After decades of silence, the once-secret society Prieuré de Sion lifted its shroud of mystery and revealed itself to the public eye on August 12, 2017 in one of the most curious ways — by presenting an altruistic gift of €1,000 to Rennes-le-Château, a small village in France.
A celebratory event in Rennes-le-Château followed the donation, with the town inviting a number of guests from across France and greater Europe, announcing that the donation from the Prieuré de Sion would be used to restore a statue in the village that had been damaged by vandals. It was at this event that the Prieuré de Sion revealed to shocked onlookers that the secretive group was now an officially registered organization and presented their newest Grand Master, Marco Rigamonti, to the world.
Alexandre Painco, Mayor of Rennes-le-Château, warmly thanked both the Prieuré de Sion and Grand Master Marco Rigamonti for their generous gift and welcomed them into the village.
Though the donation was intended to help Rennes-le-Château restore artwork in the church, this rare public appearance sparked renewed interest into the truth behind the mysterious organization.
Like the Illuminati, the Priory of Sion is a storied “secret society” that is at the center of many conspiracy theories — but who are they, really?
Priory of Sion: conspiracy or just misunderstood?
Often anglicized as the Priory of Sion, the Prieuré de Sion is an organization that has been largely unknown to the world until the late twentieth century. They are a group steeped in deep tradition, myth, and mystery, leading some to believe that they have dangerous beliefs that threaten the status quo.
The order first attracted public interest after the release of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, the 1982 international bestseller written by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. The book theorizes that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and that their children and their descendants settled in what would become southern France. These descendants then married powerful nobles at the time to create the Merovingian dynasty, the ruling family of the area between the fifth and eighth centuries, and that a secret society, the Priory of Sion, believes these descendants have the rightful claim to the French throne and are covertly working to reinstate them.
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail asserts that the Priory of Sion is an organization of extraordinary conspiracy, comparable to beliefs about the Illuminati, over a millenia old, and that many high-profile figures (such as Leonardo da Vinci, Claude Debussy, Victor Hugo, and Isaac Newton) have been the leader, or Grand Master, of the secret society.
In return, this book then inspired Dan Brown’s own international bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, which was then adapted into a film starring Tom Hanks. Brown’s fictional tale documents an underground conspiracy by the Catholic church to hide Jesus’ bloodline, in which the Priory of Sion protects and exalts the said descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
Though there have been other accounts of the Prieuré de Sion in the media, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code thrust the organization into an international spotlight, demonizing them as blasphemers in the eyes of many. It can be gathered that all of this attention — much of it negative — was overwhelming for the Prieuré de Sion, and that they may have wanted to redirect the conspiratorial narrative placed upon their group, leading them to officially register and reintroduce themselves to society in 2015, led by Grand Master, Marco Rigamonti.
What is the true story behind the Priory of Sion?
According to the Priory of Sion website, the group is an Order of Chivalry, which works through “symbols, ancient rituals, theurgic practice and traditions, in order to live a personal and collective spirituality in communion with our Brothers and Sisters”.
The organization asserts that it was founded in 1099 in Jerusalem at the Abbey of “Our Lady of Mount Sion” by Godfrey of Bouillon. The site states that their Order was officially registered for the first time in 1956 and dissolved in 1993 before re-registering in 2015, “perpetuating the legitimate Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair’s lineage, through the actual Grand Master, Marco Rigamonti”.
There is much suspicion about the Priory of Sion’s claims, as many seem grandiose and often unbelievable. Scholarly records claim that the organization is not a secret society, but rather an elaborate hoax perpetrated by a Frenchman named Pierre Plantard, who used the false name “Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair”, beginning in 1956. Dissenters believe Plantard manufactured evidence to prove that he was a descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene — a successor Merovingian dynasty, the “Great Monarch” of Nostradamus’ prophecy, and the rightful heir to the French throne — and that he eventually saw organization, the Prieuré de Sion, as a failure which led to its dissolution in 1993. Some accounts even state that Plantard fantasized about creating an anti-Semitic, conservative organization modeled after medieval orders of chivalry, not what the Priory of Sion claims to stand for today.
While the organization does not necessarily have proof to support many of their tenets, causing theological scholars to dismiss their beliefs, the Prieuré de Sion holds steadfast while still maintaining allowance for skepticism.
The Priory of Sion does affirm many previous notions about the organization that were mentioned in The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail.
First, the Priory of Sion believe that there are legitimate descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, but do not “pretend to propose this genealogy like a certain fidelity to history… because we don’t have the relics to prove it storically” which the organization says is due to Nazis burning documents that support these theories during the Holocaust. They also claim Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, and Michel de Nostredame as former Grand Masters, a title now held by Marco Rigamonti.
Notably, the organization expresses disgust at being branded with negative, conspiracy-fueled accusations of meddling with global affairs in comparison with another infamous secret society, the Illuminati — which is rumored to control all political affairs without public knowledge. The Prieuré de Sion states that the Order is “apolitical and forbids its members to be made a place of political debate” and that the Priory of Sion is “discreet and reserved, but is not a secret society” as their members and chapters are officially registered. However, in a truly strange admission, their site clarifies that “Priory of Sion does not find anything criminal or reprehensible in the correct definition of the term “Illuminati”, since it is not a sense that implicitly includes fraud, deceit or concealment undue or even any deliberate manipulation of truth towards peoples.”
The future of the Priory of Sion: what comes next?
The Priory of Sion’s generous 2017 donation to Rennes-le-Château is groundbreaking for two reasons. First, it is significant that the organization chose the village, as is home to the Church of Mary Magdalene, an important destination in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail as an exalted space for the Priory of Sion. Most importantly, it marked the organization’s first foray into being a regular society (and introduction to their current Grand Master, Marco Rigamonti) making it plausible that the general public may be able to learn more about the Prieuré de Sion, as its mission — until otherwise spoken by the Order — has been merely speculation up until now.
Even after giving the world a glimpse into their Order, there is no doubt that the Priory of Sion is a deeply esoteric group that is steeped in lore and mystery. During a modern era that is so chaotic and overwhelming for many, it seems reasonable that some would try to find a connection to something larger than themselves with staunch tradition — something that both the Priory of Sion and the general public can agree with.
If you are intrigued by the Prieuré de Sion, their website offers more insight into the Order, and according to Grand Master Marco Rigamonti, they are accepting new members.