Every year on January 17, pilgrims go to the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in Rennes-le-Château to witness a mysterious light phenomenon known pommes bleues (blue apples). Around midday, the sun streams through the church’s stained glass windows, projecting numerous strange multicolored orbs that are said to resemble apples onto the religious friezes inside.
The blue apples are mentioned in ancient parchments supposedly discovered by parish priest Bérenger Saunière hidden in the church altar. These papers fuelled the legends and stories that put Rennes-le-Château on the Aude tourist map. The parchments were ultimately proven to be forgeries. However, as we commonly see, even compelling facts are no defense when a conspiracy theory gains traction.
January 17 is particularly significant to enthusiasts of the local legends. It is the feast day of St. Anthony the Great (also called Anthony the Hermit), and also the day in 1917 when Saunière had the stroke from which he would soon expire. He was interred in the church cemetery, and the secrets of his infamous unexplained wealth went with him. How did he get the cash needed to upgrade the church and presbytery and to build a large house called Villa Bethania that includes a lavish belvedere, an orangery, and the crenelated Tour Magdala?
The source of Sauniere’s funds remains a hotly debated subject that attracts a steady stream of truth seekers to this remote village, much to the benefit of Rennes-le-Château’s tourist trade. Whether you believe the legends or not, the blue apples phenomenon is a uniquely temporal event that is as rare as it’s beguiling. If you want to judge for yourself, you’ll need to be in Rennes-le-Château on or around January 17. That said, it’s a long way to travel to see some light reflected through glass, so a degree of dedication to the Rennes mystery or to witnessing highly obscure events would be requisite.
Despite all that, coming on Blue Apples Day adds extra spice to your Rennes explorations, and seeing some watery blue apples in this enigmatic place certainly adds atmosphere.