The Holy Grail
by, Tracy Twyman
Everyone’s heard about the Holy Grail. Even those who haven’t read any of the classic Arthurian romances on the subject have seen Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But few people know or have even thought about what it actually was, which is something that neither the chroniclers of old nor modern-day historians can agree upon. The basic idea of a magical object that could restore fertility, induce mystical experience, or grant everlasting life wasn’t anything new to Europe, and historians do agree that it was old Celtic myths such as those of Bran the Giant’s magic platter and the Cauldron of Rebirth which provided a foundation for the Grail stories. At what point it started being referred to as the “Sangreal”, usually translated as “Holy Grail”, is uncertain, but it must have happened prior to or around the turn of the 12th century, because that’s when it started showing up in writing (Funk & Wagnalls). Courtly Arthurian romances became en vogue, and works such as Chretien de Troyes’ Le Roman de Perceval and Robert de Boron’s Queste del Saint Graal linked it inseparably with Christianity in the popular mind, although a strange kind of Christianity. Boron described it as the cup which Jesus drank from at the Last Supper, and in which Joseph of Arimathea collected his blood as her hung upon the cross. Later, it is said to have been carried by Mary Magdalene into King Arthur country, which is identified by several romanciers as what is now Southern France. From then on it was cared for by members of a “Grail Family” and guarded by Grail knights, who were often members of that family as well. But as Joseph Campbell points out in his lecture series Transformations of Myth Through Time, the earliest written Grail stories which refer to it by that name simply state that the Magdalen brought the Sangreal into King Arthur Country, sometimes with and sometimes without a cup, and any explicit reference to the Grail as the cup itself was a much later development. Indeed, the most famous romancier, Wolfram von Eschenbach, uses up more space in his poem Parzival establishing the genealogy of the Grail Family than discussing the mysterious device they are the custodians of, and attributes more significance to this bloodline than to the Grail as an object, which is almost a tangential sideline. This may have been done on purpose, for as Echenbach blatantly admits, his story is not just a romance but an initiation document containing veiled secrets about the meaning of the Grail. Some scholars believe the secret is this: the term “Sangreal” as it was used in earlier stories was misread by on or more of the later authors, and may mean something else. It is usually translated as “San”, meaning “holy”, and “Greal”, meaning, well, perhaps nothing. As far as can be determined, “Grail” is a made-up word which slowly came to mean “cup” only because of the romances, although some think it may have stemmed from “gradale”, which is a dish you serve in courses. However, it can just as easily be translated as “Sang Real”, or “Blood Royale”, and might even make more sense, because for many romanciers, the important part of the story was not the cup but the blood within it, the blood of Jesus Christ. Why? Well, thanks to a hidden treasure and some exhaustive research done by three English historians, we now have a good idea.
The story that follows has been recounted dozens of times in “unsolved mystery”-type books, magazines, and television shows. It has been the subject of three BBC documentaries and numerous articles in Britain’s Independent newspaper, and the French Tourist Commission actually listed it as one of the top 20 attractions. In 1891 Berenger Sauniere, a parish priest in the Southern French village of Rennes-le-Chateau was repairing the altar when he found that one of the pillars supporting it was hollow, and that there were four parchments in wooden tubes hidden inside. Two of them were just genealogies of local families and appeared to be nothing more. The other two were texts from the New Testament with certain letters raised above the others which, when put together, formed a message. The shorter text was straightforward and read “To Dagobert II, king, and to Sion belongs this treasure and he is there dead.” The second one was deeply encrypted and was not deciphered until 1969 when investigator Gerard de Sede was tipped off by an anonymous informant to use the extremely complex Vigenere process, detailed in Chapter 28 of Colin Wilson’s Encyclopedia of Unsolved Mysteries, to reveal the passage: “Shepherdess without temptation to which Poussin and Teniers hold the key peace 681 with the cross and this Horse of God I reach this daemon guardian at midday blue apples.” The part about “Poussin and Teniers” apparently referred to Nicloas Poussin’s 1640 painting “The Shepherds of Arcadia” and an untitled work by David Teniers from around the same period, both of which depict a gravesite near the Rennes-le-Chateau (perhaps a hiding place for treasure?) and featured the phrase “Et in Arcadia Ego” (I am even in Arcadia). Sauniere purchased copies of each shortly after finding the parchments.
Whatever this all meant, finding it immediately made Sauniere very popular, and the formerly humble Father began to hang with the Parisian high-society occult scene, making friends with such notables as composer Claude Debussy and opera singer Emma Calve. He also began receiving huge sums of money from Archduke Johann von Habsburg, cousin to the Austrian Emperor. He never told anyone of record what was going on, except for his housekeeper, who, after her master’s death, said to the new owner that one day she would tell him a secret which would make him rich and powerful, but before she got the chance she suffered a stroke which left her speechless until her own death shortly thereafter.
Throughout the years many theories have arisen about just what this secret was, but the most plausible one I’ve found was explained in Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. After making a TV program about the Rennes-le-Chateau, Lincoln received a letter from an Anglican priest who had known a scholar named Canon Alfred Leslie Lilley, one of Sauniere’s rich occult friends, and claimed to have been told by him that the treasure consisted not of gold or riches but of “incontrovertible proof” that Jesus had survived the crucifixion and had fathered a dynasty.
Lincoln went to his friend Gerard de Sede, the one with the anonymous source for the key to the code. De Sede told him that his informant had been a member of the Prieure de Sion, a powerful chivalric order, and that they should go to Paris’ Bibliotecque Nationale and look up a series of pamphlets called The Priuere Documents for more answers.
These turned out to be propaganda for the order’s agenda published between 1961 and 1977 by several unheard-of individuals, sometimes under pen names such as “Anthony the Hermit”. The main thrust of the argument was that Jesus’ bloodline had survived the crucifixion via an impregnated Mary Magdalen (His wife, according to this version), who was smuggled into Southern France, where her children intermarried with a local Visigothic clan to become the Merovingians, the powerful French dynasty whose glory days had lasted from 448 until 679, when King Dagobert II (the one mentioned in the parchment) was deposed by a Vatican conspiracy.
With the death of Childeric III in 751, overt Merovingian involvement in politics ceased, and so does any mention of that family’s activities in the public records. But one of the Prieure Documents, Henri Lobineau’s Dossiers Secrets, consists of what he claims are real genealogies going all the way back to King Solomon that link Childeric’s son Sigisbert with the royal Plantard family, which has survived to the present day, culminating in M. Pierre Plantard. If the documents are taken for real, had not Dagobert been deposed, M. Plantard would be the legitimate heir to the thrown of France. † Pierre Plantard, an important figure in the French resistance and still very popular at home, was at the time of their inquiry the Grand Master of the Prieure de Sion, the mysterious group responsible for this propaganda whose raison d’ętre appears to be the restoration of the Merovingian monarchy. The Prieure has boasted former Grand Masters such as Charles de Gaulle, Jean Cocteau, Leonardo da Vinci, Issac Newton, Victor Hugo, Sauniere’s pal Claude Debussy, and gobs of European nobility as its membership. The Prieure Documents claim that they have exerted a great deal of behind-the-scenes influence in politics, most notably the Fronde (French civil war over the throne of Louis XIII) and the Crusades. In fact, the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail researched French government records and found that not only was the Priuere officially recognized as a legitimate organization, but it was officially recognized as the same and descendent from the Order of Sion, which openly began in 1118 and had given the charter approving the formation of the most famous warrior monks of the Crusades, the Knights Templar. Indeed, they were inseparably linked until the Templars were surpressed in 1307, and the Knights would appear to be merely the public face and armed entourage of the more secret Order of Sion, which was really calling the shots.
This is significant, for the Grail romances originally issued from the court of the Count of Champagne, whom Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln document as having been involved with the foundation of the Knights Templar, and in the most well-known romances, the Knights of the Grail are identified quite openly as Templars. In Chretien de Troyes’ Le Roman de Perceval it reads: “I know that many brave knights dwell with the Grail at Munsalvalsche. They do so for their sins, these Templars, whether their reward be defeat or victory.” Von Echenbach’s Parzival states: “Upon the Grail it was now found written that any Templar whom God’s hand appointed master over a people should forbid the asking of his name or race, and that he should help them to their rights. If the question is asked of him they shall have his help no longer.”
The last quote is reminiscent of another Arthurian tale, that of Lohengrin, the Swan Knight, identified as Parzival’s son in the von Eschenbach poem, who according to the story would not allow anyone to ask him about his family heritage, not because he was ashamed but because it was too sacred to be talked about. The authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail dredged up some commentary von Eschenbach wrote at the time saying that the Lohengrin in his poems represented one Godfroi de Boullion , the Templar who inaugurated the First Crusade and was in charge of the capture of Jerusalem. He, too, was famous for getting upset when asked about his family, and wouldn’t you know it, the Dossiers Secrets list him a direct descendent of Dagobert II by means of his great-grandmother, wife of Hughes de Plantard.
In addition, Parzival ‘s title character and his family are said to be royalty from Anjou, and the Court of Anjou had been a Merovingian bastion for centuries. And in Robert de Boron’s Quest del Saint Graal, Grail Knight Sir Galahad is celebrated for being the son of Joseph of Arimathea and “of the blood of the House of David.” It would appear that it was common theme around the courts of the Europe in the 12th century to associate the Merovingians with the Grail family and with the bloodline of Christ.
The point of all of this is not to make you believe that Pierre Plantard and the Merovingians are descendent from Jesus. The point is that they believe it, or at least that the members of the Prieure de Sion believe it, and have sense their inception. If they are currently engaged in putting out propaganda regarding their Judaic origins via Jesus, they probably were back then as well, especially since it would have given their favorite family a legitimate claim to the thrown of Jerusalem, which they were seeking at the time. Some of this propaganda appears to have taken form in the Grail romances. Therefore, it’s quite possible that the Holy Grail (San Greal) was either a mistranslation that got adopted over time or a covert message referring to the Blood Royale (Sang Real) of the Merovingians.
2. Baigent, Michael; Richard Leight and Henry Lincoln, The Messianic Legacy, New York: Dell Publishing, 1986.
3. Campbell, Joseph, Transformations of Myth Through Time, Chapters 11-13, Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Barce Johanovich, Publishers, 1996.
4. Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, Volume 8, pg. 92, U.S.A.: Funk & Wagnalls, Inc., 1985
5. Von Eschenbach, Wolfram, Parzival, Translation by A.A. Krappe and Charles Passage, New York, 1961
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