Yes we know. As Saussez already worked out, Saunière managed to appropriate some 600m2 of public space. He controlled access to this public space for 300 days a year. He bars access to the cemetery. He commences planned excavations behind closed doors. He moves the worship of the Blessed Virgin to the garden, which virtually empties the church [since devotees of the Blessed Virgin made up most of the congregation]. Why did he do all this? What was he up to?
March 1891 - Saunière enclosed this “square” and probably began working on the water-tank during this time - this was to provide water for the gardens surrounding the church.
The operative word here is 'probably'. In other words, it is not known. Unfounded statement. I also doubt Saunière did start work here - the monuments and flower beds promised to the council were not built until 1894-1897.
July 1891 -Saunière borrows 250 francs from Madame Marre Barthélémy
21 September 1891 - Entry in Saunière's diary: “letter received from Granès, discovery of a tomb (“tombeau”), rain in the evening”
On the day of the 'discovery' of the tomb the builders were in the process of installing the new pulpit in the church. We know that Saunière dismissed the workers who were doing the work, so we at least know he was inside the church [i.e. not outside in the cemetery, or digging under the library he built next to the cemetery etc]. If the 'discovery' was to do with the work around the new pulpit - we even know what part of the church was being dug up etc. It was the north wall of the church. As others have noted [such as Mariano Tomatis] - Saunière even left us a map of where that area was.
Saunière uncovered the entrance to a tomb near the place of the old pulpit [which was near the place of the now removed Altar of the Virgin] - this led underground into a crypt in the church, or perhaps even into the cemetery. The later staircase Saunière had built here matches the exact size of the original width of the altar of the Virgin (58cm x 200cm). Saunière conceals the entrances and hides them. Access is hidden by two false doors into a cupboard.
Saunière leaves for a retreat, sees various other priests, returns from the retreat and after a visit from 4 unknown colleagues, begins new work with new Masons. From Bérenger Saunière’s Notebook he wrote: “Saw the curé of Névian – Went to see Gélis – Went to see Carrière, Saw Cros and secret”. Sauniere said he saw ( vu ) the curate of Névian, a town not far from Narbonne, who's priest at the time was the Abbe Dumons, he also saw Antoine Gelis (1827-1897), priest of nearby Coustaussa, the priest of Bages-les-Flots, Carrière and Cros, probably the vicar general (1810-1898) who had accompanied Billard during his visit of 1889. On October 6th Sauniere writes: Visit of 4 brothers.
Are these the same four people named on September 29? I tend to take at face value what Sauniere wrote and his actions in the church ...
But wasn't Saunière having a new pulpit installed in his church at that time? No. Saunière's new pulpit was purchased on 20 October 1891 from Maison Giscard of Toulouse for the price of 750 francs.
Makes imminent sense that Sauniere demolished the old pulpit first then, and what is more he also moved the pulpit forward in position. Its obvious that this work would be done before he began to lay the foundations for the new pulpit a couple of weeks into October/November.
So the tomb he discovered could have been located next to the cemetery? Correct. Saunière discovered the tomb in September and purchased his pulpit in October.
Unfounded statement. An unfounded statement that others are accused of making. I will paraphrase an earlier comment: "he did not say where the tomb was discovered in his diary". There is absolutely nothing mysterious in disposing of the old pulpit and making plans and measurements for the new pulpit in September before ordering the new one later in October!
The discovery of a tomb on 21 September 1891 – demonstrates that the discovery of the tomb played no great role in Saunière's life.
Depending in what and where the tomb was. If it was a tomb under the church why then did he take such lengths to conceal it - with hidden staircases, concealed double locked doors etc? Why did he dismiss the workers and then employ a new set?
Why did he then start digging around in the cemetery? We know there are complaints about Sauniere doing this. Sauniere described that he was 'renovating the cemetery' [in 1894] but on 12 and 14 March 1895 inhabitants of the village sent two letters of complaint to the Préfet de l’Aude about Saunière’s work. They complained about what was really happening - Sauniere was *not* renovating the cemetery ["... this said work has nothing to do with repairs"] - he was upending everything. Seems to me the whole thing - that of finding a tomb and other tombs in the cemetery - was very important & it played an important role in Sauniere's life, at that point in time.
Hold on! What about Saunière dismissing his masons in September while they were working in the church? Confusion has been introduced into this story. Saunière did change his masons, but that was only because his money ran out from selling masses in September. Work resumed on the church on 14 October 1891 with new masons – the obvious reason why the previous masons weren't used is because by October they would have been working on another assignment.
Tomb found 21/9/1891. Sauniere dismisses workers that day.
28/9/1891 Leaving for a retreat, visit of M
29/9/1891 Saw priest in Nevian, saw Gelis, saw Carriere, saw Cros & Secret.
2/10/1891 - back from retreat
6/10/1891 - Visit of 4 colleagues
14/10/1891 - Agreement with new masons [not from the village].
His money ran out from selling masses 21/9/1891 [the day of discovery] but 3 weeks later he had the money to pay for a new team of mason's that were not local villagers? But in the meantime he had money to travel about in that 3 weeks visiting people and going on retreat etc. Seems unlikely he had run out of money. The same masons were not used because they would have been working on another assignment? Another unfounded statement not supported by anything and is conjecture.
There is no evidence that anyone entered the church crypt in 1887 when the new replacement altar was installed in Saunière's church. Jacques Cholet from Paris excavated the church of Rennes-le-Château during the late 1950s and early 1960s that included looking inside the crypt – he didn't find anything. Stories of buried secrets and hidden treasures in the crypt beneath the church of Rennes-le-Château are mere figments of the imagination.
Firstly Cholet did not *look inside the crypt*.
A history of this crypt or tomb below the church [which was first a private chapel of the Hautpouls] is well attested. On July 24, 1827, Bishop Saint Rome Gualy in the account of his pastoral visit writes:
"le pailler" faces the presbytery, the streets of "capelle". On the cadastral map, the parcel of land called "the capelle" includes the entire land: le pailler, presbytery, church and cemetery and the adjoining designated land titled "emplacement village', located not far from the feudal castle that lies next to the entrance of the cemetery.
The apse of the church and the walls that go up to the bell tower are constructed of stone arches and small Lombard device's, indicating the antiquity of this building to the eleventh century."
Historical records provide further information about the construction and implementation of the old chapel that the Hautpouls later used: Peter II [de Voisins], Lord of Rennes, received from his father Pierre the 1st, the old castle located to the east of the village called "Castrum Valens" - he did not think it necessary to restore and fortify a castle - of Visigothic origin (it remained then a large vaulted room which served as a stable) that already existed and which he [had] made [into] a real castle with four towers, three square and one round, which thereafter gave its current name to the village. Near the castle and adjoining the cemetery, there was the chapel built with Lombard arches and one narrow opening. Peter II and his successors later enlarged the funeral chapel [into?] the parish church, extending the three bays, the bell tower and the front porch."
The discovery & proof of the tomb of the Lords is also well known. The parish register of baptisms, marriages and deaths/burials covering the years 1694-1726 at Rennes-le-Chateau, owned by Corbu-Captier, is the only known archive to date, which, by the acts recorded by the priests of the village, furnish evidence of the authenticity of the tomb or crypt. Some passages found include the following:
"... Lady Anne Delsol aged about seventy five year old, widow of Sir Marc Antoine Dupuy Lord Pauligne, former treasurer of France in the generality of Montpellier ... provided the sacraments ... was buried ... in the church at this place of the tomb of the Lords by the baluster in the presence of Mr. Michel said parish priest of Saint-Just and the master priest Antoine Delmas priest of Bains ".
Signed Vernat Cure ".
Also buried in the funeral chapel; "Noble Sir Henry du Vernet, Lieutenant Colonel of the cavalry ... buried in the church of the place at the tomb of the Lords ... signed Vernat priest."
From the will of Henry Hautpoul, Lord Baron de Rennes, Aussillon and other places. ... "I recommend my soul to God and all the heavenly court, wishing that after my death my body be buried in the parish church of Rennes in said tomb of my ancestors and my funeral honors are made according to the will of Lady Dupuy my wife ..."
The current parish church was originally a mortuary chapel of the late twelfth and early thirteenth century, and the local Lords enlarged the chapel by extending the three bays. The space between the back of the chapel and the background of the church were raised and tiled. To access the shrine they built two hard stone steps which joined the two side walls. The old wooden communion support was replaced in 1828 by a wrought iron support communion rail with 2 gates/doors. From then on, it is no longer spoken of as a stately chapel but a parish church. For the placement of the tomb we have three pieces of information: the book/diary where Berenger Sauniere wrote: "September 21, 1891, letter Granés, discovery of a tomb, the rain tonight". A draft prepared by Sauniere before Monsignor Billard's visit in 1897 where he notes: "The corridors of the nave were tiled". Finally, the act of death of Anne Delsol where "the tomb of the Lords' is by the baluster".
Antoine Captier and Claire Corbu in The Legacy of Sauniere, page 274, regarding the baluster tell us: "We have every reason to believe that this baluster is none other than the one utilised by Abbe Bigou to hide the vial with a small parchment ... he could not ignore the existence of this tomb. Yet he will not use it to serve as a burial place for Mary de Negre d'Ables - she will be buried in the cemetery. " Referring to the archives, Marie de Negre, marquise de Blanchefort, who died January 17, 1781 could not be buried in the vault of the Lords of Rennes since a Letters-Patent of the King, made stipulations about burial in churches, chapels and cemeteries, dated Versailles May 15, 1776 and registered in the parliament August 23, 1776:
The first article stated: "No clergyman or lay person, of whatever quality, status and dignity it mayest be, with the exception of archbishops, bishops, priests and high dignitaries and founding chapels, can not be buried in churches even in public or private chapels, oratories and generally in all enclosed and enclosed places where the faithful for prayer and celebration of the holy mysteries, and this for any reason or under any pretext whatsoever."
We can not exclude that in the perimeter around the church of Rennes-le-Château there is a crypt. In recent years, that information circulates among the villagers - we will need to be patient and wait for the results from official excavations to confirm these allegations.