SAMPLE CHAPTERS – THE CAVE OF TREASURES
Tracy R. Twyman

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Sample Chapters:

The Cave of Treasures: Rennes-le-Chateau and the Holy Grail

By Tracy R. Twyman

Phone: (814) 676-2492

Email: tracyrtwyman@adelphia.net

Mailing Address: 224 Hoffman Ave.

Oil City, PA 16301

 

Chapter 1: Psychic Shock

 

            It is customary, during the initiation ceremony for a new recruit joining a secret society, cult, or religious group, for the candidate to be confronted with something disturbing, disconcerting, or frightful. This induces a state of “psychic shock” in the initiate which suspends disbelief, and heightens suggestibility. It creates a blank slate in the mind which can then be imprinted with the organization’s particular dogma. This is the purpose of the death and rebirth rituals of Masonic initiation, and the hazing rituals of college fraternities.

            This same technique can be used to present otherwise unpalatable ideas to the public at large. A concept is introduced that is so shocking, people either reject it out of hand, or swallow it whole, and allow it to completely alter their mental paradigm. Those whose belief system was changed by the first shock are then quite likely to take as gospel any other idea presented to them as being connected with the first.

            This is the manner in which Dan Brown’s popular novel, The Da Vinci Code, managed to overnight change the religious dogma held by millions of people throughout the world. They were presented with a shocking idea: that Jesus was married to his female disciple, Mary Magdalen. The mere suggestion ignited outrage and charges of blasphemy from leaders of Christian churches, as it did in the 1980s when it was proposed by the non-fiction book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. Later, the same reaction was inspired by the film version of Nikos Kazantzaki’s 1960 novel The Last Temptation of Christ, in which Jesus and Mary Magdalen are shown having a sexual relationship.

            In response, church lobby groups have moved to ban or restrict Dan Brown’s novel, and the film based on it, in every country that still has blasphemy laws on the books. In many places, such as Lebanon and the Philippines, they succeeded. To some people, it seemed as if Christian society was on the brink of instituting a new Inquisition to rout out heretics. Indeed, the sheer hysteria the married Christ idea ignites amongst orthodox Christians every time it is trotted out merely serves to reinforce the psychic shock experienced by those who are more susceptible to the idea. After all, why would churches get so upset at the mere mention of this concept if they have nothing to hide?

            For the readers of The Da Vinci Code, those who were able to digest this first shocking notion were then able to simultaneously consume all of the other attendant ideas that came with it. After all, if Jesus was married, he would surely have had children. And if he had children, then surely such a sacred bloodline would never be allowed to go extinct. Surely that bloodline would have resulted in people of historical importance, such as the Merovingian kings of Frankish Gaul. Surely the Catholic church would have felt threatened by this historical truth, and by the existence of this bloodline. So surely they would have conspired to extinguish the bloodline, and to cover up all trace of its existence. Just as assuredly, a secret society would have been formed to protect this bloodline, and the truth about Jesus. That group, like the bloodline it protects, would never be allowed to die off, even unto the present day. Surely this organization, dedicated to preserving such a powerful secret, would include important, prestigious people, such as Victor Hugo, Isaac Newton, Botticelli, and Leonardo da Vinci. If men of such importance secretly dedicated their lives to this belief, then it must be true that Jesus was married and had children. If so, then he was a man, and not the son of God. Thus, there is no such thing as salvation. Thus, Christianity is a lie.

            The fallacious nature of such circular logic seems obvious when written down on paper like this, but not when you are experiencing it in your own head. For this is how the human mind works while in a state of psychic shock. This is how the publication of a formulaic mystery novel managed to bring about a crisis of faith for millions of Christians throughout the world.

            For most Christian churches, this has been quite an annoyance, requiring sermons and books be written to refute the Da Vinci Code heresy, and to quiet the concerns of their frantic flock. For the Catholic Church in particular, the main target of Dan Brown’s barbs, it has been completely disastrous. Still crippled from the recent wave of child abuse charges, and having closed entire dioceses to pay off victims, this was the last thing they needed. To quell the unrest, many Christian churches have fallen back upon their own, standard formula for inducing psychic shock. They told their constituents that if they allow themselves to believe the lies in The Da Vinci Code, they will be eternally tortured in the fires of Hell by the father of lies, Lucifer.

            So would it shock you now if I told you that the mysteries of the Priory of Sion have more to do with Hell and Lucifer than they do with Jesus and Mary Magdalen?

            Read on, dear initiate, and you will see what I mean.

 

Chapter 2: Fact vs. Fiction

 

            A skillful artist and obvious student of the occult, Dan Brown delivered a psychic shock of his own to the readers of his novel on the very first page. It read:

 

Fact:

 

The Priory of Sion – a European secret society founded in 1099 – is a real organization. In 1975 Paris’ Biblioteque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci.

 

 

All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.

 

            Not one of these statements is entirely true. No serious scholar would today purport that the Priory of Sion’s pedigree stems from 1099, at least not in any literal sense. Even so, the Priory of Sion claims it officially started in 1090, not 1099. The Secret Dossiers and other “Priory documents”, as they are called by Priory of Sion researchers, date from the 1950s and 1960s, not from 1975, and they were deposited in the French national library, not discovered by the library. They consisted of typewritten manuscripts, photocopies from magazines, and microfilm, not “parchments”, although a supposed set of parchments does figure into this story, as I will soon explain. The historical personages named by Dan Brown were listed in the Secret Dossiers as Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion, and not merely “members.” Finally, it is impossible that Dan Brown’s descriptions of the “secret rituals” of the Priory are “accurate”, since no account of their rituals, if there are any, has ever been published. But there can be no doubt that the Priory of Sion exists, and that they have been disseminating information which, true or not, has set the world on fire.

            The “fact” of the matter is that the Priory of Sion first surfaced in 1956, when it registered with the French government as a fraternal organization. There is no proof of its existence before that date, although in their literature they claimed to have been working in the shadows for many centuries previous to this. The Priory first began disseminating information about itself in the 1950s by depositing certain documents in the Bibliotheque Nationale, France’s national library, located in Paris. These included the now-famous Secret Dossiers, although it is uncertain that they were ever intended for public consumption. Their target audience may have merely been members of other, rival secret societies.

            At any rate, they came to the attention of a French author named Gerard de Sede, who became intrigued, and contacted the Priory of Sion’s chief spokesman, Pierre Plantard. De Sede’s interviews with Plantard, and subsequent research, led to several books, one of which was picked up by British scriptwriter Henry Lincoln while on holiday in France in the 1970s. He too contacted Pierre Plantard, and consulted the Priory documents deposited in the Bibliotheque Nationale. This eventually culminated in three documentaries which were aired on BBC television in the late 1970s, and two books in the 1980s, written with co-authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh.

            This is how the English-speaking world became aware of the Priory of Sion and their extraordinary claims. The revelations of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the first book by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, shocked the world, and created an unprecedented crisis of faith within traditional Christian churches, not unlike what is happening today because of The Da Vinci Code. The sense of disillusionment felt by Christian readers at that time was even more pronounced, perhaps, because Holy Blood, Holy Grail, unlike The Da Vinci Code, was supposedly non-fiction. But in fact, many of the suppositions upon which the theories of Holy Blood, Holy Grail rested came straight from the documents of the Priory of Sion. Here we are on shaky ground indeed.

 

Chapter 3: Illustrious Pedigree

 

            According to the Priory documents in the Bibliotheque Nationale, the Priory of Sion was originally founded as the “Order of Sion” in the late eleventh century with the purpose of preserving, supporting, and eventually restoring a royal family called the Merovingians to the throne of France. The Merovingians had been the first kings of the Frankish people (in what later became France), and they were thought by their subjects to have magical powers. The Priory of Sion never claimed that the Merovingians were descended from Jesus, as Dan Brown asserts in his novel, but merely that the Merovingians had been special. Elsewhere, the Priory made allusions to the mythical symbol of the Holy Grail, and this, as I shall explain, led the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail to conclude that the Priory was alluding to a Merovingian descent from Christ. I will say more about this shortly.

            The Priory documents strongly hinted that the Priory of Sion considered the Merovingians to be eligible for many other thrones throughout Europe, as well as that of Jerusalem. This is by virtue of the fact that the Merovingians purportedly passed their lineage on, through dynastic intermarriage, to most of Europe’s leading royal and noble houses, most especially through the lines Blanchefort, Gisors, Saint-Clair/Sinclair, Habsburg, and Lorraine. 

            Indeed, at the time of the Priory of Sion’s supposed founding in 1090, a Habsburg and Merovingian descendant controlled the Holy Roman Empire, while other Merovingian descendants reportedly held the thrones of its member states.  In 1095, the Empire launched the First Crusade to capture Jerusalem for Europe. Four years later, another alleged Merovingian descendant, Godfroi de Bouillon, passed the seat onto his brother Baudouin I. The latter is historically credited with having negotiated the constitution of the Knights Templar (a famous Catholic order of fighting monks) in 1117, and granting them headquarters on the Temple Mount.  The Priory documents state that the Templars were actually founded by the Order of Sion six years earlier, in 1111, and that Baudouin was working on the Order of Sion’s behalf. 

            The authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail found that there was in fact an Ordre de Sion which resided in Jerusalem at least as early as the turn of the twelfth century.  Furthermore, their headquarters was the Abbey of Notre Dame du Mont Sion, which had been founded by Godfroi de Bouillon. The authors also found evidence that the historical Ordre de Sion had other connections to the Templars, including charters bearing the signature of Templar founding member Hughes de Payen.

            Even more convincing, perhaps, is the list of Templar Grand Masters included in Secret Dossiers. Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln researched it and found that it seemed even more complete and correct than any previously published list, as if drawn from inside information.  These authors also wrote that the date of 1111 given by the Secret Dossiers for the founding of the Knights Templar was more credible than the traditionally accepted Templar founding date of 1117. 

            Michael Baigent and his co-authors then discovered further evidence that the group which eventually became the Order of Sion had been instrumental in sparking the Crusades in the first place. This group consisted of monks from the Southern Italian region of Calabria, who in 1070 migrated to the Ardennes forest, then owned by Godfroi de Bouillon. This same group is mentioned in the Priory documents as having been led by the Merovingian “Prince Ursus.” But then in 1108 they vanished completely, and nobody knows where they went.  Holy Blood, Holy Grail, however, speculates that they may have followed Godfroi de Bouillon on his crusade to the Holy Land, where, the authors write, “he is known to have been accompanied by an entourage of anonymous figures who acted as advisors and administrators.”

            After this point, the Order of Sion is not mentioned again in history until 1152, when King Louis VII of France brought them ninety-five new members and gave them the Priory of Saint-Samson at Orléans. In 1188, Secret Dossiers states that there was a rift between the Order of Sion and the Knights Templar. The Templars’ current Grand Master, Gerard de Ridefort, had recently lost the Holy Land to the Saracens, and had also committed some kind of unspecified “treason”, it was written. So in that year, Secret Dossiers attests, during a ceremony called “the Cutting of the Elm”, the Order of Sion officially disavowed the Templars and cut themselves off from them.

            Following this, the Order of Sion selected a new Grand Master, Jean de Gisors, and changed their name to “Priory of Sion.” They also adopted an odd nickname, “Ormus” with the “M” written as the sign for Virgo, and with the other four letters written inside of the symbol. “Ormus” is also the name of an Egyptian sage from Alexandria, who in A.D. 46 created an initiative order with the mystical symbol of the rose-cross (a white cross with a red rose in the center) as its insignia. It is significant, then, that in that same year of 1188, the Priory of Sion also purportedly adopted a second subtitle:  “The Order of the True Rose-Cross.” 

            As the years progressed, the Priory of Sion reportedly became the target of Roman Catholic hostilities.  In 1619, they were evicted from their house at Saint-Samsom.  They had incurred the wrath of the Pope and the King of France for spending extravagantly, boycotting Catholic services and being generally irreverent towards all authority.  From that point on, they disappear from the pages of history, at least apparently, until their supposed reemergence in the twentieth century. 

 

 

 

Chapter 4: The Navigators

 

            However, where history leaves off, the Priory documents continue on.  They claim that after the Cutting of the Elm, the Priory of Sion went on to experience the leadership of a number of illustrious Grand Masters, called “Navigators.”  Many of these were culled from the ranks of allegedly Merovingian-descended nobility, such as the houses of Gisors, Bar and Saint-Claire.  Other claimed Navigators include some of history’s most renowned artists, authors, and thinkers, all of whom were known to have had a fascination with the occult, alchemy, and esoteric Christianity. 

            The first such Grand Master was alchemist Nicholas Flamel, supposedly installed as helmsman in 1398. He is now known to millions of schoolchildren as a character in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  Flamel was supposedly followed in 1418 by Rene d’Anjou who, in addition to being a Merovingian-descended nobleman, was also a huge influence on the developing Renaissance movement.  He patronized the de Medici family, founded Europe’s first public library, and wrote a book on knightly chivalry which became the official sourcebook on the chivalric code.

            In 1483, the new Grand Master is said to have been Sandro Filipepi, otherwise known to us as Botticelli, the famous painter of The Birth of Venus.  He was allegedly followed in 1510 by multi-talented genius Leonardo da Vinci, whose religious-themed paintings are thought by those who believe these claims to contain clues regarding the Priory of Sion’s secrets – a direct inspiration for The Da Vinci Code

            The next Navigator on the list was Robert Fludd, another well-known practicing alchemist, supposedly installed in office in 1595. Alchemy, in addition to being a science, is also, as I will explain later on, a system of esoteric philosophy expressed through coded symbols. Alchemical symbolism was used quite prolifically in the texts pertaining to the Rosicrucian occult movement of the seventeenth century, named after the symbol of the rose-cross. It is interesting, then, that in 1637 Robert Fludd was allegedly followed as Grand Master of the Priory of Sion by the man believed to have been the progenitor of the Rosicrucian movement: Johann Valentin Andrae.

            It was Andrae who wrote the Rosicrucian allegory The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, and he is also thought to have written the quintessential Rosicrucian Manifestos, announcing the existence of a so-called “Rosicrucian brotherhood” operating behind the scenes in Europe to manipulate events. At the time that this latter work was published, it was taken seriously, and thousands of readers eagerly sought admission to the exclusive, mysterious order. Andrae later essentially admitted writing The Rosicrucian Manifestos as a joke, which is why modern authors called the original Rosicrucian order a “hoax”, just as the Priory of Sion has been commonly labeled.

            It is fascinating, then, to realize that the Priory of Sion’s documents proclaim that the Priory was responsible for starting the Rosicrucian brotherhood as a front for their own activities. This is presumably why they chose to use the subtitles “Order of the True Rose-Cross, and also “Ormus”, the latter bring the name of the Egyptian sage who allegedly founded the Rosicrucians, according to the Manifestos. It is also interesting to note that “Rosicrucian philosophy” became an acknowledged field of study for esotericists, and several real-life Rosicrucian orders have sprung up since then, some quite influential. Perhaps the lore of the Priory of Sion will lead to similar developments over the long term.

            During this same time, the Priory documents assert that the Priory of Sion secretly engaged in a covert war against French King Louis XIV, and his powerful advisor, Cardinal Mazarin. They claim to have done this via a front organization, the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement, a real group which historians acknowledge was responsible for this conspiracy. Johann Valentin Andrae’s Grand-Mastership was supposedly followed by famous scientist Robert Boyle, the “father of modern chemistry”, in 1654, and thereafter by none other than Isaac Newton, the “father of physics.” Both Boyle and Newton, once again, practiced alchemy.

            Beginning in 1727, the Priory is said to have been run by Charles Radclyffe who, along with his brother James, led the so-called “Jacobite movement” to return the throne of England to the Scottish Stuart kings, who were of Merovingian descent. This led to the famous failed attempt to bring Bonnie Prince Charlie back from exile.  Both Charles and James ended up getting beheaded, but not before Charles had allegedly passed the “rite of Strict Observance”, said to be of Templar origin, onto Karl Gottlieb von Hund, thus creating the core ritual of what is now a Masonic offshoot known as the Rectified Scottish Rite.

            After Radclyffe, there were purportedly two Priory Navigators from the House of Lorraine named Charles and Maximilien, both of whom were involved in the patronage and spreading of Freemasonry. They were followed in 1801 by Charles Nodier, a prolific if little-remembered figure in French literature. He was responsible, along with his friends Eliphas Levi and Jean-Baptiste Pitois, for disseminating writings that have formed the basis of the modern Western occult tradition.  Pitois and other Nodier proteges were also influential in the nineteenth century’s liberalizing Catholic Modernist Movement. Yet another protégé of Nodier’s was playwright Victor Hugo, who supposedly followed him as navigator of the Priory in 1844.  Hugo, it is said, was succeeded in the role by his own protégé, composer Claude Debussy, in 1885.

            Afterwards, the Grand Mastership was filled by a man influenced heavily by both Hugo and Debussy: artist, poet, playwright and filmmaker Jean Cocteau.  Like Leonardo da Vinci, Cocteau is believed by some to have embedded Priory of Sion secrets into his work, and was also, according to Priory documents, was responsible for a re-writing of the order’s statutes, which led it to reveal itself to the public in the twentieth century.

            The Priory documents claim that after Jean Cocteau’s death in 1963, there was a power clash within the group, and afterwards the Grand Mastership was held by a triumvirate of people, one of whom finally emerged in 1981 as the new leader. This was the aforementioned Pierre Plantard “de Saint-Clair” (as he called himself). He had already been serving for decades as the group’s spokesperson. Furthermore, this man claimed to be the last scion of the Merovingian bloodline, a direct descendant of Dagobert II, and the true claimant to the throne of France. Why, then, he was not the natural choice for Grand Master before 1981 remains unclear.

            In 1956, supposedly during Jean Cocteau’s leadership, the Priory of Sion registered with the French government, and began depositing the Priory documents into the Bibliotheque Nationale. They also took on a new subtitle at this time, “C.I.R.C.U.I.T”: an abbreviation for French words translating to “Chivalry of Catholic Rules and Institutions of the Independent and Traditionalist Union.” (Of course, many experts say the Priory of Sion itself is no older than this date.) C.I.R.C.U.I.T.  was also the name of a magazine that was published by the Priory and edited by Pierre Plantard. 

            C.I.R.C.U.I.T. had a circulation of only a few thousand, and was very similar in content to another magazine named Vaincre (Victory), which had been published by Plantard during the years of World War II.  However, Vaincre claimed to be the official publication not of the Priory of Sion, but of something called “the Order of Alpha Galates.” Yet this order had an extremely similar membership structure to that of the Priory, and their magazine concerned itself with many of the same subjects, so the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail concluded that Alpha Galates was just another front for the Priory of Sion. However, other authors believe it was the other way around: the Priory of Sion was a front for Alpha Galates, or they were both fronts for something else. I shall explain this better further on.

            On the surface at least, Vaincre appeared to be a pro-occupationist Vichy government propaganda mouthpiece, containing short diatribes in favor of Marshall Petain and against “Judeo-Freemasonry.” When the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail asked Pierre Plantard about this, he claimed that this had been just a cover persona. He said that Vaincre was actually a secret pro-Resistance journal riddled with code-words to be understood by other members of the underground movement, which Plantard claimed to have been a part of. He also stated that after the war, he had been instrumental in bringing Charles de Gaulle to power – an allegation apparently backed up by a series of contemporary newspaper articles published in the French newspaper Le Monde.

            Both Vaincre and C.I.R.C.U.I.T., as well as other Priory publications, are largely concerned with the idea of creating a “United States of the West”, not unlike the currently developing European Union. Vaincre even proposed a European flag similar to that used by the EU today. The Priory documents indicate that the Priory of Sion has somehow been instrumental behind the scenes in the development of the EU. Indeed, several of the people named  in Vaincre as having been members of Alpha Galates, such as Louis de Fur and Hans Adolf von Moltke, were heavily involved in the European movement.  Other alleged members of the Priory can be linked to the Anglo-American intelligence community, which in the past had been a significant force behind the evolution of the European Economic Community.

            But the Priory documents state that the Priory of Sion has very specific plans for Europe: a collection of monarchies, each controlled by a Merovingian monarch, and themselves under the control of one “Grand Monarch” who is both Priest and King: a true “Holy Roman Empire.”  A New Age philosopher quoted frequently in Vaincre, Paul le Cour, even wrote about the need for “preparing Knights of the Apocalypse whose head will be Christ when he returns”, indicating a belief that their Merovingian monarchs will be the administrators of God’s kingdom on Earth.

 

 

Chapter 5: A Schism in Sion

 

            It was not long after the publication of the best-selling Holy Blood, Holy Grail, just as the subject of the Priory of Sion was becoming a hot topic in popular culture, that the order began to unravel. Several of Plantard’s associates, including Louis Vazart, Andre Bonhomme, Philippe de Cherisey, and Jean-Luc Chaumeil, came forward to confess that the whole thing had been made up from the start.  They, with Plantard’s direction, had concocted the modern-day Priory of Sion, they said, and its illustrious pedigree going back to the Knights Templar, in the 1950s. Cherisey admitted to forging several of the Priory’s key documents, including the infamous “Rennes-le-Chateau parchments”, supposedly discovered by Berenger Sauniere in a small church in Southern France, soon to be discussed in this book.

            All of this is extensively documented on the website priory-of-sion.com, maintained by Paul Smith, a man who has apparently made debunking the Priory of Sion his life’s purpose.  He also gleefully recounts episodes from Plantard’s criminal background, including imprisonment for “fraud, embezzlement, and child corruption”, as well as a stint he served for failing to register Alpha Galates with the French government.  Paul Smith further claims that the pro-Vichy and anti-Semitic statements in Vaincre were no cover at all.  Plantard, and several of his associates, were always, according to Paul Smith, right-wing, Jew-hating extremists.

            The public revelations made by his former friends hurt Pierre Plantard’s image, and in 1985, before Holy Blood, Holy Grail’s sequel, The Messianic Legacy was even published, Plantard had already decided to “resign” from the Priory of Sion.  This he announced to Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh in his last meeting with them, which they reported on in The Messianic Legacy.  He told them that he had resigned because the group had been infiltrated by an “Anglo-American contingent” of intelligence agents, who were perverting the order’s original purpose.  However, Paul Smith believes that Plantard’s hoax had simply blown up in his face, and he needed to escape the limelight.

            But in 1989, Plantard was at it again.  At this time a new series of Vaincre magazines began to appear, resembling the first edition in many ways, but now openly representing the Priory of Sion, and not Alpha Galates.  Vaincre was really the subtitle of this new publication; Le Cercle (The Circle) was its new title. Perhaps it would be better to call it a “printed collection of papers” rather than a “magazine.” These new publications were of very low circulation, and only came to the attention of most Priory researchers in the last few years, when they were published on Paul Smith’s website.

            In this new version of Vaincre/Le Cercle, it was claimed that Pierre Plantard had been reinstated as Grand Master in 1989, but had quickly passed the title on to his son, Thomas Plantard, who was now the current Grand Master. A new list of Nautonniers was produced, this one claiming that the order had only been created in 1681.  They now disavowed any connection with the Knights Templar or the original Order of Sion.  Despite this attempt at a comeback, there were no results from it, and Thomas Plantard never went public to represent the Priory of Sion.

            In 1993, Plantard’s name came up in regards to a financial scandal involving Roger-Patrice Pelat, a politician in Francois Mitterand’s government whom Vaincre/Le Cercle had claimed was an interim Grand Master of the Priory between 1985 and 1989.  While under questioning about this, Plantard reportedly admitted to police that the Priory of Sion was a product of his imagination.

            So is the Priory of Sion story, the inspiration for the best-selling novel of all time, just a hoax?  Apparently opinion is still mixed about the matter.  For despite the fact that Paul Smith’s revelations are now widely known among Priory of Sion researchers, and despite the admissions by the Priory’s own members that the whole thing was a joke, many people conclude that there is still an all-important kernel of truth to the story. They still believe in the idea of the descent of the Merovingian “Grail bloodline” from Jesus and Mary Magdalen, even though this was never actually alleged by the Priory, but was rather an interpretation made by the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Some also still believe that there was conspiracy involving this bloodline that has been behind various political movements and events throughout history.

            Certainly, there is evidence that secret societies like the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, the Martinists, and even the supposedly fictitious Rosicrucians have had such influence, and the Priory of Sion is allegedly related to all of these orders. These groups operated in the shadows, so their influence might not be readily obvious to historians. As I will explain later on in this book, the teachings passed down by these secret societies do seem to include this concept of a divine royal bloodline, and also seem to connect it to the symbol of the Grail. One can, in fact, identify a common thread running throughout world mythology and holy scripture regarding this sacred bloodline, along with the idea of a sacred stone or vessel that is analogous to the Grail. The clues left by initiates of secret societies allude to the idea that there is a physical treasure called the Grail (in addition to the bloodline), buried in some unknown hiding place.  In this book, I will examine all of the profound evidence indicating this very same notion. 

            So far it has been alleged by debunkers that Pierre Plantard’s motivation for creating the Priory of Sion “hoax” was purely his ego. They think he just loved being thought of as the last scion of a lost royal lineage, and as the Grand Master of a powerful secret society controlling Europe from behind the scenes. But there was no way he could have foreseen in 1956 that depositing documents in a library in France would lead to an internationally bestselling book in the 1980s, or any of the results which came from that. When the public spotlight fell on him so heavily after the publication of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, he made no known attempt to capitalize on it in any way. Rather, he slinked back into the shadows where he had come from. If it was merely a hoax, one wonders how it could have occupied a single individual, and all of his friends, for twenty years before it began to pay off.

            Perhaps Plantard really thought that his claim would one day be taken seriously, and that he could secure the throne of France, if not for himself, then for his son Thomas. But unfortunately for him, although fascinated by all of the mystique and intrigue surrounding the Priory, the French public has not warmed to the idea of reviving the Merovingian monarchy. They have had to cut off a lot of heads to get rid of the throne in the name of “liberty, equality, and fraternity.” They are not about to bring it back.

 

 

Chapter 6: The Sorcerer Kings

 

            But, you may wonder, what of these Merovingian kings and their sacred royal bloodline? Before the publication of Holy Blood, Holy Grail in 1982, most people in the English-speaking world had never heard of them. Before the publication of Gerard de Sede’s books about the Priory of Sion in the 1970s, most people in France had never thought about a return of the Merovingian kings.

            For one thing, the Merovingians had never ruled over “France” proper: they ruled land masses that later became France, such as Gaul, Burgundy, and Austrasia. Not had there ever consistently been any definitive Merovingian lands. The borders of the Merovingian kingdom had been constantly in flux due to their family tradition of dividing lands and titles evenly amongst a deceased king’s sons, rather than giving it all to the eldest.

            For another thing, the Merovingian royal line was thought to have died out in the eighth century, when Childeric II was deposed. The Merovingian monarchy had been effectively powerless anyway since the assassination of Childeric III’s ancestor, King Dagobert II, in 679 A.D.  As far as history was concerned, they had long ago been finished off and replaced.

            Finally, as I stated above, the French people have shown no desire to reinstate monarchy of any sort in their country. Perhaps this explains why the Merovingian mythos promoted by the Priory of Sion, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and The Da Vinci Code has had a more powerful effect in the English-speaking world than it ever did in France.

            It is not known when the Merovingian dynasty began, for their rule over the Frankish kingdoms seems to have already been well-established by the time of King Meroveus in 448 A.D. Meroveus was the source of the line’s name, and the first king of that line to have made his way onto the historical record.  Before this there is no other line of Frankish kings whom the Merovingians would have usurped: they apparently had always been the royal house of the Franks as far back as anyone could remember.

            Meroveus was, however, worthy of being called the progenitor of the dynasty, for his conception was in no way natural, at least according to his legend. This says that Meroveus was the spawn of two fathers: one, a man, the other, a mysterious sea creature called “the Quinotaur.”  This beast raped his mother, already pregnant, as she was swimming in the ocean, and managed to magically inject his own seed into the developing fetus. Thus the child was born half human, and half … something else. This is why Meroveus’ name bore within it the French word for “sea”, and why his descendants, the Merovingian kings, were believed to possess magical, super-human powers. As Holy Blood, Holy Grail states:

 

            “According to tradition Merovingian monarchs were occult adepts, initiates in arcane sciences, practitioners in esoteric arts … They were often called the sorcerer kings or thaumaturge kings.  By virtue of some miraculous property in their blood, they could allegedly heal by the laying on of hands; and according to one account the tassels on the fringes of their robes were deemed to possess miraculous curative powers.  They were said to be capable of clairvoyant or telepathic communication with beasts and with the natural world around them, and to wear powerful magical necklaces.  They were said to possess an arcane spell that protected them and granted them phenomenal longevity – which history, incidentally, does not seem to confirm.”

 

            Other rumors about the Merovingians were very specific. For starters, each supposedly bore a birthmark that consisted of a red equilateral cross, either above the heart or between the shoulder blades. They were called “the long-haired kings” because they refused to cut their hair, which purportedly, like the biblical figure of Samuel, contained the essence of their magical powers. At death they partook of the ancient Celtic ritual of trepanation, allowing the “soul” to escape to the afterlife through a hole drilled in the deceased man’s skull. They were also ritually entombed with strange, occult artifacts, much like the Egyptian Pharaohs. In the tomb of Meroveus’ son, King Childeric, the body was interred with a severed horse’s head, a golden bull’s head, a crystal ball, and three-hundred golden bees. (These bees were later attached to the coronation robe of Napoleon Bonaparte, who had married a Merovingian-descended princess, in order to connect himself symbolically with this ancient kingly line.) There was another similarity between the Merovingians and the Egyptian Pharaohs: both were considered to be priest-kings, and living incarnations of the divine. This was seen by the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail as evidence for a possible descent of the Merovingians from Christ.

            Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln speculated that it might have been knowledge of this remarkable ancestry which was the impetus behind the pact made between Meroveus’ grandson, King Clovis I, and the Roman Catholic Church in the year 469, bestowing upon Clovis the title “New Constantine”, and control over a vast kingdom which provided the prototype for the “Holy Roman Empire.” This title was, according to the pact, to be passed down to his descendants from that moment on, in exchange for his conversion to the faith. (Yes, the presumed “children of Christ” were themselves, until that time, not Christians.)

            The idea, according to Holy Blood, Holy Grail, was that by employing the Merovingians and allowing them to spread their empire, the Church could keep the priest-kings “under their thumb”, so to speak, and silent about their divine lineage, which could be devastating for the hegemony of the Roman faith. For several generations, this agreement was observed, and the baptism of Clovis was a fondly remembered event, commonly depicted in ancient seals with the king being submerged in a Grail-like cup.  But in the year 679, the Church broke their very own pact, in the most devastating of ways.

            By the time the Merovingian King Dagobert II was born, in 651, the power of the throne had already been weakened, with authority increasingly being usurped by court chancellors known as “Mayors of the Palace.”  On the death of his father, the five-year-old Dagobert was kidnapped by then Palace Mayor Grimoald, who tried to put his own son on the throne instead.  Human compassion saved young Dagobert from death, according to the legend, and he was exiled to Ireland, only to return years later and reclaim the throne in 679. 

            But the problems of the Mayors of the Palace continued. Apparently displeased with Dagobert’s lack of allegiance and devotion to the faith (a problem noted in previous Merovingian kings as well), the Roman church entered into a conspiracy with Mayor Pepin the Fat. On December 23, supposedly while on a hunting trip in the haunted and sacred wood called the “Forest of Woevres”, Dagobert was lanced through the eye, on Pepin’s orders, some say. With Roman Catholic endorsement, Pepin passed political power onto his son, Charles Martel, thus beginning the famous Carolingian dynasty of France.

            After that, the Merovingian royal line faded into obscurity. All subsequent Merovingian kings were essentially powerless, and the last to sit on the throne was Dagobert II’s grandson, King Childeric III. Forty-nine years later, Charles Martel’s grandson, Charlemagne was anointed Holy Roman Emperor. The Church may have thought that they had finally washed its hands of the Merovingian problem.

            But what was the problem, exactly? The authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail speculated that the Merovingians, as his blood descendants, knew the “truth” about Jesus Christ. They knew that the Roman Church had stolen their birthright, usurping what must have been their hereditary role as the priest-kings of the “True Church.” This is supposedly why the Catholic Church wanted them dead and gone.

            But according to the Priory of Sion’s documents in the Bibliotheque Nationale, the Merovingian royal line continued on in secret, via Sigisbert IV, son of Dagobert II and his second wife, Giselle de Razes. Historians assume Sigisbert to have been another casualty of his father’s assassination, but there is no specific record of this. At this point, the Priory documents state that Sigisbert IV was taken by his sister after his father’s assassination and sent to the Languedoc region of Southern France, where his mother lived, and where the Merovingian kingdom’s capitol had once been located.

            This reportedly occurred in the year 681. It was then, the Priory documents say, that Sigisbert IV supposedly took on the name of “Plantard”, meaning “ardent flowering shoot”, which is said to be a reference to the continuation of the Merovingian line. He also allegedly took on his uncle’s titles “Duke of Razes” and “Count of Rhedae.” From this, the family names Plantard, Plantavelu, and Plantagenet (the name of one of Britain’s most famous royal lines) can reportedly be traced. 

            The Priory documents allege that Sigisbert IV’s descendants were the rulers of an independent kingdom in the Languedoc after this. These descendants purportedly included Theodoric, Guillem de Gellone (a famous figure of his time who was mentioned in Dante’s The Divine Comedy) and “Prince Ursus”, listed by the documents as Sigisbert VI.  Somewhere around 879, the Prince was allegedly declared “King Ursus” by his supporters, who attempted to usurp King Louis II and place Ursus on the French throne. Although the insurrection failed, Prince Ursus is said to have married into the Breton ducal house, and his descendants took on the duchies of Brittany and Aquitaine. They also brought the bloodline to England, beginning the Planta family line that eventually resulted in the Plantagenets. One member of this Planta line was Bera IV, also called “the Architect.”  There is a possibility that he and his descendants may have been involved in the early formation of Freemasonry.

            Long after their usurpation, the Merovingian kings do appear to have retained a certain cult status amongst the people they formerly ruled. This is evidenced by the way in which King Dagobert II’s relics were treated after his death. Dagobert’s body was exhumed in 872 from the royal chapel of Saint Remy in Stenay and moved to a new church, where it became a center for cult worship. The relics were believed by the locals  to have protected the town against a Viking raid, so a local metropolitan conclave then dubbed him “Saint Dagobert”, and declared his feast day to be December 23, the anniversary of his death.

            The raising of Dagobert II to saint status was never recognized by the Church that allegedly conspired to assassinate him. (Until 1159, the Pope’s right to canonize saints was non-exclusive.) Indeed, any chronicle of French kings written before 1646 fails to even mention Dagobert II. This has led some to believe that Church and the Carolingian hierarchy were conspiring to excise Dagobert II and his heirs from the history books.

 

 

Chapter 7: Blood Royal

 

            Of course, many authors, including Henry Lincoln himself, will tell you the notion that the Merovingian kingly line continued unbroken through the twentieth century is not backed up by anything beyond what’s written in the Priory of Sion’s documents. The authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail evaluated the evidence in the context of known historical data, and found that it was possible, but not in any way proven. As for the idea that the Merovingians were descendants of Jesus, that was merely what Michael Baigent and his co-authors surmised the Priory of Sion to be implying with their mysterious coded writings, which frequently referred to the importance of the figure of Mary Magdalen. They then explored the possible evidence supporting such an idea in the Gospels, extra-biblical scriptures, and in history.

            From their investigation, they determined that it was possible Jesus could have been married, and that it was possible Mary Magdalen was his wife. They correlated this with popular French folk legends which stated that Mary Magdalen had gone to the area of what is now France after the crucifixion, and that she came bearing the “Holy Grail.” Mary Magdalen is believed to have died in a cave in France (there is some disagreement as to which cave and where), after having converted many locals to Christianity, and having lived in that cave as a penitent for 30 years.

            In Holy Blood, Holy Grail, they evaluated the medieval romances which had established the European legend of the Holy Grail. This object is most often described as being the cup which Jesus drank from at the Last Supper, and also the cup which collected the blood and water which issued from his side when he was wounded by the sword of Longinus as he was hanging on the cross. The Grail is also sometimes described as a stone that fell from Heaven, and which possesses magical curative powers. Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln determined that these romances might have been written by men who were privy into a secret. The stories emphasized the power of the blood of Christ within the Grail cup, and spoke of a “Grail family” who possessed the Grail by heredity.

            In the romances, a knighthood similar to the Templars, and specifically identified as the Templars in one of the romances, is credited with being the “guardians of the Grail.” You will recall that the Priory of Sion claimed to have been responsible for starting the Templar order. Of course, all modern mystical orders claim descent from the Knights Templar, but it is extremely bold to claim that your organization chartered the Templars, and not the other way around. One member of the “Grail family”  – Lohengrin – is described in one of the Grail romances as being the father of the real-life Templar knight, Godfroi de Bouillon. Godfroi, as I said earlier, was alleged by the Priory of Sion documents to be a descendant of the Merovingians.

            With this information, the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail then determined that the “Grail” might be a metaphor for a holy royal bloodline, and even speculated that the words “Holy Grail”, originally written as “San Greal” in French (or “San Graal” in German), could be a play on words alluding to this notion. For if you take the letters “SANGREAL”, and divide them to instead spell “Sang Real”, the words then translate as “royal blood.”

            In fact, this interpretation had already been suggested by earlier writers, such as Julius Evola. However, Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln went a step further, and hypothesized that the “Grail family” were the Merovingians. The actual origin of the Merovingian line, they speculated, was not a sea monster, but instead the secret descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalen. The sacred vessel containing Christ’s blood which Mary was said to have taken with her to France could have actually been a metaphor for her impregnated womb.

            Of course, this is a lot of speculation to build upon the unproven claims of a secret society purporting to protect an obscure royal bloodline long thought extinct. It would have been a great theory if it had held together, but unfortunately, without the Priory documents, the authenticity of which is highly in doubt, much of this theory falls apart.

            Truthfully, I have found from my research that the Grail does appear to be a metaphor for a sacred, royal bloodline, and there does appear to be an occult tradition regarding the covert continuation of this bloodline throughout history. I do think that this is what the Priory of Sion was alluding to in their coded documents regarding the Merovingians. However, I do not think that they believe this bloodline to ultimately derive from, or to necessarily have anything to do with, Jesus Christ. Indeed, the “Grail family” seems to have a much darker origin, according to the legend. It is “sacred” yes. But the Latin word “sacrum”, from which we get our word “sacred”, can be translated not only as “holy”, but also, in a given context, “accursed.”

 

 

Chapter 8: This Place is Terrible

 

            The truly infernal and occult nature of the mystery we seek is most evident in the story of Rennes-le-Chateau, the village in France that was once so heavily associated with the Merovingian kings. It is here that some apparently peculiar happenings occurred in the late 1800s which seem to significantly tie in with the phenomena of the Priory of Sion.

            The people responsible for assembling the earliest known form of this story are mainly Noel Corbu, who owned the village’s only hotel, along with Pierre Plantard, his Priory of Sion cohorts, and Gerard de Sede. Because of the non-reliability of these sources, it is unfortunate that their account of this story has become so well-established, it is now almost impossible to tell which elements they added to the story and which ones were already there. I will attempt to distinguish between the two wherever possible in my account below. However, it would behoove the reader to keep in mind that what follows is much derived from hearsay, where truth and fable are sometimes inextricably entwined.

            The mountaintop village of Rennes-le-Chateau is small – fewer than 100 people, last I heard. Most of them own farms, and a few of them tend to the village’s now-exploding tourist trade. When I was there in 2000, there was one hotel, one restaurant, one occult bookstore, one souvenir shop, and one museum, the latter of which was attached to the domains of the village’s star attraction: the tiny Church of St. Mary Magdalen.

            In the 1950s, before all the books were published which have made this place famous, you would have experienced a case of psychic shock upon seeing what stands there just beyond the front door of the church: a statue of a demon in chains, holding the holy water stoup upon his back, his face ensnarled in agony and rage. Etched above the doorway are the words “Terribilis est locus iste”: usually translated as “This place is terrible.” Inside the church, the décor seems odd and inappropriate, even somewhat disturbing. But when you begin to understand the events that have unfolded there, and in the surrounding area, some of it starts to make sense.

            The region of Southern France in which Rennes-le-Chateau is situated, called the Languedoc, has a long and fascinating history. During medieval times, it had been an important headquarters for the Knights Templar, the battleground for the Catholic Church’s crusade against the heretical Christian sect known as the Cathars, and at one point the site of the capitol of the Merovingian kingdom. It was also once, according to the Priory documents, the place of refuge for the exiled Merovingian prince who would have been King Sigisbert IV.

            In the late 1800s, the Church of St. Mary Magdalen was about the village’s only feature, and it looked a lot different than it does today. It had none of the bizarre decorations that have by now been written about so extensively. The church was in a state of extreme disrepair. The diocese, based in the medieval walled city of Carcassonne, had already determined that they would not fund repairs because it would cost more than total demolition and rebuilding.

            In 1885, the diocese assigned 33-year-old Berenger Sauniere from nearby Montazels to be the abbot of the church at Rennes-le-Chateau.The presbytery was completely uninhabitable, so when he first arrived Sauniere had to stay with a villager instead. He was paid a salary of 75 francs a year.

            Sauniere turned out to be a bit of a trouble-maker. He arrived in June, but by October he had already been transferred to a seminary in Narbonne because he had been using his pulpit to rally people against the Republic, and for a return to the Orleanist monarchy. But he was back to his post in Rennes-le-Chateau by the following July. However, this would not be Sauniere’s last act of rebellion against the rules of his employer.

            At this point he tried to scrape together some money to repair his church. He managed to get a small amount from the village authorities to fulfill the most desperate needs, along with 600 francs left over from the parish’s previous priest, and 1000 francs donated by Marie-Therese, Comtesse de Chambord, right before she died. (She was a Habsburg-Bourbon widow, formerly married to the chief claimant to the throne of France, Henri de Bourbon, Comte de Chambord.) Sauniere began the first repairs on his church in 1887. His first act – replacing the altar – was made possible by a donation from a sick woman from Narbonne who had promised to buy the church a new altar if her prayers for recovery were met.

            The old altar had been a slab held up by a medieval pillar on one end, with the other end affixed to the wall. This item, now called the “Visigothic pillar” in Rennes-le-Chateau literature, actually dates from the Carolingian period, at about 800 A.D., rather than the Visigothic era of 300 years previous. At any rate, when the altar was lifted off of the pillar, Sauniere reportedly found some documents inside.

            The story most often told, enshrined forever in Rennes-le-Chateau lore thanks to the writings of Gerard de Sede, is that there were four parchments, sealed inside wooden tubes, apparently written and deposited there by the parish’s former abbot, Antoine Bigou, about a hundred years earlier. Two of these parchments allegedly contained genealogies detailing the lineage of Merovingian King Dagobert II. The other two parchments consisted of passages from the New Testament.  But these were not mere pieces of scripture. They contained hidden codes.

            At this point, the story states that after alerting his superiors to the find, Sauniere was sent by Monsignor Felix Billard, the Bishop of nearby Carcassonne, to have the parchments interpreted by Father Bieil, Director of Saint Sulpice in Paris. He showed them to the priest’s nephew, Emile Hoffet – an ecclesiastic scholar, closet occultist, and expert in cryptography. Purportedly, Hoffet was able to decipher the codes, and supposedly this is what the message of the first parchment was:

 

“To Dagobert II, King and to Sion belong this treasure and he is there dead.” 

 

The message from the second parchment was even more bizarre. It purportedly said:

 

“Shepherdess – No temptation that Poussin and Teniers hold the key; Peace 681 by the cross and this horse of God I destroy this demon guardian at midday blue apples.” 

 

            It is alleged that after the parchments had been deciphered, Father Bieil gave Berenger Sauniere copies of two paintings: one, an unspecified work by David Teniers, and the other, a work by the prolific Nicolas Poussin. Researchers have not determined which David Teniers painting the second message is supposed to refer to. But the Nicolas Poussin work in question is undoubtedly The Shepherds of Arcadia.

            This painting depicts three shepherds and a shepherdess surrounding a tomb. They are inspecting the tomb’s inscription, which says “Et in Arcadia Ego” (“And I am in Arcadia”). The significance of this imagery will be explained later on. But it is interesting to note here that author Henry Lincoln at one point submitted the theory that the image in the Poussin painting matched the landscape surrounding a tomb that once existed near the village of Arques, six miles from Rennes-le-Chateau.

            However, there is much more to this story. The first time the content of these alleged parchments was ever published was in one of Gerard de Sede’s books, and he had been given access to them by the members of the Priory of Sion, whom he had interviewed extensively. No decodings of the mysterious messages on these parchments were proffered until Henry Lincoln solved the first one and submitted it to Gerard de Sede. Afterwards, Priory of Sion representative Philippe de Cherisey offered a decoding of the second message, claiming he had sent it to an “expert” for analysis. No proof for the actual existence of these parchments was ever offered, and De Cherisey later admitted that he had concocted them himself, although he still purported that they were somehow “based on the originals” that Sauniere actually did find. De Sede later sadly accepted that they were entirely fake, and that he had been fooled.

            The truth is that nobody knows what sort of documents Berenger Sauniere discovered inside the Visigothic pillar. Author Rene Decadeillas actually interviewed some of the workmen who had been laboring in the church that day. They claim that the priest found some documents written in another language, had them translated by someone, and then gave the translation to the mayor. The text supposedly referred to something pertaining to the construction of the altar. However, both the documents and the translation have disappeared, so we have no proof for this version of events either.

 

 

Chapter 9: Tombs and Treasures

 

            Following the discovery within the altar pillar, Sauniere had his workmen lift up the flag stones that made up the floor, presumably to replace them with new flooring. Underneath one of them, he reportedly found a tomb of some sort, containing a pot of gold and jewels that had been buried with the deceased. Reportedly, it was only a minor treasure, not enough to make someone rich. But Sauniere may have found something else down there as well, for after opening the hole, he immediately dismissed his workmen for the day, and seemed more interested in the grave itself than he was in the gems that he had already found inside. But it is unknown whether or not he actually did explore it further.

            The stone underneath which this find was discovered is now on display in the Rennes-le-Chateau museum adjacent to the church. It is called, in Rennes-le-Chateau lore, the “Knights Flagstone”, because it appears to depict two men riding the same horse, a motif that was used in the official seal of the Knights Templar. Others have said that this flagstone depicts the young Merovingian king-in-exile, Sigisbert IV, and his protector, riding on horseback into Rennes-le-Chateau. But all of this is conjecture. Looking at the images on the stone slab, it is very hard to distinguish any features other than a horse and two vaguely humanoid figures.

            In addition to these discoveries, Antoine Captier, Sauniere’s bellringer, is recorded as having said that Sauniere also discovered a vial with a parchment rolled up in it, which had been hidden inside of an old wooden baluster. What this parchment supposedly said has never been revealed.

            In 1887, Sauniere moved in with a family named Deneraud from nearby Esperanza, who were just moving to Rennes-le-Chateau. The family matriarch became Sauniere’s housekeeper, but shortly after this arrangement started, she had her daughter Marie (then in her early 20s) take over for her. Marie Deneraud eventually became Sauniere’s closest and most trusted companion.

            By August 1890, Sauniere had begun another round of repairs, costing 2661 francs, which he raised with donations and payments for masses. But the renovation of the church was just getting started, and Sauniere was soon to be acting very weird. For instance, in June of 1891, he erected a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. He placed it on top of the Visigothic pillar which had once held up the old altar, and inside of which he had purportedly found hidden parchments. But strangely, he decided to turn the pillar upside-down before placing the statue upon it. He then had the words “MISSION 1891” carved into it, right side up.

            On September 21, 1891, he recorded in his diary that he had “discovered a tomb.” Where specifically he found it was not specified. At this point he immediately ceased the restoration work inside the church. He then went on a retreat to Carcassone, and to Luc-sur-Aude. He recorded that he met several other clergy members on these trips, but he did not say what for. He returned on October 2 and resumed the restoration work two weeks later, but this time hired new workmen.

            The discovery of the tomb on September 21 was apparently a significant event in Sauniere’s life, and may be related to his subsequent activities. Researchers think that he may have discovered an entrance to the crypt for the nobles of the village, called the “tomb of the Lords.” We know that this crypt was once open, because it was recorded in the parish register from 1694 to 1726. They appear to have stopped burying people in the vault sometime between 1753 and 1783.

            The last noble family to rule Rennes-le-Chateau were the Hautpouls. They owned the nearby Chateau Blanchefort, which is the chateau referred to in the place-name “Rennes-le-Chateau.” The last lord from this line was the Marquis d’Hautpoul. His heir was his nephew Armand de Hautpoul-Felines, who had been the tutor of the Comte de Chambord’s tutor. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Comte de Chambord was the husband of Marie-Therese, Comtesse de Chambord, the lady who made a significant donation to Sauniere’s church when he first arrived there.

            What Sauniere found in the tomb of the Lords, if indeed he did stumble upon it, may have been the spark for his later interest in the grave of another member of the Hautpoul family, which I will soon describe. But if he did discover something there, it did not make him rich overnight, because he still borrowed some money from a woman in November for more repairs.

            Sauniere’s diary entries stop abruptly on April 12, 1892. By the end of that year, he was traveling extensively without permission from his superiors. Rumors recorded in various books about Rennes-le-Chateau place him in Paris, Spain, and England. They say that while he was in Paris, he mingled with a fashionable occult group, to be described later, which included the opera singer Emma Calve. Sauniere reportedly struck up a sexual relationship with her.

            When he returned from these alleged wanderings, Sauniere’s strange behavior was compounded. He was seen walking the countryside at night, digging up stones in various places, then bringing them back to the church in his knapsack, for reasons unknown. In March 1895, the villagers of Rennes-le-Chateau complained thrice to the local subprefecture that Sauniere was disturbing their relatives’ graves in the church graveyard. He moved the gravestones around the yard. He even took the bones out, and piled them up in a communal ossuary. He dug holes in the graveyard that were up to ten feet deep. He never explained why he was doing this, and as far as the records attest, was never disciplined for it in any way, nor did the villagers ever exact any form of revenge.

            One of the graves we know he disturbed was that of Marie de Negre d’Ables de Blanchefort, of the Hautpoul family. She was the very last noble to rule over Rennes, and had died in 1781. Her gravestone had already been removed from the grave by Sauniere and thrown in a corner of the graveyard in 1905, when the Society of Arts and Sciences in Carcassonne came to make a copy of its bizarre inscription, which they published in their journal the following year. It is only because of this publication that we know what was on the gravestone, because Sauniere had the entire inscription defaced after the society’s visit.

            The inscription on Marie de Blanchefort’s tombstone was very peculiar, and significant, for just like the parchments purportedly found beneath the church altar, there was a strange coded message hidden within the text, formed by apparently deliberate mistakes and spacing anomalies. The priest who would have overseen Marie de Blanchefort’s funeral, and had this tombstone erected, was Abbe Antoine Bigou, the man who supposedly left those mysterious coded parchments underneath the altar that Sauniere later found. We do not know specifically what the code on the tombstone was originally intended to be. But we know that it has been incorporated into Philippe de Cherisey’s fake coded parchments. This is very interesting indeed.

            To understand how this works, I must tell you about the second Marie de Blanchefort tombstone. In 1965, a document most certainly written by the Priory of Sion was deposited into the Bibliotheque Nationale. It was called The Merovingian Descendants, or the Enigma of the Visigoth Razes, and its authorship was attributed to the pseudonymous Madeleine Blancasall. “Madeleine” is the French way of saying “Magdalen”, while “Blancasall” is a code for “White Castle”, and thus refers to the Blanchefort chateau. The document proclaims itself to be an internal report published by the Masonic Grand Lodge Alpina in Switzerland.

            In this work, it is alleged that Marie de Blanchefort had a horizontal slab covering her grave, in addition to the upright headstone already described. A drawing of this second stone is produced in this document, and it is alleged that the stone cannot be found anymore because it has been destroyed in order to protect some terrible secret.

            The second stone is very peculiar. On the right side, and then continuing on the left, the words “Et in Arcadia Ego” are written vertically in Greek letters – the same words written on the tombstone in the aforementioned Nicolas Poussin painting The Shepherds of Arcadia, mentioned in one of the fake parchments. In the center, written horizontally, are the Latin words “Reddis Regis Cellis Arcis”, which can be interpreted several ways that will be explored more later on. Bisecting these words there is, down the center of the stone, a vertical arrow, on top of which are the letters P and S, surrounded by a swirl shape. This same motif, with the P, S and swirl, was also used at the end of one of the fake parchments – the first one, with the shorter message about the treasure of King Dagobert II. Presumably, the letters stand for “Prieure” (“Priory”) and “Sion.” At the bottom of the supposed second Blanchefort tombstone, we find the Latin words “Prae Cum”, (“Pray for us”), a phrase commonly used on medieval tombstones. Beneath this is the considerably less common figure of an octopus.

            It is almost certain that, like the coded fake parchments of De Cherisey, this second Blanchefort tombstone never existed, and was concocted by the Priory of Sion on the 1960s. But interestingly, if you take the letters of the coded inscription on the first Blanchefort tombstone, which we know did exist, and add in the letters “P”, “S”, and “PRAE CUM”, what you get is a perfect anagram of the message in the second fictitious coded parchment – the one that starts out with the words “Shepherdess, no temptation…” So clearly, the fake De Cherisey parchments were meant to point people to the real coded message on the real Blanchefort tombstone, which so far has not been cracked.

            But what could be the significance of this obscure woman’s tomb? The Priory of Sion document by Madeleine Blancasall alleges that the Hautpoul family of Blanchefort was the hereditary preserver of the secret of Sigisbert IV, and the survival of the Merovingian royal line. When she died, Marie de Blanchefort is said to have passed this secret on to her priest, Abbe Antoine Bigou. The way she passed this secret on, supposedly, was by directing him to the four (fictitious) parchments, at that point hidden in the remains of the old St. Peter’s church, which lay beneath the foundation of the current Church of Mary Magdalen. After her death, Abbe Bigou, it is written, decided to hide the parchments in the pillar holding up his altar. He also decided to pass the secret on to any future abbots of Rennes-le-Chateau, again by using a form of code. Thus, he concocted the message that he reportedly etched onto Marie de Blanchefort’s two tombstones.

 

Chapter 10: Shrine to a Secret

 

            How much of this story about Blanchefort and Bigou is true remains unknown. What is known is that after thoroughly exploring the graves beneath his church, and outside in the graveyard, Sauniere began to get serious about redecorating his church, and he did so in a very strange way.

            The first most noticeable addition is of course the holy water stoup, held up by the statue of a grimacing demon in chains. This statue has been said in the Priory of Sion’s own literature to be a representation of Asmodeus, the king of demons. According to Jewish legend, King Solomon called up Asmodeus with sorcery, then enslaved him and his demonic minions, forcing them to build his magnificent temple for him. From then on, Asmodeus was considered to be the guardian of the treasure of the Temple of Solomon, which some people believe was discovered by the Knights Templar, and then hidden by them at Rennes-le-Chateau.

            However, it is also possible to interpret this statue as simply representing the Devil, who is often depicted in chains in Catholic iconography, having been conquered by Saint Michael and imprisoned by God in the bowels of the Earth, where he waits to be released by the coming of the Anti-Christ. It is not entirely unheard-of to have a statue of the Devil in a Catholic church, but this one is placed rather prominently, and clearly stands out as the most significant feature of the church’s décor.

            Above the water stoup on the demon’s shoulders are representations of two salamanders, the letters “BS” inside of a circle, and the French words “Par ce signet u le vaincras.” The latter phrase is a slightly altered version of the traditional motto of the cross. It normally would translate as “By this sign you shall conquer”, the words that came to Emperor Constantine when he saw his miraculous vision of the cross. In this other version, however, the French words translate literally to “By this sign you will conquer him.” Above this, four angels are shown making the sign of the cross.

            What are we supposed to make of this message? Is it saying “By the sign of the cross you will conquer this demon”? Interestingly, the message of one of the parchments faked by De Cherisey states “I destroy this demon guardian at noon”, perhaps meant to refer to this depiction of Asmodeus at Rennes-le-Chateau, guarding the treasure of King Solomon.

            It is possible that the hidden message of the holy water stoup relates to the messages that Sauniere had etched above the doorway to the church. The first one is the previously quoted “Terribilis est locus iste”, normally translated in Rennes-le-Chateau literature as “This place is terrible.” If this were a correct translation, it would be a quote from the biblical story in Genesis about Jacob’s vision of the ladder to Heaven. Upon seeing it, Jacob exclaimed, “How dreadful (or terrible) is this place! This is none other but the horse of God, and this is the gate of Heaven!” It was an expression of Jacob’s awe and wonder at his heavenly vision, not a curse.

            However, “Terribilis est locus iste” more specifically translates as “Your place is terrible”, which does give it a more negative connotation. Could Sauniere be referring to the demon depicted inside the doorway, whose habitation is in Hell? Or was he somehow alluding to, and cursing, his very own church?

            The latter notion is perhaps hinted at with the other biblical quote inscribed above the doorway of the church, “Domus mea domus orationis vocabitur.” This means “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” It is a quote from Matthew 21:13, when Jesus throws the moneychangers out of the temple. What is missing from the doorway of the church is the rest of the quote: “… but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Why include this quote at all in this context, presumably referring to Sauniere’s own church? Was he secretly expressing impiety, or disillusionment with the organization he worked for, indirectly calling it a “den of thieves” by conspicuously leaving out that portion of the quote?

            There are some dates written on the doorway as well. To the left is the year 1681. Notably, this is the date that was recorded by Abbe Bigou on Marie de Blanchefort’s tombstone (the real one) as the date of her death, even though she actually died a hundred years later, in 1781. Such a major mistake, like all of the other ones on that tombstone, must have been deliberately put there by Bigou as part of the hidden code.

            What does it mean? Nobody really knows. But if you were to turn the numbers “1681” upside-down, you would get “1891.” Remember that when Sauniere mounted the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes outside of his church, atop the Visigothic pillar that had supposedly contained the parchments, he turned the pillar upside-down and had the words “Mission 1891” etched onto it right-side up. It cannot be a coincidence, then, that on the right side of the doorway to Sauniere’s church, directly opposite the number 1681, the date 1892 is etched … upside-down!

            The meaning of this is, again, unclear. So too is how to interpret some of the other decorations Sauniere added to the interior of the church. For instance, he had the floor covered with chequerboard tile, just like the floor of a Masonic lodge. But just in front of the confessional, and next to a statue of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist, are 64 tiles that have been set apart from the rest. The dark squares are darker, and the light squares are lighter, than all of the other tiles. This set of 64 light and dark squares forms a perfect chessboard, aligned in such a way that it appears Jesus and the demon are playing a match together.

            Above the confessional, Sauniere had a bas-relief installed depicting Jesus preaching his Sermon on the Mount. But strangely, at the bottom of the relief there is a depiction of a money-bag with a hole it in, and a piece of gold poking through. Was Sauniere here confessing his own discovery of a treasure?

            On the walls, Sauniere mounted the traditional Stations of the Cross, but for some reason chose to make them run counter-clockwise, in reverse order from the way that they are usually displayed. It has been suggested by many authors that Sauniere added alterations to these stations to make heretical statements about the story of Christ. Most especially, the last station, where Jesus is shown being placed in the tomb at night, sticks out.

            Of course, the gospels state that Jesus was laid to rest before nightfall, and thus before the beginning of Passover, according to Jewish tradition. It was forbidden to handle dead bodies on any holy day, including the weekly Sabbath, and these always began at nightfall on the previous evening. So why is the sky dark in this particular station?

            The authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail theorized that Sauniere had the last station altered as a way of expressing his endorsement of the heretical belief that Jesus did not die on the cross, but faked his death, and then fled into hiding. So this Station of the Cross would then depict Jesus’ disciples, who were allegedly in on the ruse, removing his still-live body from the tomb afterwards.

            The idea that Jesus faked his death on the cross was part of an extra-biblical text called The Gospel of Barnabus, believed by most scholars to be a medieval forgery. Expanding upon a little-known passage in The Koran, it alleges that Jesus had Judas Iscariot die on the cross in his place, but tricked people into believing that it was actually him. However, in this story he accomplished this by magic, not conspiracy. The theory of an actual plot by Jesus and his disciples to fake his death on the cross was first aired in Dr. Hugh J. Schonfield’s book The Passover Plot in 1965, and would not have been familiar to Berenger Sauniere.

            However, another heretical belief about Christ which Sauniere might have been familiar with states that Jesus had a twin brother, Thomas Didymus, and that after Jesus died in the crucifixion, Thomas took his place as the Christ, and went on to preach the gospel in India. A possible allusion to the “dual Christ” idea in Sauniere’s church could be the statues of Mary and Joseph on either side of the altar. Each figure holds a baby Jesus – one with dirty blond hair, the other with dark brown hair. It does seem like this redundant image of the Christ child would have to be deliberate. Clearly, Joseph and Mary are meant to be taken together in this arrangement, and yet each holds a baby. What was Sauniere’s purpose in having these statues erected?

            The statues of saints that line the walls in-between the stations of the cross also may be giving us a message. There are six saint statues of the same size and style, depicting St. Germaine, St. Roch, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Anthony the Hermit, St. Luke, and St. Mary Magdalen. Imagine taking the letter “M” to stand for “Mary”, and then connecting the rest of the statues with an imaginary line forming the shape of an “M.” If you took the first letters of the names of the five remaining saints in this order, it would spell the word “GRAAL”, German for “Grail.”

            Why would Sauniere have gone to the trouble and expense of embedding these codes into the décor of his church? Nobody knows for sure, and there is certainly much more to be decoded. I have only gone over some of the most well-known examples of Sauniere’s coding. There are dozens more than that, too numerous and complicated to go into. Many researchers assume that the abbot was leaving a message for future generations regarding the nature of a treasure that he found beneath the church – perhaps the Holy Grail, or the treasure of Solomon’s Temple. But maybe the message was never meant to be interpreted by the public at large. As I will explain later on, each of Sauniere’s decorations may have had a purely esoteric meaning known only to initiates of the same secret tradition. I intend to show that Sauniere was turning his Catholic church into an occult ritual chamber.

 

 

Chapter 11: Mysterious Income

 

            On a related note, it is suspected that occult rituals might have had something to do with the sudden death of one of Sauniere’s collegues in 1897. On October 31 of that year, close to the end of Sauniere’s church decoration period, 71-year-old Abbe Antoine Gelis, priest of the parish at nearby Coustassa, was murdered. He had been one of the people that Sauniere visited immediately after he recorded that he had “discovered a tomb.”

            Gelis had been sick and living a reclusive life for years, and allowed few people to come visit him. Yet he apparently let his attacker inside on the night of the murder, for there was no sign of forced entry. The killer bashed his skull in, and placed his body reverently on the ground, with his arms folded over his chest like an Egyptian pharaoh lying in his coffin. (Interestingly, this is also how Masonic initiates are told to lie down when they are play-acting death and resurrection during the Hiram Abiff ceremony of the 3rd degree.) He left a note on the body written on a cigarette paper that said, simply, “Viva Angelina.”

            The only things that the murderer took from Abbe Gelis’ residence were apparently some unspecified papers, and the unspecified contents of a knapsack. He left 1000 francs sitting in drawers, along with 13,000 francs hidden throughout the church and presbytery. So obviously he was not interested in stealing this money. But then, why did the priest have this money? In addition to this, it was discovered by investigators that he had recently invested 15,000 – 20,000 francs. Like Sauniere, his priest’s salary was a mere pittance. Clearly, Abbe Gelis had an unaccounted-for source of income, and it might have had something to do with his death.

            At the funeral was Berenger Sauniere, who at the time was becoming increasingly indiscreet about the fact that he too had an unaccounted-for income. By 1898, evidence of Sauniere’s unexplained fortune was clear. He bought up property in the village on which he planned to create a magnificent domain for himself. He bought this property under other people’s names, most often that of his housekeeper, Marie Deneraud. He had several bank accounts at this time, in Paris, Toulouse, Perpignan, and Budapest, Hungary.

            Concurrently with this, Sauniere is said by author Andre Douzet to have gone to Lyons several times in 1898 and 1899 to attend meetings of the secret occult fraternity known as the Martinists, a group which I will describe in detail later on. The evidence for Sauniere’s attendance of these meetings comes from receipts for carriage rentals have been found bearing the name of an “Abbe Sauniere.” If Sauniere was indeed a practicing Martinist, it would be very interesting, for reasons that I will soon explain.

            In 1900, Sauniere began the construction of the Baroque-style Villa Bethanie, situated on his domain near his church. At the time he drew up the plans for the building, he described it as a planned home for retired priests. But he never actually used it for this purpose, nor did he move into it himself. Rather, he used it to entertain the numerous rich and important guests who now flocked from all corners of France to visit this obscure clergyman in his remote and tiny village in the Pyrenees mountains. Several members of France’s noble class, as well as respected members of the artistic, literary, and occult sets came to dine with the abbot in his magnificent domain.

            As further evidence of his unexplained wealth, Sauniere entertained his guests with expensive imported foods, wines, and other spirits. He also began collecting rare books and stamps. He acquired two pet monkeys, as well as two dogs, one of whom he named “Faust”, after the play by Johann von Goethe in which the title character sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for ultimate wisdom.

            Sauniere added more onto his domain as well. He had a garden installed, as well as a terrace overlooking the valley below. His crowning achievement was the Gothic-style tower he had built, which he dubbed the “Magdalen Tower”, and used to house his now-massive library. But by the time he finished this building in 1908, his mysterious funds had begun to dry up.

            Where was Sauniere getting all this money? We know that much of it came from wealthy patrons, whose donations were facilitated by his brother, Abbe Jean-Marie Alfred Sauniere, also a priest. “Alfred”, as he was known to his friends, had become notorious in the Church for his love of liquor and women. He was dismissed from the priesthood in 1904 and became ill. He returned to his home town of Montazels that year, and died on September 9, 1905. Berenger Sauniere at this time made out a will for himself, leaving everything to Marie Deneraud, and stating that he was doing so because of “the little trust that I have in my relatives, whose conduct has been very reprehensible on the death of my brother.” Nobody knows what specifically he was referring to.

            After 1908, Sauniere’s lavish lifestyle came to the attention of the Bishop of Carcassonne, who asked him to account for the source of his wealth. At first, Sauniere told the Bishop to mind his own business. But as the matter dragged on, and Sauniere was forced to attempt an explanation, he compiled a list of revenues totaling almost 200,000 francs, and a list of expenses almost equal to that. Modern researchers, however, have examined his records and estimated that the actual amount of his expenditures in the previous ten years was about 600,000 francs, so his income must have been at least that. This is about equal to 2 million pounds sterling, or about 3.79 million dollars – far in excess of his salary as a priest.

            The sources of income that he claimed included donations from wealthy people, some of whom he said he could not name, because he had promised to keep their identities secret. For those he could name, he seems to have inflated the actual amount of the donations by about three times in the records he presented in his defense. Presumably he did this because he needed to account for money that he could not explain the origin of. But his lies were not fooling anybody.

            In January of 1909, the Bishop of Carcassonne reassigned Sauniere to the parish of Coustouge, thirty miles away from Rennes-le-Chateau. The people of Rennes-le-Chateau were furious. The mayor of the village wrote to the Bishop of Carcassonne to complain, warning him that his people would not attend church with any other priest. In July, Abbe Henri Marty was assigned to take over the parish. But Sauniere just set up an altar in the Villa Bethanie, and held mass there, while his replacement administered to an empty church.

            In October of the next year, the diocese put Sauniere before a tribunal in Carcassonne on charges of trafficking in masses. He was not convicted for lack of evidence, but because he refused to truthfully account for the sources of his money, he lost his right to administer the sacraments (suspens a divinis, as it is called by the Church). Sauniere appealed to the Court of Rome in 1911, but they refused to overturn the sentence.

            It appears to be true that Sauniere was trafficking in masses, which means that he was selling masses for the dead to people outside of his parish. The Church requires that any priest who performs such masses must give the money earned to the diocese, to be distributed amongst all of the priests. Sauniere clearly had not been doing this.

            We know that he was indeed trafficking in masses, because he advertised the sale of masses for the dead in a number of religious magazines. From the letters that have been discovered, it appears that orders for masses immediately started pouring in, sent through the mail. One author, Jean-Jacques Bedu, in his book Autopsie d’un Myth (Autopsy of a Myth), claims that the records show Sauniere was collecting fees for so many masses that he could not possibly have done them all, since Catholic priests are restricted to saying no more than three masses a day. He got backlogged to the point where he was over a year behind in meeting all of his mass requests. But he had already collected the money, of course, and probably had spent it, too. At a certain point, in January 1894, he stopped keeping records of these masses, and M. Bedu suggests that he stopped saying them as well, but continued to collect the money.

            However, many authors still conclude that neither the revenues from the sale of masses, nor the claimed donations from wealthy patrons, could account for all of Sauniere’s wealth. He had to at least be receiving larger donations from more people than what he was reporting. Or, as some think, he had discovered some valuable treasure beneath the ground of his church.

            By the time Sauniere was being hauled into court, he was broke, overdrawn at the bank, and actually trying unsuccessfully to sell off his property. Strangely, though, towards the time of his death in 1917, he had begun making plans to do more expensive property improvements, and even planned to buy a car for himself, as if he was anticipating more money coming in soon.

 

 

Chapter 12: Death of a Salesman

 

            It is often claimed by writers on the subject that Sauniere’s death was mysterious, because he was reportedly said to be “in good health for his age” by a doctor who examined him a few weeks before his death. But really he had been sick and suffering for years. He had a stroke, or a heart attack, and collapsed at some point in mid-January 1917. Some say it was on the 17th of the month, which is supposedly significant for the Priory of Sion, for they place importance on that date as the feast day of St. Sulpice. But there is no proof regarding which exact day it happened. However, we do know that a few days later, on the 22nd, he died.

            The fact that Sauniere died when he did is really not mysterious. But there are some odd details about his death that give one pause. For instance, Marie Deneraud had reportedly ordered a coffin for him several days before his collapse, as if she somehow had inside knowledge of the fact that he was about to die. During the days between his collapse and his death, as he was lying on his deathbed, a priest from a nearby town was called in to hear his confession and administer Last Rites. But as purported witnesses have stated, this priest emerged from the bedchamber moments later, stricken with terror, and having refused to give Sauniere Extreme Unction. From that point on, he “never smiled again”, and his inexplicable state of mental anguish lasted for several months. 

            Even more bizarre, perhaps, is what happened to Sauniere’s body post-mortem. On January 23, the day after he died, Sauniere’s corpse was seated upright in a chair in the sitting room of the Villa Bethanie, covered by a blanket with red pom-poms hanging off of its fringes. His parishioners proceeded to pluck these pom-poms off as they filed past, one by one, giving their respects. The meaning of this ceremony has eluded most researchers, but as I will later demonstrate, its roots are quite ancient, and it is just more evidence of Sauniere’s involvement with the practice of the occult.

            When Sauniere’s will was read, he was found to be penniless, which is not terribly surprising. He left all of his property to Marie Deneraud, which is also not surprising. But Mme. Deneraud’s behavior after his death leaves questions about the source of the wealth Sauniere once had, and whether or not that wealth had really been exhausted.

            The day he died, Mme. Deneraud was seen running around the village, crying and screaming “My God! My God! Monsieur the cure is dead … now everything is finished”, as if they had been involved in some grand scheme together. It is not known what type of scheme this might have been, but Marie was seen in a park at night burning documents shortly afterwards. From there on out, Mme. Deneraud would go to Sauniere’s grave at a specific time each night and speak to his departed soul. It is uncertain whether or not he ever answered back, but she reportedly kept up this ritual for the rest of her life.

            In 1946, Marie gave her property over to her new friend, Noel Corbu, who had just moved in to the village. This gift was made with the promise that she would be allowed to live there for the rest of her life, and would be cared for in her old age. According to author Jean-Luc Chaumeil, Corbu was originally acting as a secret agent for the diocese, to whom he was supposed to sell the estate after he had acquired it from Deneraud. He reportedly reneged on this deal, and stayed true to his promise to Marie instead.

            What would have caused Corbu to change his mind? Why was the diocese so anxious to gain ownership of this property? Enigmatic statements uttered by Mme. Deneraud to various friends indicated that there was something within the land there which amounted to a treasure, and which had somehow been integral in Sauniere’s financial gain. She told one friend, Mme. Vidal, that “With what Monsieur the cure has left, one could feed all of Rennes for a hundred years, and it would still remain.” Asked why she lived so poorly if she had access to so much wealth, she replied, “As to that, I cannot touch it.”

            On a similar note, Noel Corbu’s daughter Claire reported that one day, when her father was expressing worry about one of his business interests in Algeria, Mme. Deneraud said to him: “Don’t worry yourself so much, my dear Noel … one day I will tell you a secret that will make you a rich man … very rich.” But she never did tell him the secret. She fell into senility, and died in 1953.

            A little over two years later, on Easter 1955, Noel Corbu opened the Hotel-Restaurant La Tour in the Villa Bethanie. He used the Sauniere story, and the hints of alleged hidden treasure, as a gimmick to attract tourists. Because of his financial interest in the matter, and because he is the source for so much of the lore surrounding Sauniere and Rennes-le-Chateau, many authors dismiss Corbu’s account of the story as unreliable. There was no mystery regarding Sauniere, his wealth, and his domain, they say, until Corbu invented it. But he appears to have genuinely believed in the existence of the treasure, as he financed digs to try to find it, and hired dowsers to determine the best spots to dig at. Villagers who knew him still attest to the veracity of his claims.

            As I previously stated, the most common speculation among researchers of this mystery is that Sauniere discovered a valuable treasure, perhaps proof of a secret that enabled him to blackmail the Catholic Church, or other people in positions of power. This, they think, is how he acquired his riches. These same people also tend to think that Sauniere’s decoration of his church was an attempt to communicate this secret to others. The results of my own investigation do indicate that Sauniere found a treasure beneath the ground at Rennes-le-Chateau. But I do not believe that he sold it to anybody, or used it to blackmail anyone. The treasure which I think he probably found is one so valuable that selling it would have been foolish. So too would it have been foolish to tell anyone else about the treasure who did not already know. The treasure in question is most valuable when kept secret from all but the elect few. I the hands of the right person, this treasure could be a source of power so great that worldly riches would seem but a trifle to him who was able to use it.

            To understand the nature of this treasure, we will have to delve deeply into the ancient beliefs held by the secret societies whose fingerprints can be found on every aspect of this mystery. We will have to learn what occult ritual magic is actually all about. But first, we will have to identify the groups involved, and here we are not limited to the Priory of Sion alone. In fact, the Priory seems to be merely a puppet in the hands of a much more powerful unseen master.