656 of 699 people found the following review helpful
First off, I have never read "The Da Vinci Code." Let's get that out of the way right from the start since it seems most people who read "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" did so because of the enormous popularity of the Brown book. No, I read "Holy Blood" because I love reading about conspiracy theories--UFOs, the Kennedy assassination, Britney Spears's success--anything that concerns the unexplainable. I actually came across this title about six years ago when I was reading several books about British Israelism, and only recently picked it up after accidentally stumbling over it on one of my Internet excursions. When I began describing the contents of this book to a family member, she quickly mentioned "The Da Vinci Code." I now see that Brown's book apparently borrowed its plot from "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," thereby bringing this esoteric theory about Christ, the Merovingian dynasty, and Mary Magdalene to a new generation of readers. I will say that Baigent's book is the grandest conspiracy theory I have ever read. There are conspiracy theories, and there are CONSPIRACY THEORIES. "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" is the mother of all conspiracy theories; fifty stories tall and decked out in neon letters with sprinkles on top. If any of this is true, western civilization as we know it is undone.
The mystery examined in this book first came to public attention roughly a century ago, when an obscure French priest named Berenger Sauniere assumed his post in the village of Rennes-le-Chateau in Southern France. The priest uncovered some ancient, mysterious documents in an abandoned church near his village. Intrigued, he took them to the local bishop, who then instructed Sauniere to head to Paris and consult some "experts" there. When the priest returned to Rennes-le-Chateau, things were definitely different. He suddenly had at his disposal millions of francs, leading to several extensive and bizarre building projects in the area. When the Catholic authorities questioned his expenditures, Sauniere brazenly defied the inquiries. Surprisingly, the Church did nothing to the man even though he was a lowly priest. Moreover, he often received visits from Parisian bigwigs, people a man in Sauniere's position couldn't possibly know. When the priest died his secret apparently died with him. Or did it? Not according to the authors of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail." Taking the Sauniere mystery as a starting point, the book proposes a shocking theory about the very origins of Christianity and nearly every secret society during the last 1000 years.
By looking at such diverse historical events as the Albigensian heresy, the Crusades, Freemasonry, and Christ's crucifixion, "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" posits that Berenger Sauniere discovered documents referring to a mysterious secret society called the Priory of Zion, an organization composed of elites in European society who believe that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, fathered children, and probably didn't die on the cross. Instead, they believe Jesus went into hiding while his family sailed for Gaul. Ultimately, Jesus' offspring married into the local population, thereby helping to form the Merovingian dynasty. Although these monarchs ultimately lost power, the bloodline of Jesus survived into succeeding generations. One descendant of the Messiah was Godfroi de Bouillon, the crusader who captured Jerusalem from the Saracens during the First Crusade. The Knights Templar, that band of knights dedicated to fighting for Christ, was in actuality a branch of the previously mentioned Priory of Zion. When the Europeans lost Jerusalem to the Saracens, the two organizations split and the Templars went to their doom. European history, according to "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," has since been a titanic struggle for power between the Catholic Church and the Priory of Zion. The documents discovered by Sauniere, along with additional information unearthed by the authors in France's National Library, have shown that men such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Nicholas Flamel, and Jean Cocteau have served as Grand Masters of the Priory of Zion. Amazing, isn't it? Imagine what would happen if incontrovertible evidence emerged proving a descendant of Jesus walked the earth today.
This summary is the tip of the iceberg. There are so many things explored in this book that it is impossible to summarize them all. Most people would have a serious problem with the findings of "Holy Blood," and for the most part, they would be right. The authors often make extraordinary leaps from one piece of evidence to another. For example, the book claims that "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion," the notorious anti-Semitic tract which influenced National Socialism, was originally a document concerning the truth about the Merovingian bloodlines. I don't buy this argument in the least, but that doesn't mean I reject this book completely. I thought the commentary on the Gospels was, with a few exceptions, well done, liberally employing creative reasoning and an intelligent eye for detail. Does that mean I buy the authors' arguments? I will when the Priory of Zion steps forward with proof.
Predictably, the arrival of "Holy Blood" on bookshelves in the early 1980s provoked a storm of controversy. The Church excoriated the authors for the views expressed in the book, as did history scholars and theologians. Of course, the Priory of Zion remained silent throughout the whole ordeal, neither proving nor denying the claims made in the book. As I read the "Holy Blood," I kept wondering whatever became of this ultra secret organization. Are they still around waiting for the perfect time to present to the world the descendent of Christ? Or are they sitting around a table somewhere in France, playing bridge and drinking coffee while they laugh over this book? Five stars for the entertainment factor alone, but much less if taken on a purely factual level.
90 of 95 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2004
Holy Blood, Holy Grail is well worth reading by anyone whose interest was piqued by The Da Vinci Code. It is essentially two histories: the history of the First Crusade and its antecedents, and the history of Christianity immediately following the Crucifixion.
The first history is very meticulously done and it holds our interest throughout an exposition of potentially tedious research. Granted, the conclusions are based on the existence of secret and hitherto unknown documents that serve as their Rosetta Stone, but even the skeptical will find the tapestry the authors weave to be an interesting one.
The second history, which purports to show that Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and all that, is much less thorough and much more overtly speculative. Whereas the underlying documentary evidence of the Knights Templar may be a bit obscure, the Bible has been dissected in public and in detail for two millennia. Here, the authors purport no Rosetta Stone, and although the exposition is interesting, it does not have even a patina of research. One gets the feeling throughout of a conclusion being sought in the ambiguous language of the first four Gospels of the New Testament, a trick played by many before this.
If you are not a Biblical scholar or a scholar of pre-Medieval history but are interested in these subjects, this book will hold your interest. It is not ultimately convincing in the least but it presents the material in a very interesting and readable way. Scholars will undoubtedly quibble, but a layperson will find it interesting.
Is it possible to summarize our story briefly? It goes something like this:
· 700 BC, the Israelite Tribe of Benjamin, for obscure reasons, was driven out of Palestine, and settled first in Arcadia in Greece and then moved up to the Marseilles area of France.
· Later on, Mary Magdalene, Jesus' pregnant wife at the time of the Crucifixion, fled, together with her father, Joseph of Aramathea, to Marseilles where she was warmly welcomed by the descendants of the Tribe of Benjamin. (Joseph of Aramathea continued onward to Glastonbury, England carrying a cup of Jesus' blood.)
· Mary Magdalene's brother, Lazarus, meanwhile, went on to lead the revolt and mass suicide at Masada that culminated in the Roman destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the Diaspora.
· Mary Magdalene's child founded the Merovingian dynasty of Frankish kings.
· Charles Martel and his grandson Charlemagne, heroes though they were for stemming the Saracen tide, treacherously overthrew the Merovingian dynasty. But the Merovingian line was preserved by the secret society of the Priory of Sion, which gave rise to the Knights Templar and had other shadowy doings down the centuries.
· There is living, today, in Paris a certain Pierre Plantard de Saint-Claire, who is a direct descendant of the Merovingian kings and, therefore, a direct lineal descendant of Jesus Christ, Son of God. And he, and his society, are working toward the eventual reinstatement of the "rightful", divinely ordained line of Merovingian kings.
· Me, too. Send money.
The premise and the conclusion of this book is the antithesis of the American ideal: the ultimate union of Church and State. It makes for interesting reading, but don't get carried away.
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2001
Originally published as "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" in the UK, it was released as "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" in the United States. Interesting book? Definitely. Factual book? Perhaps not always. This is the book that really started the craze, first into the Rennes-le-Chateau mystery and then into the dynastic bloodline of Jesus, a craze that shows no signs of slowing down. The writing style is very well done, almost conversational so it is very easy to breeze through the book. Henry Lincoln has an excellent writing style and if you have read some of his solo works, you can definitely see his hand here. The danger, however, with this type of book is that many people will not do the necessary research to follow up some of the information that is presented as facts. Having said that, the authors present an excellent bibliography of many sources that they used.
This book is worth having just because of the interesting story it weaves. If you are at all interested in the Rennes-le-Chateau story or the possible dynastic bloodline of Jesus, this is a must for your library, if nothing else for the reason that it was really the first book to bring all these topics to worldwide attention. Even though this book is a popularization and meant for a lay-audience, it is, in many ways, geared to researchers. Some of the chapters throw off names, facts, and figures like a historical report and you have to be prepared to wade through some material that may seem tedious or of dubious relevance at the time.
Also one has to realize the shift of focus in the book. The first part of the book details the alleged mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau and the findings of a parish priest named Berenger Sauniere in the nineteenth century. A little middle blurb sort of segues into a secret society (that is not really so secret) that made a lot of information on the material in the first part of the book public. The second part then recounts a much vaster tale of conspiracy that, in short order, leaves the original story behind and takes on a life of its own. (This part of the story was taken up by others who expounded on the conspiracy idea, such as in the book "Rex Deus.")
Having said that, the whole book rests on the veracity of a group known as the Priory of Sion and the validity of parchments that were alleged to have been found by the priest of Rennes-le-Chateau. Lincoln and crew willfully dismissed some evidence that had come to light before they published and this was mainly the work of Jean-Luc Chaumeil. He demonstrated that, in essence, the Priory of Sion was a hoax. Yes, they did exist as a group but with nothing of the supposed secret origins they claim to have had. Chaumeil also had evidence (presented to Lincoln and crew) that the parchments were really forgeries that were done by a member of the Priory of Sion named Philippe de Cherisey. (Lincoln later admitted this in one his later books.) The authors also almost totally ignore the works of Rene Descadeillas and Jacques Riviere. These authors have written excellent books that provided good evidence that the "mystery" was not quite as mysterious as some would like to believe. This material is mainly in hard to find French books and are not always accessible for the modern reader - who very rarely checks sources anyway. Perhaps that is why Lincoln did not center on these texts too much, figuring that not too many other people would either.
There are also details that the authors make seem mysterious and yet really are not. For example, they mention that Sauniere was exonerated by the Vatican and tout this as a mystery. However, what they do not state is that this was simply because the Vatican did not have all the facts at hand. When they did finally get them, Sauniere was indeed ousted from the church. They also fail to look at the very important connection Sauniere had with the Royalists of his day and that gives a very good indication of where his wealth may have come from.
Granted, there is still room for mystery in some of the details of the story - but not many. I think some of this might have been why Baigent and Leigh parted ways from Lincoln after the "Messianic Legacy" was published, particularly as Lincoln's ideas went to odder areas such as those detailed in his book "The Holy Place." All in all, however: worth the read. Just be sure to check the facts and do not take everything that is said in the book as always being true. If you are a serious researcher, check into the sources and particuarly look at some of the French works from the "Atelier Empreinte" bookshop, located in Rennes-le-Chateau and orderable on-line.
55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2000
I would have thought that a book that I have read three times would deserve the five stars. Maybe it is because, as a history fanatic, I am very interested by many of the chapters presented. But, even though I am not Catholic, I percieve the thesis in this book as too far-fetched and based almost entirely in "what if"s. It's true, the authors state that it's just that, a thesis, but they write the final chapters with a tone that implies that they are taking their conclusions as fact.
I wouldn't want to spoil the book to anyone interested in reading it. If you like historical mysteries, lost treasure tales and the like, you'll find most of the book exciting as a smooth introduction to several historical periods, specially the early middle ages. The facts here shouldn't be accepted as the sole truth, but as a re-interpretation of the 'official' history which is, as the authors state, always written by the winning side.
The second part is much more controversial, though. Any ancient manuscript filled with allegories is bound to have any number of interpretations, and I feel the last part of the book is based on just one. And one of the most radicals by the way.
All in all, it's a very interesting book to read and I would definitely recommended it to anyone who looks for a good time in history books.
54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2001
Anthony Burgess described this book as a wonderful basis for a novel. He was right, but what sort of novel? It is part mystery, part thriller, part historical, and totally rivetting from page one. This "novel" has the greatest twist of them all. It could al be true.
The general "plot" is that a mystery concerning a valuable treasure in the South of France slowly unfolds to reveal an ongoing campaign to get a new, truthful, version of history accepted. A version of history that suggests Jesus did not die on the cross, but survived, married and founded a dynasty that has played a major role in the events of the European stage and beyond. The Holy Grail is said to be this truth that has been kept secret by vested interest groups including the Catholic Church.
The story could be true, all speculation engaged in by the authors is grounded in the many facts they produce. The quest for the grail is, however, given a new form by the authors, in that they find their own lives changed by the efforts of the research itself. Many other lives have been changed too. This book has spawned a small industry of books and souvenirs adding to or modifying the basic plot.
In the final analysis I would say this book is "the stone at the head of the corner" of the ultimate Post-Modernist novel, a novel with a basic storyline that can be taken up and modified by everyone with a will to try. It is written by many authors from many countries, and may still have many plot twists left. Who knows, read this book and you may be inspired to be the author of the next dramatic sequence.
40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2003
When my mother gave me this book, saying she could never take communion again, I was shocked. When I read the introduction, I was intrigued. When I began reading in earnest, I was enthralled...
Could Jesus have actually been married, fathered a family, and had them escape the Romans?
Fantastic, crazy, UNORTHODOX, yes- but could it be true, and does it MATTER? Since we were small, we have been told that Jesus was a poor, gentle peaceloving, almost non-Jewish Jew(after all, Hollywood has always gone to great lengths to make him look positively gentile), who allowed himself to be murdered by the Romans with barely a whimper, and that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute that inhabited the periphery of the very male world of first century Palestine.
But what if we look at the story from a truly historical perspective...
The region was swollen with fundimentalists, not unlike the Islamists we face today, and Jesus would have been a very orthodox Jew. Perhaps his story has been filtered over the centuries so that it is no longer recognizable...
And nowhere in the Bible does it refer to Mary as a prostitute- historians are begrudgingly now laying this interpretaion at the feet of a chauvinistic revisionist church- is it so unlikely that a woman in the company of a group of men traveling throughout the Holy Land, would have been married to one of those men? And why would it have been so unlikely that that man was Jesus? After all, a man of Jesus' age would have been looked upon with suspicion if he was NOT married...
Ah, the historical possibilites!
Link these intrigues with the Knights Templar and the mystery of their origins and purpose, the secretive Prior de Sion and a strange priest who was able to face down the power of the Catholic Church after the discovery of a secret in the mountains between France and Spain, while he amassed a fortune and built a tower dedicated to the Magdalene- put all this together and you have a yarn that will grip the heart of any mystery buff, history fan or conspiracy nut!
True- I don't know.
Plausible- yes...just plausible enough to make you look at history and religion from a new perspective, and perhaps make communion impossible.
70 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2000
I have read 3 books written by the authors Baigent,Leigh and Lincoln.The first of which being the Holy Blood & Holy Grail.Whilst reading the book I was mindful that one must have an open mind as some of the material was contrary to what I had been brought up to believe.From the opening chapter I found the book intriguing entertaining and informative.I found the book moved along at a fast pace and at other times it would get caught up in possibly too much detail and would roll off into another direction before coming back into the main thrust of the original story or is that history ?.I found that when I tried to reference other sources to find information for instance the dictionary ( Australian English Dictionary ) didn't have any reference to the Essenes or the Kinghts Templars.I drive a taxi in Brisbane Australia and I would read the book between jobs.I found a lot of resistence to the book by people of all walks of life and religions.These people would say they dont believe a word thats written in the book yet when I say which part in particular 10 out of 10 people would say they've never read it but they have heard about it.Incidentally I only heard about the book when I picked up an Enlish gentleman himself an author of some note. He wrote among other things books that became a TV series called "The Man From Uncle" in the 1960's.I asked about a cross he was wearing he said it was a cross of the Knights Templar.I was unaware of who they were and he reccomended the book Holy Blood & Holy Grail to me.I found that from start to finish the content was extremely interesting,thought provoking and I found myself wanting to know more about the templars and the Merovingians etc. I found the historical association of very public figures down through the middle ages and to recent history very interesting and what influence they and their predecessors have played to this point.The United States of Europe has become a reality when 14 years ago when I first read the book it seemed an absurd proposition.We now have to see how far the powers in Europe travel to have the Merovingian line planted in the seat of power if indeed it hasn't already happened.I wait with interest.
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2000
Baigent, Leigh and Licoln have excelled themselves in the writing of this book. It's contents are extensive, very absorbing and very controversial to say the least. It saddens me to see people who have reviewed this book find that they cannot suspend their indoctrination by the prevailing "world views" of history, to consider that the authors may just be right in their assertions. Remember, "history" is written by those who ultimately have the upper hand i.e. it's subjective to the extreme, and biased accordingly. To find out what really happpened, given the evidence available, you would have to dig very deeply to get past prevailing dogma and ideology of the time. All history is questionable...even that promulgated by "acceptable" authorities. I found "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail", very thought provoking, entertaining and very well researched. Given the prevailing current of historical thought amongst academia and historians, you would think that a book like this would never get off the press. Even more so with the Catholic Church. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone wishing to look at an alternative to the established thought of our day...always keep an open mind. Buy it, you won't be disappointed.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 1997
This book starts with a mystery that will capture the imagination of anyone who is even slightly interested in the roots of western religion. The mysteries involve a turn-of-the-century French priest who becomes inexplicably wealthy after uncovering some 16 century parchments inside the alter of his church in the south of France. One week before his death he orders the construction of his coffin although he is in excellent health. When he is suddenly overcome with a stroke, a neighboring priest is called to administer a final confession and last rights. However, after hearing the priest's confession the visiting priest refuses to administer last rights to his fellow man-of-the-cloth.
Additional mysteries are uncovered as the story unfolds. When it comes time for the authors to reveal their theory to explain the mysteries, they have already presented a wealth of well documented supporting information. As a writer myself, I was impressed with the quality of the writing as well as the documented research. This is a must read book for anyone who wants to explore the alternatives to the life of our greatest teacher and enjoys a good read. There is one mystery that they do not touch on: why didn't this book become a best seller?
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2003
It's easy to understand why someone would get upset reading this book. The authors take the history of Freemasonry (actually, the mystic legends that surround Freemasonry) and tie it to the "real" story of Jesus Christ. When you link conspiracies to Christianity, you're going to get under someone's skin.
But few books are as fascinating to read as this one. Think of it as one-third truth and two-thirds speculation. If the authors called it a fictional account --- a fantasy about the way things might be --- the result would be a strange sort of historical novel. It's wouldn't be as compelling. Instead, they present this story as nonfiction, breathlessly uncovering the greatest secret in the history of mankind. It's an approach that keeps you reading. In the end, you'll enjoy the story as a series of curious "what if" possibilities. If half of this is true, the world is more interesting than you thought.