Rennes-le-Château - Spectacular Panoramas
Rennes-le-Château is a small commune / village located in the southern part of France in Languedoc between 2 regions of mountains – the Pyrénées and the Cévennes.
The region has very beautiful scenery with jagged ridges, deep river canyons (including les Gorges du Tarn) and rocky limestone plateaus with large caves underneath.
The village used to centre around a castle which was built around 1002 but nothing remains. There currently is a ruin there and with the fantastic backdrop scenery, it makes for great panoramic photos…
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The region in general was very strategic in terms of its ridges and canyons offering perfect vantage points, the reason for several castles having been built in the region by the Cathars. The castles were central to the battle between the Cathars and the Catholic Church - refered to as the Cathar Crusades.
For more information - click this link: Cathar Crusades.
As you approach the village and Chateau ruin you quickly get an appreciation for why places like this were chosen for their defensive positions. The panoramic views are fantatstic.
Entering the Village
The parking lot is located not too far from the village entrance, but the walk up is a bit of an effort because of the winding road's incline.
When we visited on a prior trip in July, there was a small tram which escorted visitors to the entrance - much appreciated under the hot sun. Our return visit was in early June and there was no tram - fortunately it was a cooler day.
Upon entering the village, one of the first things you come across is the Library/Bookshop. Both of these are very interesting in terms of the history of the place and the region in general.
Being enthralled with the Crusades and medieval times in general, I had to pick up a couple of souvenirs, including a pocket watch with chain and the Crusader's Cross.
A Tranquil Location - Perhaps?
As you stroll through the village you quickly get an appreciation for this out-of-the-way spot and the tranquil atmosphere it has. This however, goes against all of the intrigue which has been associated with the village over the past century.
Never-the-less, it is a good opportunity to pick up one of the souvenir books covering the mystery & intrigue and to do a little reading over a cup of coffee...
A Priest, A Treasure, Romance & Intrigue?
Rennes-le-Château is most renowned for the mystery associated with Priest Bérenger Saunière in the late 1800's and a buried treasure that he uncovered after discovering secret parchments associated with the Blanche de Castille - never verified.
Coincidently however, the church (Église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine) which was in a bad state of disrepair, miraculously was renovated by Saunière - on a priest's wage? There are many theories on this, including the treasure which is said to have included 28,500,000 gold pieces.
There have also been claims that the treasure is associated with the Knights Templar, the Cathars and the treasures of the Temple of Solomon - reported to include the Ark of the Covenant and the Menorah.
As well, Saunière by some accounts was romantically involved with his maid-servant Marie Dénarnaud. This is depicted on the wall outside the cafe.
The old church or Église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine was built over the site of an original church built in the 8th century.
Saunière spent 26,417 Francs between 1897 and 1905 to make the renovations, some of which were very unusual including a devil like figure holding up the holy water stoup.
The Da Vinci Code
The village really became popular afer the publishing of Dan Brown's book 'The Da Vinci Code' and subsequent movie.
In addition to the intrigue associated with the treasure, it was rumoured that Saunière discovered proof (possibly a Marriage Certificate) that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdelaine were married and that their descendents became the Merovingian dynasty.
Wow - now that should be plenty to intrigue anyone to visit Rennes-le-Château...
Well that's it for this adventure.
Stay tuned for highlights of some of my other ‘back roads’ blogposts of our travels through the Cathar Trail, including Carcassone > RVDH…