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What do you get when you cross novelist Dan Brown with cheese? Rennes-le-Château!

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Shining village on a hill.

IMG_5008Rennes-le-Château made an appearance in “The Da Vinci Code,” Brown’s thriller about a conspiracy and some very creative interpretations of history. Supposedly Jesus high-tailed it to France with Mary Magdalene, which is how the Holy Grail–or the cup he used at the Last Supper–ended up at a tiny church in a tiny village in the deepest depths of France profondeIMG_5018

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Entrance to the church and museum. The visit is for another time.

This just shows that we have stories for every stripe of crazy, from ufologists to people drawn to Rennes-le-Château, including to excavate for buried treasure. Which is strictly forbidden, and written all over the place.IMG_5011IMG_5012
IMG_5042IMG_5037Back in the 1890s, the village priest, Bérenger Saunière, seemed to be suddenly rolling in dough. He had the church fixed up, then built himself a domaine and a tower, la Tour Magdala, in 1901. By 1902, the bishop of Carcassonne, who had turned a blind eye to the priest’s spending, had died, and the new higher-ups demanded an accounting, which the priest didn’t want to do. IMG_5019

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Grand Street, or Main Street…somewhat of an exaggeration.

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Is it art or is it just a muffler on a roof?

It isn’t clear whether the holy grail story was made up by Saunière or by a local hotelier looking for publicity. In any case, long before the advent of the Internet, the tale worked magic, because all kinds of illuminés turned up and haven’t stopped. For example, in 2011, some “researchers” claimed that Rennes-le-Château holds King Solomon’s gold and that the Visigoths brought the original menorah, used by Moses. Because that makes complete sense, right?

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La Tour Magdala

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The gardens of Saunière’s domaine, including lots of roses not yet in bloom earlier this month.
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A glass lookout on the domaine with sweeping views.

What is undeniable is that the hilltop village of 65 inhabitants (and THREE restaurants!!) is charming and has breathtaking views. We stopped on our way home from Bugarach, having loaded up on goat’s and sheep’s cheeses as part of de la Ferme en Ferme, or From Farm to Farm, circuit–something to check out if you’re in the region.

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Sheep’s cheeses…don’t you love the hearts?

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So many cheeses.
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Cheese factories. I mean, sheep.
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Sheep art.
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Possibly the cutest WC ever. At the sheep/cheese farm.

Rennes-le-Château is 45 kilometers (28 miles) south of Carcassonne. There’s lots to see along the way! Cute villages, mountains, farms, ruins, cows and sheep and goats….

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Do you see the tower in the center of the photo?
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Same tower, viewed from Rennes-le-Château. I love all that dark red earth in the distance, and the white rocky cliffs.
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A little zoom. It was very windy, so we didn’t tramp around much.
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A different tower, in the village. I bet every single local kid has climbed that thing. I would have been the only one not to climb it, but would have gotten in trouble for just being present.
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Those weird things across the street are rain spouts!
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Hey! It’s Bugarach, almost hiding in the clouds!
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On the road.
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Another castle seen from the road…not sure which one. There are so many.

 

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27 thoughts on “Holy Grail

  1. We live near Rennes-le- Chateau and like to visit for the view and enjoy lunch at Le Jardin de Marie restaurant which is very peaceful.

    I was told thst the Mairie had to ban digging for treasure as the residents were tunnelling under the houses and the whole lot was in danger of collapsing!! Amazing how a myth can turn into an obsession!! Lots of tour guides make lots of money from it anyway 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love the little rusty metal sheep. And I’m wondering if the white cliffs are the same kind of chalk found near Etretat and Fécamp, and more famously at Dover. Any geologists?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Those chalky looking cliffs with the red earth beneath ring our village ( whose direction you are looking in if you are in line with the Magdala tower)

    As for the light rock, think it might be limestone of some sort

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Do you mean to get to Carcassonne from Perpignan, or to get to Rennes-le-Château from Carcassonne? Carca-Perpignan is possible by train, if it isn’t on strike. To Rennes-le-Château, check this site: http://www.rennes-le-chateau.fr/en/get-here/ You can take the Carcassonne/Limoux/Quillan train/bus and stop at the Couiza/Montazels stop. From there, you have to walk 2.8 miles (uphill!) or take a taxi–there’s no public transport to the village.

      Liked by 1 person

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