Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Modern Myths ...

Ever since Dan Brown published The Da Vinci Code, there have been rumours and myths floating round the internet about the "truth" it revealed about Christianity and Christ. Most of this revolves around the statement in the opening pages that the "Priory of Sion" was a society formed in 1099 to "protect" the "secret" that Christ didn't die on the cross and was married with children... The so-called "parchments" supposedly "found" in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris aren't parchments at all. They are in fact typed sheets of paper deposited by their author in the 1960s.

The Priory of Sion, rather than being of ancient foundation was, in fact, founded by a gentleman of the name of Pierre Plantard and some friends in 1956 and was originally a "traditionalist" Catholic group. But M. Plantard was a man of imagination and, having come across the equally fictional stories of the Abbe Saunierre, saw an advantage in building an entire "back history" for his secret society. He pillaged Masonic traditions, legends, fictions and, when he ran out of "evidence" invented some.

Enter now some authors who drew on this rather fantastic "heritage" to write a book in 1975 called "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" and who sued Dan Brown for Breach of Copyright over the Da Vinci Code. They lost even though the judge conceded their material had been used by Brown.

Who was Plantard and why did he create this mythical history? It seems he had a somewhat dubious past and he also believed fervently that he was the last direct descendent of the Merovingian Kings of France. The Merovingians were supplanted by the Carolingian kings and Emperors in 751 AD and M. Plantard was determined to "restore the Merovingian line" to the "throne of France and Europe." Rather a strange  ambition and belief - but of such are Conspiracy Theories made. I wonder whether he could even have imagined that, thanks to Dan Brown's creative "history" extending the "founding" of this rather small, obscure and almost unheard of secret society into the Crusades and linking them to the Templars, Rosslyn Chapel and Leonardo da Vinci would propel its name into the realms of the Conspiracy Theory?

Probably not, though he would, no doubt, have been pleased by the attention it now gets.

The truth, as ever, is far to prosaic for those who love to find "proof" that everyone else is wrong and conspiring to "cover up" what they would like to believe is true. The "Priory of Sion" is far from ancient and, like a number of other supposedly "ancient" secret societies has a rather more recent set of origins. Its founder was certainly imaginative and extremely creative - but, sadly, probably a very deluded individual - like those who believe the introduction to Brown's book ...


  1. Brown makes creative use of art and architecture in his books, but in the end... lots of people who read them look at them as more then just a novel, but literal fact, and it must drive tour guides crazy at times in Rome and Paris, explaining, "no, that's just a story..."

  2. I believe both the church in Paris and the Rosslyn chapel now have security patrols to prevent idiots trying to break floor slabs, altars and even pillars in an effort to locate the "secret treasures, documents ..." etc. Frankly, this is one of the problems with "bending" the truth for the sake of a story, especially when it is a sensitive subject ...