During the research for his third BBC film on the subject of Rennes-le-Château, Henry Lincoln teamed up with Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent. Their combined efforts and insights led to the release of their bestseller Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Among the works the authors studied to come to their hypotheses there was a prominent place for Les Dossiers Secrets. It was in this book that the Priory of Sion was introduced. Godefroy of Bouillon had founded an order called L’Ordre de Sion in 1090. The order occupied the Abbey of Notre Dame de Sion in Jerusalem. Only 30 years later, the Knights Templar were founded by Hugues de Payen, a nobleman from the French Champagne region who also became the first Grandmaster. According to Les Dossiers Secrets, the Ordre de Sion was transformed into the Priory of Sion in 1188, after Jerusalem had fallen to Saladin in 1187, forcing the Christian forces from the city. Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh found documentary evidence that an Order of Sion indeed existed in the 12th century.
The most remarkable thing in Les Dossiers Secrets was the list of Grandmasters of the Priory of Sion:
Jean de Gisors (1188-1220)
Ferdinand de Gonzague (1527-1575)
from facts to frenzy
Since the historical existence of an Order of Sion had been proven, the three authors decided to take the list serious and discovered that all of the Grandmasters had had a more than average interest in the occult and many of them had been active freemasons. Adding everything up, the conclusion was that Les Dossiers Secrets told a reliable account of the Priory of Sion. The authors continued their research and came in contact with the Grandmaster at the time, Pierre Plantard de St. Clair.
It has now become clear that the Priory of Sion never existed in the way it was described in Les Dossiers Secrets. Pierre Plantard, aided by the Belgian Marquis Philippe de Chérisey twisted and turned history in an attempt to continue the Merovingian bloodline after the death of Dagobert II. The documents they created to ‘prove’ Plantard’s claim as the rightful pretender to the French throne were assembled in Les Dossiers Secrets. Ironically, Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh not only accepted the story that a Merovingian royal bloodline had survived the centuries but they tried to trace it back to the House of David, claiming the Merovingian Kings were the descendants of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. Were Plantard had set-up the whole affair to suggest the Priory of Sion had secretly been preserving a Merovingian Bloodline, Holy Blood and the Holy Grail claimed it had been a Holy bloodline since it originated from Jesus himself. Where Plantard had intended the Priory to make him a royal descendant, Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh made him into, a Holy man. They had taken his story and ran off with it in an unexpected direction, complicating the plot considerably and resulting in massive sales of their book.
Research into Plantard’s background revealed he wasn’t of noble birth like he claimed; his father (also called Pierre Plantard) was a butler and his mother Amélie Marie Raulo occasionally worked as a cook for wealthy families. Plantard had created multiple society’s before the Priory of Sion, that had vague and sometimes shady goals and intents. Plantard registered an organization called le Prieuré de Sion, the French name of the Priory of Sion, in the French sub-prefecture of St. Julie-en-Genevois on 25th June 1956 which had nothing to do with the 12th century predecessor. All reseacrhers however agree, that Plantard and his aides invested a staggering amount of time to create the detailed backgrounds and genealogies they needed to reach their goals.
It is unlikely there is any relation between a historical Priory of Sion and the mystery of Rennes-le-Château.
Pierre Plantard did have a genuine interest in the mystery of Rennes-le-Château and gathered an impressive knowledge of it in a time before the mystery turned into a hype. As often with misinformation, they took the actual pieces of the puzzle and reshaped them for their goals. It is in such way that Plantard teamed up with French journalist Gérard de Sède who reworked a Plantard manuscript into his book l’Or de Rennes also called Le Trésor Maudit, the book that kickstarted Henry Lincoln’s interest in the mystery in the first place.
truth, wrapped in lies
The grand and small parchment that are at the heart of the enigma are now believed to be copies of the original. The latest research by Franck Daffos and Pierre Jarnac suggests that Noel Corbu, who bought the Saunière estate from Marie Dénarnaud in 1946, found some parchments between the Abbé’s papers. After failing to decode them he sold them to two englishmen. Not before photographing and copying them though. Serious researchers like Antoine Captier, Jean Pellet and Gérard Dutriat have attested they have seen the original photos from Corbu’s time. You have to remember Corbu already talked about the parchments long before De Sède’s book came out. It is now believed Corbu allowed Plantard and the Chérisey to make carbon copies of them. They worked them into the parchments we know today and added in some simple codes like the raised letters in the small parchments that would support their claim to the French throne.
Ironically again, Plantard came very close to the original documents and sources of the mystery. The Priory of Sion he tried to legitimize using them was certainly a hoax.