Marie Dénarnaud burning money

Paul Smith

1 March 2011

The Facts

On 22 January 1917 Bérenger Saunière died in abject poverty owing money to his greengrocer. It took Marie Dénarnaud his housekeeper over 5 months to pay for his coffin – the bill was finally settled on 12 June 1917 and the coffin receipt exists as proof.

Between 1917 and 1946 Marie Dénarnaud lived in abject poverty until Noël Corbu bought the estate and settled all her debts – she was living from borrowed money to pay for the upkeep of her estate – those who lent her the money were hoping they would get their money back sooner rather than later after she sold her estate.

The paperwork revealing that Marie Dénarnaud lived from borrowed money – and had been constantly harassed by the taxman – exists to prove all this.

In 1915 Saunière wanted to build a small summer-house but gave up on the idea because the price was too high – 2,500 francs.

These are the known facts that can be proved from existing documentation.

The Myth

The Myth dictates that Saunière lived a rich man throughout his whole life and was on the brink of signing a contract for the building of a tower costing a mere 8 million francs shortly before his death, and that Marie Dénarnaud lived a life of luxury from the wealth Saunière left behind. Following World War Two and the change in French currency, Marie Dénarnaud was "seen in the garden of the villa [Bethanie], burning vast sheaves of old franc notes".

About Bérenger Saunière planning to build a tower costing 8 million francs shortly before his death – here is a statement dated 28 August 1988 from Antoine Captier, the son-in-law of the late Noël Corbu:

"Abbé Saunière never planned to build a large tower shortly before his death. This is a figment of my father-in-law’s imagination. His sole plan was to build a small summer house, which we refer to in our book" [L’Héritage de l’Abbé Saunière, 1985].

About Marie Dénarnaud burning vast amounts of old French currency following World War Two, this is not referred to in the 1955 tape-recording that Noël Corbu made for his guests to the Hotel de La Tour – nor was it made by Robert Charroux during the 1960s when he gave an account of his liaisons with Noël Corbu in the first edition of his book Trésors du Monde, published in 1962.

The very first reference to Marie Dénarnaud burning vast amounts of old French currency was made in the Priory of Sion document ascribed to Madeleine Blancassall, Les Descendants Mérovingiens ou l’énigme du Razès wisigoth, deposited in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris on 26 August 1965 and linked with the activities of Pierre Plantard – who co-authored Gérard de Sède’s 1967 book L’Or de Rennes – the claim is therefore devoid of all provenance – started by Pierre Plantard and Gérard de Sède who were also responsible for making other bogus allegations about Bérenger Saunière in L’Or de Rennes.

When Antoine Captier and Claire Corbu’s book L’Héritage de l’Abbé Saunière was published in 1985 reference was made to Marie Dénarnaud destroying documents, not old French currency.

Gérard de Sède, L’Or de Rennes (1967)

Madeleine Blancassall, Les Descendants Mérovingiens ou l’énigme du Razès wisigoth (1965)