Most helpful positive review
652 of 695 people found the following review helpful
Well, at least it is entertaining...
on January 10, 2004
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.