Some FACTS about Marie Denarnaud and Saunière.
The Church insisted that priests could only employ women who had "passed the canonical age"
i.e. post menopausal.
Alexandrine Denarnaud (Marie's mother) was thus Saunière's official
housekeeper. Marie helped her mother.
Hence the dummies representing Saunière and Marie Denarnaud's mother currently in the museum.
It is now uncontested that Saunière made at least one visit to Fritz Dörge Bank in Budapest
and other mysterious destinations
. With this he handed Marie a pre-written letter to send to any correspondence he recieved whilst away. It said (translated):"My Dear Brother (Monseigneur). Thank you for your letter. I have unfortunately been urgently called to the bedside of a sick colleague I will reply at greater length as soon as I return. Signed Bérenger Saunière priest"
All of these pre-written letters were undated, Marie added the date and sent them on.
1899 was the year Marie Denarnaud became a very wealthy landowner. All deeds were made in her name. Saunière was supplying the money. The main reason he did this is because the Church and the State were at loggerheads during this period and the State could easily confiscate the deeds if they were under the ownership of a Catholic priest.
Saunière instructed Marie to destroy papers before she died. Which she was seen by one villager to be doing. She also burned useless Russian loan certificates.
Saunière was officially
poor, he never gave his mother an allowance. His brother-in-law was upset by this and took him to court in Couiza. Marie replied in a letter which Saunière dictated. It says:"Since the separation of Church and State, M le curé is no longer in receipt of any salary and his response to the demands of the petitioner is, therefore, that his resources do not permit him to provide the three francs per diem".
Both Marie and Saunière made wills and nothing was left to any of their respective families. It says:"I give to Marie Denarnaud all these goods without any prior inventory being made and of which goods I desire absolutely that no inventory shall be made by my residuary legatee"
and in Marie's"It is my express wish that no inventory shall be made at my death"
Marie Denarnaud at age thirty , a picture that everyone here has seen before.
Take a look again only this time look at the dress and the jewelry.
This is not a mere house maid. She had money.
There are many letters in existence that Saunière wrote to Marie Denarnaud whilst he was away at places like the monastery at Prouilhe as a punishment after the Ecclesiastical Tribunal in October 1910. He called her Ma petite Marinette
or Ma bonne Marie
. She met him off the train in Limoux where he invited her to go shopping for the clothes necessary for the pair of them to journey together to Espiens (over one hundred miles from Carcassonne) and Toulouse. Espiens is a tiny village
The Samaritaine stores in Paris sent Marie dresses, corsages, hats, gloves, capes, jewelry and household linen worth a total of 770.50 francs (about 12000 euros). Saunière ordered 220 litres of Banjuls fortified wine and 1500 litres of wine (mirabelle, kirsch, Benedictine) and a hundred bottles of Peppermint. Saunière also smoked Havana cigars.
She found him unconscious on 17th January 1917 Saunière at this time had been in bad health for some time (no doubt due to his excesses). He had been blind in one eye for some time. He was running up debts. It does seem that Saunière's income tailed off at the start of WWI, no doubt his main source of income was now behind enemy lines.
He died on 21st January and they call it the "doleful date for the heart of a royalist priest" to fail
, the same date King Louis XVI was guillotined 124 years previously.
Marie ordered the coffin from Bousgarbiés in Couiza where his grandson still runs the business today. The coffin cost 160 francs. Marie paid for it on 12th June 1917, the mistake in HBHG has now been corrected.
Saunière did receive the last rites but only at his funeral which was presided over by three priests.
Marie visited his grave every day, AT NIGHT!
In 1933 Marie wrote to a friend:"As you can guess, all summer long I've had people wanting to buy the place (Villa Bethania) , but I just can't bring myself to do it. At the last moment, I always back off. Everything is too full of memories of our dear departed. I just can't bear to give it all up and keep putting off a decision"
Claire Corbu said that Marie had said more than once to the villages "You're walking on gold without knowing it"
She also said to a number of children after a Sunday school reading: "My poor children, if only you knew"
This testimony comes from one of the children present and still living in Rennes le Chateau.
On 24th January 1953 she suffered a cerebral attack which left her paralysed. She died on 29th January.
She was buried with Saunière but they moved him in 2004 to unconsecrated ground and kept her in the cemetery. He has departed her again.
This information was from Jean Luc Robin, a former resident of Rennes le Chateau and who interviewed the villagers who knew Marie Denarnaud.