T H E   R E N N E S – L E – C H Â T E A U

 T H E M E   P A R K




“T H E    S A U N I E R E   E P I S O D E”

        W H O   W R O T E   I T?





PAGES (Just click on the page you wish to go to):


Page 1—Abandon All Hope: Introduction to a Hermeneutical Hell


Page 2—“The Saunière Episode”   Who Wrote It? 


Page 3—The Plantard Subplot


Page 4—The Lincoln Story & Its Aftermath


Page 5— Puzzling Pieces of the Story 


Page 6—Summing Up


Page 7—Links & Sources


All pages are best viewed by monitors set to 1024 X 768 resolution.





[Introductory note: The matter written on this page below and the following pages was originally written before 2000, and although updates have changed some of the details, the argument is essentially the same, that the fraudulence suspected in this case is not “pure,” not the classic con game for ill-gotten gain, found out because ineptly conducted, but rather seems calculated and deliberate, and so my speculation below is mostly aimed at the possibilities of what could be behind that, first in the case of the priest Saunière and then of Pierre Plantard and the Priory of Sion.   Along with others, I was guessing at various “secret” societies who might need a campaign of disinformation to cover what they were really up to, and “synarchy” is one of the possibilities mentioned.   Much of the guessing can perhaps now be dispensed with, after the 2006 publication of Picknett and Prince’s The Sion Revelation, where a synarchist agenda of an elitist “revolution from above,” to result in a theocratic United States of Europe, is pretty convincingly shown to be the antecedent and backdrop of, and link between, many secret societies and various religious, political, and esoteric movements of the last several centuries, perhaps culminating in France’s Mitterrand years,  but for our purposes most notably of the Priory of Sion.  This would even account for the inconsistencies in the Priory’s policy statements and historical claims as an example of the “shape-shifting” required by changing circumstances of a red-herring “front” organization, which the Priory seems to have been.  Even so, many of the questions raised below have not been answered.   This Page Two focuses on the original mystery of how the priest Saunière got wealthy and did what he did, and the next on how the Priory of Sion grafted onto that, and, if Picknett and Prince are right, it may be that synarchy is the missing link, whether consciously so or not.]



We’ve been teased into wanting to be “in the know” about the mystery of Rennes-le-Château by the slow leaking and compiling of information about this fascinating story over the last 50 years by, to speak of just the leading authors, five men with considerably different interests and motives, some questionable—Nöel Corbu, Robert Charroux, Gérard de Sède, Pierre Plantard, and Henry Lincoln (with co-authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh).  Corbu and Charroux certainly got the ball rolling (in the 50s), but Plantard and De Sède (in the 60s and 70s) are the main promoters of the Rennes “mystery,” at least in France, and they supposedly had other members of their putative secret society, The Priory of Sion, working with them, most notably the disinherited Marquis (again, putative) Philippe de Chérisey and Jean-Luc Chaumeil (Jewish, supposedly, with high connections in French law enforcement who later turned on them when he discovered Plantard’s apparently anti-Jewish roots.  Or was the fight with Plantard purely about money and the announcement of Jewishness on Chaumeil’s part merely part of a strategy to slander and discredit Plantard as anti-Jewish?  For Chaumeil has been reported by others to be orthodox Catholic!).  Chaumeil and De Chérisey actually seemed to replace De Sède after a few years (apparently due to a quarrel over book royalties on The Gold of Rennes).   Were there others?   Plantard claimed legions of supporters, but that may have all been on paper and in his fantasy.  Or somebody’s fantasy.   If it wasn’t a calculated disguise.

Plantard’s group (or was it just or mainly Plantard?) seem to have had ulterior motives of a conspiratorial nature, which became evident when they tried to influence a later group of researchers (in the 70s, 80s, and 90s) who came upon “the mystery” from a completely different angle, that of BBC-TV documentarians.  This last group was led by television personality Henry Lincoln, who after doing TV documentaries on “the mystery” eventually teamed up with Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh (famous for their questioning of the secretive handling of “The Dead Sea Scrolls”) in the writing of books, beginning with Holy Blood, Holy Grail in 1982, and often when I refer to “Lincoln” below I will mean this team.  It was Lincoln et al who made this a popular story world-wide and whose account I refer to as “the popular version,” although many others have developed it along the way and sent it in different directions, some of which Lincoln himself disapproves.  Several decades of village gossip may have helped shape the tale before it left town, as well, and, in fact, the oral tradition that preceded the written version, sustained first by Saunière himself (privately, maybe) and then mainly by his “servant” Marie (maybe), may be where things went off the rails, if that is what happened.   Such gossip seems to have been overheard by Plantard, De Sède, Charroux, and perhaps others in visits to the area before things got rolling.


It appears that “The Saunière Episode,” though supposedly known to a select few at the time, at least partially if not entirely, and maintained orally for forty years after the priest’s death (maybe), did not gain much currency in the larger world until from 1956 on bits and pieces of the mystery began spilling out in mostly popular media, and people began adding two and two and doing research on their own.  Research in the 60s and 70s led to the discovery that much seemingly relevant material, often privately and pseudonymously published, was also being deposited by mysterious persons in France’s Bibliothèque National.   What was up?



T H E   C O R B U   V E R S I O N



As far as the print version is concerned, the initial story-teller was Nöel Corbu, described as a failed businessman with an aristocratic background who ran a small hotel, the “Hotel de la Tour” (formerly the priest’s guest house known as the Villa Bethania, bought from Marie) and eventually a restaurant under the Tour Magdala’s esplanade, in Rennes-le-Château, after moving there with his family in mid-life.  Corbu continued the oral tradition, but then caused it to be converted into print when he “leaked” the story to the press in 1956, ostensibly to drum up trade.  Journalists from Dépêche du Midi, a regional publication (with Synarchist ownership!), dined at his hotel’s restaurant one evening and ended up publishing the story, of what has come to be known as “The Mystery of Rennes-le-Château,” after hearing the tale Corbu told his customers (sometimes by simply playing a recorded tape—see http://chuma.cas.usf.edu/~dietrich/ corbu.htm) and which he said he had learned from locals, especially from the priest’s “housekeeper” Marie Dénarnaud.   Charroux then picked up on this, and into books the story went. 

 [A digression—The Rennes Alchemist of October, 2003 has published a document submitted by Patrick Mensior entitled “Power and Death” that purports to be a hitherto unpublished text of Noel Corbu, written probably in 1955 but at least before 1965, but whether this came first or the taped version he played for customers at his restaurant came first is not established.   This new account is a much longer and more polished version of the story (partly because it’s better translated but mostly because it has a stronger narrative feel to it) and tells it quite differently, for one thing putting much more emphasis upon Marie’s role in everything, and for another leaving out elements of the story, such as Emma Calvé, St. Sulpice, and the paintings of Poussin and Teniers.   Although there seem to be no outright contradictions between the two accounts and one could justify their differences as simply different ways into the same material (one starts with the history of RLC back to pre-historic times, the other starts with Blanche de Castille’s supposed hiding of the royal treasure in RLC), that Corbu had different drafts of the story is of course going to lead to further questioning of the version first published.]


The crux of the matter is this--did Corbu just embellish an authentic story or did he make it all up?   Or was it already made up when it got to him?


The popular view is that Corbu told the story pretty much as it was told to him, mostly by Marie Dénarnaud, the “housekeeper” who had “inherited” the priest’s estate when he died in 1917 (Quotes around “inherited” because, actually, at his death people were surprised to discover that Saunière had long ago put all the property in Marie’s name, anyway!  It’s said that this was because priests weren’t allowed to own property, which may be valid, but Saunière surely didn’t put as much property into the name of a “servant” as he did unless there was an unusual, trusting relationship established).  Because she needed money near the end of her life, according to the popular account, Marie sold the priest’s guest house to Corbu (in 1946?), which he converted into the hotel (after her death but he kept lodgers before that).  Corbu and his family reportedly took good care of Marie in her old age, until her death in 1953 at the age of 85.  This scenario assumes that Marie told Corbu a reasonably authentic story, and the question then is whether Corbu pretty much left it that way or subjected it to heavy fictionalizing, if he didn’t make it all up.


The debunkers believe “the mystery” was entirely made up.  Unfortunately, the debunker’s case against the popular version follows more than one scenario, depending upon whether they see Corbu or Marie or Saunière himself as the original fabricator, with Plantard and his associates later accused of adding major elements to the fiction by grafting his family’s claims to ancient nobility upon the Saunière discoveries (as assumed by the story).  The whole Rennes-le-Château affair has been heavily debunked by various French sources (see bibliography on Page 7), while Brits make up most of the True Believers of the “proper heretics” sort, but the chief debunker has been Brit Paul Smith, who seems to be principally obsessed with disputing the claims of Plantard and his Priory of Sion (which will be dealt with on Page 3), but who disbelieves in the claims made for Saunière as well, and that will be the focus of this page.   Unfortunately, Smith’s zealous, rather bullying, and sometimes incoherent debunking raises questions about his motives and funding.  Smith gives the impression of being “employed” in this cause, which of course makes one wonder, “by whom?”   Smith is invariably banned from every chat room or internet discussion group for his rudeness and name-calling, so be wary of engaging him.  Nevertheless, Smith has built a case that can’t just be ignored   Let’s begin with Smith’s case against Corbu, which at least contains questioning of the Saunière episode that must be answered.  [A new development: much of Smith’s argument has been incorporated in Bill Putnam and John Edwin Wood’s The Treasure of Rennes-le-Château: A Mystery Solved (Sutton Publishing, 2003), although, strangely, Smith is given no credit and is not even named anywhere in the book except for one footnote reference to Smith’s website.  Putnam and Wood, who try hard to appear objective, systematic, and factual in their approach, appear also to be trying to disassociate themselves from the combative Smith.   More about this book later.]


On Smith’s often cryptic but also enlightening website, http://smithpp0.tripod.com/psp/idx.html (now moved to http://priory-of-sion.com, after removal of some material, including, it seems, the following!), he at times presents his case in his own voice but sometimes provides translations of French sources, which he presumably endorses (All too often, by the way, he quotes sources without putting these quoted passages within quotation marks, thus exposing himself, I would think, to charges of plagiarism.   But that’s his worry).   In “Two Accounts Relating to Marie Dénarnaud” (which I can no longer find listed on Smith’s website!)  the author translated first, Vinciane Denis, muddies the waters by first implying that Corbu’s tale was largely factual and then that it was largely fictional.   Without questioning Marie’s credibility, Denis says that Corbu “recounted the facts as Marie had told them to him, summarized them and brought out the picturesque details….” 


(And on another page, by the way, Smith indicates that Corbu’s story was based not just on oral accounts but on Marie’s “archives relating to…Saunière.” Presumably these archives are what Corbu’s daughter and son-in-law Antoine Captier used in establishing the Saunière museum in 1989.  Well, why would Marie have kept such artifacts unless she thought they supported her exalted view of Saunière, a man she clearly planned to spend eternity with because she had herself buried right next to him?  Would she have kept them if she thought they proved Saunière a crooked priest?). 


But when Corbu went on to say that Saunière at his death had building plans costing another eight million francs, Denis comments that “for the first time the story of Bérenger Saunière becomes part of the world of fiction.”    What is meant by “for the first time”?  That is at least ambiguous, and it even seems to contradict the earlier assertion that Corbu “recounted the facts as Marie had told them to him.” 


Denis may have meant that that single detail—the eight million franc building plan--then convinced him that the whole tale was invented (which I infer because Smith certainly treats pretty much the whole Corbu story as fiction from there on, presumably based on such accounts as Denis provides), but Denis’s text here sets up a contradiction of that assessment by first implying that the rest of the story Corbu told was not fiction, that only the eight million franc building plan was fiction.  Confusing, to say the least.


 I appreciate the contributions that Smith’s historical sleuthing is making, however borrowed from French sources it may be (are these sources all right-wing Roman Catholic, by the way?), but he really needs to be clearer in his statements and more explanatory.  His website is as frustrating as it is enlightening because it is so fragmentary, hops around so much, is often imprecise in its language and vague in its references, does not notice or attempt to deal with contradictions, takes as proof what is only assertion, does not take into consideration the veracity of the testimony, and too often merely hints where it should boldly state and explain in detail.  Perhaps he’s assuming that his reader has read everything else on the subject or on his website, but I doubt that that is often the case.  Smith needs to explain, for instance, how he (presumably following Denis) leaped to total disbelief in Corbu’s story when encountering the eight million franc building plan.   And was it the building plan itself or the eight million francs that convinced Denis and Smith that Corbu’s tale was too tall to contain any truth?


If it was the eight million francs that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, this is then just part of Smith’s general argument that, based on his reading of extant accounts, Saunière’s income from 1891 on has been grossly exaggerated.  And he believes that Saunière actually lived in poverty from 1905 on, thanks to Republican legislation separating church and state and cutting the clergy off from traditional funding [Putnam & Wood do not entirely support this, for Saunière’s spending continued to be lavish during this period, although he seemed to be under more strain in paying his bills].  Smith believes Saunière did not find any “treasure,” that Saunière was simply a simoniac (as his bishop later charged), guilty of trafficking in masses and selling masses to the rich, which even the most ardent simoniac would have difficulty making millions on, even if he actually spent all day every day saying that many masses.   Smith has published on his website a translation of a work by Jean-Jacques Bedu that agrees with Smith that Saunière’s wealth came from trafficking in masses, but Bedu thinks Saunière simply took the cash without saying the masses and thus was capable of acquiring considerable amounts of cash, although perhaps not piling up as much money as the popular story wishes him to.  At any rate, it seems it’s primarily Smith’s disbelief in Saunière’s extreme wealth, in the millions of francs rather than in the thousands, that makes him dismiss Corbu’s account rather than Corbu’s account itself.


Smith may be right, but both Bedu’s account of Saunière’s “Mass Books” and certain elements of the story call his estimation of Saunière’s income into question, as follows:


   Others have found suggestions of secret accounts, for example, as far away as Budapest or even abroad, and certainly if Saunière had possession of the sort of Secret he is supposed to have had and had contact with the sorts of people he is reported to have had, he surely would not have been dumb enough to confine his income accounting to his usual books, the books to be found in the archives.   It is quite reasonable to assume that the majority of his income and expense was “off the books,” another thing that contributes significantly to our “Hermeneutical Hell.” 

  Then there’s Saunière’s tendency to put property in Marie’s name.  Was his later “poverty” (if Smith is correct in that) only in appearances, due to his putting everything in Marie’s name?  If he was using Marie as a screen for property-holding, why wouldn’t he have used her for money-laundering as well?  And if secret accounts existed at the time of his death, would not Marie have closed ones she knew about and destroyed records of them?  (And, by the way, would a priest entrust a mere “housekeeper” with such things?   It’s pretty clear that Marie was a good deal more than just housekeeper in this house.   See the section on Page 5 entitled “The Romantic Couple.”).   And, finally, it’s assumed by the popular story that Marie, who outlived Saunière by 36 years, lived on money or treasure he left her, only falling short when France’s changing currency after World War II forced her to burn her remaining money rather than give an accounting of it.   It would take a lot of money to get through even 30 humbly-lived years.  It’s either explain this or give a different accounting of Marie’s life after her priest’s death.  It’s said she became a recluse, but, if she was poverty-stricken (because property rich and money poor?), was she forced to work for a living all those years?  If so, what did she do for a living?   And did she or did she not keep telling Corbu that they were all “walking on gold”?   If she did, was that just to keep him interested?   After he signed the papers buying the property from her and made the deal to take care of her in her last years, why would there have been any need for her to continue the ruse, if ruse it was?  


  Another question concerns motive. If Saunière was receiving large sums from certain wealthy people, then, as some have charged, why wouldn’t blackmail have been just as likely the cause of this income?  If Saunière held the key to the kind of Secret some suppose he had, or if he was trafficking in forged documents that threatened certain powerful people, as lately has been claimed, then blackmail would be very plausible.  And it’s plausible too that the “Mass Books” were attempts to disguise that.  But if blackmail is not the case (and I’m inclined to think it wasn’t because of Saunière’s tone of righteousness), one could think of other reasons why certain rich people would give Saunière money, such as because they supported his esoteric endeavor, whatever it was, and if it was simply monarchist, then there were plenty to support that.  He may have had wealthy sponsors, who kept their own accounts, and who might even have schemed to cover the money they gave him by pretending to ask him to say masses for their souls!  Which would be especially ironic if these sponsors were actually “heretics” or secularists.  Bedu’s account of Sauniere’s “Mass Books” suggests that they are ambiguous documents, that could just as easily be read as an attempt to disguise something as to keep track of something.    And the requests for masses may have been from a mixed group, including those who were sincere, merely responding to his ads, and those who were using the trafficking as cover.   At lest one letter exists strongly suggesting that Saunière had rich sponsors but without revealing the motives of such sponsors.


  Further, if simony was the case, why would these particular rich people have given money to this particular priest?  What made Saunière the simoniac of choice?  Given how small and obscure his parish was at the time, why would the rich have picked this particular priest to support, rather than, say, their local priest, or some more famous priest or larger church?  In short, what made Saunière’s masses so worth the price?  Smith’s explanation that he was working the anti-Republican crowd all over France and elsewhere in Europe through advertisements doesn’t seem adequate, even though the evidence of such ads appears to be there, unless there was some special reason for such masses to be said at Rennes-le-Château rather than, say, Lourdes or someplace else.  What would that special reason have been? 


    Smith reports that Saunière at his trial claimed to have spent over 200,000 francs (over 3 million in today’s francs, apparently) but could only account for about 36,000 francs, considerably less than half of what even Smith estimates it would have taken to do what Saunière did in Rennes. (Incidentally, the “Mass Books” do not seem to have figured in to Smith’s calculation, and so why not, since they apparently could have proved Saunière’s claim of greater wealth?   The new Putnam & Wood book makes no attempt to add up income and expenses, although citing items of expense as they go, taking at face value the sums Sauniere reported of 193,000 francs as income and 190,000 francs as expense.   Nor do they attempt to translate the money into current values, except off-handedly (in a footnote!) suggesting a multiplier of 7 to get today’s equivalent in pounds.  The problem here is that inflation and devaluation and currency conversion over the years make it difficult to compare money values from different periods of history, and this seems to be especially the case here.  The True Believers think Saunière’s money was worth a good deal more in today’s terms than the debunkers do, and each can make a case.  

    So the question is—was Saunière’s estate as it was in his day affordable by a simoniac, no matter how diligent or fraudulent he was?  Granted, it doesn’t appear that it would take millions to buy the property and build what he built on that land and also renovate the church, but by Smith’s own calculations it also seems clear that a mere 36,000 francs wouldn’t have come close to covering his expenditure.  Not to mention all the money supposedly spent fêting locals and visiting celebs and on making improvements to Rennes-le-Château (if those accounts are credible), and on travel (which is increasingly being documented).  And what of his and Marie’s lavish spending on living expenses, which seems to have been mostly “off the books”?   As for not being able to account for his expenditure, this fits in with the presumed secretiveness of his accounting practices.  Obviously, he could not reveal secret bank accounts (but we should be on the lookout for coded references to them).  And Smith’s thesis that Saunière exaggerated his expenditure in order to make it appear that his income was not small enough to support the characterization of a simoniac seems to raise even more serious questions about the priest.   At the moment Saunière claimed 200,000 francs as his income, surely any ecclesiastical authority would have been even more alarmed and even more diligent in discovering the source of that income, for surely something more serious than ordinary simony would have been suspected.   It seems more logical that Saunière claimed 200,000 francs because he knew that that is what he (or someone else!) had actually spent on Rennes or perhaps what an objective assessment would have arrived at, and so he didn’t want to be caught with an obvious discrepancy between the physical reality and its cost.   Perhaps he felt it was better to suffer the embarrassment of not being able to account for expenditure and thus thought to be covering up simony than to be discovered as a perpetrator of “crimes” the Church would think more serious.  He may have thought he was lucky to get off being thought merely a simoniac, which allowed him a convenient cover as well.   And that would also account for his defiance after the trial and his continuing to say masses on a make-shift altar outside the church.   This may have been a man who thought he was in the right, and the Church could go to hell with its piddling indictment.  If he was part of the anti-modernist movement within the Church, then that could account for his attitude toward what he thought was a Church that had lost its way.   Lately, some commentary connects Sauniere’s rise and fall in fortune to changes in the papacy, which at the end led to his extravagant building plans for the future when the right sort of pope came into office and caused him to hope for a return to his old ways.    


  And it doesn’t seem likely that his building of the guest house was merely to accommodate those he was selling salvation to or to, eventually, provide a retirement home for priests (as he claimed to his bishop).  If the Villa Bethania was a House of Simony, wouldn’t we have heard about that from the locals?  All we’ve heard from the locals is that there was much partying going on there, with VIPs featured.  Incidentally, although the locals were clearly upset with Saunière at times, especially at his desecration of the graveyard, it’s noteworthy that they closed ranks with him when the Bishop suspended him and ignored the new priest sent after Saunière’s suspension in 1911 and instead congregated for services around the altar he constructed outside his guest house.   Interestingly, Smith has an entirely different theory about the use of the guest house; he wonders if it wasn’t built for the monarch-in-hiding, Le Roi Perdu, this monarchist supported.  But inasmuch as Saunière was calling attention to this place with his other construction, it doesn’t seem logical that he would simultaneously be hiding a pretender to the throne.  


   Similarly, why would a simoniac call attention to his corruption by building such an outrageous estate and by restoring his church in such a gaudy manner?   Saunière has been accused of “bad taste” in renovating his church, which may be the case, but that doesn’t mean he was stupid as well!   And why would he keep the “Mass Books” that Bedu uses to build his case on if he thought them incriminating?   Or why wouldn’t Marie have destroyed them?   Is it possible that he constructed them deliberately as red herrings?   Or to authenticate his cover story?    Have they been authenticated as his, by the way?


    TOP   END  



The gaudy pulpit of Saunière’s church, St. Madeleine’s



  There is some difficulty in reconciling the picture of a right-wing, ultra-righteous priest trying to bring his Church back to righteousness with the accusations of simony.  He speechified about the moral bankruptcy of the Republic and its new capitalism, so why would he choose to be a poster boy for Church corruption?  Well, politics is known for making hypocrites of people, and hypocrisy fits the picture of Saunière as someone who was pretending to be someone he was not, but this rather contradicts the idea that his pretense was to cover treasure-hunting or some other secret, which seems to better fit with accounts of his activities, such as his constant tramping around the countryside to collect “rocks” and his digging about the place and his refusing to allow the locals one time to use his covered well to put out a fire.  What was he hiding in that well?   Also, a secret room has been found in the church that Saunière is known to have popped into from time to time, especially after one of his tramps around the country collecting “rocks.”  And he was known to dig in the church cemetery at night! Where he reportedly defaced a tombstone that supposedly held clues to deciphering the parchments.  Curiouser yet, Saunière had letters prepared to send out when he took certain mysterious trips, letters Marie then mailed to make it appear that he was in RLC when he was not!   All this surreptitious and duplicitous behavior does not fit well with the obvious display of wealth he was making.  Add a “stealthy” Saunière to an “ostentatious” Saunière and you get a two and two that are not adding up here, and so we have to ask if we’ve got the equation right. 


  There is also some question raised by the fact that the accusations of simony were not brought by Msgr Billard, Saunière’s bishop at Carcassonne during the period when Saunière was involved in his most extravagant expense and who supposedly encouraged Saunière, but by Msgr Beauséjour, who replaced Billard in 1902.  Suspicions of collusion with Saunière have been directed at Billard because the Bishop died a millionaire, and Smith thinks those unwarranted because the bulk of that wealth came from the bequest of a rich lady.  But this just makes one wonder why this particular lady gave this man so much money.  And did she give it to him as a man or as a bishop?  And why did he spend much of it, apparently, on the purchase of a particular church—Notre Dame de Marceille in Limoux? [Smith’s explanation that its value was as another shrine to a miraculous appearance of the Virgin, bolstering the case for Saunière’s and Billard’s being of the chivalric party that especially venerated such shrines because they were part of the conspiracy to restore the monarchy, has mysteriously disappeared from his website.  Incidentally, the Black Madonna in that church has recently been decapitated! ].  Because it is believed that there is something fishy about the whole simony trial of Saunière, that it must have been trumped up, either to cover up something or because the new bishop hadn’t been or couldn’t be “bought off,” some remain unconvinced that Beauséjour’s treatment of Saunière as a simoniac is to be taken at face value or that it is the whole story.  It would be interesting to know if Beauséjour was of the modernizing party within the Church and thus found himself especially antagonistic to a reactionary Saunière on those grounds.   Or was Beauséjour simply overzealous in trying to clean up the financial mess left by Billard?  Factor in too that a new law passed in 1905 prohibiting priests from owning anything (as part of the movement to separate Church from State) may have been a  principal motivating force for both Beauséjour's investigation and the strange ways that Saunière reacted to it and prepared for it by putting property in Marie's name.

Finally, for more on Beauséjour's possible motives,  I would recommend reading an article by Nicolas Mazet at http://www.tsj.org/saunmarg1.htm that provides the most detailed account of Saunière's finances I've yet come across and that argues for sources of income that no one has yet considered, such as his serving as "Marguillier" (some sort of Trustee or Adminstrator) of poor box funds for several parishes.  


Yes, it’s possible, maybe even likely, that Saunière was not as filthy rich as the True Believer account contends, but the case has not been proven conclusively, and may never be proven as long as it’s plausible that secret accounts were involved or that Bedu’s view of Saunière as a simoniac who didn’t earn his pay is possible.   We must also keep open the possibility that, with the accession of a pope who was more sympathetic to him, Saunière knew that he had substantial funds coming his way from his sponsors or the people he was bribing, so that even the extravagant building plan he had at the end of his life may not have been beyond his reach, or rather the reach of his sponsors or payees.


 Ironically, it appears that corroboration of Saunière’s grandiose plans for further building, including major improvements to the village and a car for himself, has come to light (see André Douzet’s Sauniere’s Model).  That a man plans grandly doesn’t mean he has the means to see it through, of course, but it may mean, as Douzet speculates, that he had sponsors who could see it through.  However, since Corbu’s son-in-law, Antoine Captier, wrote to Smith in 1988 denying that any such plans existed, such being the fabrication of Corbu, Douzet’s opposite claim will need further verification.  But if it can be verified, then that would lend credence to the popular view that Corbu mostly told the truth, saving a few embellishments and over-dramatization.   But can this really be settled?   How well did Corbu’s daughter and son-in-law know the old man?  Did he have a secret life?  Are children always the best guides to or the most informed about the lives of their parents?  And what about the manner of Corbu’s death in 1968, in an auto accident?  People have wondered about that, as it is just one of many “accidental” deaths connected to this case.


Smith seems to have been influenced in his opinion of Corbu by his discovery that Corbu, when younger, had had aspirations of being a novelist and had even published a detective novel, Le Mort Cambrioleur (interestingly, a novel about double identity). Once a fabricator, always a fabricator, seems to have been Smith’s conclusion; but that is surely not a necessary conclusion.  My own experience of fiction writers, which is considerable, provides the rule that when they write historical fiction most writers do not stray far from the “facts,” such as they are known, rather preferring to build their fiction from them, and when they write history or biography, as Corbu apparently thought he was doing, they stray even less.  Even so, there’s some fiction in almost everything written, including the writings of people who think they’re not writing fiction, so one must always be ready to discount that.   Of course there are exceptions, and Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code may be an example of that!


 {By the way, there are lots of writers and at least one actor involved in the development of this story, and the debunkers visit the same suspicion upon such imaginative types as Plato did when he banned them from his utopian Republic!  However, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.   My training in literary analysis makes me suspicious of all the texts in this case, including those of the debunkers.  I see all texts here as parts of a single but very complex Grand Text in which the parts mostly talk past each other, in a series of monologues, creating some sort of madhouse Tower of Babel, if taken literally.  Most arguments just ride off on their own hobbyhorses, and many take leaps of faith at just the moment when one longs for substantive proof.   There seems to be little effort to address the evidence of others with different views in any sort of direct, rational, sequential way, covering all bases and backed up by solid proof at every step of the way.   Instead of proof we get assertions and inferences and testimony that can’t be backed up.  Appeals to authority are often dubious because most “authorities” are themselves dealing mostly in speculation or with disputed documents and do not agree among themselves, not to mention the bias of “History-as-Written” and the fact that some of these authorities had or have motive for not telling the truth, some of them even being treasure-hunters.   It might be said that Putnam and Wood’s The Treasure of Rennes-le-Château: A Mystery Solved is an exception to what I’ve just described as the norm in RLC studies, and certainly the authors think so, but I urge you to count the number of times in this book that the authors assert that something is true without providing any or adequate proof.   This book has a higher standard of proof than most, perhaps, but still it’s the same old story in that too often they ask you to believe in something they lack proof of.   And, while their effort is especially helpful in corroborating the view that Pierre Plantard simply grafted his monarchist ambitions onto the RLC mystery,  a conclusion we had already come to, they are less convincing in dealing with the RLC mystery itself, and surprisingly their check of those finding geometric patterns on the ground in the region more confirms than not that such exist, though they argue for coincidences as the cause.   And, like every other RLC study, this one omits to deal with a number of elements of the story, probably because they can’t yet be explained (just note the still unanswered questions raised on this website), and so these loose threads will continue to be the subject of speculation.     


Back to Smith’s ironic “leap of faith” in Corbu as complete liar, when he decided to dismiss Corbu’s story altogether.  But it seems unlikely that Corbu would have told the story as he told it, with those particular details, unless prompted by his recollection of what Marie and her “archives” had told him.   Embellish and dramatize, yes.  Make it up entirely?  Doubtful.  Because his hotel guests could see with their own eyes what Saunière had done.  A guest at this hotel would not have looked around at Rennes-le-Château and guessed that the story was entirely made up, that it covered the sordid reality that the priest had been nothing more than a simoniac.  Quite the contrary.   Why would a simoniac call attention to his crimes in the way Saunière did?  He was obviously proud of this place, not ashamed of it.  Which is also why I’m dubious about charges of blackmail.  I’m inclined to believe that Saunière thought he was in the right and had done right.   And that he was being sponsored in this.   Whatever it was he was doing.}


As said, the debunkers sometimes confuse matters further by equally entertaining the notion that Marie is the original liar.  If Corbu’s tale is largely fictional, it could be because Marie Dénarnaud is the one who made it up and Corbu was just telling it as it had been told to him!  And one could find motivation for Marie’s lying.  Perhaps Marie was desperate enough in her old age to attempt to dupe with a wild tale the only person gullible enough to buy her property, significantly someone from outside the community.   (Although Corbu didn’t necessarily have to be gullible; we could imagine him as seeing through the tale but also seeing its potential as a magnet for tourists, and perhaps in addition the fabulist in him relished the tale and enjoyed embellishing the tale further.)  Or perhaps Marie just wished to replace the awful truth about her corrupt lover man with an ennobling myth that would transmogrify them both, make them mysterious romantic lovers guarding the Treasure of the Ages.   Or perhaps she felt that her lover was not corrupt, that to the contrary he had produced something truly remarkable, which she had contributed to, and thus they deserved transmogrification on those grounds.  Or some combination of motives.   And then she kept Corbu and his family in suspense and in attendance upon her by promising to reveal The Big Secret.   Well, maybe so, but I fail to see how this debunking version of the tale could be construed as any less romantic than that of the True Believers, another irony to add to the pile.  And the fact that the debunkers can’t make up their minds about who the principal liar was suggests that, ironically, they care more about the principle of the thing—that we have been lied to—than about “the truth.”   We are confronted with the Grand Canyon of irony here, layer after layer!


At any rate, the centerpiece of the tale Corbu told was Saunière’s finding ancient, coded parchments while digging around in his church that served him as a guide to some sort of significant treasure, which Corbu specified as the treasure of the Capetians (the royal house of France from 987 until 1328), concealed in the thirteenth century by Blanche de Castile, who was de facto ruler of France (today’s north France) while her son, the pious but bloody “St.” Louis, was off on the Albigensian Crusade butchering “heretics.”  A threat of a barons’ revolt in the north supposedly persuaded her that the royal treasure was safer in the south, where Louis had joined his army with Simon de Montfort’s in an attempt to squash “heretics” and take their lands, with the Pope’s blessings.  Curiously, although there’s no reason Capetian treasure couldn’t be here, the popular account generally does not pursue that, perhaps because steered by later accounts to favor other sources of the treasure but also because even the True Believers thought Corbu was just guessing in this part of his story, as was everybody else, including, perhaps, Saunière himself.   And, besides, the True Believers wanted the “treasure” to be more exotic, more significant.  And so, instead of Capetian treasure, most guessed that the “treasure,” if literal, might have belonged to any number of groups who preceded the Capetians—Carolingians, Cathars, Knights Templar, Merovingian Franks, Visigoths, Romans, Gauls, Celtic Druids, ancient Hebrews, etc., all of whom certainly had occasion and perhaps reason to bury treasure here or have it deposited for them.   And of course  it could have been the same treasure passed through many different hands and gradually added to.  However, the True Believers rather prefer the idea that the “treasure,” or the most important “treasure,” was not literal treasure but some sort of significant knowledge or Wisdom that brought money-making power to the priest.  Such as blackmail power because this knowledge threatened the establishment!  Or perhaps the power of magic-making ritual!  Or perhaps the power to grasp the profoundest secrets of the universe!  Or perhaps knowledge of alien origins and secret technology derived from that.  And so on!


Whatever the “treasure” was (of repute, that is), from then on Corbu’s “leak” eventually combined with “leaks” from other sources to inspire mostly French tourists to show up at the Hotel de la Tour to see what was going on (and which continued after Henri Buthion purchased the hotel in 1964.  Corbu died in a suspicious car wreck in 1968).   As they dined in his restaurant, Corbu played a tape for them of “The Mystery of Rennes-le-Château” (a transcript of this 1955/56 tape may be available in the Archives de l’Aude in Carcassonne, and an English translation is now available on Torkain’s website—see page 7 or click here (mark your spot!).   Was this just business as usual?  For Corbu, perhaps. The economic motive is always present in this story, but perhaps sometimes as a distraction, a misdirection, and in this instance seems relatively innocent, providing that Corbu was not in cahoots with the other “leakers” but just being businesslike about his hotel.  Incidentally, another theory about Corbu is that he was sent to RLC by that spooky secret group may think was operating behind the scenes to get control of Marie’s property and conduct investigations and excavations.     


If Corbu’s motive was relatively innocent, in the sense of not being part of some grand conspiracy but just transparently self-interested, this was in contrast to what, according to the popular view, appears to have been the principal motive of the other leakers.  The others were decidedly not innocent of conspiracy, and their principal motive seems not to have been economic.  “The conspiracy” that followed Corbu appeared to True Believers to be about power, power on a grand scale, and maybe salvation (international salvation more than personal salvation), with probably benevolent intentions, as long as we understand that “Hell is paved with good intentions.”  And it’s at this point that the debunkers have their strongest case for fraud, even if ultimately that does us no good in solving “the mystery” because it does not implicate Saunière, who was long dead when it began.     




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