Rennes-le-Château and Jacques Cholet

Paul Smith

27 May 2014

Jacques Cholet (1911-1985) was a railway engineer from Paris who gained permission from the Carcassonne Bishopric and the Municipal Council of Rennes-le-Château to conduct archaeological excavations in the church of St Mary Magdalene between 1958 and the early 1960s.

Cholet failed to discover anything. Believers in the “treasure” of Rennes-le-Château maintain that he looked in the “wrong places”.

Cholet’s letter requesting permission from the Municipal Council to excavate and his reply from the Mayor (on the bottom of his original letter) can be found here

Cholet’s letter is undated.
The Mayor’s note upon Cholet’s letter is dated 31 May 1959

The French website by ‘Octonovo’ (Laurent Buccholtzer) attributes Cholet’s letter the date of 31 May 1955

This is evidently wrong, since on page 145 to chapter 13 of his 2008 book, Rennes-le-Château, une Affaire Paradoxale, ‘Octonovo’ writes the following: “Jacques Cholet was one of the first researchers to arrive in the village, in 1957” (Jacques Cholet est un des chercheurs de la première heure qui arriva au village en 1957). Patrick Mensior writes the same thing in his article “Jacques Cholet” in his journal Parle-moi Rennes-le-Château: “In 1957 an investigator by the name of Jacques Cholet climbed the hill of Rennes-le-Château for the first time” (En 1957, un chercheur du nom de Jacques Cholet monte pour la première fois sur la colline de Rennes-le-Château; page 9, 2005 edition).

This places Cholet’s request after the 1956 Albert Salomon articles published in La Dépêche de Midi and after the excavations in the church of St Mary Magdalene conducted by Dr André Malacan during the same year. It places the date of Cholet’s letter as having been written in 1957 at the very earliest, although in all likelihood it would have been written in 1959, shortly before the Mayor’s reply to his request for excavations.

Inevitably and predictably, apocryphal legends have attached themselves to Jacques Cholet. It is claimed he found parchments in the Château de Montfort-Lamaury (Les Yvelines) – or in a briefcase left in the Paris Metro – or that he inherited them from his great uncle who had met Saunière during the First World War (take your pick) – which is what led Cholet to Rennes-le-Château in the first place. The same stories also allege that Cholet deposited the parchments with the Bishop of Carcassonne in 1959. However, when Patrick Mensior approached the Bishopric for information concerning these parchments, it was denied the stories were true. Cholet did not mention any of these things in his Report dated 25 April 1967.

What Cholet did mention in his Report was “a document is dated and signed by Brother Dominique de Mirepoix on 29 June 1249” (a document found in a well around 1961 by Cholet’s last excavation partner Rolland Domergue). Patrick Mensior describes the “discovery” as the result of a prank played by two local villagers who had set out to dupe Cholet and Domergue – the parchment in question being the last page of a book from the 17th century inserted into an old bottle swollen at the mouth dating from the time of Saunière.

The “parchment” of Brother Dominique de Mirepoix has been described as one of the very earliest Rennes-le-Château fakes. Even the believers in the “mystery” of Rennes-le-Château don’t believe these stories.

First published in L'Indépendant, 13 August 1962

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