CHAPTER TWO THE PRIORY OF SION, ITS GRAND MASTERS AND THE PLANTARDS

IN THE DA VINCI CODE, ROBERT LANGDON INTERPRETS THE INITIALS “P.S.” ETCHED ON SOPHIE NEVEU’S SAFE DEPOSIT KEY, AS INDICATING THE PRIORY OF SION. THIS ABBREVIATION ALSO APPEARS ON ONE OF THE DOCU­MENTS THAT BERENGER SAUNIERE, WHOM WE SHALL LEARN OF IN CHAPTER FOUR, FOUND INSIDE THE CHURCH AT RENNES-LE-CHATEAU AND APPEARED ON THE TOMBSTONE E>F MARIE DE BLANCHEFORT WHICH WAS ONCE IN THE CHURCH GRAVEYARD.

The subject of the Priory of Sion is the basic undercurrent run­ning throughout the plot of the Da Vinci Code. although unaware of its existence before she met Langdon, every aspect of Sophie’s life had been dominated by it. this puts her in pre­cisely the same situation as many readers, who, while raised christian, were unaware of the real historical forces at work behind Christianity. Ann Evans, the researcher that Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln employed while writing their book about the priory, The Messianic Legacy, had thirty-five years of experience in the field and yet she stated that she had never before encountered so many obstacles and contradictions while conducting research. the uncertainty of the so-called “evidence” creates a nebulous atmosphere which makes the priory all the more intriguing. and the truth which is known is decidedly murky.

 

From the beginning

Most of the actual “evidence” of the existence of the Priory has been deposited in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, which, say many researchers, has made obtaining the rele­vant documents quite difficult. such claims tend to indicate that at least certain administrators at the french national library are in league with the Priory of Sion, which since the 1950s has enjoyed leaving tantalizing tidbits of information there for researchers to stumble across.

There are two documents that were of particular interest to Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln when they were writing their authoritative 1982 book Holy Blood, holy grail, concerning the Merovingian bloodline. the first is the enigmatic dossiers secrets, a collection of seemingly unconnected papers which were mysteriously added to and taken from periodi­cally. the second is a work known as Le Serpent Rouge (The Red Snake), perhaps written by Jean Cocteau, as it echoes his style. it contains a genealogy of the Merovingians, a ground plan of l’Eglise de Saint-Sulpice and thirteen poems relating to the signs of the zodiac (including a thirteenth sign inserted between Scorpio and Sagittarius: Ophiuchus, “the Serpent Holder”). the attributed authors of both of these documents (four men in all) have died in unexplained circumstances.

The Priory of Sion, or the “Prieure de Sion” as it is known in french, is said to have its ultimate roots in a hermetic or gnostic society led by an Egyptian sage named Ormus in about 46 ad. “Ormus” is also the subtitle that the Priory of Sion adopted in 1188 when it changed its name from “Order of Sion.” at this time they also referred to them­selves as the “Ordre de la Rose-Croixveritas” (“Order of The True Rose-Cross”), indicating that the Priory of Sion may have in fact been the original Rosicrucian order.

Not until the Middle Ages does an organization relating to Sion become known to historians The Abbey of Orval in Stenay ( once called “Satanicum”), located in the Ardennes in northern France, was founded by a group of monks from Calabria in Italy in 1070, led by the Merovingian “Prince Ursus” (rumored to be Dagobert II’s great-grandson, Sigisbert VI). These monks formed the basis of the Order of Sion into which they were absorbed, along with Godfroi de Bouillon’s Templar order in 1099 -the year that he cap­tured Jerusalem. Godfroi de bouillon was not only the Duke the of Lorraine. as a descendant of Dagobert ii, he was, as a Merovingian, a rightful king (see chapter three for a full discussion). Stenay was one of the two capital cities of the Merovingians. it was in the nearby sacred forest of Woevres that king Dagobert II was assassinated while hunting on December 23, 679, as Dan brown states, stabbed in the eye while sleeping under a tree. It is thought that his godson had assassinated him under the orders of Pepin the fat, the turncoat mayor of Dagobert’s palace.

It appears that the remit of the Priory of Sion has always been the restoration of the Merovingian dynasty and blood­line to the thrones of Europe, having lost their birthright after Dagobert’s assassination. through various political pacts and marriages, the line eventually came to include var­ious noble and royal houses, such as the Blanchefort, Gisors, Saint-Clair, Montesquieu, Montpezat, Poher, Luisignan, Plantard and Habsburg-Lorraine families. It is confirmed by records of the time that the headquarters of the Order were the Abbey of Notre Dame du Mont de Sion, which lies to the south of Jerusalem. it was well-fortified and built on the ruins of a byzantine basilica. according to a 1990 issue of Biblical Archaeology magazine, Mt. Sion seems to have been the headquarters of the Ebionites of Jerusalem. these followers of Jesus considered his brother james, and not the Apostle Paul, to be the rightful leader of the Christian church.

What is perhaps not so certain is the claim that the Priory of Sion, as Langdon puts it, “has a well-documented history of reverence for the sacred feminine,” and reveres Mary Magdalene, whom they hold to be Christ’s wife, as an embodiment of that feminine principle. As Tracy Twyman of Dagobert’s Revenge Magazine writes:

Mary Magdalene is held up by many grail researchers as some feminist heroine and they claim that she was “written out of the bible” because the church was threatened by her femininity. but neither Magdalene nor the church fathers thought in such lan­guage, nor would they even have conceived of such a notion. Magdalene was a threat to the church not because she was a woman, but because she was the mother of Christ’s children -the heirs to his royal and priestly lineage. By all rights they should have been the proper inheritors not only of Christ’s church, but of his royal throne in Jerusalem (which in the eyes of some should have also held hegemony over the entire world). Both of these claims were a threat to the Church, which not only wished to rule the world spiritually, but secularly as well, for the Church proclaimed that it had the right to make kings, regardless of their birthright.

Godfroi de Bouillon was well aware that he was a member of a Grail family, and therefore a Merovingian and de facto King of Jerusalem who could trace his family origins back through .the Davidic line. After capturing Jerusalem, he founded the Templars. Even though there were three other Christian armies bound for Palestine, Godfroi seemed to know that he would be chosen to be the King ofJerusalem. He had, after all, sold everything before leaving, and made clear that his intention was to stay in Jerusalem for life. However, he refused the title of “King,” and accepted only that of “Defender of the Holy Sepulchre.” Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln put forward the idea that the aforementioned group of Calabrian monks, which disappeared without explanation from Orval, is the same group of non-militant advisers who are known to have accompanied Godfroi to Jerusalem. They also suggest that it was this very group of people who selected the King of Jerusalem.

The Order of Sion appears to have been based in the Abbey of Notre Dame du Mont de Sion from the public foundation of the Templars in 1118 until 115 2. The Templars were rec­ognized as a religious-military order in 1127 at Troyes by the court of the Count of Champagne and Hugues de Payen was selected as the Grand Master.

When Louis VII of France returned from the second crusade he brought back ninety-five members of the order. Seven of them entered the military force of the Knights Templar and the rest re-established their French connection in Orleans. The documents with which Louis VII established the order in France are still in existence.

The Abbey of Orval became a house for the Cistercian order in 1131 . This order had been seriously impoverished in the past, but their circumstances improved along with those of the Templars. Both acquired huge wealth and areas of land.

The name of the Ordre de Sion has appeared on documents from at least July 19, 1116. A further charter dated 1178 was found, bearing the seal of Pope Alexander III and con­firming the Order’s land holdings not only in the Holy Land, but throughout continental Europe.

In 1956 the Copper Scroll from Qumran was deciphered at Manchester University. This revealed that the Ark of the Covenant and an enormous treasure of gold bullion had been buried under the Temple of Solomon. In 1 9 7 9, Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair, -the last known Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, told. Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln that the Priory of Sion possessed the treasure from the Temple of Jerusalem, which had been plundered by the Romans dur­ing the revolt of 66 AD. The scene is depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome. When the Visigoths later plundered Rome, the treasure was taken, perhaps to the south of France, near Rennes-le-Chateau. M. Plantard went on to say that the “treas­ure” would be returned to.Israel when the “time was right.” He did not specify whether this is treasure in the traditional sense or a collection of documents, or -as Dan Brown sug­gests -a map to indicate the hiding place of the Holy Grail.

There is also a legend stating that the Cathar “heretics” were in possession of this treasure. The Cathars (or “Albigensians”) were headquartered in the Languedoc area of what is now southern France, where Rennes-le-Chateau is situated. In 1209 they were subjected to a massacre, the scale of which amounted to ethnic cleansing at the hands of 3O, O O O soldiers. Languedoc was a center of great learning at the time -at the expense of Roman Catholicism. It was the Cathars’ casual attitude to religion in general, and their lack of respect of Roman Catholicism in particular, that was more responsible than anything for the hatred they spawned within the ecclesiastical authorities. Among the many “transgressions” of which they were accused, it is thought that they practiced birth control and abortion. The treasure that was reputedly in their keeping was thought to tran­scend that of “mere” gold, and could have been either the Grail chalice itself or knowledge that would bring about unimaginable riches.

 

The Rise and Fall of the Knights Templar

The reason for the existence of the Templars was ostensibly to protect the roads to Jerusalem for the pilgrims journey­ing there. However, as Robert Langdon tells Sophie in The Da Vinci Code, their real mission was to investigate what was hid­den beneath the foundations of the Temple of Solomon, which not coincidentally, was the location of the Templars’ living quarters in Jerusalem.

The Templars were the heroes of their time. The sons of noble families joined in droves. They became political advisers to monarchs at the highest level, and everyone wanted to bask in their reflected glory. They wallowed in generous donations and their influence grew enormously. They owned their own sea­ports and founded hospitals. Their fleet was the first to use a magnetic compass. Ironically, every member had to sign over all his possessions to the order and take a vow ofpoverty. They had to cut their hair, but were not allowed to cut their beards. They were not allowed to retreat in battle, and were obliged to fight to the death. Pope Innocent II issued a Papal Bull in 113 9 which stated that they were totally independent of any authority and were, effectively, a law unto themselves.

It was the Templars who founded the first international banking system. They built the most graceful and elegant Gothic cathedrals of Europe, such as Notre Dame in Paris, at this time. The word “Gothic,” in fact, has no connection to the Goths, but derives from the Greek goetic which means “magical (action).” This reflects the sacred geometry that Templar stonemasons used to build these cathedrals.

By 1306, the Knights Templars’ wealth had grown to such an extent that the King of France, Philippe IV (also known as Philippe the Fair), became decidedly nervous. He owed them a large amount of money and was painfully aware that their influence from every point of view was greater than his own. He was restricted from taxing the clergy through a Vatican edict. This did not put Philippe off however and he had the Pope, Boniface VIII, caught and murdered. The next pope, Benedict XI, fared no better -he died suspiciously soon afterwards. At last Philippe’s favored candidate, Bertrand of Goth, became Pope Clement V Then Philippe went to work against the Knights Templar, leveling charges of heresy, to which they were particularly vulnerable. The Knights Templar refused to share the accepted Christian views of the Crucifixion and their business activities neces­sitated them mixing with Jews, Gnostics and Muslims, including a secret relationship with the notorious Muslim equivalent to the Templars -the Hashashin or Assassins. They were also said to worship a devil named Baphomet, the bearded male head that Langdon speaks of, which supposedly spoke to the Templars and gave them magical powers.

Philippe’s plan was carried out on arguably the original “Friday the 13th”: Friday, October 13; 13 0 7. Since then, Friday the 1 3th has always been considered to be a bad day in Western culture. Philippe had issued orders to his governors throughout France, which were opened by his seneschals at precisely the same time. All Templars were to be arrested, their preceptories taken over, and their goods confiscated. After imprisonment, interrogation and torture, they were burned at the stake. Witnesses testified that the Knights Templar were guilty of a variety of crimes, including necromancy, homosexuality, defil­ing the image of Christ and witchcraft. However, despite these extreme measures, Philippe did not achieve his objective of securing for himself the treasure of the Knights Templar.

Perhaps the attack was not such a surprise. Just before the massacre a new contingent of Knights Templar troops was sent from Rossillon in the Spanish province of Aragon to Rennes-le-Chateau in southern France, where they estab­lished a stronghold on the mountain called Bezu. Out of all the Knights Templar, it was only they who were not targeted.

This may be because Pope Clement V (a.k.a. “Bertrand de Goth”) was the son of Ida de Blanchefort, from the same family as a former Templar Grand Master, Bertrand de Blanchefort. It seems more than likely that these family con­nections saved the skins of this Templar contingent on the day the arrests took place.

In all probability, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar at that time, Jacques de Molay, was also aware of what was coming, as he arranged for the treasure to be shipped out of France. It is said that most of the ships went to Scotland, but Philippe knew nothing of this. He continued his persecu­tion by trying to persuade other European monarchs to hunt down the Templars in their own countries. He arranged for Clement V to outlaw the Knights Templar in 1312 . Eventually Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake in 1 3 14. As a parting gesture, he prayed out loud through the torture of the flames that his persecutors, Pope Clement and Philippe, would join him in death within a year and explain their deeds to God’s court. It seemed to work. Pope Clement died within a month and King Philippe died under mysterious circumstances within the year. Their deaths were possibly caused by poison, which the Templars were adept at using.