The curious story of the Rennes-le-Château curate.
François Bérenger Saunière was born on 11 April 1852 in Montazels, in the Arrondissement of Limoux in the Aude department. He was the first of seven children, with three brothers and three sisters. He was the son of Marguerite Hugues and Joseph Saunière (1823-1906), also called “cubié”, mayor of Montazels (Aude), owner of the local mill, and steward of the castle of the Marquis of Cazermajous. Bérenger Saunière in his youth was an athlete and considered an insolent, an independent and a rebel, paticularly against the hierarchy.
He attended school in St. Louis in Limoux, entered the Carcassonne seminary in 1874, and was ordained a priest in June 1879. From July 16, 1879 until 1882, he was vicar in another local village, Alet. From June 1882 to 1885, he was a priest in a deanery of the small village of Clat. He taught at the Narbonne seminary but, due to his indiscipline, he was sent to another small village of about 300 inhabitants, Rennes-le-Château, on 1 June 1885. He was anti-republican and had to leave his diocese from 1 December 1885 to July, because of the Roman Catholic Church’s huge politicization. In 1886, he get back to Rennes-le-Château since the villagers strongly wanted to get him back.
There are no real proofs, confirming rumors according to which Bérenger Saunière had a romantic or ambiguous relationship with his perpetual, Marie Denarnaud, how true is that speculations are just of bad taste, being based on nothing.
The presbytery was one of the main restoration projects that Saunière accomplished. He renovated the interior and exterior of the local church, built a large building which then named Villa Bethania, which became its residence and another marvellous building he then called Tour Magdala, built to be his library and private office where to isolate and study, work or prey. He also built a beautiful promenade along the edge of the village, and a tower on the local hill – a personal library called ‘Torre Magdala’.
Is told that Bérenger Saunière, during the works to renovate the Rennes-le-Château church in 1891, found ancient documents concerning an historical secret that could shake society from its foundations. The hypothesy of the curate being in possession of these documents, lifted many interrogations once was public knowledge, the amount Saunière spent to restore the church and the presbetery, because the wealth necessary to restore the proprty was absolutely disproportionate to the possibilities of the parish priest. The documents were apparently found in a “hollow Visigothic pillar” as mentioned in a deep study published by the Priory of Sion.
According to the chronicles kept at the bishopric of Carcassonne, the investigation initiated about the wealth that Saunière had and invested in the church’s restoration didn’t brengt big consequences and was those records to fuel suspects about some form of cover that the Roman Catholic Church would had arranged to deviate the mass attention toward places and events that may put in discussion some belief of basilar relevance for the religious institution, which the most extraordinary claim should that he would have discovered the tomb where he Jesus Christ was buried.
Saunière suffered a heart attack on January 17, 1917, and died the following January 22. Is told that the initial declaration of death on January 17, 1917, instead of the 22 of January, would be an hidden signal of the Priest about his belonging to the Priory of Sion, which recurring number is indeed 17.