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Museum panels: Berenger Saunière

Berenger SaunièreBerenger Saunière was born and raised near Rennes-le-Château in a town called Montazels. He was ordained and appointed abbé to Rennes-le-Château in 1885 at the age of thirty-three.

For six years Saunière struggled on a starvation salary. He managed to raise a little money from locals to restore the decrepit church. He began the work in 1891 and was dismantling the altar when he found a hollow in an ancient Visigothic pillar.

Inside the hollow Saunière found four parchments in wooden tubes. The parchments were said to be two genealogies, a two-sided parchement containing Greek scripture, and a confession of one Abbé Bigou, abbé at Rennes-le-Château in 1789 and confessor of the Blanchefort family.

Saunière took the discovery to his superior, the bishop of Carcassonne. The bishop sent him to Paris where he stayed for three weeks. In Paris, he was introduced to various persons known to be involved in esoteric and occult circles. He paid to have copies made of several paintings in the Louvre.

When Saunière returned to Rennes-le-Château his fortunes had changed. He began spending vast sums of money. He had a lavish villa built for himself and his housekeeper, Marie Dénarnaud. Then he added a strange tower overlooking the valley.

Saunière built a road and water system for the town. He refarbished the church in a garish and unorthodox manner. he gave money away and spent a fortune on his friends. Although a later superior demanded he name the source of his wealth, Saunière was excused from such an explanation by the Pope himself!

Saunière also did some unaccountable things, such as destroying several of the tombstones in the local graveyard and defacing other ancient local inscriptions.

Distinguished and mysterious visitors came to see Saunière at Rennes-le-Château, including Archduke Johann von Hapsburg, cousin of the Austrian emperor.

Saunière died suddenly of a stroke on January 17, 1917 at the age of sixty-five. His death came only days after Marie Dénarnaud ordered his casket. Though Marie said she would reveal the secret before she died, she never did. All she said was that people in the area are 'walking on gold an didn't even know it.'


Last update: October 24, 2007

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