The church authorities have consistently refused to allow any investigations to try to find out whether there is a crypt beneath the nave, with one exception which I will tell you about. The church is very old, having been built between the ninth and eleventh centuries. If there are any records about the construction of the building they will be shut away in the secret library of the Vatican, known as the Tower of the Winds.
The first evidence known about a crypt is contained in a note left by the uncle of the Abbé Bigou, who was the parish priest at the time of the French Revolution in the late seventeenth century. The note said, that “beneath the altar there was a chamber containing the tombs of ancient kings”. The entrance was sealed by Bigou to protect “documents which must not fall into unintended hands”.
Another strange thing reported by parishioners at the time was that Bérenger Saunière was sometimes seen going into the Sacristy to put on his robes at the start of the service and that he would occasionally come in through the church door from the graveyard, fully robed. How did he get outside, since the only door into the Sacristy is from beside the altar inside the church?
The only person authorised to investigate the possibility of there being a crypt was a Professor Cholet. His report says he found the start of two staircases leading down underground. One was beneath the pulpit and the other behind the sacristy. However for some unknown reason (possibly the instructions of the church authorities) he stopped his investigations without discovering what was at the foot of these staircases and the conclusion of the report is that there is nothing underneath the church. Strange!
In 2001/2 an American team with sonar equipment carried out tests which detected “a void under the church containing sarcophagi”, but they were not permitted to follow up this discovery. Whatever your views, one has to accept that there is quite a
lot of evidence that there is some sort of accessible space under the church and I will tell you more about it next week.
The photo attached shows the south-east view of the church. The secret room is the small quadrant-shaped room in the corner which I will tell you about next week, and which features in chapter 50 of “The Legacy of the Templars”, the second volume of the Languedoc trilogy.