Art and design

Books

Culture

Environment

Fashion

Film

Life and style

Money

Music

Politics

Science

Technology

Travel

Television

US news

World news

Unearthing the truth about buried treasure in Rennes-le-Château | Letters

A street in Rennes-le-Château
A street in Rennes-le-Château. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The so-called mystery of Rennes-le-Château and its priest Bérenger Saunière (Is this French village full of buried treasure?, G2, 9 January) fascinated my late friend Vi Marriott, who wrote what must be the definitive book on the subject in 2005, called The Fool’s Coat. She was initially inspired by Henry Lincoln’s The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail on the BBC’s Chronicle programmes and later by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and spent years investigating and piecing together the patchwork quilt that makes up this particular fool’s coat.

As Sherlock Holmes used to say, “once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth”, and Ms Marriott suggests that the simplest solution is probably the correct one, namely that it was all pseudo-history or what she used to call “tablecloth” – scribbles that some famous person might have doodled on a tablecloth and later historians spend hours analysing, when actually it’s just a doodle. She concludes that Saunière’s wealth had no legendary origin, but was provided by misguided enthusiasts who were supporting a lost cause. Saunière wanted to raise his parish from anonymity but, ironically, this was eventually achieved by default by Henry Lincoln and his co-authors, along with Dan Brown, who brought more fame to this little village than Saunière could ever have imagined.
Antony Barlow
London

• By one of those remarkable coincidences, I had just finished reading a book on buried treasure at Rennes-le-Château and the various conspiracy theories concerning priest Sauniere’s sudden fortune when I noticed your article while reading G2 in my morning bath. I had found the book discarded on a table at my local supermarket, and became consumed by its originality. The book is The Sacred Virgin and the Holy Whore and concludes with a very reasonable explanation for the mysteries of Languedoc, the Cathars and the cult of Mary Magdalene, as well as a highly referenced account of the last years of Saunière’s life. Anthony Harris wrote this book in 1988, and points his accusatory finger directly at the papacy, whose misogyny, warmongering and duplicity he also describes brilliantly.

The more populist Dan Brown will surely have used Harris’s book to inform The Da Vinci Code, but history seekers might be better directed to Harris’s largely forgotten work if they want to understand the development of western politics, religion and sexism. There may be some readers who will find Harris’s scholarly work illuminating.
Paul Thomas
Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway

• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

This article titled "Unearthing the truth about buried treasure in Rennes-le-Château" was written by Letters, for The Guardian on Friday 12 January 2018 06.19pm

World news

Justin Trudeau's India visit overshadowed by invitation to attempted murderer

Justin Trudeau’s state visit to India has been overshadowed by revelations that a businessman… Read more

Not who but how: EU split over choosing Juncker successor

It has been the talk of Brussels coffee bars for weeks, and now European leaders are gathering for… Read more

Russia blocks UN resolution on eastern Ghouta ceasefire

Russia has blocked a UN resolution that would have established a 30-day ceasefire and humanitarian… Read more

Spanish artist decries censorship after work dropped from art fair

The Spanish artist at the centre of a censorship row has attacked the lack of freedom of expression… Read more

Oxfam deserves criticism, but this is a gift for the anti-aid ideologues | Letters

Afua Hirsch (A white saviour mentality lies behind the Oxfam scandal, 21 February) is certainly… Read more

Paris: legal challenge to car-free promenade by Seine

When pedestrians reclaimed a stretch of once traffic-clogged dual carriageway on Paris’s right bank… Read more

New Russian stealth fighter spotted in Syria

Moscow appears to have deployed an advanced new stealth fighter to its airbase in Syria, reports in… Read more

Indian state offers free breast implants to the poor

A south Indian state has become possibly the first in the world to offer publicly-funded breast… Read more

European Union MPs call on Xi Jinping to release Gui Minhai

Dozens of EU politicians have written to the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, demanding the immediate… Read more

Friday briefing: Flake news! Russia spawns 'beast from the east'

Top story: Get ready for -8C as snowy weather hits Hello, I’m Warren Murray and this is what we’re… Read more