"Rennes-le-Chateau" Rennes-le-Château by Kaspian

Rennes-le-Château Travel Guide: 13 reviews and 28 photos


Travel Dates: September 7 2011.

Why go to a small town with a population of under 100 on an isolated hillside on the cusp of the Pyrenees? There's something strange here and what it is can drive a grown man mad, make a person wistful, and have visions. Is it the thin air? The story of Rennes-le-Chateau makes the JFK assassination or the Roswell UFO crash conspiracies look like a children's jigsaw by comparison.

The Myth and Mystery

In a nutshell, the story goes as follows: In 1885, a pesky priest by the name of Berenger Sauniere was sent by the clergy to Rennes-le-Chateau, a small, remote village of 200 people, in an attempt to keep him out of trouble. While restoring the dilapidated church, Sauniere discovered some coded parchments hidden in an old pillar. He took the documents to Paris to have them analyzed. (Now, this is where the story gets really interesting.) On returning back to Rennes-le-Chateau, Sauniere suddenly began living like a king--spending millions of francs on renovating the church grounds, the town, building his own villa and library, and hosting lavish parties for international guests and celebrities. He decorated the interior of the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene with all sorts of bizarre ornaments and symbols which still verge on outright heresy.

So, where did the money come from? What was it exactly that Sauniere found? Secret information with which to blackmail the Vatican? Or, as some speculate--the location of a gold stash, the hidden treasure of Jerusalem, the Ark of the Covenant, the tomb of Mary Magdalene, or even the Holy Grail itself?!

It's an epic tale that spiderwebs out to encompass the Cathars, the Visigoths, the Knights Templar, King Dagobert II, the Mergovians, the Pope, two famous painters, graves being moved in the middle of the night, a secret society called "the Priory of Sion", and none other than the man-of-the-hour himself--Jesus Christ.

The Likeliest Truth

Occam's razor states: "The simplest explanation is most likely the correct one." In all likelihood the story of Rennes-le-Chateau is a hoax of the most intricate and gargantuan proportions. Sauniere probably made his fortune through religious fraud--by taking money from people for masses and prayers for the dead which he never performed. He decorated the church in a distasteful manner because he was a show-off and in order show his displeasure with the church for having exiled him. The treasure rumour was started up almost 100 years later (in the 1950s) by a local restaurant and hotel owner named Noel Corbu in order to drum up more business in Rennes-le-Chateau. The story was then expanded upon in the early 1960s by two Parisian men--Pierre Plantard and Gerard de Sede to incorporate the coded parchments, the Priory of Sion, and a bunch of other weird bits. Their reason? It was Plantard's ambition to see himself entrenched as an important figure in the history of France. Then in the 1980s, along came the poor genuine researchers and reporters, falling directly into the honeypot set for them. Author Henry Lincoln and a few others exhaustively documented all of the stories and facts they could gather about Rennes-le-Chateau and drew their own conclusions in the book, "The Holy Bood And The Holy Grail". It quickly became an international bestseller. The phenomenon really took off after elements of Rennes were mentioned in Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" and nowadays the town attracts hoardes of treasure hunters as well as the idly curious. ...The only problem is that nobody knows exactly what it is they're supposed to be looking for!

Me? I'm along for the ride. Whether fact or fiction, this is quite possibly the greatest story ever told. And there are mysteries here. And there is something strange in the air. Rennes-le-Chateau has been the home of people since prehistory, then through the Celt and Roman eras. At one time it was a Visigoth bastion, home to 30,000 people. ...Yes, there be ghosts here.

Personal Note: Every time I look at photos of Rennes-le-Chateau I feel physically sick to my stomach. ...And yet I would return in a heartbeat.

Recommended Books: "Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail", "Holy Blood, Holy Grail".

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:You will find treasure.
  • Cons:You will find darkness.
  • In a nutshell:Terribilis est locus iste.
  • Last visit to Rennes-le-Château: Sep 2011
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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