02 Sep

"The researcher and librarian Xavi Bonet has published on his website an article called "... the heroic era of Rennes-les-Bains", which is a contemporary article dated 13.9.1913 written by a reporter "from" "La Bataille républicaine" newspaper. He paints a portrait of a conservative and monarchist middle class that frequent the spa at Rennes-les-Bains. There is also mention of the sympathy shown for the local "old cure"  M. Boudet, who is described as 'so friendly and always willing to share his Celtic theories  (or megalithic theories?)'. This "archaeologist" has indeed released a distinguished book on the subject (we are guessing True Celtic Language - 1886) and even put on the wall of his vicarage a bust of a woman larger than life (sic), saved from destruction and described as an anthropomorphic menhir. The visitor is unaware at that time that Boudet had previously been inspired to evoke a beautiful Saviour's head looking out over the valley". 

You will find the original article HERE 

Xavi Bonet - who found the article - writes: 

"On September 13, 1913 there was published in La Bataille Republicaine, a radical and socialist paper, an excellent article entitled "Les Bains de Rennes" which mentions many of the elements that involve the myth we now know about the whole area, Rennes-les-Bains, Rennes-le-Château ... but this time without myth, in the best pure journalistic style of a travel magazine. 

[The two Rennes are] described as definitely a great place to go - giving us an inkling of the tourism framework [at the time] which included Rennes-le-Château long before the appearance of Noel Corbu, or the "Gold of Rennes" and 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail' or the " da Vinci Code".  In the text we find references to places and issues well known in the mystery, the source de Magdalene, Lake Barenc, Rennes-le-Château and surprisingly fascinating ... like a tourist attraction we are invited to know the priest Henri Boudet,  always ready to enlighten tourists with his knowledge. 

The article talks about selling books at the gates of the hotels [which] referred to the wealth of the area which depends largely on tourism to attract people. The local response to this is why there are postcards of the famous Boudet "cromleck", why Saunière was selling postcards explaining with great enthusiasm the history of Rennes-le-Château  and it's Visigoth inheritance,  tourists filled the church with donations - that later served to justify the income [of Saunière?] against which there was a court sentence against him. Already in 1905, during the visit where SESA discovers for the first time the tombstone of the Marquise, those of the expedition have the option to stay and eat in a restaurant at Rennes-le-Château ... Did you know that in 1905 in Rennes-le-Château, in the waste and the construction of Villa Bethania by Sauniere, there was a restaurant that served tourists while he sold them postcards and filled the church?" 

 
The local response to this is why there are postcards of the famous Boudet "cromleck", why Saunière was selling postcards explaining with great enthusiasm the history of Rennes-le-Château.”

It's very interesting to read this article written by someone who was there at the time, reporting in ordinary journalistic ways about the interesting aspects of Rennes-les-Bains. It's also interesting that the two Rennes were full of tourists and in fact i'm sure somewhere i read that Sauniere made a comment about his postcards being sold at the Spa village [i'll try and locate the source of the quote]. What is interesting is that all this activity in the villages suggest that they were not really backwater villages.  

I bought a copy of Jean Girou's book several years ago, where he reports the locals referring to 'treasure' as being the source of Sauniere's wealth ... then on Johans site [http://www.portail-rennes-le-chateau.com/gazette/] where i saw the article by Roger Crouquet - he talked of a desolate and empty village - essentially dying. Between 1936 and 1948 the world went through WWII. It must have been the devastation of the War which upturned everything. The youngsters of the villages probably left as soldiers - called up for the war effort, pretty much like it happened in England. 

That will explain the vast difference in how the villages of the two Rennes were reporting on Sauniere and what the gossip became in 1948. It is clear that there were interesting 'things' to see and explore and explain - before and after these events.