The Priory of Sion

    According to some writers, notably the authors of the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and of The DA Vinci Code, there has long existed an organisation called the Priory of Sion, dedicated to restoring the Royal House of David the the throne of France.

    A Priory of Sion, located on Mount Sion in the Holy Land, existed in the Middle Ages. There is however no evidence that it existed after the middle ages, that it held any particular great secret, or that was in any way linked to the Knights Templars.

    It, at least the name, appears to have been revived by Pierre Plantard a well-known fantasist behind much of the mythology surrounding the mysteries discussed on this site. The modern Priory of Sion (Prieuré de Sion) was an association founded in 1956, in the French town of Annemasse. French law required the association to be registered with the government. This registration took place at the Sous-Prefecture of Saint Julien-en-Genevois, in May 1956, and its registration was noted on 20 July 1956 in the 'Journal Officiel de la République Française'.

    The founders and signatories are inscribed as Pierre Plantard known as Chyren, Andre Bonhomme known as Stanis Bellas, Jean Deleaval and Armand Defago. The purpose of the association according to its Statutes was "études et entraide des members" (education and mutual aid of the members). The originator of the association and its key protagonist was most probably Pierre Plantard, the General Secretary of the association. The choice of the name, 'Sion', was based on a hill south of Annemasse, known as 'Mont Sion'. As with all French Registration Papers and Statutes, those of the Priory of Sion are available to everyone.

    The Statutes and Registration Documents of the Priory of Sion were deposited on 7 May 1956. The first issue of its journal 'Circuit' is dated 27 May 1956. Its objective was indicated as a, "Bulletin d'Information et Défense des Droits et de la Liberté des Foyers H.L.M." (News Bulletin for the Defence of the Rights and the Freedom of Low Cost Housing). At this time the association betrayed no hint of the claims that would later be made for it. Some of the articles took a political position in the local Council elections. Others attacked and criticised property developers of Annemasse. It also opposed the gentrification of the area. The address of the offices of the the Priory of Sion and its journal was Plantard's council flat.

    Articles of the Priory of Sion indicated the desire to create a monastic order - but the activities of the Priory of Sion bore no resemblance to the objectives as outlined in its Statutes. Article VII says that its members are expected, "to carry out good deeds, to help the Catholic Church, teach the truth, defend the weak and the oppressed". Towards the end of 1956 the association had aims to forge links with the local Catholic Church of the area involving profound mysteries such as a School Bus service run by both the Priory of Sion and the church of St Joseph in Annemasse. The association was dissoved sometime after October 1956 but intermittently revived for different reasons by Plantard between 1962 and 1993 in name and on paper only.

    A letter at the Sous-Prefecture of Saint-Julien en Genevois indicates that Plantard had a criminal conviction as a confidence trickster.

    From the 1960s, a series of historical claims were to become attached to the name Priory of Sion. These claims bear no relation to the origins of the 1956 association. Plantard hoped that the Priory of Sion would become an influential cryptopolitical lodge (similar to the P2 cabal), but dedicated to the restoration of chivalry and monarchy, and to promote Plantard's claim to be the rightful king in France.

    In the 1960s, Pierre Plantard began writing a manuscript and produced "parchments" (created by his friend, Philippe de Cherisey) that Father Bérenger Saunière had supposedly discovered whilst renovating his church. These forged documents alluded to the survival of the Merovingian line of Frankish kings. Plantard manipulated the Abbé Bérenger Saunier's activities at Rennes-le-Château in order to "prove" his claims relating to the Priory of Sion.

    Between 1961 and 1984 Plantard contrived a fictitious pedigree of the Priory of Sion claiming that it was the offshoot of the "Order of Sion" (its full historical title being the Abbey de Notre Dame du Mont Sion) which had been founded in the Kingdom of Jerusalem during the First Crusade. Calling his original 1956 group "Priory of Sion" undoubtedly gave Plantard the later idea to claim that his organisation had been historically founded in Jerusalem during the Crusades when meeting Gerard de Sede during the early 1960s - this fabrication by Pierre Plantard was part of his literary deal with the author Gerard de Sede when they began collaborating together during the early 1960s in a series of published books.

    Letters dating from the 1960s written by Pierre Plantard, Philippe de Cherisey and Gerard de Sede to each other confirm that the three were engaging in an out-and-out confidence trick, describing schemes on how to combat criticisms of their various allegations and how they would make-up new allegations to try and keep the whole thing going - these letters (over 100 of them) are in the possession of French researcher Jean-Luc Chaumeil, who has also retained the original envelopes. Jean-Luc Chaumeil during the 1970s was part of the Priory of Sion cabal and wrote books and articles about Plantard and the Priory of Sion before splitting from it during the late 1970s and exposing Pierre Plantard's past in French books.

    Plantard and de Cherisey deposited a series of forged documents at the Bibliotheque Nationale (BN), in Paris during the 1960s. Anyone who set out to research the 'Priory of Sion' would come across these fake documents at the BN. One of those researchers was Henry Lincoln. With such 'evidence' in hand, he persuaded the BBC's factual program 'Chronicle' to make a series of documentaries. The BBC was willing to go along with this. The program generated thousands of responses.

    In order to further investigate the Rennes-le-Château mysteries, Lincoln joined forces with Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. Their research led to the pseudohistorical Secret Files of Henri Lobineau at the BN, compiled by Plantard and de Cherisey under the pseudonyme of "Philippe Toscan du Plantier"; the three authors also met up with Plantard and de Sede. Such 'evidence' became the source for their book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

    Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln even incorporated the infamous anti-semitic tract known as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (spelling Zion with an S) into their story, concluding that it actually referred to the activities of the Priory. This they viewed as the most persuasive pieces of evidence for the existence and activities of the Priory of Sion:

    The Priory of Sion was supposedly led by a Grand Master or Nautonnier. The list below is derived from "Les Dossiers Secrets d'Henri Lobineau" compiled by Philippe Toscan du Plantier (1967):

    1. Jean de Gisors (1188-1220)
    2. Marie de Saint-Clair (1220-1266)
    3. Guillaume de Gisors (1266-1307)
    4. Edouard de Bar (1307-1336)
    5. Jeanne de Bar (1336-1351)
    6. Jean de Saint-Clair (1351-1366)
    7. Blanche d'Evreux (1366-1398)
    8. Nicolas Flamel (1398-1418)
    9. Rene d'Anjou (1418-1480)
    10. Yolande de Bar (1480-1483)
    11. Sandro Filipepi (1483-1510)
    12. Leonardo da Vinci (1510-1519)
    13. Connetable de Bourbon (1519-1527)
    14. Ferdinand de Gonzague (1527-1575)
    15. Louis de Nevers (1575-1595)
    16. Robert Fludd (1595-1637)
    17. Johann Valentin Andrea (1637-1654)
    18. Robert Boyle (1654-1691)
    19. Isaac Newton (1691-1727)
    20. Charles Radclyffe (1727-1746)
    21. Charles de Lorraine (1746-1780)
    22. Maximillian de Lorraine (1780-1801)
    23. Charles Nodier (1801-1844)
    24. Victor Hugo (1844-1885)
    25. Claude Debussy (1885-1918)
    26. Jean Cocteau (1918-1963)
    27. Francois Ducaud-Bourget (1963-1981)
    28. Pierre Plantard (1981-1984)

    Some fringe Christian eschatologists viewed the Priory of Sion as a fulfillment of prophesies found in the Book of Revelation and further proof of an anti-Christian conspiracy of epic proportions.

    Since modern historians do not accept Holy Blood, Holy Grail as a serious contribution to scholarship, all these claims are regarded as being part of a dubious conspiracy theory. French authors like Franck Marie (1978), Jean-Luc Chaumeil (1979, 1984, 1992) and Pierre Jarnac (1985, 1988) have never taken Pierre Plantard and the Priory of Sion as seriously as Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh. They eventually concluded that it was all a hoax, outlining in detail the reasons for their verdict, and giving detailed evidence that the Holy Blood authors had not reported comprehensively. They imply that this evidence had been ignored by Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh in order to bolster the mythical version of the Priory's history.

    In 1989, Pierre Plantard tried but failed to salvage his reputation and agenda by claiming that the Priory of Sion had actually been founded in 1681 at Rennes-le-Château. In September, 1993, he approached of his own volition an investigative judge, claiming that Roger-Patrice Pelat had once been grandmaster of the Priory of Sion. That was a serious mistake and it led to Plantard's eventual isolation. Pelat was a friend of the then-President of France François Mitterrand and center of a scandal involving French Prime Minister Pierre Bérégovoy. A French court ordered a search of Plantard's home, turning up many forged documents, including some proclaiming Plantard the true king of France. Under oath, Plantard admitted that he had fabricated everything, including Pelat's involvement with the Priory of Sion. Plantard was ordered to cease all activities related to the promotion of the Priory of Sion and lived in obscurity until his death on 3 February 2000, in Paris.
    Most recently, due to Dan Brown's bestselling novel
    The da Vinci Code, there has been a new level of public interest in the Priory of Sion. The Priory, portrayed as more of a Goddess mystery religion, plays a large part in Dan Brown's novel.

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