Summer in France - day 7: day of rest/the mystery of Rennes-le-Château


Tomorrow we move to a new region. There's nothing on the program today. We are going to read, enjoy the peace and quiet and especially do not rush.

But yesterday I was talking about the mystery of Rennes-le-Château. Now that I have some time, I'd like to go deeper into that.

The small village has not yet 100 inhabitants, but has been firmly on the map for centuries. It once had tens of thousands of inhabitants and was the capital of a province. It is strategically rather interesting: on top of a hill, with a very wide view.

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The whole mystery revolves around Bérenger Saunière, who became village pastor at the end of the 19th century. He wanted to breathe new life into the church and started some renovation work. There were no large sums available, but at some point huge sums were spent on the works. The church was lavishly decorated, was given a full fence with on the corner a tower dedicated to Mary Magdalene and attached to it a lush estate.

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The whole mystery revolves around the question of where he suddenly got all that money.

There are three different stories circulating:

1) During the renovation works of the church, the priest found a treasure that the Cathars had hidden there after their demise in their fierce resistance to the Roman Church and the French. By the way, we are in the middle of 'Le Pays Cathare' and are constantly reminded of it by remnants of castles. But there is no indication whatsoever that confirms this story.

2) Some think of a treasure of the Westgoths, hidden when Clovis and his men conquered Toulouse. No clue has been found for this either.

3) Others also think of treasure, but link it to the Knights Templar, who also wrote a lot of history in these regions. But there is no evidence for that either.

4) The most plausible story is the rumor that Saunière, when approaching the old altar in the church, accidentally found parchments in a column showing that Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus and had fled to France with their children. He brought the evidence of Jesus' bloodline to Paris, where he was paid to keep it quiet. The money he received was used to blame the church entirely on Mary Magdalene. According to villagers, he behaved very strangely afterwards: he was digging in the cemetery at night and made changes to an existing tombstone. According to the story, he's been hiding clues everywhere in and around the church. In any case, the church is lavishly decorated with all kinds of details and has some at least strange attributes.

When entering, for example, there is a kind of devil, Asmodeus, who carries the holy water barrel on his shoulders. This one has been damaged in recent years by a Muslim who knocked his head off. The statue was restored and is now in a glass security.


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We were also there in 2012, when the image was still free. In the photo below, my son, then 15 years old, is next to it.

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This is the entrance to the church. Above the portal, which is overly decorated, is the Latin text “Terribilis est locus iste”, which can be translated as “This place is terrible”, but can also be “This is a place of awe”.

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Also the inside of the small church is filled with sculptures, paintings and fire glasses with all kinds of details that you can enjoy for hours and discover all kinds of probable clues.

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For an additional fee, you can visit the former, adjoining manor and the domain around the church, where now there is a museum about the life of the pastor, his grave and possible replicas of clues he left to visit.

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To this day, the mystery lures many tourists to this small mountain village. It is also the food for many researchers who spend decades searching for and deciphering clues in all kinds of details in the church, the corresponding cemetery and various places in the area, where many strange symbols can be found. Authors of fiction also found a basis for their stories, such as Dan Brown in the 'Da vinci code'. Below you can see the official trailer of its filming. The museum's curator is named Saunière...