Bérenger Saunière's “Treasure” and Pierre Plantard

An overview

Paul Smith

15 November 2015

Since Noël Corbu's claims of the 1950s – that's 60 years ago – nobody has managed to produce one item of evidence linking Bérenger Saunière with a genuine mystery or a genuine discovery. There is nothing dating from Bérenger Saunière's lifetime linking him with any mystery or discovery.

Hundreds of books have been written, countless documentaries have been shown and dozens of websites put online and to date, nobody has managed to produce any evidence. For example. Patrick Mensior's website contains numerous articles and photographs relating to Bérenger Saunière – yet lacks one single item of evidence to support the claim that a mystery was associated with the activities of Bérenger Saunière in the village of Rennes-le-Château.

Every time something is produced to claim that Saunière was linked to a “mystery” or linked to a “discovery” that something has always resulted in having an alternative prosaic and banal explanation.

The case of the excavation of the Tour Magdala where only a large stone was discovered in 2003 is a perfect example of the subject matter: all hype, no substance.

The subject matter of Rennes-le-Château is not taken seriously by archaeologists or by historians. The subject matter did not originate from the world of archaeology but from claims made by a restaurateur and a local journalist during the mid-1950s. The details of Bérenger Saunière's source of wealth as the trafficking in masses has been repeated many times over the decades – beginning in 1974 with René Descadeillas' Mythologie du Trésor de Rennes: Histoire Veritable de l’Abbé Saunière, curé de Rennes-Le-Château (Mémoires de la Société des Arts et des Sciences de Carcassonne, Années 1971-1972, 4me série, Tome VII, 2me partie); in this 1974 work Descadeillas discounted his earlier 1962 work where be believed there was something to the subject matter. Following his death in 1986, his earlier 1962 book (that Descadeillas placed an interdit on being reproduced) has been used by believers in the mystery and the treasure as “evidence”.

Christiane Amiel summed-up the subject matter perfectly when she commented that the treasure of Rennes-le-Château “seems to elude all the investigations that people make into it. Like the fairy gold which, in the popular fables, turns into manure as soon as a human being touches it, it remains impalpable. It can only exist as long as it remains on the distinctive level of the dream, between the real and the imaginary” (Christiane Amiel, ‘L’abîme au trésor, ou l’or fantôme de Rennes-le-Château’; in Claudie Voisenat, Editor, Imaginaires Archéologiques (Maison des sciences de l'homme, 2008).

In short, Bérenger Saunière was a crooked priest who was punished for accepting more money than he was able to say masses for: fraud.

Saunière was stripped of his priesthood in 1911 and was only re-instated on his deathbed in 1917.

As for the Priory of Sion and Pierre Plantard – mythomaniac, faker, liar, charlatan – the only person who takes him seriously in France today is Gino Sandri (ex-secretary of the Priory of Sion). Plantard's activities came to an abrupt end in 1993 when he was interviewed by Judge Thierry Jean-Pierre over the activities of Roger-Patrice Pelat – Plantard had named Pelat as the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion in 1989 (after his death).

Pierre Plantard is largely responsible for popularising and creating the myth of Rennes-le-Château (from 1965) by linking his Priory of Sion myths with the alleged activities of Bérenger Saunière – by drawing upon and elaborating the earlier bogus allegations of Noël Corbu. Claiming to be descended from the Merovingian King Dagobert II, Plantard invented the Visigothic “Giselle de Razès” (the imaginary wife of Dagobert II) and then proceeded to exploit the fragmentary story of Dagobert's alleged son, Sigibert, by claiming the Merovingian line survived in Rennes-le-Château and that he was the direct descendant. Alas, in reality, Pierre Plantard was only the son of a valet. French Police Reports dating from the Second World War showed he had been a liar and a charlatan since 1937 engaged in right-wing and anti-masonic activities. The Wartime Police File on Pierre Plantard, GA P7, has been online for just over a decade.

Claude Charlot, Director of Police Archives at the Paris Prefecture of Police, appeared on a CBS News documentary in 2006; commenting about the Police Report on Plantard, he said on camera: “The investigation said he is a young man whose mind we say in French is ‘cloudy’. He is a Fantasist. He is not a serious person.”

French researcher Laurent ‘Octonovo’ Buchholzer examined Plantard's family tree and his findings were published in his article “La Généalogie de Pierre Plantard” (Actes du Colloque d'Études & de Recherches sur Rennes-le-Château 2012, pages 67-71; 2013). Pierre Plantard's father (Pierre Plantard, 1877-1922) was indeed a valet and a butler. Not only that, ‘Octonovo’ also discovered that Plantard's claims to be related to Abbé Pierre Marie Joseph Plantard (vicar of the basilica of Sainte-Clotilde in Paris), as given in the Priory of Sion documents, were also fraudulent.

Today's French believers in the myth of Rennes-le-Château have discounted Plantard's stories and claims and have revealed them as hoaxes and forgeries, but they have struggled to replace them with anything as colourful and popular. Christian Doumergue, probably the best of the French believers in the myth of Rennes-le-Château, has failed to make any comparable impact following the downfall of Pierre Plantard in 1993.

Therefore, in summary, Rennes-le-Château is a bogus mystery without any trace of reliability and Pierre Plantard – who provided the most colourful and most popular stories about the subject matter – was a proven dishonest fraud and third-rate charlatan.

Rennes-le-Château Timeline