My Soul Is At Peace In

Saint Sulpice

Robin Crookshank Hilton


Feast Day of St John the Baptist, June 24th 2003.

One of the most exciting, albeit totally unexpected, developments in the Fringe community this year is that a sliver of our obscure world has suddenly become. . . yes, Mainstream! Dragged, kicking and screaming into the limelight, we finally got our fifteen minutes of fame.

As a result of the New York Times’ bestseller booklist being roundly trounced by Dan Brown’s engaging thriller, The Da Vinci Code, I can now even speak to people as normal as my own mother about the Priory of Sion without having to resort to hours of convoluted explanations.

In a nutshell, Brown (who, in my humble opinion, should be elevated to the status of a Fringe Minor Deity) has woven an addictive mystery around the existence of a centuries-old Secret Society, said to have been formed to protect the earth shattering secret of a treasure of great importance to mankind. But, does such an all-powerful Secret Society, which counts luminaries including Leonardo da Vinci, Issac Newton, Victor Hugo, and Jean Cocteau among its Grandmasters, really exist, as Dan Brown and others have claimed?

Well, I guess it depends on one’s definition of "exist".

It’s true that a real organisation called the Priory of Sion, comprised of real people, once existed. But, sadly, as diehard Fringe-o-philes will already know, twenty years after the release of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, the "explosively controversial international bestseller" which first brought the enigma of the Priory of Sion to the English speaking world, exhaustive research has demonstrated that there is actually no solid historical evidence for the on-going existence of this society prior to 1956, when the group was legally registered in France as more of a prank than anything else. Even the contents of the hallowed collection of secret Priory of Sion documents known as the Dossiers Secrets (now commercially available thanks to French researcher "Pierre Jarnac") read more like the plot of a prequel to a Dan Brown novel, when systematically analysed.

And yet. . . and yet, one thing that both researchers and debunkers alike will agree on is that what the mythological Priory’s Grandmaster Pierre Plantard and his side-kick, the mischievous Belgian actor Philippe de Cherisey, have created is nothing less than a genuine Grail Quest for the modern day Seeker.

The amount of effort and angst that has been collectively devoted, in our little Fringe community, to deciphering obscure codes such as Blue Apples at Noon, Le Serpent Rouge, Pax 681, and "Et In Arcadia Ego. . . " is truly phenomenal. Furthermore, in an ironic twist of fate, both of the masterminds who created the myth of the Priory of Sion died before they could reveal the solution to their encoded secrets, leaving behind a legacy of obscure documents, convoluted genealogies, historical treatises, encoded diagrams, and a wide open field which has fired the imagination of anyone who becomes ensnared in their tangled Ariadne’s Web.

So, just how do these Priory pranksters continue to tap deep into the dark recesses of our twenty-first century souls?

Is there something hard-wired into the human psyche which impels us to continually look outside of ourselves for answers? Has our faith in the existing religious and political systems disintegrated to the point where our search for God and Country has been supplanted by a yearning for an underground network of fellow men with superior knowledge, who are secretly in control of the planet’s destiny?

Perhaps this quest is borne out of the sneaking suspicion that we may well be teetering on the verge of eternally botching the viability of our own planet. . . or, are we simply craving a tiny sparkle of magic in a mundane nine-to-five world where our most meaningful quest centers around the weekly supermarket search for the plumpest plastic-wrapped presentation of uniformly sized tomatoes?

I will admit to being of the sparkle-craving persuasion.

Yes, okay, I know full well from my own personal encounters that the Priory of Sion is nothing more than a Perrault-like fairy tale contrived by a small circle of initiates with an impish sense of humour. . . and yet, in the same way that a doting parent makes the time-honoured pilgrimage with their offspring to the nearest department store’s Santa’s Grotto every Christmas, I found myself advancing towards the west facade of the church of Saint Sulpice in Paris at Noon on January the 17th of this year with a group of over fifty other Priory of Sion researchers assembled from the far-flung provinces of France.


Operation Blue Apples, which might be described as the Priory of Sion equivalent of a Star Trek Convention, was coordinated by an enigmatic conjuror named Philippe Marlin. Philippe is the president of a genuine Paris-based organization called l’Oeil du Sphinx (Eye of the Sphinx in English), which was created in 1989 to promote new material from non-established authors, poets, and artists in the much-beloved genres of sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and esotericism. However, over the years, Philippe’s unique diplomatic skills as a neutral, non-judgemental observer have gained the trust of the more arcane orders and esoteric societies throughout Europe and, as a result, ODS has gradually evolved into something of a mouthpiece for colourful personalities who prefer to remain occult, in the true sense of the word.

Philippe’s genuine bemusement regarding the increasingly bizarre situations in which he has become embroiled has helped him to maintain his sense of perspective and, therefore, it was with typical Marlinesque ironic humour that the First Annual Scientific Mission to Saint Sulpice, codenamed Operation Blue Apples, was launched.

The Church of Saint Sulpice de Paris and the actual date of its patron saint’s feast day, on January 17th, lie at the heart of the most enigmatic of the Priory of Sion’s codes.

Visualizing the shape of France as a hexagon, Pierre Plantard divided the country proportionally into thirteen zodiacal asterisms, including Ophiuchus, corresponding to the constellations which encircle the Earth’s ecliptic. In this way, France itself becomes a hermetic microcosmic representation of the Sun’s apparent path among the stars throughout the course of the year, regarded symbolically as the Temple of Solomon (sol = sun).

In the Priory’s mindset the old Paris Zero Meridian line, hijacked by the British in 1884 to become the Greenwich Meridian, bisects the country vertically from north to south, conveniently tracing its course through the transept of Saint Sulpice de Paris, which is exactly where our small group of pilgrims was heading.

In order to sidestep the minor technical detail that the Paris Zero Meridian was actually cited several hundred metres to the east, in line with the Paris Observatory and not with Saint Sulpice at all, Plantard’s myth apparently resorts to a more ancient solar technique of determining a north-south meridian. This method is based on the aligning the position of the pole star, currently Polaris, in the north at Midnight with the position of the Sun in the south at Noon.

This alignment, in turn, leads us to further multiple layers of cryptic Priory symbolism, including the recurring deployment of a curious "P-S" glyph at strategic points in the Quest.

However, there is a method to the Priory’s madness.


In the "real world", the church of Saint Sulpice de Paris is genuinely renown for its solar meridiana, a gnomonic light show created by an optically magnified beam of sunlight which penetrates the church through a lens in a window in the south arm of the transept. As the solar year progresses, this beam of sunlight obligingly traces the length of a brass strip inlaid into the stone floor along the entire length, from south to north, of the transept.
The brass thread is punctuated by plaques marking the position of the sun at noon on the Summer Solstice and the Equinoxes, but the position of the sun on the Winter Solstice, when the sun is at its lowest point in the midday skies, is tracked as our intrepid sunbeam climbs a white marble obelisk (itself an Egyptian symbol of the rays of the sun) at the far northern end of the transept.

This solar meridiana thus becomes a central metaphor in the Priory’s literature, referred to symbolically as the Serpent Rouge in order to differentiate the concept of an undulating solar meridian from the scientifically derived Prime Meridian. To this end, a typically cryptic Priory poem, Le Serpent Rouge, was created by the pranksters to guide us through the first stage of the Quest.

Blatantly subtitled "Notes on Saint Germain des Pres and Saint Sulpice de Paris" so that we don’t miss the point, various architectural features of Saint Sulpice are hermetically encoded into esoteric metaphors designed to weave the pilgrim through a labyrinthine dance of the church until the dancer finally arrives at a specific coordinate. This coordinate is believed to be the doorway which descends into the so-called crypt of the church, which in fact isn’t a crypt at all but the intact foundations of the far more ancient church of St Sulpice which has been superseded by the current ediface. Furthermore, the original church, allegedly dating to Merovingian times, was said by Priory initiates to have itself been built upon an ancient temple dedicated to the goddess Isis.

The crypt at Saint Sulpice was traditionally opened only once a year, at noon on January 17th, the feast day of its patron, which is why we had arranged our pilgrimage to occur at this exact moment, in case the timing was relevant to the choreography of the Priory’s Sulpician dance.

As plans for Operation Blue Apples gathered momentum, Marlin announced that we were to be joined on our mission by the real ex-spokesman of the Priory of Sion, Jean-Luc Chaumeil, who knew the church well from his visits with Pierre Plantard himself.

Accounts of the saga of Chaumeil’s departure from the Priory of Sion vary but, according to Jean-Luc, he eventually left the society under a dark cloud when he realized that the order was not all it claimed to be. Now that both Plantard and de Cherisey have moved on to celestial realms, Chaumeil has promised to publish his collection of private Priory archives, consisting of private letters and photographs, allegedly fabricated "genuine" parchments, and a handwritten treatise which he claims explains all the cryptic codes which were used to construct the clues in the Priory documents.

But, the festive mood of Operation Blue Apples was so infectious, that even the sceptical Chaumeil decided to suspend his debunking for one day to join in the merry dance of Saint Sulpice.

Meanwhile, at the exact moment that our bijou band of pilgrims was due to penetrate the dark mysteries of Sulpice’s crypt, a mirror group of PoS researchers was assembled hundreds of miles to the south of Paris, at the tail end of the Serpent Rouge, to observe another, more arcane, light show which is affectionately known to initiates as the Blue Apples.

Our two chosen locations for Operation Blue Apples were determined by oblique references in the stanzas of the poem, which also correspond to the aforementioned zodiacal asterisms. However, for no apparent logical reason, although the subtitle of the poem refers to two adjacent Parisian churches, in actual fact the cryptically coded references in the poem alternate between St Sulpice de Paris and the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in the tiny Languedoc village of Rennes-le-Chateau.

The only unifying factor between the two churches, as far as anyone can tell, is an intriguing solar feature designed into one of the windows of the Church of Mary Magadalene which is evocative of the famous gnomonic meridiana at Saint Sulpice in Paris. However, instead of a brilliant sunbeam tracing a brass strip along the floor, the Magdalene meridiana manifests as blue balls, resembling surreal apples, which alight onto a specific point on the wall of the Magdalene church on the Feast Day of Saint Sulpice.

Therefore, our secret mission behind Operation Blue Apples was to perform a Priory-inspired harmonic convergence between the bilocated groups of seekers at the opposite ends of the old Paris Zero Meridian at the exact moment both gnomons culminated and the door of the crypt was thrown open, using the solar power of the Serpent Rouge as a kind of aetheric electrical circuit.

And then we planned to celebrate with a splendid Dionysian feast.


I suppose that Dan Brown would have foreseen exactly what was to happen afterwards, but we were so distracted by the aftermath of the events of that day that it didn’t even occur to us to pay attention to the plot.

It began innocuously enough with a phone call at the beginning of February from a respectable dealer in rare occult books in the South of France, who had received an anonymous letter postmarked Barcelona.

A cursory glance at the letter brought a look of exasperation to the booksellers face as he suspected that its contents, a notice announcing the relaunch of the Priory of Sion, was an obvious hoax by someone claiming to be Pierre Plantard’s former secretary, Gino Sandri. After initially discarding the letter, the dealer had second thoughts, remembering that his friend Philippe Marlin in Paris liked to collect esoteric curiosities.

As soon as Philippe received the letter from his contact in the South of France, he sent me a scan and an English translation, which read as follows:

December 27th 2003 [sic]

In accordance with our Book of Constitutions.

This day, at Saint-Denis, the Nautonnier has carried out the investiture of the members of the Arch. The Head of the Order is restored through his good offices. According to the Tradition, it is formed by a couple assisted by its guardian.

On the threshold of this fateful year (2003), all is ready for the emergence of Sion. For that, the Woman is necessary, as is well known by all our members.

The Commanderies of Saint-Denis, Millau, Geneva and Barcelona are fully operative. According to the Tradition, the first Commanderie is under the direction of a woman.

The Assembly of the Provinces is convened for 17 January 2003. It will meet in the very heart of Paris. The private ceremony for PEACE in the world will be celebrated. You will receive specific instructions for this meeting.

We are now 9841 members. This whole assembly built the CIRCUIT for PEACE.

An office will soon be constituted, destined to serve as the official link between the public and the Order of Sion. The Secretary General is charged with its administration and the publication of the internal bulletin CIRCUIT.


Gino Sandri, Secretary General
G. Chyren, Nautonnier

We had to concede, even considering the amusing typo in the date, that the letter was an awfully good hoax. Apart from the fact that the author had ditched the wonky typewriter of old in favour of a modern computer word processor, the letter followed exactly the same format as the all the other Priory communications from as far back as the 1980s. Not only did the same official logo appear at the top of the page, but the seals at the bottom were so similar that we even wondered if they were simply scanned, along with the signatures, from the earlier Priory documents.

But, hang on a minute! As I reread the reference to the assembly of the provinces which was to meet in the heart of Paris on January 17th to perform a private ceremony, a thought occurred to me. WE were the ones who had assembled from all over France, in the heart of Paris, at the meridiana of Saint Sulpice, on the 17 January 2003. . . where WE had performed a mini-ceremonial harmonic convergence!

An absurd idea flickered briefly across my mind, that perhaps the Priory of Sion was such a secret society that its actual members weren’t even aware that they were members. Of course, there was also the possibility that Operation Blue Apples was just a coincidence and that we were simply unaware of the alternative meeting.

But, the success of Operation Blue Apples had been discussed at length on the internet. . . therefore, it’s completely plausible that someone had read about our real-life gathering and decided to incorporate it into a fictitious relaunch of the Priory of Sion, as a practical joke. After all, although the letter was dated the 27th December, it didn’t surface until the beginning of February, which was a good couple of weeks after the 17th January, so it’s definitely possible that the entire hoax was composed after the fact.

Then, as we compiled a list of possible hoaxer’s names, we noticed one tiny clue incorporated into the letter which indicated that possibly Sandri himself had indeed composed the communiqué. It is known that Gino Sandri, a confirmed devotee of the esoteric tradition of Saint John, always dates his "official" letters, regardless of the actual date, as either the Feast Day of St John the Evangelist or the Feast Day of St John the Baptist. . . and the date of the letter, December 27th, was indeed the Feast Day of John the Evangelist.

Therefore, is it possible that one of the original pranksters is going to make an attempt to carry on the legacy of Pierre Plantard’s Priory of Sion, to lead us on a new wild goose chase? What possible motive would someone have to do this? It’s not exactly an enterprise that pays terribly well and, as a low profile appears to be an essential element of the game, desire for fame wouldn’t be a motivating factor.

So, I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens next. As we go to press, since that first missive, there haven’t been any further announcements from anyone alleging to represent the Priory of Sion.

The question is, will there be a second one, dated June 24th, 2003, the Feast Day of St John the Baptist?