Last updated on February 27th, 2021

The Priory of Sion: A Star- Studded Cast of Grand Masters

By Tracy R. Twyman

“The Candidate must renounce his personality in order to devote himself to a higher moral apostolate.”
-Article 7, Prieuré Statutes

The Prieuré de Sion (Priory of Sion) was a secret society created in medieval France with the purpose of preserving the Merovingian bloodline and returning them to the throne of France. They were officially founded as the Order de Sion (Order of Sion) by Godfroi de Bouillon, in either 1090 or 1099. This was just prior to the First Crusade, which was also headed by de Bouillon. Their official headquarters was the Abbey of Notre Dame du Mont de Sion in Jerusalem. In March 1117 they had Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem (who, it is said, owed his throne to them due to their efforts on his behalf) negotiate the constitution of the Order of the Temple (a.k.a. the Knights Templar), as the military and administrative arm of the Order de Sion. The Templar order, which had already been around for more than a decade, was headed by Hughes de Payen, who was also a founding member of the Order de Sion. They are not mentioned again in history until 1152, when King Louis VII of France brought them 95 new members and gave them the Priory of Saint-Samson at Orléans.

In 1188 there was a rift between the Order of Sion and the Order of the Temple. The Templars’ current Grand Master, Gerard de Ridefort, had recently been responsible for Europe losing the Holy Land to the Saracens, and had also committed some kind of unspecified “treason.” So in that year, during a ceremony called “the Cutting of the Elm”, the Order of Sion officially disavowed the Templars and cut themselves off from them. The Templars went on to become more closely allied with the House of Stuart, and the Scottish branch of the Grail bloodline. The Order of Sion selected a new Grand Master, Jean de Gisors, changed their name to “Prieuré de Sion”, and adopted an odd nickname, “Ormus.” This was written with the “M” written as the sign for Virgo and the other four letters 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 rose cross as its insignia. It is significant, then, that in that same year of 1188, the Priory of Sion also adopted the subtitle “Order de la Rose-Croix Veritas” (“Order of the True Rose-Cross”). They kept that bizarre nickname, “Ormus”, until 1306, the year before the downfall of the Knights Templar in France. In that year, 1307, Sion’s Grand Master, Guillaume de Gisors, received the golden head called Caput LVIIIM from the Order of the Temple. Apparently then, there was still some degree of cooperation between the two orders.

In 1619, the Priory of de Sion was 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, not to reappear until 1956 – or so it seemed, when someone claiming to be the Priory of Sion began to release a flood of apparent propaganda, the best of which was deposited in Paris’ Bibliotheque Nationale. Often it would be released under obvious pseudonyms of symbolic significance, such as “Marie-Madeleine” (“Mary Magdalene’) and “Antoine l’Ermite” (“St. Anthony the Hermit”). Other times it was published under the names of actual people, (some of whom died mysteriously shortly after publication). For instance, Dossiers Secrets (Secret Dossiers), was a strange collection of purported data pertaining to the Merovingians and the Priory of Sion. It contained genealogies, letters, newspaper clippings, and other scraps all thrown together, along with commentary from the author, “Henri Lobineau”, and some other unnamed commentator. However, within the Dossiers themselves it is revealed that “Lobineau” is a pseudonym, and it is claimed that the real author was one Leo Schidlof, who died in 1966. The authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail talked to his daughter, who denied that he had written the Dossiers, but said that during his life and especially on the day of his death a number of people had tried to contact him on the subject, which he claimed to no nothing about. Yet Secret Dossiers asserts that he had not only written or compiled most of the material in the book, but had also possessed a leather briefcase filled with secret documents pertaining to the Rennes-le-Chateau between 1600 and 1800. The Dossiers claim that shortly before his death M. Schidlof passed the briefcase onto a courier named Fakhar ul Islam, who was supposed to meet in East Germany with an “agent delegated by Geneva” in February 1967 in order to transfer the briefcase to him. However, it is claimed that Fakhar ul Islam was expelled from East Germany before this could occur, and went back to Paris to “await further orders.” His body was found on February 20 on the railway tracks at Melan, France, having been thrown from an express train. The details of Mr. Fakhar ul Islam’s death turned out to be true, as the discovery of his decapitated were reported in the papers the following day. The briefcase, of course, was gone.

Secret Dossiers makes a number of controversial claims, some of which one would expect: that the Merovingians were descended from Jesus, that the Merovingian bloodline did not fade away with the death of Dagobert II, and that the Priory of Sion has continued its activities on behalf of the bloodline up until the present day. The most outrageous claim, however, was the list of supposed Grand Masters, or “Nautonniers” (Navigators) as they were called, who supposedly headed the order from 1188 until 1918. While a number of them were members of the Merovingian bloodline or well-known friends of the family, others were quite unexpected, names you might have heard before in another context.

Nicholas Flamel ( G.M. 1398 – 1418) – A hermetic alchemist and book copyist in Paris during the 1300s, Flamel came across an interesting book during his work that was titled: The Sacred Book of Abraham the Jew, Prince, Priest, Levite, Astrologer, and Philosopher to that Tribe of Jews who by the Wrath of God were Dispersed Amongst the Gauls. In 1382 he met a Jew in Léon who told him the secret of the text. He then returned to Paris, and at noon on January 17 of the following year is said to have conducted “the first” alchemical transmutation. After that, he became extremely wealthy, bought thirty houses, and founded a number of churches and hospitals.

Leonardo da Vinci (G.M. 1510 – 1519) – Painter, sculptor, architect, engineer and scientist, Leonardo is well-known as one of the most profound intellects of the Renaissance, and history as we know it, for that matter. It is known that he possessed a mystical point of view and a number of heretical beliefs. Indeed, many list him as one of the first Rosicrucians. He was certainly a member of the Order of the Crescent, created by René d’Anjou, a former Priory Grand Master and one of his closest friends. He is suspected of believing that Jesus had a twin brother, Thomas, and included a second identical Christ-like figure in his famous painting, The Last Supper.

Johann Valentin Andrea (G.M. 1637-1654) – Born in Württenberg, Germany in 1586, Andrae is widely thought to have started the first Rosicrucian order. He originally tried to publish his famous “manifesto”, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, anonymously, but later confessed to having written it “as a joke.” This is unlikely, however, as it reads less like a comedy and more like a complex web of Hermetic, alchemical and astrological symbolism. After its publication, Andrae created a network of secret societies that he called “Christian Unions”, for the purpose of preserving esoteric knowledge threatened by the Church. These unions also served as a refuge for heretics fleeing the Inquisition.

Robert Boyle (G.M. 1654 – 1691) – Recognized as the founder of modern chemistry and the scientific method, Boyle was the first to isolate a gas, and came up with the first atomic theory. He was educated in Geneva, where he became interested in occult subjects like alchemy and demonology. In 1619 he helped found the famous Philosophical College, which later became the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. This was a court-patronized board of influential scientists and philosophers – Jacobite Freemasons all of them – who met to discuss both scientific and esoteric matters. He was also one of the first to publicly welcome back the restored Stuart monarchy in 1660. He conducted voluminous alchemical experiments during his lifetime, which he was very secretive about, and published two treatises on the subject: Incalescence of Quicksilver with Gold and A Historical Account of a Degradation of Gold. His best friends were Isaac Newton and John Locke, and when he died he left them all of his alchemical papers, as well as a mysterious red powder which he used in his experiments.

Isaac Newton (G.M. 1691 – 1727) – The father of modern science, Newton invented the calculus, discovered the laws of motion and gravity, and established the basic properties of light. Born in 1642, he claimed to be descended from “ancient Scottish nobility”, although this claim was severely doubted at the time. He became a member of the Royal Society in 1672, and in 1703 was elected their president. Although not a Freemason as far as we know, he was a member of a quasi-Masonic organization called the Gentlemen’s Club of Spalding. He was a practicing alchemist who worked in conjunction with Boyle and Locke, and was also very interested in other esoteric subjects, such as sacred geometry, numerology and Gnosticism. He believed that the ancient Jews, especially Noah and Moses, possessed special divine knowledge, and that the architecture of Solomon’s Temple concealed secret alchemical formulas. (He even believed that the ceremonies Solomon conducted there were alchemical experiments.) He was also interested in the origins of monarchy, particularly the ancient Judaic kind, and wrote about it in his book The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended. He considered Pythagoras’ “Music of the Spheres” to be an allegory for the laws of gravitation, and thought that there were musical “correspondences” contained in certain architecture. He doubted the divinity of Jesus, the concept of the Trinity, and the reliability of the New Testament. Shortly before his death, during which he refused Last Rites, he and a few friends of his burned a large volume of his personal papers.

Victor Hugo (G.M. 1844 – 1885) – A tremendously influential poet, playwright and novelist, he is said to have provided the “single greatest impetus” to the Romantic movement. His most well-known works are the historical novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame and of course the play Les Miserables. By the age of 17 he was friends with Charles Nodier (another Priory of Sion Grand Master), and established a publishing house with him in that same year. It was from Nodier that he learned all about Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Gothic architecture, all of which feature prominently in his work.

Claude Debussy (G.M. 1885 – 1918) – A famous nineteenth century pianist and composer, his most well-known works were Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (“Prelude to the afternoon of a faun”) and Claire de Lune. Born into a poor family in 1862, by the time he was in his early teens he was performing for French nobility, and in his eighteenth year was adopted by a Russian noblewoman who took him traveling with her. As he became older, he fell in with influential political and aristocratic circles, as well as prominent members of the developing “French occult revival.” These circles included Victor Hugo (whose work he set to music), Emile Hoffet, opera singer Emma Calvé, Rosicrucian playwright the Comte de Philippe Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, Marcel Proust, Paul Valérey, and Berénger Sauniére, that infamous curé of the Rennes-le-Château.

Jean Cocteau (G.M. 1918 – ?) – A leading member of the proto-surrealist movement, this famous French poet, playwright, novelist, sculptor, painter and designer is probably best known for his films Orpheé (Orpheus) and Les Sang d’un Poète (Blood of a Poet), both made while he was recovering from an opium addiction. Born into a politically influential family, Cocteau maintained friends in political and aristocratic circles for most of his life, and at one point was asked by Charles de Gaulle’s brother to give a speech on the state of the nation. (De Gaulle, by the way, has also been alleged to be a member of the Priory of Sion.) Cocteau’s signature has been found on the Priory of Sion’s published statutes, quoted at the beginning of this article. This is questionable, however, considering what Article 7 of the statutes demands. Given his reputation, one can hardly imagine Jean Cocteau actually “renouncing” his personality.

Whether these people actually served in the office of Grand Master is very uncertain, for many have questioned the veracity of both the Secret Dossiers and the modern-day Priory, whose claims include, among other things, possession of the Ark of the Covenant. Especially under suspicion is M. Pierre Plantard de Sainte Clair, who was the modern Priory’s Grand Master up until the mid-eighties, and who claimed to be the most direct descendent of the Merovingian kings currently alive. He was extensively interviewed in the works of well-known Priory propagandist Gerard de Sede, as well as for the books Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Messianic Legacy by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. However, while conducting their research, these authors came across indications that the Priory had been heavily infiltrated by both the Knights of Malta and the “Propaganda Due” Mason lodge, two secret societies notorious for their involvement with mobsters and fascists. They also discovered that the C.I.A. had smuggled some Priory documents relating to the genealogy of the Merovingians out of France with the help of British Intelligence. They began to doubt the motives behind the Priory of Sion and Pierre Plantard. And they are not alone. Rumors circulate on the internet that M. Plantard is a hoaxster with a criminal record and Nazi affiliations. The truth about Plantard remains to be seen. Perhaps he would like to respond to the charges, in the next issue of Dagobert’s Revenge .