years ago, in Bloodline of the Holy Grail,
I first discussed the suppressed archives of Jesus,
Mary Magdalene and the significance of the hidden
lineage of their descendants. These themes have now
achieved a new prominence in the world of fiction
with Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code – an explosive
and controversial novel which has brought the mysterious
life of Mary Magdalene under a new spotlight.
During the past ten years, however, a wealth of additional
information has been extracted from Templar and monastic
archives, expanding the previously published revelations
to extraordinary new levels.
Mary Magdalene is one of the most painted and sculpted
of all classical figures. Artists and romantics have
adored her, but she has been constantly vilified by
the religious establishment. In the New Testament
she is given as Jesus’ sponsor, a woman that he loved,
a close companion of his mother, and the first person
to speak with Jesus after his resurrection. Church
doctrine, however, claims her to have been a sinful
harlot, albeit a repentant sinner who was finally
admitted to the sainthood as late as 1969.
Mary’s position is unique in the Christian story.
Despite her apparent supportive role in the Gospels,
she appears in other texts as one of its primary figures.
In fact, she is apparent as Christianity’s most important
figure, far outweighing the presumed status of Peter
and Paul. The drama that emerges from Vatican and monastic records is of Mary Magdalene’s
marital relationship with Jesus, her exile from Judaea
in CE 44 under threat of sedition charges, and the
documented persecution of her heirs by a succession
of Roman emperors. Why are these things not written
in the Bible? They are in part – but they are simply
not taught or generally discussed.
It is pertinent to note that although there are many
early Christian wall-paintings in the catacombs beneath
the streets of Rome,
the oldest Christian painting so far discovered in
an above-ground environment is not of Jesus or his
mother, but of Mary Magdalene. Entitled Myrrophore
(Myrrh bearer), it depicts Mary at the tomb of
Jesus with an alabastron of ointment. Emanating from
the early CE 200s (long before the Church of Rome
was established) it was found at a chapel on the River
Euphrates in Syria, and was moved to the Yale University
Art Gallery in the 1930s.
The canonical Gospels do not discuss Mary Magdalene’s
parents, but other historical texts do, and the significance
of their heritage is of primary importance to Mary’s
marital status. In gospels that were strategically
excluded from the New Testament when the selection
was made in CE 397 at the Council of Carthage, Mary
is classified as the spouse and consort of the Messiah.
Even Cathar documents from Provence, as late as the 13th century, make it plain that in Gnostic
circles, she was “always understood to be the wife
Certain narrative information which made this clear
was edited from the New Testament before its publication,
but a good deal else was left intact in the Gospels
and other books of the canon. Not least in this respect
are the detailed accounts of their marriage ceremony.
This is not the wedding at Cana,
as some theologians have supposed, but a far more
explicit anointing ritual based on the Syrian royal
tradition of Mary Magdalene’s family, as corroborated
in the Hebrew Old Testament.
Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code suggests
that Mary was of the family line of Benjamin, but
this was not the case. Her heritage was far more substantial,
tracing back to the same Davidic stock as Jesus, with
a sovereign lineage through the Hasmonaean Priest-kings
in the 2nd century BCE. Dominican and Benedictine
records are also in agreement that, while Mary Magdalene’s
maternal descent was from the royalty of Judaea, her
paternal heritage was of the kingly nobility of Syria.
It is further cited in The Da Vinci Code that
Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a daughter named Sarah.
But Sarah was not a name in those 1st-century
times; it was an Israelite title which meant Princess.
The daughter’s name was Tamar (born CE 33). She was
Tamar the Sarah. The name means Palm-tree, and was
the same as the Old Testament’s matriarchal progenitor
of the Royal House of Judah; the same as given to
the sister of King David. Additionally, however, Jesus
and Mary Magdalene had two sons, as confirmed 15 years
ago by the investigations of Dr. Barbara Thiering
of the Board of Studies in Divinity at the University of Sydney.
From where does this information emanate? Surprisingly,
much of it is found in sections of the New Testament
which are commonly ignored in establishment teaching.
And there are some remarkable references dating back
to the 1st century (clarified by early Fathers of
the Christian movement), which tell of the brutal
persecution that befell the family line.
Subsequent to the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension
of Jesus, and beginning with Emperor Vespasian (CE
69–79), a succession of Roman Emperors (including
Titus and Domitian) issued proclamations to their
generals in the field that the descendant heirs of
Jesus and his family should be hunted down and put
to the sword. It was chronicled by eminent historians
such as Hegesippus, Africanus and Eusebius that the
continuation of the Messianic royal house must be
The Imperial edict in CE 70 (some 40 years after the
crucifixion) ordered “the family of David to be sought,
that no one might be left among the Jews who was of
the royal stock.” It was subsequently reported, however,
that although many were seized, some were released
and “on their release they became leaders of the churches
in a strict dynastic progression, because they had
borne testimony and because they were of the Lord’s
family.” These persecuted descendants were called
the Desposyni (Heirs of the Lord).
The Vatican Archive reveals that in CE 318 a delegation
of Messianic descendants confronted Sylvester, the
Bishop of Rome. They insisted that the Nazarene Church
of Jesus was being corrupted, and that it should rightly
be led by the family heirs – not by a despotic Imperial
regime. They were advised, however, that the power
of salvation did not rest with Jesus, but with Emperor
Constantine, for whom the right of Messianic inheritance
had been personally “reserved since the beginning
This was the plight and ultimate misfortune of the
heirs of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Despite the historical
records, it led to their being sidelined by the orthodox
‘churchianity’ of Rome as it evolved from the 4th century. When John Cassian of Bethlehem
founded his 4th-century Cassianite Order, Mary Magdalene
was paramount in terms of saintly veneration, and
his monks became the official guardians of her tomb.
In later times, Mary Magdalene was proclaimed Mother
Protectress of the Dominican Order, and artwork concerning
her from the Dominicans, Franciscans and other monastic
groups differed considerably from that of the Church
In this regard, it is interesting to note that, while
the Church went to great lengths to denounce Mary
Magdalene’s status, the cardinals and bishops commissioned
an extraordinary number of Magdalene portraits for
the churches of Europe. The reason for this has been difficult to understand but, fortunately,
records of how and why it was the case do exist –
and not least from the studio of the Renaissance artist
Raphael. A student of Michelangelo and Leonardo da
Vinci, Raphael was called to Rome by Pope Julius II in 1508.
A commission was received by the studio to decorate
a chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalene in the Church
of Trinita dei Monti in Rome. The brief was to paint an altarpiece of the Resurrection scene
and four Magdalene-related wall frescoes. The model
supplied for these portrayals was Lucrezia Scanatoria
– described as ‘una famosissima cortigiana di Roma’
(a very famous courtesan of Rome).
She was, in fact, the favourite mistress of Pope Julius
himself. Other noted courtesans of the Renaissance
Papal Court included Masina, Vannozza dei Cattanei,
Giulia Farnese, Gaspara Stampa, Veronica Franco, and
Tullia d’Aragona. These women lived in the greatest
of papal luxury, with houses, vineyards and all manner
of wealth lavished on them.
Notwithstanding the celibacy rule that applied within
the Church, a sexually extravagant lifestyle prevailed
among the Vatican hierarchy,
but it was not a Renaissance novelty. It was a legacy
of the papal culture, stemming from the Roman civil
laws of Emperor Theodosius in the 5th century and
Justinian in the 6th, as codified in the Corpus
Juris Civilis. It was during this era that Mary
Magdalene was first defined in her non-biblical role
as a prostitute – a proclamation by Pope Gregory in
It is now clear from the annals that the 591 denouncement
was a strategic manoeuvre by the Roman establishment.
Mary was a scapegoat. She was subsequently vilified
by the Church but, by inventing the concept of her
repenting for sins she did not commit, the bishops
contrived their own perpetual source of vindication.
They were completely absolved from breaking the celibacy
rule so long as they kept commissioning paintings
of the penitent Mary Magdalene.
Throughout the early centuries of the Church of Rome,
Jesus was sidelined as a figure of much significance.
From the 4th-century era of Constantine the Great,
the Emperors were the ultimate godheads of the movement
– a role eventually taken over by the Popes after
the Western Empire collapsed.
Following that, however, papal authority declined
and the Church was also near to collapse by the 8th
The key monarchies of Europe
were of Davidic descent, with some in the direct lineage
of the Desposyni heirs of Jesus. All efforts
to demolish these successions (as described by Eusebius,
Hegesippus and others) had failed. The only way that
Court could establish its supreme position was to
take control of the monarchical structure, and in
751 Pope Zachary contrived a way to do this.
Without revealing his source, Zachary produced a previously
unknown document that was seemingly 400 years old
and carried the signature of Emperor Constantine.
It proclaimed that the Pope was Christ’s personally
elected representative on Earth, with a palace that
ranked above all the palaces in the world. His divinely
granted dignity was said to be above that of any earthly
ruler and only he, the Pope, had the power and authority
to ‘create’ kings and queens as his subordinates.
The document became known as the Donation of Constantine,
and its provisions were immediately put into force.
By virtue of this, the whole nature and structure
of monarchy changed from being an office of community
guardianship to one of absolute rule. Henceforth,
European monarchs were crowned by the Pope, becoming
servants of the Church instead of being servants to
the people. The defunct Roman Empire was a relic of
history, but Zachary had a new concept – a Holy Roman
Empire controlled from the Vatican.
Pope Zachary’s first initiative was to depose the
most influential of all royal houses – the Merovingian
Kings of Gaul (France). Boasting a genealogical descent
from King David of Israel,
this enigmatic dynasty had been Lords of the Franks
for 300 years. In line with the 1st-century edict
of Emperor Vespasian, which had ordered “the family
of David to be sought, that no one might be left among
the Jews who was of the royal stock”, the
Merovingians should never have existed as far as Zachary
was concerned, and he had their King Childeric III
seized and incarcerated. In his place, Zachary installed
a family of hitherto regional mayors, subsequently
In all the 236 years of Carolingian monarchy, their
only king of any significance was the legendary Charlemagne.
Nevertheless, a new tradition had been born, and the
Holy Roman Empire was begun. Henceforth, European kings were crowned
by the Pope – and in England by his appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.
stood alone in resisting this devious Catholic invasion,
and her monarchs were subsequently excommunicated.
The Donation of Constantine is now listed in
encyclopedias as “the world’s most famous forgery.”
Proof of this emerged over 500 years ago. Its New
Testament references relate to the Latin Vulgate
Bible – an edition translated and compiled by St
Jerome, who was not born until CE 340, some 26 years
after Constantine supposedly signed and dated the document. Apart from this,
the language of the Donation is that of the
8th century and bears no resemblance to the writing
style of Constantine’s day.
The Donation was first declared to be fraudulent
by the Saxon Emperor Otto III in 1001, but the matter
was ignored until its authenticity was fiercely attacked
by the Italian linguist Lorenzo Valla in the 15th
century. He was employed by Pope Nicholas
V to work at the Vatican Library, where he discovered
the Donation and denounced it as an 8th-century
Yet it was this very document which facilitated a
whole new style of papal kingship. It was the device
by which the Roman Church reverted political power
to itself and eclipsed the Desposyni inheritors
of Jesus and Mary Magdalene after the collapse of
the Western Empire. It had become the primary document of papal lordship
over the whole of Christendom and its monarchs.
Much is made in The Da Vinci Code of how Leonardo
da Vinci surreptitiously introduced Mary Magdalene
into his mural of The Last Supper at the monastery
of Santa Maria delle Grazie in
in truth he did not. This supposition comes from an
outdated 1994 concept, which was based on the mural
as it existed after a superficial cleaning by Mauro
Pelliccioli in 1954.
It is stated in The Da Vinci Code that, in
this 1954 restoration, The Last Supper was
“cleaned down to Da Vinci’s original layer of paint”
– but this is completely untrue. At that time it was
reckoned that only one-fifth of Leonardo’s original
was left intact, but it was all obliterated beneath
the overpainting of numerous successive restoration
attempts. All Pelliccoli did was to clean the surface
and treat the work against mildew.
Not until 1978 was a proper restoration commissioned
to be undertaken by the renowned conservator of masterworks,
Dr. Pinin Brambilla Barcilon. This renovation took
a full twenty years, during which the mural was not
on view to the public. It was finally unveiled in
1999, but the source reference for Dan Brown’s novel
in this regard was written five years earlier, and
was not based on The Last Supper painting as
it exists today.
From 1999 the mural has indeed been stripped down
to Leonardo’s original paint, and the items cited
in The Da Vinci Code to denote a woman in place
of the apostle John do not exist. The neck-chain,
for example, turned out to be a crack in the wall.
The supposed formation of breasts on the figure was
caused by black stucco marks from an early attempt
at adhering the plaster. In addition to this, Leonardo’s
preparatory drawing for the figure in question is
at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan,
and is positively captioned ‘John’, while Leonardo’s
two known portrayals of Mary Magdalene have nothing
whatever in common with the apostolic figure in The
If Leonardo had wanted to include Mary Magdalene in
his Last Supper depiction, he could have done
so with impunity. Other artists, such as Fra Angelico,
certainly did this by introducing Magdalene as a 13th
apostle. There was no need for any artist commissioned
by a Dominican establishment to be in any way surreptitious
in the inclusion of Mary Magdalene. As Mother Protectress
of the Order, she was the paramount figure in Dominican
artwork from the 13th century onwards.
Another aspect of The Da Vinci Code suggests
that the Priory of Sion was a secret underground order
of Magdalene adherents with a long-standing history
back to the Crusades. This is largely incorrect because
there has not been a continuous organisation of that
name. There have been four unrelated societies with
similar names at different times in history, and only
one of these had any direct Magdalene association.
In fact, the account of this association from the
Renaissance records of the Prieuré Notre Dame de Sion
is very revealing. Led by René d’Anjou, King of Naples,
it details various European kings and queens, and
the art circles of Giotto di Bondone, Jan Van Eyck,
Leonardo da Vinci and others, as being avid proponents
of the Magdalene legacy. It was from their related
activities that the hermitage school
of La Madeleine de St Baumette
was founded in Provence, along
with the Bethany festivals at
Tarascon and Aix.
Irrespective of anything stated by Dan Brown, Mary
Magdalene has been a favourite of artists through
the centuries, from Giotto di Bondone to Salvador
Dali. Depictions of Mary are often far from biblical
in their representation, but they are never deviously
Whether at the Last Supper, the Marriage at Cana,
or however otherwise included, Mary’s appearances
in artwork are always blatantly stated, and their
historical relevance is far more explosive than the
scenario presented in The Da Vinci Code.
Gardner’s latest book, The Magdalene Legacy: The
Jesus and Mary Bloodline Conspiracy – Revelations
Beyond The Da Vinci Code (HarperCollins/Thorsons–Element,
February 2005) is available from New Dawn Book Service
for AUD$32.95 (postpaid).
GARDNER, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries
and Professional Member of the Institute
of Nanotechnology, is a constitutional
historian, broadcaster and executive producer of a
Hollywood movie studio. Distinguished
as the Chevalier de St. Germain and attached to the
European Council of Princes, he is the Jacobite Historiographer
Royal. In the artistic domain, he has been Conservation
Consultant to the Fine Art Trade Guild of Britain
while, in the world of music, his libretto compositions
have been performed at London’s Royal Opera House,
Covent Garden. Prior of the Knights Templars of St
Anthony, Laurence is a UK Top-10 and internationally
acclaimed bestselling author, with national press
serialisation and works in many languages. He can
be contacted through his web site www.Graal.co.uk.