Rennes-le-Château: letter from Henri Marchesi, the Regional Conservator of Archaeology, to Albert Fagioli, responding to his plans to undertake excavations.



Montpellier, 4 June 2009

To: Mr Albert Fagioli
57640 VIGY

Re: Rennes-le-Château – proposed investigation of the parish church.

Dear Sir,

You have sent the DRAC in Languedoc-Roussillon a quite detailed account of your researches into the site of the parish church of Rennes-le-Château (Aude). These enabled you to conclude that there are five (probably six) underground chambers there. You also mention a possible ‘hiding-place’ in the Tour Magdala which, according to you, might contain between 15 and 20 parchments concealed by Abbé Saunière.

The researches you have undertaken to date have been based solely upon analyses of texts as part of a programme of work to which you have devoted yourself for a great many years. Your request seems to indicate that you now wish to undertake some fieldwork in order to confirm your initial hypotheses.

As you doubtless know, this type of work is covered by the legal provisions laid down in the Code du Patrimoine (Title 1, Article L. 510-1, on the definition of the archaeological heritage, and Title III, Arts. L. 531 et seq. on scheduled archaeological excavations and chance discoveries). It is within this legal context that your research must be conducted from now on. You are therefore required to draw up a file requesting an archaeological investigation, which will be subject to scrutiny by the Interregional Commission for Archaeological Research (CIRA). The scientific advice given by this body will enable the appropriate authorities to issue the necessary permits.

In order to draw up this file certain documents are required: written authorization from the owner(s) specifying the plot(s) of land in question indicating, as far as possible, the site of provisional storage and the final destination of any archaeological discoveries; the precise location where the excavations are to be carried out (taken from the IGN's 1: 25 000 scale map indicating the location of the site and the land registry map, with an indication of the precise zones of excavation); the curriculum vitae of the scientific leader; the certificate of participation, signed by each member of the scientific team; an outline of the scientific objectives of the excavation; a description of the works to be undertaken; a description of the equipment to be used; and finally, a photocopy of the insurance policy covering the risks incurred by the person in charge of the excavation, by the members of the site staff (whether employees or volunteers) and by visitors to the site. These documents must be sent to the regional archaeology service as soon as the permit is received, and certainly no later than one week before the start of the excavation. When you have assembled this file you should then complete a formal request. You will find enclosed several models to help you draw up the file.

Regarding the completion of the formal request, I an aware that you are in contact with one of my colleagues, Philippe Galant, to whom you have regularly communicated details of your progress. I have also asked him to help you draw up the file by answering any questions you might have while it is being drawn up. This is an aspect of my department's services to which I attach great importance.

As this type of work falls within the scope of scheduled archaeological research, your complete records must be lodged with my service department no later than 30 November, 2009 if you are contemplating undertaking work during 2010.

Nevertheless, and in order to ensure a good management of the excavations, I would ask you confirm to me by mail your intention to start this work in 2010 so that I can record it in the preliminary schedule which I will be drawing up in September 2009.

I hope I have answered your enquiry satisfactorily and remain,

Yours sincerely,

Henri Marchesi
Regional Conservator of Archaeology

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