The Da Vinci Myth?
By Maxwell Pereira

I was born a catholic, raised as one in a marvellously secular and tolerant Hindu majority land, and despite a vastly changed scenario, proudly proclaim myself as one today too. And I pray The Almighty finds me a worthy catholic when the final call comes! The Christian values and principles imbibed in me through my earlier days have stood me in good stead through adulthood, to enable me to hold my head high thanks to these very values my mentors - parents, priests, nuns and teachers, fortified me with for life’s journeys ahead.

While I have great respect for my own religion, I have no less for the beliefs of my other brethren – for I respect all who respect our Creator, and believe no religion preaches anything bad. This doesn’t however stop me from whispering a prayer for those who do not contribute to my beliefs, that they be shown the right path to salvation.

History of Christianity through 2000 years has been one of attacks and martyrdom. With the recent worldwide release of the movie The Da Vinci Code, Catholics are yet again faced with a fresh barrage of questions about Jesus and the faith. There has been intense debate, with the Vatican at the forefront condemning this attack on Christianity by a total distortion of facts projected in a fictional work, as we would want to put it, “for Satan’s agents to exploit”. Even so, I do not view this as necessarily a bad thing; on the contrary, it provides, I believe, a great opportunity for us to witness Christ and Christianity to the people of today. To be able to do this, however, it is necessary to separate the fact from the fiction.

In The Da Vinci Code, author Dan Brown claims in his preliminary “facts” section that the Priory of Sion “is a real organization”, “a European secret society founded in 1099”: “In 1975 Paris Bibliothèque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci”.

Writer Massimo Introvigne on the website tells us the Priory of Sion is an esoteric order of antiquity legally established in France in 1956 by Pierre Plantard (1920-2000). The publication in 1982 of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by British journalists Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln generated interst in the legends connected with it – the story starting with Father Berenger Saunière (1852-1917), whose last name is also borrowed in The Da Vinci Code. This parish priest of Rennes-le-Château, a small village in the French region of Aude, near the Pyrenees Mountains was interested in symbolism and built a number of constructions around his parish church, including a bizarre neo-gothic “Tower of Magdala” rumoured to have been funded by a buried treasure he found.

The local catholic Bishop who invesigated these rumours and the allegation that the priest was having an affair with his servant Marie Denarnaud (1868-1953), concluded that rather than treasure it was trafficking in Masses that explained Saunière’s suspicious wealth, and suspended him from his priestly duties and privileges. The priest however continued in Rennes-le-Château with his buildings (Tower of Magdala included) whose ownership he hasd earlier transferred to Marie Denarnaud. Rumors about buried treasures continued though even after Saunière’s death in 1917, and again surfaced in the 1950s when Marie Denarnaud in her old age, tried to sell the properties. Those who bought them fanned the rumours further through the local press, in the hope of attracting clients to local busnesses.

According to Introvigne, Pierre Plantard the leader of a minor occult-political organization known as Alpha Galates, told an even taller story about Rennes-le-Château, to the esoteric author Gérard De Sède, whose book in 1967 L’Or de Rennes (“Rennes’ Gold”) interested the three British journalists, Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln – to make Rennes-le-Château a household name throughout the English-speaking world, thanks to a BBC TV series based on their reports, as well as several popular books.

The story told by Plantard to De Sède, was that Saunière did discover a buried treasure, which included documents confirming the old Southern French legends that Jesus Christ had come to live in France with his wife Mary Magdalene, had children and initiated a dynasty which eventually became the Merovingian Kings of France. This, Plantard suggested, was the true meaning of the Grail legends: the Holy Grail, in French Saint Graal, was in fact the Sang Réal, which in Medieval French means “Holy Blood”, i.e. the blood of Jesus Christ himself flowing in the veins of the Merovingians. That when the Merovingian dynasty fell, their descendants went underground and a secret organization, the Priory of Sion, preserved their holy blood even since. The Cathars and Knights Templar, the early Freemasons and various literary and artistic figures all said to be connected to the secretive Priory - Plantard ultimately implying that he was himself not only the current Grand Master of the elusive Priory, but also the last descendant of the Merovingians and the current vessel of Christ’s holy blood.

Plantard’s tale, if true, would have turned Christianity on its head, and inspired a whole new interpretation of world history. Historians remained understandably skeptical regarding the Priory of Sion as nothing more than a figment of Plantard’s imagination. No serious scholar has ever regarded the documents said to have been found in the National Library of Paris in 1975 as anything else than a 20th century fabrication. The Rennes-le-Château saga – the core round which Dan Brown spun his story, had becaome an integral part of international popular culture through novels and movies; Preacher, The Magdalena, the Rex Mundi were among the popular comic book series which also focused interest on the subject. The Priory exists today after Plantard`s death as a small occult organization, combining themes from several pre-existing occult orders, and an endless source for novels and movies, but no one in the scholarly world would seriously maintain that the legends created by Plantard and others are factually true.

May 29, 2006: 950 words: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002 Write to the author at and


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