by Robert Richardson
Originally published in Gnosis
(No. 51, Spring 1999), pp. 49-55
In recent years, a great deal of information has
been published in books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail alleging that the Holy
Grail actually refers to a bloodline descended from Jesus.
By this account
Jesus and Mary Magdalene produced offspring, and their descendants gave rise
to the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled France from 476 to 750 A.D. Well
intentioned readers and even authors have been deceived by this story and
have mistaken it for the revelation of a suppressed history. Unfortunately
the only thing that has been suppressed is the truth.
The Grail is not a bloodline.
This false story originated in reams of
fraudulent documents created by an extreme right-wing French sect. The group
responsible for these fictions, calling itself the "Priory of Sion" and
claiming an ancient esoteric lineage, has kept its own authentic history
carefully hidden. How it constructed its fraud has not been revealed. It is
long past time for the light of truth to reveal the "Priory of Sion" and the
fictional bloodline it has promoted for what they are really are -- a fraud.
The background of this group reveals its actual motives and sources of
The trail to the "Priory of Sion" fraud begins in mid-nineteenth-century
France. A resurgent interest in the occult led to the creation of many
esoteric groups. Members of these groups often belonged to several
organizations. Their leaders often broke away to form competing factions. At
the same time, constant turmoil in the French government drew France into
two increasingly hostile camps jousting for political supremacy. The
royalists, composed of the Catholic Church, the far right, and the
supporters of the old system of royalty, vied for power with the
republicans, composed of Freemasons and other supporters of democratically
elected governments. Their struggle affected the lives and views of every
Frenchman. From 1877 to the eve of the Second World War, Freemasons
dominated French government. Their domination earned them bitter enemies.
In the 1880's, at the height of this political conflict, Joseph Alexandre
St. Yves d'Alveydre, "the supreme Hermeticist of his epoch,"(1) proposed a
new idea for injecting moral values into governing society. He called it "synarchy"
and claimed it was the method used by the Knights Templar to change medieval
society. An elect band of initiates would influence groups representing
different aspects of society. Those groups would influence their spheres and
ultimately the entire social order.
By the turn of the century, the royalist faction came to fear synarchy,
whose influence had spread beyond esoteric groups. By the 1920s, Masonic
groups with distinctly synarchist policies were a reality in France. In the
1930s, even a leftist group, called the X-Cruise Club, advocated a
technocracy with synarchist ideas.(2)
In this era, the French far right formed its own seemingly esoteric groups.
But they were actually front organizations, pretending to have Masonic and
esoteric affiliations in order to draw support away from the Masons. As
anti-semitism spread across Europe in the 1930s, the French far right
denounced Masons and Jews in the same breath. When fourteen initiatic orders
created a federation called FUDOSI to promote peace and positive ideals, the
far right increased its formation of pseudo-Masonic groups.
During the war, Nazi occupation policy was to arrest leaders of esoteric
organizations, put them in concentration camps, and seize their groups'
records and membership rolls, which were placed in a central depository. In
France this depository was called the Centre d'Action Maconnique, and the
French occupation government at Vichy actively aided the Gestapo in its
persecution of Masonic and esoteric orders. So great was the far right's
fear of Masonic influence that an unknown source even issued a document
called the "Chauvin Report," alleging Masonic involvement in Vichy.
While these events were taking place, the individuals who later formed the
"Priory of Sion" were being gathered into two groups. One group, known to
have been in existence as early as 1934, was called Alpha Galates. Toward
the end of the 1930s Alpha Galates utilized a young man named Pierre
Plantard, born March 18, 1920, as its titular head.
In 1937, at the age of only seventeen, Plantard attempted to found an
anti-Semitic and anti-Masonic group to engage "purifying and renewing
France" and sought official permission to publish a periodical called "The
Renewal of France." (4) This theme Would constantly appear in association
with Alpha Galates and later with the "Priory of Sion."
By 1939, Plantard headed a Catholic youth group holding retreats in Brittany
for teenagers and in 1939 was also noted as addressing a gathering of
Catholic youth. Either Plantard was exceptionally precocious or he was
carefully coached by older people, including a probable sponsor inside the
Church who arranged his engagements. Most likely, he made these connections
through ties to the parent organization of Alpha Galates and through his own
youthful activities at the Parisian parish of St. Louis d'Antin, where he
eventually became its sexton.
Under the collaborationist Vichy regime, the group behind Plantard and
Alpha Galates sought influence with the government. On December 16, 1940, Plantard
wrote to Marshal Petain, head of the Vichy regime, denouncing a vast
Jewish-Masonic plot. But he failed to receive any attention beyond routine
entries in police files.
In 1941, Plantard applied to found an organization
called "French National Renewal" but was denied official permission in
September of that year. Finally in 1942, Plantard and his superiors again
sought public visibility, now openly using the name Alpha Galates and
promoting a publication called Vaincre ("Conquer").
Vaincre, which commenced publication in September 1942, was filled with
anti-Semitic, fawningly pro-Vichy articles and sprinkled with shallow,
superficial esoterica on Celtic traditions and chivalry. Nonetheless Alpha Galates tried to present this journal as the clearinghouse of a relatively
sizable and cohesive body of young people. After six issues it ceased
publication. But it earned Plantard some recognition. He was periodically
observed by the police. As late as February 1945, the police were still
investigating Alpha Galates and its revolving-door membership of 50 or so,
and concluded it had no serious purpose. But at least one serious seeker,
Robert Amadou, who joined Alpha Galates believing it was a genuine esoteric
group, suggests that its focus was political. Later a Freemason and
Martinist, after 40 years Amadou refused to discuss Alpha Galates, only
saying, "For my part, I have never been involved in political activity,
before or since."
In 1947, while a revived FUDOSI met in Paris, Pierre Plantard filed the
legal papers necessary to create another organization, called the Latin
Academy. Its titular head was his own mother. Its ostensible purpose was
"historical research." Its real purpose was to carry on the right-wing
program of its predecessor. By the mid-1950s Plantard began promoting
himself in Catholic circles as the Merovingian pretender to the throne of
France. One place where he engaged in these activities was the Paris church
and seminary of St. Sulpice.(7)
In 1956, Plantard and others created a new group named the "Priory of Sion."
It had statutes remarkably similar to those of Alpha Galates and published a
magazine called Circuit. Disinformation which would eventually become
widespread about the Rennes-le-Château affair also began to appear, starting
in the magazine La Depeche de Midi, in early 1956.(8)
With the French government in turmoil in 1958, Plantard and his group again
sought political influence, alleging that they controlled the pro-de Gaulle
Committees of Public Safety and utilizing Plantard-written articles in the
newspaper Le Monde to imply a secret association between de Gaulle and
Plantard.(9) Any connection between de Gaulle and the self-styled "eminences
grises" from whom the great of this world seek counsel(10) is unknown to de Gaulles associates and biographers. But by 1959, new issues of Circuit were
trumpeting this link.
Circuit shifted to a steady diet of superficial Masonic and esoteric
subjects, flirting with mythology, astrology, and chivalry; restructuring
French government; the unique (but unspecified) greatness of Pierre Plantard;
and, of course, French National Renewal. They also pointedly and proudly
promoted Vaincre's anti-Semitic, anti-Masonic back issues.
The book Treasures of the World by Robert Charroux proved a popular success
in France in 1962. Charroux's mixture of mysticism, historical mysteries,
and lost treasures, and public interest in his recounting of the mystery of
Gisors, allowed the "Priory" to launch itself into public view. Claiming to
be an inside source, the "Priory" alleged that the lost underground chapel
of St. Anne in Gisors, Normandy, contained either secret "Priory" records or
the lost treasure of the Knights Templars. None of these fictions
But they gave the "Priory" the visibility to successfully
promote itself and its false history of France, descendants of Jesus, and
esoteric orders in books and articles.
The real Priory of Sion was an authentic Catholic monastic order. A priory
is a religious house or order. Sion or Zion is the ancient name for
Jerusalem, where the order was headquartered at the monastery of Our Lady of
It transferred its headquarters to St. Leonard d'Acre in Palestine
and later to Sicily. In 1617 it ceased to exist and was absorbed into the
Jesuit order.It was never a seething cabal of esoteric and political
interests, never had any influence over the Templars or any esoteric orders,
and does not exist today as a legitimate order, Catholic or otherwise. It
has been appropriated like many authentic histories, esoteric traditions,
and orders to create a false history. In deference to the truth, in the
remainder of this article I will refer to the false "Priory" in quotes.
Two examples will quickly illustrate how the false "Priory" has created its
fictions. It has attempted to appropriate Templar history and portray the
Templars as subservient to it and to its fictional bloodline(14) through
totally fabricated documents various authors call "the Priory documents" and
by such claims as one that the familial home of a Templar Grand Master was
at Blanchefort, near
Rennes-le-Chateau. Yet Blanchefort was the home of a
Cathar noble by that name, not a Templar Grand Master.(15) Few researchers
have bothered to investigate this or innumerable other outright fictions.
Similarly, Plantard alleges his "suppressed" last name is St. Clair,
although no shred of proof supports this claim.(16) The Sinclairs
(originally St. Clair), hereditary heads of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, were
related by marriage to Templar founder Hugh de Payen. In this way, the
"Priory" seeks to imply that it has an ancient and leading role in Masonry.
Appropriating honored names associated with the esoteric is a tactic used at
the time of Alpha Galates by prewar, anti-Masonic French rightists.(17)
The "Priory" constructed its fiction of the bloodline of Jesus by first
creating the appearance of an authentic esoteric lineage for itself. It
accomplished this by placing fabricated histories in libraries, by falsely
associating itself with ancient esoteric groups, and by usurping the
heritage of prewar esoteric groups. The group the "Priory" has plagiarized
most from is the Order of the Rose-Croix of the Temple and the Grail,
founded by Josephin Péladan in 1891.
This group is intimately connected with the real affair of Rennes-le
Château. Some of its real and alleged links adopted by the "Priory" include:
the work of the painter Nicolas Poussin
Emma Calve, a singer with numerous
claimed associations -with the Holy Vehm, the Knights
Templar, and the survival of a supposedly lost monarchy
prominent cultural figures-, sensationalistic announcements of the discovery
of the tomb of Jesus
the supposition of a higher esoteric order with
other themes appearing in "Priory"
Berenger Sauniere, cure of Rennes-le-Château from 1885 to
1917, may have been associated with the Order of the Rose-Croix of the
Temple and the Grail. This association is the source of the incomplete
information which the "Priory of Sion" has inherited about Rennes-le-Château
through the "Priory's" real founder, "Count Israel" Monti.
The actual "Priory" history begins with that obscure man, Georges "Count
Israel" Monti, secretary to Josephin Péladan. Born in Toulouse in 1880 and
Jesuit-educated, Monti considered the priesthood but entered the world of
initiatic orders at age 22 and became a high-level Scottish Rite Mason.(18)
By 1906 he had rapidly advanced in Péladan's order. In 1908 he journeyed to
Egypt and in 1909 to Munich on Péladan's behalf.
Following Péladan's death in 1918, Monti appears as one trying desperately
to be at ground zero of occult activities, but always only appearing as a
supporting player with incomplete knowledge. He so craved recognition that
he even affected the title "Count Israel" Monti. He began to tell
melodramatic tales of his involvement in the supposed political activities
of esoteric orders, although his only known political connection was with
Léon Daudet, brother of the leader of the rightist group Action Francaise.
And in 1922 Monti excitedly claimed an affiliation with the controversial
Aleister Crowley and his occult group, and said he had been charged
by occult groups in England and Germany to begin a new order.
In 1924, the sorcerer's apprentice sought to become the master. Monti acted
to fulfill these sweeping directives and formed a new group. According to
occultist Anne Osmont, he moved forward with a plan "to destroy all which is
dear and precious to me, to build an illusory society."
Together with a man
calling himself Gaston Demengel, Monti, using the name Marcus Vella, formed
a group calling itself "Groupe occidental d'etudes esoteriques," a very
small, supposedly esoteric order. This organization was highly secretive,
pretending to be an elite body dedicated to bringing the world a lasting
peace and having a male and female branch (the Isis lodge). The extent of
its membership and activities is unknown. Its only known document claimed as
one of its goals the reconciliation of esoteric orders with the Catholic
This goal, as well as the pretensions of exclusivity, elitism, and
an alleged interest in world peace, is echoed in the "Priory of Sion."
In October 1936, the Bulletin des ateliers superieurs de la Grande Loge de
la France, the organ of the Masonic Grand Lodge, published a piece
denouncing Monti as a trafficker in information, a fraudulent claimant to
nobility, and a supposed Jesuit agent. On the 21st of the same month, Monti
was found dead.
Monti's close associate Dr. Camille Savoire rushed to
examine him and claimed that Monti had been poisoned. Savoire is mentioned
in the first issues of Alpha Galates' magazine Vaincre as one who, along
with Plantard, rightist Louis Le Fur, and a Maurice Moncharville, was
responsible for creating Vaincre. In issue No. 4 of Vaincre, Le Fur writes
that he was initiated into Alpha Galates by Georges Monti in 1934. From 1934
until his death, Monti lived at 80 rue du Rocher in Paris. Perhaps too
coincidentally, in 1942-43, Vaincre was printed down the street at 45 rue du
Rocher by a Poirer Murat, whose name would surface after the war in
association with Plantard.
Savoire had a long history of forming alternative esoteric groups. While
active in Masonry, Savoire disagreed with long-established Masonic
practices, goals, and leadership. Like Monti, Savoire was made a high-level
Scottish Rite Mason, in Geneva in 1910. But by 1913, Savoire had formed his
own group, the National Grand Lodge of France. In 1935, after the formation
of Alpha Galates, he formed the interestingly named Grand Priory of the
Gauls. He died in 1951. His close association with Monti and his involvement
with alternative orders makes Savoire a likely candidate for assuming
Monti's vacated leadership of Groupe occidental d'etudes esoteriques.
There are many associations between the pre-war activities of Plantard and
Monti and their associates on the one hand and the themes identified with
the postwar "Priory of Sion" on the other. It is highly likely that Alpha
Galates was a front for Monti's group and that Monti's group continued on,
subsequently implementing a plan which would be carried out under the guise
of the "Priory of Sion."
The "Priory's" first objective is to position itself in the mind of an
unknowing public as the supreme Western esoteric organization. It dreams of
utilizing that constituency in a synarchy-like fashion to promote its hybrid
agenda of right-wing politics and turn-of-the-century esoteric teachings. It
does not represent the real teachings of any positive esoteric order. It is
materialistic, obsessed with attaining influence, and has fabricated
documents without regard for any ethical considerations. Its program is to
manipulate people through lies in order to promote itself.
The so-called bloodline created by the "Priory" does not exist.
There is no
descent from Jesus through
the Merovingians or other families; in fact there
is no genuine evidence of any bloodline descended from Christ. The survival
of the Merovingian bloodline as promulgated in the "Priory" documents is
based on the alleged marriage of Giselle de Razes to the seventh-century
Merovingian King Dagobert Il.
Giselle de Razes never existed. Plantard and
his associates fabricated her.
The fraudulent history of the "Priory of Sion" and its false bloodline was
created by utilizing the vast amount of esoteric documents publicly
available in French libraries and by depositing its own documents among
them. For example, Madan's papers were deposited in the Bibliotheque de
l'Arsenal, and St.-Yves' papers were deposited in the Sorbonne in 1938 by
the son of the well-known French occultist Papus, along with many of Papus'
An investigation by researcher Paul Smith has shown that
some of the documents indicating a supposed bloodline and a "Priory"
- inspired poem called
Le serpent rouge were printed on the same press.
During the war it is probable that the "Priory" also had access to the
seized records of Masonic and esoteric societies, some quite old, which were
deposited in the occupation-controlled Centre d'Action Maconnique. This
depository was headed by Henri Coston, a right-wing, anti-Semitic journalist
and collaborator, who was quoted on the first page of Vaincre No. 1.
Similarly, to create credibility with researchers, the "Priory" attached
Plantard's family tree to an authentic genealogy originally appearing in a
special edition of the historical journal Les cahiers de l'histoire No. 1
(1960), which was deposited in libraries containing other fabricated
The concept of the phony bloodline originated in two places. In the 1930s
the writings and speeches of the Italian esotericist Julius Evola received
prominence in many philosophical, esoteric, and right-wing political
circles, and were admired by Nazi leaders like Heinrich Himmler. Many
"Priory" themes originated in Evola's ideas. To Evola's thinking, in the old
system of world order, the king was believed to be a sacred being. Divine
virtues and powers descended on him. Traditional institutions were based on
The state itself had a transcendent meaning. Evola also
referred to a special quality of the blood which he alleged once existed in
one royal house. Above all, he admired Godfrey of Bouillon, first Latin
ruler of Palestine after the First Crusade, as the ideal ruler, the lux
monarchorum ("light of monarchs").(21) Man could only be restored, Evola
wrote, by the government of a spiritual elite, those wearing the belt or
cord of initiates that marks the "carriers of some invisible influence."(22)
All these ideas permeate "Priory" thought; "the Priory documents" even
require members to have a cord at initiation.
To create the concept of the bloodline, Evola's ideas were melded with one
other source, the doctoral dissertation of Walter Johannes Stein, originally
published in Germany in 1928.(23) In this work, called
The Ninth Century:
World History in the Light of the Holy Grail, Stein, a close associate of
Rudolf Steiner, detailed what he felt was the historical and symbolic
background behind the Grail sagas.
An appendix to The Ninth Century is a genealogical chart Stein calls the
"Grail bloodline." One side extends into the royal house of France. Another
extends down to Godfrey of Bouillon. Part of Stein's thesis is that events
in the lives of actual historical figures served as models for the
characters and for some events in the Grail stories. According to Stein, the
people associated with this family tree were acknowledged in their time as
being of a high spiritual nature and having paranormal capacities. Yet he
also stresses that these capacities had vanished from this family hundreds
of years ago.
An undisciplined reader of Stein could easily confuse the historical persons
with symbols. Stein's intent is actually to illustrate how the positive
spiritual forces represented by the Holy Grail are sometimes manifested in
the lives and actions of people and how those actions can affect society and
events. He did not in any way state or imply that the Holy Grail was, or
that it represented, a bloodline. He knew very well that is not the case.
These are the sources which, when twisted and distorted, were used to
fabricate the fiction that a special bloodline supported by an age-old
esoteric society lay behind most of the key political events and mysteries
of French history and even the Holy Grail itself.
Today the "Priory" is intermittently active. Periodically, people claiming
to be its representatives still attempt to influence writers and researchers
by promoting in private correspondence the "Priory's" fabricated versions of
history. Many well-intentioned people have been deceived by these
fabrications. Despite the disillusionment which many may now feel, it is
important to know there are groups and individuals in the world who are
genuinely spiritual, highly developed, and acting to benefit mankind.
have existed in the past; they exist today; they will exist in the future,
as long as even only a handful of people have the courage to reach inside
themselves and live their lives in accordance with a genuine spirituality.
However, to preserve the truth, it is incumbent on each of us to speak out
on its behalf to counterbalance the false and materialistic sensationalism
of the world's "Priories of Sion." By following such a path of integrity,
each of us can work to maintain true spirituality, both within ourselves and
in the world.
Only then will be born a better day for humanity.
This is in
fact one of the lessons learned on the quest of the great spiritual reality
which is the genuine Holy Grail.
1. Joscelyn Godwin, "The Creation of a Universal System: St.-Yves d'Alveydre
and his Archaeometer," in Alexandria 1 (1991), p. 230.
2. Peter Partner, The Murdered Magicians: The Templars and Their Myth (New
York: Oxford University Press. 1982), pp. 172-176.
3. Ibid. p. 173.
4. For information on Plantard's background and work at this time, see "The
Message of a Sacred Enigma, Tales, Legends and Myths of Rennes-le Chateau,"
an extract from "The Table of Isis, Part 2, The Templars of the Apocalypse,"
by Jean-Luc Chaumeil, translated by Paul Smith in The Rennes Observer 15
(June 1997), esp. pp. 19-20.
5. Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, The Messianic Legacy
(New York: Henry Holt, 1986), p. 35 1. Emphasis added.
6. Chaumeil, p. 20.
7. See Robert Richardson. "A Merovingian Promotion at St. Sulpice," ill The
Rennes Observer 16 (Sept. 1997), pp. 36-37.
8. Paul Smith. "A Rennes-le-Château Chronology," Le Reflet (English language
version, Autumn 1994), pp. 10-13.
9. Baigent et al., Messianic Legacy, pp. 288-95.
10. Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, Holy Blood, Holy
Grail (New York: Delacorte Press, 1982), p. 196. quoting an article in the
"Priory" publication Circuit.
11. Baigent et al., Messianic Legacy, pp. 296-99, notes many similarities
between the "Priory" and Alpha Galates.
12. Baigent et al., Holy Blood, Holy Grail, p. 138.
13. Gerard de Sede, Rennes-le-Château: Le dossier, les impostures, les
phanstasmes, les hypotheses (Paris: Robert Lafont, 1988), p. 127.
14. Holy Blood, Holy Grail, pp. 36-67, is a good example of this nonsense.
15. See Noel Currer-Briggs, The Shroud and the Grail (New York: St. Martin's
Press, 1978), p. 78.
16. Baigent et al., Messianic Legacy, pp. 259-60. Also see Holy Blood, Holy
Grail, p. 439, note 21.
17. See Partner, p. 174, for an example.
18. De Sede, pp. 225-36.
19. Godwin, p. 230.
20. Chaumeil, p. 20.
21. Julius Evola. Revolt against the Modern World, trans. Guido Stucco
(Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1994); foreword by H.T. Hansen, pp. viii,
15, 22, 41, 298, 300.
22. Julius Evola, The Mystery of the Grail: Initiation and Magic in the
Quest for the Spirit, trans. Guido Stucco (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions,
1996), p. 134.
23. Walter Johannes Stein, The Ninth Century: World History in the Light of
the Holy Grail (London: Temple Lodge Press, 1991).
Robert Richardson is the author of The Unknown Treasure: The Priory of Sion
Fraud and the Spiritual Treasure of Rennes-le-Château (Houston, TX:
NorthStar, 1998), available from Pratum Book Co., PO Box 985, Healdsburg,
California 95448, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article is reproduced on Alpheus with the kind permission of the author and
See also Paul Smith's response: "Priory of Sion Misconceptions: Robert
Richardson and Steven Mizrach" and some more discussions and links on the
Priory of Sion.