Jean Girou
The Story of Saunière’s Treasure

Paul Smith

19 December 2017
Put Online At: 9:20 PM GMT
Revised 20 December 2017

My detractors have translated the final passage in a paragraph by Jean Girou about the story of Saunière’s treasure, which in the original French reads, c’est la maison d’un curé qui aurait bâti cette demeure somptueuse avec l’argent d’un trésor trouvé, disent les paysans!

That's what the locals say. (disent les paysants)

Or, as:
According to the locals, the priest built this sumptuous residence with the money from a discovered treasure!

This should also be considered:
Translated literally word-for-word by dictionary or by electronic translator, reads

it is the house of a priest who would have built this sumptuous dwelling with the money of a found treasure, say the peasants!

But all translations also involve elements of interpretation – in order to gain the original meaning of the author, that cannot be determined by dictionaries or by online translations or by poor French. The original sense of the author’s meaning has to be weighed-up and assessed within the context of the whole passage. The French language should not be confused with the English language in this respect (the English language is much more straightforward).

Whichever way disent les paysans is translated – Jean Girou distanced himself from the treasure story – he did not send a team of archaeologists to carry out digs in Rennes-le-Château. Girou regarded the story as something that is called today an Urban Folk Tale. Girou’s account was quickly forgotten – because when in 1948 Roger Crouquet wrote his article about Rennes-le-Château he never mentioned anything about a treasure, only about a priest who got rich from trafficking in masses.

In all likelihood – based on Saunière’s records of obtaining over 250,000 francs from trafficking in masses – what the villagers of Rennes-le-Château misunderstood – was that Saunière’s gifts of jewellery to various people in the village did not originate from a treasure discovery – but rather jewellery that was bought by the priest from the proceeds of his trafficking in masses.

Patrick Mensior has recently hilariously suggested that Saunière’s library of books also stemmed from a treasure discovery – perhaps Saunière’s collections of wines and rums were also discovered in the same treasure trove(s).

Rennes-le-Château Timeline