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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

• 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

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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

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