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Chapter 8: The Priory of Sion Hoax

First publicized by French writer Gérard de Sède in the 1970s, the Priory was revealed to English speakers by the 1982 best-seller Holy Blood, Holy Grail, co-authored by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. So fundamental is this book to The Da Vinci Code that Dan Brown borrowed two of the authors’ names for his character Leigh Teabing (whose surname is an anagram of Baigent). Both Baigent and Lincoln are Masonic historians, while Leigh is a fiction writer. They fully accept the Templar myth connecting the Knights to Freemasonry and believe that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, leaving descendants who survive to this day under the Priory‘s protection.

Brown borrows the Holy Blood, Holy Grail theses with both hands. His fictional Priory likewise guards the "Grail Secret" of the Holy Blood–with documents to prove it–as well as the precious bones of the Magdalene. Coyly, the Priory’s initials P.S. also stand for "Princess Sophie", the nickname of his heroine Sophie Nevue, born into the sacred bloodline. Brown’s Priory continues the practice claimed in Holy Blood, Holy Grail by enrolling the best and brightest of the day. Sophie’s personal attractions are presented as typical of the breed. Her brilliant, multi-talented grandfather Jacques Saunière is both a curator at the Louvre and Grand Master of the Priory. And as clinching proof of excellence, Priory members drive expensive cars to a gathering for worship of the divine feminine (140).

But so high-minded is Brown’s Priory that it won’t lift a finger to flick its ancient enemy the Catholic Church into well-deserved oblivion. Rather than using its secret documents to blackmail the Church or unmask the falsity of her claims, the Priory will wait for imminent liberalization in Rome and let belief in the divine feminine re-emerge spontaneously. This is why the millennium passed without the overturning of altars.

This forbearance is a departure from the arguments of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which outlined the ambition of the Priory’s then-Grand Master Pierre Plantard to restore the French monarchy with himself as king. Four years later Holy Blood, Holy Grail’s 1986 sequel The Messianic Legacy, modified these plans to encompass a new (and counterintuitive!) European order based on popular enthusiasm for elite rule.

Because Plantard died in 2000 with "earth-shaking secrets" still unrevealed, Brown dropped the political angle but kept the Priory’s pretensions as the ultimate secret society, more powerful than the Jesuits, the Holy Office, Opus Dei, the Mafia, the Freemasons, the Bilderbergers, and the Trilateral Commission. He does simplify the Priory’s list of rivals, making its great enemy Opus Dei instead of the Knights of Malta, which The Messianic Legacy views as the Vatican’s intelligence service. (The Knights’ medical apostolate is dismissed in that book as mere cover for spying.)

Brown does cling to the following historically ludicrous claims made by Holy Blood, Holy Grail: Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and intended his Church to be led by her, not St. Peter. They were the parents of at least one child. After the Crucifixion–which is not followed by a resurrection–the Magdalene fled to southern Gaul with Joseph of Arimathea. There they found safe refuge among the local Jewish community. Some fifth century descendant injected the Holy Blood into the Merovingian dynasty that took power in what is now France after Rome’s fall. (The Merovingians were already themselves derived from the Hebrew tribe of Benjamin, transplanted to Greece, then Germany.) Although the last Merovingian king was deposed in 751, the lineage persisted in secret and linked up with various noble families, including the House of Lorraine, which produced the famous crusader Godfroi de Bouillon, Defender of the Holy Sepulcre.

Godfroi’s election as civil ruler of the crusaders’ Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099 was supposedly arranged by the mysterious Abbey of Notre Dame du Mont de Sion, which Holy Blood, Holy Grail claims was also behind the founding of the Cistercians and the Knights Templar. The Abbey–afterwards the Priory of Sion–did this in order to have the Knights excavate under the ruins of the ruined Jewish Temple to retrieve damaging documents relating to the Magdalene and perhaps the bones of Jesus or the Ark of the Covenant as well.

The Priory and the Templars shared the same Grand Master until 1188 when the Priory severed ties following a curious incident involving a felled tree at Gisors in France. Thereafter the roll call of Grand Masters includes high nobility, the alchemist Nicholas Flamel, painters Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, scientist-mathematician Sir Isaac Newton, writer Victor Hugo, composer Claude Debussy, and filmmaker-artist Jean Cocteau. (St. Joan of Arc and Nostradamus are also supposed to have been members.) A number of the Grand Masters are female. Women take the code name Jeanne and men Jean for St. John, apparently meaning St. John the Baptist, who is seen by some occultists as the founder of an alternative "Johannite" Christianity.