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The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail  
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 controversial 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 TV documentaries being part of the Chronicle series. A sequel to the book, called The Messianic Legacy,[2] was published in 1987. The original work was reissued in an illustrated hardcover version in 2005. One of the books, according to the authors, which 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.[3][4]

In this book, 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.

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. Nevertheless, these ideas were considered blasphemous enough for the book to be banned in some Roman Catholic-dominated countries such as the Philippines.

In a review of the book for the 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." Twenty-one years later, the theme of The Holy Blood and Holy Grail would be very successfully fictionalised by Dan Brown in his 2003 conspiracy fiction novel The Da Vinci Code,[5] even using Richard Leigh's and Michael Baigent's last names (Baigent's scrambled) for the character Leigh Teabing.



After reading Le Tresor 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 1982 non-fiction book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.[1]

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."[6]


In The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln presented the following myths as facts to support their hypotheses:[7]

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.[8] Contrary to Plantard's initial Franco-Israelist claim that the Merovingians were only descended from the Tribe of Benjamin,[9] they asserted that:

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

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 actually referred to the activities 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:

Influence and similarities

  • The 1973 book The Jesus Scroll by Donovan Joyce was an early attempt by an author to claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had been married and had a son together.
  • The 1988 novel Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco mentions the Jesus and Mary Magdalene hypothesis in passing (a quote from the book is in fact 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 use elements from the book as background for the time-travel story.
  • The comic book series Preacher (1995–2000), 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 this book as well, in the form of dialogue when the player asks what a character knows of the Templars.
  • 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-Chateau setting and parts of the Merovingian bloodline and Magdalene elements, within the search for a relic related to the Crucifixion of Jesus.
  • 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;[5] 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 (chapter 60) 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." In fact, it was found that the publicity of the trial had significantly boosted sales of Holy Blood. 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.
  • 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.[10]


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:

I admit that 'The Sacred Enigma' (French title for 'The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail') is a good book, but one must say that there is a part that owes more to fiction than to fact, especially in the part that deals with the lineage of Jesus. How can you prove a lineage of four centuries from Jesus to the Merovingians? I have never put myself forward as a descendant of Jesus Christ.[11]

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:

The authors of the 1980s bestseller The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail re-interpreted the Dossiers in the light of their own Biblical obsessions - the secret buried in the documents ceased to be the Merovingian bloodline and became the bloodline of Christ - the genealogies led to Christ's descendants.[8]

While Pierre Plantard claimed that the Merovingians were descended from the Tribe of Benjamin,[9] 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:

Of course there's not much harm in thinking that Jesus was married (nor are these authors the first to suggest it), or that his descendants were King Pippin and Charles Martel. But there is harm in strings of lurid falsehoods and distorted reasoning. The method bends the mind the wrong way, an insidious and real corruption".[12]

Prominent British historian Richard Barber, wrote:

The Templar-Grail myth... is at the heart of the most notorious of all the Grail pseudo-histories, The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, which is a classic example of the conspiracy theory of history... It is essentially a text which proceeds by innuendo, not by refutable scholarly debate... Essentially, the whole argument is an ingeniously constructed series of suppositions combined with forced readings of such tangible facts as are offered.[13]

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 main 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."[14] 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 the great hoaxes of the 20th century.[15] 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.[7] Others are troubled by the romantic reactionary ideology unwittingly promoted in these works.[16]

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

There is something called historical evidence - there is something called the historical method - and if you look around the shelves of bookshops there is a lot of history being published, and people mistake this type of history for the real thing. These kinds of books do appeal to an enormous audience who believe them to be 'history', but actually they aren't history, they are a kind of parody of history. Alas, though, I think that one has to say that this is the direction that history is going today..."[17]

See also


  1. ^ a b Baigent, Michael; Leigh, Richard; Lincoln, Henry (1982). The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Corgi. ISBN 0-552-12138-X. 
  2. ^ Baigent, Michael; Leigh, Richard; Lincoln, Henry (1987). The Messianic Legacy. Henry Holt & Co. ISBN 0805005684. 
  3. ^ Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair, 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).
  4. ^ Jean-Luc Chaumeil, Rennes-le-Château – Gisors – Le Testament du Prieuré de Sion (Le Crépuscule d’une Ténébreuse Affaire) Editions Pégase, 2006
  5. ^ a b Brown, Dan (2003). The Da Vinci Code. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-50420-9. 
  6. ^ Miller, Laura (2005). The Last Word; The Da Vinci Con. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  7. ^ a b Thompson, Damian (2008). How Da Vinci Code tapped pseudo-fact hunger. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  8. ^ a b Conspiracies On Trial: The Da Vinci Code (The Discovery Channel); transmitted on 10 April 2005.
  9. ^ a b Pierre Jarnac, Les Mystères de Rennes-le-Château: Mèlange Sulfureux (CERT, 1994).
  10. ^ Cinema Libre Studio, "Tomb Discovered in France Considered Knights Templar - When Excavated, Findings May Challenge the Tenets of Christianity",, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-04-17.
  11. ^ cited by Philippe de Cherisey in his article "Jesus Christ, his wife and the Merovingians", published in Nostra - Bizarre News N° 584, 1983.
  12. ^ The Times, 18 January 1982.
  13. ^ Richard Barber, The Holy Grail, The History of a Legend (Penguin Books Ltd; 2004).
  14. ^ The Real Da Vinci Code, Channel Four Television, presented by Tony Robinson, transmitted on 3 February 2005.
  15. ^ The Secret of the Priory of Sion, CBS News '60 Minutes' (CBS Worldwide Inc.), 30 April 2006, Presented by CBS Correspondent Ed Bradley, Produced By Jeanne Langley
  16. ^ Klinghoffer, David (2006). The Da Vinci Protocols: Jews should worry about Dan Brown's success. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  17. ^ The History of a Mystery, BBC 2, Transmitted on 17 September 1996.

External links

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