Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau

Some worthwhile reading for you:
At the end of the 19th century, Bérenger Saunière, the poor parish priest of Rennes-le-Château, all of a sudden started spending a lot more money then he could ever have earned performing his normal duties. He had been assigned to this tiny village in the south of France at the age of 33 and had spent his first few years there in piety and poverty. According to his meticulously kept accounting books, in February 1892 he had a debt of 105 francs and 80,65 francs in his ‘fonds secrets’ (savings). That all changed in the 1890s. From that time on, his surviving papers and accounts record a total expenditure of some 660.000 francs, equivalent to EUR 2.500.000 today. He would spend up to 50.000 francs in one month in some periods. His salary as a priest was 900 francs per annum. Towards the end of his life he seems to have had some difficulty paying his bills but weeks before his death he appears to have been making plans once again. Saunière’s financial difficulties coincide largely with the World War I, an indication he couldn’t reach his funds abroad?

Abbe Berenger Sauniere's Grave in Rennes le Chateau grave yard
It’s often said Saunière got his fortune by mass trafficking: receiving money for masses he never said. There’s clear evidence that he was guilty of this practice, like so many of his colleagues at the time. However, the amounts of money he spent are in no relation to his illegal income from this practice. Detailed analysis of his records has taught he received 110.000 requests to say mass, which is a lot more than he ever could have said when you think a priest could say 3 masses in one day (and didn’t hold sermons every day of course). The going rate for a mass was 1 franc around 1880, increasing up to 1,5 francs at the time of his death. From this he could have earned no more than some 150.000 francs which only accounts for less than a quarter of his recorded spenditure (which was only part of what he really spent).
And it goes on from there.

At this wonderful site, you can read the collected works of the people who have been researching this mystery and find everything you will need to become well-informed about the subject. This is an excellent example of what can happen when people come together and blog about a specific subject. I don't do that here because, well, hello? It's just me, and I'm not that well-rounded. Plus, I'm hell to get along with.