Does The Priory Of Sion Really Exist?

Immediately prior to the Prologue in The Da Vinci Code, author Dan Brown makes a point of confirming the authenticity of the Priory of Sion.

It was, he says, a European secret society founded in 1099.  Another source gives the date as 1090, the place as the Holy Land, and the founder as Godfroy de Bouillion, who captured Jerusalem in 1099. After the fall of Jerusalem to the Crusaders, Godfroy ordered that an abbey, the Abbey of Notre-Dame du Mont de Sion, be built on the site of a ruined Byzantine church to house his personal canons (members of a cathedral chapter) who, according to Priory records, later became involved in helping to create the Knights Templar to “serve as the Order of Sion’s military and exterior administrative arm”. (Cracking the Da Vinci Code, p. 130)

In 1152, a number of monks from the Abbey of Notre-Dame du Mont de Sion travelled to France in the company of the French king, Louis VII, and were settled in Orleans, where some of them were accommodated at “the little priory of the Mount of Sion”. From this small body, according to (now dubious) Priory records, grew the secret order that became known as the Priory of Sion.

It is claimed that the Knights Templar co-operated with the Priory of Sion until 1188 when the two bodies were unable to resolve a major dispute and officially abandoned their alliance. While the Templars continued to operate publicly until their order was dissolved by Pope Clement V in 1307, the Priory of Sion apparently became an underground movement under the name of the Order of the Rose-Cross Veritas. By association of terms, it seems that the still-existing movement known as the Rosicrucians had its roots in this order.

Dan Brown records that in 1975 the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets which identified well-known personages as being among the members of the Priory of Sion. Included were the names of Sir Isaac Newton, Sandro Botticelli, Victor Hugo and Leonardo da Vinci. Dates of this discovery vary.

It seems that the real purpose of the dossiers was to establish an illustrious background for one Pierre Plantard and attempted to show that he was the only living descendant of King Dagobert II and therefore the legitimate king of France. This also placed him in the bloodline claimed to have been that of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. In fact, the Dossiers contain a wide variety of material that has not been substantiated by any other source. Moreover, some pieces of information have been definitively proved by experts to be false. 

With a special card issued on request to researchers, anyone can study any records in the entire library. Although frequently described as ‘secret’, they are in fact available for scrutiny. 

Leadership of the Priory of Sion is claimed to have originally passed on via a family bloodline, but the position was later said to be held by people of particular distinction. Author Simon Cox mentions a list dated 1956 which was contained in the Les Dossiers Secrets and which gives the names of all the “Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion”. According to this record, Jean Cocteau was “Navigator” (Grand Master) from 1918 to 1963. The name of his successor has apparently not been established, but leadership subsequently passed to Pierre Plantard, who held the title until his resignation in 1984.

Pierre Plantard was apparently a major source of information for the authors of the best-selling Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the book that first drew the attention of the reading public to the Priory of Sion.

The glossary item on the Priory of Sion in Secrets of the Code (see Further Reading at the end of this book) introduces a note of caution about the claims of Pierre Plantard, the spokesperson for most of the modern history of the Priory of Sion. Plantard died on 3 February 2000. The editor of Secrets of the Code points out that documentary evidence relating to the activities of the Priory of Sion is available only from 1956 and that anything before that is sketchy and confusing. He comments that many authors “have projected their speculations and theories regarding the Priory and its place in history”.

True, but ultimately The Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction. What makes it so compelling a novel is the fact that its fictional elements play out against a well-researched background that seems persuasively real, whether it is in fact so or not. 

Truth, after all, depends largely on perspective. A novel writer wanting to present background material that can be accepted by readers as being as authentic as possible therefore has to make choices based on research that seems to him to offer him the best opportunity for creating a believable and coherent context for his story. 

The author of The Da Vinci Code states that all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in the novel are accurate. It is important that one temporarily accepts this credo if one is to participate fully in the events of the novel and take in a great deal of fascinating historical material that one might care to pursue further afterwards if one wishes.

The book therefore opens doors to much further exploration beyond the fiction which it presents. The avid interest raised by the background to The Da Vinci Code is a clear indication of the delight many readers take in digging beyond the telling of the story.     

The role played by the supposedly centuries-old Priory of Sion is a case in point. Jacques Saunière, Sophie Neveu’s grandfather in the novel, is found to be the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion and one of four people to hold the Priory’s grand secret that must at all costs be prevented from falling into the hands of the Opus Dei. The incorporation of complex historical detail – including detail about which there is much speculation and controversy – adds a dimension not usually found in thrillers.

An interesting note is that a Catholic Order called the Priory of Sion did exist in the Middle Ages, although it had nothing to do with the Merovingians or any alternative history of Jesus and Mary Magadalene. Nor does it appear to have had any relationship to the Priory of Sion of Dan Brown’s novel.

Many people joined the Priory of Sion after 1956, and more followed when the finding of Les Dossiers Secrets (not by library staff, but by members of Pierre Plantard’s group) was announced.

Today, despite Pierre Plantard’s documentary evidence being regarded as highly suspicious and probably fraudulent, the Priory of Sion continues to exist as a small occult group, focusing on themes and rituals which it has in common with several other older orders.

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What Was The Role Of The Freemasons?

It seems probable that leading members of the old masonic guilds had connections with the Knights Templar. What is not known is whether the Freemasons of today are in any real sense connected to the old guild of stone masons of the Middle Ages.

 

The Cathedral of Notre Dame was the work of a guild of masons under the leadership of the Cistercian Order. St Bernard of that order was said to have knowledge of the secret geometry of King Solomon’s masons. The master mason of this guild, and skilled in sacred geometry, was Hiram Abiff, who was to become a central symbolic figure in the Freemasonry movement of the early 18th century.

 

There were various masonic guilds or brotherhoods during the Middle Ages, and when King Philip IV of France began to persecute the Knights Templar in the early 14th century, the masonic guilds in France were also placed in danger. Like the Knights Templar, they were secretive and therefore suspect.

 

It was believed that the masons had knowledge of the sacred geometry of the ancients, and it was only one step from this to see them as possibly having maps that indicated the sites of ancient documents and treasures.

 

They had three degrees of membership, the highest being that of Master mason. The Master masons were the ones most likely to be privy to any secrets. It was those of the ‘third degree’ among the secret societies who were subjected to interrogation. This is the derivation of our modern term, subjecting someone to ‘the third degree’, meaning a ruthless interrogation to force the person to divulge information.

 

When an apprentice joined one of the old guilds, he had to swear not to reveal the secrets of the craft, and the masons might at that stage have introduced some form of secret communication by which they could recognise one another.

 

 

During the Middle Ages, masons worked on the building sites of the great cathedrals and other Gothic structures. The work required a high degree of skill, and a secret code, recognisable only to other masons, would have ensured that no one who was not properly qualified would be employed on such projects.

 

Masonic groups formed groups in towns, but lodges also provided meeting-places for masons who were working away from home. These lodges kept masons in constant touch with one another and with the society.

 

It was quite usual for noble European families of the day to invent mythical genealogical records for themselves so that they could claim bloodlines going back to some illustrious figure of the distant past. Some of the guilds did the same and claimed fascinating but highly unlikely origins for themselves.

 

The first English Freemason lodges were formed around the beginning of the 18th century. Although they adopted many of the rituals and symbols of the old masonic guilds of the Middle Ages and added more of their own devising, they were quite different organisations.

 

Within a decade or so, Freemasonry had spread to France and then to Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Freemasons were not required to have practised the trade of masonry, but tended to be drawn from a wide range of occupations and included many of illustrious reputation.

 

From what has been written in the last decades about Freemasonry today, it seems that modern Freemasons know little or nothing about the need to protect ancient great secrets, although this might well be part of the ritualistic role of the higher echelons. Even then, however, sacerdotalism is no longer claimed.

 

Decisions about the advancement of ordinary members are taken by this rather shadowy higher echelon, and one assumes therefore, that some kind of ‘enlightenment’ takes place, but the role of Freemasonry today is largely one of service and mutual support. It seems, however, that rituals and symbols remain very much part of their ceremonies.

 

Freemasonry accepts members of all religion, or no religion at all. Some lodges now include women.

 

When a society operates in terms of secrecy and has initiation rites and esoteric levels of membership, it is inevitable that conspiracy theories will arise regarding its activities, including accusations of subversive finagling. There is little doubt that Freemasons do indeed look after one another’s interests where possible, but the impressive number of famous and justifiably renowned Freemasons over the past couple of centuries suggests that most of the accusations are somewhat flimsy.

 

 

The very fact that the society has endured through the centuries and has counted some of history’s most illustrious figures among its members suggests that it has a powerful pull on the imagination of those who belong to it and that they find their connection with it fulfilling. There are thousands of Freemason lodges throughout the world.

 

 

Does The Gospel Of Mary Magdalene Really Exist?

The Nag Hammadi reference for the Gospel of Mary is Codex II, 2. It was originally written in Greek, probably in the early part of the second century.   

Karen King and other commentators report that the Gospel of Mary falls naturally into two sections: the account of the exchange between Jesus and the disciples after the Crucifixion, and a description of Mary’s passing on to the disciples the special revelations entrusted to her by Jesus. Only the beginning and end of this important document survives. Four pages are missing between beginning and end. 

It is in the Gospel of Mary that Peter is described as challenging the relationship of Jesus and Mary Magdalene by demanding to know why Jesus would choose to speak privately to her rather than freely to them. Peter complains about Mary’s preaching and asks Jesus to stop her as she is undermining his leadership. Jesus’s response is to rebuke Peter. Mary later says that she is wary of Peter and feels that he hates women. Jesus tells her that anyone, whether man or woman, is divinely entitled to speak if inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Also in the Gospel of Mary, Levi is recorded as pointing out to Peter that if Jesus found Mary Magdalene worthy to be the recipient of his revelations, then he, Peter, had no right to criticise and reject her: “The Saviour surely knows her well enough. That is why he loves her more than us.”  He tells the disciples to go forth and preach as Jesus had asked of them.

They immediately respond, and with this the text ends.

From then on, it seems that the disciples accepted Mary’s position of privilege and that she comforted and encouraged them when they feared that they, too, would meet death at the hands of the authorities. 

The story of Peter’s confrontation with Mary Magdalene is also recorded in the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of the Egyptians and the Pistis Sophia.

The Nag Hammadi Codices appear to be largely Gnostic in tone. Not all Gnostics were Christians. In fact, there had been Gnostic thinkers before the time of Christ. Gnostic Christians were those who preferred personal revelation and individual understanding rather than conversion by apostles or evangelists.

Because Gnostic Christians were condemned by the orthodox Church , they have always received what we would call ‘a bad press’, but the largely Gnostic writings of the Nag Hammadi codices have brought new understanding of the Gnostics and much sympathy and support for their perspectives of Jesus and his mission. They did not, for instance, believe that Jesus was divine, but saw him as a divinely inspired teacher whose mission was to reveal to ordinary human beings that they could have direct communication with God. Since the Gnostics were largely freethinkers, it goes without saying that there was much variety in their interpretations.

Richard Andres and Paul Schellenberger point out in The Tomb of God: the Body of Jesus and the Solution to a 2000-year-old Mystery that the silence of the Church regarding Christian Gnosticism has left most Christians unaware of the important Gnostic aspects in the origins of their own religion. The orthodox Church fought fiercely to eradicate the Christian Gnostics and other so-called ‘heretics’ prior to the Council at Nicaea in 325 AD and established a pattern of prejudice that has plagued the Church ever since.

The main bone of contention between Gnostic and orthodox Christians seems to have been the issue of whether Christ was divine and the actual Son of God and whether he had been physically resurrected and then taken up into heaven. Although he might not have been the originator, Paul propagated and disseminated the view of Jesus as the Son of God resurrected to life after death on the cross after death. One cannot help but suspect that the disappearance of Jesus from the tomb played into the hands of the later orthodox Church, since his reappearance, either living or dead, would have been difficult to account for in terms of the Resurrection which is fundamental to Christian Church dogma.    

It is not difficult to see why orthodox believers wanted Gnostic interpretations suppressed even before the end of the first century AD, and why people like the inhabitants of the Jewish Qumran community found it necessary to hide their documents in urns secreted in caves before they fled at the time of the Jewish uprising of 70 AD and during later persecutions.

In 325 AD Emperor Constantine, concerned about myriad dissensions in the failing Empire, set up the Council at Nicaea and demanded that Christians cease their quarrelling and make up their minds about their beliefs. His reasons were, of course, personal and political, and had nothing to do with any concern for religion. It was rather that he saw that Christianity was spreading fast and that a unified Christianity would be useful to him.

If Mary did indeed leave the Holy Land after the Crucifixion and finally make her home in France, this would support the view of her implicit in those of the Nag Hammadi Codices that mention her mission. She was the apostle closest to Jesus and it was to her that he made his revelations after his body had disappeared from the cave and he met and spoke with her in the garden.

And if she were indeed the mother of his child – or children – it would have been imperative for her to escape from the Holy Land.

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What Is The Role Of The Rosslyn Chapel In The Grail Story?

Alex has done extensive research on the Rosslyn Chapel. Here is a summary of her findings.

 rosslyn-chapel.jpg

Rosslyn Chapel is the final part of Sophie Neveu and Robert Langdon’s journey and the place where Sophie will learn the truth about her family… although not the truth about the Holy Grail.

 

Although often connected in popular legend to the Knights Templar, Rosslyn Chapel was actually founded by Sir William St Clair, Earl of Rosslyn, in the 15th century at a time when the Templar Order had not existed for over a hundred years, although there were still small groups who saw themselves as inheritors of Templar wisdom and rituals.

 

The St Clair family did, however, have connections with the guild of masons – prior to the founding of the Order of Freemasons – and for a time during the early 17th century the current William St Clair (it seems that all the St Clair heirs were named William) was a kind of ‘protector’ of the local masonic branch. Extant documents show that his son, who was a rather more respectable character than his father, was formally designated an official patron of the masons. When the Order of Freemasons was founded, the St Clairs of Rosslyn were among the earlier members.

 

Simon Cox points out in Cracking the Da Vinci Code that members of the St Clair family had actually testified against the Knights Templar when some of its members were tried at Holyrood in Edinburgh in 1309. (One notes that this piece of information contradicts the claim that no Knights Templar were persecuted in Britain.)

 

Rosslyn Chapel is only about eight miles from Edinburgh in the village of Roslin in Lothian, where most of the inhabitants are so used to its just ‘being there’ that they have little curiosity about it, despite the fact that a reward has long been available to anyone able to decipher the large number of its symbols that remain shrouded in mystery. Weekly services continue to be held in the church, which is actually named Rosslyn Collegiate Church.

 

For those who enjoy collecting extraneous pieces of information, Dolly the sheep was cloned at the Roslin Institute.

 

Cox and Newman, among others, point out that the name ‘Rosslyn’ does not come from ‘Rose Line’ as reported in The Da Vinci Code, but from the Scottish words ‘ross’, meaning a hill or rocky excrescence, and ‘lynn’ meaning water or waterfall, both of which aptly describe Rosslyn’s situation.

 

There is indeed an underground chamber, a crypt, under Roslynn Chapel, where members of the St Claire family were buried over the centuries. The entrance to the crypt is well-known. It is beneath the flagstones of the north aisle of the chapel, but to this point excavations have not been allowed. There is no real evidence that the crypt contains documentary or any other kind of treasure, and the owners fear that the church – which has been neglected over many centuries – would suffer irreversible damage were it to be undermined.

 

The entire church is covered in carvings, and people sometimes express surprise that so little work has been done on deciphering the huge number of signs, symbols and carvings at Rosslyn Chapel, but this kind of work usually takes years, especially since many cryptographers work at unravelling such esoteric mysteries only in their spare time. Cox points out that cryptographers have been studying the Rosslyn symbols for a relatively short time.

 

People who have visited Rosslyn to make their own explorations have reported that they have been unable to find the pentacle on the floor of the chapel described by Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code. Once again, one is reminded that The Da Vinci Code is a novel, not a work of non-fiction, and a novelist may embroider where he chooses.

 

In January 2003, the district branch of the Scottish Knights Templar announced that they would be using new scanning technology at Rosslyn Chapel that was capable of taking readings to a deep underground level. These readings would presumably indicate whether there were any crypts or vaults in addition to the burial crypt of the St Clair family which is already known, although not accessible today. There does not appear to have been any further news on this matter.

 

The Scottish Knights Templar are not an actual continuation of the Order of the Knights Templar which was destroyed in the early 14th century as a result of the persecutions of Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V, but see themselves as philosophically linked to the original Knights Templar and dedicated to perpetuating their ethic.

More answers here! 

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Breaking the Da Vinci Code

After over 12 months of working passionately on the Da Vinci Code its amazing when instead of researching the turf exposed by “The Da Vinci Code” others seek to BAN, STARVE, SUE, RIDICULE, PREACH and COUNTERPROGAM.

Jeremy Caplan of Time Magazine does a good job of summarising the Da Vinci Code opponents.

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What is the Opus Dei?

The Opus Dei (the Work of God) was founded in Spain in1928 by Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer. It had both lay members and priests, and its mission was to make people aware of the need to make holiness part of their everyday lives and to demonstrate this by personal example. Lay members remained under strict religious supervision and followed a daily programme of readings, spiritual exercises and prayers.

There were numerous Opus Dei rituals, and some members (belonging to the Numerary group, the strictest level of membership) continued to engage in “corporal mortification” at a time when this was generally frowned on in other religious communities.

With headquarters in Rome, the organisation works in some countries and has about 80,000 members. Its founder, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, was canonised by Pope John Paul II in October 2002, an honour that continues to raise much controversy.

As with all religious organisations about which little is generally known, the Opus Dei has often been the focus of criticism and unfavourable speculation, but it has nonetheless endured and has also retained Papal support.

Its founder, Escriva de Balaguer, was the author of a book entitled The Way in which he glorified pain: “Blessed be pain. Loved be pain. Sanctified be pain… Glorified be pain.” In The Da Vinci Code, Silas has taken this as his mantra.

Manuel Aringarosa and Silas in The Da Vinci Code are both members of the Opus Dei. As a Numerary of the Order, Silas continues to mortify his flesh via the lash and the cilice. He is obsessed with the notion that self-inflicted bodily pain, using these two particular instruments of torture, is spiritually cleansing. Hence his constant reiteration that “Pain is good.”

He goes about his deadly work secure in the belief that he is operating as a sevant of God. He acknowledges the savagery of his behaviour, but believes that he redeems himself in God’s eyes through inflicting physical torment on himself. He is actually at the mercy of forces beyond his understanding, but his devotion to his “Teacher” blinds him to this reality.

Before the Prologue in The Da Vinci Code, author Dan Brown describes the “Vaticn prelature known as Opus Dei” as a “deeply devout Catholic sect that has been the topic of recent controversy due to reports of brain-washing, coercion and a dangerous practice known as ‘corporal mortification’”.

The seventeen-storey new headquarters of the Opus Dei at 243 Lexington Avenue in New Yrk has no outward sign to indicate to whom it belongs. The Vatican Yearbook, reports author Simon Cox, reveals that there are some 3,000 Opus Dei members in the United States with about 60 Opus Dei residences scattered about the country. Many wealthy people are “Cooperators”, which means that they are not actual members of the Opus Dei, but lend support to the cause and make generous donations. Of the six membership classes, this is the only one where being Catholic is not a prerequisite.  

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