Tuesday 23 April 1996
Vandalism at Rennes-le-Château
The devil beheaded
The church fell prey to vandals, apparently on Sunday morning
The head and arm of the Devil supporting the font in the church of Rennes-le-Château have been severed in a truly incomprehensible act. Each year, Rennes-le-Château and the mystery of the Abbé Saunière attract thousands of tourists, and it will certainly prove difficult for those investigating the incident to get to the bottom of this matter which, to say the least, is rather strange. The incident was reported yesterday morning to Monsieur Pujol, the Mayor of the little village, but investigations are already proving a challenge. Three questions spring to mind: Who did it? Why? And, above all, what has happened to the head and arm?
The Devil of Rennes-le-Château has become world-famous, thanks to numerous postcards as well as illustrations in books. Since it forms, as it were, the spearhead of the popularisation of the Rennes-le-Château mystery, should we see this vandalism as the act of someone who is 'hooked on esotericism'? The first witnesses to the damage on Sunday morning noted only some bits of debris lying at the foot of the famous font: was the vandal (or vandals) a fetishist with a collecting habit perhaps? Or someone trying to make a stand against the rampant commercialisation of Rennes-le-Château? It's just one more mystery for the little village which, ever since the outrage was discovered, has been a hotbed of confusion and anger.
The church will be closed while investigations are under way. The cost of the damage runs into several thousand francs. The font, carved by Toulouse sculptor Gicard in the 19th century, was especially noteworthy from an historical perspective and has formed the subject of many learned treatises.
Several locals agree that this cannot go on and that the church, which is open to everyone without restriction, must be put under close surveillance to make sure that a catastrophe of this kind never happens again.