Monday, July 10, 2017


The first time I went to Rennes-le-Château was in the late 1980s with an anthropologist. We'd been researching the Cathars and stumbled onto this village. Stumbled may be the wrong word, because it located on top of a mountain and to get there it is necessary to drive up a windy road.

Since then I've made six visits, the last Sunday with my husband.

The first visit there were almost no people around and we looked thru the strange church where our first sight was the devil.
Mannequin of Bérenger Saunièrein the musée.
Photo by Rick Adams
The village has become the center part of a mystery about a 19th century priest, Bérenger Saunière, who may or may not have found a treasure, may or may not have found the Holy Grail. The village may or may not have been visited by Jesus's mother. The Knights Templar, strange manuscripts and more and other mysteries swirl around. Hidden messages abound.

Books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail examine the ins and outs of the priest's sudden wealth. He went from having a church with holes in the roof to constructing a mansion, rebuilding the church and paving the road up the mountain. BBC was just one TV station to do a documentary. Dan Brown used Rennes in his Da Vinci Code and the priest's name for a character.

What has been more interesting than the priest's mysterious wealth, the history of the Visigoths and religious speculation, which I do find intriguing, are the changes in the village over the decades. Bit by bit they have turned the village into a gold mine with some tens of thousands of visitors because of various theories about an alleged buried treasure.

There is a woman, now,  at the entrance of the village charging 2 Euros for parking and a parking lot. A museum goes back in time to the Romans and Visigoths. There are guided tours, and reenactments in costume are planned for later this year.

Tourist shops feature art work and new age books.

There are restaurants and even a hotel. The priest may have had a mistress that doubled as his housekeeper, but she certainly wasn't anything like the woman decorating the side of the restaurant in the photo above. 

In a way, the village is to be congratulated. There would be no other real industry for the under 100-person population. 

They have a Facebook page. and a twitter account
@rlcresearch I suspect if Saunière were alive today, he would have set them up.

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