Noël Corbu

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Noël Corbu (27 April 1912 – 20 May 1968) is best known as a former restaurateur in the Southern French village of Rennes-le-Château, who from the mid-1950s circulated the story that the 19th-century French priest Bérenger Saunière discovered the treasure of Blanche of Castile.

Early life[edit]

Born in Paris in 1912, the young Noël Corbu lived in Morocco due to his father being an attaché at the Embassy there, before obtaining the degree of Doctor of Science in Paris. In 1935 Corbu married Henriette Coll. By 1942 he had become a businessman who had taken up residence in Perpignan, later moving to the village of Bugarach during the Occupation. In 1950 Corbu returned to Morocco hoping to set up a sugar refinery, but was unsuccessful.[1] In 1953, his novel Le Mort cambrioleur ("The Burglar Dead") was published.[2]

It was one day while going for a picnic to Rennes-le-Château that the Corbu family met Marie Dénarnaud, the former housekeeper of Bérenger Saunière.


In 1946, Marie Dénarnaud bequeathed to Noël Corbu by Holographic will the former estate of Abbé Bérenger Saunière, that he constructed in her name between 1899-1905. The estate comprised the Villa Bethania, the Tour Magdala, an Orangery, and the Belvedere that connects the Tour Magdala to the Orangery [3] When Marie Dénarnaud died in 1953, Corbu inherited her archives relating to Bérenger Saunière. During Easter 1955 Corbu turned the Villa Bethania into a Hotel and opened a restaurant located underneath the belvedere that connects the Tour Magdala to the Orangery (Corbu installed the windows). Later during the 1990s, the Villa Bethania was turned into a Hotel again.

In January 1956, the local newspaper La Dépêche du Midi serialised an interview with Corbu in who claimed that Father Saunière discovered the treasure of Blanche of Castile, and which 'according to the archives' consisted of 28,500,000 gold pieces. This was the treasure of the French crown assembled by Blanche de Castile to pay the ransom of Saint Louis, a prisoner of the infidels, the surplus of which she had hidden at Rennes-le-Château. Saunière had only found one part of it, so it was necessary to continue his investigations.[4] Corbu also claimed Saunière had in 1892 discovered "parchments" whilst renovating his church "written in a mixture of French and Latin, which at first glance could be discerned passages from the Gospels".[5] It has been noted by critics however that Saunière began renovating his church in 1886, not 1892,[6] and that "there was no evidence that these parchments had ever existed".[7] Corbu claimed that Marie Dénarnaud would confide a secret to him before she died, saying "Pray do not worry yourself, Monsieur Corbu. You shall have more money than you will be able to spend!" [8]

Corbu's story inspired author Robert Charroux to develop an active interest and in 1958, with his wife Yvette and other members of The Treasure Seekers' Club (that he founded in 1951), scanned the village of Rennes-le-Château and its church dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene for treasure using a metal detector.[9] The Dowsing-by-Pendulum enthusiast and hypnotist Rolland Domergue, with medium Germaine Goyard, joined Corbu in 1958 to look for the treasure, and thus began the extensive accumulation of pilgrimages to the site by many various people from all over France, that on 28 July 1965 forced the local Municipal council to introduce a local By-law prohibiting excavations in the village.

In April 1961, the French Television Channel RTF made a documentary directed by Marina Grey entitled La Roue Tourne ("The Wheel Turns"), that cast Noël Corbu as Father Saunière.[10]

Priory of Sion hoax[edit]

Noël Corbu's account of the discovery of the parchments by Father Saunière was later quoted in the document Un Trésor Mérovingien à Rennes-le-Château (1966) attributed to "Antoine L'Ermite",[11] that for "stylistic reasons suggest that this was written by Pierre Plantard and/or Philippe de Chérisey".[12] Philippe de Chérisey confessed to having forged the famous parchments that appeared in Gérard de Sède’s 1967 book, L'Or de Rennes in his manuscript "Stone and Paper".[13] The text of the document attributed to "Antoine L'Ermite" was modelled on Charroux's account found in his book, Trésors du Monde, where he extensively quoted Noël Corbu.


Noël Corbu sold the estate in 1964 to Henri Buthion (1924–2002), moving to Saint-Félix-Lauragais. Corbu was killed in a car accident on 20 May 1968 on the road between Carcassonne and Castelnaudary. He was interred in a burial vault alongside his wife (who died in 1966) in the cemetery of Rennes-le-Château. The estate has been the property of the local Municipal council since 2000.

Noël Corbu's daughter Claire Corbu with her husband Antoine Captier in 1985 published L'Héritage de l’Abbé Saunière that reproduced some of the important archive documents relating to Bérenger Saunière,[14] and in May 1989 opened the Saunière Museum in the village of Rennes-le-Château, being part of the Association Terre de Rhedae, supported by the local Municipal council. The Saunière Museum was re-opened on 1 March 2009, presenting the story of Bérenger Saunière and the history of Rennes-le-Château in four different languages.


  1. ^ Vinciane Denis, Rennes-le-Château, Le Trésor de l'Abbé Saunière (Paris: Marabout, 1996).
  2. ^ Noël Corbu, Le Mort cambrioleur (Perpignan, Impr. du Midi, 1953). Republished in 2005.
  3. ^ Pierre Jarnac, Histoire du Trésor de Rennes-le-Château (Éditions Bélisane, 1985).
  4. ^ Albert Salamon, D'un coup de pioche dans un pilier du maître-autel, l'abbé Saunière met à jour le trésor de Blanche de Castille ("With one blow of the pick-axe in a pillar of the main altar Abbé Saunière uncovered the treasure of Blanche de Castile"), in La Dépêche du Midi 12, 13, 14 January 1956.
  5. ^ Robert Charroux, Treasures of the World, p.220 (Frederick Muller Limited, 1966; English translation by Gloria Cantù).
  6. ^ Jean-Jacques Bedu, Rennes-Le-Château: Autopsie d'un mythe (Ed. Loubatières, 1990).
  7. ^ Bill Putnam, John Edwin Wood, The Treasure of Rennes-le-Château, A Mystery Solved, p.112 (Sutton Publishing Limited, revised paperback edition, 2005, ISBN 0-7509-4216-9).
  8. ^ Robert Charroux, ''Trésors du Monde (1962).
  9. ^ Robert Charroux described his activities in Rennes-le-Château in his 1962 book Trésors du Monde enterrées, emmurés, engloutis (Fayard), that was published in English in 1967.
  10. ^ René Descadeillas, Mythologie du Trésor de Rennes: Histoire Veritable de L'Abbé Saunière, Curé de Rennes-Le-Château (Mémoires de la Société des Arts et des Sciences de Carcassonne, Années 1971-1972, 4me série, Tome VII, 2me partie; 1974).
  11. ^ Pierre Jarnac, Les Mystères de Rennes-le-Château, Mélanges Sulfureux, p. 20-21 (CERT, 1994).
  12. ^ John Saul, Janice Glaholm, Rennes-le-Château, A Bibliography, p. 28 (Mercurius Press, 1985).
  13. ^ Jean-Luc Chaumeil, Rennes-le-Château – Gisors – Le Testament du Prieuré de Sion, Le Crépuscule d’une Ténébreuse Affaire, p.184-228 (Editions Pégase, 2006, ISBN 2-9518752-8-2).
  14. ^ Claire Corbu, Antoine Captier, L'Héritage De L’Abbé Saunière (Editions Bélisane, 1985 reprinted in 2000).


  • Claire Corbu and Antoine Captier, L'Héritage de l’Abbé Saunière (Éditions Bélisane, 1985; 2000).
  • David Rossoni, L'histoire rêvée de Rennes-le-Château: Eclairages sur un récit collectif contemporain (Books on Demand Editions, 2010). ISBN 2-8106-1152-1

See also[edit]