Priory of Sion
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The Prieuré de Sion ([pʁi.jœ.ʁe də sjɔ̃]), translated as Priory of Sion, was a fraternal organisation founded and dissolved in France in 1956 by Pierre Plantard in his failed attempt to create a prestigious neo-chivalric order. In the 1960s, Plantard began claiming that his self-styled order was the latest front for a secret society founded by crusading knight Godfrey of Bouillon, on Mount Zion in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099, under the guise of the historical monastic order of the Abbey of Our Lady of Mount Zion. As a framework for his grandiose assertion of being both the Great Monarch prophesied by Nostradamus and a Merovingian pretender, Plantard further claimed the Priory of Sion was engaged in a centuries-long benevolent conspiracy to install a secret bloodline of the Merovingian dynasty on the thrones of France and the rest of Europe. To Plantard's surprise, all of his claims were fused with the notion of a Jesus bloodline and popularised by the authors of the 1982 speculative nonfiction book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, whose conclusions would later be borrowed by Dan Brown for his 2003 mystery thriller novel The Da Vinci Code.
After attracting varying degrees of public attention from the late 1960s to the 1980s, the mythical history of the Priory of Sion was exposed as a ludibrium — an elaborate hoax in the form of an esoteric puzzle — created by Plantard as part of his unsuccessful stratagem to become a respected, influential and wealthy player in French esotericist and monarchist circles. Pieces of evidence presented in support of the historical existence and activities of the Priory of Sion before 1956, such as the so-called Dossiers Secrets d'Henri Lobineau, were discovered to have been forged and then planted in various locations around France by Plantard and his accomplices.
Despite the "Priory of Sion mysteries" having been exhaustively debunked by journalists and scholars as France's greatest 20th-century literary hoax, many conspiracy theorists still persist in believing that the Priory of Sion was a millennium-old cabal concealing a religiously subversive secret. A few independent researchers outside of academia claim, based on alleged insider information, that the Priory of Sion continues to operate as a conspiratorial secret society to this day. Some skeptics express concern that the proliferation and popularity of pseudohistorical books, websites and films inspired by the Priory of Sion hoax contribute to the problem of unfounded conspiracy theories becoming mainstream; while others are troubled by how these works romanticize the ideologies of antisemitism.
The fraternal organisation was founded in the town of Annemasse, Haute-Savoie, in eastern France in 1956. The 1901 French law of Associations required that the Priory of Sion be registered with the government; although the statutes and the registration documents are dated 7 May 1956, the registration took place at the subprefecture of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois on 25 June 1956 and recorded in the Journal Officiel de la République Française on 20 July 1956.
The founders and signatories inscribed with their real names and aliases were Pierre Plantard, also known as "Chyren", and André Bonhomme, also known as "Stanis Bellas". Bonhomme was the President while Plantard was the Secretary General. The registration documents also included the names of Jean Deleaval as the Vice-President and Armand Defago as the Treasurer.
The choice of the name "Sion" was based on a popular local feature, a hill south of Annemasse in France, known as Mont Sion, where the founders intended to establish a spiritual retreat center. The accompanying title to the name was "Chevalerie d'Institutions et Règles Catholiques d'Union Indépendante et Traditionaliste": this subtitle forms the acronym CIRCUIT and translates in English as "Chivalry of Catholic Rules and Institutions of Independent and Traditionalist Union".
The statutes of the Priory of Sion indicate its purpose was to allow and encourage members to engage in studies and mutual aid. The articles of the association expressed the goal of creating a Traditionalist Catholic chivalric order.
Article 7 of the statutes of the Priory of Sion stated that its members were expected "to carry out good deeds, to help the Roman Catholic Church, teach the truth, defend the weak and the oppressed". Towards the end of 1956 the association had planned to forge partnerships with the local Catholic Church of the area which would have involved a school bus service run by both the Priory of Sion and the church of Saint-Joseph in Annemasse. Plantard is described as the President of the Tenants' Association of Annemasse in the issues of Circuit.
The bulk of the activities of the Priory of Sion, however, bore no resemblance to the objectives as outlined in its statutes: Circuit, the official journal of the Priory of Sion, was indicated as a news bulletin of an "organisation for the defence of the rights and the freedom of affordable housing" rather than for the promotion of chivalry-inspired charitable work. The first issue of the journal is dated 27 May 1956, and, in total, twelve issues appeared. Some of the articles took a political position in the local council elections. Others criticised and even attacked real-estate developers of Annemasse.
According to a letter written by Léon Guersillon the Mayor of Annemasse in 1956, contained in the folder holding the 1956 Statutes of the Priory of Sion in the subprefecture of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, Plantard was given a six-month sentence in 1953 for fraud.
The formally registered association was dissolved some time after October 1956 but intermittently revived for different reasons by Plantard between 1961 and 1993, though in name and on paper only. The Priory of Sion is considered dormant by the subprefecture because it has indicated no activities since 1956. According to French law, subsequent references to the Priory bear no legal relation to that of 1956 and no one, other than the original signatories, is entitled to use its name in an official capacity.
André Bonhomme played no part in the association after 1956. He officially resigned in 1973 when he heard that Plantard was linking his name with the association. In light of Plantard's death in 2000, there is no one who is currently alive who has official permission to use the name.
Plantard set out to have the Priory of Sion perceived as a prestigious esoteric Christian chivalric order, whose members would be people of influence in the fields of finance, politics and philosophy, devoted to installing the "Great Monarch", prophesied by Nostradamus, on the throne of France. Plantard's choice of the pseudonym "Chyren" was a reference to "Chyren Selin", Nostradamus's anagram for the name for this eschatological figure.
Between 1961 and 1984, Plantard contrived a mythical pedigree for the Priory of Sion claiming that it was the offshoot of a real Catholic religious order housed in the Abbey of Our Lady of Mount Zion, which had been founded in the Kingdom of Jerusalem during the First Crusade in 1099 and later absorbed by the Jesuits in 1617. The mistake is often made that this Abbey of Sion was a Priory of Sion, but there is a difference between an abbey and a priory. Calling his original 1956 group "Priory of Sion" presumably gave Plantard the later idea to claim that his organisation had been historically founded by crusading knight Godfrey of Bouillon on Mount Zion near Jerusalem during the Middle Ages.
Furthermore, Plantard was inspired by a 1960 magazine Les Cahiers de l'Histoire to center his personal genealogical claims, as found in the "Priory of Sion documents", on the Merovingian king Dagobert II, who had been assassinated in the 7th century. He also adopted "Et in Arcadia ego ...", a slightly altered version of a Latin phrase that most famously appears as the title of two paintings by Nicolas Poussin, as the motto of both his family and the Priory of Sion, because the tomb which appears in these paintings resembled one in the Les Pontils area near Rennes-le-Château. This tomb would become a symbol for his dynastic claims as the last legacy of the Merovingians on the territory of Razès, left to remind the select few who have been initiated into these mysteries that the "lost king", Dagobert II, would figuratively come back in the form of a hereditary pretender.
To lend credibility to the apparently fabricated lineage and pedigree, Plantard and his friend, Philippe de Chérisey, needed to create "independent evidence". So during the 1960s, they created and deposited a series of false documents, the most famous of which was entitled Dossiers Secrets d'Henri Lobineau ("Secret Files of Henri Lobineau"), at the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. During the same decade, Plantard commissioned de Chérisey to forge two medieval parchments. These parchments contained encrypted messages that referred to the Priory of Sion.
They adapted, and used to their advantage, the earlier false claims put forward by Noël Corbu that a Catholic priest named Bérenger Saunière had supposedly discovered ancient parchments inside a pillar while renovating his church in Rennes-le-Château in 1891. Inspired by the popularity of media reports and books in France about the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in the West Bank, they hoped this same theme would attract attention to their parchments. Their version of the parchments was intended to prove Plantard's claims about the Priory of Sion being a medieval society that was the source of the "underground stream" of esotericism in Europe.
Plantard then enlisted the aid of author Gérard de Sède to write a book based on his unpublished manuscript and forged parchments, alleging that Saunière had discovered a link to a hidden treasure. The 1967 book L'or de Rennes, ou La vie insolite de Bérenger Saunière, curé de Rennes-le-Château ("The Gold of Rennes, or The Strange Life of Bérenger Saunière, Priest of Rennes-le-Château"), which was later published in paperback under the title Le Trésor Maudit de Rennes-le-Château ("The Accursed Treasure of Rennes-le-Château") in 1968, became a popular read in France. It included copies of the found parchments (the originals were, of course, never produced), though it did not provide the decoded hidden texts contained within them. One of the Latin texts in the parchments was copied from the Novum Testamentum, an attempted restoration of the Vulgate by John Wordsworth and Henry White.
The other text was copied from the Codex Bezae. Based on the wording used, the versions of the Latin texts found in the parchments can be shown to have been copied from books first published in 1889 and 1895, which is problematic considering that de Sède's book was trying to make a case that these documents were centuries old.
In 1969, English scriptwriter, producer and researcher Henry Lincoln became intrigued after reading Le Trésor Maudit. He discovered one of the encrypted messages, which read "À Dagobert II Roi et à Sion est ce trésor, et il est là mort" ("To Dagobert II, King, and to Sion belongs this treasure and he is there dead"). This was possibly an allusion to the tomb and shrine of Sigebert IV, a real or mythical son of Dagobert II which would not only prove that the Merovingian dynasty did not end with the death of the king, but that the Priory of Sion has been entrusted with the duty to protect his relics like a treasure.
Lincoln expanded on the conspiracy theories, writing his own books on the subject, and inspiring and presenting three BBC Two Chronicle documentaries between 1972 and 1979 about the alleged mysteries of the Rennes-le-Château area. In response to a tip from Gérard de Sède, Lincoln claims he was also the one who discovered the Dossiers Secrets, a series of planted genealogies which appeared to further confirm the link with the extinct Merovingian bloodline. The documents claimed that the Priory of Sion and the Knights Templar were two fronts of one unified organisation with the same leadership until 1188.
Letters in existence dating from the 1960s written by Plantard, de Chérisey and de Sède to each other confirm that the three were engaging in an out-and-out hoax. The letters describe schemes to combat criticisms of their various allegations and ways they would make up new allegations to try to keep the hoax alive. These letters (totalling over 100) are in the possession of French researcher Jean-Luc Chaumeil, who has also retained the original envelopes.
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
After reading Le Trésor Maudit, Lincoln persuaded BBC Two to devote three episodes in their Chronicle documentary series to the topic. These became quite popular and generated thousands of responses. Lincoln then joined forces with Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh for further research. This led them to the pseudohistorical Dossiers Secrets at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which though alleging to portray hundreds of years of medieval history, were actually all written by Plantard and de Chérisey under the pseudonym of "Philippe Toscan du Plantier".
Unaware that the documents had been forged, Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh used them as a major source for their 1982 speculative nonfiction book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, in which they presented the following myths as facts to support their hypotheses:
- there is a secret society known as the Priory of Sion, which has a long history starting in 1099, and had illustrious Grand Masters including Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton;
- it created the Knights Templar as its military arm and financial branch; and
- it is devoted to installing the Merovingian dynasty, that ruled the Franks from 457 to 751, on the thrones of France and the rest of Europe.
The authors re-interpreted the Dossiers Secrets in the light of their own interest in questioning the Catholic Church's institutional reading of Judeo-Christian history. Contrary to Plantard's initial Franco-Israelist claim that the Merovingians were only descended from the Tribe of Benjamin, they asserted that:
- the Priory of Sion protects Merovingian dynasts because they may be the lineal descendants of the historical Jesus and his alleged wife, Mary Magdalene, traced further back to King David;
- the legendary Holy Grail is simultaneously the womb of saint Mary Magdalene and the sacred royal bloodline she gave birth to; and
- the Church tried to kill off all remnants of this bloodline and their supposed guardians, the Cathars and the Templars, so popes could hold the episcopal throne through the apostolic succession of Peter without fear of it ever being usurped by an antipope from the hereditary succession of Mary Magdalene.
The authors therefore concluded that the modern goals of the Priory of Sion are:
- the public revelation of the tomb and shrine of Sigebert IV as well as the lost treasure of the Temple in Jerusalem, which supposedly contains genealogical records that prove the Merovingian dynasty was of the Davidic line, to facilitate Merovingian restoration in France;
- the re-institutionalization of chivalric knighthood and the promotion of pan-European nationalism;
- the establishment of a theocratic "United States of Europe": a Holy European Empire politically and religiously unified through the imperial cult of a Merovingian Great Monarch who occupies both the throne of Europe and the Holy See; and
- the actual governance of Europe residing with the Priory of Sion through a one-party European Parliament.
The authors also incorporated the antisemitic and anti-Masonic tract known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion into their story, concluding that it was actually based on the master plan of the Priory of Sion. They presented it as the most persuasive piece of evidence for the existence and activities of the Priory of Sion by arguing that:
- the original text on which the published version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was based had nothing to do with Judaism or an "international Jewish conspiracy". It issued from a Masonic body practicing the Scottish Rite which incorporated the word "Zion" in its name;
- the original text was not intended to be released publicly, but was a program for gaining control of Freemasonry as part of a strategy to infiltrate and reorganize church and state according to esoteric Christian principles;
- after a failed attempt to gain influence in the court of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Sergei Nilus changed the original text to forge an inflammatory tract in 1903 to discredit the esoteric clique around Papus by implying they were Judaeo-Masonic conspirators; and
- some esoteric Christian elements in the original text were ignored by Nilus and hence remained unchanged in the antisemitic canard he published.
In reaction to this memetic synthesis of investigative journalism with religious conspiracism, many secular conspiracy theorists added the Priory of Sion to their list of secret societies collaborating or competing to manipulate political happenings from behind the scenes in their bid for world domination. Some occultists speculated that the emergence of the Priory of Sion and Plantard closely follows The Prophecies by M. Michel Nostradamus (unaware that Plantard was intentionally trying to fulfill them). Fringe Christian eschatologists countered that it was a fulfilment of prophecies found in the Book of Revelation and further proof of an anti-Christian conspiracy of epic proportions.
However, historians and scholars from related fields do not accept The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail as a serious dissertation.
French authors like Franck Marie (1978), Pierre Jarnac (1985), (1988), Jean-Luc Chaumeil (1994), and more recently Marie-France Etchegoin and Frédéric Lenoir (2004), Massimo Introvigne (2005), Jean-Jacques Bedu (2005), and Bernardo Sanchez Da Motta (2005), have never taken Plantard and the Priory of Sion as seriously as Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh. They eventually concluded that it was all a hoax, outlining in detail 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 Lincoln, Baigent, and Leigh to bolster the mythical version of the Priory's history that was developed by Plantard during the early 1960s after meeting author Gérard de Sède.
The Messianic Legacy
In 1986, Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh published The Messianic Legacy, a sequel to The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. The authors assert that the Priory of Sion is not only the archetypal cabal but an ideal repository of the cultural legacy of Jewish messianism that could end the “crisis of meaning” within the Western world by providing a Merovingian sacred king as a messianic figure in which the West and, by extension, humanity can place its trust. However, the authors are led to believe by Plantard that he has resigned as Grand Master of the Priory of Sion in 1984 and that the organisation has since gone underground in reaction to both an internal power struggle between Plantard and an “Anglo-American contingent” as well as a campaign of character assassination against Plantard in the press and books written by skeptics.
Although Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh remain convinced that the pre-1956 history of the Priory of Sion is true, they confess to the possibility that all of Plantard's claims about a post-1956 Priory of Sion were part of an elaborate hoax to become a respected, influential and wealthy player in French esotericist and monarchist circles.
In 1989, Plantard tried but failed to salvage his reputation and agenda as a mystagogue in esotericist circles by claiming that the Priory of Sion had actually been founded in 1681 at Rennes-le-Château, and was focused more on harnessing the paranormal power of ley lines and sunrise lines, and a promontory called "Roc Noir" (Black Rock) in the area, than installing a Merovingian pretender on the restored throne of France. In 1990, Plantard revised himself by claiming he was only descended from a cadet branch of the line of Dagobert II, while arguing that the direct descendant was really Otto von Habsburg.
In September 1993, while investigative judge Thierry Jean-Pierre was investigating the activities of multi-millionaire Roger-Patrice Pelat in the context of the Pechiney-Triangle Affair, he was informed that Pelat may have once been Grand Master of a secret society known as the Priory of Sion. Pelat's name had been on Plantard's list of Grand Masters since 1989. In fact, Pelat had died in 1989, while he was being indicted for insider trading. Following a long established pattern of using dead people's names, Plantard "recruited" the "initiate" Pelat soon after his death and included him as the most recent Priory of Sion Grand Master. Plantard had first claimed that Pelat had been a Grand Master in a Priory of Sion pamphlet dated 8 March 1989, then claimed it again later in a 1990 issue of Vaincre, the revived publication of Alpha Galates, a pseudo-chivalric order created by Plantard in Vichy France to support the "National Revolution".
Pelat had been a friend of François Mitterrand, then President of France, and at the centre of a scandal involving French Prime Minister Pierre Bérégovoy. As an investigative judge, Jean-Pierre could not dismiss any information brought to his attention pertaining to the case, especially if it might have led to a scandal similar to the one implicating an illegal pseudo-Masonic lodge named Propaganda Due in the 1982 Banco Ambrosiano bank failure in Italy, Jean-Pierre ordered a search of Plantard's home. The search turned up a hoard of false documents, including some proclaiming Plantard the true king of France. Plantard admitted under oath that he had fabricated everything, including Pelat's involvement with the Priory of Sion. Plantard was threatened with legal action by the Pelat family and therefore disappeared to his house in southern France. He was 74 years old at the time. Nothing more was heard of him until he died in Paris on 3 February 2000.
On 27 December 2002, an open letter announced the revival of the Priory of Sion as an integral traditionalist esoteric society, which stated that: "The Commanderies of Saint-Denis, Millau, Geneva and Barcelona are fully operative. According to the Tradition, the first Commanderie is under the direction of a woman", claiming there were 9,841 members. It was signed by Gino Sandri (who claims to be Plantard's former private secretary) under the title of General Secretary, and by "P. Plantard" (Le Nautonnier, G. Chyren). Sandri is a well-versed occultist who has spent his life infiltrating esoteric societies only to get expelled from them. After interviewing Sandri, independent researcher Laurent Octonovo Buchholtzer wrote:
I’ve personally met this Gino Sandri on one occasion, and I had the opportunity to have a really good talk with him, but I think that he's simply seeking attention. He seemed to me to be something of a mythomaniac, which would certainly be an excellent qualification for being Secretary of the Priory of Sion. During our conversation he said something in passing that I found quite extraordinary. He said, “Ultimately, what is the Priory of Sion? It's nothing more than a well-known brand name, but with goodness knows what behind it?” He gave a good brief account of the phenomenon of the Priory of Sion. Thanks to Dan Brown, hundreds of millions of people now have “brand awareness”, and several million of them seem to take it seriously.
The Da Vinci Code
As a result of Dan Brown's best-selling 2003 conspiracy fiction novel The Da Vinci Code and the subsequent 2006 film, there was a new level of public interest in the Priory of Sion. Brown's novel promotes the mythical version of the Priory but departs from the ultimate conclusions presented in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Rather than plotting to create a Federal Europe ruled by a Merovingian sacred king descended from the historical Jesus, the Priory of Sion initiates its members into a mystery cult seeking to restore the feminist theology necessary for a complete understanding of early Christianity, which was supposedly suppressed by the Catholic Church. The author has presented this speculation as fact in his non-fiction preface, as well as in his public appearances and interviews.
Furthermore, in their 1987 sequel The Messianic Legacy, Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh suggested that there was a current conflict between the Priory of Sion and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which they speculated might have originated from an earlier rivalry between the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades. However, for the dramatic structure of The Da Vinci Code, Brown chose the controversial Catholic personal prelature Opus Dei as the Assassini-like nemesis of the Priory of Sion, despite the fact that no author had ever argued that there is a conflict between these two groups. The plotline of the book itself however was claimed to be fictional by the author.
The Sion Revelation
Further conspiracy theories were reported in the 2006 non-fiction book The Sion Revelation: The Truth About the Guardians of Christ's Sacred Bloodline by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince (authors of the 1997 non-fiction book The Templar Revelation, the principal source for Dan Brown's claims about hidden messages in the work of Leonardo da Vinci). They accepted that the pre-1956 history of the Priory of Sion was a hoax created by Plantard, and that his claim that he was a Merovingian dynast was a lie. However, they insist that this was part of a complex red herring intended to distract the public from the hidden agenda of Plantard and his "controllers". They argue that the Priory of Sion was a front organisation for one of the many crypto-political societies which have been plotting to create a "United States of Europe" in line with French occultist Alexandre Saint-Yves d'Alveydre's synarchist vision of an ideal form of government.
The 2008 documentary Bloodline by 1244 Films and producers Bruce Burgess, a British filmmaker with an interest in paranormal claims and Rene Barnett, a Los Angeles researcher and television and filmmaker, expands on the "Jesus bloodline" hypothesis and other elements of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Accepting as valid the testimony of an amateur archaeologist codenamed "Ben Hammott" relating to his discoveries made in the vicinity of Rennes-le-Château since 1999; The film speculates that Ben has found the treasure of Bérenger Saunière: a mummified corpse, which Hammott claimed to believe is Mary Magdalene, in an underground tomb purportedly connected to both the Knights Templar and the Priory of Sion. In the film, Burgess interviews several people with alleged connections to the Priory of Sion, including a Gino Sandri and Nicolas Haywood. A book by one of the documentary's researchers, Rob Howells, entitled Inside the Priory of Sion: Revelations from the World's Most Secret Society – Guardians of the Bloodline of Jesus presented the version of the Priory of Sion as given in the 2008 documentary, which contained several erroneous assertions, such as the claim that Plantard believed in the Jesus bloodline hypothesis. On 21 March 2012, ahead of an impending public outing on the internet, Ben Hammott confessed and apologised on NightVision Radio, a podcast hosted by Bloodline Producer Rene Barnett (using his real name Bill Wilkinson) that everything to do with the tomb and related artifacts was a hoax; revealing that the actual tomb was now destroyed, being part of a full sized set located in a warehouse in England.
Alleged Grand Masters
The notional version of the Priory of Sion first referred to during the 1960s was supposedly led by a "Nautonnier", an Old French word for a navigator, which means Grand Master in their internal esoteric nomenclature. The following list of Grand Masters is derived from the Dossiers Secrets d'Henri Lobineau compiled by Plantard under the nom de plume of "Philippe Toscan du Plantier" in 1967. All those named on this list had died before that date. All but two are also found on lists of alleged “Imperators” (supreme heads) and “distinguished members” of the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis that circulated in France at the time when Plantard was in touch with this Rosicrucian Order. Most of those named share the common thread of being known for having an interest in the occult or heresy.
The Dossiers Secrets asserted that the Priory of Sion and the Knights Templar always shared the same Grand Master until a schism occurred during the "Cutting of the elm" incident in 1188. Following that event, the Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion are listed in French as being:
- Jean de Gisors (1188–1220)
- Marie de Saint-Clair (1220–1266)- Marie de Saint-Clair (1192-1266), daughter of Robert de Saint-Clair and Isabel Levis, became Grand Mistress of the Priory from 1220 to her death (3).
- Guillaume de Gisors (1266–1307)
- Edouard de Bar (1307–1336)
- Jeanne de Bar (1336–1351)
- Jean de Saint-Clair (1351–1366)
- Blanche d'Évreux (1366–1398)
- Nicolas Flamel (1398–1418)
- René d'Anjou (1418–1480)
- Iolande de Bar (1480–1483)
- Sandro Botticelli (1483–1510)
- Leonardo da Vinci (1510–1519)
- Connétable de Bourbon (1519–1527)
- Ferrante I Gonzaga (1527–1575)
- Ludovico Gonzaga (1575–1595)
- Robert Fludd (1595–1637)
- J. Valentin Andrea (1637–1654)
- Robert Boyle (1654–1691)
- Isaac Newton (1691–1727)
- Charles Radclyffe (1727–1746)
- Charles de Lorraine (1746–1780)
- Maximilian de Lorraine (1780–1801)
- Charles Nodier (1801–1844)
- Victor Hugo (1844–1885)
- Claude Debussy (1885–1918)
- Jean Cocteau (1918–1963)
A later document, Le Cercle d'Ulysse, identifies François Ducaud-Bourget, a prominent Traditionalist Catholic priest who Plantard had worked for as a sexton during World War II, as the Grand Master following Cocteau's death. Plantard himself is later identified as the next Grand Master.
When the Dossiers Secrets were exposed as a forgery by French researchers, Plantard kept quiet. During his 1989 attempt to make a comeback and revive the Priory of Sion, Plantard sought to distance himself from the discredited first list, and published a second list of Priory Grand Masters, which included the names of the deceased Roger-Patrice Pelat, and his own son Thomas Plantard de Saint-Clair:
- Jean-Tim Negri d'Albes (1681–1703)
- François d'Hautpoul (1703–1726)
- André-Hercule de Fleury (1726–1766)
- Charles de Lorraine (1766–1780)
- Maximilian de Lorraine (1780–1801)
- Charles Nodier (1801–1844)
- Victor Hugo (1844–1885)
- Claude Debussy (1885–1918)
- Jean Cocteau (1918–1963)
- François Balphangon (1963–1969)
- John Drick (1969–1981)
- Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair (1981)
- Philippe de Chérisey (1984–1985)
- Roger-Patrice Pelat (1985–1989)
- Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair (1989)
- Thomas Plantard de Saint-Clair (1989)
In 2006, American author Eric Mader-Lin made a public declaration claiming to be the current Grand Master of the Priory of Sion.
- Baigent, Michael; Leigh, Richard; Lincoln, Henry (1982). The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Jonathan Cape. ISBN 978-0-224-01735-0.
- Massimo Introvigne (2–5 June 2005). "Beyond The Da Vinci Code: History and Myth of the Priory of Sion". CESNUR. Retrieved 20 November 2012. Cite journal requires
- Pierre Plantard, Gisors et son secret..., ORBIS, 1961, abridged version contained in Gérard de Sède, Les Templiers sont parmi nous. 1962.
- Dan Brown (2003). The Da Vinci Code. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-50420-9.
- Chapter 21 by Cory James Rushton, "Twenty-First-Century Templar", p. 236, in Gail Ashton (editor), Medieval Afterlives in Contemporary Culture (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. ISBN 978-1-4411-2960-4).
- Bill Putnam, John Edwin Wood (2003). The Treasure of Rennes-le-Château. A Mystery Solved. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0750930810.
- Bradley, Ed (2006). "The Priory Of Sion: Is The "Secret Organization" Fact Or Fiction?". Retrieved 16 July 2008. Cite journal requires
- Melissa Kasoutlis (2009). Literary Hoaxes: An Eye-Opening History of Famous Frauds. Skyhorse. ISBN 978-1602397941.
- Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln (1987). The Messianic Legacy. Henry Holt & Co. ISBN 9780805005684.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Lynn Picknett, Clive Prince (1997). The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ. Bantam Press. ISBN 0593038703.
- Laurence Gardner (2005). The Magdalene Legacy: The Jesus and Mary Bloodline Conspiracy. Harpercollins Pub Ltd. ISBN 0007200846.
- Lynn Picknett, Clive Prince (2006). The Sion Revelation. The Truth About the Guardians of Christ's Sacred Bloodline. Touchstone. ISBN 0-7432-6303-0.
- Robert Howells (2011). Inside the Priory of Sion: Revelations from the World's Most Secret Society. Watkins Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78028-136-0.
- Mondschein, Ken (11 November 2014). "Holy Blood, Holy Grail". Straus Media. Straus News. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
Likewise, there's an entire cottage industry devoted to disseminating crazy conspiracy theories about the Knights Templar, from Richard Metzger's Disinfo.com (which seems to be more interested in the believers than the belief) to Dagobert's Revenge, the New Jersey-based conspiracy zine to which industrial musician Boyd Rice is a prominent contributor (it's named for a murdered Merovingian king). I've heard everything from the Templars having hidden the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia to their having built a supposed medieval tower in Connecticut a hundred years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The sad truth is that, while remnants survived in such groups as the Knights of Christ in Portugal, the Templars have about as much effect on the modern world as does the Empire of Trebezonia.
- David Klinghoffer, "The Da Vinci Protocols: Jews should worry about Dan Brown’s success" Archived 7 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine, National Review Online, 2006. Retrieved on 28 March 2008.
- Newman, Sharan. The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code (PDF). New York: Berkley Books. pp. 243–245. ISBN 0-7865-5469-X. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 September 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
- Extrait du Journal Officiel du 20 juillet 1956 (p. 6731) Archived 24 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- "Pierre Plantard Extrait du Journal Officiel du 20 juillet 1956". Jhaldezos.free.fr. 16 February 2008. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
- Guy Gavard, Histoire d'Annemasse et des communes voisines: les relations avec Genève de l'époque romaine à l'an 2000 (Montmélian: la Fontaine de Siloé, impr. 2006).
- Bernardo Sanchez Da Motta, Do Enigma de Rennes-le-Château ao Priorado de Siao – Historia de um Mito Moderno, Esquilo, 2005, p. 322, reproducing the Priory of Sion Registration Document showing the group was based in Plantard's apartment.
- "Les Archives du Prieuré de Sion", Le Charivari, N°18, 1973. Containing a transcript of the 1956 Statutes of the Priory of Sion.
- J. Cailleboite, "A Sous-Cassan et aux pervenches un missionnaire regarde la vie ouvriere", Circuit, Numéro spécial, October 1956.
- The History of a Mystery, BBC 2, transmitted on 17 September 1996
- Pierre Jarnac, Les Archives de Rennes-le-Château, Tome II, Editions Belisane, 1988, p. 566.
- Marie-France Etchegoin & Frédéric Lenoir, Code Da Vinci: L'Enquête, p. 61 (Robert Laffont, 2004).
- Jean-Luc Chaumeil, La Table d'Isis ou Le Secret de la Lumière, Editions Guy Trédaniel, 1994, pp. 121–124.
- Madeleine Blancassall, "Les Descendants Mérovingiens ou l’énigme du Razès wisigoth" (1965), in: Pierre Jarnac, Les Mystères de Rennes-le-Château, Mélanges Sulfureux, CERT, 1994.
- Jean Delaude, Le Cercle d’Ulysse (1977), in: Pierre Jarnac, Les Mystères de Rennes-le-Château, Mélanges Sulfureux, CERT, 1994.
- A photograph of a young Thomas Plantard de Saint-Clair standing next to the Les Pontils tomb was published in Jean-Pierre Deloux, Jacques Brétigny, Rennes-le-Château – Capitale Secrète de l'Histoire de France, 1982.
- Jean-Luc Chaumeil (Goeroe of speculative freemason), Rennes-le-Château – Gisors – Le Testament du Prieuré de Sion. Le Crépuscule d’une Ténébreuse Affaire, Éditions Pégase, 2006.
- The History of a Mystery, BBC 2, transmitted on 17 September 1996.
- Damian Thompson, "How Da Vinci Code tapped pseudo-fact hunger", Daily Telegraph. 13 January 2008. Retrieved on 28 March 2008.
- Conspiracies On Trial: The Da Vinci Code (The Discovery Channel); transmitted on 10 April 2005.
- Pierre Jarnac, Les Mystères de Rennes-le-Château: Mèlange Sulfureux (CERT, 1994).
- Doug Moench, Factoid Books. The Big Book of Conspiracies, Paradox Press, 1995. ISBN 1-56389-186-7.
- Marie-France Etchegoin & Frédéric Lenoir, Code Da Vinci: L’Enquête, p. 61 (Robert Laffont; 2004).
- Barbara Aho, "The Merovingian Dynasty. Satanic Bloodline of the Antichrist and False Prophet, watchpair.com, 1997. Retrieved on 5 October 2020.
- Martin Kemp, Professor of Art History at Oxford University, on the documentary The History of a Mystery, BBC Two, transmitted on 17 September 1996, commenting on books like The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail: "There are certain historical problems, of which the Turin Shroud is one, in which there is 'fantastic fascination' with the topic, but a historical vacuum – a lack of solid evidence – and where there's a vacuum – nature abhores a vacuum – and historical speculation abhors a vacuum – and it all floods in...But what you end up with is almost nothing tangible or solid. You start from a hypothesis, and then that is deemed to be demonstrated more-or-less by stating the speculation, you then put another speculation on top of that, and you end up with this great tower of hypotheses and speculations – and if you say 'where are the rocks underneath this?' they are not there. It's like the House on Sand, it washes away as soon as you ask really hard questions of it."
- Franck Marie, Rennes-le-Château: Etude Critique (SRES, 1978).
- Pierre Jarnac, Histoire du Trésor de Rennes-le-Château (1985).
- Pierre Jarnac, Les Archives de Rennes-le-Château (Editions Belisane, 1988). Describing The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail as a "monument of mediocrity".
- Jean-Luc Chaumeil,La Table d'Isis ou Le Secret de la Lumière (Editions Guy Trédaniel, 1994).
- Marie-France Etchegoin & Frédéric Lenoir, Code Da Vinci: L'Enquête (Robert Laffont, 2004).
- Massimo Introvigne, Gli Illuminati E Il Priorato Di Sion – La Verita Sulle Due Societa Segrete Del Codice Da Vinci Di Angeli E Demoni (Piemme; 2005).
- Jean-Jacques Bedu, Les sources secrètes du Da Vinci Code (Editions du Rocher, 2005).
- Bernardo Sanchez Da Motta, Do Enigma de Rennes-le-Château ao Priorado de Siao – Historia de um Mito Moderno (Esquilo, 2005).
- Miller, Laura (22 February 2004). "The Last Word; The Da Vinci Con". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 July 2008.
- The ley line is from "Fauteil du Diable" to "Fortin de Blanchefort", intersected by a sunrise line of 17 January from the church of Rennes-les-Bains to the church of Rennes-le-Château, in Vaincre, page 19 (June 1989). This was first given, in much more complex form, in Philippe de Chérisey's 1975 document L'Or de Rennes pour un Napoléon (Bibliothèque Nationale; Tolbiac – Rez-de-jardin – magasin 4- LB44- 2360).
- Quoting from Plantard's letter dated 4 April 1989: "Our Treasure, that of the Priory of Sion, is the Secret of the Roc Noir. Venerated since high antiquity by those who believed in its immense power..."
- Quoting Pierre Plantard: "If anyone can claim to be a descendant of Sigisbert IV in the direct line it can only be Otto von Habsburg, and he alone. To all those people who write to me I have given this same reply." From Vaincre – Reprend le titre d'un périodique paru en 1942–1943, Number 1, April 1990 "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 August 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) The April 1989, June 1989, September 1989, April 1990 issues of Vaincre were compiled together (with some of the articles modified) in 1992 and entitled Le Cercle: Rennes-le-Château et le Prieuré de Sion, consisting of 86 pages. This material was published in December 2007 by Pierre Jarnac in Pégase, No 5 hors série, Le Prieuré de Sion – Les Archives de Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair – Rennes-le-Chateau – Gisors – Stenay (90 pages) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Quoting Plantard: "We would like to repeat that in no case have we found any trace of the son of Dagobert II in the list of the Visigothic Razes. This Sigibert IV found refuge with his abbess sister at Oeren and was the cousin of Sigebert de Rhedae, who was alive more or less around the same time. Historians conflate these two Sigiberts into one person. When did Sigebert IV die? We don't know. Some think that he was the founder of the Habsburg family."
- "Affaire Pelat: Le Rapport du Juge", Le Point, no. 1112 (8–14 January 1994), p. 11.
- Les Cahiers de Rennes-le-Chateau, Nr. IX, page 59, Éditions Bélisane, 1989.
- Jean-Jacques Bedu, Les sources secrètes du Da Vinci Code, Editions du Rocher, 2005.
- Philippe Laprévôte, "Note sur l’actualité du Prieuré de Sion", in: Politica Hermetica, Nr. 10 (1996), pp. 140–151.
- Laurent "Octonovo" Buchholtzer, "Pierre Plantard, Geneviève Zaepfell and the Alpha-Galates", in: Actes du Colloque 2006, Oeil-du-Sphinx, 2007.
- Bulletin Pégase N°06, Janvier/Mars 2003.
- Laurent "Octonovo" Buchholtzer, Rennes-le-Château, une Affaire Paradoxale, Oeil-du-Sphinx, 2008.
- Bloodline DVD (Cinema Libre, 2008, 113 minutes). The documentary was originally released in cinemas on 9 May 2008.
- Ronald H. Fritze, Invented Knowledge: False History, Fake Science and Pseudo-Religions, pp. 8–9 (Reaktion Books, 2009). ISBN 1-86189-430-9
- Robert Howells, Inside The Priory of Sion: Revelations From The World's Most Secret Society – Guardians of The Bloodline of Jesus (Watkins Publishing, 2011). ISBN 1-78028-017-3
- "In Holy Blood, Holy Grail Plantard claimed that the key to the mystery of Rennes-le-Château was that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had children." Howells, page 2.
- NightVision Radio Archived 20 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, entry dated Wednesday, 21 March 2012
- The second list appeared in Vaincre No. 3, September 1989, p. 22.
- "Declaration from the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion". www.necessaryprose.com.
- Official website of the Priory of Sion – Ordre de la Rose-Croix Véritas O.D.L.R.C.V.
- Polidoro, Massimo. The Secrets of Rennes-le-Château: Notes on a Strange World. Skeptical Inquirer, Volume 28, No 6. (November-December 2004) Retrieved on 2020-09-21
- Introvigne, Massimo. The Da Vinci Code FAQ, or Will the Real Priory of Sion Please Stand Up?. CESNUR (2005) Retrieved on 2008-06-20
- Netchacovitch, Johan. Chaumeil – Plantard. Gazette of Rennes-le-Château (12 April 2006). Retrieved on 2008-06-20
- Netchacovitch, Johan. Sole survivor of the Priory of Sion. Gazette of Rennes-le-Château (4 November 2006). Retrieved on 2008-06-20
- Netchacovitch, Johan. The Priory of Sion today. Gazette de Rennes-le-Château (27 March 2017) Retrieved on 2020-09-21