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The Templar Code For Dummies 1st Edition

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  • #61
    Step right up and be a Templar!
    Templar Knighthood is now on sale — and easily purchased on your Visa or MasterCard — in the Hereditary Knights Templar of Britannia, a division of Charter Gallant & Company! Based in England, prices range from $150 to $10,000 to purchase titles like Sir, Knight, Lord, Baron, Viscount, Count, Marquis, or Earl, along with a wide assortment of rings, swords, and robes!

    This group is run by a character named Gary Martin Beaver, who has become notorious in Britain for selling fake titles of nobility. It is only one of several companies that Beaver has started over the years, and he has a wide variety of impressive sounding titles: Lord Beaver of Newport; His Serene Excellency, the Magistral Prior of Notre Dame St. Mary of Magdalene; the Chevalier Baron de Richecourt, KGCNS, KtJ; the Marquis of Aulnois; and the Most Reverend Archbishop Gary, Hugues II.

    The purchase of European titles has been a scam for centuries, and the Internet makes it that much simpler to perpetrate. The British Embassy in Washington, D.C., has become so weary with questions about bogus nobility titles that it has placed a warning on its Web site, stating: "The sale of British titles is prohibited by the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act, 1925," and that such titles are, in fact, meaningless. With very few exceptions, titles must be inherited or earned. And while plunking some lordly prefix or suffix to your name on a business card can certainly look spiffy, it won't snag you a special table in a restaurant, early boarding on a plane, or a Get Out of Jail Free card if you get caught driving like a jerk. True knights, lords, dukes, viscounts, and the rest do have a place in British and European society, but the establishments and institutions that deal with them on a daily basis are hip to the bogus nobility racket and are unimpressed by rubes with store-bought baronage. Bottom line: They're expensive and of little use, apart from trying to pick up gullible dates in Monte Carlo bars.

    The group is believed to survive today with somewhere between 140 and 500 members. Its purported leader, a Swiss musician and conductor named Michael Tabachnik, has been arrested and tried several times for connections to a criminal organization. He was most recently acquitted in December 2006.

    Ordo Templi Orientis
    The Ordo Templi Orientis (translated as both “Order of the Oriental Templars” and “Order of the Temple of the East”) is another organization with its roots in pre-WWI Germany. The OTO exists today but has gone through several phases. Today it claims approximately 3,000 members in almost 60 countries, although the bulk of its membership is in the United States.

    The OTO’s connection to the Knights Templars is tenuous at best — a few of its degrees are based on Masonic tales of the Templars, but the OTO is most definitely not associated with Freemasonry at all, and barely with the Templars. Nevertheless, the OTO is an enthusiastic group, and its founders were among some of the most influential promoters of esoteric, spiritualistic, and mystical movements beginning in the late 1800s. (You can find more information on the modern OTO at their Web site,

    Knights But Not Templars
    Organizations that espouse chivalric ideals, or that claim descent from medieval chivalric orders, are not all derived from the Knights Templars. Many such groups exist around the world, and listing them all here would be impossible. We include a few just to differentiate between those that are Templar and those that sound or seem similar.

    Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
    This Catholic order traces its origins to knights who kept constant vigil and protected the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem during the Crusades. First chartered in A.D. 1122, they are authorized by the Vatican, and they sponsor pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Rome, and other sacred sites.

    The present order was resurrected in 1847 by Pope Pius IX, who authored the oath taken by its members to “reject modernism” and accept unconditionally all teachings of the Church. The order owns the Hotel Columbus (the former palace of Pope Julius II, the Palazzo dei Penitenzieri) in Rome, both as their headquarters and as a source of income. (You can find more information about them on their Web site,

    Order of the Grail
    This organization has undergone several name changes over the years.

    Known variously as the Rosicrucian and Military Order of the Sacred Grail and its French name, Les Chevaliers de la Rose et de La Croix, the Order of the Grail is a Rosicrucian/Martinist order (see the “Martinism” sidebar, earlier in this chapter). Open to both men and women, the order promotes the study of esoteric Christian teachings, and promotes the traditional chivalric values of integrity, morality, and courage. Although its religious leanings are more to Gnostic and hermetic traditions, knights and dames of the order can be Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. (For more information on the Order of the Grail, check out their Web site at

    Sovereign Military Order of Malta
    The Knights Hospitaller (see Chapter 3) survived long after the Templars were disbanded. In fact, they exist today and can trace a direct line of descent back to their formation in A.D. 1087. Like the Templars, they were an order of warrior monks, charged with the duty of protecting pilgrims. And like the rest of the Christian forces during the Crusades, the Hospitallers were forced to withdraw from the Holy Land in the face of defeat. The Hospitallers were granted the property of the Templars after their excommunication and dissolution in 1312.

    Retreat to Rhodes
    When the Hospitallers retreated, they took up residence on the Greek island of Rhodes, after a brief stop at Cyprus, in 1309. Their first mission in Jerusalem had been the administration of a hospital, hence their name. After they moved to Cyprus, and then to Rhodes, their mission changed, along with their name. They became the Knights of Rhodes and turned far more militaristic. They were sovereign over the island and, thus, were something of a constant target for Barbary pirates and Islamic forces, who attacked them repeatedly over the next centuries.

    Move to Malta
    In 1522, the Sultan Suleiman (Arabic for Solomon) led an invasion of 200,000 troops against 7,000 defending Knights of Rhodes. The knights held off the siege in their walled city for six months, before finally surrendering. The few suvivors were allowed to retreat to Sicily, and in 1530, they were given the island of Malta by King Charles V of Spain. He hadn’t done them any big favor — Malta was a sitting duck between Libya and Sicily in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, alone, isolated, and nowhere near any helpful neighbors. Again the order changed its name, to the Knights of Malta.

    The Ottoman Turks weren’t noted for their hospitality as far as Christian warrior monks were concerned. Sulieman in particular wasn’t exactly pleased that the Knights had simply changed their address. So he attacked the island and its new landlords in 1565. This time the Knights prevailed in the face of another huge force, in what was a humiliating defeat for the Ottomans. The Knights’ fortifications still stand today, and they ruled the island until Napoleon came along in 1798. Stopping off on his way to Egypt, Napoleon asked to make a pit stop at the island. When his ships were in the harbor, in a show of supremely bad manners, he blasted away at his astonished hosts. Worse, Napoleon looted the treasure of the Knights before sailing on to go plunder Egypt. The French occupied the island until a revolt in 1880, backed by England. It was an English protectorate until achieving independence in 1964.

    The Hospitallers had vast holdings across Europe and into Russia, partially because the Church gave them so much Templar property. As a result, they were a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately for the order, Protestantism began to chip away at their assets. King Henry VIII dissolved the order in England and confiscated their substantial property. As German and Scandinavian states converted to Protestantism, the Knights in those areas reconstituted themselves as a Protestant order. And the Knights briefly found a staunch ally in Russia in the late 1700s.

    The order today
    The Sovereign Military Order of Malta (or their proper name, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta) survives today as a modern Catholic order of knighthood. All officers of the order must be of noble birth. What makes them unusual is that, even though they no longer hold territory in Malta or anywhere else, the order considers itself to be sovereign, a legal term that sort of makes them a kingdom with no kingdom. The Knights own two buildings in Rome, and they are exempt from local laws, much like a foreign embassy. If you’re standing in either the Palazzo Malta or the Villa Malta, you’re technically on foreign soil. Today, the Knights largely engage in humanitarian and charitable work, and have “permanent observer status” within the United Nations, along with diplomatic relations with 93 countries. They maintain a close relationship with the Vatican, and the pope appoints representatives and clergy to the order. Priories in the United States are located in New York; Washington, D.C.; and San Francisco. There are more than 25 U.S. chapters with approximately 1,700 knights and dames of the order. There are more than 11,000 members worldwide. (You can find more information at their Web site,


    • #62
      Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem
      The Order of Malta was dissolved in England by King Henry VIII when he pitched the Catholics out of the country in a fit of pique over the Church’s objection to divorce. The Knights of Malta survived elsewhere, but they disappeared in England.

      In 1826, a group of French noblemen were seeking mercenaries to fight for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire. They were actually a branch of the surviving Order of Malta, and their motives for helping Greece was to seek a new homeland for the order in Rhodes, because Napoleon had pitched them off of Malta 30 years before. They formed an English branch of their order to raise money and men for the cause. But the Greeks managed to win their revolution without help from these new Knights. The English priory survived as little more than a club in London, with its headquarters in the Old Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell, the area that had been the original London headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller in the 1100s.

      Over the years, several attempts were made to jumpstart a new order based on the Knights of Malta, but without the Catholic connection. In keeping with the Knights Hospitallers’ original mission from the Holy Land, in 1877 they formed the St. John Ambulance Association. This was the period of the Industrial Revolution, and accidents were fast outpacing disease as the principal cause of death. The association took on the job of training the public in techniques of first aid and issuing certification to graduates of their classes. They published manuals on the subject and provided first-aid supplies, becoming successful enough in a short time to be able to build a new headquarters and storehouse at St. John’s Gate.

      In 1882, the order established an eye hospital in Jerusalem, which still operates today. Five years later, they organized the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade in London. In 1888, the order was declared a Royal Order of Chivalry by Queen Victoria, and the reigning king or queen of England is considered to be the official head of the order.

      The Catholic Order of Malta refused to recognize the Protestant English order until 1963, and they became part of an alliance that jointly recognized five Orders of St. John from around the world as the legitimate heirs to the traditions and titles of the original Knights Hospitaller born in the days of the Crusades. (You can find more information on the Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem at their Web site,

      Deutscher Orden (Teutonic Knights)
      The Teutonic Knights (see Chapter 3) remained a strong military force long after the Crusades slipped into history. Until the 1500s, they held lands along the Baltic Sea in Prussia, Estonia, Latvia, and Poland. Eventually, the Teutonic States became the Duchy of Prussia, and Teutonic Knights were a force to be reckoned with up through the 1700s in wars between German states and the Ottoman Empire. Teutonic Knights were often called upon to serve as commanders for mercenary forces by Habsburg kings in Austria. The order was officially ordered dissolved by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1809, although the order continued to survive in Austria until 1923.

      In 1929, the order was reorganized as a strictly religious group, but when the Nazis took control of Austria in 1938, the Knights again disappeared. That didn’t stop Hitler and his propaganda ministers from using images and legends of the old Teutonic Knights as inspiration for their new army of greater Germany, but the Nazis had no use for secret societies or any other sort of order that harkened back to an earlier time that they did not control — which meant that the Teutonic Knights were a terrific group to emulate, as long as no one really was one.

      Nevertheless, the order once again remade itself after WWII ended, and, like the Knights of Malta, became a charitable, international organization, with a special concentration on clinics for German communities in foreign countries. After a financial crisis in 1990, the order was reduced to just 1,000 or so members, which includes 100 priests and 200 nuns. They are known today simply as the Deutscher Orden (German Order). (You can find more on them at their Web site,

      Order of Christ
      The Order of Christ occupies a curious position in Templar lore and history; we discuss its origins in Chapter 5. Its origin in Portugal as the Templars with a different name on the door after their excommunication and dissolution is well known. Portugal’s King Denis had simply informed the pope that the Templar property in his kingdom had merely been on loan and that it really belonged to him. The Templars changed their name and went on, business as usual.

      In the 1700s, the Order of Christ seemed to pass out of the control of the Portuguese monarchy and into the hands of the Vatican. The argument went that the Portuguese were given the right to bestow the order in the 1300s by papal decree, and what the pope giveth, he mayeth also taketh awayeth. Even today, the Portuguese dispute Rome’s control of the order; they went to far as to arrest anyone caught wearing the medals of the order who had not received them from the king.

      Nevertheless, the Order of Christ is considered the supreme order of chivalry bestowed by the Catholic Church. It is seldom awarded (the last known instance was in 1987) and is reserved only for European heads of state who are Catholics. The last holder of the order died in 1997, and it is unclear whether the award will survive in the future.

      Teetotaling Templars of Temperance
      America’s great experiment with the prohibition of alcohol was not a rousing success, but it was a long time in the making. The temperance movement in the United States stretches back into the early 1800s, and for some reason, a few organizers believed the Templars were just the group to emulate. At the height of the original Templars’ power, there was an expression making the rounds concerning someone who was a slave to the grape as “drinking like a Templar.” So it is with no little irony that at least two teetotaling Templar groups popped up in the 19th century to carry the banner of temperance.

      Templars of Honor and Temperance
      A group was formed in 1845 that would eventually be come to known as the Templars of Honor and Temperance to fight the scourge of alcohol. Actually created as a more ritually elaborate branch of an earlier group called the Sons of Temperance, they were organized in a manner similar to Freemason lodges, They initiated new candidates into the order using a ceremonial ritual, conferred a series of six degrees, wore Masonic-like collars and aprons, and had secret passwords and handshakes. They have not survived in modern times.

      International Order of Good Templars
      In 1851, an unrelated group was formed in Castor Hollow, New York, calling itself the Order of Good Templars. Like the Templars of Honor and Temperance (see the preceding section), they had a similar mission to battle the sale, use, and abuse of booze. Their name would seem to imply that they were distancing themselves from “bad Templars,” and they may very well have been reacting to post-meeting drinking parties of the Masonic Knights Templar. They also fashioned themselves after the Masonic lodges, required collars and aprons, and conferred three degrees on their members.

      The Templar "Superfine Small Car"
      It's a fair bet to say that when you think of the Knights Templar, you probably envision fearsome guys with swords and lances riding on powerful, snorting, majestic steeds, and not tooting around in 4-cylinder, wooden-spoked, open roadsters. But in 1917, that's just what appeared on the market in America.

      Born in Lakewood, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland, the Templar Motors Company came into being. For reasons known only to its founders, they chose to name their upstart company after the order, and adopted the Maltese Cross (see Chapter 4) as their logo. WWI was raging in Europe, and the new car factory was almost immediately pressed into service manufacturing war munitions. Nevertheless, a few of the company's first cars rolled off the assembly line, and they were unlike other cars on the road at that time.

      From the start, the Templars used an innovative 4-cylinder engine design that was more fuel-efficient than most cars of the day, and for the size of the engine, its 43-horsepower output was impressive (by comparison, the 1911 Model T Ford was rated at 22 horsepower. A modern-day Ford Escort manages about 110 horsepower, while a new Corvette cranks out almost 350 horsepower). It's overhead valve design inspired its name, the Templar Vitalic Top-Valve Motor.

      Templar Motors offered a two-passenger roadster and four-and five-passenger touring cars, priced between $1,985 and $2,255, ($33,000 to $39,000 in 2007 dollars), at almost four times the price that Henry Ford was hawking Model Ts for.

      The Templars were truly luxury cars, sporting 27 coats of paint, wooden-spoked wheels, an electric horn, an onboard tire pump, a searchlight, a clock, a locking ignition switch, a windshield wiper, a dashboard light, a complete set of tools, and a unique "neverleak" convertible top. The car also had a special outside compartment that housed a compass and Kodak camera. The company's advertising called it "The Superfine Small Car."

      In 1920, a Templar Sportette driven by Erwin "Cannonball" Baker (who went on to be the first commissioner of NASCAR) set a series of speed records, including driving from New York to Los Angeles in 4 days, 5 hours, and 43 minutes.

      The Templar cars were successful and became the #15 car company out of more than 40 operating in the United States at the time. Between 1917 and 1924, 6,000 Templars were sold by more than 160 dealers. Unfortunately, their history would be similar to the Knights who were their namesake. After a brief period of notable success, they ended — literally — in flames. Financial mismanagement and a catastrophic fire at their Lakewood plant finally killed off the company by 1924.

      Templar Motors is not the only company to use the symbolism of the order. More than 1,900 businesses in the United States alone have the word Templar as part of their name. And the next time you're in the grocery, look for King Arthur Flour. Founded in 1790, it's the oldest flour company in the United States. Its label depicts a Templar knight, carrying a banner with a red cross.

      Good Templars took a lifelong pledge to abstain from consuming or selling alcohol. Members were prohibited from any kind of activity that promoted the alcoholic-beverage business, including renting their property to purveyors of hooch, selling apples to anyone who might use them to make hard cider, or even delivering coal to a distillery.

      The order quickly grew in popularity and was dedicated to the swelling temperance movement that was sweeping the United States. By 1865, there were 60,000 members. Just four years later, with the end of the Civil War, the membership swelled to more than 400,000, and they helped to form the independent Prohibition Party.

      In the 1860s, the order spread to Britain, and by 1900, it had expanded worldwide. In the United States, they became especially popular within Scandinavian immigrant communities, and the order’s lodges became social centers for Swedes and Norwegians fresh off the boat.

      The organization still exists today as the International Organization of Good Templars, and describes itself as the largest international nongovernmental organization working in the field of temperance. It dropped the Masonic-like ceremonies and regalia in the 1970s, apart from initiating new candidates. In spite of its American origin, it is headquartered today in Sweden, and has expanded its mission in more than 40 countries to fight substance abuse of all kinds. (You can find more information on the order at its Web site,


      • #63
        Part IV
        Templars and the Grail

        In this part . . .
        The Knights Templar, both in myth and reality, are tied fast to the core myth of knighthood — the Holy Grail. This part explores the Grail myths of the West, the tales of knights and their ladies fair, and their connection to the Templars. Chapter 10 looks at the origins of the Grail tales and the myths of King Arthur, and how the Templars became intertwined with them. From there Chapter 11 leaps back to the 21st century, into the brand-new saga of the Templars that has taken the world by storm, in the wake of the feverish Grail-mania brought on by The Da Vinci Code. It lays out the evidence for this new Grail legend in a bloodline of Christ, beginning in the 1st century B.D.B. (Before Dan Brown) with the brave few who carefully and cautiously put forward the notion that Jesus might have been married. From there, we hit the open road for the South of France, to the mysterious hill town of Rennes-le-Chateau, in order to blow away a little of the pixie dust and examine the possible truths behind the many mysteries of the land that the Templars called home.

        Chapter 10
        The Templars and the Quest for the Holy Grail

        In This Chapter
        ● Defining the many versions of the Grail
        ● Exploring the origins of the Grail legends
        ● Connecting the Templars to the Grail tales

        Ask anyone on the street today what the Holy Grail is, and most will tell you it was the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper. Readers of The Da Vinci Code may have a different answer for you, but most people would agree that the Last Supper reference is probably the right one.

        The many Grail legends over the centuries have always told the story of a quest by a hero who must prove his worthiness before he can possess the Grail’s powers or secrets. But, curiously, the Grail hasn’t always been seen as a cup — or even as holy, for that matter.

        The Grail legend first appeared in the 12th century as part of a larger collection of heroic tales about a young, inexperienced knight named Percival, one of the knights of King Arthur’s mythical kingdom of Camelot. Although they came from French sources, the stories were set in Wales or Britain. Though the fables of King Arthur and the Holy Grail are well known today, they took a long, circuitous route throughout history, and the Grail itself has represented many things other than the cup used at the Last Supper.

        This chapter is a whirlwind exploration of the different theories and metaphors that have made up the many myths of the quest for the Holy Grail.

        The Holy Grail: A Ten-Century Quest

        It is in Luke 22:14-20, at the Last Supper with Jesus and his apostles, that the cup is first mentioned. It appears not only in the Gospel of Luke, but in Matthew and Mark as well. In these three gospels lie the only biblical references to what became the legendary Grail — either the cup that held the wine or, perhaps, the dish that held the Passover lamb.

        No further reference to either of these famous pieces of dinnerware appears anywhere outside of the biblical record until an eighth-century hermit had a vision and wrote it down in a book called Gradale in A.D. 717. Even that book has not survived the centuries, and we only know about it because it was described by a Cistercian monk named Helinandus in the 13th century.

        The medieval Latin term gradale meant “shallow dish,” and it was translated into medieval French as greal, graal, or greel (spelling and pronunciation was a more fleeting, transitive, and mushy concept in those days). Authors Michael Bagient, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln played a word game with the medieval French terms San Greal (Holy Grail) and Sang Real (Royal Blood) in their book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and the same ball was picked up and run with by Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code (see Chapter 11).

        The Grail itself took on a variety of guises over the centuries, and not all of them were necessarily Christian in nature. In fact, not all of them have been a physical object. Here are some of the different versions of the Grail itself:

        ● The cup or serving dish used by Jesus at the Last Supper prior to his arrest.

        ● A bowl or dish — possibly the same one from the Last Supper — used by Joseph of Arimathea to collect the blood of Jesus as he hung on the cross (or afterward in Jesus’s tomb). This Grail was said to have been taken by Joseph to Britain, where the Christian conversion of England began.

        ● The lapsit exillis. Wolfram von Eschenbach’s popular epic, Parzival, describes the Grail as a stone or crystal that heals the sick, provides limitless food, and confers immortality. The Latin term is translated as “the stone from the heavens.” Some have described it as a legendary jewel that fell from the crown of Satan while he battled the angels of heaven. Others have suggested that it was part of the stone that covered Jesus’s tomb after the crucifixion.

        ● The Philospher’s Stone. Since the lapsit exillis was a stone, some believe the Grail may be the “Philosopher’s Stone,” the illusive secret ingredient of alchemy during the Middle Ages. The Philosopher’s Stone, if it were ever found, was supposed to allow the alchemist to transmute base metal into gold and allow the body to retard aging and prevent death.

        ● The alabaster jar of ointment used by Mary of Bethany to anoint Jesus in the house of Simon the Leper in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and John 12.

        ● A different alabaster jar (or box) of scented oil that an unnamed women uses to anoint Jesus in the house of the Pharisee in Luke 7.

        ● The Virgin Mary. For some, the Grail may not have been an object at all. Because the Virgin Mary, Jesus’s mother, was the sacred “vessel” that had contained Christ before his birth, some hypothesize that the Grail was a metaphor for Mary.

        ● Mary Magdalene. The theory that Jesus may have been married to Mary Magdalene, that she came to France after the resurrection, and that she bore Christ’s daughter has led some to speculate that the Grail refers to both Mary Magdalene and the long line of descendants from that marriage. Again, this is the concept of Jesus’s alleged wife as a sacred vessel, or simply their bloodline, as the Grail. This is the central thesis to The Da Vinci Code, and we discuss it in detail in Chapter 13.

        ● Secret knowledge. In some versions of the story, the Grail becomes a metaphor for hidden, esoteric knowledge, and the knights who search for it are initiates who must purify themselves and become worthy enough to receive these secrets.


        • #64
          The Quest Begins
          Most histories of the Grail myths begin with Chretien de Troyes, a French troubadour in the 12th century. He was a storyteller who entertained courts in France and Flanders, and although his tales of the Grail are widely considered to have come from Celtic and other sources, Chretien was the first to get them down in writing.

          At the time of Chretien de Troyes, some parallel concepts developed. The Crusades had started nearly a century before, so stories of crusading knights on a quest had become pretty common currency in the storytelling business. An important influence on him was his benefactress, Marie, Countess of Champagne, the daughter of French King Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor’s grandfather William IX, Duke of Aquitaine, was France’s first troubadour. She is often credited with almost single-handedly creating the notion of “courtly love” and carrying it to France and then to England with her second marriage to King Henry II (see the “Courtly love” sidebar in this chapter).

          Chretien de Troyes
          Chretien de Troyes’s story, LeConte du Graal (Story of the Grail), or Perceval, is where the first tales of a knight in search of the Grail appear. He wrote, or dictated it, between 1181 and 1190, but he died before it was completed.

          Courtly love
          Courtly love (and we're not talking about the widow of Kurt Cobain and lead singer of Hole) was a concept that appeared in Europe in the 11th century. It was at the French court of the powerful Eleanor of Aquitaine that the concept of courtly love was born and reached its full flower, a tradition enthusiastically continued by her daughter, Marie. Romance in French means "song" or "ballad," and roman means "novel." Chretian de Troyes may have been writing poetry, but in writing it down instead of singing or speaking it, he was really writing the first novel.

          It is the stuff that fairy tales and epic poems were filled with. "Courtly love" generally occurred between a queen, princess, or other noble lady, and an admiring knight or troubadour. In its loftiest form, it was a chaste love affair from afar that was almost never consummated by a proper knight — although that wasn't always true, as in the tale of Sir Lancelot and King Arthur's wife, Queen Guinevere, a love that started as the courtly variety but ended in the bedroom and the destruction of a kingdom. But in the perfect situation, the knight gifted his lady with adoration, even if he knew he could never have her sexually. She was the symbol of all that was pure and noble in femininity. He performed heroic deeds, engaged in tournaments, and embarked on quests in the hope of being found worthy by her. Whether she was married was immaterial, because the goal was rarely adultery.

          The arranged marriages of the period were often loveless couplings, and everybody needs a little romance in their lives. Interestingly, others have speculated that courtly love was actually a Cathar-like concept — adoring women for a spiritual purpose, while shunning sexual gratification.

          Courtliness became a synonym for etiquette. The point of all of this was that a knight attempted to improve himself morally, physically, and even spiritually, by suffering for this love unfulfilled. So in a sense, courtly love was a civilizing force on rough, boorish, and decidedly unsophisticated fighting men.

          Unfortunately, the Church didn't much care for the idea. Faith was supposed to be the civilizing force in the world, and certainly not the unhealthy, hot-blooded hedonism of moping around over a married woman. Church fathers didn't see anything spiritually uplifting about it at all, and by the 13th century, they began to spread the word that courtly love was heretical. Killjoys.

          Perceval and the Graal
          Perceval is the son of a widow, raised by his mother in the forests of Wales, cut off from civilization. He is a complete innocent when the tale begins. Over the years, knights pass through the forest, and Perceval longs to be one of them. At last, he decides to leave home and join the court of King Arthur, over the protests of his mother. There, he is knighted and a young girl at the court foresees that he will achieve great deeds. He is mentored by Gornemant, and the young knight is a quick learner in combat skills. Unfortunately, he is not so quick at learning the other things required of a knight. Because Perceval was raised alone and isolated from the world, he is naive and a little dimwitted. Gornemant suggests that he not ask so many questions, in an effort to keep him from looking foolish.

          Perceval sets out one day and discovers a wide, impassable stream, and a fisherman in a boat, who is known as the Fisher King. He invites Perceval to rest at a nearby castle that seems to appear out of nowhere. There, Perceval sees a curious ceremony. An old, crippled man is brought into the Great Hall in a bed. After speaking with Perceval for a while, a young woman enters with a sword in a lavishly decorated scabbard, which the old man presents as a gift to the young knight. A procession begins, and a servant enters the hall with a spear that drips blood from its tip. He is followed by a young girl with beautiful golden cup — a graal. In the cup is a single Eucharist. Perceval wants to ask about what he sees, but he recalls Gornemant’s warnings to not make a fool of himself and decides to keep his mouth shut.

          Perceval awakens the next morning to discover the castle deserted. As he rides away, a little miffed that he’s been abandoned, the drawbridge slams shut behind him, and the castle disappears. Meanwhile, King Arthur has become concerned over his absence, and all the knights go in search of the young knight. When they find him, Arthur tells Perceval that his mother has died, stricken with grief over his departure. Perceval decides that he’ll spend the rest of his life in search of battle and never stay more than one night in any place, until he can find the mysterious castle again. He vows to find out the secret of the bleeding lance and who it was that the Grail served.

          Five years later, Perceval is a broken man who has lost his faith. He is confronted by a creepy old hag, who tells him that the old man in the castle was none other than his own uncle, and that he died. The reason he died and the castle disappeared is because he failed to ask his question, “Whom does the Grail serve?” If he had asked, he would have discovered that the old man was the father of the Fisher King, the castle’s lord, and that the Grail served the Eucharist to him to sustain both him and the land around it.

          From here, the story takes a “meanwhile back at the ranch” approach and follows the tale of Sir Gawain, Arthur’s nephew. It briefly returns to Perceval, but Chretien de Troyes died before it was completed, having created just 9,000 lines of his tale.

          The Continuations
          During this period, the overwhelming majority of people were illiterate. Chretien de Troyes’s story was probably dictated by him (there’s a question as to whether he could read himself) and it was intended to be read aloud. Finished or not, his Story of the Grail, along with an earlier work, Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, became incredibly popular.

          Almost immediately after his death, four different authors came forward and added to the tale of Perceval, extending the storyline of Arthur’s knights, the mysterious Fisher King, and, of course, Perceval himself. Known as the Continuations, these additions fleshed out the background of the Grail. One of these, Manessier’s Continuation, has Perceval at last returning to the castle of the Fisher King, where he asks his questions and becomes the new king himself, who possesses both the Grail and the Bleeding Lance. After seven years as king, Perceval wanders into the woods one day with the Grail and dies, taking it up to heaven.

          Robert de Boron: The Grail becomes holy
          In Chretien de Troyes’s version and its Continuations, the Grail isn’t fully explained, and it isn’t yet connected with the Last Supper or Jesus in any way. All that changed with a new author, Robert de Boron. His version is called The History of the Grail, and the holy relic really is the centerpiece of the story.

          De Boron had previously written a tale of Joseph of Arimathea who has possession of the serving bowl or chalice from the Last Supper. Remember: It was Joseph who provided his own private tomb for the burial of Jesus after the crucifixion. In de Boron’s story, Joseph helps prepare Jesus’s body for interment by wiping the blood from his body and collecting it in the Grail. De Boron’s inspiration came from an Apocryphal gospel, the Acts of Pilate, also known during the medieval period as the Gospel of Nicodemus.

          In the Gospel of Nicodemus, Joseph is locked up for 40 days after Christ’s ascension, and Jesus appears to him. In de Boron’s version of the Grail tale, Joseph is thrown into prison, where Jesus appears to him and explains the powers and mystery of the Grail. He transports both Joseph and the jail cell itself out of the prison, and Joseph escapes with his followers to France. The Grail is passed by Joseph of Arimathea to the first Grail king, and eventually Perceval receives it.

          Also in the 13th century, an anonymous version of the Grail legend called Perlesvaus appeared. This tale is unusual because it departs radically from what came before, and the Grail takes on different qualities.

          Percival arrives at the mysterious castle, but there is no Grail there. Instead, it is a place inhabited by a knightly order. Two teachers meet the young knight and bring in 33 men, dressed in white with red crosses on their tunics — very Knights Templar-esque. The castle is not a Grail castle, but the teachers there know of the Grail’s powers.

          What makes this version so different from the others is that the Grail seems to represent secret knowledge. At different times it appears as a king with a crown; a child; an image of Jesus with a crown of thorns and blood flowing from his forehead, hands, breast, and feet; and finally, a wine glass. In this decidedly esoteric telling, the Grail is more of an experience or an idea than a thing. As a result, many people have attached Cathar or Gnostic interpretations to this version.

          Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival
          In the early part of the 1200s, a German poet named Wolfram von Eschenbach took up Cretian de Troyes’s Perceval and decided it needed an overhaul. The result was Parzival, a complete retelling of the legend, in which he takes a swipe at his French predecessors as not knowing the real story. The basic storyline of Perceval is intact, but von Eschenbach adds the soap-opera touches of long-lost relatives and unknown identities. The work is considered the greatest of early German epic poems, and it became the basis for Richard Wagner’s 1882 opera, Parsifal (why can’t anyone agree on how to spell this kid’s name?).

          In this version, the Grail was kept at the Castle Monsalvaesche (or Monsalvat), and more than one 20th-century Grail-seeker has believed that this was actually the Cathar village of Montsegur in France or the monastery at Montserrat in Spain (see Chapter 11).

          A big difference in von Eschenbach’s version is that the Grail is not a dish or bowl, as in Chretien de Troyes’s version or the Continuations. This time, it is a clear stone or crystal. It heals the sick or injured, and it provides an endless food supply when it gets trotted out for dinner.


          • #65
            The rest of the story
            The myths that took shape in the 1100s with Chretien de Troyes caught fire in the imagination of Europe, and the Grail legend mixed with the tales of King Arthur, Merlin, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table. Celtic influences from Wales, England, and elsewhere crept into the legends. Different versions of the stories filled out the canon over the centuries, even though many contradicted each other. These are the most important:

            Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (The Death of Arthur) appeared in 1470, and it seemed to set the storyline and characters on a more linear path. Malory combined the previous French versions of the story with English variations. It has become the basis for most of the Arthurian legends told ever since. Malory introduced the Seige Perilous to the legend — a chair that is to remain vacant at the Round Table by the order of Merlin the magician. Only the purest and most worthy knight may sit in it, and he will be the one to seek the Grail. It is fatal to all others. Sir Galahad is the only knight who can sit in it and survive.

            ● Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idyls of the King (1856-1885) are a series of 12 poems, revolving around King Arthur. The Grail appears in a tale told as a flashback by Sir Percivale, who is now a monk.

            ● T. H. White’s Once and Future King leaned heavily on Malory’s version and is perhaps the most easily accessible of the bunch. Written between 1938 and 1950, it progresses from a lighthearted, almost childlike book in the beginning, to a dark, pessimistic parable about World War II. It was the basis of the 1960s musical Camelot.

            The Templars and the Grail
            The legends of the Holy Grail just so happened to start taking shape at the same time in history that the Knights Templar were getting organized, and the Templars themselves were the inspiration for many legendary stories spun by the troubadours, poets, bards, and jesters of the 12th and 13th centuries. In early versions of the stories, Sir Gawain was identified as having a shield of white with a red cross, much like the shields wielded by the Templars.

            There is a modern allegation that the anonymous 13th-century Perlesvaus was written by a Templar, but no serious researcher believes it. Likewise, modern attempts to claim that the Grail was part of the secret treasure excavated from under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem are not credible. The Grail legends were nonexistent until the late 1100s, so even if the order had discovered a chalice, there would have been little to connect it to the legend of the Holy Grail at that point in history.

            As we discuss in Chapter 11 and throughout Part IV of this book, the version of the Grail legend told in the novel The Da Vinci Code is based on the suggestion that the Grail is not a cup used by Christ at the Last Supper. Instead, it is the notion that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, and that she is the sacred vessel that contained the holy bloodline of Christ, in the form of their child, a baby girl named Sarah.

            The Templars enter this theory by way of the suggestion made in Dan Brown’s source material, the pseudo-historical book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. It introduced a shadowy, heretofore unknown, secret society called the Priory of Sion, and it further speculated that the Templars were formed as their military arm. And, so this version of the story goes, the priory’s mission was — and is — to protect the surviving descendants of Jesus and Mary. (We examine this part of the story in detail in Chapter 11.)

            The other alleged connection between the Templars and the Grail concerns — what else? — Rosslyn Chapel! Some speculative authors believe that the Holy Grail is hidden in the hollow Apprentice Pillar of Rosslyn. There is absolutely nothing to indicate that the Templars had the Grail, that they took it to Scotland, that they buried it in Rosslyn Chapel, or that the Apprentice Pillar is hollow, but that doesn’t seem to matter where legends are concerned. (We talk more about Rosslyn Chapel all over this book, but especially in Chapter 7.)

            The Real Grail?
            It is curious that an obscure item from Jesus’s dinner table is never mentioned for ten centuries, then suddenly becomes the subject of so many authors and captures the imagination of so many people. It goes hand in hand with the fascination in the Middle Ages with the trade in holy relics. Pieces of the True Cross were scattered from one end of Christendom to the other. By the time of the Templars, there were at least four claimants to the Holy Lance, the Roman lance that was thrust into Jesus’s side by the soldier Longinus, who was mentioned in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus (Acts of Pilate). Likewise, by 1300, there were no less than 20 “Holy Grails” claimed around the Christian world. Several survive today (see Chapter 15).


            • #66
              Chapter 11

              The 21st Century Dawns with a New Grail Myth
              In This Chapter
              ● Seeking the origin of The Da Vinci Code's grail
              ● Discovering the Priory of Sion
              ● Examining mysterious Rennes-le-Chateau in France

              The legends of the Templars are inextricably tied to faith, power, treasure, mystery, and secrecy. Historians, archeologists, theologians, Freemasons, and barking-mad nutcases have all had their various takes on what the Knights Templar may have known and possessed, where they hid it, and whether it still exists, whatever it is. Or was. Or might have been.

              For centuries, the myth was simply that the Templars had a vast treasure, and that they managed to get it out of France before their mass arrests in 1307 and hide it somewhere. (We discuss most of these theories in Chapter 7.) But throughout the last half of the 20th century, a new notion began to appear in some corners of speculative research. For hundreds of years, the Templars had been linked with, among other revered, mythical objects, the Holy Grail. This new theory came at the Grail legend with a different take: that maybe the Grail wasn’t a cup, a goblet, or a “thing” after all. Perhaps the Grail was an idea. Perhaps the Grail itself was something that had to be hidden away, not because it was a priceless relic, but because it was a truth that would shock Christians and Christianity. And perhaps it had to be hidden during the volatile times of the Templars because it amounted to heresy, and people got burned to a crispy crunch for such things.

              These various disparate theories of the Templar and Holy Grail myths, a strange secret society, all collided in the obscure and mysterious French village of Rennes-le-Chateau before they became the basis of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code.

              Holy Couple: The Search for the Bloodline of Christ
              If you are part of the tiny handful of folks who hasn’t read The Da Vinci Code, allow us to spoil the ending for you. The “shocking” revelation of the book is that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, that they had a daughter together, and that, after the death of Christ, his wife and child were secretly taken out of Jerusalem for their protection to the south of France. Further, for their own motives, early leaders of the Catholic Church eliminated any scriptural mention of such a marriage, and worse, to hide their tracks, spread the propaganda that Mary Magdalene was, in fact, a prostitute. In Chapter 13, we look in detail at this part of the legend in particular, but we give you the short version here.

              The biblical account of Mary Magdalene
              Mary Magdalene has had a troubled past in Christian interpretation of the Bible over the centuries. Unfortunately for the sake of clarity, there were too many Marys populating the New Testament. Apart from Christ’s mother,

              Mary, there is Mary of Bethany (the sister of Lazarus and Martha, who appears in Luke 10:38-42 and John 11:1-2), and Mary Magdalene who is described in Luke 8:2 and even several lesser Marys, such as Mary the mother of James and Joseph and an early follower of Jesus. Jesus casts out demons from Mary Magdalene, healing her “evil spirits and infirmities,” and she goes with him and the disciples to Jerusalem. She has also been identified by various scholars as the “woman with the alabaster box” who anoints Jesus’s head with oil just before his arrest.

              Mary Magdalene is present at the crucifixion, and she is the one who discovers the empty tomb, where Christ appears to her. She’s also present at the resurrection. Many have claimed that the wedding at Cana, when Jesus turned water into wine, was, in fact, the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Some have also claimed that, in Christ’s time, it would have been almost unheard of for a Jewish man of his age to have been unmarried (unlike today, when at 33, millions of men of every faith are just starting to think about moving out of their parents’ basement).

              In the end, the theory comes down to the supposition that Mary Magdalene would not have been present at so many important points in the story of Jesus unless they had been married. The problem has always been, and will always be, that such a theory can’t be proved. There is no biblical passage, no Gnostic document, no Dead Sea Scroll, no chiseled inscription, no nothing that even remotely hints that Jesus and Mary were married. However, for some who use a peculiar brand of circular logic, lack of proof is enough “proof” that the evidence has been destroyed.

              The legend
              This notion of a marriage between Mary and Jesus is not a new one. In spite of the frenzy of The Da Vinci Code, it has been around for centuries. The story goes that, because Jesus had been arrested by the Romans, Jerusalem was too dangerous for Mary, his wife, which admittedly makes sense. Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy friend of the family who had provided his own tomb for Jesus’s body after the crucifixion, took Mary, who was pregnant, and fled to the south of France, possibly stopping first in the Jewish community of the Egyptian port city of Alexandria. There, she had the child of Christ. (As we discuss in Chapter 10, Joseph of Arimathea got around. The English think he went to Glastonbury, too.)

              Eventually, so the tale continues, Jesus and Mary’s daughter Sarah married into the family that would eventually become the Merovingian line of French kings, who ruled between the fifth and eighth centuries. These “divinely descended” kings, included the great Clovis I, who is considered to be the founder of France, the first king to successfully unite the nation of Gaul.

              Further “proof” of a connection to Mary Magdalene cited by some authors is the very name Merovingian itself. It has long been established that the origin of the name comes from Merovech, the father of Childeric I, founder of the legendary dynasty of Frankish kings in the fifth century. Margaret Starbird contends that it is derived from the roots mer (Mary) and vin (vine, as in the dynastic vine of the line of David, a metaphor used a few times in the Bible).

              We both speak French, and to our ears, mer has always meant “sea,” and vin has always meant “wine,” two things that go great together. But we digress.

              Because centuries of dynastic families, from the Seljuq Turks to the Tudors and Plantagenets and the Capetians of France, have almost uniformly followed the grand old tradition of taking their dynastic name from their founding father, we tend to side with the Encyclopedia Britannica on this one.


              • #67
                Holy Blood, Holy Grail: The Legend Rediscovered
                In 1982, three authors co-wrote a book that brought the Mary Magdalene story to a modern audience, with a few twists. Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln published The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (or its simpler U.S. title, Holy Blood, Holy Grail), based on a documentary film made by Lincoln. In the book, they told the tale of Mary Magdalene’s flight from Jerusalem to the south of France, and the fate of her supposed offspring.

                Here are some of the claims they make:
                ● The term Holy Grail in French is San Greal. But by moving the space between the words by one character, it spells Sang Real, meaning “Royal Blood” in medieval French. As interesting a word game as that may be, it is just that: a word game, like attaching a solemn, historical, ecclesiastical significance to the fact that god is dog spelled backwards. There is no instance, before Baigent et al that anyone else ever spelled San Greal as Sang Real.

                ● Jesus and his followers staged the crucifixion and the resurrection, and Christ lived to a ripe old age outside of the Holy Land — a recycling of the worn (and discredited) theory of the 1965 Hugh Schonfield book, The Passover Plot.

                ● A secret society, known as the Priory of Sion, was created in A.D. 1099 to protect the secret of the bloodline of Christ and Mary Magdalene, a royal lineage that leads all the way back to the Old Testament’s King David.

                ● The Priory of Sion formed the Knights Templar as a military and financial wing.

                ● The Catholic Church killed off the Knights Templar and other groups like the Cathars to thwart the Priory’s plan to restore Christ and Mary Magdalene’s bloodline as the hereditary head of the Church, as opposed to the apostolic succession of Peter, through whom the popes claimed their authority.

                ● The Priory’s ultimate aim was to restore the Merovingian dynasty to the throne of France, and eventually to place them on the thrones of all the kingdoms of Europe. Finally, they would make a Merovingian the King of Israel.

                ● The modern-day mystery of the Priory was centered around a small town in southwestern France called Rennes-le-Chateau, and the strange activities of a certain Catholic priest in the late 1800s. Father Berenger Sauniere had inexplicably become very wealthy, and the book alleged that he had found documents in the little town’s church that led to a treasure, as well as a secret he used to blackmail the Vatican.

                ● A 1640 painting, The Arcadian Shepherds, by Nicolas Poussin, was said to contain a Latin phrase that was an anagram for “Begone! I keep God’s secrets.” It was further speculated that a tomb depicted in the painting was located in the hills near Rennes-le-Chateau, that it contained the bones of Jesus or some other important religious figure, or perhaps buried treasure, and that this was the secret that Father Sauniere discovered, the secret of the Priory of Sion.

                ● Sauniere made extensive alterations to the church in Rennes-le-Chateau, along with several suspiciously expensive construction projects that contained strange details that referenced Mary Magdalene.

                The “married Messiah” part of the tale was not new. It was a common legend in France for centuries, and William E. Phipps had recently (in 1970) published a book called Was Jesus Married? The Distortion of Sexuality in the Christian Tradition. It was the Priory of Sion wrinkle that charted new territory. The authors claimed their hypothesis was based on new evidence. But that evidence had come from none other than a member of the Priory of Sion. In the following section, we examine the many claims made in Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

                The Priory of Sion
                Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln based their theories principally on a book published in France in the 1960s, LOr de Rennes (The Gold of Rennes, later republished under the title Le Tresur Maudit de Rennes-le-Chateau) by Gerard de Sede, along with a tale told to them by a Frenchman named Pierre Plantard.

                As we discuss in Chapter 7, there is a long tradition among so-called secret societies of inventing mythical and ancient pedigrees for themselves. The Priory of Sion was no different. While certain documents claimed that the Priory was a thousand years old, it was actually started in 1956, in the French town of Annemasse, to promote the cause of cheap government housing. Really.

                French law required that all clubs and associations had to be registered with the government, so the Priory sent in the appropriate forms listing Pierre Plantard, Andre Bonhomme, Jean Delaval, and Armand Defago as officers. Its purported purpose was for the “education and mutual aid” of its members, with its headquarters in Plantard’s apartment. But Plantard had bigger dreams for the Priory, hoping it would become an influential association of men dedicated to reviving chivalric virtues and restoring the monarchy. Oh, and there was one other trifling item on his agenda: He wanted to become the King of France.

                Plantard claimed that he was a descendant of the Merovingian kings, and therefore, according to Holy Blood, Holy Grail, that made him related to Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and even the Old Testament’s King David. Of course, it should be noted here that, according to Jewish history and tradition, Zerubbabel, who led the Jews back to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, was the end of the Davidic line, regardless of the claims of Jesus being of the House of David in the New Testament.

                The “Secret Parchments"
                The proof of the existence of the Priory of Sion initially came from a series of documents “discovered” in 1975 in the Bibliotheque Nationale, the national archives of France, located in Paris. Of course, “discovered” is a strong word, since Plantard had planted the documents there himself in the 1960s.

                Four documents were said to have been found by Father Sauniere inside of a hollow column in the church, sealed in wooden tubes. One document was a small parchment, written in medieval Latin, that contained a secret code. When deciphered, the message read, "A Dagobert II Roi et a Sion est ce tresor, et il est la mort” (To King Dagobert II and to Sion does this treasure belong, and he is there dead). The first clue that the message was, perhaps, a modern one is that the decoded message was in modern French, deciphered from a supposedly medieval Latin source.

                Les Dossiers Secret
                Another document was described as the “Secret Dossiers,” which listed a continuous lineup of “Grand Masters” of the Priory of Sion going back to A.D. 1188. Along with a sprinkling of templar Grand Masters, it included some stellar names:

                ● Leonardo Da Vinci (Italian painter, sculptor, scientist, inventor; the original Renaissance man)

                ● Victor Hugo (French author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables)

                ● Isaac Newton (renowned English scientist of the Enlightenment)

                ● Claude Debussy (French classical composer)

                ● Jean Cocteau (20th-century French artist, surrealist, poet, and filmmaker)

                Another of the documents contained a list of the descendants of the Merovingian line since King Dagobert II’s assassination in 679. History says his son Sigebert IV died at the same time, but the parchment claims he actually fled to Rennes-le-Chateau, and became known as the “Plant-Ard,” from whence Pierre Plantard’s family name descended. It further alleged that this bloodline produced the Blancheford family, of which a Grand Master of the Templars, Bertrand de Blancheford, was a member, along with none other than Pope Clement V. Godfroi de Bouillon, first Christian protector of Jerusalem, was also said to be a descendant.


                • #68
                  The picturesque village of Renne-le-Chateau is in a beautiful location, albeit off the beaten path. It sits in the Pyrenees, right in the middle of Templar territory, along with a region once populated by Cathars. It’s surrounded by castle ruins and other evidence of long-forgotten battles and the horrors of the Albigensian Crusade. In the 1950s, getting to Rennes-le-Chateau was difficult, and not many tourists came to wander its charming, medieval streets. A local hotel owner, Noel Corbu, wanted to change that. What the town needed to beef up its economy was a surefire tourist trap. So he invented one.

                  Corbu spread the rumor that a 19th-century priest in the village, Father Berenger Sauniere, had discovered certain parchments during a remodeling of the church in 1892. The parchments apparently detailed the secret location of a buried treasure. According to Corbu’s rumor, Sauniere had found a secret cache of cash, or at least a vast store of some kind of treasure. And thus, the first mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau was born. Of course, Corbu had an inside track on the story, or so he said — he had bought Sauniere’s home, the Villa Bethanie, and opened it as the Hotel de la Tour in May of 1955. His tall tale first appeared in a series of articles in the regional newspaper La Depeche Du Midi in 1956.

                  Father Sauniere and the treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau
                  In 1897, the little parish priest really did suddenly embark on a major redecoration of the church, seemingly — at first — with no visible source of income. Then, between 1901 and 1905, the truth was that Sauniere did go on a building spree, constructing an estate, a gothic-styled tower with a breathtaking view that served as his private library (the Tour Magdala), as well as gardens and terraces. So where did he get the money? Did he find buried treasure?

                  The rumor that he had excavated under the church altar and found skeletons and gold was just that — a rumor, made up as the tales of the priest were further embellished over the years. The truth was far duller. It seems that the late 1800s were volatile politically in France, and there was a growing conflict between the Catholic Church and the government. Sauniere was a reluctant priest, but a rabid, pro-monarchial, anti-republican firebrand, and there was a strong desire among Catholics at the time for France to shuck off its republic and return to having a king. Sauniere found a way to capitalize on that sentiment. He began to “sell” masses, meaning, for a donation, he would offer up the Sunday Mass for God to wipe out the republic and bring back a monarchy. These days, it may be difficult to imagine that such a scheme would make much more than pocket change. Au contraire.

                  Sauniere took out ads in religious magazines and journals all over France, like Semaine Religieuse, La Croix, Leclair, L’Express du Midi, L’Univers, and Le Telegramme. His moneymaking scheme actually created an embarrassing problem for him. Priests were allowed to say no more than three masses a day, and Sauniere received literally thousands of paid requests, far more than he could ever honor. He was literally “trafficking” in masses.

                  Over the years, the priest made lots of money with this method, as well as having what appeared to have been an affair with a wealthy lady in town. These were the real sources of income he used to redecorate the church and build a house and the Magdalene Tower. There has never been any proof that Sauniere found a treasure, and the “millions of francs” that he was said to have had in his possession have never been substantiated.

                  It took 25 years, but the Church finally caught on to (or got fed up with) Sauniere’s side business. He was dismissed as a priest in 1911 and died in 1917. By every bit of evidence that exists, including his failed attempts to borrow against his house in 1913, along with his will, he died in poverty — scarcely the life of a man who amassed millions.

                  Another rumor was that part of what Sauniere discovered were documents that “proved” Jesus was not divine, and that he and his followers had staged the crucifixion and resurrection. Indeed, Holy Blood, Holy Grail speculates that Jesus was crucified on “private property” where it would have been simple to stage a phony crucifixion, and that perhaps even Pontius Pilate was a willing accomplice. Sauniere supposedly used this blockbuster information to blackmail the Vatican into paying him millions in hush money.

                  What makes this contention curious is that the same people who trot out this concept adhere to the notion that the Jesus/Mary bloodline was “divine,” without seeing any contradiction.

                  The strange church in Rennes-le-Chateau
                  The village church was consecrated in A.D. 1059 and is dedicated to Mary Magdalene. In spite of the provable hoaxes involved in this story, the church really does have some oddities installed by Sauniere.

                  The inscription over the church door reads, “Terribilis Est Locus Iste,” which generally gets translated by tourists, tour guides, and authors of sensational books as “How terrible is this place!” But it is actually taken from a line in Genesis 28:17, after Jacob awakens from his dream in which he saw a ladder rising to heaven: “How awesome is this place! This is the house of God, and the gate of heaven, and it will be called the palace of God.” Awesome, not terrible.

                  Gerard de Sede claimed in his writings that Sauniere made alterations to the church worth “millions of francs.” Other researchers have studied the work and come up with a figure one-fiftieth of de Sede’s estimation. Several of the “mysterious” statues and decorations that are supposedly one of a kind and bizarre were actually manufactured of plaster; some of them match others provided to several churches in the region. Sauniere ordered them plain and painted them himself.

                  Outlandish claims have been made concerning some of the statuary, especially the Stations of the Cross, including that the priest added details that point to Freemasonry, Mary Magdalene worship, and other curiosities. Upon actually examining them, some of these suggestions seem to be figments of the imagination. For instance, a child is seen watching as Christ passes by with the Cross. The blanket wrapped around the child’s backside is clearly a Hebrew-style cloth pattern, but some have said it is “plaid” and, therefore, alludes to Scottish Freemasonry!

                  Nevertheless, the strangest addition Sauniere made was a large statue of a demon that greets visitors as they enter the church. It is supposedly Asmodeus, a demon who appears in several non-biblical Jewish stories of the Book of Tobit. Some legends claim that he was a demon who was tricked by King Solomon into helping to build the Temple in Jerusalem. That’s what tourists are told. But the Asmodeus association was first made by none other than Pierre Plantard, and not before, in order to make the tenuous link to Solomon’s Temple, the Templars, and maybe even the Freemasons. Others have interpreted the image of the Devil as Sauniere’s swipe at the French Republic, while the baptismal font opposite showing Christ’s baptism symbolized the French Monarchy.

                  Another whopper is the supposed tomb of Sigebert IV within the church. There is no evidence whatsoever that the son of King Dagobert II survived his documented death in 679, and “secretly” fled to Rennes-le-Chateau. No evidence except the word of Pierre Plantard. No one had ever heard such a legend until he came along.

                  There are also several references to Mary Magdalene in Sauniere’s new decor. A Latin inscription had been painted under the altar that has since been defaced by vandals. It read JESUMEDELA VULNERUMSPES UNA POENITENTIUM PER MAGDALENAE LACRYMAS PECCATA NOSTRA DILUAS (JESUS, YOU REMEDY AGAINST OUR PAINS AND ONLY HOPE FOR OUR REPENTANCE, IT IS THANKS TO MAGDALENE’S TEARS THAT YOU WASH OUR SINS AWAY). Some researchers have said that the Latin is poorly constructed and contains deliberate errors that a Catholic priest like Sauniere would not have made. Perhaps. But there is nothing especially odd about the church being decorated with paintings and quotations dealing with Mary Magdalene — it has been dedicated to her for 1,000 years. She’s a popular saint throughout the entire region.

                  The peculiar Pierre Plantard
                  Pierre Plantard had a mighty unusual methodology for an aspiring king. Between 1937 and 1945, during World War II, he engaged in a series of schemes that caught the attention of Paris police. He was accused on several occasions of inventing phony anit-Semitic and anti-Masonic organizations, dedicated to the “purification” of France. They seem to have existed largely to scam money from their members. A police report issued on May 9, 1941, by Paris police while under the occupation of Nazi troops stated: La Renovation Nationale Fran^aise seems to be a “phantom” group whose existence is purely a figment of the imagination of M. Plantard. Plantard claims 3,245 members, whereas this organization currently only has four members (the executive committee).

                  It was the sort of outlandish claim that he would use again and again. Plantard couldn’t stay out of trouble, doing jail time in 1953 for “abuse of trust,” and again between 1956 and 1957 for the “corruption of minors.” In the 1960s, he met up with French author Gerard de Sede, and began feeding him outrageous claims about the Priory — that it was connected to the Knights Templar, that it was protecting the bloodline of Christ and Mary, and that he was, himself, descended from France’s King Dagobert II, the last of the Merovingian kings.

                  The perfect marriage of a man and a myth
                  Plantard came to Rennes-le-Chateau like hundreds of others did in the 1950s — in search of hidden treasure. Treasure hunters, drawn by Corbu’s phony story about Father Sauniere’s buried gold, came from all over Europe with shovels and metal detectors and started to dig in the hills around the village. The garden on the old estate of Sauniere was dug up, rocks from his terrace were chipped out and stolen, the church was ransacked, and even the occasional dynamite explosion rocked the countryside as the searchers blew up possible hiding places.

                  The town archives of Rennes-le-Chateau burned to the ground in 1961, and suddenly the Priory of Sion hoaxers had a fortuitous opportunity. If no documents could be accessed about the early history of the village, they could simply make it up.


                  • #69
                    Philippe de Cherisey
                    Plantard and his friends began to design an elaborate hoax, centered around Corbu’s phony rumors about Sauniere, and tying it to the tale of the Priory of Sion. Plantard constructed an increasingly complex story. He made the acquaintance of an odd character named Philippe de Cherisey, who was a part-time actor with a fascination for surrealism and esoteric puzzles.

                    They deposited a series of phony documents in Paris’ Bibliotheque Nationale in the mid-1960s, and sent author Gerard de Sede to go look for them in 1975. These became the basis for de Sede’s original book about the mysteries of Rennes-le-Chateau, which led to Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln’s subsequent, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and an avalanche of others, including Picknett and Prince’s more skeptical The Templar Revelation. The documents were purported to be copies of parchments that Sauniere had supposedly found in his church. The peculiarity that they were mere photocopies instead of the real thing was easy to explain — the archives of their village had burned down, but, so the tale went, the Mayor had made copies of the documents Father Sauniere had supposedly found in his church. It is important to understand that no original documents have ever been produced, only copies and transcriptions. So, the entire “proof” of the existence of the Priory of Sion has been based on two Xerox copies.

                    De Cherisey is believed to have been the source of the coded Latin parchment. Investigations revealed that the document was a modern forgery, and had been poorly copied from a Latin text of Luke 6 known as the Codex Bezae. De Cherisey had no knowledge of Latin, which explains the errors in the text. The larger document was copied from a modern Latin Vulgate text of John 12 from 1889, and not from a medieval source.

                    The most important part of the Rennes-le-Chateau tale centers around these so-called parchments that Father Sauniere found while renovating his church. The truth is that Noel Corbu invented the story of the parchments to begin with, and Philippe de Cherisey drew them. In 1974, de Cherisey admitted it in writing when he was embroiled in a dispute with Gerard de Sede over being paid for his artwork he had created — the parchments!

                    The priory exposed
                    Over the years, every piece of so-called evidence of the existence of the Priory of Sion has been debunked, and many through the admission of the original pranksters. In the 1990s, both Plantard and de Cherisey went on the warpath against the original author who told their story, Gerard de Sede. They both fessed up and gave their original phony documents and written confessions to French author Jean-Luc Chaumeil.

                    The funniest aspect of this long, complex hoax is that Pierre Plantard himself, source of the Priory of Sion information, ridiculed the Jesus/Mary-bloodline aspect of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. He made no such claim himself that he was descended from Christ’s bloodline, only that he was related to King Dagobert II, the last of the Merovingian kings. Of course, given his antiSemitic writings during World War II, it’s probable that Plantard would have rejected the notion that he was descended from a Jew, no matter how divine the Jew may have been. Over the years, Plantard insisted on several name changes. Pierre of France had a noble, kingly feel to it. His later nom de hoax, Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair, was a transparently silly attempt to tie in with the Scottish Templars and Freemasons (see Chapter 7 for a discussion of the many Saint Clairs and the myths that surround them).

                    In 1993, Pierre Plantard inserted himself into an unrelated, sensational case involving financial fraud. It was a notorious investigation in France that had nothing to do with the Priory of Sion, involving French millionaire Roger Patrice Pelat and his influential friends in the government. Plantard voluntarily came forward and testified that Pelat was, in reality, a Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. The suspicious judge, Thierry Jean Pierre, had Plantard investigated, discovering his loopy contention that he was the rightful King of France. Eventually, he confessed under oath that the entire story of the

                    Priory of Sion had been an elaborate hoax that he had spent almost 40 years fueling. Plantard was rebuked by the judge for playing games with France’s judicial system, and he vanished into obscurity. He died in 2000 without ever getting the chance to place his backside on the purple cushion of the throne of France.

                    Was any of it real?
                    There actually was an Abbey of St. Mary of Mount Zion in the 12th century in Jerusalem. It was a small monastery of Augustinean monks (known as canons), whose order was created in 1143 by papal decree of Pope Celestine II. It was built over the ruins of an earlier Byzantine church, the Hagia Zion, but was destroyed by Muslims in 1219. But there is absolutely no connection between the abbey and the Priory of Sion.

                    Alas, the Priory of Sion in Holy Blood, Holy Grail was nothing but a figment of Plantard’s imagination. Many other books have been published basing their “research” on the accounts related by Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, including The Da Vinci Code. In fact, an entire industry has grown up around the mystery of Sauniere, Mary Magdalene, and this enigmatic little village in the Pyrenees. But they’re constructing their premise on what has been proved to be the sandy foundation of an elaborate hoax.

                    Meanwhile, the tale is told and retold to the tourists. More than 100,000 came to the village in 2006 alone, and frankly, the villagers are sick to death of it. But the truth is, there were no Sauniere parchments, and there is no mystery in Rennes-le-Chateau.


                    • #70
                      Part V
                      Squaring Off: The Church versus the Gospel According to Dan Brown

                      In this part . . .
                      This part of the book is a little different from the other four. Literally millions of people first heard of the Knights Templar in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, where the order was fictionally wrapped up with lots of, well, fiction. Unfortunately, it was presented as factual information, and lots of Brown’s readers have been left confused over what’s true and what isn’t. This part takes a careful, nonfiction look at the historical claims put forth in The Da Vinci Code’s take on the superstructure of the Christian faith that didn’t exactly thrill the Catholic Church.

                      Chapter 12 explores the tale of the Templars and other “secret societies” in The Da Vinci Code universe. Chapter 13 explores Brown’s many assertions about the “sacred feminine,” and it delivers up some surprising facts about women in the history of the Church, as well as in Celtic and other pre-Christian cultures. Chapter 14 presents the amazing behind-the-scenes politics in the creation of the Bible as we know it today. We fearlessly tread on the thin ice of the topic of celibacy, and its improbable survival into the age of pole-dancing and pay-per-view porn. We cut through the PhD-speak and look at the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Apocryphal books that didn’t make it into the Bible, and the rediscovered Gnostic Gospels that have caused many to reexamine the foundations of their faith. This part closes with the place of the Knights Templar in the postmodern world, and the latest theories of Templar influence on the survival of these alternative gospels and the secrets they contain.

                      Chapter 12

                      Templars and The Da Vinci Code
                      In This Chapter
                      ● Discovering Dan Brown’s society secrets
                      ● Telling Teabing’s tall tales
                      ● Looking again at Leonardo’s The Last Supper

                      As a result of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code, a large chunk of society will go through life believing that Jesus was married, that women were officially despised by the Church throughout Western history, and that the entire foundation of Christianity is built on a series of poorly crafted lies thrust upon them by pointy-hatted fascists at the Council of Nicaea. Unfortunately, using Brown as your source is like getting your history from watching an Oliver Stone movie — entertaining, but deranged.

                      Because of Brown’s book, the next generation may believe that the Templars were not devout, independent warrior monks, but were controlled by a dark and formidable inner secret society called the Priory of Sion, a society for which there is not one, single, solitary shred of historical evidence, not even a phone number scribbled on a matchbook. The Templars really are shrouded in mysteries that are never even mentioned in the novel, fascinating enigmas and shocking possibilities that never play a part in the secret-society-drenched plotline of The Da Vinci Code.

                      Dan Brown’s own Web site proudly touted a New York Daily News review that proclaimed, “His research is impeccable.” Actually, it’s as peccable as a duck’s backside. (There’s a reason the newspapers in New York are dying.)

                      In this chapter, we examine some of that “impeccable” research, dig up his sources and see whether the “facts” he presents about the Templars have any facts in them at all.

                      The Secret Societies of Dan Brown
                      So why all the hubbub over a piece of fictional beach-reading material? As writers, we two have agreed to disagree on the subject of The Da Vinci Code-as-novel. One thinks it’s a smooth and clever thriller, with a wonderful sense of playfulness about cryptography; the other thinks it’s a purloined piece from beginning to end. Yet, we both agree on one thing: Dan Brown’s irresponsible misuse of history is downright criminal. When it suits Mr. Brown, The Da Vinci Code is merely a novel, not to be examined as if it were the Dead Sea Scrolls. And when it suits Mr. Brown, The Da Vinci Code is the real scoop on history and the powerful secret societies that control it, and he merely chose to deliver it up as fiction in order to make it more exciting, and less threatening to the sinister powers that be.

                      But any book that opens with the provocative and now notorious statement that “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate,” is really just asking for it, in terms of the dreck it dishes up as history. Brown is particularly asking for it in terms of the many and various secret societies he tosses around with paranoid regularity, for both good guys and bad guys. In Dan Brown’s universe, you come into this world with a birth certificate, a Social Security number, and a dues card.

                      Not a single theory, no matter how wide-eyed, that gets trotted out in The Da Vinci Code, didn’t originate somewhere else first. What made the novel so successful was something else entirely: a human hunger for mystery, conspiracy, and hidden truths beneath the surface of obvious ones. It’s been rearing its head in the literary world for some time now.

                      Every generation has its Da Vinci Code. Chariots of the Gods put forward evidence of alien visitation in the ancient world, and it spawned a film and two sequels, becoming a full-fledged phenomenon. Before that, The Passover Plot was in every dorm room, which purported to prove that a cabal of radical, anti-Roman Jews had faked the crucifixion so that a living Jesus could reappear, just like the magician David Copperfield, for his jaw-dropping “resurrection.” The Late Great Planet Earth, in print since 1970, spun a web of biblical prophesy from Isaiah to Jesus to hint that the end of the world and the rapture was just around the corner, in 1988. (Witness the success of the Left Behind series of novels inspired by it.) All these books were like The Da Vinci Code, the topic de jour of radio talk shows, classrooms, and parties.

                      The difference is that each of these books had the courage to present themselves openly as history — speculative history, of course, but still history. Each of these authors was willing to stand up like a man and take the critical brickbats that were thrown at them from both the academic and the clerical community. Dan Brown, on the other hand, cowers behind the skirts of the novel form, as the world’s biblical and secular historians take apart his research.

                      However, there is one place where Dan Brown deserves sympathy (or brownie points, if you will) — and maybe a fruitcake for Christmas with a nice card. He certainly didn’t deserve the continuing harassment of lawsuits from the two authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. (Henry Lincoln, the third author, refused to have any part of it.) Why sympathy? Because, with a great deal of courtesy and generosity, he lays out the names of the books from which these theories were drawn — they’re mentioned prominently within the dialog. This kind of a mention is free advertising that an author can only dream about. It’s not unheard of, but it’s certainly unusual in a novel, and Dan Brown deserves to be praised for setting a terrific precedent. It was the gentlemanly thing to do.


                      • #71
                        The Da Vinci Code's “facts" of the Priory of Sion
                        In The Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon explains to Sophie Neuvu the meaning of a key with a PS symbol on it that has been given to her by her grandfather. Langdon recognizes it as the logo of the Priory of Sion, as if it were as common a bit of currency as a Star of David or a stop sign. He describes a brief outline of this “oldest surviving secret society on earth,” with the facts pulled directly from the Holy Blood playbook listed in the preceding section.

                        We discuss the Priory of Sion and the origin of the hoax that perpetrated it at length in Chapter 11, but here, we need to spell out some of the claims made about it as they relate specifically to the Dan Brown universe, because it is on this foundation that The Da Vinci Code is partially built.

                        The tale goes that, in A.D. 1090, Frankish knights of the Merovingian bloodline founded an organization called the Prieure de Sion, igniting the Crusades to take their rightful place on the throne of Jerusalem. After this was accomplished, the order was restructured in 1099, establishing a military arm called the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, and the same officer served as Grand Master for both brotherhoods — until 1188, that is, when the Grand Master of the Knights Templar and the Priory of Sion broke up, a divorce that was precipitated by some sort of spat over the fact that the Templars had bungled the Battle of Hattin and lost the city of Jerusalem. The Priory, the parent organization, went its own way, to cause more mischief all over Europe in its attempts to restore the Merovingian dynasty of French kings (a.d. 476-A.d. 750) to their rightful place on the throne of France. The arrogance of the Merovingians is perfectly understandable in light of the fact that they’re the direct descendants of Jesus Christ.

                        These are the “authoritative facts,” right from the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail upon which Dan Brown built The Da Vinci Code. Mr. Brown apparently did (and does) accept these as indisputable facts. But in truth, they’re pretty disputable.

                        The “sacred" bloodline
                        The Merovingians were the first of what could be called a dynasty of French kings, though they were more properly called “Franks” or “Gauls,” and not “the kings of France.” The Dagobert II discussed so often in Holy Blood, Holy Grail was the king of a nation called Austrasia, divided from its Merovingian-ruled neighbor, Neustria, because of a war between two of King Clovis’s sons. Neustria ran roughly to the north and west, Austrasia to the south and east. Dagobert II was the rightful king of Austrasia, but as a young man, he was dethroned, shoved into an Irish monastery and usurped by an adopted son of his father’s, the son of the evil mayor (a high palace official) of the Austrasian palace, Grimoald. It caused a war and, eventually, Dagobert was called out of the monastery in Ireland to take back the half a throne of Austrasia.

                        Many of these events are subject to historical debate, particularly the ones we were merciful enough to leave out. Myth records at least one marriage for Dagobert, which produced only daughters, but history has its doubts even about that. However, it’s true that Dagobert II was assassinated while out hunting, on December 23, A.D. 679. Once more, according to myth and not history, he did indeed fall asleep under a tree and was speared through the eye by an unknown assassin. According to the Holy Blood playbook, he was done in by operatives of the pope, who were frightened by his “sacred” lineage and its potential threat to the papal throne.

                        But boring old history books actually say Dagobert II was probably ordered to be killed by his mortal enemy at the Neustrian court, a man named Ebroin, the ambitious mayor of the palace. (These “mayor” guys were nothing but trouble — for heaven’s sake, hire a butler!) These books say that Dagobert II had no son, hardly a serious dynastic threat to anyone, and that he spent the greater part of his time on the throne founding monasteries and churches. He was soon afterward made a saint by the Church that supposedly assassinated him. His childless state led to the end of the dynasty. Of course, for the Dan Brown/Holy Blood team, the boring history books are all lying anyway.

                        At the end of Part One of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, in Chapter 4, the following statements are presented not as speculations, or even likelihoods, but as facts:
                        ● There was a secret order behind the Knights Templar founded in 1099, which created the Templars as its military and administrative arm. This order, which has functioned under a variety of names, is most frequently known as the Prieure de Sion (Priory of Sion).

                        ● The Priory of Sion has been directed by a sequence of Grand Masters whose names are among the most illustrious in Western history and culture.

                        ● Although the Knights Templar were destroyed and dissolved between 1307 and 1314, the Priory of Sion remained unscathed. Although itself periodically torn by internecine and fratricidal strife (in other words, civil wars) it has continued to function throughout the centuries. Acting in the shadows, behind the scenes, it has orchestrated certain of the critical events in Western history.

                        ● The Priory of Sion exists today and is still operative. It is influential and plays a role in high-level international affairs as well as in the domestic affairs of certain European countries. To some significant extent, it is responsible for information leaked to the public about itself since 1956. What they mean is that’s when the Priory apparently came out of the closet.

                        ● The avowed and declared objective of the Priory of Sion is the restoration of the Merovingian dynasty and bloodline — not only to the throne of France, but to the thrones of other European nations. We think someone needs to tell these guys that there hasn’t been a throne of France since 1876. Not to pick nits, but the Merovingians were kings in France, not kings of France. And while we’re at it, there aren’t many thrones left in Europe, apart from countries small enough to be fully carpeted, like Monaco or Luxembourg. It doesn’t seem likely that any of them would step down in favor of the son of Pierre Plantard.

                        ● The restoration of the Merovingian dynasty is sanctioned and justifiable, both legally and morally. Although it was deposed in the eighth century, the Merovingian bloodline is not extinct. On the contrary, it perpetuated itself in a direct line from Dagobert II and his son, Sigisbert IV.

                        The weakest link in the bloodline
                        And just who is Sigisbert IV? Why, he’s the infant son of Dagobert II, born in the authors’ favorite hallowed ground, Rennes-le-Chateau, whose very name is never mentioned in any other historical reference books. When the confused reader peers at the footnote for this information, he finds that — surprise! — the existence of Sigisbert IV is taken from the Priory of Sion’s own documents! ’Round and ’round we go. And where does this direct line eventually lead? Why, it leads right to the doorstep of the man who fed these three authors this information to begin with — Gerard de Sede, the pet author of one Pierre Plantard (a.k.a. Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair), a French huckster and compulsive founder of secret societies who had a really interesting record with the French police. They used to lock guys up in a padded room for claiming to be Napoleon. Now those guys get a book deal.


                        • #72
                          The "Da Vinci" Templars
                          The Knights Templar are almost as fictional in The Da Vinci Code as the Priory of Sion. Although hero Robert Langdon at first hesitates to bring up the Templars in his lectures because very mention of them brings out the conspiracy lovers, Brown has no problem making them part of his own conspiracy theory. Here are some of the Templar references in The Da Vinci Code, along with our comments:

                          ● The true goal of the Templars in the Holy Land was to retrieve the secret documents of the Priory of Sion from beneath the ruins of the temple. The documents prove the sacred bloodline of Christ and Mary Magdalene. The true goal of the Templars was to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land. Although fanciful claims have been made that the Templars were digging for treasure, there has never been any record or proof of it.

                          ● The Templars did not grow beyond nine men until Hughes de Payens returned from a trip to France (where he went to secure funds and papal support). His trip was to deliver up the damning documents that the nine knights had unearthed in nine years of digging. Actually, there is ample documentary evidence of the job the Templar knights (who were growing in number from the first year) were doing patrolling the roads of Jerusalem.

                          ● The secret documents were used to blackmail the pope into issuing the papal bull that gave them the various rights they enjoyed as the holy monks and warriors of God. De Payens supposedly returned with bullion stuffed everywhere but his BVDs. Overnight, they were wealthy beyond the mere dreams of mortal men. The boring truth is that, even though the central records hall of the Templars was destroyed on Cyprus after the fall of Acre, records exist all over Europe of the gifts of money, and principally of lands and manors, that were given over to the Templars by the faithful. The King of Aragon in Spain was so grateful for the work the Templars had done in helping to hold off the Moors from his kingdom that, when he died childless in 1131, he willed one third of his entire kingdom to the Knights Templar. The idea that they blackmailed the pope to gain their wealth is just plain stupid.

                          ● The Templars invented modern banking; traveling crusaders deposited gold and silver into their local Temple Church, and could then withdraw it from any other Temple Church along the way to the Holy land. Sort of true, but not really accurate. Yes, the Templars did indeed invent international banking. But deposits were not made or withdrawn from Templar churches. The Templars were among the most devout Christians who ever lived, and they did not turn God’s temple into a bank. They knew the story of Christ driving the moneylenders from the temple. Templar commanderies and preceptories across Europe and the East, as has been explained in other chapters, ran the gamut in size and wealth, but they were in effect small villages or small, fortified cities. The bank was usually a centrally located donjon or keep, because the chapel or church was also centrally located, for the same reason (safety from attack). But the bank was the bank, the vaults were the vaults, and the church was the church. The vaults below the Templar churches were for burying the dead knights and others of the faithful, as were the church graveyards.

                          ● The Templar Grand Master was more powerful than kings. The Grand Master was frequently an advisor to kings, not their overlord. On paper, the Templars were exempt from the laws and edicts of kings, and could only be tried or disciplined by the pope. But remember that it was a king, Phillip IV of France, and not even a pope, who brought down the Templars.

                          ● The Knights Templar were killed by the pope, “unceremoniously burned at the stake and tossed into the Tiber.” The Tiber River flows through Rome. But all the Templar knights who were burned at the stake were torched in France by King Phillip IV, not Pope Clement V. The pope wasn’t even in Rome during the suppression of the Templars; he was in Avignon. Rome never had anything to do with it.

                          ● Rosslyn Chapel south of Edinburgh was built by the Knights Templar in 1446. The Templars were arrested and disbanded in 1314. The chapel was built by William Sinclair, and there is no evidence whatsoever that he was a Templar, even a 132-year-old Templar. The book further describes an enormous five-pointed star engraved by centuries of footsteps into the floor. There is nothing of the kind there, despite the hands-and-knees efforts of hordes of tourists to find it.

                          ● There are two direct bloodlines from Jesus, and that these two families, Plantard and Saint-Clair, are in hiding, protected by the Priory of Sion. They weren’t in hiding then, and they aren’t now. But oh, how we wish they were.

                          Brown’s misunderstanding of who and what the Templars were comes shining through near the very end of the book. Robert Langdon states that he has explained to Sophie the fact that the Knights Templar were the principal influence on modern Freemasonry, “whose primary degrees — Apprentice Freemason, Fellowcraft Freemason, and Master Mason — harked back to early Templar days.” The Templars did not wear aprons and use the three degrees; this aspect of Freemasonry is drawn from the medieval guilds of the stonemasons. There are some tenuous and unproved ties between the Templars and the Freemasons, all of them strictly theoretical (see Chapter 8) Unfortunately, the Templars of The Da Vinci Code have little to do with their historical counterparts.

                          Opus Dei
                          The controversial Catholic sect called Opus Dei is the only secret society mentioned in The Da Vinci Code that may well have some of the smear coming. This is not to say that Silas, the mad and murderous Albino monk, is even remotely a fair depiction of the organization. It does seem fair to say that part of the philosophy behind the organization could easily become twisted, delivered up in just the right way to just the right suspicious mind.

                          Not everyone in Opus Dei is expected to remain celibate. In fact, home and family are both emphasized deeply, as you may expect of a Catholic organization. Yet, parallels with the Knights Templars exist, in that both are organizations “attached” to the Church, quasi-independent, in the case of Opus Dei with something called a “personal prelature,” a status that has only existed since Vatican II. And both require a far higher degree of sacrifice from their members than attending Mass on Sunday.

                          Opus Dei was founded in 1927 by St. Josemaria Escriva, a parish priest in rural Spain. In later years, in Rome, he became a member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology and a prelate of honor to the pope. At his death in 1975, thousands of lay Catholics and a third of the world’s bishops asked the Holy See to open a case for canonization. Pope John Paul II beatified Escriva in 1992 (which is a sort of pre-saint status) and then canonized him ten years later on October 6, 2002.

                          The organization is in 61 countries worldwide, with around 87,000 members, and it’s involved with education and relief work. At its spiritual core, Opus Dei is founded on the belief that God should be a part of daily life. The phrase Opus Dei means “Work of God” in Latin, and the group is sometimes referred to by its members as “the Work.” The overwhelming majority, 98 percent, are lay Catholics (not priests or nuns), governed by an apostolic convention headed by a bishop.


                          • #73
                            There are four types of membership:
                            Supernumeraries: Supernumeraries make up over 70 percent of members. They lead traditional lives, work, raise families, and so on, and they rarely practice such rigorous habits as celibacy or “corporal mortification.”

                            ● Numeraries: Numeraries, about 20 percent of the membership, are men and women who live in the Opus Dei centers, celibately, in segregated quarters. They are encouraged to be college graduates, and to work outside of the center, donating most of their money back to it, a very cultish practice.

                            ● Numerary Assistants: Numerary Assistants are celibate women who live in the Opus Dei houses. They do not have outside jobs, and they take care of the cooking, cleaning, and other domestic matters of the center. The accusation of gross discrimination against women is generally aimed at the treatment of the members of this rank.

                            ● Associates: The last small category of membership, Associates, have a high level of devotion but have obligations that require them to live outside the homes.

                            Numeraries, Numerary Assistants, and Associates live in celibate group homes, and so are far more likely to be considered by outsiders as members of a religious cult. Of course, to others, they might look more like monks in a monastery.

                            Despite this section’s heading, Opus Dei is not a secret society. If it’s anything negative at all, it may be a religious cult. Whether it’s a harmless one is a matter of debate. They do incorporate a lot of medieval belief into their Catholicism, and that can make modern people nervous.

                            Part of their tradition is a monastic practice called corporal mortification, the idea that inflicting pain on yourself (or deprivation, as in a fast) is a way to “scourge yourself,” to help achieve a state of grace. This practice was common in medieval Catholicism, though extremely rare today. It has also been practiced by other faiths besides Christianity. Members believe that this self-punishment, which is supposed to be inflicted in various mild forms, is their way of “taking up the cross,” or in other words, sharing in Christ’s pain in order to reach oneness with him.

                            Corporal mortification is only recommended in its mildest forms by the powers that be, who sometimes can’t be held responsible when some nutcase decides to carry it over the edge. Members are encouraged to make small sacrifices here and there of the creature comforts we’ve become so used to; take a cold shower, sleep without a pillow, fast, or remain silent for a certain number of hours each day.

                            But some in the group houses let it get out of hand. Sometimes members flail themselves regularly with a small rope whip they call a discipline, while others go even farther, using a device called a celise mentioned in The Da Vinci Code that would make any sane man’s flesh crawl — it looks like a cross between a Slinky and a piece of barbed wire, and it is to be worn beneath the clothing for a specified time, usually two hours, wrapped around the upper thigh, spikes pointing inward. According to Opus Dei, members are told not to draw blood with it. Terrific.

                            To be fair, corporal mortification isn’t quite as loony as it sounds. In fact, aspects of it survive in our own culture in some very unlikely places. Its fans in Opus Dei describe it as a way of tuning in to a deeper level of awareness, a philosophy seen in many guises. Have you ever been driving home in the pouring rain, and you glance off to the side and notice a runner on the sidewalk, going for all he’s worth, his face wearing a really unsettling grimace, but with sort of glassy eyes? Runners sometimes call this “being in the zone,” a place where the pain is no longer felt, and the mind is at peace. As the body toils, even painfully, the mind clears, and a zone of inner serenity is reached that allows them to face their problems later with clarity and calm.

                            Now, do we recommend corporal mortification? No. In fact, we think it’s a little nuts. On the other hand, we think the guy jogging 5 miles in the freezing rain is nuts, too.

                            A nonprofit organization called Opus Dei Awareness Network exists to reach out to people who have experienced a “negative impact on their lives” at the hands of the organization. According to the network, although Opus Dei isn’t exactly a cult, they certainly do use many cult practices and, in general, exercise a high degree of control over their members — particularly, of course, the ones who live in Opus Dei houses.

                            Leonardo da Vinci and His Last Supper
                            Leonardo da Vinci was a unique artist, engineer, mathematician, inventor, musician, and writer. He was the embodiment of the true Renaissance Man, and every bit the eccentric genius he was reputed to have been. The question that undoubtedly comes up in any discussion about the Knights Templar and The Da Vinci Code is obvious: What does a Florentine artist from the 15th century have to do with a defunct order of medieval knights?

                            Da Vinci was definitely an esoteric character and a man of contrasts; a bastard son who rose to prominence; an early Deist who worshipped the perfect machine of nature to such a degree that he wouldn’t eat meat, but who made his first big splash designing weapons of war; a renowned painter who didn’t much like painting, and often didn’t finish them, infuriating his clients; and a born engineer who loved nothing more than hours spent imagining new contraptions of every variety.

                            Da Vinci is listed in the Priory of Sion documents as a past Grand Master, a logical choice. Because he was an enigmatic man of eccentric genius, but little is known of his private side, people can impress on him any ideology they like.

                            Holy Blood, Holy Grail is not the only book that The Da Vinci Code's hero, Robert Langdon, mentions. Another is The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ (1997), by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince. And it is here that the da Vinci connection to this whole story really begins, in their chapter “The Secret Code of Leonardo da Vinci.” They specifically examine the two paintings that become central to The Da Vinci Code: Madonna of the Rocks and The Last Supper.

                            Da Vinci’s famous Last Supper is actually an enormous painting that covers an entire wall of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. Although it was painted on a plaster wall, it is not, as it is sometimes described, a fresco. A fresco, for those of us who really care about such trivia, is painted on a wet plaster wall, so the paint actually is embedded into the plaster when it dries. Frescos last a long time. The Last Supper, alas, was simply painted on the dried surface of a plaster wall that constantly crumbles and is susceptible to temperature and humidity damage. Originally painted between 1493 and 1498, over the last five centuries it has been painted over, altered, and “restored” several times, with startlingly different results. The most recent, a process that took almost 20 years, painstakingly re-created what da Vinci painted, filling in with light watercolors where the original work was irreparable.

                            John or Mary?
                            One of the central themes of both the Templar Revelation and The Da Vinci Code is that the figure seated at Jesus’s right hand is not a young St. John, but Mary Magdalene. “She” is alleged to be wearing feminine clothes, showing a hint of bosom, with a feminine face, and sitting in the place where a wife of Christ would normally be sitting, if he had one.

                            But if you actually look at the painting, none of it is true. “Her” clothes match the other apostles at the table — same look, same colors, even the same metal pin holding the neckline together. Anybody looking for a bosom here is hallucinating. And there is nothing else to indicate that the figure is anything other than the image of the very young male disciple that “Jesus loved,”

                            John. If he looks effeminate and needs a haircut, so does James, the second figure on the left, the one with the sort of Bette Midler look about him. And if we play along with this fantasy and say, okay, it is Mary Magdalene, then we have a math problem, because we’d be short one apostle in the room.

                            Another claim is that the cluster of apostles around Jesus’s figure, along with the angles of Christ’s shoulders and robe, form an M, and therefore create what amounts to a Renaissance billboard for Mary Magdalene. But again, if you actually look at the painting instead of taking Brown’s — or our — opinion as fact, it could also be argued that da Vinci composed the space around Jesus as a V, as though you could expect rays of holy light to emanate from him at any second. Or a V for Vinci. Or maybe it was an M after all, and it stood for Milan. Or the Virgin Mary, which would mean it was both a V and an M. Or maybe it isn’t there at all.

                            Writing about art is like knitting about music.
                            Sometimes a painting is just a painting, and sometimes what’s in the painting is just what the painter put there. How do we really know that it’s John sitting next to Jesus — or, for that matter, just exactly who each figure in the painting is supposed to be? After all, they aren’t wearing name badges. Because da Vinci made preliminary sketches of the painting before he started, called cartoons, and in them, he wrote the name of every apostle next to everyone in the painting. The cartoons were for his own use as he worked out the design of the massive work. And da Vinci clearly identified the apostle next to Jesus. It wasn’t Mary Magdalene. It was John.

                            The "missing” Grail found.
                            Sophie paused, realizing it was the trick question. And after dinner, Jesus took the cup of wine, sharing it with His disciples. “One cup,” she said. “The chalice.” The Cup of Christ. The Holy Grail. “Jesus passed a single chalice of wine, just as modern Christians do at communion.”

                            Teabing sighed. “Open your eyes.”
                            She did. Teabing was grinning smugly. Sophie looked down at the painting, seeing to her astonishment that everyone at the table had a glass of wine, including Christ. Thirteen cups. Moreover, the cups were tiny, stemless, and made of glass. There was no chalice in the painting. No Holy Grail.
                            —Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code

                            Oh, but there is, just not where it is supposed to be. Look at the painting. In reality, da Vinci’s Last Supper (see Figure 12-1) is huge. If you stand up close, you’d never see it, because the Grail is not on the table in front of Christ, just as Teabing says. But as in all da Vinci paintings, it pays to look around, and then look again. It’s part of his charm. Look at the last apostle on the left.

                            Over his head is a window or doorframe. Up close, the lines just look like details of the alcove, even though such details don’t appear in the other two similar ones behind it, or on the other side of the painting. But step back and look again, and the image of a chalice does indeed appear, floating right over the head of St. Bartholomew. When you see it, you’ll look at it every time. (We’re not the only ones to spot this in the painting. After we did, we went digging for allies. Have a look at code-breaker Gary Phillips’s Web site at

                            Figure 12-1: In spite of what Dan Brown claims, the Holy Grail is indeed in Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, over the head of the last apostle on the left, St. Bartholomew.

                            But why him? Bartholomew barely appears in the New Testament accounts of the apostles — only as part of the lists of the followers of Christ that appear in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts — and most biblical scholars believe he is also referred to as Nathanael in the Gospel of John. Curiously, according to Syrian tradition, his original name was Jesus. So there’s lots of confusion among theologians about Bartholomew.

                            There is no Gospel of Bartholomew in the Bible. But there is an apocryphal Gospel of Bartholomew. It’s a fascinating document that describes Jesus appearing to his disciples after the resurrection and, among other things, showing them the pit of hell, with a long interview between Bartholomew and Satan. But what may very well connect St. Bartholomew, the Grail, da Vinci’s painting, and The Da Vinci Code is an episode in the gospel in which Jesus’s mother, Mary, reluctantly tells the apostles about the circumstances surrounding her virgin conception of Christ. Here’s a passage from the Gospel (Questions) of Bartholomew (4:5-6):
                            Mary saith: Thou art the image of Adam: was not he first formed and then Eve? Look upon the sun, that according to the likeness of Adam it is bright.

                            And upon the moon, that because of the transgression of Eve it is full of clay. For God did place Adam in the east and Eve in the west, and appointed the lights that the sun should shine on the earth unto Adam in the east in his fiery chariots, and the moon in the west should give light unto Eve with a countenance like milk. And she defiled the commandment of the Lord. Therefore was the moon stained with clay and her light is not bright. Thou therefore, since thou art the likeness of Adam, oughtest to ask him: but in me was he contained that I might recover the strength of the female.

                            Now when they came up to the top of the mount, and the Master was withdrawn from them a little space, Peter saith unto Mary: Thou art she that hast brought to nought the transgression of Eve, changing it from shame into joy; it is lawful, therefore, for thee to ask.

                            In this little-known gospel, Mary says that by giving birth to Jesus, she has wiped away the original sin of Eve. If ever there were a clear conflict with Church doctrine, it would have been this very contention! So, did da Vinci paint the Grail over Bartholomew because he wanted us to look at the gospel of this saint again for what was kept out of the Bible? Did he do it as an inside joke because Bartholomew’s name was also Jesus? Or is there no significance to it being over Bartholomew at all, and the ghostly presence of the Grail in the background where we’d least expect it is just a visual prank? One thing is certain: The Last Supper took four years for da Vinci to complete. There is nothing there by accident. Teabing is right. There’s no Grail in front of Jesus. But it is in the painting, and it’s over Bartholomew.


                            • #74
                              Chapter 13

                              The Suppression of the "Feminine Divine": Truth or Feminist Fiction?
                              In This Chapter
                              ● Scoping out the female side of God and finding it was there all along
                              ● Refereeing the debate over Jesus and his “wife”
                              ● Meeting some really divine fems

                              Feminine Divine. It sounds like a drag queen, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s the hottest thing to hit the university circuit since Women’s Studies. The feminine divine is the hip new concept sweeping the nation, a term that was coined when some warmed-over scholarly theories about Neolithic goddess worship collided with modern feminist sensibilities to create a whole new angle on comparative religion.

                              But the feminine divine (or the divine feminine or sacred feminine) really hit its stride with the publication of a speculative history called Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which served up — along with a long menu of theories on everything from treasures to Templars — the notion that Jesus Christ may have been married. This idea wasn’t a new one; actually, it had been hanging around for some time. But when combined with a little feminism and a great deal of speculation, it rushed onward to the peak of the craze, with the publication of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and its plotline about the descendants of Christ that turned it into the mega-blockbuster of all time.
                              The earth cooled, the mountains rose from the sea, mankind crawled out of the slime to build a civilization, God saw this and pronounced it good. And then Dan Brown wrote a novel, and everything changed.

                              That’s really about the size of it. Like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense or Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Da Vinci Code was more than a book; it was a cultural earthquake. We now live in a post-Da Vinci Code age, a time when the mania for the book has finally died down, but a time in which most of the assertions of the book are accepted by the general public as holy writ.
                              Chapters 11 and 12 focus on the book as history, discussing the many and various aspects of The Da Vinci Code as they tie in to the Templars and other related subjects. This chapter focuses on an assertion that permeates the novel from beginning to end — the notion of the lost and abused feminine divine, and the theory that Judeo-Christian civilization, and the people who live in it, have been deeply wounded by this loss.

                              Defining Divine Femininity
                              So, what is the sacred feminine or the feminine divine, anyway? It’s actually a pretty simple concept, particularly in The Da Vinci Code. Scholars and anthropologists discussing this subject can pile it on pretty high and deep. But remember, these guys have to prove to their fathers that the money they spent sending them to an Ivy League college wasn’t wasted.
                              Dan Brown goes in the opposite direction, making his theme of the sacred feminine in The Da Vinci Code as simple, and supposedly as obvious, as A, B, C. He presents it as a war between two forces:
                              ● The Old Way, the suppressed way of goddess worship and the “sacred feminine”
                              ● The New Way, the Catholic Church, dominated by men, poisoned by celibacy, and determined to stamp out any power or prestige for women in order to keep men in charge

                              The pivot point of the novel is the theme of a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, a truth that the powers-that-be have spent 2,000 years hiding. This marriage, the bloodline stemming from it, and the Church’s determination to destroy the evidence of it at any cost, becomes the central metaphor of Dan Brown’s endlessly restated argument, that the Church has subjugated and tyrannized, not to mention demonized, women throughout history.
                              Dan Brown claims that over the course of three centuries, the Catholic Church burned over 5 million women at the stake. Nobody on this bus is defending the Inquisition or the “Witch’s Hammer,” the 15th-century do-it-yourself guide to exposing witches. But to portray the Inquisition as a genocidal attack on women is absurd. Both men and women went to the stake — Inquisitors were equal opportunity burners. As for the numbers, no one can say for certain, but it was far closer to 50,000, a tragic number to be sure, but a far cry from 5 million. The Inquisition was hardly a genocidal plot against women. It was a genocidal plot against everybody.

                              Dan Brown mentions three books prominently in the text of The Da Vinci Code, and states openly and honestly that they are the principal sources for the themes we outline here:
                              ● The speculative history Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard Lee, and Henry Lincoln
                              ● The Templar Revelation, by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, which covers much of the same territory as Holy Blood, Holy Grail
                              ● The Woman With the Alabaster Jar, by Margaret Starbird

                              These books are his main escape hatches, really, because Brown makes it crystal clear to the reader, through the mouths of his characters Robert Langdon and Sir Leigh Teabing, that he pulled 90 percent of the material from them. An honest rogue. All three books tie in to the Templars, the Grail, and the rest of the subjects in this section. We discuss the first two in greater depth in Chapter 12. We lay bare Margaret Starbird’s book here.

                              The "lost bride"
                              To tell the truth, Margaret Starbird’s groundbreaking book The Woman with the Alabaster Jar is not really that earth-shattering a set of ideas. We admit that it’s the first time we’ve seen them gathered together in one easily accessible place. Starbird seems to know her stuff, and seeing all her knowledge of the Bible, of general history, and of myth, carefully laid out in a gigantic pointer toward one fact (that Jesus was married and that Mary Magdalene was his wife) makes for a very compelling argument. For Starbird, the denial of the Feminine Divine in the culture of the West has blinded people to the fact that Jesus obviously had a wife. She also believes that most of the violence, hatred and injustice of society is caused by the fact that our culture is skewed to the masculine while having lost the feminine, like a 2,000-year-old carburetor badly in need of an adjustment.

                              In the opening pages of her book, Starbird speaks eloquently of her spiritual crisis on reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail. She had been a devout Catholic, and the idea of Christ being married shook her up so badly that she became obsessed with it, determined to find out if there were any possibility of its being true. Afterward, she spends the rest of the book searching for the “lost bride,” the bride of Christ, Mary Magdalene, in the firm belief that if this “lost bride” can be restored to her rightful place, society will be the better for it.

                              The thing is, this idea of Jesus having a wife isn’t exactly new. People have been talking about it for years — one of us (Chris) heard about it when he was a kid, 30 years ago; the other (Alice), hadn’t heard about it until reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail. (In the interest of full disclosure, we’re both Catholic, but Alice’s dad was a Presbyterian — a mixed marriage in those days. We’re both open to the idea, if the evidence is there.)

                              The theory goes back even farther than Chris’s childhood, and not much that’s still alive and kicking can do that. For example, in 1946, Robert Graves of I, Claudius fame wrote a book called King Jesus, a novel that trotted out many of these same theories. But this earth-shattering and consciousness-altering contention remained mostly in the land of academia for many years. Before the astonishing find at Nag Hammadi in 1945 (see the nearby sidebar, “Christian Gnostics”) there were only a very few Gnostic texts available to researchers, as well as some fragments of larger works, tantalizing glimpses into a different kind of Christianity with a different belief system. Graves, as a professional scholar, would have had access to these, and he used his fertile imagination to fill in the rest.


                              • #75
                                Christian Gnostics
                                The Gnostic Gospels get mentioned a lot in The Da Vinci Code in relation to whether Jesus was married. The following is a criminally brief description, but both Chapters 7 and 14 discuss Gnostic beliefs in more detail.

                                For the most part, the Gnostic Gospels that Dan Brown is talking about were part of an incredible archeological find in Egypt in 1945. It was an entire Gnostic library that had been buried in a clay jar, probably to protect it from Byzantine church authorities who were hounding "heretics" back in the fourth century. These were gospels, stories of Christ by his followers, that were left out of the biblical canon, mostly because they reflected the Gnostic Christian viewpoint. Gnostics weren't just Christians — just about every religion on the planet has had a sect with a Gnostic point of view at one time or another. Gnostics believed, basically, in a duality in the universe, with good and evil in constant opposition.

                                What got the Christian Gnostics in trouble with the Church was some of the ideas that came out of this belief - for example, that Christ as well as all the material world had come out of the "evil" side of creation, or that God was evil as well as good. You've probably heard the terms for many of these famous heresies — Manichaeism, Arianism, Catharism, and Zoroastrianism. Lots of them are mentioned in this book, especially concerning the accusations of heresy against the Templars, who were accused of being Gnostics. In its first ten centuries of existence, the chief conflict in the Catholic Church was its attempt to stamp out these various heresies, despite many of them being very popular.

                                Robert Graves’s imagination wasn’t taken too seriously. That’s because, even though these famous Gnostic Gospels of Nag Hammadi were discovered in 1945, they floated around the Near East for years, sold in pieces by the Egyptian family who found them and had no idea of their worth. These leather-bound volumes called codices (a codex is an early form of book made by binding old-fashioned scrolls into an easier to read and carry format, the precursor to books as we know them) suffered heartbreaking damage during this period. The mother of the Arabic family who found them even burned some of them to light the family stove, thinking them worthless. Her sons sold them in pieces, while some came into the hands of a Coptic priest who was a family friend, and they finally ended up scattered here and there, to this university or that rare-book dealer. It took the scholarly world time to put it all together, time to translate it and correlate it all, to really understand the enormity of the find. You couldn’t just walk into a bookstore in 1962 and buy a copy of the Gnostic Gospels the way you can today.

                                Of course, this isn’t to say that the theory of a married Jesus wasn’t causing the occasional flap long before Dan Brown. Slowly but surely, the Gnostic Gospels, with their indication of a Mary Magdalene of vital importance to early Christians, were making their way into the larger culture. For example, in 1970, the publication of a book with the straightforward title Was Jesus Married?: The Distortion of Sexuality in the Christian Tradition, by William E. Phipps, set off quite a firestorm in England, when a bishop of the Anglican Church read it, left the Church, and got married. But we’re sorry to say that Mr. Phipps didn’t have a whole lot to hang his hat on, factually speaking.

                                So what did the Vatican have to say about all this? They didn’t try to suppress the theory, and they didn’t secretly hire albino hit men to go out and kill anyone. They just smiled serenely and rode out the entire little flap. It’s what Holy Mother Church has always done best.

                                The mysterious Magdalene
                                Before heading into the subject of the speculation concerning Mary Magdalene, it’s important to start off with what we know for certain about her. It isn’t much. For centuries, Biblical scholars haven’t even been able to decide how many biblical passages are about Mary Magdalene, or how many references to a woman named Mary, as in Mary of Bethany, may really be talking about the Magdalene.

                                Too many Marys
                                The New Testament can be very confusing, insofar as who this or that person is, and the gospels as they exist aren’t always careful about explaining. The authors weren’t historians, and they probably didn’t think it was that important.

                                Myths and legends got told and retold, with an overarching feel to them of a Borsch-belt comedian (“You see, there was this guy . . .”). For the authors of the gospels, the story being told, and its spiritual point, was the important thing.

                                It doesn’t help that there was already a great deal of confusion about names, which is also nothing new. In Tudor England, for example, it’s estimated that roughly 70 percent of the women were named Mary, Catharine, or Elizabeth. Just like the first generation of the second millennium A.D. will doubtless be overrun with Britneys, Anna Nicoles, and J. Los. It was the same in biblical days. Certain popular names, Mary or Sarah, John or Joseph, were used again and again. There were six separate Marys in the New Testament. Often, in the struggle for a little clarity, these people were referred to by the added name of where they lived — Mary of Bethany, for example, or Joseph of Arimathea, or even something odder, like Simon the leper. The confusion comes in trying to figure out whether Simon the leper was also Simon the fisherman as well as Simon the moneylender.

                                Are you a hooker, or am I just doing great with you?
                                Somehow along the way, mostly in the folklore and oral tradition, Mary Magdalene became Mary the prostitute, redeemed by her love and faith. Back in the sixth century, Pope Gregory I preached an influential sermon in which he stated that the Mary Magdalene, who had seven demons cast out of her by Jesus, was the same unnamed woman “sinner” that Jesus forgives in the story just before it. Of course, in the sixth century, people also believed that the sun revolved around the Earth. We don’t believe that anymore. For centuries biblical scholars have known that there’s no evidence to support this popular legend whatsoever. So why won’t the image of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute finally be laid to rest?

                                The sun still revolves around the Earth in the world of cinema. In 1977, famed Italian director Franco Zeffirelli made a popular miniseries called Jesus of Nazareth (a film that sticks pretty close to the gospels in general), and, in 1988, director Martin Scorsese made the film The Last Temptation of Christ (a film that’s a bit of a mess). In both movies, the Magdalene is a prostitute.

                                Both directors are Catholic, both intelligent and well-read, yet neither would let this particular myth go. As for the Protestants, as far back as 1909, the Scofield Reference Bible, arguably the most detailed and referenced study Bible every produced, with its modern system of translation notes and crossreferences, went to great lengths to point out that the Magdalene was not a prostitute or a sinner. Yet, so many years later, Zeffirelli and Scorsese still have her streetwalking for a living.

                                There is one certain thing, one image of Mary Magdalene that emerges from all four gospels: her very special place among Jesus’s followers. When the so-called Gnostic Gospel of Phillip an apocryphal gospel that had not been included in the canon of the New Testament, was discovered at Nag Hammadi, much was made of the fact that a particular passage says that Jesus had kissed Mary “upon the [blank].” Yes, it’s that cruel a joke. The one little word upon which the work of so many speculative historians hinges appears where there is now a hole in the battered text. However, we don’t see where it matters that much, despite all the brouhaha over it. Based on the context of the sentence, the word was doubtless either face or mouth, and either way it doesn’t make much difference. No one who has read the New Testament in its accepted form needed this additional information to find out about the very special status of Mary in the entourage of Jesus; it has been a subject of speculation for centuries. But from papal bulls to the Encyclopedia Britannica, she is called not “St. Mary,” but rather “the female disciple,” perhaps a term of even more respect. In early Catholic tradition, she was sometimes called the Apostola Apostolorum, the “Apostle of Apostles,” certainly implying her importance, not just to Jesus, but to the early preaching of the gospel. She was conceded a very high place within the Church if only for the fact that she was, without doubt, the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection, surely a sign of divine preference. All four gospels place her at the foot of the cross with Christ’s family during the crucifixion.

                                As they would in spreading the new faith, women played a very important part in Jesus’ ministry, and many women, of high and low rank, followed him. But chief among them was the Magdalene. That’s the reason some people tend to get very huffy about the fact that Mary Magdalene was often cast as a prostitute. But it was merely confusion, not character assassination.

                                The Q Document
                                Often, when you're reading material about the Magdalene, a big deal will be made out of the fact that something appears in all four gospels. You may also hear the term synoptic gospels. The synoptic gospels are the first three: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They're called that because they tell pretty much the same stories in the same order, often using similar phrases, while John is different.

                                Dan Brown makes hay in The Da Vinci Code out of something with the ominous, 007-esque moniker "The Q Document," which he says even the Vatican "admits" probably exists. But it's not the mysterious key to hidden gospels that he makes it out to be. The so-called "Q Document" is a gospel that scholars believe may have been written before the other three, and that's why the synoptic gospels are similar, because they raided things from the same source. It's only a theory — there is no actual document of this kind — but because some of the gospels were written as early as a.d. 70, it's very exciting for Bible scholars to think there may be something out there even older, perhaps written in Christ's lifetime.

                                But that's why it's so important if something appears in all four gospels. This fact alone definitely adds weight to the truth and or importance of the story.
                                In studying the four gospels of the New Testament, we believe it’s pretty easy to figure out how the urban legends about Mary Magdalene got started. In the Book of Luke, Chapter 7, there is a story of an unnamed woman that could be one key to the mix-up. In this chapter, Jesus is invited to dinner in the home of a prominent local Pharisee, the Pharisees being the more conservative of the two main Jewish sects of the period. (The others were the Sadducees.)

                                The apostles aren’t thrilled that Jesus has accepted this invitation; they know very well that the man is Jesus’s enemy.
                                During the dinner, an unnamed woman enters, carrying an alabaster box of ointment. Ointments and perfumes of all sorts were very prized in Judea in this period, and were often more valuable than silver or gold. The woman is referred to only as “a sinner.” She kneels weeping at Jesus’s feet, “washing them with her tears” according to the Bible, then drying them with her hair. She then anoints his head with the ointment. This anointing of the feet and head was a common act of courtesy extended to an honored guest, but, of course, scholars have spent volumes on it insofar as its obvious metaphorical message of anointing a sacred man. This is the unnamed “sinner,” the woman with the alabaster box. Jesus forgives this woman her sins, sins that are never named or cataloged, and she leaves. Almost immediately afterwards, in the opening of the next chapter, Jesus meets the Magdalene for the first time. According to Luke he healed her, “casting out seven demons from her,” a common ancient explanation for all sorts of illnesses. These lines about the Magdalene occur only a few lines after the story of the unnamed “sinner.”