Edward II of England was in an awkward position. He was the son-in-law of Philippe, but he did not share Philippe’s obsessive loathing of the Templars and had no desire to per­secute them. Against his better judgment he implemented the Inquisition and had a large number ofTemplars arrest­ed. However, they were given comparatively light sentences and were not subjected to the continued persecution that Philippe meted out to the Templars in France.

In Scotland, the Papal Bull was disdainfully ignored and the Templars flourished. Each Bruce and Stewart King from the time of Robert the Bruce has been a Knight Templar from birth, so there wasn’t much chance of Philippe’s orders being carried out there.


The Cutting of the Elm

The Order of the Temple (Knights Templar) and the Priory of Sion shared the same Grand Master and were two arms of the same organization until something called the “cutting of the elm,” which took place at Gisors in 1188. This falling out between the two orders was supposedly caused by the so-called “treason” ·of Grand Master Gerard de Ridefort, which according to the Dossiers Secrets, resulted in Europe’s loss of Jerusalem to the Saracens.

There is an historic record of the “cutting of the elm” at Gisors in 1188, although no source except for the “Priory Documents” connects this event to the Templars or to the Priory of Sion. It is one of those apparently silly, medieval tales which one suspects hides a greater and more solemn truth. There was, in fact..,an elm in the Champ Sacre -the sacred field which had been deemed as such for centuries. The tree was said to have been over eight hundred years old and so large that nine men could hardly link hands around its circumference. The field was used for meetings between the kings of England and France.

According to one account, matters reached boiling point on one occasion between Henry II of England and Philippe II of France. In an example, perhaps, of the eter­nal antipathy that exists between the English and the French, Henry II and his entourage took refuge from the Sun that was beating down on the field, leaving the French victims to the unremitting heat. Unable to bear it any more and possibly humiliated by the jibes of the English, the numerically superior French attacked the English, who retreated into the city of Gisors. In an act of belligerent defiance, Philippe II had the tree cut down and returned to Paris in a vile temper, saying that he would never again play the part of woodcutter.

Another account says that Philippe told Henry that he intended to cut down the tree. Henry was enraged by this and put hoops of iron around the tree trunk to reinforce it. The French attacked and Henry’s son, Richard the Lionhearted, and his men protected the tree, but with great losses. The French won and the tree was cut down.

Both of these accounts are probably allegorical tales point­ing at something altogether different than what is apparent. However, it does seem that at this point in history the Order of Sion and the Knights Templar parted company. The Order was to continue its dedication to the Merovingian line and was known as the Priory of Sion from this time foreword, while the Knights Templar appear to have allied themselves with the Scottish royal bloodline, the House of Stuart, an offshoot of the Merovingian house. The Stuarts later, when exiled in France, became deeply involved in Freemasonry and founded what is known as the “Scottish Rite,” which has more degrees than other Masonic organizations and promises knowledge of mysteries that are essentially Scottish.

There are records deposited in Orleans which suggest that members of the Priory of Sion misbehaved there, angering both the Pope and the King of France, Louis XIV, with vari­ous decadent practices. By 1619 the authorities lost patience and the Priory of Sion was forced to leave their premises at Saint-Samson in Orleans. It seems unlikely that this was of any great importance in the total history of the Priory of Sion. Rather, it suggests that Orleans by that time was an outpost of little consequence and the main thrust of the Priory’s activities was being conducted elsewhere.

One thing that in turn annoyed the Priory of Sion about Louis XIV was his decision to give France a new national Meridian, as calculated by the astronomer Cassini, to pass through the Paris Observatory. Dan Brown mentions that the “Rose Line” (supposedly the original, ancient meridian) runs through l’Eglise de Saint-Sulpice. Le Serpent Rouge and other “Priory documents” maintain that this older meridi­an on the north-south axis ran through several hermetic churches in France, including Saint-Sulpice in Paris, the Lady of the Roses cathedral in Rodez, St. Vincent’s in Carcasonne and the Church of St. Stephen’s in Bourges. Significantly, it also ran through Rennes-le-Chateau, whose name itself comes from Rhedae, the name of one of the Celtic tribes that considered the Rose Line sacred. Louis XIV replaced romanticism and religious significance with a mun­dane line with the intention of facilitating commercial life. 2
2 It has been pointed out that the meridian line in Washington, D.C. was also moved when Greenwich in England became the International Meridian. Capital Street is Washington’s present meridian line on the North-South axis. Until it was changed, the “zero meridian” line was on 16th Street, on which you will find a Scottish Rite Temple and other eso­teric churches and monuments.


The Nostradamus Connection

In the sixteenth century, the Lorraine and Guise families made repeated attempts to take over the French throne, which was at that time in the hands of the Valois family. Their efforts, as Holy Blood, Holy Grail hints, were coordinated by the Priory of Sion. Francois de Guise was on the point of achieving this in 1563 when he was assassinated. This did not deter them however, and by the end of the century the Valois family disappeared. The Guise family also suffered considerably from the feud and they were no longer able to realize their ambition.

One of those suspected of helping the Guise and Lorraine houses is Nostradamus. As he was astrologer to the French court, ideally positioned to advise the two families on mat­ters of state that concerned them, he could have acted as a spy on their behalf. It is also thought that many of Nostradamus’ writings are not the prophecies that they are generally considered to be, but codes of various kinds revealing the secret plans of the Priory of Sion.

Some of Nostradamus’ “prophecies” referred not to the future, but to the contemporary past and present and specifically to the Merovingians and the Knights Templar. According to Gerard de Sede, who wrote extensively on the Cathars, the Templars, the Merovingian dynasty, Sauniere and Rennes-le-Chateau, Nostradamus spent time in Lorraine. He is said to have been shown a mysterious book upon which he later based his writ­ings. This book was kept at the Abbey of Orval which, as we have seen, was the place where the Priory probably originated.

The same families have been consistently involved in the reli­gious disturbances of the sixteenth century, the French civil war known as the Fronde of the seventeenth century and the Masonic conspiracies of the eighteenth century They have also featured prominently in the history of the Priory of Sion. They owe their heritage to the Merovingian line, which passed through Dagobert II and his son Sigisbert II.


The Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion

The list of Grand Masters that Dan Brown provides in The Da Vinci Code appeared originally in the Dossiers Secrets. The list consists partly of those who one would expect to be involved in a clandestine organization. Many of them had connections with such places as Rennes-le-Chateau and Stenay and many were also connected in various ways to the influential Lorraine family.

On the other hand, there are individuals who are well­known in other contexts, but apparently incongruous in this one. One thing that they all had in common were their unorthodox religious beliefs. Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln have concluded that the title of Grand Master of the Priory has been passed down through families of Merovingian descent, but if there is nobody available through these means for some reason, an outsider is invited to take over the position. This would explain how Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton and Jean Cocteau were listed.

One curious “coincidence” concerns Cocteau. After the “cutting of the elm” in 1188, the first Grand Master of the Priory of Sion was Jean de Gisors. Since that time, every male Grand Master has adopted the name “Jean” and each of the four females who took on the role became “Jeanne.” However Jean de Gisors was listed in the Priory documents not as “Jean I” but as “Jean II” bringing about speculation that Jean I was either John the Baptist, John the Evangelist (John the Beloved of the Fourth Gospel) or St. John the Divine, the author of The Book of Revelation. John the Baptist was the prophet who predicted the arrival of the Messiah, a royal figure who would defeat the Roman invaders. John the Baptist presented a great danger to Herod-Antipas of Galilee who had him executed later. Jesus Christ was, in fact, a disciple of John the Baptist. Christian scholars have always found it difficult to explain why Jesus Christ should appear subordinate ·to John the Baptist and some heretics throughout the years have even proclaimed that it was John,. not Jesus, who was the Christ. These peo­ple are known as “Johannites.”

Jean Cocteau, according to the Dossiers Secrets, was Jean XXIII, as he was the twenty-third male to hold the position. When Pope Pius XII died in 195 9, Jean Cocteau was still the Grand Master. The new pope, Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Rancalli, caused considerable consternation when he chose his papal name to be John XXIII. This was the same name taken by the infamous “antipope,” who set himself up as a rival to the papacy in’the fifteenth century. It was inexplica­ble that the new pope would want to adopt this name.

In 1976, a collection of poems was published which were said to have been written by Pope John XXIII. It is not certain that they were really penned by him, but the introduction throws an interesting spanner in the works. It suggests that John XXIII was a member of the “Rose-Croix.” As we have seen, the sub­title that the Priory of Sion adopted in 1188 was “Rose-Croix Veritas.” Does this mean that Pope John XXIII was a member of the Priory of Sion? It certainly seems beyond coincidence that the election ofJohn XXIII of the Priory of Sion would coincide with that of a pope who chose, against everyone’s wishes, to call himself John XXIII. It is impossible that the list was con­trived since it was deposited in the Bibliotheque Nationale in 1956 and the Pope was not in power until 1958.

Pope John XXIII went on to bring about the greatest changes to the Roman Catholic church that had ever been seen. He reversed the church’s position on Freemasonry; for two hundred years previous, Catholics had been forbidden from joining. Now that sanction was lifted. In his apostolic letter of June 1960, he attached particular significance to “The Precious Blood of Jesus.” He said that what had actu­ally redeemed man was Christ’s suffering and the shedding of his blood. These two aspects of Jesus’ story thereby extended to assume greater significance than either the Resurrection or the Crucifixion itself It has been said that it changes the whole basis that supports Christian belief In other words, it was not necessary for Jesus to die for the purpose of redeeming man’s sins. This effectively rendered the Crucifixion and the Resurrection as irrelevant.


Some of the Alleged Grand Masters

Nicolas Flamel born circa 1330, probably in Pontoise, France, died circa 1418, Paris

Nicolas Flamel was the first Grand Master of the Priory not to have a family connection with the other Grand Masters. His name is perhaps familiar to aficionados of Harry Potter. It was Flamel who was said to have worked with the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Professor Albus Dumbledore, on alchemical matters such the changing of lead into gold. His posthu­mous fame comes from his life-time interest in the magi­cal arts and some people are certain that he never died! In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone he was said to be about 665 years old. This would more or less make sense as he was actually born in 1330. He was a copyist of illuminat­ed texts and a bookseller in Paris. Flamel educated himself through the books that passed through his hands. It is said that one night, Flamel had a dream in which an angel appeared to him, showing him a book which seemed to consist of pages made of thin wood and a cover of well­-fashioned copper. He was unable to take the book from the angel as he awoke from the dream.

However, that was not the last of the matter and so began a phase of his life that would change everything for him.

Some time later a visitor came to his bookstall, desperately in need of money. He offered to sell him a book. Flamel was able to identify some of the characters on the copper cover as Greek and the pages seemed to be made from the wood of tree saplings instead of the more us.ual parchment. Flamel bought the book immediately recognizing its similarity to that he had seen in his dream. He could make out that the book had the rather snappy title of 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.

At that time there were no Jews in France as they had all been driven out. Flamel realized that only a Jewish scholar would be able to help him translate the book so he copied out a few pages and set off for neighboring Spain in 1382. At first he had no luck as all the Jews that he met were suspicious of him. He was about to head back home to France when he happened to meet a converted Jew by the name of Maestro Canches who lived in Leon . Canches was initially suspicious of him too, until Flame! mentioned that the book was by Abraham the Jew who was well-known to him. He was able to translate the few pages that Flame! had brought with him, but was unable to return to France to translate the rest because of the persecution and the fact that he was too old to travel. However, as a result of the pages that Flamel could now understand, it is reported that he conducted the first successful alchemical transmutation at noon on January 17. Soon thereafter he became spectacularly wealthy and devoted much of this wealth to the foundation of charitable organizations such as hospitals and churches.