The Priory of Sion
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Real Names

See lists below.

First Appearance


Created by

Pierre Plantard


The Prieuré de Sion, translated from French as Priory of Sion, is a name given to multiple groups, both real and fictitious. The most controversial is a fringe fraternal organisation, founded and dissolved in France in 1956 (abiding by the 1901 French Law of Associations) by Pierre Plantard. In the 1960s, Plantard created a fictitious history for that organization, describing it as a secret society founded by Godfrey of Bouillon on Mount Zion in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099, conflating it with a genuine historical monastic order, the Abbey of Our Lady of Mount Zion. In Plantard's version, the priory was devoted to installing a secret bloodline of the Merovingian dynasty on the thrones of France and the rest of Europe. This myth was expanded upon and popularised by the 1982 pseudohistorical book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and later claimed as factual in the preface of the 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code.

After becoming a cause célèbre from the late 1960s to the 1980s, the mythical Priory of Sion was exposed as a ludibrium created by Plantard as a framework for his claim of being the Great Monarch prophesied by Nostradamus. Evidence presented in support of its historical existence and activities before 1956 was discovered to have been forged and then planted in various locations around France by Plantard and his accomplices. Nevertheless, many conspiracy theorists still persist in believing that the Priory of Sion is an age-old cabal that conceals a subversive secret.

The Priory of Sion myth has been exhaustively debunked by journalists and scholars as one of the great hoaxes of the 20th century. Some skeptics have expressed concern that the proliferation and popularity of books, websites and films inspired by this hoax have contributed to the problem of conspiracy theories, pseudohistory and other confusions becoming more mainstream. Others are troubled by the romantic reactionary ideology unwittingly promoted in these works.

The (Alleged) Grand Masters

The mythical Priory of Sion was supposedly led by a "Nautonnier," an Old French word for a navigator, which means Grand Master in their internal esoteric nomenclature. The following list of Grand Masters is derived from the Dossiers Secrets d'Henri Lobineau compiled by Plantard under the nom de plume of "Philippe Toscan du Plantier" in 1967. All those named on this list had died before that date. All but two are also found on lists of alleged “Imperators” (supreme heads) and “distinguished members” of the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis which circulated in France at the time when Plantard was in touch with this Rosicrucian Order. Most of those named share the common thread of being known for having an interest in the occult or heresy.

The Dossiers Secrets asserted that the Priory of Sion and the Knights Templar always shared the same Grand Master until a schism occurred during the "Cutting of the Elm" incident in 1188. Following that event, the Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion are listed in French as being:

1. Jean de Gisors (1188–1220)
2. Marie de Saint-Clair (1220–1266)
3. Guillaume de Gisors (1266–1307)
4. Edouard de Bar (1307–1336)
5. Jeanne de Bar (1336–1351)
6. Jean de Saint-Clair (1351–1366)
7. Blanche d'Évreux (1366–1398)
8. Nicolas Flamel (1398–1418)
9. René d'Anjou (1418–1480)
10. Iolande de Bar (1480–1483)
11. Sandro Filipepi (1483–1510)
12. Léonard da Vinci (1510–1519)
13. Connétable de Bourbon (1519–1527)
14. Ferdinand de Gonzague (1527–1575)
15. Louis de Nevers (1575–1595)
16. Robert Fludd (1595–1637)
17. J. Valentin Andrea (1637–1654)
18. Robert Boyle (1654–1691)
19. Isaac Newton (1691–1727)
20. Charles Radclyffe (1727–1746)
21. Charles de Lorraine (1746–1780)
22. Maximilian de Lorraine (1780–1801)
23. Charles Nodier (1801–1844)
24. Victor Hugo (1844–1885)
25. Claude Debussy (1885–1918)
26. Jean Cocteau (1918–1963)

A later document, Le Cercle d'Ulysse, identifies François Ducaud-Bourget, a prominent Traditionalist Catholic priest who Plantard had worked for as a sexton during World War II, as the Grand Master following Cocteau's death. Plantard himself is later identified as the next Grand Master.

When the Dossiers Secrets were exposed as a forgery by French researchers, Plantard kept quiet. During his 1989 attempt to make a comeback and revive the Priory of Sion, Plantard sought to distance himself from the discredited first list, and published a second list of Priory Grand Masters, which included the names of the deceased Roger-Patrice Pelat, and his own son Thomas Plantard de Saint-Clair:

1. Jean-Tim Negri d'Albes (1681–1703)
2. François d'Hautpoul (1703–1726)
3. André-Hercule de Fleury (1726–1766)
4. Charles de Lorraine (1766–1780)
5. Maximilian de Lorraine (1780–1801)
6. Charles Nodier (1801–1844)
7. Victor Hugo (1844–1885)
8. Claude Debussy (1885–1918)
9. Jean Cocteau (1918–1963)
10. François Balphangon (1963–1969)
11. John Drick (1969–1981)
12. Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair (1981)
13. Philippe de Chérisey (1984–1985)
14. Roger-Patrice Pelat (1985–1989)
15. Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair (1989)
16. Thomas Plantard de Saint-Clair (1989)
17. Prince Paul Demidoff de san Donatto ( 2001)

In 1993, Plantard acknowledged that both lists were fraudulent when he was investigated by a judge during the Pelat Affair.


Only the general myth of the organization can be considered in the public domain. Any appearances, such as the famous novel by Dan Brown, are under copyright to their respective creators.

See Also

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