A minor secret society with a major impact on late nineteenth-century culture, the Catholic Order of the Rose+Cross (Ordre Catholique de la Rose+Croix) was founded in 1890 by Joséphin Péladan, a flamboyant French art critic, occultist and novelist who two years earlier had been one of the founders of the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose+Cross, the premier French occult secret society of its time. Péladan combined his occult beliefs with a devout if idiosyncratic Catholic faith, and had doctrinal as well as personal disagreements with Stanislaus de Guaita, the Grand Master of the Kabbalistic Order. In 1890 Péladan broke away from the latter and founded an order of his own.
The Catholic Order was never much more than a framework for Péladan’s own artistic crusade, but Péladan was the leading defender of the Symbolist movement in art and a friend of major artists and musicians of the time. Under his order’s banner, he produced six famous art exhibitions, the Salons de la Rose+Croix, which showcased Symbolist art between 1892 and 1897 and helped launch the career of eccentric French composer Erik Satie. While it never had many members, the Catholic Order, later renamed the Order of the Temple and the Grail, remained quietly active during Péladan’s life.
When Péladan died in 1918, what was left of his order fragmented. His long-time personal secretary, Georges Monti, attempted to establish himself as the new Sâr or head of the order, but had little success. In Monti’s last years, however, he found one student, a young man named Pierre Plantard, who later went on to model his own secret society – the undeservedly famous Priory of Sion – on the Catholic Order of the Rose+Cross.
The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006