction of a fifty metre high tower in order to see who enters, with a circular staircase inside, a library according to the staircase; raising of a stage of the current tower as well as wintergarden. These various estimates and work are assembled to eight million but, that is to say more than two billion of our franks. And on January 5, 1917, he accepts the estimates and signs the order of all this work. But on January 22, is 17 days afterwards, he takes cold on the terrace, has a heart attack, which, complicated of a cirrhosis of the liver, does not forgive him. In short, he dies in the course of the day. Put in an armchair of the living room, there remains exposed there a whole day, cover of a cover with red pompoms. In veneration, those which came, cut a pompom and carried it. He was buried in the tomb which it was being made build with the cemetery.
The Saunière family was worried, then, to have the inheritance; but the Abbé Saunière had put this, very ordered, under the name of his beloved, Marie Dénarnaud, and she was and remained the legitimate owner so that the heir apparent went away all sheepishly. Marie Dénarnaud, very upset with the death of the priest, became an example of austerity. She withdrew herself into the presbytery, living absolutely alone and did not move any more. She did not descend any more only once to Couiza. During years, she refuses to sell his property but the coming age, she could neither supervise more, nor to make maintain, and gradually there was the destruction and plundering. Rare books, stamps works of art, all was stolen. When finally, in 1947, he decided and sold his goods to Mister and Mrs Corbu who transformed the old residence of the priest into hotel "La Tour".
As for the origin of the treasure that the priest found certainly and including one great part must still remain, the files of Carcassonne give us the explanation of it: Blanche of Castille, mother of Saint-Louis [Louis IX], regent of the kingdom of France during the crusades of his/her son, judged Paris not very sure to keep the royal treasure, because the barons and people of modest means revolted against the royal capacity. It was the famous revolt of the Pastoureaux ones [Shepherds Crusade]. She thus transported the treasure from Paris to Rennes, which belonged to him, then undertook a mother revolt, she there succeeds and died little afterwards. Saint-Louis returned from the crusade, then set out again again and died in Tunis. His son, Philippe the Bold One, knew the site of the treasure, because he was interested much in Rhedae, and worked on the defences. Also one still with certain foundations of turns of the spurs finds which are a characteristic of its time. But after him, there is a hole and Philippe le Bel is obliged to make counterfeit money, because the treasure of France disappeared. We must suppose that he did not know the hiding-place.
The treasure was found twice: in 1645, a shepherd named Ignace Paris, while keeping his sheep, falls into a hole and brings back in his shack a beret full with gold coins. He tells that he saw a room full with gold coins and became insane to defend the parts which he brought. The lord of the manor and his guards seek the place vainly where fell the shepherd, then it was the Abbé Saunière and the parchments. Always according to the files which give a list of the treasure, this one was composed of 18 million and half of gold coins in a number, that is to say in weight approximately 180 tons, more many jewels and religious objects. Its intrinsic value, according to this list, is of more than fifty billion. On the other hand, if his historical value is taken, the gold coin of this time being worth 472.000 Franks, one arrives approximately at 4.000 billion. Thus, in this modest village, with the panorama and the prestigious past, one of most fabulous treasures sleeps the which is in the world." This text has the characteristic to present various aspects of the legend treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau. We find Blanche of Castille there, the Visigoths and the legend of the Paris Shepherd.
1 Claire Corbu married Antoine Captier