Prieuré de Sion, usually rendered in English translation as Priory of Sion or even Priory of Zion, is an elusive protagonist in many works of both non-fiction and fiction. It has been characterized as anything from the most covertly powerful secret society in Western history to a modern Rosicrucian-esque ludibrium. It is generally believed that the Priory of Sion is in large part an elaborate hoax.
Under Article III.c of the original 1956 Statutes of the Priory of Sion, the association was named after the nearby mountain called Sion by the French town of Annemasse. It was devoted to opposing gentrification in the area through its journal, Circuit. The 1956 Priory had its headquarters in Pierre Plantard's house in Annemasse and was officially registered at the sub-prefecture in Saint-Julien-en-Genevoise on May 7th, 1956, by André Bonhomme and Pierre Plantard. It was dissolved sometime after October 1956 but intermittently revived by Plantard between 1962 and 1993 as an initiatory order and crypto-political vanguard party dedicated to the restoration of chivalry and monarchy in France to further his impostor royalty bid.
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 purportedly showed the survival of the Merovingian line of Frankish kings. Plantard manipulated Saunière'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 mythical pedigree of the Priory of Sion claiming that it had been founded in Jerusalem during the First Crusade by Godfrey de Bouillon. Research in the Rennes-le-Château mysteries led Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln to the pseudohistorical Secret Files of Henri Lobineau, compiled by "Philippe Toscan du Plantier", that became the source for their book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, in which they reported claims that:
- with a list of illustrious grand masters (see below), the Priory of Sion has a long history starting with the creation of the Knights Templar as its military and financial front;
- it had a large role in partaking in and promoting the "underground river of esotericism", the Alph, in Medieval Europe;
- it is sworn to returning the Merovingian dynasty, that ruled the Frankish kingdom from 447 to 751 C.E., to the thrones of Europe and Jerusalem; and
- the order protects these royal claimants because they are the literal descendants of Jesus and his wife Mary Magdalene.
These authors furthered that the ultimate goals of the Priory of Sion are:
- the founding of a "Holy European Empire" that would become the next hyperpower and usher in a new world order of peace and prosperity;
- the supplantation of the Roman Catholic Church with an ecumenical messianic state religion by revealing the Holy Grail and a "Judas Testament" which would prove Ebionite views and Desposyni claims; and
- the grooming and installing of the anointed king of a Greater Israel.
Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln came to their own interpretation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, where they used the spelling "Sion" in the name, which they viewed as one of the most persuasive evidence for the existence and activities of the Priory of Sion:
- The original version emanated from an irregular Masonic organization that used the name "Sion" but had nothing to do with an international Jewish conspiracy.
- The original version was not intended to be inflammatory or released publicly, but was a program for gaining control of Freemasonry.
- The person responsible for changing the text in about 1903 was Sergei Nilus in the course of his attempt to gain influence in the Court of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. The presence of esoteric cliques in the royal court led to considerable intrigue. Nilus' publication of the text resulted from his failure to succeed in wresting influence away from Papus and an otherwise unidentified "Monsieur Philippe".
- Since Nilus did not recognize a number of references in the text that reflected a background in a Christian cultural context, he did not change them. This fact established that the original version could not possibly have come from the first Zionist Congress in Basel (1897).
Accepting these hypotheses as facts, 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.
However, 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 an intriguing but 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 quickly concluded that it was all a hoax, specifying 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 mythic 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-Chateau. In September, 1993, he claimed that Roger-Patrice Pelat had once been grandmaster of the Priory of Sion. 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 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. (http://priory-of-sion.com/psp/id70.html) Plantard was ordered to cease and desist 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.
Et in Arcadia ego... is supposedly the official motto of both the Plantard family and the Priory of Sion, according to a claim that first appeared in 1964. Et in Arcadia ego is a Latin phrase, that most famously appears as a tomb inscription on the ca. 1640 classical painting, The Arcadian Shepherds, by French painter Nicolas Poussin. It literally means, "And I in Arcadia". However, the addition of the ellipsis (which was not there in the Poussin painting), suggests a missing word. Although it would not be needed in Latin grammar, sum has been one suggested completion to mean: "And I am in Arcadia". Furthermore, it has been theorized by Richard Andrews and Paul Schellenberger that the completed phrase Et in Arcadia ego sum is an anagram for Arcam Dei Tango Iesu which means "I touch the tomb of God – Jesus". The implication is that the tomb contains the ossuary of Jesus the central figure in Christian theology. Regardless of the accuracy of this extraordinary claim, it is not considered part of the official history of the painting by Poussin that contains the phrase, which is well documented.
The Priory of Sion has had several influences on popular culture, not all of them entirely accurate or serious:
- The Priory was the template for the Grail order in the Preacher comic book series and, more loosely, the Millennium Group in the Millennium television series.
- The Priory, portrayed as more of a Goddess mystery religion, plays a large part in Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code.
Alleged Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion
- Ugo de Blancheford (1150-1151)
- Bernard de Tremblay (1151-1153)
- Guillaume de Chanaleilles (1153-1154)
- Evrard de N...? (1154-1154)
- Andrè de Montbard(1155-1156)
- Bertand de Blanchefort (1156-1169)
- Philippe de Milly (1169-1170)
- Eudes de Saint-Amand (1170-1180)
- Arnaud de Toroge (1181-1184)
- Gérard de Rideford (1184-1188)
- Jean de Gisors (1188-1220)
- Marie de Saint-Clair (1220-1266)
- Guillaume de Gisors (1266-1307)
- Edouard de Bar (1307-1336)
- Jeanne de Bar (1336-1351)
- Jean de Saint-Clair (1351-1366)
- Blanche d'Evreux (1366-1398)
- Nicolas Flamel (1398-1418)
- Rene d'Anjou (1418-1480)
- Iolande de Bar (1480-1483)
- Sandro Filipepi AKA Botticelli (1483-1510)
- Leonardo da Vinci (1510-1519)
- Charles III (Duke of Bourbon-Montpensier) (1519-1527)
- Ferdinand de Gonzague (1527-1556)
- Michel de Notre-Dame AKA Nostradamus(1556-1566)
- Duc de Longueville & Nicolas Froumenteau (1566-1575)
- Louis de Nevers (1575-1595)
- Robert Fludd (1595-1637)
- Johann Valentin Andrea (1637-1654)
- Robert Boyle (1654-1691)
- Isaac Newton (1691-1727)
- Charles Radclyffe (1727-1746)
- Charles de Lorraine (1746-1780)
- Maximillian de Lorraine (1780-1801)
- Charles Nodier (1801-1844)
- Victor Hugo (1844-1885)
- Claude Debussy (1885-1918)
- Jean Cocteau (1918-1963)
- Pierre Plantard (1963-1981)
A second List of the Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion that included the names of Roger Patrice Pelat and Thomas Plantard appeared in 1989, but it should not be confused with the above list that belonged to a version of the Priory of Sion that Plantard rejected. When Plantard tried to make a comeback and a revival of the Priory of Sion in 1989 following his retirement in 1984 he claimed that the above list was bogus and a part of the "Secret Files", which by then had been exposed as a fraud by French researchers and authors.
External links and references
- Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. Holy Blood, Holy Grail, 1982 (ISBN 055212138)
- Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. The Messianic Legacy, 1987 (1989 reissue: ISBN 0440203198) The sequel to Holy Blood, Holy Grail.
- Richard Andrews and Paul Schellenberger. The Tomb of God: The Body of Jesus and the Solution to a 2,000-year-old Mystery, 1996 (ISBN 0316879975)
- Paul Smith. Priory of Sion: The Pierre Plantard Archives 1937-1993 (http://priory-of-sion.com/)
- Miriam Ibbotson The Priory of Sion Hoax: an A-Z (http://www.black-cat.fsbusiness.co.uk/poshome.html)
- Steven Mizrach. Priory of Sion: the Facts, the Theories, the Mystery (http://www.fiu.edu/~mizrachs/poseur3.html)
- Lisa Shea. Da Vinci Code, Opus Dei and Priory of Sion (http://www.lisashea.com/hobbies/art/priorysion.html)
- Massimo Introvigne. Beyond "The Da Vinci Code": What is the Priory of Sion? (http://www.cesnur.org/2004/mi_davinci_en.htm)
- Wieland Willker. Codex Bezae and the Da Vinci Code: A textcritical look at the Rennes-le-Chateau hoax (http://www-user.uni-bremen.de/~wie/Rennes/)
- Laura Miller. The Da Vinci crock (http://salon.com/books/feature/2004/12/29/da_vinci_code/index.html)
- Bill Putnam & John Edwin Wood History Today: Unraveling the Da Vinci Code (http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1373/is_1_55/ai_n8964919)
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