Cover photo full
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrRennes-Les-Chateau is located slap-bang in the middle of Cathar country, has been visited by the Templars, and has been linked to secrets pertaining to the Holy Grail, hidden treasure, and the ancient bloodline of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. In short, Rennes-Les-Chateau is not just stooped in mystery; it is saturated.
A visit to this sparsely populated settlement, located a few kilometers South of the nearest town, Coiza, involves a day trip at best, and there is not actually that much to see. Despite this, Rennes-Les-Chateau receives tens of thousands of visitors every year, and is a fascinating place, with a unique and charming atmosphere.
Rennes-Les-Chateau does not sit isolated by its mystery. The whole area is full of wonder and new-age ideas and people, from the legends of Rennes-Les-Bains, to the spirited hippy markets of Esperaza, and the sacred and revered mountain, Bugarach .
HistoryRennes-Les-Chateau was once a pre-historic settlement, and was later a Roman colony, or at least a Roman temple. In the 6th and 7th century, it was a part of the huge Roman city, Septimania , which then had a population of around 30,000.
By 1050 the Counts of Tolouse had control of the area, and were responsible for building many more castles, though nothing remains of these early ruins. Later on, in the 13th century more castles were built in the area when the Cathers defended against the Catholic onslaught. The volatile Spanish border also needed to be defended, which made the area extremely important for fortification.
It was at the end of the 19th century, when the poor parish priest, Berenger Sauniere, began to spend way too much money to be realistic for what he earned, and so the mystery of Rennes-Les-Chateau was born. According to his book keeping he was in debt, but his expenditure totaled around 660,000 francs, the equivalent of several million today.
He was suspected of mass trafficking; taking money for masses that he never performed, but the numbers do not add up, and even if this were the case, it would only be possible that this account for less than a quarter of his spends. He was also sometimes seen digging in the cemetery at night, with his housekeeper, Marie Denarnaud. Strange man.
Since then, much speculation has arisen surrounding the source of Sauniere's fortune, the location of the rest of his treasure, and the unspoken secret that was never passed down.
Myth And LegendThe trail of mystery surrounding Rennes-Les-Chateau is so deep and wide, that it really falls into the realm of conspiracy theory. The truth is, no one really knows how Saundiere got his money, and whether there is any left. Several excavations around the site have revealed very little, and have been essentially anti-climactic. Some suggest that the secrets are revealed in sacred geometry, while others believe that Saundiere knew something that allowed him to bribe the Vatican; a secret concerning the bloodline of Jesus Christ, and that revealed that Jesus never died on the cross, and that he fled to Europe with Mary Magdalene.
The area has also been linked to several secret societies, Gnosticism, and even to UFO sightings, and other such supernatural phenomena. Other peculiarities related to Rennes-Les-Chateau include, Cather treasure; Templar treasure, crypts; the tombs of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, stories about the the Ark of Covenant; and more.
Berenger Sauniere CenterThe main attraction in Rennes-Les-Chateux is the Berenger Sauniere Center, where you can investigate the mystery of a priest who built a castle and renovated the town, using riches that came from an unknown and speculative source. This story was popularized by best-seller, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, and later Dan Brown's Da Vinchi Code, both of which speculate as to what the mystery really means.
A ticket to the Sauniere Center includes entry to the castle, both inside the rooms, outside in the gardens and castle walls, and to the Bethania House, where Sauniere was said to entertain his high society guests. One of the main features of the castle is the Tour Magdalene, built by Saunieres in 1901, which he used as a personal study and library. Visitors can climb the stairs to the top, and will be rewarded with a stunning, panoramic view across the surrounding countryside.
The castle and grounds are very interesting to visit, but to get the most out of your experience in Rennes-Les-Chateau, you really have to engage with the mystery, and remember that everything that you see is unsolved. Clues and symbology are everywhere, but, as is the nature of conspiracy, it is impossible to put these clues together, not into any one picture that makes more sense than any other.
Church Of Saint Mary MagdaleneThe second sight to see in Rennes-Les-Chateau is the richly historic church in the village, which is again stooped in mystery. The church has been rebuilt several times, with evidence to suggest that the earliest church was built in the 8th century, before it was ruined and rebuilt in around the 11th or 12th century; Romanesque pillars can still be seen today.
The church gradually fell into disrepair, and was renovated by, you guessed it, Priest Sauniere, the man of mystery himself. The church is small and simple, with a quiet atmosphere, and is, quite unusually, but by no means unheard of in France, guarded by a Devil statue who bears the weight of the Holy Water.
The VillageThe village of Rennes-Les-Chateux is quiet, and features a tiny population of 91 residents, which is pretty crazy when you consider the thousands of visitors that are welcomed. Local business provides everything you need for a day trip, though you can expect tourist prices. The main attractions are the church and the castle, but you can enjoy amazing views and a relaxed place for a picnic, or spend hours contemplating subtle symbols; the language of secrets and mystery. There are also two book shops in the village, which sell detailed literature on the history and mystery of Languedoc-Roussillon, Cathars, Templars, and Priest Sauniere. There is a café and a small bed and breakfast, as well as a restaurant.
The residents are fairly alternative, as are the general population of locals and travelers in the area. You are sure to meet some interesting folk if you spend some time there.
How To Get TherePublic transport to Rennes-Les-Chateau is not great, and not direct, but also not impossible, and not hugely inconvenient. The nearest large city is Carcassone, which offers great train links to nearby towns such as Couiza. Couiza is the nearest village, and from there it is possible to take a taxi, or even to walk to Rennes-Les-Chateau. What are you waiting for? Go and explore the mystery for yourself.
Do you see any omissions, errors or want to add information to this page? Sign up.
Author: M.Warburton. Last updated: Apr 03, 2015