Archduke from the, House of Habsburg. In 1889 he, distanced himself from the Habsburg dynasty and took the name of Johann Orth, after his Gmundener castle. After he had laid down his titles, he bought a freight ship in Portsmouth and, left for, South America in March 1890. He arrived in Buenos Aires from where he sent a letter to his friend Paul Heinrich stating that he was going to discover Patagonia, the Land of Fire and the area around Cape Horn. Cape Horn is also the place where his ship was reported missing in December of that same year. Extensive searches ordered by his father the Emperor Franz-Joseph I rendered nothing. He was pronounced dead a couple of years later.
A, travelling French noblemen, the Count Jean of Liniers, claimed to have met with Orth in Patagonia on his ranch called Canadon Largo. On his journeys, he had met a man in his fifties who called himself Fred Otten. Liniers soon learned that he was in fact dealing with Johann Salvator. The two men became good friends. Johann died in the winter of 1910.
Just before he left for South America, Johann Salvator visited Saunière between November 1889 and February 1890. According to Pierre Jarnac in his book Histoire du Trésor de Rennes-le-Château, his visit was recorded by the French police in Couiza, neighboring village to Rennes-le-Château. Author and Historian Jean Markale adds to that a copy was sent to the French Secret Service, the ‘Deuxième Bureau’. They had been informed of the priest’s, strange visitor by, Doctor Espézel of Espéraza., When asked for the motives of his presence,, Johann told the surprised policemen that he got lost on his way from Italy to Spain and ended up in Couiza where he descended the hill to Rennes-le-Château where he had the good fortune to meet Bérenger Saunière. He travelled incognito, calling himself ‘Monsieur Guillaume‘. He stated he was on the lookout for a place of refuge for himself and his followers since the Habsburg dynasty had no future and he had been advised to relocate outside the Austro-Hungarian empire. Johann Salvator was, the cousin of the Count of Chambord, whose widow features prominently in the mystery of Rennes-le-Château: the, Comtesse the Chambord. The Comtesse donated the first 3.000 francs to Saunière to start the renovation works on his church. It’s a documented fact both Johann and Saunière had an account at the Bank Veuve Auriol et Fils, in Perpignan. According to Gérard de Sède they even had consecutive account numbers, indicating they had opened the accounts together, at the same time.
In an official statement, the diocese of Carcassonne claimed Johann, Salvator and Saunière had the intention to build a rest home for elderly priests, indirectly suggesting Johann was financing the initiative. Indeed, Saunière started building the Villa Bethania in the years after he met Johann Orth, claiming that very intention.