This week I said I would discuss what happened to the secret which the Marquise de Blanchefort confided to the Abbé Antoine Bigou before her death in January 1781 – a secret which terrified the priest. But, before I do that, a number of events need to be reconsidered.
The first is that there seems no doubt that Bérenger Saunière found something important and valuable in his church at Rennes-le-Chateau on 21st September 1891. His subsequent behaviour (travelling to a variety of destinations, including Paris and Budapest, and his meetings with a number of important and famous people) suggests that what he found wasn’t simply treasure – although there may have been a quantity of material objects and wealth which he turned up at the same time.
There is also evidence that Saunière had contacts with a bank in Budapest after he had made his “discoveries”. A large number of unused envelopes pre-addressed to the Banque Fritz Dorge in central Budapest were found among his papers after the death of his faithful house-keeper, Marie Denarnaud. It is also believed that the priest made regular visits to Budapest, taking some care to keep his absence from Rennes-le-Chateau secret, until the outbreak of the First World War made this impossible.
Budapest, capital of Hungary is the home of the Habsbourg Royal family who were monarchs of Austria-Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire until it was liquidated by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 at the end of the First World War. It is an easy step to arrive at the conclusion that the main source of Saunière’s wealth was the Habsbourgs who were the protectors of the Holy See in Rome.
A further interesting fact is that Charles I, who was the last Emperor of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire from 1916 until 1918 was beatified by the Pope in 2004. (Beatification is the third stage of canonisation – leading to the eventual status of saint-hood.) The reasons given for making him a saint seem rather inadequate (he banned Austria-Hungary from using poison gas in the war. However Charles was the heir to the imperial throne at the time of the “discoveries” made by Bérenger Saunière in Rennes-le-Chateau.
The resulting questions are these – had Saunière been set up and encouraged by the Habsbourgs to find the family archives of the Blancheforts which contained the “explosive secret” which the Roman Catholic Church wished to remain secret? Had he succeeded in finding these papers and handing them over to the representative of the royal family and, as a consequence, been rewarded with substantial wealth, paid to him through the Budapest bank account? And had the efforts of Charles and his relatives and representatives to return the papers to the security of the Vatican secret library been rewarded in due course with his canonisation?
Now only the Roman Catholic Church can answer that and the Vatican is famously secretive about such matters. This theory suggests however that if the French authorities would permit exploration to find a way into crypt below Rennes church (if it exists) nothing would be found there except a few old empty tombs. There is no longer any realistic chance of finding treasure or information leading to the discovery of treasure in Rennes-le-Chateau.
The photo shows the outside of the little church at Rennes-le-Chateau.