Rennes-le-Château and Rennes-les-Bains

Rennes-le-Château and Rennes-les-Bains

Visigothic treasure NOT found!

Visigothic Treasure including the Treasure of Jerusalem
menorah.jpg
  In the last week of July, 2011, the news broke - the Treasure of the Visigoths had been found at Rennes-le-Chateau.
    It has long been believed that the treasure of the Visigoths was "hidden in the region of Rennes-le-Chateau" but where?  Some people thought under the chateau of Blanchefort, now in ruins; my own particular theory was, as Rennes-le-Chateau, known then as Rhedae, was the Visigoths' capital at the time, naturally, their treasure was kept in the crypt of the castle.
    It and its owners were well-guarded by a garrison of soldiers.  Underground tunnels left the crypt so that, in the case of attack, the soldiers could escape out of the back door, so to speak, and circle round to attack the enemy from behind.
    The Treasure of the Visigoths was in two parts.  Firstly, the Royal Treasury, mostly coins paid in taxes or freshly minted - the Visigoths in Septimanie (today's Languedoc) had five mints making their own coins.  Secondly, the spoils of war - booty.  This included the Jerusalem Treasure that Titus took from the Temple of Jerusalem, that he destroyed in 70AD, and that the Visigothic king, Alaric I, took from Rome in 410AD.  (Details of the treasure are in the Bible in Exodus, chapters 25, 26 and 27.)  The Jerusalem Treasure came to France with King Ataulf who married Galla Placidia at Narbonne; his successor Wallia took the treasure to Toulouse, as the Visigoths had an agreement with Rome to rule Aquitaine.
    The treasure remained at Toulouse until threatened by Clovis, but when he arrived at Toulouse he did not find any treasure - it had been moved to Carcassonne, still owned by the Visigoths, and impregnable.  Alaric II died in battle with Clovis, but not at Poitiers; it was beside the Montagne d'Alaric, named after him.   Carcassonne, now owned by the northern Franks was a little close to the frontier (today's Lastours on the Montagne Noire) so when the Royal family retired to Rhedae - the new king was only five years old - the treasure went there too.
This latest news
Three French researchers found a cave containing, apparently, Visigothic treasure, and decided to write a book about it.  As far as is known, they never took anything from the cave, but vague reports circulated about a box on a shelf that could have been the Ark of the Convenant . . .  then the three argued and one, Franck Jaffos, claimed the story for his own, and broke his agreement with the others by publishing details of the cave on his web-site.  Michel Vallet, who writes under the name of Pierre Jarnac, and is well-respected, gave an interview to the Midi Libre paper.  "The treasure does not belong to us," he said.  (Presumably, it belongs to the Jews.)
     Apparently information in the Poussin paintings gave the writers their clues, and they say the treasure was known to have been guarded by the Templars.  Franck Daffos tells a tale of the existence of a great room which "closed up" the war booty of the Visigoths behind walls built by the Templars.  "According to various writings, to penetrate this mythic place one must take away the bodies of thirty men, their throats cut by swords, who died to save the secret of this fabulous treasure."  

  (Pure speculation, the local newspaper said.)
    The cave however, is not really close to Rennes-le-Chateau, but 13 kilometres as the crow flies, and about 20km by road.  It is on a mountain called Pech d'en Couty, 2km east of Sougraine, to the right of the road that goes up to the Source Salee.  (See my article on Rennes-les-Bains - I walked right past the mountain of Couty without knowing I was just metres from the Visigothic treasure!)
  Pech d'en Couty.jpg
the cave where the treasure reputedly was
However, there is no point in trying to find the cave now, the paper strictly informed us, for it has been fenced off and under surveillance.  The local gendarmerie from Couiza is guarding it; the State has insisted that proper archeological excavations must take place and that all finds belong to the government of France.  That is the law.  The local hunters are complaining all the activity there has ruined the hunt.
    The owner of the mountainside, Dieudonne Rousette, was naturally worried about hoards of treasure-seekers trampling over his land.  "They will ruin the land and the mountain with hammer-drills and explosives to make a permanent hole.  There's also the risks of entering this fissure."   A visit from Captain Baudry of the Gendarmarie at Limoux, put his mind at rest.
     Asked if he believed the treasure was there, Dieudonee Rousset replied;  "I am sceptic, but on the other hand, my wife Paquita, she believes it.  She has read everything ever published about Rennes-le-Chateau.  She's convinced the Visigothic treasure is buried on our domain."  
  A local walker and treasure-hunter passing by, said;  "Since 1969, I've come to the region every summer.  I thought I would make a fortune by finding the tomb of an Egyptian goddess but I've given up now."
    This amused me, because my friend Suzette, who used to work as a schoolteacher in Rennes-les-Bains, told me;  "Nowadays everyone is reincarnated from Mary Magdalene, but in my time here, the 1980's, everyone was reincarnated from Cleopatra!"
    I told Suzette about this latest treasure story and she thinks it is possible, whatever the treasure is, that the Templars guarded it.  She knows their history well, as she lives in Douzens, where there was a commandery.
    I asked around in Rennes-le-Chateau and was told;  "It might not be the treasure of Jerusalem, but there's certainly something there, we and the police are all taking it seriously, it could be, for example, a Visigothic tomb."
     Some of RleC are more blase.  "You know, there are some five hundred books come out," said the mayor, Alexandre Painco.  "What's one more book?" (Later, on TV on the 31st July, he said the Treasure could not possibly be at Sougraine because it is known to be at Rennes-le-Chateau!)
  Some people were sceptical.  A journalist wrote drily;  "The farmer is not counting on the Treasure of Jerusalem to buy a new tractor."  So funny!
    Suddenly, everyone is interested in the Visigoths.  "We're expecting," the local paper said, "A new wave - Visigothique!"  Well, I do hope so.
  I would point out that I have written the only detailed book in English about the history of the Visigoths here in Languedoc, and I am writing another with particular reference to the treasure.  You can see both on this site  here.
And for a film about a treasure-hunter - click here.
 A recommendation from a reader
I recently purchased your book "The Visigothic Inheritance - Citadels and Treasure in Southern France".  I found it a most interesting and enjoyable read; your passion for the subject certainly comes through.  I currently live in Ginoles, near Quillan, having previously lived in Couiza, and have a great interest in the history and geography of the area.  It has always struck me that there is a big gap in the information available on the Visigothic era and you have gone a considerable way to filling it in. Thank you.   Christopher Tams
  Thank YOU, Christopher!
 


02/12/2014
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