Priory of Sion

The official emblem of the Priory of Sion is partly based on the fleur-de-lis, which was a symbol particularly associated with the French monarchy.[1]

The Prieuré de Sion (French: IPA/API:[pʁijœʁe də sjɔ̃]), translated as Priory of Sion, is a fringe fraternal organisation, founded and dissolved in France in 1956 by Pierre Plantard as part of a hoax. 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.[2] This myth was expanded upon and popularised by the 1982 pseudohistorical[3] book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail[1] and later presented in the preface of the 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

The Priory of Sion myth has been exhaustively debunked by journalists and scholars as one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th century.[7] Some skeptics have expressed concern that the proliferation and popularity of books, websites and films inspired by this hoax have contributed to the subject of conspiracy theories, pseudohistory and other confusions becoming more mainstream.[8] Others are troubled by the romantic and reactionary ideology unwittingly promoted in these works.[9]

History

The fraternal organisation was founded in the town of Annemasse, Haute-Savoie in eastern France in 1956.[10][11] The 1901 French law of Associations required that the Priory of Sion be registered with the government; although the statutes and the registration documents are dated 7 May 1956, the registration took place at the subprefecture of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois on 25 June 1956 and this was announced in the Journal Officiel de la République Française on 20 July 1956.[12]

The Headquarters of the Priory of Sion and its journal Circuit were based in the apartment of Plantard, in a social housing block known as Sous-Cassan newly constructed in 1956.[13][14]

The founders and signatories inscribed with their real names and aliases were Pierre Plantard, also known as "Chyren", and André Bonhomme, also known as "Stanis Bellas". Bonhomme was the President while Plantard was the Secretary General. The registration documents also included the names of Jean Deleaval as the Vice-President and Armand Defago as the Treasurer. The offices of the Priory of Sion and its journal Circuit were located at Plantard's apartment.

The choice of the name "Sion" was based on a popular local feature, a hill south of Annemasse in France, known as Mont Sion, where the founders intended to establish a retreat center.[15] The accompanying title to the name was "Chevalerie d'Institutions et Règles Catholiques d'Union Indépendante et Traditionaliste": this subtitle forms the acronym CIRCUIT and translates in English as Chivalry of Catholic Rules and Institutions of Independent and Traditionalist Union".

The statutes of the Priory of Sion indicate its purpose was to allow and encourage members to engage in studies and mutual aid. The articles of the association expressed the goal of creating a Traditionalist Catholic chivalric order.[16]

Article 7 of the statutes of the Priory of Sion stated that its members were expected "to carry out good deeds, to help the Roman Catholic Church, teach the truth, defend the weak and the oppressed". Towards the end of 1956 the association had planned to forge partnerships with the local Catholic Church of the area which would have involved a school bus service run by both the Priory of Sion and the church of Saint-Joseph in Annemasse.[17] Plantard is described as the President of the Tenants' Association of Annemasse in the issues of Circuit.

The bulk of the activities of the Priory of Sion, however, bore no resemblance to the objectives as outlined in its statutes: Circuit, the official journal of the Priory of Sion, was indicated as a news bulletin of an "organisation for the defence of the rights and the freedom of affordable housing" rather than for the promotion of chivalry-inspired charitable work. The first issue of the journal is dated 27 May 1956, and, in total, twelve issues appeared. Some of the articles took a political position in the local council elections. Others criticised and even attacked real-estate developers of Annemasse.[16]

According to a letter written by Léon Guersillon the Mayor of Annemasse in 1956, contained in the folder holding the 1956 Statutes of the Priory of Sion in the subprefecture of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, Plantard was given a six-month sentence in 1953 for fraud.[18]

The formally registered association was dissolved some time after October 1956 but intermittently revived for different reasons by Plantard between 1961 and 1993, though in name and on paper only. The Priory of Sion is considered dormant by the subprefecture because it has indicated no activities since 1956. According to French law, subsequent references to the Priory bear no legal relation to that of 1956 and no one, other than the original signatories, is entitled to use its name in an official capacity.[citation needed]

André Bonhomme played no part in the association after 1956. He officially resigned in 1973 when he heard that Plantard was linking his name with the association. In light of Plantard's death in 2000, there is no one who is currently alive who has official permission to use the name.[19]

In 2002, Gino Sandri (former secretary to Pierre Plantard) announced the revival of Priory of Sion.[20]

Other Languages
العربية: أخوية سيون
azərbaycanca: Sion Prioratı
български: Орден на Сион
فارسی: دیر صهیون
français: Prieuré de Sion
hrvatski: Sionski priorij
Bahasa Indonesia: Biarawan Sion
עברית: מסדר ציון
Nederlands: Priorij van Sion
polski: Zakon Syjonu
português: Priorado de Sião
slovenščina: Sionsko priorstvo
српски / srpski: Сионски приорат
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Sionski priorij
Türkçe: Sion Tarikatı
українська: Пріорат сіону