The existence of Christ's body in an insignificant French village would destroy every tenet of Christianity, scatter every foundation of its faith, and demolish every institution from the Vatican down.
Either Christ had not died on the cross, or he had not arisen from the dead and been elevated to heaven three days later. Each theological principle of Christianity would have to be rethought and rewritten or discarded entirely, along with years of piety and sacrifice. A deeply religious man might have kept the secret forever, clinging to the faith he had lived by and refusing to shatter the spirituality of millions.
A rationalist would have made his discovery public, challenging old ideologies and assisting to replace them, and the faith they represented, with a new order. He was a materialist who, quietly disclosing his discovery to a small group of selected Church leaders, promised to conceal the facts in exchange for a generous stipend, paid by the Church while they plotted their next move. Which is what happened, but not before various mysterious events occurred, the kind that set small-town tongues wagging and conspiracy fans salivating.
The process began dramatically with the strange deaths of two local church officials. Beaten with a pair of fire tongs and an ax, the priest had been reverently positioned on the floor with his hands neatly placed on his chest. While the residence had been ransacked, robbery appeared not to be the motive because francs were found in an easily accessible drawer.
The murder was never solved. Five years later, the placid Bishop Billard of Carcassonne was also murdered. His murder also remains unsolved.
By , the bishop had had enough. For eight years, the disgraced priest remained in the village, cared for by the faithful Marie Denarnaud to whom he willed all of his earthly possessions when he died in She survived for the next thirty years by renting rooms within the mansion, finally passing ownership of the property her lover priest had acquired in her name to a local businessman in exchange for a lifetime annuity.
This income source supported her for the rest of her uneventful life until her passing in January The man who purchased the land and provided the annuity was Noel Corbu, a local entrepreneur. Mark that name. Through the period between the two world wars, while Marie Denarnaud lived quietly with her memories and secrets, France was jostled by two competing political factions.
Royalists, who supported a return to a monarchist government and enjoyed open support from the Catholic Church, were opposed by republicans, who favored democratically elected governments. Many leaders of the republican movement were Masons, who had dominated French politics since the s. The conflict remained relatively benign until France encountered the upheaval of the late s that brought Hitler to power in neighboring Germany. Assuming many of the postures that characterized the Nazis, groups composing the French far right grew more racist.
Along with the wave of anti-Semitism sweeping Europe, French right-wing extremists added Masons to their list of likely traitors and subversives. Given the turmoil of Europe and the global economic crisis produced by the Great Depression, scapegoats were found everywhere, and coalitions congealed whenever a common enemy was identified.
Extreme monarchists joined forces, presenting themselves as knightly orders assigned to redeem a lost society now dominated by Jews and Masons. The election of Leon Blum, a Jew, as the country's first socialist prime minister, drove monarchists and the far right into a coalition that paved the way for the Vichy regime and France's collaboration with occupying Nazis during World War ii. By , Rennes-le-Chateau and the Bethania Mansion shown on this postcard had begun to grow in fame and notoriety.
The organization generated little interest and made even less impact until its members elected, as its titular head, a teenager named Pierre Plantard. Either very precocious or well connected, Plantard achieved fame and notoriety exceeding both his working-class origins and his mediocre intellect. At other times, he posed as an intellectual, an existentialist comfortable in the company of a Malraux or Sartre. The best depiction of Plantard, who identified himself variously as Pierre de France and Plantard de St.
Clair, is chameleon-like; he altered whatever aspect of his life and values necessary to achieve whatever goal happened to fall within his vision at the time.
Other descriptions of the man are less neutral, including charlatan, fraud artist and convicted criminal. The latter is easily confirmed via French police archives revealing he had been found guilty of extortion and embezzlement, and sentenced to six months in prison. Pierre Plantard with his son Thomas in was a convicted con man whose most successful hoax spawned a best-selling novel. During the Vichy regime that ruled Nazi-occupied France from to , Plantard and his Alpha Galates group published Vaincre To Conquer , a magazine dedicated to French nationalism and restoration of the monarchy.
Many of the publication's articles were openly anti-Semitic and anti-Masonic, an accusation that Plantard later justified by claiming it avoided censure by the Gestapo.
If that were indeed the strategy, it failed miserably; Vaincre was shut down and Plantard imprisoned in because, according to Nazi records, he was too openly supportive of French fascist views over those of Germany. Plantard, in later years, had a more flattering explanation: The Nazis discovered that his articles in Vaincre contained secret codes for French Resistance fighters. Whichever side Plantard was on, he was clearly a firebrand when it came to French nationalism, a role he pursued with even greater vigor after hostilities ended in Two years later, Plantard created The Latin Academy, whose avowed purpose was to conduct historical research but whose more apparent goal was to continue the right-wing activities of Alpha Galates.
Plantard became a familiar figure among certain Catholic leaders in Paris, particularly the seminary of St. Sulpice, and it was there in the mids that he began claiming to be the Merovingian pretender to the French throne. Later, in ,he extended that identity by proclaiming himself leader of a divinely guided organization founded by Godfrey de Bouillon during the time of the Crusades, and whose members had been influencing world events since the days of Christ.
It was called The Priory of Sion.
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The organization's title may have changed, borrowed from the medieval monastery that began as Our Lady of Mount Zion, but in most ways it remained Alpha Galates attached to a new face and a new magazine, this one titled Circuit. It was an intriguing story, but Plantard's writing style was less than gripping because no one appeared interested in publishing his book. Suddenly there were a few believers where only skeptics had stood smiling and shaking their heads.
Both parchments provided by Plantard contained hidden messages, one honoring Dagobert's marriage to Giselle and the other, more cryptic, referring to the Priory of Sion.
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Once their contents, if not their authenticity, were confirmed, Plantard stunned scholars and historians by announcing that the documents proved he was a direct descendant of Dagobert and Giselle, thus explaining his role as Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. The clue to the truth behind the Priory of Sion lies within this complex code on parchment, but not in the manner you might expect. Titled L'Or de Rennes and published in , the book detailed the story of the Priory's beginnings with Mary Magdalene and Christ's children, accompanied either by Christ or his corpse, escaping across the Mediterranean to Gaul.
The book's revelations generated two distinct and equally fervent points of view. The imaginations of these believers galloped towards conviction that a secret society had carried one of mankind's greatest mysteries through generations of descendants whose intellectual superiority and creativity could be explained through a direct connection with the Creator.
These adherents scurried to locate historical references that supported Plantard's claims. Inevitably they found some, and with each apparent confirmation, momentum grew among the believers.
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He was revealed as a well-educated academic with a reputation as something of a prankster. By the time L'Or de Rennes was published, he had acquired a drinking habit that would later kill him. He knew they were, because he had produced them as a means of generating publicity and authenticity for Plantard's book. The parchments were not authentic, he admitted, but they were not forgeries either.
They were meticulous copies of the original parchments which, due to their value, Plantard was storing in a safe place whose location he refused to reveal. He also announced that his family had suppressed the fact that their origins were not entirely French. Plantard's ancestors, he declared, included a distinct lineage with the St. Clairs, anglicized as Sinclair, who had founded Scottish Rite Freemasonry.
This alleged link explained the means of maintaining the secrecy of the Priory of Sion's existence down through the centuries. The revelation satisfied believers, but prompted skeptics to dig deeper into the tale, with remarkable results. None of the pillars was hollow. In fact, all three were quite solid, with the exception of a crack in one that may have concealed a postcard or two but nothing more.
An even more disturbing revelation was to follow. Remember Noel Corbu? After Marie died in , Corbu transformed Villa Bethania into a small hotel and restaurant.
Horrific as it is, it nevertheless commands the eye, whatever it happens to be doing. When a Keeper of Secrets appears, all hope is lost. Its presence wreaks havoc with the minds of those mortals around it, interfering with their ability to concentrate, distracting them with its unnatural charisma. The Base One dances through battle, sliding past regiment and would-be hero alike, exulting with each slash of its pincers, its laughter mingling with the screams of the dying.
On and off the battlefield, the Keeper of Secrets easily dominates mortals with its otherworldly allure. This fate, perhaps, is better than abandonment by the Great Horned One, for once a creature has basked in its presence, nothing will sate their overwhelmed senses ever again. A Keeper of Secrets is a terrifying foe to face, delighting in exquisite pain, the caress of claw through skin and muscle, bone and organ.
Its enormous razor-edged claws can tear apart a heavily-armoured knight with one graceful slash while its hands can crush bone with horrifying ease. Its actions are a ballet of exquisitely performed blows. Every strike by claw or blade is bestowed with almost delicate precision; a sensuous caress becomes a rib-crushing embrace, and a casual swipe becomes a drawn-out gouge which spills organs and blood upon the ground in all manner of pleasing patterns.
Formed of the stuff of Chaos and gifted with the subtle and insidious magic of the Dark Prince, a Keeper of Secrets is an accomplished spellcaster, wracking the enemy with spasms of agony, clouding their minds with dark whispers of glory and creating insidious illusions of their worst fears and greatest desires.