In the Castillon Diary we have an eye witness account of a visit to Rennes-le-Chateau in May of 1900. Don Rodrigo was a newspaper reporter and a diarist who entered Abbe Berenger Sauniere`s private rooms while waiting for refreshments from Marie. There are several statements included which reinforce the findings of other researchers:
“It was obvious that La Diva was somewhat annoyed at this news and also by the not unsurprising (to me anyway) fact that the concierge had no idea as to who she was. La Diva then explained that she was a friend of Father Sauniere from Paris who had travelled a long way to see him and at that we were invited inside and taken into a rather dingy and sparsely furnished parlour where La Diva was installed in the only comfortable looking chair in the room. The concierge offered us some refreshment and bustled off to get it. I looked around the room and opening a door in the inside wall found myself in what must have been the priest’s study. It was as poorly furnished as the parlour, a large desk, a bookcase two or three upright chairs and a wall-clock. On the dingy walls besides the usual religious objects, crucifix, statuette of the Virgin, etc. was a large scale map of Rennes and the surrounding countryside with certain locations ringed in red ink and also three well framed prints quite diverse in subject matter and looking somewhat incongruous in the study of a country priest. One was of what appeared to be the Temptation of St. Anthony clearly in the Dutch style but by an artist I did not recognize, the second a portrait of a Pope identified by a label as Celestine V, Saint of whom I then knew nothing and the third Poussin’s masterpiece Les Bergers d’Arcadie, closer inspection revealed that this was not in fact a print but a fine copy of the type done regularly in the Louvre by accomplished copyists and would have commanded a fair price. The books in the bookcase from what I could see through the dusty glass doors were mostly devotional works but I also noted Michelet’s History of France, Reclus’ Universal geography, a history of the Merovingian Kings, Ulfilas’ History of the Goths, some treatises on applied mathematics and a Surveyor’s Manual. Another door led from this room into what was clearly a storeroom full of crates some open revealing laboratory equipment, piles of books some corded into bundles, a hunting rifle and bandolier, fishing rods and what looked like a surveyor’s theodolite and distance measuring staffs. I was about to edge into the room when I heard a voice saying “Pardon Monsieur but Father Sauniere does not like strangers to enter his private rooms.” Turning I mumbled an apology of sorts to the concierge and rejoined Madame in the parlour. La Diva looked at me with a wry smile and said “So Rodrigo you now know what curiosity did to the cat but never mind have a glass of Madame Denarnaud’s excellent lemonade.” The lemonade was indeed excellent and afterwards La Diva expressed a desire to be shown round the Church which she understood to have been recently restored…”
“She said that the church interior was all done to special designs drawn by Father Sauniere adding that he was extremely particular that they were done accurately and that he had sent three back to be corrected. La Diva inspected them with great care but to me they looked merely conventional products of church interior fitters. When we left the church La Diva having declared that she felt quite overcome by the experience and would with Madame Denarnaud’s kind indulgence rest a while in the parlour I decided to stroll around the village. After the splendour of the church interior the village, despite the bright Provencal Spring sunshine seemed drabber than before and I could find no building of particular interest there is a chateau but although inhabited it is in a very ruinous state. I eventually found an estaminet of sorts and refreshed myself with a glass of cider and naturally as an outsider I attracted from the few loafers who were in there and there was much audible whispering, in Occitan of course. Then one asked in French, “You sightseeing Mister?” I nodded. “Not much to see though is there?” They all laughed. “You have a beautiful church here,” I replied, “and I had hoped to see Father Sauniere”. “Slippery Sauniere eh weren’t he there then? Probably out treasure hunting.” More laughter. . “Madame Desnarnaud yes she showed us around.”. “Madame Desnarnaud eh? You mean Black Marie the hatmaker’s daughter?.”I made no reply. “Did she tell you where the good Father gets his gold from then?” “His brother should have had some of that gold Mister, he helped on the church he found the documents that made Sauniere rich,” interjected another. “No,” I said, “we did not discuss that”. “I bet she didn’t. Graverobbers that’s what those two are did she tell you they tore up the graveyard?” The talk was becoming heated. “Grave robbing and black magic,” added another. “You mean he gets gold from base metal,” I ventured. “More like from the ground Mister when he goes out with his fancy paraphernalia and his magic umbrella”- more general laughter. “He and she they summon up spirits, old kings and knights they give them knowledge.” All this is fascinating gentlemen I said (as indeed it was) seeking to extricate myself which I accomplished by instructing the publican to give them all drinks and providing a generous sum to do it with. I left with shouts of “Here’s to you sir, come back soon but not at full moon!” and raucous laughter. I went straight back to the presbytery. Madame Desnarnaud having provided the necessary means La Diva wrote a note for Father Sauniere which she entrusted to that worthy woman and we walked back to the square where with some difficulty we woke Janou from deep slumber and endured a painfully slow journey back to Limoux and, needs must, put up at the Hotel Moderne for the night….”
Don Rodrigo reports that Sauniere had a map of Rennes-le-Chateau on the wall with certain areas circled in red ink. Red ink was used on some of the bottle notes found by Ben Hammott. Rodrigo also saw the priest`s surveying equipment. The villagers that talked to him related that Sauniere took this equipment on his hikes into the surrounding mountains. Did he use it to site the locations of his messages that he left in buried bottles? They also mentioned that Marie accompanied Sauniere which has been reported by other researchers.
Author Patrice Chaplin stated in her latest book “The Portal” that it was “Sauniere`s task to leave a message in symbol for those to come.” This refers to the arcane symbolism in his church as well as the notes that he left hidden in wine bottles in the surrounding foothills. According to Patrice, Sauniere was a member of a private society based in northern Spain that provided for the priest and his household and gave him instructions as to his historical mission.
The diary of Don Rodrigo supports the finds of Ben Hammott and the historical information recorded by Patrice Chaplin.