Mystery and Intrigue
These two words may not, at first, seem appropriate to describe a seemingly sleepy French village, perched on the top of a hill in the Aude department of the Languedoc region of South-West France.
But they are often used when looking into the history of Rennes-le-Château, just 6km away from us here at Domaine de Mournac.
Many thousands of visitors each year, the numerous books and articles written, plus films produced, indicate that the public show no signs of tiring from the never-ending rumours and legends surrounding the priest Bérenger Saunière. Supposed hidden messages and codes dotted around the village church dedicated to Mary Magdalene, draw many to the area.
A new book recently published by B.B.Balthis picks up on this intrigue and promises to “de-code ancient messages” and “open up new avenues of thought” surrounding the intrigue. We spoke to the author to find out a little more.
Q. Can you explain who Bérenger Saunière was, and why people are so interested in his time spent at Rennes-Le-Château?
Saunière was a priest who came to the village in 1885 and stayed until his death in 1917 despite several attempts to oust him. Many believe that during on-going renovations of the decrepit church, he came upon various documents hidden by previous incumbents and others over many hundreds of years. It’s believed that these documents alluded to a bloodline from Jesus and Mary Magdalene, as well as to the whereabouts of immense treasure, The Holy Grail, and even the whereabouts of The Ark of the Covenant itself.
He soon left behind his status as an impoverished priest and became a wealthy man, who bought land and built property in the village including a large villa, tower, ramparts, an orangery and much more, as well as refurbishing the church in a lavish and ornate style.
Q. Your book is split between the Cotswolds, in the U.K and Rennes-le-Château, France. How did you come to make the startling discovery that connected them together?
Like with most of the book, it was a combination of amazing synchronicity, (or chance, or happenstance, or even luck!) and several years of exhaustive research.
It was quite astounding really, but I found that this type of thing appears to be a common theme in Rennes-le-Château where strange happenings and co-incidences are accepted and expected as the norm.
I didn’t set out to write the book; more I arrived, saw, and had no choice but to write it, if that makes sense.
Q. Why do you think Mary Magdalene still remains an important historical figure for many people, Christian and non-Christians alike?
I think that’s quite a complex question.
I would say that across the centuries, people have always liked to hear about the human-ness and fallibility of others.
Listening to biblical stories which portrayed her as either a harlot, an adulteress or possessed by demons, and whom Jesus apparently forgave or cured…well, perhaps that gives people hope for themselves and their own imperfect lives, in a difficult and ever-changing world. It wasn’t until 1969 that the Catholic Church half-heartedly admitted they had got it wrong.
She might also be seen as a symbol for feminists worldwide, or as someone who played a considerable part in promoting the early Jewish/Christian style movement, or maybe entirely on her own, as an alchemist and healer? I suppose it all depends on your belief system.
Other theorists might suggest that it is because many people over the centuries knew far more about her and a possible bloodline than was revealed, and her status grew in a covert and almost unspoken way.
Q. So where is the buried treasure B.B? Are you able to tell us?
You’ll have to read the book for my take on that, but going back to the beginning of the questions posed, I think part of the obsession with treasure isn’t just greed; it’s about making connections with the past: those that have gone before – our ancestors. Making connections are vital for survival and the search for truth will, I hope, never stop.
If you are planning a trip to solve the mystery of Rennes-le-Château yourself, Domaine de Mournac is an ideal place to use as a base for your travels.
Take a hike across the Cathar trail, or follow in the supposed footsteps of Mary Magdalene. Or just take in the magnificent views of the French Pyrenees which are simply breathtaking at any time of year.
Contact us to make your booking. We would be delighted to welcome you, even if you don’t find any treasure!