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Pierre Athanase Marie Plantard (March 18, 1920 – February 3, 2000) was a French draughtsman, best known for being the principal perpetrator of the Priory of Sion legend, by which he claimed from the 1960s onwards that he was a Merovingian dynast and the “Grand Monarch” prophesied by Nostradamus.
Pierre Plantard used an altered surname, Plantard de Saint-Clair, described as an epithet by Jean-Luc Chaumeil. The “Saint-Clair” part of his surname was added to his real surname on the basis that this was the family name associated with the area of Gisors, a city in Normandy associated with his hoax – according to the mythology of the Priory of Sion “Jean VI des Plantard” married a member of the House of Gisors during the 12th century.
Plantard was born in 1920, in Paris, the son of a butler and a concierge (described as a cook for wealthy families in police reports of the 1940s). Starting in 1937, he began forming mystical ultranationalist associations.
On May 7, 1956, Plantard and others legally registered in the town of St Julien-en-Genevois a new group called the Priory of Sion based in Annemasse close to the French border near Geneva. The group was devoted to the support of politicians working to build low-cost housing in Annemasse and published a magazine named Circuit. The “Sion” in the name did not refer to the ancient Land of Israel, but to a local mountain, Montagne de Sion, where the order intended to establish a retreat center.
Plantard was influenced by the story of hotelier Noël Corbu, who, in order to promote his isolated restaurant, started claiming in 1956 that a treasure had been discovered in the area of Rennes-le-Château by a previous occupant of his property, Father Bérenger Saunière, whilst renovating his church in 1891. Plantard met Corbu in the early 1960s and embellished the story with the claim that Saunière had discovered medieval parchments along with the treasure that made Plantard the last surviving Merovingian claimant to the throne of France, descended from King Dagobert II.
Robert Richardson detects many of the themes found in Priory documents, e.g. the king as a sacred being or the special quality of the blood in a royal family, admiration for Godfrey of Bouillon, originating in the ideas of radical traditionalist Julius Evola, although Plantard nowhere mentioned Evola in his writings. Such superficial themes were common traits in the history of reactionary Western esotericism.
Plantard, together with his friend Philippe de Chérisey, produced a number of false documents, including one which attached Plantard’s family tree to an actual genealogy from an article by Louis Saurel in the French magazine Les Cahiers de l’Histoire No. 1 (1960). Between 1965 and 1967 these documents, known as the “Dossiers Secrets” (Secret Files), were planted in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. A third co-conspirator, French author Gérard de Sède (1921–2004), based his 1967 book L’Or de Rennes on these documents, “revealing” the Priory of Sion Rennes story to the world.
Jean-Luc Chaumeil, Franck Marie, Pierre Jarnac, Massimo Introvigne and other researchers state that Plantard and de Chérisey planted documents in the Bibliothèque nationale between 1965 and 1985 and perpetrated a “brilliant” hoax. Bill Putnam and John Edwin Wood, authors of The Treasure of Rennes-le-Château: A Mystery Solved, agree. When asked where to rank the Priory of Sion hoax among other hoaxes throughout history, both placed it “at the top.”
French writer Jean-Luc Chaumeil inherited many of the papers of Plantard and de Chérisey. Among these papers were the Saunière parchments, which Chaumeil had analyzed by two experts, who found them to be around 40 years old. He also says that he has a handwritten document signed by de Chérisey calling the parchments “a good hoax
In 1982, authors Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln published Holy Blood Holy Grail. It became a bestseller and publicized Plantard’s Priory of Sion story. The book added a new element to the story, that the Merovingian line of kings had actually been descended from the historical Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and that the purpose of the Priory (and its military arm, the Knights Templar) was to protect the secret of the Jesus bloodline.
Plantard played along with this story for a while, but in 1986 parted ways with Lincoln, dismissing Holy Blood, Holy Grail and even the 1960s documents as false and irrelevant. He revised his Priory of Sion story, dropping his earlier Merovingian claims and instead basing his main secret on the mystical power of ley lines and Rocco Negro, a mountain near Rennes-le-Château where he owned substantial property. Lincoln maintains that the story about Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the Merovingians might still be true even if Plantard’s story was a fraud.
In a 1989 issue of Vaincre, Roger-Patrice Pelat was named as a Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. Pelat was a friend of the then-President of France François Mitterrand and center of a scandal involving French Prime Minister Pierre Bérégovoy. In October 1993, the judge investigating the Pelat scandal had Pierre Plantard’s house searched. The search failed to find any documents related to Pelat.
Pierre Plantard died in Paris on 3 February 2000.
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