The first such Grand Master was alchemist Nicholas Flamel, supposedly installed as helmsman in 1398. He is now known to millions of schoolchildren as a character in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  Flamel was supposedly followed in 1418 by Rene d’Anjou who, in addition to being a Merovingian-descended nobleman, was also a huge influence on the developing Renaissance movement.  He patronized the de Medici family, founded Europe’s first public library, and wrote a book on knightly chivalry which became the official sourcebook on the chivalric code.

In 1483, the new Grand Master is said to have been Sandro Filipepi, otherwise known to us as Botticelli, the famous painter of The Birth of Venus.  He was allegedly followed in 1510 by multi-talented genius Leonardo da Vinci, whose religious-themed paintings are thought by those who believe these claims to contain clues regarding the Priory of Sion’s secrets – a direct inspiration for The Da Vinci Code.

The next Navigator on the list was Robert Fludd, another well-known practicing alchemist, supposedly installed in office in 1595. Alchemy, in addition to being a science, is also, as I will explain later on, a system of esoteric philosophy expressed through coded symbols. Alchemical symbolism was used quite prolifically in the texts pertaining to the Rosicrucian occult movement of the seventeenth century, named after the symbol of the rose-cross. It is interesting, then, that in 1637 Robert Fludd was allegedly followed as Grand Master of the Priory of Sion by the man believed to have been the progenitor of the Rosicrucian movement: Johann Valentin Andrae.

It was Andrae who wrote the Rosicrucian allegory The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, and he is also thought to have written the quintessential Rosicrucian Manifestos, announcing the existence of a so-called “Rosicrucian brotherhood” operating behind the scenes in Europe to manipulate events. At the time that this latter work was published, it was taken seriously, and thousands of readers eagerly sought admission to the exclusive, mysterious order. Andrae later essentially admitted writing The Rosicrucian Manifestos as a joke, which is why modern authors called the original Rosicrucian order a “hoax”, just as the Priory of Sion has been commonly labeled.

It is fascinating, then, to realize that the Priory of Sion’s documents proclaim that the Priory was responsible for starting the Rosicrucian brotherhood as a front for their own activities. This is presumably why they chose to use the subtitles “Order of the True Rose-Cross, and also “Ormus”, the latter bring the name of the Egyptian sage who allegedly founded the Rosicrucians, according to the Manifestos. It is also interesting to note that “Rosicrucian philosophy” became an acknowledged field of study for esotericists, and several real-life Rosicrucian orders have sprung up since then, some quite influential. Perhaps the lore of the Priory of Sion will lead to similar developments over the long term.

During this same time, the Priory documents assert that the Priory of Sion secretly engaged in a covert war against French King Louis XIV, and his powerful advisor, Cardinal Mazarin. They claim to have done this via a front organization, the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement, a real group which historians acknowledge was responsible for this conspiracy. Johann Valentin Andrae’s Grand-Mastership was supposedly followed by famous scientist Robert Boyle, the “father of modern chemistry”, in 1654, and thereafter by none other than Isaac Newton, the “father of physics.” Both Boyle and Newton, once again, practiced alchemy.

Beginning in 1727, the Priory is said to have been run by Charles Radclyffe who, along with his brother James, led the so-called “Jacobite movement” to return the throne of England to the Scottish Stuart kings, who were of Merovingian descent. This led to the famous failed attempt to bring Bonnie Prince Charlie back from exile.  Both Charles and James ended up getting beheaded, but not before Charles had allegedly passed the “rite of Strict Observance”, said to be of Templar origin, onto Karl Gottlieb von Hund, thus creating the core ritual of what is now a Masonic offshoot known as the Rectified Scottish Rite.

After Radclyffe, there were purportedly two Priory Navigators from the House of Lorraine named Charles and Maximilien, both of whom were involved in the patronage and spreading of Freemasonry. They were followed in 1801 by Charles Nodier, a prolific if little-remembered figure in French literature. He was responsible, along with his friends Eliphas Levi and Jean-Baptiste Pitois, for disseminating writings that have formed the basis of the modern Western occult tradition.  Pitois and other Nodier proteges were also influential in the nineteenth century’s liberalizing Catholic Modernist Movement. Yet another protégé of Nodier’s was playwright Victor Hugo, who supposedly followed him as navigator of the Priory in 1844.  Hugo, it is said, was succeeded in the role by his own protégé, composer Claude Debussy, in 1885.

Afterwards, the Grand Mastership was filled by a man influenced heavily by both Hugo and Debussy: artist, poet, playwright and filmmaker Jean Cocteau.  Like Leonardo da Vinci, Cocteau is believed by some to have embedded Priory of Sion secrets into his work, and was also, according to Priory documents, was responsible for a re-writing of the order’s statutes, which led it to reveal itself to the public in the twentieth century.

The Priory documents claim that after Jean Cocteau’s death in 1963, there was a power clash within the group, and afterwards the Grand Mastership was held by a triumvirate of people, one of whom finally emerged in 1981 as the new leader. This was the aforementioned Pierre Plantard “de Saint-Clair” (as he called himself). He had already been serving for decades as the group’s spokesperson. Furthermore, this man claimed to be the last scion of the Merovingian bloodline, a direct descendant of Dagobert II, and the true claimant to the throne of France. Why, then, he was not the natural choice for Grand Master before 1981 remains unclear.

In 1956, supposedly during Jean Cocteau’s leadership, the Priory of Sion registered with the French government, and began depositing the Priory documents into the Bibliotheque Nationale. They also took on a new subtitle at this time, “C.I.R.C.U.I.T”: an abbreviation for French words translating to “Chivalry of Catholic Rules and Institutions of the Independent and Traditionalist Union.” (Of course, many experts say the Priory of Sion itself is no older than this date.) C.I.R.C.U.I.T.  was also the name of a magazine that was published by the Priory and edited by Pierre Plantard.

C.I.R.C.U.I.T. had a circulation of only a few thousand, and was very similar in content to another magazine named Vaincre (Victory), which had been published by Plantard during the years of World War II.  However, Vaincre claimed to be the official publication not of the Priory of Sion, but of something called “the Order of Alpha Galates.” Yet this order had an extremely similar membership structure to that of the Priory, and their magazine concerned itself with many of the same subjects, so the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail concluded that Alpha Galates was just another front for the Priory of Sion. However, other authors believe it was the other way around: the Priory of Sion was a front for Alpha Galates, or they were both fronts for something else. I shall explain this better further on.

On the surface at least, Vaincre appeared to be a pro-occupationist Vichy government propaganda mouthpiece, containing short diatribes in favor of Marshall Petain and against “Judeo-Freemasonry.” When the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail asked Pierre Plantard about this, he claimed that this had been just a cover persona. He said that Vaincre was actually a secret pro-Resistance journal riddled with code-words to be understood by other members of the underground movement, which Plantard claimed to have been a part of. He also stated that after the war, he had been instrumental in bringing Charles de Gaulle to power – an allegation apparently backed up by a series of contemporary newspaper articles published in the French newspaper Le Monde.

Both Vaincre and C.I.R.C.U.I.T., as well as other Priory publications, are largely concerned with the idea of creating a “United States of the West”, not unlike the currently developing European Union. Vaincre even proposed a European flag similar to that used by the EU today. The Priory documents indicate that the Priory of Sion has somehow been instrumental behind the scenes in the development of the EU. Indeed, several of the people named  in Vaincre as having been members of Alpha Galates, such as Louis de Fur and Hans Adolf von Moltke, were heavily involved in the European movement.  Other alleged members of the Priory can be linked to the Anglo-American intelligence community, which in the past had been a significant force behind the evolution of the European Economic Community.

But the Priory documents state that the Priory of Sion has very specific plans for Europe: a collection of monarchies, each controlled by a Merovingian monarch, and themselves under the control of one “Grand Monarch” who is both Priest and King: a true “Holy Roman Empire.”  A New Age philosopher quoted frequently in Vaincre, Paul le Cour, even wrote about the need for “preparing Knights of the Apocalypse whose head will be Christ when he returns”, indicating a belief that their Merovingian monarchs will be the administrators of God’s kingdom on Earth.


Chapter 5: A Schism in Sion

It was not long after the publication of the best-selling Holy Blood, Holy Grail, just as the subject of the Priory of Sion was becoming a hot topic in popular culture, that the order began to unravel. Several of Plantard’s associates, including Louis Vazart, Andre Bonhomme, Philippe de Cherisey, and Jean-Luc Chaumeil, came forward to confess that the whole thing had been made up from the start.  They, with Plantard’s direction, had concocted the modern-day Priory of Sion, they said, and its illustrious pedigree going back to the Knights Templar, in the 1950s. Cherisey admitted to forging several of the Priory’s key documents, including the infamous “Rennes-le-Chateau parchments”, supposedly discovered by Berenger Sauniere in a small church in Southern France, soon to be discussed in this book.

All of this is extensively documented on the website, maintained by Paul Smith, a man who has apparently made debunking the Priory of Sion his life’s purpose.  He also gleefully recounts episodes from Plantard’s criminal background, including imprisonment for “fraud, embezzlement, and child corruption”, as well as a stint he served for failing to register Alpha Galates with the French government.  Paul Smith further claims that the pro-Vichy and anti-Semitic statements in Vaincre were no cover at all.  Plantard, and several of his associates, were always, according to Paul Smith, right-wing, Jew-hating extremists.

The public revelations made by his former friends hurt Pierre Plantard’s image, and in 1985, before Holy Blood, Holy Grail’s sequel, The Messianic Legacy was even published, Plantard had already decided to “resign” from the Priory of Sion.  This he announced to Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh in his last meeting with them, which they reported on in The Messianic Legacy.  He told them that he had resigned because the group had been infiltrated by an “Anglo-American contingent” of intelligence agents, who were perverting the order’s original purpose.  However, Paul Smith believes that Plantard’s hoax had simply blown up in his face, and he needed to escape the limelight.

But in 1989, Plantard was at it again.  At this time a new series of Vaincre magazines began to appear, resembling the first edition in many ways, but now openly representing the Priory of Sion, and not Alpha Galates.  Vaincre was really the subtitle of this new publication; Le Cercle (The Circle) was its new title. Perhaps it would be better to call it a “printed collection of papers” rather than a “magazine.” These new publications were of very low circulation, and only came to the attention of most Priory researchers in the last few years, when they were published on Paul Smith’s website.

In this new version of Vaincre/Le Cercle, it was claimed that Pierre Plantard had been reinstated as Grand Master in 1989, but had quickly passed the title on to his son, Thomas Plantard, who was now the current Grand Master. A new list of Nautonniers was produced, this one claiming that the order had only been created in 1681.  They now disavowed any connection with the Knights Templar or the original Order of Sion.  Despite this attempt at a comeback, there were no results from it, and Thomas Plantard never went public to represent the Priory of Sion.

In 1993, Plantard’s name came up in regards to a financial scandal involving Roger-Patrice Pelat, a politician in Francois Mitterand’s government whom Vaincre/Le Cercle had claimed was an interim Grand Master of the Priory between 1985 and 1989.  While under questioning about this, Plantard reportedly admitted to police that the Priory of Sion was a product of his imagination.

So is the Priory of Sion story, the inspiration for the best-selling novel of all time, just a hoax?  Apparently opinion is still mixed about the matter.  For despite the fact that Paul Smith’s revelations are now widely known among Priory of Sion researchers, and despite the admissions by the Priory’s own members that the whole thing was a joke, many people conclude that there is still an all-important kernel of truth to the story. They still believe in the idea of the descent of the Merovingian “Grail bloodline” from Jesus and Mary Magdalen, even though this was never actually alleged by the Priory, but was rather an interpretation made by the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Some also still believe that there was conspiracy involving this bloodline that has been behind various political movements and events throughout history.

Certainly, there is evidence that secret societies like the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, the Martinists, and even the supposedly fictitious Rosicrucians have had such influence, and the Priory of Sion is allegedly related to all of these orders. These groups operated in the shadows, so their influence might not be readily obvious to historians. As I will explain later on in this book, the teachings passed down by these secret societies do seem to include this concept of a divine royal bloodline, and also seem to connect it to the symbol of the Grail. One can, in fact, identify a common thread running throughout world mythology and holy scripture regarding this sacred bloodline, along with the idea of a sacred stone or vessel that is analogous to the Grail. The clues left by initiates of secret societies allude to the idea that there is a physical treasure called the Grail (in addition to the bloodline), buried in some unknown hiding place.  In this book, I will examine all of the profound evidence indicating this very same notion.

So far it has been alleged by debunkers that Pierre Plantard’s motivation for creating the Priory of Sion “hoax” was purely his ego. They think he just loved being thought of as the last scion of a lost royal lineage, and as the Grand Master of a powerful secret society controlling Europe from behind the scenes. But there was no way he could have foreseen in 1956 that depositing documents in a library in France would lead to an internationally bestselling book in the 1980s, or any of the results which came from that. When the public spotlight fell on him so heavily after the publication of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, he made no known attempt to capitalize on it in any way. Rather, he slinked back into the shadows where he had come from. If it was merely a hoax, one wonders how it could have occupied a single individual, and all of his friends, for twenty years before it began to pay off.