Bérenger Saunière and Mary Magdalene

Paul Smith

25 May 2014

Bérenger Saunière became the parish priest of Rennes-le-Château in 1885 at the church dedicated to St Mary Magdalene

In July 1887 the priest was donated a new main altar for his church by a wealthy Monarchist, Mme Marie Cavailhé – it bore a bas-relief of St Mary Magdalene with the words at the bottom: “Jésu.medèla.vulnérum + Spes.una.poenitentium. Per.magdalenae.lacrymas + Peccata.nostra.dilvas” (Jesus, remedy against all our pains, The only hope for the penitent, Through the tears of the Magdalen, Thou washest away our sins) – these words forming part of the prayers, hymns and missals allotted to St Mary Magdalene on her Feast Day of 22 July, as found in the “Breviarium Romanum”

Saunière’s church is a typical and universal example of Roman Catholic imagery that's found all over the world. This includes the altar bearing the bas-relief of St Mary Magdalene.

Another example of the bas-relief of St Mary Magdalene in Saunière’s main altar can be found on a stained-glass window in the church and minor basilica of Sant'Eustachio, Rome

Sant'Eustachio, Rome
(discovered by Italian researcher Simone Leoni)

Church of St Mary Magdalene, Rennes-le-Château

The stained-glass window of St Mary Magdalene in the church of Sant'Eustachio, Rome bears the heraldic device of Pope Leo XIII, making it contemporary with the bas-relief in Saunière’s church at Rennes-le-Château. One version does not have to be the copy of the other – the crucifix, the open book and the skull are all universal motifs of Mary Magdalene found in many works of art all over the world

The Heraldic Device of Pope Leo XIII, whose motto was “Lumen in caelo” (Light in the Sky) – the motto seen in Saunière’s church contains a mistake, giving “Lumen in coelo”

Rennes-le-Château Timeline