Michael Baigent Profile

and his book The Jesus Papers reviewed

* Michael Feréen Baigent, 1948-2013

Paul Smith

7 May 2005

Of the three authors who co-wrote the pseudo-historical masterpiece The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Michael Baigent may be considered as being the main one who contributed the most towards the "Jesus-Bloodline" theory – his obsession with the Jewish Line of David was evident from what he contributed to the recently screened satellite documentary on the History Channel Investigating History: The Holy Grail (26 April 2004).

Michael Baigent's involvement in this subject matter seems to have begun during the late 1970s when he contributed research for the BBC 2 Chronicle documentary In The Shadow of the Templars broadcast on 27 November 1979. The Producer Roy Davies, who wanted a different ending to his documentary, categorically rejected his proposed "solution" to the activities of the Abbé Bérenger Saunière, which involved his theory of the "Jesus-Bloodline" and the survival of the Line of David in the region of Rennes-le-Château. Between the late 1970s and 1982 when The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail was originally published, Baigent took his theory 'on the road' giving Talks and Lectures in various locations – on 31 January 1981 he addressed the membership of the Pendragon Society (of which he was once a member) at its Annual General Meeting held in Bristol University (the Pendragon Society was founded in 1959 and pursues Arthurian Studies: history and archaeology, legend, myth and folklore, the Arts and popular culture). Even then Baigent's theories were not taken seriously – it was suggested by several people who listened to his various claims that because he had a Degree in Psychology he was pursuing some sort of "social experiment".

The superimposition of Baigent's "Jesus-Bloodline" theory over the Priory Documents and linking it with the person of Pierre Plantard has been, needless to say, highly damaging. There are no references in the Priory Documents to the New Testament, and Pierre Plantard – the perpetrator of the Priory of Sion hoax – never claimed to be descended from Jesus Christ (he merely claimed to be descended from the Merovingian King Dagobert II, and desired to be the newly restored King of France). Because of the enormous worldwide success of Baigent's 1982 book it is uncritically accepted by a lot of people today that the "Jesus Bloodline" theory and the Priory of Sion are one and the same thing. Such beliefs can only exist in the minds of those who haven't actually read the Priory Documents themselves.

Pierre Plantard first distanced himself from the "Jesus-Bloodline" theory in 1983 on a French radio interview, quoted by Philippe de Chèrisey in his 1983 article 'Jesus Christ, his wife and the Merovingians' that appeared in Nostra Magazine – ‘Bizarre News’ N° 584, 1983. Then, later on during the late 1980s, Plantard modified and changed the mythological pedigree of his Priory of Sion, giving it a totally different history and repudiating the version found in the "Dossiers Secrets" that was accepted as "plausible history" by the authors of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, and the following passage was written in Vaincre No. 3, September 1989, page 22 (a phantom publication edited by Thomas Plantard de Saint-Clair, Plantard's son):

"We are now able to officially state that the PRIORY OF SION has no direct or indirect connection with the ORDER OF THE TEMPLE, and that all this fantastic succession of Grand-Masters that authors such as Philippe TOSCAN, Mathieu PAOLI, Henry LINCOLN, Michael BAIGENT, Richard LEIGH, etc. have attributed to it derive merely from people’s imaginations and the realm of fantasy" (in an article entitled Some Archives Of The ‘Priory Of Sion’ Discovered In Barcelona… by "Ursanne").

I met Michael Baigent in person at his Winchester Home in February 1993. I found him very hospitable, courteous to talk with, but still believing in the Priory of Sion, in Merovingian Bloodlines existing to the present day, and his Line of David obsession was evident. He cordially gave me the use of his photocopier, with which I could photocopy parts from his archives that I found interesting, and Baigent even later provided me with a photograph of Marie Denarnaud's receipt for Saunière's coffin – showing that Baigent himself obtained it from Pierre Plantard's archives (thus proving that there once existed a liaison between Plantard and Noel Corbu). But what really interested me from this meeting with Baigent was his vast archive relating to the evidence of Saunière's wealth originating from the selling of masses. There it was – in Baigent's own home – all the photocopied evidence – highly substantial in its volume – proof of the source of the priest's wealth – but that it was in the possession of somebody who did not know how to use it properly because they preferred to pursue non-sequiturs relating to pseudo-history. Marie Denarnaud's receipt, which Baigent gave me, has been used on this website as evidence that Saunière's coffin was not paid for by Marie Denarnaud until some 6 months after his death – the date is there plainly to see: 12 June 1917 – and not 12 January 1917 – a week before Saunière's death – as claimed in Baigent's book.

In 2004 Michael Baigent was interviewed by Italian Rennes-le-Château investigator Francesco Garufi, where he claimed that my website was "built on evidence originating from his archives" from our 1993 meeting, and that I could not be considered as an "expert" on this subject matter. Here it must be stated that this is a reference to Marie Denarnaud’s receipt of Saunière's coffin and to nothing else. I did not use anything else from Baigent's archive for the website apart from that – so the website cannot be regarded as "built on his archive". The pieces from Baigent's archive that I did photocopy in 1993 were extracts from René Descadeillas' Mythologie du trèsor de Rennes (showing that the authors were well aware of material that contradicted the claims found in their book) and a black and white copy of a painting of the Magdalene by David Teniers. That was all that I copied from Baigent's archives in 1993.

Francesco Garufi's interview with Michael Baigent appeared in the Italian magazine Gli enigmi di Rennes-le-Château that was a special supplement to the Italian magazine Hera dated February 2004. This was later reprinted in Francesco Garufi's book Rennes-le-Château: Un'inchiesta? (now out-of-print).

Here it is, from page 28:

Marie Denarnaud's receipt for Saunière's coffin appeared in the public domain long before it appeared on this website originating from Michael Baigent's archives. It was reproduced in 1985 in Captier and Corbu's book, L'Heritage de l'Abbé Saunière.

The popularity of Dan Brown's recent novel The Da Vinci Code has inspired several documentaries, one of which in particular featured Michael Baigent which put his theories to the critical test. Broadcast on 3 February 2005, Channel Four's The Real Da Vinci Code presenter Tony Robinson asked Michael Baigent the following question in relation to the claim that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and produced offspring:

Tony Robinson:
Do we have any evidence that there was a child?

Michael Baigent:
There's none whatsoever – that’s purely hypothesis on our part – but I think it's a plausible hypothesis - that the Holy Grail is the bloodline of David – and if Jesus and Mary Magdalene had been married and she was pregnant with this child – "yes, she would have carried the Grail to France" – and I think this is the way that we need to look at this material – Is it true? I don't know – Is it plausible? Yes.

Tony Robinson:
So the inspiration for 'The Da Vinci Code' and a whole Canon of secret Grail Hunts is no more than a Big Guess...

Michael Baigent remains undaunted by such criticisms and sticks to his guns. His 1982 book has recently been translated in Norway on the strength of the success of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code – and he has recently toured Norway with an "illustrated evidence" of the Priory of Sion and promoting yet again, his "Jesus-Bloodline" theory and trying to prove that the Abbé Saunière knew about this and that it could have been his "secret" – basing the latter allegation on Station XIV of the Cross in Saunière's church that depicts a Full Moon whilst Jesus' body is being "smuggled away from the tomb".

Baigent's "illustrated evidence" for the Priory of Sion merely consists of Charters that relate to the Abbey of Notre Dame de Mont Sion, a monastic order that ceased to exist during the 17th century, and which had no historical link with Plantard's Priory of Sion hoax. Station XIV of the Cross in Rennes-le-Château church is not that unique – Saunière obtained it from the Giscard Company in Toulouse who specialised in providing religious ornamentary for Churches – and the Stations of the Cross that exist in the Church in Rennes-le-Château can also be found in churches in Couiza and Rocamadour.

A copy of the Catalogue of the Company of Giscard of Toulouse has been discovered, and here is what the Company offered in terms of Stations of the Cross from this Catalogue:

Michael Baigent's claims and allegations stem not from historical evidence but from desired beliefs. The survival of the Line of David to the time of Jesus Christ is an impossibility, never mind its survival to the present day. The last Jewish King of the Line of David was dethroned in 586BC when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and took away the Jewish people to captivity. When they were liberated from Babylonian bondage by Persia and returned to Jerusalem the Jewish Monarchy was not restored. There was nobody then in existence to be the King of Judaea from the Line of David.

And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon (2 Kings 25: 7).

The Jesus Papers by Michael Baigent

Reviewed by E.P.Wijnants

First of all, Baigent doesn't deliver what he promises in his book.

The title and opening pages refer to a tantalizing document "containing incontrovertible evidence that Jesus was alive in the year A.D. 45." Such a document, verified by carbon dating and subjected to the scrutiny of the world's top archaeological experts, would deliver a devastating blow to the core belief of Christianity: that Jesus rose from the dead. This idea is dangled early then withdrawn, as Baigent explains that historical background is needed before considering such stunning news.

When reading the book cover to cover however, it becomes clear that Baigent in fact suggests there was (or is) an exoteric and esoteric (hidden meaning) to Christianity. Or as Baigent writes, "It is still more curious that the production of these books of Hermes began about the time of Jesus and paralleled the rise of Christianity." (The Jesus Papers, page 211)

To further underscore this point, the Jesus bloodline theory Baigent presents is similar to that proposed by Hermetist Robert Ambelain, founder of the "Église Gnostique Apostolique", and publicised in his earlier 1970 book Jesus or the Mortal Secret of the Knight Templars. Not unlike Ambelain, Baigent has Jesus go to Egypt with a new twist added – that Jewish Zealots who resisted Roman occupation seeking Jesus' execution as a traitor to their movement while Pontius Pilate "took steps to ensure that Jesus would survive." Jesus and wife according to The Jesus Papers travelled to Upper Egypt and taught mystical lore that inspired ancient Gnostic/Hermetic wisdom.

Also Bishop Clement of Alexandria, so Baigent assures, "knew of the Hermetic texts." Further Baigent argues about Jesus: "I suspect that he wouldn't have minded at all if people forgot him; what was more important to him was that people should not forget the way to the kingdom of heaven, a notion not restricted to Christianity and Judaism: "To be ignorant of the divine is the ultimate vice," proclaim the texts attributed to the Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus."

After the war in Judaea, and after the Jewish Temple of Onias was closed down, where did Jesus go? Baigent writes; "Again, indulging in pure speculation, I would think it possible that Jesus and his family travel to a place of safety well away from Egypt and Judaea."

This then is said to be Narbonne, "a major Roman trading port at the mouth of the Aude River in France, had a Jewish population in the region."

It seems "plausible" so Baigent argues, "that the Jewish community in the south of France was the source of a document stating Jesus's existence in A.D. 45, and next fell in the hands of the southern French Gnostic group, the Cathars." (The Jesus Papers, page 266.)

Maybe not content with a non-existant manuscript however, Baigent seems to fall back on a conspiracy theory, "in hints and third hand rumours has always been talk of the existence of some documents that are dangerous to the Vatican."

Pretty soon, the reader realizes that there probably won't be any "Jesus documents" — that this book is really a private credo, an intimate declaration of belief dressed up to be the religious bombshell of the millennium. But then the long-anticipated appearance of the documents comes (or does it?) near the end. Baigent meets with an unidentified antiquities dealer who shows him two pieces of parchment:

"Each was about eighteen inches long and nine inches high…. These were … the letters from Jesus to the Sanhedrin. They existed. I was silent as I fully enjoyed the moment."

Then he adds, "I wished above all that I might have a familiarity with ancient languages... It's like holding a treasure chest but not having the key to open it."

Earlier in the book, Baigent described himself as a devoted student of ancient history for many years, but here he can't even pick out Jesus' name nor does he have the dealer’s name, who is elusive and disappears from the story, after showing him what the parchment contained.

Finally on the second to last page of the book, comes the disclaimer: "It should be clear now that history is malleable: we have our facts, but we never have enough of them to be able to put our hands on our hearts and say; in all honesty; that we know for certain what happened."