On January 22, 1917, Bérenger Saunière died, and he was buried in the cemetery of Rennes, in a tomb in perpetuity. Marie Denarnaud remained in charge of the domain and was sole heir of the priest's estate. The years pass in silence. Marie Denarnaud continued living at Rennes-le-Château, condemned to be the guardian of domains that were impossible to maintain and as far as we know, she had already made some unsuccessful attempt to sell the lands that were impossible to maintain. Some letters were exchanged with abbé Grassaud in 1933, an intimate friend of Saunière, who encouraged her to sell the domains and even recommends a possible buyer. Meanwhile time is passing and the silence of these years is almost absolute. We only have some letters from Marie, such as the intention to sell the domains and some receipt of expenses and little else.
Then in 1936, out of nowhere, came Jean Girou. His book called " L'itenéraire en terre d'Aude," published in 1936, has a brief statement that for the first time introduces a certain mystery to this story:
"A la sortie de Couiza, un route monte vivement à gauche, c'est le chemin de Rennes-le-Château, sur l'arête du plateau, découpe a décor singulier: des maisons en ruine, a château féodal délabré, surplombent et confondent avec la falaise calcaire, puis des villas, des tours à véranda, neuves et modernes contrastent étrangement avec ces ruines: c'est la maison d'un curé qui aurait bâti cette demeure somptueuse avec l'argent d'un trésor trouvé , disent les paysans! "
"At the exit of Couiza, a road climbs sharply to the left, it is the road of Rennes-le-Chateau, on the edge of the plateau, a unique scenery is cut out: the houses in ruins, a ruinous feudal castle, merged with the limestone cliffs and villas, towers with viewpoints, the new and modern contrasts strangely with the ruins: this is the house of a priest who had built this sumptuous house with money from a found treasure , say the countrymen! [or the locals]".
This text raises several obvious questions, who were those countrymen who informed Jean Girou? Or had Denarnaud begun herself, to spread a different story, to cover up the traffic in masses? Who knows?
However, the 'countrymen' who may have told Girou might be closer to the story than we think.
French researcher léa rose posted on a French forum on 28 Oct 2017, 11:34 the following:
"I think that the mythology of Rennes started in the corridors of the Society of Arts and Sciences of Carcassonne under the presidency of R. Descadeillas in 1957. The beginnings of the history of RIC are in fact of local impregnation. René Nelli summarizes the state of mind of the learned Society of Arts when he said during a session of 1952: "The local history, the history of our city, is I think, our reason for being ". Before 1957, therefore, there is no reference on RIC, no study is attached to it within this society. From this date, several works referring to it will appear, in particular between 1957 and 1959. First of all with the article of René Descadeillas - "The seigniory of Roquefeuil in the XVIIIth century" which speaks of the family Nègre / Hautpoul. Note also the publication of the works of Mr. J. Courtejaire, a resident member elected in 1958, entitled "Mgr. Charles de la Cropte Chanterac, last bishop of Alet" and "Echoes of the ceremonies of Sabadell". And finally, the arrival of Abbé Mazières in the ranks of the Society of the Arts, with the publication of his study "The coming and the stay of the Templars of Roussillon, at the end of the XIIIth century in the valley of Bézu".
We have an idea of the direction taken during the meeting of June 1, 1959 which is chaired by Father Mazières:
"Mr. President (Mr. Boyer) addresses his welcoming compliments to the Abbe Maurice-René Mazières, elected as a corresponding member: Mr. Abbe, I have the pleasure to welcome you as a correspondent member of the Company who is pleased .... you are a high-class researcher (sic) ... Fifteen years ago, dear friend, you are immersed in your attempt to reconstitute history, more precisely on this theme: Why did the Templars of Roussillon come, at the end of the 13th century, to Bézu, Val-Dieu, Coumesourde, Campagne? I also heard that, on their route, you made, in their company, a detour through Rennes-le-Château, so rich in stories and legends ... "
In 1964, the "company" lost control over the local history with the intervention of Mr. Razouls on the genealogy of the Merovingian kings during the session of October 12".
So from this Mazieres was interested in the Rennes Affair since at least 1946!
There is a further option. One of the researchers of the "first wave", Yves Maraval, was none other than the grandson of Marcien Fondi de Niort ... the friend of Monseigneur Paul Félix Beuvain of Beauséjour. Yves Marvel claimed to have a very important tenth century document which talked of a 'treasure' in the area .... his family got this from the papers of the de Negre family through marriage. His father, Joseph Maraval, was a member of SESA in 1924.
We know a little bit about Jean Girou. He was was a doctor of medicine, a writer, a local historian, a playwright. He practiced in Carcassonne as an Oto-Rhyno-laryngologist doctor. The passion that he discovered for the Aude, he cemented by a series of books and articles in which he sang the glory of the beautiful region. He was also a member of the Académie des Jeux Floraux, a member of the Toulouse Academy of Arts, and for our purposes here he was a member of the Society for Arts and Sciences of Carcassonne as well as the Society for Scientific Studies of the Aude; finally, laureate of the Institute.
We know the priests and their wider families held important places in the church and also as landowners in the area - and they all seemed to be associated with each other, or knew one another during critical events .. - all this was identified by Descadeillas. Along with this many of the excursionists of June 25 to Rennes-le-Château were from these same neighbouring villages. In addition to Auguste Fons of Rennes-le-Château, there was also Mr Deville, Mayor of Alet, Antoine Fages (who will return in 1908) and Elie Tisseyre d'Espéraza! And for these people the story of Rennes-le-Château, after Fédié's book on the Razès, may have a particular historical resonance.
So something which was possibly mysterious and importantly guarded closely by the priests and their families extended out to these local people who were all members of local archaeological societies. The main Society would be SESA - with the Maravel's being members [with their knowledge in the 1920's if not earlier], along with the local society members on the ground for local knowledge.
Jean Girou as a member of SESA being privy to the gossip and therefore able to refer to it in a book he wrote in the 1930's, followed by Mazieres [who knew Cros] writing about the area as early as the 1940's, then Descedeillas and even Henri Montfried [from the research of Philemon, and detailed elsewhere on this site - Montfried was President of the Club of Researchers who came to RLC, and had links with Cherisey] - it would thus appear that Corbu [on the scene in the 40's] and journalist Salamon [the 50's] and then Plantard [the late 50's, early 60's] were relatively latecomers to the whole party!
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My name is Sandy Hamblett, inspired and passionate researcher of the mysteries at Rennes-les-Bains.