The Priory of Sion Hoax

Robert Richardson

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 information.

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 1880s, 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 Maçonnique, 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. [3] 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. [5]

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 clearing-house 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." [6]

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-Chateau 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 Gaulle's 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. [11]

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 [12] or the lost treasure of the Knights Templars. None of these fictions materialized. 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 Mt. Zion. 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. [13] 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 Peladan in 1891.

This group is intimately connected with the real affair of Rennes-le Chateau. 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 occult connections; claimed associations with the Holy Vehm, the Knights Templar, and the survival of a supposedly lost monarchy; association with prominent cultural figures, sensationalistic announcements of the discovery of the tomb of Jesus; the supposition of a higher esoteric order with supreme knowledge; the Cathars; and other themes appearing in "Priory" inspired stories. Berenger Sauniere, cure of Rennes-le-Chateau 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-Chateau 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 Peladan. 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 Peladan's order. In 1908 he journeyed to Egypt and in 1909 to Munich on Peladan's behalf.

Following Peladan'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 Leon Daudet, brother of the leader of the rightist group Action Francaise. And in 1922 Monti excitedly claimed an affiliation with the controversial magician 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 Church. 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 prewar 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 II. 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' own papers.[19] 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 Maçonnique. 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 "Priory" documents.[20]

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 sacred legacies. 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. They 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," in The Rennes Observer 16 (Sept. 1997), pp. 36-37.
  8. Paul Smith. "A Rennes-le-Chateau 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-Chateau: 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).