The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail

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The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
File:The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.jpg
Cover of the 2005 illustrated hardcover edition
Author Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Publisher Jonathan Cape
Publication date
1982, 1996, 2005, 2006

The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (retitled Holy Blood, Holy Grail in the United States) is a book by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln.[1]

The book was first published in 1982 by Jonathan Cape in London, as an unofficial follow-up to three BBC Two TV documentaries that were part of the Chronicle series. The paperback version was first published in 1983 by Corgi books.[2] A sequel to the book, called The Messianic Legacy,[3] was originally published in 1986. The original work was reissued in an illustrated hardcover version with exclusive new material in 2005.[4] One of the books that the authors claim influenced the project was L'Or de Rennes (later re-published as Le Trésor Maudit), a 1967 book by Gérard de Sède, with the collaboration of Pierre Plantard.[5][6]

In The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, the authors put forward a hypothesis, that the historical Jesus married Mary Magdalene, had one or more children, and that those children or their descendants emigrated to what is now southern France. Once there, they intermarried with the noble families that would eventually become the Merovingian dynasty, whose special claim to the throne of France is championed today by a secret society called the Priory of Sion. They concluded that the legendary Holy Grail is simultaneously the womb of saint Mary Magdalene and the sacred royal bloodline she gave birth to.[7]

An international bestseller upon its release, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail spurred interest in a number of ideas related to its central thesis. Response from professional historians and scholars from related fields was universally negative. They argued that the bulk of the claims, ancient mysteries, and conspiracy theories presented as facts are pseudohistorical.[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18] Nevertheless, these ideas were considered blasphemous enough for the book to be banned in some Roman Catholic-dominated countries such as the Philippines.[19][20]

In a 1982 review of the book for The Observer, literary critic Anthony Burgess wrote: "It is typical of my unregenerable soul that I can only see this as a marvellous theme for a novel." Indeed, the theme was later used by Margaret Starbird in her 1993 novel The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, and by Dan Brown in his 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code.[21][22]


After reading Le Trésor Maudit, Henry Lincoln persuaded BBC Two's factual television series of the 1970s, Chronicle, to make a series of documentaries, which became quite popular and generated thousands of responses. Lincoln then joined forces with Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh for further research. This led them to the pseudohistorical Dossiers Secrets at the Bibliothèque nationale de France which, though alleging to portray hundreds of years of medieval history, were actually all written by Pierre Plantard and Philippe de Chérisey under the pseudonym of "Philippe Toscan du Plantier". Unaware that the documents had been forged, Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln used them as a major source for their book.

Comparing themselves to the reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal, the authors maintain that only through speculative "synthesis can one discern the underlying continuity, the unified and coherent fabric, which lies at the core of any historical problem." To do so, one must realize that "it is not sufficient to confine oneself exclusively to facts."[17]


In The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln posit the existence of a secret society known as the Priory of Sion, which is supposed to have a long history starting in 1099 and had illustrious Grand Masters including Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton. According to the authors' claims, the Priory of Sion is devoted to installing the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Franks from 457 to 751, on the thrones of France and the rest of Europe. It is also said to have created the Knights Templar as its military arm and financial branch.[23]

The authors re-interpreted the Dossiers Secrets in the light of their own interest in undermining the Roman Catholic Church's institutional reading of Judeo-Christian history.[24] Contrary to Plantard's initial Franco-Israelist claim that the Merovingians were only descended from the Tribe of Benjamin,[25] they asserted that the Priory of Sion protects Merovingian dynasts because they are the lineal descendants of the historical Jesus and his alleged wife, Mary Magdalene, traced further back to King David. According to them, the legendary Holy Grail is simultaneously the womb of saint Mary Magdalene and the sacred royal bloodline she gave birth to, and the Church tried to kill off all remnants of this bloodline and their supposed guardians, the Cathars and the Templars, in order for popes to hold the episcopal throne through the apostolic succession of Peter without fear of it ever being usurped by an antipope from the hereditary succession of Mary Magdalene.

The authors therefore concluded that the modern goals of the Priory of Sion are:

  • the public revelation of the tomb and shrine of Sigebert IV as well as the lost treasure of the Temple in Jerusalem, which supposedly contains genealogical records that prove the Merovingian dynasty was of the Davidic line, to facilitate Merovingian restoration in France; to back up the Davidic claim, Charlemagne asked the Jewish Exilarch in Bagdad to send him one of his own sons, who took the name Theodoric upon his arrival, whom he made prince of a Jewish principality of Septimania, with his capital at Narbonne, France. Unfortunately, this Theodoric's son Otigen converted to Christianity making him ineligible to inherit a Jewish principality, and Charlemagne accepted Otigen as one of his knights. Otigen adopted a Christian cross saltyre within a Jewish Star of David as his personal symbol.
  • the re-institutionalization of chivalry and the promotion of pan-European nationalism;
  • the establishment of a theocratic "United States of Europe": a Holy European Empire politically and religiously unified through the imperial cult of a Merovingian Great Monarch who occupies both the throne of Europe and the Holy See; and
  • the actual governance of Europe residing with the Priory of Sion through a one-party European Parliament.

The authors also incorporated the antisemitic and anti-Masonic tract known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion into their story, concluding that it was actually based on the master plan of the Priory of Sion. They presented it as the most persuasive piece of evidence for the existence and activities of the Priory of Sion by arguing that the original text on which the published version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was based had nothing to do with Judaism or an "international Jewish conspiracy", as it issued from a Masonic body practicing the Scottish Rite which incorporated the word "Zion" in its name. Per Baigent et al, the text was not intended to be released publicly, but was a program for gaining control of Freemasonry as part of a strategy to infiltrate and reorganise church and state according to esoteric Christian principles. After a failed attempt to gain influence in the court of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Sergei Nilus was supposed to have changed the original text to forge an inflammatory tract in 1903 in order to discredit the esoteric clique around Papus by implying they were Judaeo-Masonic conspirators, but he ignored some esoteric Christian elements, which hence remained unchanged in the published antisemitic canard.

Influence and similarities

The Da Vinci Code

The 2003 conspiracy fiction novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown makes reference to this book, also liberally using most of the above claims as key plot elements;[21] indeed, in 2005 Baigent and Leigh unsuccessfully sued Brown's publisher, Random House, for plagiarism, on the grounds that Brown's book makes extensive use of their research and that one of the characters is named Leigh, has a surname (Teabing) which is an anagram of Baigent, and has a physical description strongly resembling Henry Lincoln. In his novel, Brown also mentions Holy Blood, Holy Grail as an acclaimed international bestseller[26] and claims it as the major contributor to his hypothesis. Perhaps as a result of this mention, the authors (minus Henry Lincoln) of Holy Blood sued Dan Brown for copyright infringement. They claimed that the central framework of their plot had been stolen for the writing of The Da Vinci Code. The claim was overturned by High Court Judge Peter Smith on April 6, 2006, who ruled that "their argument was vague and shifted course during the trial and was always based on a weak foundation." It was found that the publicity of the trial had significantly boosted sales of Holy Blood (according to figures provided by Nielsen BookScan and Bookseller magazine[27]). The court ruled that, in effect, because it was published as a work of (alleged) history, its premises legally could be freely interpreted in any subsequent fictional work without any copyright infringement.

Other influences

  • The 1973 book The Jesus Scroll by Donovan Joyce was an earlier attempt by an author to claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had been married and had a son together.
  • The 1987 Omni short science fiction story 'Thy Sting,' by Damien Broderick, postulates an unknown number of children from Jesus and Mary Magdalene, creating a genetic line leading to the reincarnation of Jesus as a starving black girl in drought-ridden Africa.
  • The 1988 novel Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco mentions the Jesus and Mary Magdalene hypothesis in passing (a quote from the book is one of the chapter headings). However, Eco, a secular humanist, takes a negative stance on such conspiracy theories. Foucault's Pendulum was a strong debunking of themes found in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail through the medium of satire.
  • The 1991 controversial non-fiction book The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh promotes a conspiracy theory accusing the Roman Catholic Church of having suppressed the content of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  • The 1994 novel Arthur War Lord and its sequel Far Beyond the Wave by Dafydd ab Hugh uses elements from the book as background for the time-travel story.
  • The comic book series Preacher (1996–2000), by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, includes a secret organization called The Grail, which has been protecting the Jesus bloodline for millennia.
  • The 1996 novel The Children of the Grail by Peter Berling incorporates the bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene as a central part of the plot.
  • The 1996 video game Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars references the book in dialogue when the player asks what a character knows of the Templars.
  • Anamnesis, a 1998 episode of Millennium, in which a schoolgirl experiencing visions may be biologically descended from Jesus Christ.
  • The 1999 third installment of the Gabriel Knight series, Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned, used the idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had children as one of the basic structures of the storyline, tying it together with a number of other myths in an original story. "Et in Arcadia ego" is also an important object, with the characters finding important clues in the picture.
  • The 2001 film Revelation uses the Rennes-le-Château setting and parts of the Merovingian bloodline and Magdalene elements, within the search for a relic related to the Crucifixion of Jesus.
  • The comic Rex Mundi, written by Arvid Nelson and published by Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics,(2003-2009) is set in an alternate timestream and utilises themes and names from The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.
  • In 2007 Belgian author Christtian Stickx (pseudonym), published a book connecting the unsolved theft of the painting The Just Judges by the brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck to elements from The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.[28]
  • The 2008 documentary film Bloodline by Bruce Burgess, a filmmaker with an interest in paranormal claims, expands on the "Jesus bloodline" hypothesis and other elements of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Accepting as valid the testimony of an amateur archaeologist codenamed "Ben Hammott" relating to his discoveries made in the vicinity of Rennes-le-Château since 1999; Burgess claims to have found the treasure of Bérenger Saunière: several mummified corpses (one of which is allegedly Mary Magdalene) in three underground tombs created by the Knights Templar under the orders of the Priory of Sion.[29] By 21 March 2012 Ben Hammott confessed and apologised on Podcast interview (using his real name Bill Wilkinson) that everything to do with the tomb and related artifacts was a hoax; revealing that the actual tomb was now destroyed, being part of a full sized set located in a warehouse in England.[30][31]
  • The existence of a fourth-century papyrus fragment was revealed at the International Congress of Coptic Studies in Rome on 18 September 2012 by Professor Karen L. King. It bears writing in Egyptian Coptic that includes the words, "Jesus said to them, 'my wife...'". The fragment is a fourth-century copy of what is thought to be "a gospel probably written in Greek in the second half of the second century". Professor King and her colleague AnneMarie Luijendijk named the fragment the "Gospel of Jesus's Wife" for reference purposes. King has insisted that the fragment "should not be taken as proof that Jesus, the historical person, was actually married". Nonetheless, on 28 September 2012 the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, said in an editorial by its editor, Gian Maria Vian, "Substantial reasons would lead one to conclude that the papyrus is indeed a clumsy forgery. In any case, it's a fake."[32]
  • The ink used on the Gospel of Jesus's Wife papyrus fragment has now been analyzed more thoroughly and as of April 10, 2014 has been deemed by professors of electrical engineering, chemistry and biology at Columbia University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to be "more likely ancient than fake." These scientists say that even using their various microscopic instruments it resembles other ancient papyri from the fourth to the eighth centuries. Although the papyrus does include the words ‘My wife... she will be able to be my disciple" this latest round of testing proves only that it is not a fake. It's an ancient papyrus with ancient ink, but it doesn't necessarily prove that Jesus had a wife or disciples who were women. Dr. Karen L. King, the historian at Harvard Divinity School who first presented the papyrus in Rome in 2012, has said its contents prove only that early Christians wrote about celibacy, sex, marriage and discipleship.[33]


The claims made in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail have been the source of much investigation and criticism over the years, with many independent investigators such as 60 Minutes, Channel 4, Discovery Channel, Time Magazine, and the BBC concluding that many of the book's claims are not credible or verifiable.

Pierre Plantard stated on the Jacques Pradel radio interview on 'France-Inter', 18 February 1982:

There are no references to the Jesus bloodline in the "Priory of Sion documents" and the link exists only within the context of a hypothesis made by the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. From the Conspiracies On Trial: The Da Vinci Code documentary:

While Pierre Plantard claimed that the Merovingians were descended from the Tribe of Benjamin,[25] the Jesus bloodline hypothesis found in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail instead hypothesized that the Merovingians were descended from the Davidic line of the Tribe of Judah.

Historian Marina Warner commented on The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail when it was first published:

Prominent British historian Richard Barber, wrote:

In 2005, Tony Robinson narrated a critical evaluation of the main arguments of Dan Brown and those of Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, The Real Da Vinci Code, shown on Channel 4. The programme featured lengthy interviews with many of the protagonists. Arnaud de Sède, son of Gérard de Sède, stated categorically that his father and Plantard had made up the existence of a 1,000-year-old Priory of Sion, and described the story as "piffle."[37] The programme concluded that, in the opinion of the presenter and researchers, the claims of Holy Blood were based on little more than a series of guesses.

The Priory of Sion myth was exhaustively debunked by journalists and scholars as one of the great hoaxes of the 20th century.[7] Some writers 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.[38] Others are troubled by the romantic reactionary ideology unwittingly promoted in these works.[39]

Historian Ken Mondschein ridiculed the idea of a Jesus bloodline, writing:

Quoting Robert McCrum, literary editor of The Observer newspaper, about The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail:

See also


  1. Baigent, Michael; Leigh, Richard; Lincoln, Henry (1982). The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-01735-7. 
  2. ISBN 0-552-12138-X.
  3. Baigent, Michael; Leigh, Richard; Lincoln, Henry (1986). The Messianic Legacy. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-02185-0. 
  4. Published by Century, part of The Random House Group Limited. ISBN 1-84413-840-2
  5. Plantard de Saint-Clair, Pierre, L'Or de Rennes, mise au point (La Garenne-Colombes, 35 bis, Bd de la République, 92250; Bibliothèque Nationale, Depot Legal 02-03-1979, 4° Z Piece 1182).
  6. Chaumeil, Jean-Luc (2006). Rennes-le-Château – Gisors – Le Testament du Prieuré de Sion (Le Crépuscule d'une Ténébreuse Affaire). Editions Pégase. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ed Bradley (presenter); Jeanne Langley (producer) (30 April 2006). The Secret of the Priory of Sion. 60 Minutes. CBS News. 
  8. Martin Kemp, Professor of Art History at Oxford University, on the documentary The History of a Mystery, BBC Two, transmitted on 17 September 1996, commenting on books like The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail: "There are certain historical problems, of which the Turin Shroud is one, in which there is 'fantastic fascination' with the topic, but a historical vacuum - a lack of solid evidence - and where there's a vacuum - nature abhors a vacuum - and historical speculation abhors a vacuum - and it all floods in...But what you end up with is almost nothing tangible or solid. You start from a hypothesis, and then that is deemed to be demonstrated more-or-less by stating the speculation, you then put another speculation on top of that, and you end up with this great tower of hypotheses and speculations - and if you say 'where are the rocks underneath this?' they are not there. It's like the House on Sand, it washes away as soon as you ask really hard questions of it."
  9. Thompson, Damian (2008). Counterknowledge. How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science and Fake History. Atlantic Books. ISBN 1-84354-675-2. 
  10. Jarnac, Pierre (1985). Histoire du Trésor de Rennes-le-Château. Saleilles: P. Jarnac. 
  11. Jarnac, Pierre (1988). Les Archives de Rennes-le-Château. Editions Belisane. Describing The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail as a "monument of mediocrity" 
  12. Chaumeil, Jean-Luc (1994). La Table d'Isis ou Le Secret de la Lumière. Editions Guy Trédaniel. 
  13. Etchegoin, Marie-France; Lenoir, Frédéric (2004). Code Da Vinci: L'Enquête. Robert Laffont. 
  14. Introvigne, Massimo (2005). Gli Illuminati E Il Priorato Di Sion - La Verita Sulle Due Societa Segrete Del Codice Da Vinci Di Angeli E Demoni. Piemme. 
  15. Bedu, Jean-Jacques (2005). Les sources secrètes du Da Vinci Code. Editions du Rocher. 
  16. Sanchez Da Motta, Bernardo (2005). Do Enigma de Rennes-le-Château ao Priorado de Siao - Historia de um Mito Moderno. Esquilo. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Miller, Laura (22 February 2004). "The Last Word; The Da Vinci Con". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 July 2008. 
  18. Morley, Neville (1999). Writing Ancient History. Cornell University Press. p. 19. ISBN 0-8014-8633-5. 
  19. "Holy Blood, Holy Grail". Banned Books Awareness. 9 October 2011. 
  20. "Holy Blood, Holy Grail". Favorite banned books. 2016. Retrieved 16 March 2016. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 Brown, Dan (2003). The Da Vinci Code. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-50420-9. 
  22. Quoting Dan Brown from NBC Today, 3 June 2003: "Robert Langdon is fictional, but all of the art, architecture, secret rituals, secret societies, all of that is historical fact" (found in Olson, Carl E.; Miesel, Sandra (2004). The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing The Errors In The Da Vinci Code. Ignatius Press. p. 242. ISBN 1-58617-034-1. )
  23. Thompson, Damian (12 January 2008). "How Da Vinci Code tapped pseudo-fact hunger". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 Conspiracies On Trial: The Da Vinci Code. The Discovery Channel. 10 April 2005. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 Jarnac, Pierre (1994). Les Mystères de Rennes-le-Château: Mèlange Sulfureux. CERT. 
  26. Brown, Dan (2003). The Da Vinci Code.  Chapter 60
  27. "Da Vinci Code' Lawsuit Lifts Sales Before Judgment". Bloomberg News. 6 April 2006. 
  28. Stickx, Christtian (2007). Goed. En waar schuilden de Rechtvaardige Rechters? (in Dutch). Leuven: Van Halewick. ISBN 9789056178086. 
  29. "Tomb Discovered in France Considered Knights Templar - When Excavated, Findings May Challenge the Tenets of Christianity". PR Newswire. 17 April 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2016. 
  30. Kannard, Brian (22 March 2012). "Ben Hammott Discusses the Bloodline Tomb Hoax". Grail Seekers. Retrieved 16 March 2016. 
  31. "Statement by Ben Hammott". 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2016. 
  32. ""Gospel of Jesus' wife" fragment is a fake, Vatican says". Reuters. 28 September 2012. 
  33. Goodstein, Laurie (10 April 2014). "Papyrus Referring to Jesus' Wife Is More Likely Ancient Than Fake, Scientists Say". The New York Times. 
  34. Cited by de Cherisey, Philippe (1983). "Jesus Christ, his wife and the Merovingians". Nostra - Bizarre News (584). 
  35. The Times, 18 January 1982.
  36. Barber, Richard (2005). The Holy Grail, The History of a Legend. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 9780140267655. 
  37. Tony Robinson (presenter) (3 February 2005). The Real Da Vinci Code. Channel Four Television. 
  38. Thompson, Damian (12 January 2008). "How Da Vinci Code tapped pseudo-fact hunger". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 28 March 2008. 
  39. Klinghoffer, David (5 May 2006). "The Da Vinci Protocols: Jews Should Worry About Dan Brown's Success". National Review. Retrieved 16 March 2016. 
  40. The History of a Mystery. Timewatch. BBC Two. 17 September 1996. 

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