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.

 

 

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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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.

Why?

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!