Rennes-le-Château and the Devil

Paul Smith

23 June 2014

Gérard de Sède was the first author to exploit the statue of the Devil in Bérenger Saunière’s church of Rennes-le-Château for sensational gain and to call it “Asmodeus” in his book L'Or de Rennes (René Julliard, 1967). The photo of the Devil on the cover of de Sède’s book was one of its biggest selling points.

Not even Noël Corbu, who first popularised the alleged “mystery” of Rennes-le-Château during the mid-1950s, used the statue of the Devil or called it “Asmodeus” as part of his “mystery repertoire”.

The Devil was not mentioned in any 19th century archaeological journals when describing Saunière’s church in the context of visits to Rennes-le-Château. The Devil is not even mentioned in any of the existing published correspondence belonging to Bérenger Saunière, other than being mentioned in a duplicate receipt dated 30 June 1897 that was obtained and had to be produced during the priest’s ecclesiastical trial in 1910-1911 (part of Invoice N° 6). Here the statue is simply described “diable” and not “Asmodeus”.

The statue of the Devil was purchased from Giscard & Co of Toulouse. A copy of the 1897 Catalogue has not survived, so it cannot be established whether it was specially commissioned by Saunière. The statue of the Devil and the Holy Water Stoup was included within a set of Postcards produced by Saunière circa 1907 – captioned “Bénitier de l’église”

The explanation as why no special attention was paid to the statue of the Devil is because it wasn’t considered anything special to practicing Roman Catholics of the 19th century, as Christopher Scargill in his 1985 article commented “The myth-makers saw in this stoup all kinds of strange messages but the image is understandable, if in somewhat questionable artistic taste” (The Abbé Saunière’s ‘Treasure’, page 9, Popular Archaeology, April 1985).

It has been observed that the original head of the devil in Saunière’s church strongly resembled the head of the Dragon slain by St Michael, also offered in Giscard’s Catalogue, supplier of Saunière’s church decorations.

Moreover, Holy Water Stoups containing Devils are still available in the present day from various suppliers, like from La Caravella in Italy.

Saunière Postcard, circa 1907 - captioned “Bénitier de l’église”

Photo credit © André Galaup, 1981

Photo credit © Paul Smith, 1990

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