Rennes-le-Chateau: Latest attempt to gain official permission to excavate the church of St Mary Magdalene – letter from DRAC to Albert Fagioli
REPUBLIC OF FRANCE
PREFECTURE OF LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON
Regional archaeology services
Montpellier, 8 April, 2011
To: Mr Albert Fagioli
Subject: Parish church of Rennes-le-Château, Department of the Aude
In your letter dated 21 March 2011 you have requested permission to investigate the subsoil of the parish church of Rennes-le-Château.
First I must point out that, contrary to my request contained in my previous letter to you dated 4 June 2009, and which is attached to your request, you do not provide the documents which I have been expecting from you.
In your letter, and in the bulky file which you have attached to it, I cannot see any evidence of any scientific problem which might be elucidated by archaeological research. A mere summary of the history of Rennes-le-Château cannot constitute a research proposal. Like many of the surviving hilltop villages of Southern France, Rennes-le-Château was probably initially a Gallic oppidum, then an ancient agglomeration, then a medieval village. That does not provide any justification for exploring the subsoil of its church. You also refer to the possibility of “a tomb of the Lords of Rennes” located beneath the church. I am obliged to say that this is a relatively frequent, even commonplace feature to be found beneath the majority of churches of medieval origin, and in which the minor nobility were in the habit of having themselves interred. In addition, the geological nature of the rock underlying the village easily explains, without any mystery, why many natural cavities can be found there.
Reading your submission closely I have come to the conclusion that your project is in fact connected with a treasure-hunt with possible accompanying media exposure. This has nothing to do with the national archaeological research programme undertaken by the Ministry of Culture and Communication. Consequently I see myself obliged to refuse you permission to carry out archaeological research in the Commune of Rennes-le-Château. I must finally remind you that any archaeological research undertaken without the prior approval of the Regional Prefecture constitutes an infraction of the Code du Patrimoine, which renders you liable to legal proceedings,
On behalf of the Languedoc-Roussillon Regional Prefecture and by delegation on behalf of DRAC by permission.
Regional Conservator of Archaeology
Copy: Town hall, gendarmerie.