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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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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Da Vinci Code Fiction?

After months of research we completed our book "Da Vinci Code – Fact or Fiction" with a CONCLUSION. We believe we looked at the whole fiction / non-fiction discussion fairly.


The extent to which a novel attains (and sometimes maintains) cult status is a reflection of the extent to which it resonates in the minds of readers. This remains true whether we are talking about The Da Vinci Code, Miguel Cervantes’ ageless Don Quixote, or A Milne’s delightful tales of Christopher Robin and his animal friends.


It is interesting that many people – some devout Christians among them – seem to fear that the Christian Church will fragment if Jesus is finally proved to have been not of entirely divine nature but a great religious teacher who was fully human. But in fact many Christians, including dedicated priests and high officers of the church, question much established Church dogma, and many prominent religious thinkers have done so over the centuries.


Far from questioning or reducing the value of the teachings of Jesus, honest enquiry is more likely to strengthen rather than weaken the Church. Jesus wanted to free the Jewish people from both their own sectional dissensions and from unwelcome Roman influences. The Romans were far from displeased at Jewish lack of unity as it was the best possible assurance that no uprising against an occupying force would be successful. The failure of Jewish uprisings simply confirm this.


Fighting broke out between bands of Zealots and Romans in Caesarea in 66 AD before spreading to Jerusalem which the Zealots held for four years before the city fell to Flavius Titus, commander of an army sent from Rome. The abortive uprising culminated in the mass suicide in 74 AD of several hundred Jews who held out in the mountain fortress of Masada until they were entirely without the necessities of life.


At the end of the hostilities, Jews fled the Holy Land in their thousands to re-establish themselves mainly among their eastern neighbours. It was at this stage that most of the Dead Sea Scrolls appear to have been hidden, never to be retrieved by those who stored them in urns for protection and deposited them in caves in the cliffs of their arid environment.


Even stronger dissensions have grown over the centuries into major rifts within Christianity where Christians have persecuted Christians on no stronger grounds than differences in religious dogma. These illogical prejudices have persisted over two millennia and remain violently active in some parts of the world today.


Author Dan Brown uses fiction in order to explore ancient religio-historical mysteries that fascinate not only him but most of the Western world. Part of his intention as a writer is to encourage people to think for themselves and to question beliefs that have perhaps gone unquestioned for too long. Plato records that Socrates said that the unexamined life was not worth living. It remains one of the wisest comments ever made.


Setting a work of fiction against an historical background, more particularly a powerfully controversial one, enhances the novel and gives tremendous back-up to the story. Many readers are intrigued to the extent where they finish reading the book with so many questions tumbling through their minds that they set off on their own search for further information – for new ideas and tantalising possibilities that lurk behind the telling of the story.


In the case of The Da Vinci Code, this can be a thorny path because some readers whose belief systems are different feel a sense of outrage at a novel that they see as undermining the very substance of their most dearly held religious beliefs.


Inevitably, some commentaries reflect such views and focus on debunking The Da Vinci Code. But if it were Brown’s intention to proselytise, The Da Vinci Code would not be the international bestseller it is, because most of us have a built-in resistance to a novel that preaches. The prime intention of a novelist is to interest readers into continuing to turn the pages.


On the other hand, novels that make us think have a role beyond the telling of a story. If there is one thing that Dan Brown’s fascinating novel does, apart from entertain, it is to awaken a spirit of enquiry.


The author of a work of fiction is not presenting himself as the conveyor of ultimate truths. Dan Brown’s between-the-lines message is much closer to: ‘Do yourself a favour and at least think about these things. What is it that you are actually believing in? Could it be that many of us have lost sight of the real message and instead are slaves to the dogma?’


In the same vein, the varied ‘stories’ that make up the background of The Da Vinci Code demand enquiry. For readers interested in doing this, there is much enjoyment ahead.

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What Is A “Cilice”?

Silas, the albino monk in The Da Vinci Code, wears a cilice belt round his thigh as an “instrument of mortification”. He keeps telling himself that “pain is good” because he believes that in this way he will receive absolution from God for the evil deeds he feels obliged to perpetrate against those he sees as “God’s enemies”.

The cilice is a spiked chain that leaves nasty little pricks in the flesh, but it would need to be worn unusually tightly in order to inflict the kind of tearing wounds that Silas sees as necessary in order to gain God’s forgiveness.

The cilice seems to have developed out of the more commonly known hair shirt, which was originally made from rough goat’s hair from Cicilia in Asia Minor. It was a penitential device meant to make the wearer decidedly uncomfortable in order to remind him that he was a sinner in need of absolution, but it was hardly of the same order as the later spiked metal device designed to be worn round the thigh.

This later development had barbs like small fish hooks that dug into the flesh and was apparently intended to deter the wearer’s sexual urges. Unless the victim were addicted to sado-masochistic practices – in which case the cilice might have played a stimulatory role –  one can safely assume that it achieved its purpose!

There is some evidence that the cilice continued to be used by a small number of Catholic monks as recently as the mid-20th century, but its use has apparently been discontinued for several decades, except by certain members among the Numeraries of the Opus Dei who are said to wear it for up to two hours a day.  However, probably because the practice smacks of masochism and may even have links with the auto-erotic, few members will admit to the cilice’s existence today.

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What Is The Da Vinci Code?

Thought I'd search through my research notes form writing the guide and give Blog readers an idea of "What is the Da Vinci Code".

The Da Vinci Code is written in the context of an unorthodox view – considered heretical by orthodox believers – of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the role played in his life and mission by Mary Magdalene.

In the context of the novel, the Church is seen as responsible for sidelining the true message of Christ and the true facts of his life and supporting instead the Pauline version which was reinforced in 325 AD by the Council of Nicaea, at which time certain dogmas were laid down as ‘fact’. Some of these ‘facts’ have been enlarged on or even omitted with the passing of the centuries.

The author uses Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper to reinforce this context.

In broad terms, he presents the view that:

– Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus and the mother of his children.

– Mary’s womb was the Holy Grail, the Holy Vessel which carried the bloodline of Jesus. All other descriptions of the legendary Holy Grail are symbolic.


– The bloodline was later carried forward in the Merovingian line of kings, and descendants are alive today.


– Jesus is not seen as divine in the sense of being the actual immaculately conceived Son of God, but rather as having the divine spark to be found in all human beings, although in larger measure. He is seen as the bringer of a divine message that enables people to achieve communion with God as he is perceived in many different ways by people on a spiritual path.


– Da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper is seen as an encoded message of the real Messianic story.


– The Council of Nicaea, organised by the Emperor Constantine in 325 AD, is seen as orchestrated by Constantine for his own political ends. In the resulting Church dogma, the real relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is seen as being finally removed from orthodox Christian records.


– The ‘truth’ about Jesus and Mary Magdalene has – according to the novel – been kept alive by a secret society named the Priory of Sion, and a powerful orthodox Catholic order, the Opus Dei is depicted as trying to ensure that this ‘truth’ never emerges.

Dan Brown leans on information gained from non-fiction books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln and on what is presented as confirmation by the Nag Hammadi Codices, but also on reports, opinions and rumours which have emerged in a steady stream from the first century, gathering momentum after Nicaea. Many of these ‘heresies’ and enquiries were written by serious thinkers.

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32 Most Asked Da Vinci Code Questions Answered

As I turned the last page of the The Da Vinci Code I was both satisfied and unsatisfied. This brilliant book took my mind on a journey that excited and riveted my imagination.

So many thoughts raced through my head as I ploughed through page by page… often hours at a time.

Learn about Leonardo Da Vinci and his painting’s secrets

Whilst at first it sounds strange that a man who is arguably one of the most brilliant minds that has ever existed, was involved in an underground society… the truth about the artists of the renaissance period and how they communicated, will open your eyes to a whole new level of genius.

Answered… the Questions about the Da Vinci Code
That You Asked For!

The reason for me creating my brand new book was selfishly for my own benefit, as I wanted to know the answers to these age old questions. Then it dawned on me… that I am not the only one searching for answers, so I was inspired in this quest to help others find the answers to their own questions in this area.

And that is why, it’s not like any other book you’ve ever read on the factual history behind the Da Vinci Code.


Simply, every section in the book is there because “you asked for it.” Well, not “you” really. But from real live questions. Questions from people who loved the Da Vinci Code and wanted the answers to the pressing questions it created. A simple webpage was set up, and people like you visited it and left me their most pressing questions on ‘the questions you wanted answers to after reading the International Best Selling book.’

Then I got them answered for you!

Which means no fluff. Just the real answers you want to know.

Here are the Answers!