This is part three of an article I wrote in 2005 about The Da Vinci Code.
(4) The Priory of Sion Hoax
In The Da Vinci Code Sophie Neveau learns that her murdered grandfather Jacques Sauniere was the Grand Master of a secret society, the Priory of Sion, which Dan Brown believes really exists. The following supposed information about the Priory of Sion can be gleamed from The Da Vinci Code;
The Priory “was founded in 1099 by a French king named Godefroi de Bouillon.” (1) Godefroi’s family had been in possession of a secret since the time of Christ, so he founded the Priory to pass down the secret to succeeding generations. The Priory believes Mary was pregnant at the time of the crucifixion and afterwards she went to France and gave birth to a daughter Sarah (2). Their descendants married into the Merovingian dynasty. After the last Merovingian king Dagobert was assassinated, his son Sigisbert escaped and the line survived through him down to Godefroi de Bouillon who founded the Priory of Sion (3).
Documents found in the National Library in Paris are supposed to confirm the existence of the Priory of Sion and identify its Grand Masters. Dan Brown writes,
“After all, previous Priory Grand Masters had also been distinguished public figures with artistic souls. Proof of that had been uncovered years ago in Paris’ Bibliotheque Nationale in papers that became known as Les Dossiers Secret… [The] Dossiers Secrets had been authenticated by many specialists and incontrovertibly confirmed what historians suspected for a long time: Priory Grand Masters included Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Sir Isaac Newton, and more recently, Jean Cocteau, the famous Parisian artist. “ (4)
The Priory is a “pagan goddess worship cult” and “has a well-documented history of reverence for the sacred feminine” (5) and “believes that Constantine and his successors successfully converted the world from matriarchal paganism to patriarchal Christianity by waging a campaign of propaganda that demonized the sacred feminine, obliterating the goddess from modern religion forever.” (6)
The Priory practice the hieros gamos or sacred marriage ritual which believes that man can only achieve knowledge of the divine through intercourse (7).
“The Priory of Sion, to this day, still worships Mary Magdalene as the Goddess, the Holy Grail, the Rose and the Divine Mother.” (8)
“Theirs is a threefold charge. The brotherhood must protect the Sangreal documents. They must protect the tomb of Mary Magdalene. And, of course, they must nurture and protect the bloodline of Christ – the few members of the Merovingian bloodline who have survived into modern times.” (9)
None of this is true. Before The Da Vinci Code was published, it had already been established that the Priory of Sion was a hoax. This chapter will show how the Priory of Sion hoax developed and how the case of a French country priest trafficking in Masses got turned into a story about Jesus and Mary Magdalene having descendants.
The Case of Berenger Sauniere
Berenger Sauniere was a French priest who was born in 1852. The name of the character Jacques Sauniere in The Da Vinci Code is based on him. In 1885 he was appointed parish priest of Rennes-le-Chateau, a village in southern France. The church and village were run-down and in 1888 Sauniere began a rebuilding program. He renovated and redecorated the church, gave the village a proper water supply, built a new access road and built a new house for himself, the Villa Bethany, including the Tower of Magdala which contained his library.
In 1909 the local bishop Monseigneur Paul-Felix Beauvain de Beausejour wondered where Sauniere got the money to afford all this and he began to investigate him for trafficking in Masses.
Sauniere would advertise in newspapers or write to people offering to say Mass for them for a fee, however he did not say all the Masses he was paid for. Rene Descadeillas writes,
“Moreover, at certain periods, the cure of Rennes received a large number of postal orders each day – as many as 100 or 150 – for small amounts of cash ranging from 5 to 40 francs. Some of these were postal orders paid to him in Rennes; many were addressed ‘poste restante’ to Couiza, where he went to convert them to cash. Others were in the name of Marie Denarnaud. In fact, one of the postmistresses who cashed them was still alive in 1958. These postal orders were very diverse in origin. Many of them came from France, but there were also many from Belgium, the Rhineland, Switzerland and Northern Italy. A large number were from religious communities. These postal orders were intended to pay for ‘mass intentions’. Abbe Sauniere was trafficking in masses.” (10)
Some of Sauniere’s records of his trafficking still exist. It has been calculated that between 1893 and 1915 he received a minimum of 100,000 requests for Masses (11).
In July 1910 Sauniere was found guilty of trafficking in Masses by an ecclesiastical court. The authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail claim, “Sauniere appealed to the Vatican which exonerated and reinstated him.” (12) This is not true. He did appeal but in October 1910, he was found guilty again. He was investigated again and in December 1911 he was suspended as a priest until he would account for his income, which he never did. He remained suspended until he died in 1916 (13).
Sauniere’s housekeeper Marie Denardaud inherited his estate. In 1946 she sold the Villa Bethany to a business man Noel Corbu who turned it into a hotel. In 1956 Corbu invented the story that Bernard Sauniere had discovered a lost treasure which he used to finance his building program. Corbu told a local newspaper that while Sauniere was renovating the church, he found some parchments in wooden tubes inside a pillar supporting the altar. These led him to a treasure worth 50 billion francs. (14).
This story cannot be true because the pillar, which is now in the local museum, is not hollow. There is a hole, but it is only 7 cm deep, too small for the wooden tubes to fit. (15). There is no mention of Sauniere finding any parchments before 1956 (16). Everyone attributed Sauniere’s wealth to his trafficking in Masses. Corbu appears to have made up the treasure story as a publicity gimmick for his hotel (17). Judging by the number of people visiting the Rennes-le-Chateau area ever since looking for the lost treasure, he succeeded. One of these visitors was Pierre Plantard who added the next piece of the hoax.
Pierre Plantard was born in Paris in 1920. In the 1960s Plantard would begin to claim to represent a powerful and influential secret society, the Priory of Sion, which was almost 1000 years old and had over 900 members. However, it is clear from French police investigations of Plantard carried out in the 1940s that he had a tendency to invent phantom organisations to make himself appear influential and important.
(Pierre Plantard in 1982 in The HolyBlood and the Holy Grail, photo by Michael Baigent)
In 1940 France surrendered to Germany and the southern half of France was administered by Vichy France, a German puppet government headed by Marshall Henri Petain. In December 1940 Pierre Plantard wrote to Petain claiming there was a Jewish Masonic conspiracy and that the Jews had started World War II, which sounds like the sort of thing the Nazis said. (18)
The French police investigated Plantard. Their report, dated 8 February 1941, described Plantard as “anti-Semitic and anti-Masonic” and concluded, “In fact, Plantard, who boasts of having links with numerous politicians, appears to be one of those dotty, pretentious young men who run more or less fictitious groups in an effort to look important.” (19)
In 1941 Plantard attempted to set up an organisation called French National Renewal. A police report on this organisation, dated 9 May 1941, says that it “seems to be a ‘phantom’ group whose existence is a figment of the imagination of M. Plantard. Plantard claims 3245 members, whereas this organisation currently only has four…” (20)
In 1942 Plantard founded another organisation called Alpha Galates with a similar structure to the future Priory of Sion (21). Its journal Vaincre contained articles about chivalry and the renewal of France, as well as theosophical, esoteric and anti-Semitic themes (22). One of the influences on Plantard’s thinking appears to have been the Italian fascist philosopher Julius Evola (23). Part of a 13 February 1945 police report on Alpha Galates says,
“Plantard seems to be an odd young man who has gone off the rails, as he seems to believe that he alone is capable of providing French youth with effective leadership…… According to the information we have gathered, this organisation had not up to that time engaged in any activity. It has had about 50 members, who resigned one after the other as soon as they sussed out the President of the association and worked out that it was not a serious enterprise.” (24)
On December 17, 1953 Plantard was sentenced to six months in prison for fraud and embezzlement (25)
In 1956 Plantard and three others founded the Priory of Sion. This was not a secret society, but a tenants association, and was named after a hill in France, not Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Plantard was the treasurer. Its first president was Andre Bonhomme. Paul Smith writes,
“Andre Bonhomme definitely existed – I have spoken to him myself – as have many other researchers – and he has constantly confirmed that the original Priory of Sion had nothing to do with Berenger Sauniere, Rennes-le-Chateau, politics or secret societies – the story goes that one day, when someone commented on the state of the lodgings – it was decided to form a society devoted to the cause of Low-Cost Housing: and the Priory of Sion was created! It was actually named after the hill of Mont Sion located outside the town of St-Julien-en-Genovoise. They produced an amateur journal called “Circuit” devoted to the cause of Low-Cost Housing, that simply comprised of A4 ages stapled together, and containing a crude text that was both stencilled and printed.” (26)
The Priory of Sion’s statutes, which were registered in 1956, stated that all Catholics over 21 were eligible for membership (27). This does not sound like the “pagan goddess worship cult” with the secret, which could destroy its enemy, the Catholic Church, described in The Da Vinci Code.
In October 1956 the Priory’s journal reported that the Priory was now in the business of transporting children by bus to nurseries and schools. Then, in December 1956 Plantard was sentenced to 12 months in prison for “abuse of a minor” (28). The first version of the Priory of Sion disbanded after that.
In the late 1950s or early 1960s Plantard and a friend Phillipe de Cherisey visited the Rennes-le-Chateau area, met Noel Corbu and heard his story about the parchments and treasure supposedly found by Berenger Sauniere (29). Plantard had already come up with idea of claiming to be a descendant of the Merovingian kings (30) and in the early 1960s he reformed the Priory of Sion which was now supposed to be a secret society founded in Jerusalem in 1099. Plantard and de Cherisey decided to build on Corbu’s story of the coded parchments, which Sauniere was supposed to have found, and fabricated their own versions of them (31). One of these parchments contained the hidden message, “TO DAGOBERT II, KING, AND TO SION BELONGS THIS TREAURE AND HE IS THERE DEAD.” (32) This apparently connected the treasure Sauniere had supposedly found to the Merovingian king Dagobert II.
They also fabricated the documents, which became known as Les Dossiers Secrets or the Secret Dossiers. These consisted of articles, letters and genealogical charts and were intended to supplement and explain the coded parchments and to substantiate Plantard’s claims about the Priory of Sion and the Merovingians. Between 1964 and 1967 they planted these documents in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. (33)
One of these documents, Genealogy of the Merovingian Kings, says that the Merovingian king Dagobert II (676-679) had a son Sigisbert IV who was the ancestor of Godefroi de Bouillon and the Plantard family. (34). Godefroi supposedly founded the Priory of Sion in Jerusalem in 1099. Sigisbert IV is clearly the link in Plantard’s plan, connecting Godefroi to the Merovingian kings. However, Sigisbert IV and his mother Giselle de Razes never existed (35). Plantard invented them and falsified the genealogy in order to claim to be a descendant of the otherwise apparently extinct Merovingian line.
Godefroi was not a French king as The Da Vinci Code claims (36), but only the Duke of Lower Lorraine. The Order of Our Lady of Zion was established at Mount Zion in Jerusalem around 1099, but Godefroi does not appear to have had anything to do with it (37). This was supposed to have been the Priory of Sion, which survived to the present, but it was simply a Catholic monastic order, not a secret society, and was disbanded in 1617 (38).
Another of these documents The Secret File of Henri Lobineau contains a list of the supposed Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion including Leonardo da Vinci. Dan Brown claims that the Dossiers “inconvertibly confirmed what historians suspected for a long time” about the Priory’s Grand Masters (39). This is not true because no one had ever heard of the Priory of Sion and its Grand Masters before these documents were “discovered”. In fact, this list of Grand Masters appears to have copied from a list of the supposed Grand Masters of an esoteric society called the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC), a branch of the Rosicrucians, founded in the United States in 1915. Plantard simply added a couple of French names like the artist Jean Cocteau (40).
At first, Plantard and de Cherisey intended to use the coded parchments for a radio program, but this did not eventuate (41). Then, Plantard attempted to write a book on the subject but he could not get it published (42). They approached an author Gerard de Sede to write the book for them and showed him the documents in the Bibliotheque Nationale which de Sede believed were authentic (43). In 1967 Gerard de Sede’s book The Gold of Rennes was published.
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
In 1969 Henry Lincoln an English scriptwriter, whose credits included three Doctor Who stories, read de Sede’s book and decided to make a series of documentaries about Rennes-le-Chateau for the BBC series Chronicle. These were The Lost Treasure of Jerusalem in 1972, The Priest, the Painter and the Devil in 1974 and The Shadow of the Templars in 1979. While he was working on the third documentary, Henry Lincoln met Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. They went on to write The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail which was published in 1982. This book contained the earlier themes of Rennes-le-Chateau, the Secret Dossiers and the Priory of Sion. However it did not mention how in 1971 there was a dispute over royalties for The Gold of Rennes and both Plantard and de Cherisey had said that the coded parchments were forgeries (44).
Dan Brown says in The Da Vinci Code that the Priory of Sion believes that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and that the Priory’s purpose is to protect their descendants (45). However, before The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail was published, neither Noel Corbu, Pierre Plantard, Gerard de Sede, the Secret Dossiers nor Henry Lincoln’s documentaries had said anything about Jesus and Mary Magdalene being married and their descendants. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail introduced the idea that Jesus and Mary were married and their descendants, symbolized by the Holy Grail, married into the Merovingians, but they did not get these ideas from Pierre Plantard and there is no evidence that the Priory of Sion believes this.
In fact, Plantard said he did not believe it. In a 1983 article, “Jesus Christ, his wife and the Merovingians”, by de Cherisey, Plantard said,
“I admit that “the Sacred Enigma” [The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail] is a good book, but one must say that there is a part that owes more to fiction than to fact, especially in the part that deals with the lineage of Jesus. How can you prove a lineage of four centuries from Jesus to the Merovingians? I never put myself forward as a descendant of Jesus Christ.” (46)
If someone were to write a non-fiction book, saying Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and were the ancestors of the Merovingians, I would assume they would have some historical evidence to base their claims on. However, as we have seen, the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail have openly said that there is no evidence Jesus and Mary Magdalene had any children. I have read The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail several times and I cannot see how they could have logically come to their conclusions and made the jump from a story about the Merovingians, lost treasure and a secret society to believing that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and the ancestors of the Merovingians. There is no evidence which could have led them to that conclusion.
The ideas about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the Holy Grail and a secret society which knows the secret can be found in a novel about the prophet Nostradamus, The Dreamer and the Vine, by an astrologer Liz Greene, published in 1980, two years before The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. This is significant because Liz Greene was the girlfriend of Michael Baigent and the sister of Richard Leigh (47).
Henry Lincoln had not mentioned the supposed marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in his documentaries about Rennes-le-Chateau. It was only after he joined forces with Baigent and Leigh that it became part of the Rennes-le-Chateau/ Priory of Sion legend. It looks like they got the idea that Jesus and Mary were married from Liz Greene’s novel and added it to the story for The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, presumably in order to make it more interesting and controversial and sell more books. It worked. Pierre Plantard had only claimed to be a descendant of the Merovingians. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail had made him into a descendant of Jesus Christ.
Although Dan Brown says that the Priory of Sion worships Mary Magdalene and the sacred feminine and practices the hieros gamos sex rite, there is nothing in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, the Secret Dossiers and the claims of Pierre Plantard to suggest this. These ideas come from Margaret Starbird who read The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and built on their claims by adding her feminist ideas about the hieros gamos, the sacred feminine and Mary Magdalene as the goddess in her 1993 book The Woman with the Alabaster Jar.
In 1997, The Templar Revelation by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince claimed that the Priory of Sion were Mary Magdalene goddess worshippers (48). They even wrote, “The Priory of Sion believe that Mary Magdalene is one and the same as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus, and the one who anoints Jesus’ feet.” (49). How do they know the Priory of Sion believes the two Marys were the same person, especially since, as we shall see, four years before The Templar Revelation was published, Pierre Plantard had admitted in court that the Priory of Sion was a hoax? Picknett and Prince appear to have read The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and thought that the Priory of Sion believes Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married – something which they never said. Because Picknett and Prince argued that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany were the same person in order to make their claims Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a sexual relationship more convincing, they seem to have assumed that the Priory must also believe this.
Like Margaret Starbird, Picknett and Prince wrote that Jesus and Mary practiced the hieros gamos (50), but they did not explicitly say that the Priory of Sion does. However, Dan Brown read their books and appears to have assumed that the Priory of Sion also practices the hieros gamos. These authors have no evidence the Priory of Sion believes these things. They are reading their own speculations into this fictitious secret society and assuming that because they believe them, the Priory of Sion must also believe them.
The Decline and Fall of the Priory of Sion
In The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail the authors wrote how they suspected someone with their own vested interest had been leaking information about Rennes-le-Chateau and the Merovingians. This turned out to be Pierre Plantard (51). They describe when they met Plantard in a Paris cinema in 1979 and he told them that the Priory of Sion had the lost treasure from the Temple in Jerusalem. They do not appear to have questioned this claim. (52)
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail does not mention how Plantard originally told them in this meeting that the coded parchments were forgeries. They do acknowledge this in the sequel The Messianic Legacy,
“In 1979, when we first met M. Plantard, we were told both of the ciphered texts were in fact forgeries concocted in 1956 by the Marquis de Cherisey for a short television program. We challenged this assertion. The staggering effort required to devise the ciphers seemed inappropriate, indeed ridiculous, for such a purpose. M. Plantard conceded that the forgeries were based very closely on the originals.”(53)
Plantard had already said the parchments were forgeries in 1971. Based on his past attention-seeking behaviour, it seems that because of the interest the authors were showing in him and the Priory of Sion, he decided to now claim there still were authentic documents.
Jean-Luc Chaumeil, an associate of Plantard, who arranged the meeting with the three authors (54), says he also told Henry Lincoln the coded parchments were fakes. Paul Smith writes,
“I first met Jean-Luc Chaumeil in Paris in September 1982 – and the meeting was an eye-opener! There he showed me a lot of evidence that the Priory of Son was a hoax, that the parchments as allegedly discovered by Sauniere were really Philippe de Cherisey fakes, and that Plantard was an outright charlatan. Not only this, but Chaumeil had actually informed Lincoln of all this prior to the publication of ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’. Jean-Luc Chaumeil was a very disappointed man.” (55)
Plantard gave Chaumeil the original coded parchments. In a 1996 BBC documentary The History of a Mystery, Chauneil showed that Plantard had written across one of the parchments in red ink, “This is the original document, faked by Philippe de Cherisey, which Gerard de Sede used in his book the Gold of Rennes.” (56) The parchment, with the writing saying it is a fake is also shown in the 2004 documentary The Real Da Vinci Code (57).
Philippe de Cherisey has also said that he told Henry Lincoln that the Secret Dossiers were fakes (58).
Thus, even before The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail was published, the authors should have at least been suspicious about the Priory of Sion and the coded parchments. At worst, they knew it was all a hoax, but published it anyway. (59)
A split developed between Plantard and Chaumeil presumably because Chaumeil knew the Priory of Sion, which was now receiving so much publicity after the publication of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, was a hoax, and also because Chaumeil had become aware of Plantard’s criminal record which he began to publicise. (60)
In July 1984, apparently as a result of Chaumeil’s activity, Plantard announced that he had resigned as Grand Master of the Priory of Sion for health reasons and the actions of “our English and American brethren” who most likely only existed in Plantard’s imagination. In The Messianic Legacy, Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln add, “And there was one other motive which, he stated, contributed to his decision – namely, the publication, ‘in the press, in books and in duplicated pamphlets deposited in the Bibliotheque Nationale’ of various ‘false or falsified documents’ pertaining to him.” (61) Plantard appeared to be saying that the Secret Dossiers were forgeries.
After Plantard resigned, the Priory of Sion disappeared. (62)
Philippe de Cherisey died in 1985. The Templar Revelation reports that in 1984 de Cherisey again said that he had faked the coded parchments (63). He had also written an unpublished manuscript called Stone and Paper in which he explained how he faked them (64).
In 1988 Gerard de Sede also said that de Cherisey had faked the parchments and claimed that he had known it when he wrote The Gold of Rennes in 1967 (65).
Although Dan Brown claims that the Secret Dossiers “had been authenticated by many specialists” (66), both Plantard and de Cherisey have acknowledged that they forged the Secret Dossiers and the coded parchments.
Even Lynn Picknett, one of The Da Vinci Code‘s main sources, now believes they are fakes. In her 2003 book, Mary Magdalene, Christianity’s Hidden Goddess, she wrote,
“Unfortunately, it is extremely unlikely that Sauniere was a member of the Priory of Sion, or even its hapless tool, for research shows that the organisation has only existed since the 1950s. And the coded parchments that the priest was believed to have found were, it has been revealed, fabricated by two of its founders. Indeed, the Priory as a whole seems to have a penchant for fakery and elaborate practical jokes, which even includes smuggling faked documents into the Bibliotheque Nationale in order to impress the likes of Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln.” (67)
Readers of The Da Vinci Code will not learn this, but in 1989 Plantard returned with a third version of the Priory of Sion, distancing himself from the earlier versions and the Merovingians. This time he said the Priory of Sion had been founded in 1681, not 1099, and he made the strange claim that the Priory’s secret was a black rock of immense energy (68). He repeated his earlier statement that the coded parchments had been forged by Philippe de Cherisey (69).
Plantard produced a new list of the Priory’s supposed Grand Masters. One of these was Roger-Patrice Pelat who was a friend of French President Francois Mitterand.
In 1993 Pelat was involved in an insider trading scandal and committed suicide. Because there appeared to be a connection between Plantard and Pelat, Judge Thierry Jean-Pierre, who headed the inquiry into the scandal, ordered a search of Plantard’s house. The police found documents which said that Plantard was the true king of France. Plantard subsequently admitted that he made the whole thing up. The judge let him go with a severe warning. No one in France took the Priory of Sion seriously after that. Plantard died in Paris in 2000. (70)
It is interesting to see how the Rennes-le Chateau story grew. It started out with a priest trafficking in Masses. Noel Corbu added the coded parchments and lost treasure. Pierre Plantard added the Secret Dossiers, the Merovingians and the Priory of SIon. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail added the descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The Woman with the Alabaster Jar added goddess worship, the sacred feminine and the hieros gamos.
Ten years before The Da Vinci Code was published, the Priory of Sion had been exposed as a hoax, yet Dan Brown still claims it is a real secret society. In fact, many people in the English speaking world still believe there is some secret to Rennes-le-Chateau or that the Priory of Sion is real. A documentary Did Jesus Die?, which was shown on the ABC’s Compass program on April 11, 2004, still claimed that Berenger Sauniere found coded parchments which made him rich (71). Two books published about The Da Vinci Code in 2004, Cracking the Da Vinci Code by Simon Cox and Da Vinci Decoded by Martin Lunn still claimed that the Priory of Sion was a real secret society and the Dossiers Secrets were authentic and said nothing about Pierre Plantard’s 1993 admissions (72).Their only excuse is that most of the research debunking the Rennes-le-Chateau story and the Priory of Sion is in French and has not been published in English. I read several books about the supposed bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene during the 1990s and did not hear that Pierre Plantard had admitted the Priory of SIon was a hoax in 1993 until 2004.
(1) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 21
(2) Ibid., p 342
(3) Ibid., p 345
(4) Ibid., p 280
(5) Ibid., p 15
(6) Ibid., p 172
(7) Ibid., p 409-410
(8) Ibid., p 342
(9) Ibid., p 345-346
(10) Jean-Jacques Bedu, “Rennes-le-Chateau – Autopsie d’un mythe (1990) pp 115-148”
(12) The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, op cit., p 30
(13) Bill Putnam and John Edwin Wood, The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau, Sutton Publishing, UK, 2003, p 16-17
(14) Ibid., p 10-13
(15) Ibid., p 92
(16) Ibid., p 9
(17) Ibid., p 16, Paul Smith, “Priory of Sion Parchments and Steven Mizrach”,
(18) Paul Smith, “Pierre Plantard’s Letter to Marshall Petain dated 16 December 1940”,
(19) Paul Smith, “Police Report on Pierre Plantard dated 8 February 1941”, http://priory-of-sion.com/psp/id174.html
(20) Paul Smith, “Police Report on ‘French National Renewal’ dated 9 May 1941”, http://priory-of-sion.com/psp/id16.html
(21) Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, The Messianic Legacy, Corgi Books, London, 1987, p 390
(22) Ibid., p 387-389
(23) Robert Richardson, “The Priory of Sion Fraud”, New Dawn, July-August, 2000, p 59
(24) Paul Smith, “Police Report on the Statutes of the Alpha Galates dated 13 February 1945”,
(25) Paul Smith, “The Real Historical Origin of the Priory of Sion”, http://priory-of-sion.com/psp/id43.html , Paul Smith, “Pierre Plantard’s Criminal Convictions – A Chronology”,
(26) Paul Smith, “Priory of Sion Debunked”,
(27) The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, op cit., p 210
(28) “Pierre Plantard’s Criminal Convictions – A Chronology”, op cit
(29) The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau, op cit., p 119, “Priory of Sion Parchments and Steven Mizrach”, op cit.
(30) The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau, op cit., p 117,119
(31) Ibid., p 118-122, “Priory of Sion Parchments and Steven Mizrach”, op cit.
(32) The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, op cit., p 26
(33) The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau, op cit., p 236-237
(34) Ibid., p 101-102, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, op cit., p 237-281
(35) The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau, op cit., p 77, “The Priory of Sion Fraud”, op cit., p 59
(36) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 217
(37) The Real History Behind The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 95
(38) The Truth Behind The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 48, The Da Vinci Hoax, op cit., p 232-233
(39) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 280
(40) Paul Smith, “Pierre Plantard Profile”,
http://priory-of-sion.com/psp/id84.html , Massimo Introvigne, “The Da Vinci Code FAQ, or Will the Real Priory of Sion Please Stand Up?”, http://www.censur.org/2005/mi_02_03d.htm
(41) The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau, op cit., p 120-121
(42) “Priory of Sion Parchments and Steven Mizrach”, op cit.
(43) The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau, op cit., p 123, “Priory of Sion Parchments and Steven Mizrach”, op cit.
(44) Patricia Briel, “Pierre Plantard, founder of the Priory of Sion, an oddball in search of royal descent”,
http://priory-of-sion.com/psp/id80.html, “Pierre Plantard Profile”, op cit.
(45) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 342, 344-345
(46) Philippe de Cherisey, “Jesus Christ, his wife and the Merovingians”, http://priory-of-sion.com/psp/id152.html
(47) Cracking The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 73
(48) The Templar Revelation, op cit., p 197,215, 257, 341, 475
(49) Ibid., p 307
(50) Ibid., p 348, 398
(51) The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, op cit, p 94-95, 230
(52) Ibid., p 235-236
(53) The Messianic Legacy, op cit., p 301
(54) The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau, op cit., p 115
(55) Paul Smith, “Debunking the Mysteries of Rennes-le-Chateau”,
(56) The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau, op cit., p 124
(57) The Real Da Vinci Code, op cit.
(58) “The Da Vinci Code FAQ, or Will the Real Priory of Sion Please Stand Up?”, op cit.
(60) “Pierre Plantard Profile”, op cit., “Priory of Sion Debunked”, op cit.
(61) The Messianic Legacy, op cit., p 371
(62) Ibid, p 378
(63) The Templar Revelation, op cit., p 25
(64) Jean-Luc Chaumeil, “The Message of a Sacred Enigma”, http://priory-of-sion.com/psp/id27.html
(65) “The Da Vinci Code FAQ, or Will the Real Priory of Sion Please Stand Up?”, op cit.
(66) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 280
(67) Mary Magdalene, op cit., p 110
(68) Paul Smith, “The Secret of the Priory of Sion”,
Paul Smith, “The 1989 Plantard Comeback”,
(69) Noel Pinot, “An Interview with Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair”, http://priory-of-sion.com/psp/id132.html
(70) Paul Smith, “Pierre Plantard, Judge Thierry Jean-Pierre and the End of the Priory of Sion in 1993”,
(71) Did Jesus Die?, ABC Video, 2004
(72) Cracking The Da Vinci Code, op cit, p 49-51, 130-133, Martin Lunn, Da Vinci Decoded, Disinformation, New York, 2004, p 23-47
(5) The Art of Leonardo da Vinci
Dan Brown does more than simply get Leonardo’s name wrong. The Da Vinci Code makes several false claims about Leonardo and his art.
He says that “Da Vinci has always been an awkward subject for historians, especially in the Christian tradition.” (1) Judging by the approximately 5000 books which have been published on Leonardo, he is only “an awkward subject for historians” in Brown’s imagination. (2)
Brown writes that Leonardo produced “an enormous output of breathtaking Christian art” and accepted “hundreds of lucrative Vatican commissions” (3). In fact, there are only seventeen paintings by Leonardo and four of these were not finished. He only accepted one commission from the Vatican (4).
He writes that “Leonardo was a well-documented devotee of the ancient ways of the goddess.” (5) There is no such documentation. Leonardo’s notebooks do not say he believed in the “goddess”, but suggest he was an agnostic or atheist (6). Other historians have suggested that while Leonardo was clearly critical of some practices of the Catholic Church, he may have been nominally Christian or simply believed in a Creator God (7). Smart as Leonardo was, I doubt he, or anyone else during the Renaissance, would have understood what the New Age feminist term “goddess” meant.
In a newspaper article “Breaking the Code” Hillel Italie refers to books debunking The Da Vinci Code as “anti-Da Vinci books” (8). This is misleading, not simply because such books are not anti-Leonardo (get his name right), but also because there is no evidence Leonardo believed Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, so he would not have hinted at it in his art. There is no “Da Vinci Code”.
Dan Brown apparently believes Leonardo was a goddess worshipper and believed Jesus was married because he believes Leonardo was a Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. As we have seen, when Pierre Plantard invented the Priory of Sion, he came up with a list of its Grand Masters largely by copying it from a list of the supposed Rosicrucian Grand Masters. This list included Leonardo da Vinci, however Leonardo was not a Rosicrucian either, because the Rosicrucians first appeared in 1614 and Leonardo died in 1519. In 1982 the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail made up the idea that the Priory of Sion believed Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had descendants. Readers, who believed the book, would have assumed that Leonardo, being a Grand Master of the Priory, believed Jesus was married. Other books, like The Templar Revelation and The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, added their own ideas about goddess worship and the sacred feminine. So, Dan Brown assumed that Leonardo was a Priory Grand Master who, as well as believing Jesus was married, was a goddess worshipper and believer in the sacred feminine, and he described him as such in The Da Vinci Code. Brown’s claims about Leonardo’s art have been taken largely from The Templar Revelation, especially the first chapter entitled, “The Secret Code of Leonardo da Vinci” (9). Its authors believed Leonardo was a Priory Grand Master, so he must have had heretical beliefs about Jesus and goddess worship, so they projected these ideas into his art.
There is no historical evidence Leonardo believed any of this. It all started with Pierre Plantard claiming to be a descendant of the Merovingians and his fake list of Grand Masters.
The Last Supper
In discussing The Last Supper, Brown has Teabing say, “Our preconceived notions of this scene are so powerful that our mind blocks out the incongruity and overrides our eyes.” (10) In fact, it looks like Brown is trying to plant his own “preconceived notions” in his readers’ minds, so they will hopefully now interpret Leonardo’s paintings in a way they would have never considered without reading The Da Vinci Code.
Brown claims that in Leonardo’s The Last Supper, the figure between Peter and Jesus, which is believed to be the Apostle John, is actually a woman, Mary Magdalene (11). It is true that the figure to Jesus’ right does look somewhat feminine, although Brown’s “hint of a bosom” (12) is actually caused by a crack in the wall (13).
However, we know this person is a man because Leonardo said it is a man. Leonardo’s notes, which he made planning The Last Supper, still exist. He wrote about Peter and John, “Another speaks in the ear of his neighbour, and he who listens turns towards him and gives him his ear.” (14)
Brown has Teabing say, “Believe me, it’s no mistake. Leonardo was skilled at painting the difference between the sexes.” (15) This is a rather silly statement if you think about it. Any artist, who is not skilled enough that viewers cannot tell if he has painted a man or a woman, should get another job. It is also not applicable to Leonardo. The subjects of his paintings were sometimes sexually ambiguous. When I first saw Leonardo’s St John the Baptist, I thought the curly haired, smooth faced figure was a woman until I noticed the hairy chest. Likewise, anyone looking at the angel Uriel in Virgin of the Rocks would think it was female unless they knew Uriel was male.
Dan Brown says Leonardo was “a flamboyant homosexual” (16). This is an exaggeration. He was accused of sodomy and probably was gay, but he was hardly “flamboyant” (17). Leonardo’s suspected homosexuality is a more likely explanation for the effeminate-looking young man in The Last Supper and other paintings, not that it is really a woman, let alone Mary Magdalene.
Rather than being “skilled at painting the difference between the sexes”, in some case, the only way to tell if the figure in Leonardo’s paintings is a man or woman, like the angel in the Virgin of the Rocks, is to know who it is supposed to be. The Last Supper portrays the scene after Jesus has just told his disciples one of them would betray him. The Gospel of John records,
“When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” “(John 13: 21-25
We can tell from this passage that the Apostle John, who wrote it (John 21: 20, 24), was sitting next to Jesus with Peter apparently on John’s other side. If Dan Brown is right and the figure is Mary Magdalene, then where is John? The Last Supper shows the scene in verse 24 where Peter has motioned to John to ask him to ask Jesus who will betray him. John has leaned over from Jesus to Peter who is asking him.
While Brown claims that “The Last Supper practically shouts at the viewer that Jesus and Magdalene were a pair” and “Jesus and His Bride appear to be joined at the hip” (18), Lynn Picknett interpreted the painting very differently. She argued that “Mary” leaning away from Jesus reveals a rift between them over Jesus’ supposed role in the death of John the Baptist (19). John is simply leaning over to Peter so he can ask him to ask Jesus who will betray him. Clearly, these writers are just reading their own theories into the painting and claiming it says whatever they want it to say.
Dan Brown claims The Last Supper reveals Peter’s hostility to Mary Magdalene who Jesus wanted to be the head of the Church instead;
“You can see that Da Vinci was well aware of how Peter felt about Mary Magdalene… In the painting Jesus was leaning menacingly towards Mary Magdalene and slicing his blade-like hand across her neck. The same menacing gesture as in Madonna of the Rocks!” (20)
In fact, Peter has placed his hand on John’s shoulder while asking him to ask Jesus who will betray him. Judging by John’s peaceful expression and the way he is leaning towards Peter, John did not find Peter’s hand at all “menacing”.
Earlier, Dan Brown described the Madonna of the Rocks, better known as the Virgin of the Rocks,
“The painting showed a blue-robed Virgin Mary sitting with her arm around an infant, presumably Baby Jesus. Opposite Mary sat Uriel, also with an infant, presumably baby John the Baptist. Oddly, though, rather than the usual Jesus-blessing-John scenario, it was baby John who was blessing Jesus …. and Jesus was submitting to his authority! More troubling still, Mary was holding one hand high above the head of the infant John and making a decidedly threatening gesture – her fingers looking like eagle’s talons. Finally, the most obvious and frightening image: Just below Mary’s curled fingers, Uriel was making a cutting gesture with his hand – as if slicing the neck of the invisible head gripped by Mary’s claw-like hand.” (21)
Brown’s suggestion that there is something suspicious or heretical about the baby John the Baptist blessing Jesus is a result of his getting the babies mixed up. The baby John is not blessing Jesus, but as Brown said it should be, the baby Jesus is blessing John (22). Admittedly, the babies do look alike, but in the second version of this painting, the baby John is holding his John the Baptist staff to clearly identify him.
The “most obvious and frightening image” of Uriel “making a cutting gesture with his hand” is simply Uriel pointing to John the Baptist with his index finger. It is nothing like Peter’s whole hand resting on the Apostle John’s shoulder in The Last Supper, although Brown claims they are “the same menacing gesture.”(23)
Brown’s main source for his claims about Leonardo’s art, The Templar Revelation, suggests that a raised index finger in Leonardo’s art is the “John gesture” and symbolizes John the Baptist, as in his painting St John the Baptist (24). Thus, when Uriel is pointing at the baby John the Baptist, it is simply a horizontal version of the “John gesture” identifying the baby.
None of the hand gestures, which Brown describes in Leonardo’s art, are menacing or threatening. Brown is trying to persuade his readers there is something sinister in these paintings when there is none, or maybe he has a phobia about hand gestures and regards them all as threatening.
The Mona Lisa
Brown claims there is a “hidden message” in the Mona Lisa and it is “in fact, one of the world’s most documented inside jokes. The painting’s well-documented collage of playful allusions had been revealed in most art history tomes, and yet, incredibly, the public at large still considered her smile a great mystery.” (25) According to Dan Brown, the Mona Lisa is supposed to be a self-portrait of Leonardo in drag (26). A poster advertising The Da Vinci Code consists of a picture of the Mona Lisa with the caption, “Why is this man smiling?” The Mona Lisa must be the most looked at painting ever. How many of the millions, who have seen it, though they were looking at a man? Actually, it looks like more like Dan Brown with a wig and dress on than Leonardo.
Lillian Schwartz, a computer graphics expert, first suggested that the Mona Lisa was Leonardo in 1987 when she noticed the similarity in the positioning of the facial features with a self-portrait of Leonardo. The simple explanation for these similarities is that Leonardo used the same art principles of proportion, known as the Golden Rectangle, in both pictures (27).
No art expert or historian believes the Mona Lisa is a man. “Most art tomes” do not reveal “the painting’s well-documented collage of playful allusions.” Like his claim that historians have written books, saying Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, Brown is again passing off the opinions of unqualified lay people and esoteric writers as those of academic experts.
There is no mystery about who the Mona Lisa is. Art historians believe it is a portrait of Lisa del Gherhardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a Florentine merchant who commissioned the painting. “Mona” is a contraction of “Madonna” meaning “Madame”. In Italy the painting is still called La Gioconda. (28)
Furthermore, there are several paintings, The Naked Giocondo or Mona Lisa Nude, by Leonardo’s students which may be copies of a lost original. They appear to be of the same woman, Lisa del Giocondo, but she is topless, has breasts, and is definitely not Leonardo or any other man in drag.
Brown also claims the name Mona Lisa is an anagram of AMON L’ISA, the Egyptian god Amon and goddess Isis “whose ancient pictogram was once called L’ISA” so the name is “an anagram of the divine union of male and female” (29).
However, Europeans did not learn to read Egyptian hieroglyphics until the Nineteenth Century, so Leonardo did not know what the ancient pictogram for Isis was. Another anagram of Mona Lisa is “no salami’, so we should not read too much into the meaning of anagrams.
Brown’s theory that the name Mona Lisa reveals Leonardo’s interest in “the divine union of male and female” cannot be true, because Leonardo never called it the Mona Lisa. He never named any of his paintings. It was given the name Mona Lisa by Giorgio Vasiri in 1550, 31 years after Leonardo’s death (30)
(1) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 72
(2) The Da Vinci Hoax, op cit., p 245
(3) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 72
(4) The Da Vinci Hoax, op cit., p 246
(5) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 135
(6) Douglas Mannering, The Art of Leonardo da Vinci, Optimum Books, London, 1981, p 40
(7) The Real History Behind The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 58-59, The Truth Behind The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 64-65
(8) Hillel Italie, “Breaking the Code”, The Sunday Examiner, March 20, 2005, p B5
(9) The Templar Revelation, op cit., p 21-42
(10) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 328
(11) Ibid., p 327-328
(12) Ibid., p 327
(13) Laurence Gardner, The Magdalene Legacy, Harper Collins, London, 2005, p 263
(14) Edward MacCurdy, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, George Brazilller, New York, 1939, p 1015
(15) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 327
(16) Ibid., p 72
(17) Charles Nicholl, Leonardo da Vinci, The Flights of the Mind, Penguin, London, 2004, p 115-124
(18) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 329
(19) Mary Magdalene, op cit., p 234
(20) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 334
(21) Ibid., p 191
(22) The Da Vinci Hoax, op cit., p 254-255
(23) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 334
(24) The Templar Revelation, op cit, p 31
(25) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 165
(26) Ibid., p 167
(27) The Magdalene Legacy, op cit., p 239-240
(28) The Art of Leonardo da Vinci, op cit., p 52, The Da Vinci Hoax, op cit., p 260-261, The Real History Behind The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 173
(29) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 168
(30) The Truth Behind The Da Vinci Code,
op cit., p 67
The chain of evidence in The Da Vinci Code and The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail is a chain of broken links.
There is no historical evidence Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child.
The only evidence Mary Magdalene went to France are legends which originated over 1000 years after it was supposed to have happened and do not mention any child of Mary called Sarah.
There is no historical evidence that her descendants, which no evidence says existed, married into the Merovingians.
There is no genealogical link between the Merovingians and Godefroi de Bouillon and Pierre Plantard because the supposed link Sigisbert IV never existed.
The Priory of Sion is a modern invention, not a 1000 year old secret society, and did not believe Jesus was married and had descendants, and did not believe in the sacred feminine and goddess worship. Leonardo da Vinci could not have been one of its Grand Masters.
Dan Brown has admitted one of the goals of his novel is to promote his religious ideas about the sacred feminine. In The Da Vinci Code, he writes, “Sophie, every faith in the world is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith – acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove.” (1) This definition definitely applies to the beliefs in The Da Vinci Code.
(1) The Da Vinci Code, op cit., p 451
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.