Rennes-le-Château and Ignace Paris

Paul Smith

20 July 2015

The story of Ignace Paris is always mistakenly referred to as a “legend” – when in fact it only dates from the mid-1950s within the context of Noël Corbu's allegations about Bérenger Saunière, following the death of the priest's housekeeper Marie Dénarnaud in 1953.

It was first referred to on Corbu's tape-recording made for guests to his restaurant.

A transcript of the tape-recording was deposited in the Archives de l'Aude in Carcassonne (2J248) during the early 1960s.

“In 1645 a shepherd called IGNACE PARIS, while guarding his flock, fell into a hole and brought back to his hut a beret full of gold coins. He told people that he had seen a room full of gold coins and went crazy fighting to defend the coins that he had found. The castellan and his guards searched for the place where the shepherd had fallen but without success”(en 1645, un berger nommé IGNACE PARIS en gardant ses moutons tombe dans un trou et ramène dans sa cahute un béret plein de pièces d'or. Il raconte qu'il a vune salle pleine de pièces d'or et devient fou pour défendre les pièces qu'il a apportées. Le châtelain et ses gardes recherchent vainement l'endroit où est tombé le berger).

The article below mentions, for the very first time in published print, the story of the Shepherd Ignace Paris as given by Noël Corbu. The reference to “Power and Death” is not to the document of the same name we know today.

La Dépêche du Midi,
7 November 1959

Noël Corbu – an hotelier who's also an author – fills 800 pages that reveal all the secrets of the treasure of Blanche of Castille

Abbé Saunières [sic], the curé of Rennes-le-Château, has certainly been talked about a great deal in recent years. No doubt you'll be all too familiar with the legend that surrounds this ecclesiastic. Let's therefore simply recall that Saunières was suspected of having discovered, at the beginning of the 20th century, a fabulous treasure. This fortune had been lying undiscovered in an underground passage (or cavern) at Rennes-le-Château. It consisted, so it was said, of the treasure of Blanche of Castille, who sought to conceal it from the gaze of greedy intruders by burying it in this picturesque corner of the Aude in 1250. It was while he was engaged in some restoration work on his church that Saunières, who was active as a priest around 1910, found some documents identifying the hiding-place of a fortune that has been estimated at 12 tons of gold.

This story is however challenged by some commentators, who think it's just a fairy-tale. Others however advance proof of the treasure's existence by drawing attention to the extraordinary expenditure that Saunière engaged in until his death, and to his sumptuous lifestyle. The ambition of local hotelier and author Noël Corbu is to use documents of incontestable validity to reconstitute the story of Rennes-le-Château. Now the owner of the same property that Saunière himself once occupied, Corbu is a firm believer in the reality of the treasure-hoard.

And so, for some two years now, Corbu has been patiently assembling certain documents which, he claims, firmly support what others maintain is only a legend. He has access to Saunières' extensive correspondence. He also received certain confidences from Saunières' former maid, now dead. And he has rummaged through libraries in Paris, Toulouse, Narbonne and Carcassonne. The information he has gathered will form the subject of a major work (of some 800 pages) which he should complete next year. From this book we shall be able to learn about the history of the Comté of Razes [sic], of which Rennes-le-Château formed a part, and which was itself an ancient and powerful Gaulish oppidum. We shall also learn that the famous treasure of Blanche de Castille was in fact cursed: a shepherd who, in 1645, found it by chance, subsequently went mad, while Saunières himself died at the very moment when, having shaken off all the encumbrances of his life, he was finally in a position to enjoy his new-found wealth. Corbu's projected title for the work is La puissance et la mort, “Power and Death”.

“This book,” says Corbu, “will be even more gripping than the most exciting of detective novels...”

And Corbu knows what he's talking about, as he's already written three detective novels himself: Le mort cambrioleur, Police-party and Faute de fille, prends le môme!

R. L.

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