Why has no other researcher found copies of these adverts?
The Semaine de Suzette was a child's magazine for girls, published in France from 1905 to 1960, famous for having revealed the character of Bécassine. It doesn't sound like the type of magazine Sauniere would solicit masses from.
One researcher has found an unpublished letter where Sauniere is asking for a bookbinder to bind his books and journals. The letter is interesting because it tells us about some of the library of Saunière in 1907: about 400 volumes. In the "quarto" Sauniere mentioned easily recognized weekly serials such as Les Veillées des Chaumières or L'Ouvrier. When the "octavo" is mentioned this is for books of smaller sizes, paperback. This small inventory obviously does not take into account the books that Sauniere could have bought already & bound. [see HERE].
Corjan de Raaf also reports HERE about trafficking in masses. He writes [& i have bold typed what i consider the most important statements];
"During his life, Saunière recorded much of his spending in his account books.
- 229,351 gold francs on his land, constructions, decorations etc.
- 465,000 gold francs in consumption during 10 years
Many believe Saunière financed his lavish lifestyle and building projects by committing simony also called mass trafficking. Mass trafficking was a well known practice among priests at the time. In principle it wasn’t illegal. Priests would receive money from the faithful for saying masses. It often happened that the priest received the money but never did the work for it. If a priest would receive requests for more than 3 masses a day it would become suspect. By ruling od the diocese the surplus would have to be paid to the bishopric. A request to say a mass would cost 0.5 gold francs increasing up to 1.5 francs by the end of Saunière’s life.
There’s no doubt whatsoever Saunière was guilty of the practice of Mass trafficking. He kept meticulous records about it that can be found back in his accounting books from 1895 to 1915. These books are in the possession of Antoine Captier and Laurent Buchholtzer.
Being the well organized man that he was the Abbé used ordinary directories to find addresses to send out requests for money to say mass. He would start at ‘A’, working his way down the alphabet. It’s well known that he spent a small fortune on postage and that the local post office in Quillan was kept quite busy by him. From his own records we can see that Saunière received requests to say no less than 110,000 masses for which he was sent 100,000 to 125,000 francs in the post. The amount was a fortune by all standards in those days. At the same time it can no means account for all of his excessive spending. Less than 20% of Saunière’s income came from mass traficking. Where he got the rest is the core of the Mystery of Rennes-le-Château.
When the priest died he left all his possession to his aide Marie Dénarnaud. He didn’t leave any debts.
So where did it all the money come from -
As intriguing as the amount is where all the mass trafficking money came from. From the records it shows that the gold francs rained in from all over France. Curiously enough, although hords of researchers have been looking for it for a long time, no-one has ever found an advert in any magazine of paper from Saunière in which he requests money to say mass. Nor has there been found one written request to any of his benefactors.
Saunière received money from neighbouring priests. For example Sarda, the Chaplain of Rennes-les-Bains (where Henri Boudet was the priest) donated almost 1,500 francs to Saunière between 1899 and 1902. The money also came from convents and monasteries from all over France. It included places like Chartres and Lourdes. Not the places you would think need a mass said by the priest of a tiny dusty village on a far away hilltop in the Languedoc.
Jerôme Choloux has counted the known, requests for masses Saunière received and plotted them on the map of France. Most come from Paris with over 300 requests. The rest comes from all over France. Perhaps it is here we have the real enigma of Rennes-le-Château.
Bérenger Saunière had several other sources of income.
When Saunière was asked to account for his expenditure during the trials of 1910 and 1911 he reported having received 82,800 francs in gifts between 1885 and 1905 from a number of benefactors, many of which anonymous. It included 30,000 francs through his brother Alfred. The gifts cannot be traced or evidenced.
Collection Boxes - The priest placed six locked collection boxes in his church in 1897 and a big one in 1898 made of oak wood. These 7 boxes generated a steady stream of income. According to the priest, he collected 1,200 francs per year. He didn’t keep any notes of the income from these collections so it’s impossible to validate this amount. From the amounts collected in comparable French villages it’s more likely he received 500 to 600 francs per year from the collections.
Saunière had a priest’s salary of approximately 900 francs per year. In 1894 the Dénarnaud family moved in with Saunière. Together they made 900 francs per year in the hat factory in Espéraza.
When the construction of his domain was finished Saunière had 33 postcards made that he sold to visitors of the domain. The proceeds from these sales where never recorded.
The priest made a hobby out of restoring furniture and selling it. Again no records survive.
According to some French researchers that live closest to what is left of the original sources, the French police did some investigation after the priest’s death. Allegedly the report they produced spoke of trafficking gold with Spain.