Bérenger Saunière – not “cleared of Simony”

Paul Smith

23 July 2015

The misguided claim that Bérenger Saunière was “cleared of simony” is still doing the rounds today in 2015, despite the publication of the paperwork relating to Bèrenger Saunière's trial between 1910-1911 in Jacques Rivière's book Le Fabuleux Trésor de Rennes-Le-Château! Le Secret de L’Abbé Saunière (Éditions Bélisane, 1983)

On 5 November 1910 Bérenger Saunière was sentenced to ten days penance at Prouille monastery partly “for having trafficked in fees for Masses for many years and especially since 1896; he has requested fees everywhere and has obtained a very large number of them, the discharge of which he is unable to prove”. Part of this Sentence also reads as follows: “CONSIDERING that Abbé Bérenger Saunière admits to having requested and obtained a considerable number of Masses, without contesting the figures given by the Official Prosecutor

The final sentence against Bérenger Saunière on 5 December 1911 – that was initially a three month suspension – that was never lifted because the former abbé failed to comply with what was asked of him – was not “clearing of Simony” because the Bishopric had very good grounds for believing that Bérenger Saunière was trafficking in masses – but the Bishopric could not accuse and finally sentence Saunière without evidence because the priest refused to produce his financial records at the trial – because that would have proved his guilt of simony. This is not the same thing as “clearing Saunière of simony” – especially when the priest served 10 days penance as punishment in 1910. During his trial, Saunière produced a bogus “List of Donors” in an effort to divert attention away from his trafficking in masses activities that nobody took seriously.

There is no paperwork in existence where it is stated that the Carcassonne Bishopric “cleared” Saunière of simony during his ecclesiastical trial. Basically, what the Carcassonne Bishopric did was to call Bérenger Saunière's bluff about his “List of Donors”, ordering him to pay back all the money he'd been given and it backfired against him because it was all one big lie.

On the other hand, Saunière's records of trafficking in masses exist to the present day.

Below, 820 pages of correspondence record of letters sent and received by the curé of Rennes-le-Château 1896-1915, existing on microfilm in Archives de l'Aude, Carcassonne (File numbers 1Mi8l/l and IMi8l/2).

Rennes-le-Château Timeline