Susan E. Kaberry and Beth Cox

Susan E. Kaberry

French Inspiration

Rennes-le-Chateau is a tiny village which became famous because of the strange story of Berenger Saunier, who was the village priest in the early part of the 20th Century. He arrived as a penniless and reputedly drunken priest. But something happened to change things. He became rich. He spent a lot of money on restoring his run-down church and built and restored other property in the village.
The ruined chateau at Montaillou
The source of his wealth has never been definitively proved although many theories abound. The village became famous and spawned a small tourist trade. Other legends flourished in the region. Did Jesus and Mary Magdalene make their way here after landing in Marseille? Did The Da Vinci Code reveal some truths? On the back of all this, a café, gift shops and a book shop have opened. In the summer visitors are required to leave their cars at the foot of the hill and walk up the hill to the village. It’s said that a visit to Rennes-le-Chateau may change your life.
I bought a book there. It was The Yellow Crosses by Rene Weis. Using the records of the Inquisition which were archived in the Vatican for nearly 700 years, Rene Weis pieced together the stories of the villagers of Montaillou, who were arrested on suspicion of heresy by the Inquisition in 1324 and interrogated. It was the story of the last Cathars of the Languedoc. After being persecuted and massacred by the established church in Rome during the previous century, the Cathars had gone underground, until two brothers from Aix-Les-Thermes left their homes and families, went to Lombardy, and for four years studied until they became Cathar Perfects or Holy men. But it was the young Chatelaine, Beatrice de Planisolles, who captured my imagination. I knew immediately that this was what I would write about. Here was passion, love, political and religious intrigue, betrayal, debauchery, and cruelty. It was a story of ordinary people who rebelled against the church and I felt strongly that it needed to be told.
That was the start of my novel writing career. A visit to Rennes-le-Chateau really did change my life.