Rennes-le-Château Church Excavations 1959

Paul Smith

Jacques Cholet (1911-1985) from Paris was granted permission to conduct archaeological excavations beneath the Church of Rennes-le-Château between the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was unable to find anything, as his Report dated 25 April 1967 makes clear. There is currently a fantastic demand for the burial crypt beneath the church of St Mary Magdalene at Rennes-le-Château to be excavated – but most people are completely unaware that this has already been done, producing negative results.

Below is Cholet’s letter dating from 1959 asking for permission to undertake excavations (English translation with the original French).

To the Mayor of Rennes-le-Château

My dear Mayor

Having already obtained permission from the religious authorities I now request you to allow me to undertake, in the church of your village, investigations, soundings and perhaps excavations, both within the church itself and in its appurtenances and surroundings.

It is of course understood that these investigations will be performed in collaboration with the Abbé Rigaud so that his church services are not disturbed in any way. The principal purpose of these investigations is to find the treasures hidden several centuries ago by various persons who lived in Rennes-le-Château and the secondary aim is to elucidate certain points of history and archaeology.

Since I only have about a month for these investigations there are several possible outcomes:

1) I find nothing: in that case everything will be reinstated.

2) I make one or more discoveries, in which case an official report of these will be drawn up by the notaire and the whole of the treasure trove handed over to the State, which will be responsible for converting it into cash and distributing it in equal shares to those so entitled (the State, landowners, the finder).

3) The investigations proceed satisfactorily but I do not have sufficient time to complete them, in which case, in agreement with you and the representative of the religious authorities, I will provisionally but emphatically suspend the excavations or soundings and you will promise in writing not to grant any permissions to other investigators without my agreement, since as soon as my work commitments allow me free time to do so I shall resume the work.

I hope, Mr. Mayor, that my request is clear and precise and that it meets with your approval


Cholet Jacques
Head of Department
Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens
Clerk of Works
7, rue Pierre Curie
Verrier le Buisson – Seine et Oise

Approval granted for excavations within the church with the exception of the cemetery and subject to formal undertakings as stipulated by the present document.

Rennes-le-Château, 31 May 1959.

The Mayor, M. Lembege