The Mystery of Rennes-le-Château

Rennes-le-Chateau and the mystery surrounding parish priest Bérenger Sauniere and how he got the tremendous sums of money needed to refurbish his church and grounds has been brought to the attention of tourists the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and more recently The Da Vinci Code and Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar. This is set to continue with Hammott's much anticipated novel, BEGINNINGS.

Saunière seems to have spent a better part of his life leaving clues to his sudden wealth embedded in the decorations of his Rennes-le-Château church dedicated to Mary Magdalene. If you visit the village yo may see a clue others have overlooked or perhaps you will find the treasure itself? Well, why not visit Rennes le Chateau and see? Just in case you need some catching up on the current state of the research, visit my Rennes-le-Chateau Research and Discoveries website

Getting to Rennes le Chateau

There is no mystery to visiting Rennes-le-Chateau. It is located in the Aude department of the Languedoc-Roussillon region near the Aude river south of Carcassonne. The closest village is Couiza. Just south of Couiza is the village of Esperaza with lodging and services as well as a fine Sunday market.

By Car: From Carcassonne take the D118 towards Limoux until you get to Couiza, then the D52 to Rennes le Chateau.

By Train: You can take a train or bus from the station at Carcassonne to the Couiza-Montazels station. From there you can likely get a taxi in Couiza to take you to Rennes-le-Château. Taxi Hoste: 04 68 74 25 36. It is possible to walk to Rennes-le-Chateau from Couiza although it is up hill all the way.

The Berenger Sauniere Center - Rennes-le-Chateau

Located in the northwest quarter of Rennes-le-Château, the major site, called the Bérenger Saunière Center, is open from 10am to 7 pm from the first of May through September 15, with shorter hours the rest of the year. This is what you've come to see. After you visit the church, you can buy a ticket that includes visits of the Presbytery where Sauniere lived, the Villa Bethania, the Magdala Tower and Gardens. There are annotations in English throughout. A visit should take 1-2 hours.

Recommended Accommodation while you explore Rennes-le-Chateau

Gite + B & B + Swimming Pool at LA MAISON du CHAPELIER


The Rennes le Chateau Mystery

In 1885 Abbé Bérenger Saunière is appointed parish priest of the tiny hilltop village of Rennes-le-Château.
     He was an ambitious young cleric, and probably unimpressed by the dilapidated condition of the ninth century church and the uninhabitable presbytery he found on his arrival. In October of that year Saunière he campaigned against the ruling Republican Party and was sent from the region for a short time as punishment.

Abbé Bérenger Saunière

Abbé François Bérenger Saunière 1852 to 1917

     After his return he managed to find enough funds to start the much needed restoration work to his church. He first repaired the holes in the roof and then started on the altar. It is said, that after he removed the heavy stone altar slab, he found some old parchments hidden in one of the two ancient pillars on which it had rested.

      Popular consensus now is that the parchment/s was found in the wooden baluster and not the stone pillar. (See my Rennes-le-Chateau TIMELINE for more info.)

After the discovery of any parchments, Saunière immediately began digging up the church floor and later was found digging in the graveyard at night. Helped in this by his housekeeper, Marie Denarnaud.

Saunière recorded in his personal diary on 21st September 1891, “...Found a tomb.” Whatever was found in the tomb is unknown, but it seemed to have been something he could profit from as it was only after this year of discovery when he began to spend lots of money. (Read about a Tomb I discovered by deciphering Saunière's church clues here)
Now he had the funds he could decorate the church just how he wanted.
He ordered the finest religious statuary from the Giscard factory in Toulouse Although most of the stuff he ordered were off the shelf items, he did add a few unique details, the Demon holding the Holy Water Stoup being one of them. He has also added local landmarks to the paintings either side of the Fleury Tableau and the view from the Altar grotto depicting Mary Magdalene. An inscription Saunière added above the front door reads - “Terribilis est locus iste” (This place is terrible).  The church took five years to complete.

Next he built an elaborate estate, which included the Villa Bethania, the Tour Magdala and the glass Orangey at the other end of the Belvedere that joined them. His landscaped gardens were full of exotic flora and fauna.

He entertained his invited guests with lavish dinner parties where only the best food, wine and lacquers were served. On 17th January 1917 Saunière had a serious seizure, and shortly before his death summoned the Abbé Jean Rivière to his deathbed to administer the last right and to hear his confession. The priest who heard the confession was so shocked he is said to have rushed from the room. Saunière died on the 22nd January 1917.

But the secret of his wealth did not die with him; Marie Denarnaud also knew the secret. Some years later in 1946, unable to cope with the upkeep and demands of the large estate, Marie sold the domain to Noel Corbu, someone she had become friends with., with the proviso she would be able to live in the presbytery rent free until she died. In return, before she died she would reveal the secret to him. Unfortunately she suffered a debilitating stroke that left her unable to talk or write. She took the secret to the grave with her when she died in 1953. However, previously Marie had hinted to Noel at some aspects of the secret and its great value, with phrases like, “Do not worry Noel, you will be a rich man when I die.”  And “The villagers are walking on enough gold to last 100 years without diminishing it.”

It seems Noel Corbu may have learnt something from her before her death, but it wasn't’t the secret’s location, because he started excavating various parts of the domain. He found nothing and gave up. He opened the villa Bethania as a hotel and called it La Tour. He entertained his guests with the story of the Mysterious Abbé Saunière. To gain publicity for his hotel he contacted a newspaper and they ran a story about the Rennes-le-Château Mystery. It soon reached a wider audience and slowly the village became a popular tourist destination. Many factors pointing to the truth behind Saunière’s wealth are still available for study. But despite the best efforts of countless experts, these mysteries remain hidden. Did Saunière find a legendary religious artefact, a horde of ancient treasure, or some terrible Christian secret? The answers may one day be revealed, but for now, Saunière and the source of his wealth remain a mystery.


Read about my Research and Discoveries in my book LOST TOMB OF THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR by Ben Hammott. More information here.


"Great book, buy it!" (Shadowfox)      "Fantastic book, well done Ben." (T.P)

5.0 out of 5 stars "One of the best books I have read...Beg, borrow or buy this book... you will not be disappointed". (Alan Scott)

100 years ago a French priest embedded clues in his church leading to a secret location
Those clues have been solved.
That location has been found.
The SECRET is revealed!

Read advance Chapter here