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Rennes-le-Chateau research by Ben Hammott investigating the Rennes-le-Chateau Mystery of Berenger Sauniere - Noel Corbu and the Changes he made to Sauniere's Domain.


Sauniere's original Design

Sauniere's Original Design


Sauniere's Steps today

As it looks today - 2007

Notice the new opening added by Noel Corbu on the left. Through the doorway one of the windows he added can be clearly seen.


The Belvedere windows.

Even from this distance you can see the rough stonework around the openings above. In the photographs below you can see the rough crumbling stonework around the windows.

Noel Corbu Window 1       Noel Corbu Window 2


Noel Corbu Window 3       Noel Corbu Window 4

Also, to further encourage visitors to his restaurant, Noel began recounting the story of the mysterious priest Sauniere. Later in 1955 or 1956, he recorded it to tape. Click to go to a Rennes-le-Chateau website to read a translation of Noel's tape.

This seemed to work as it eventually brought him the attention of the newspapers, which in turn brought him a hoard of treasure hunters looking for this fabled treasure. At last Noel's restaurant was busy, but at what cost?


Click Newspaper images for larger images of all 3 original newspaper articles

In the newspaper pages shown above, was how the story reached a wider audience, eventually coming to the attention of Henry Lincoln through the book by Gérard de Sède - L’Or de Rennes. The Gold Of Rennes, (Le Chateau) The rest, as they say, 'is history'

Noel eventually sold Saunière’s Estate to Henri Buthion.

In 1968 Noel died when his car crashed into a tree. Some say his death was suspicious.


More old Photographs Taken during Sauniere's time.

Sauniere's Garden

Sauniere's garden

Sauniere and Marie in the garden, and probably her mother and a villager. To the right behind the wall you can see an area planted with vegetables. Today this area is used for car parking. Part of the wall has now been removed to allow entry for the many cars that visit Rennes-le-Chateau. I am trying to find out if Noel was responsible for this change or it is a more recent alteration. You can clearly see the difference in ground level between the two areas.


Noel Corbu and Plantard

Pierre Plantard

First of all a bit about Pierre Plantard from Wikipedia

Pierre Athanase Marie Plantard (March 18, 1920 – February 3, 2000) was a French draughtsman, best known for being the principal perpetrator of the hoax of the Priory of Sion, which he established to manufacture evidence that he had a legitimate claim to the French throne. This deception later inspired a series of BBC Two documentaries, the 1982 pseudo history book Holy Blood, Holy Grail and the 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code, among others.

He used an altered surname, Plantard de Saint-Clair, from 1975 onwards. The surname Saint-Clair was added to his own surname on the basis that this was the family name associated with the area of Gisors, a part of France associated with his hoax.

The above is just a small part of the info appearing on Wikipedia, which seems to be biased towards proving him a hoaxer and may have been added or edited by Paul Smith, who as we all know, seems to have a personal vendetta against the whole Rennes-le-Chateau mystery and anything or anyone connected with it that sheds doubt on his theories.

Follow this link to read the complete article:

Now it seems Noel Corbu knew Pierre Plantard, apparently there are letters written between the two and also a photograph of them together. But if Noel owned the land that contained something, or once did, and Plantard was a Priory of Sion member, and so interested or involved with the whole Sauniere mystery, then it is logical the two would have met and corresponded. There does not need to be any deceit or anything underhand going on between the two. Obviously Noel was interested in making his restaurant business more profitable, so if Plantard could help him with this then so be it. I am not saying I believe everything these two have said or supposed to have said and done but I do not disbelieve everything also.

I think Plantard may have been shafted by other members of the Priory, probably due to him pushing himself as a member of the Merovingian bloodline, I think he lost the plot somewhere along the way. But, if his purpose was to bring the Priory into the limelight, he has definitely succeeded: just look how many years have been spent talking about it. The countless books written about it, plus documentaries, films and the many web sites.

Segment below taken from:

In 1993, Roger-Patrice Pelat was murdered. He was said to be the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. Because of Pelat's supposed connection with the Priory of Sion, French authorities questioned Pierre Plantard about the murder. Plantard said that the Priory of Sion didn't exist. He testified that he had "made it all up." French authorities searched Plantard's home and they found many "Priory Documents," some of which said that Plantard was the "True King of France."

I don't suppose we will ever know the true reasons behind Plantard's actions or if he was a puppet or the puppet master.

Plantard did seem to have a murky past, including a prison sentence for fraud, and as they say, mud tends to stick, and even more so with this Mystery.

Like much of the mystery this is another one of those episodes that is hard to come to a positive conclusion on.

Click this Link to view more old Rennes-le-Chateau photographs.

Some article related Links to make up your own mind:

Noel Corbu's Tape Text in English

Noel Corbu's Rennes-le-Chateau Film, La Rou Tourne

The manuscripts and the stained glasses by Patrick Mensior

Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar Book Information & Images   -    33 Cartes Postale l’Abbé Saunière   -   Illustrated Guide to Rennes-le-Chateau 1 & 2

Ben Hammott's Rennes-le-Chateau mystery Tour Banner



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Noel Corbu and the Changes he made to Sauniere's Domain


Some old Rennes-le-Chateau Photographs

noel Corbu

A young Noel Corbu pointing at the Mary Magdalene church Altar.

While looking through my collection of Rennes-le-Chateau photographs and old photos taken during Sauniere's time, I noticed certain changes to Sauniere's domain that were not there when it was completed by the priest. These alterations must have been carried out more recently by someone, so I set out to find out who was responsible and why. This is what I found.

First of all a bit about Noel Corbu from Wikipedia

Noel Corbu was a hotelier in the Central French town of Rennes-le-Château.

In 1946 Noel Corbu purchased the former estate of the Abbé Berenger Sauniere, the former priest of Rennes-le-Chateau between 1885-1909, and during Easter 1955 he opened a restaurant in the Villa Bethania, later also turned into a Hotel. The hotel itself faced some difficulties due to its fairly isolated location.

Between 12th and 14th January 1956, the local newspaper, La Depeche du Midi serialized an interview with M Corbu in which he claimed that Father Saunière had discovered the treasure of Blanche of Castile the wife of Louis VIII and the regent of the future Saint Louis. This story was repeated by other French newspapers, lending the hotel a mysterious reputation which made it popular.

French Television later made a film casting M Corbu as Father Saunière.

Many of the stories related by M Corbu have been integrated into further narratives such as the Da Vinci Code.

These allegations by Noel Corbu also formed the basis for Pierre Plantard's later allegations concerning Berenger Sauniere (from 1964 onwards), which he expanded and integrated into his Priory Documents - Corbu's claim that Sauniere discovered "parchments" led to Philippe de Cherisey's manufacture of the famous "parchments" that appeared in Gerard de Sede's 1967 book "L'Or de Rennes" and which captured the Public's attention for decades - the real facts concerning which are only just now beginning to slowly materialize...


Marie Denarnaud                    Beranger Sauniere

Marie Dénarnaud          -          François Saunière

Noel Corbu, an industrialist, first came into contact with Marie Dénarnaud while he was visiting Rennes-le-Chateau with his family. Deciding to have a picnic while he was there, he knocked on Marie's door to ask for some water. Marie most no doubt have been surprised at meeting such an educated man as Noel, who was not the normal sort of person she had daily contact with. Perhaps he reminded Marie of the 'good old days' when Sauniere was still living and entertained many. Marie was someone then and she probably enjoyed the experience. Whatever the reason Marie took a liking to Noel who gradually won the confidence of Marie to such an extent that she allowed him to move into the villa Bethania with his family. It is said that Maria, like Sauniere, never actually lived in the Villa Bethania, preferring instead to live in the presbytery. Marie, who had no doubt become lonely after the death of her beloved Sauniere must have enjoyed the family's company and the life they brought to her small sheltered world.

In 1946 Marie made the Corbu family legitimate heirs to the estate. Noel then traveled to Morocco to set up a sugar refinery business but he returned to the village in 1950 after this venture failed.

As a way to earn some income Noel decided to open a Hotel in the Villa Béthanie called the Hotel de La Tour. Unfortunately for Noel, with the village being so secluded and with no passing traffic, his restaurant saw few visitors. Noel needed a gimmick, something to entice people to make the long journey up the steep and winding road to Rennes-le-Chateau and his restaurant.

Marie must have told Noel many stories about her life with her beloved Sauniere. He certainly believed that the Abbé found some treasure of some description and there was still some left in the village to find, as he constantly searched for it. Marie would tease him saying things like:

"...The people round here walk on gold without knowing it. With what the master has left behind you could feed Rennes-le-Chateau for a century and still have enough left over ... one day I will tell you a secret that will make you a rich, rich man."

We can not be sure from this if she means when she says, "The people round here" that she is talking about the villagers and so one can assume there is gold buried somewhere in Rennes-le-Chateau, or she means the people in the area and the gold is buried somewhere in the landscape around Rennes-le-Chateau. Surely if it was in the village she would dig it up and sell it. Why live in hardship if there was gold buried nearby?

Maybe whatever the 'gold' is, it is of a dangerous nature, perhaps something the Vatican or some other threatening organization, wants to get their hands on or for it to remain buried.

There is a rumor that the Vatican, after Sauniere's death, tried to purchase Sauniere's estate from Marie, who refused. They even sent in a man undercover to purchase the estate but this ploy also failed. Why would the vatican be interested in buying Sauniere's domain? Why was it important for Marie that the Vatican did not come into possession of the estate?

Maybe this is why Marie never touched the gold and only hinted to Noel about the treasure and would only reveal the secret on her deathbed, when her life was no longer in danger.

Unfortunately for Noel, Marie suffered a stroke which left her speechless and unable to write or communicate in any way. We can only imagine how frustrating this was for Noel, realizing Marie could die without revealing the secret she had for so long taunted him with. Marie died age 85 on 29th January 1953, taking Sauniere's secret to the grave with her. Now no one was left alive who knew the secret.

With the location of the gold or secret, now no longer a possibility, Noel decides to make a few changes and cash in on Sauniere's mysterious antics.

The Belvedere stretched from the Tour Magdala around in an arc to the glass clad Orangey. The views from here were spectacular. If only people could eat and look out at the views, surly they would come, Noel must have thought. Maybe this gave him the idea of using the long room underneath, a space that must have seemed ideal for Noel's purpose. Noel knocked out some arched openings in the wall overlooking the valley to let some light into the dark space. These he then filled with glass so his patrons could now admire the view while they drunk his wine and had a meal. Though the openings look neat on the inside, from the outside they have been left rough with no attempt to finish off the stonework. Today, because of this, the stones are becoming looser each year and some have already fallen. This really needs to be remedied as soon as possible to prevent serious damage to the wall.

Noel also added an entrance to the left of the double staircase.