My favorite example of a seriously weird church.

It was built at the end of the 19th century by Beranger Sauniere, the parish priest of Rennes-le-Chateau in southern France. Sauniere had been dirt poor for a long time, but within the space of a few years, he suddenly became extremely wealthy and started building churches like crazy, clear up 'til his death in 1917.

Mystery #1: Where did he get all the money? Well, he told his housekeeper, Marie Dernaud, but she died of a stroke without ever letting the secret slip. In the absence of real evidence, speculation abounds: he found the lost treasure of the Knights Templar; he found a buried stash of Visigoth gold; he blackmailed or simply performed a valuable service for the royal von Hapsburgs; he was blackmailing the Vatican; he rediscovered the secrets of alchemy...

Sauniere claimed to have discovered some coded parchments in 1891. Though they appeared to be simple transcriptions of the Latin Gospels, certain letters were highlighted to make another set of mostly-nonsensical messages in French; for example: "This treasure belongs to Dagobert II King and to Sion and he is there dead." and "Shepherdess no temptation that Poussin Teniers hold the key peace 681 by the cross and this horse of God I complete this daemon guardian at noon blue apples." Was it pure nonsense, or did it contain the key to the mystery? No one can say for sure.

Even creepier: the priest who heard Sauniere's final confession found it so shocking that he refused to grant absolution or give the last rites.

Of course, the church itself is Weird City. The Stations of the Cross are far from standard issue: one shows a Scotsman in kilts watching the crucifixion, and another seems to depict a group of men stealing Jesus' body from the tomb in the dead of night. Next to the entrance to the sanctuary stands the statue of a flat-out terrifying demon, and carved over the church's front door are the words "THIS PLACE IS ACCURSED".

The Church of Mary Magdalene is considered a genuine tourist attraction in Europe, but those of us stuck in the colonies don't often hear of it. Coincidence? You be the judge...

Research from "Everything is Under Control: Conspiracies, Cults, and Cover-Ups" by Robert Anton Wilson, published by HarperCollins, 1998, pp.109-110.