Essential Architecture-  Architecture in the Da Vinci Code

Rennes-le-Château

Commune of Rennes-le-Château 
Country France 
Région Languedoc-Roussillon 
Département Aude 
Arrondissement Limoux 
Canton Couiza 
Intercommunality 

A beautiful view
Mayor
Term of office Jean-François Lhuilier
2001-2008 
Land area¹ 14.68 km² 
Population²
(1999) 111 
Population density
(1999) 8 pers./km² 
Longitude 02° 15' 48 E 
Latitude 42° 55' 41" N 
Altitude average: 435 m
minimum: 272 m
maximum: 568 m 
INSEE Code 11309 
Postal code 11190 
1 French Land Register data, which exclude lakes, ponds, and glaciers larger than 1 km² (0.386 sq. mi. or 247 acres) as well as the estuaries of rivers.

2 Population sans doubles comptes, i.e. not counting those people already counted in another commune (such as students and military personnel).

Rennes-le-Château is a medieval castle village and a commune in the Aude département, in the Languedoc area in southern France, an area known for its towering mountains, deep gorges, forests, caves, wild remote plateaus and access to the Mediterranean.

History of the Village
This predominantly rural area has a very rich history, as evidenced by its castles, cathedrals, vineyards and museums. Mountains frame both ends of the region - the Cevennes to the northeast and the Pyrenees to the south. Jagged ridges, deep river canyons and rocky limestone plateaus, with vast caves beneath, make it a highly scenic spot.

Over the centuries religious and political conflicts have caused much havoc in the area. The ruined castles which cling precariously to hilltops played a leading role in the struggles between the Catholic church and the Cathars at the beginning of the 13th century. Others guarded the volatile border with Spain. Whole communities were wiped out during the campaigns of the Catholic authorities to rid the area of the Cathar heretics during the Albigensian Crusades and later, when Protestants fought for religious freedom against the French monarchy.

Modern fame
The modern reputation of Rennes-le-Château rises from rumours dating from the mid-1950s concerning a local nineteenth century priest Bérenger Saunière, who was alleged to have mysteriously acquired and spent large sums of money (despite the existence of much evidence proving the contrary). He was even said to have visited several heads of state, though there is no evidence for this whatsoever. These rumours were given wide local circulation in the 1950s by Noel Corbu, a local man who had opened a restaurant in Saunière's former estate who probably hoped to attract business. They moved from local to national importance when they were incorporated by Pierre Plantard into his mythology of the Priory of Sion, which influenced the authors of the popular 1982 book The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail.

From this point on Rennes-le-Château became the centre of conspiracy theories claiming that Saunière uncovered hidden treasure and/or secrets about the history of the Church that threatened the foundations of Catholicism. Since the mid-1950s, the area has become the focus of increasingly sensational claims involving the Knights Templar, the Priory of Sion, the Rex Deus, the Holy Grail, the treasures of the Temple of Solomon, the Ark of the Covenant, ley lines, geometric alignments, and others. Elements of these ideas were later incorporated into Umberto Eco's 1989 novel Foucault's Pendulum, Michael Baigent's, Henry Lincoln's and Richard Leigh's bestselling The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Dan Brown's bestselling 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code, and the computer game Gabriel Knight III.As a result, the village now attracts visitors who look for hidden treasures and evidence of conspiracy.

Skeptical views
Almost all historians reject these conspiracies as nothing more than fantasy. According to writers such as Paul Smith (see link below), Monsignor George Boyer in 1967 (Vicar General of the parish of Carcassonne), Rene Descadeillas, Jacques Rivière, Jean-Luc Chaumeil, Jean-Jacques Bedu, Vincianne Denis, Bill Putnam, John Edwin Wood, and Marie Francine Etchegoin - the stories of Saunière's "mysteries" were based on nothing more than a minor scandal involving the sale of masses, which eventually led to the disgrace of both Saunière and his bishop. His 'wealth' was short-lived and he died relatively poor. Published by French Editions Belisane from the early 1980s onwards, the evidence for this ranged from the archives in the possession of Antoine Captier, which includes Saunière's correspondence and notebooks, and the minutes of the ecumenical trial between Saunière and his bishop between 1910-1911 which are located in the Carcassonne Bishopric.

Other aspects of the Rennes-le-Château legend derive from forgeries created on behalf of Plantard.

Bibliography
René Descadeillas, Mythologie du Trésor de Rennes: Histoire Veritable de L'Abbé Saunière, Curé de Rennes-Le-Château (Mémoires de la Société des Arts et des Sciences de Carcassonne, Annees 1971-1972, 4me série, Tome VII, 2me partie; 1974). [Reprinted in 1991 by Editions Collot, Carcassonne.] 
Jean-Jacques Bedu, Rennes-Le-Château: Autopsie d'un mythe (Ed. Loubatières; 31120 Portet-sur-Garonne; 1990 - recently reprinted in 2003.) 
Bill Putnam, John Edwin Wood The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau, A Mystery Solved (Sutton Publishing Limited, Gloucestershire GL5 2BU, England, 2003.) 

Rennes-le-Château in fiction

German novels about Rennes-le-Chateau
Die Ketzerin vom Montségur (The Heretic of Montsegur) and Die Erbin des Grals (The Grail's Heiress) by the German author Helene Luise Köppel relate the Rennes-le-Château myth. The first tells the tale the Cathars and the discovery of the Grail in Rennes-le-Château. The sequel tells the fictional tale of Bérenger Saunière's housekeeper and lover, Marie Dénarnaud, who knows the secret of the treasure he found in Rennes-le-Chateau.

Video game about Rennes-le-Chateau
In 1999, Sierra released the third installment of the Gabriel Knight series: Gabriel Knight: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned. Written by Jane Jensen, the game takes place in Rennes-le-Chateau, and is centered around the 'Rennes-le-Chateau mysteries.'

Gabriel Knight: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned IMDB web site 

Musical References
In 2000 King Diamond released a concept album entitled House of God which centered on Rennes le Chateau. The thirteen tracks tell the story of a weary traveler who is led to the Chateau for lodging by a terrifying but compassionate wolf creature. Once there the wolf transforms into a beautiful woman who seduces the traveler into a soul-selling deal. Once imprisioned in the Chateau the traveler descends to the bowels of the building and finds a crypt, wherein lies the body of Christ. Disillusioned and heartbroken the traveler prepares to commit suicide, only to learn that God and the Devil are toys of even higher entities. The album begins with a haunting monologue: "Upon the Cross he did not die, they tortured him, but he survived. Smuggled across the open sea, to Southern France, tranquility. There he married Magdalene, and founded another dynasty. A church was built upon a hill, to serve all of the gods at will."

Danny Carey, drummer for the band Tool has expressed a considerable amount of interest in the history of the Chateau, devoting a section of his website to information on the subject.

 

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