It may seem unusual to give a book review on Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, and I do so reluctantly but for the fact that yesterday upon returning from Westminster Cathedral after attending the 10:30 a.m., Mass of the Feast of St. John, Apostle & Evangelist, I overheard a conversation on the train regarding The Da Vinci Code. One of the ladies was in the process of convincing the other of the historical veracity and accuracy of the book assuring her friend that [sic.] “I should know I was born a catholic“. When we all know that the novel which sold 80 million copies worldwide (as at 2009) is a work of fiction and not based on anything that is historically correct, other than perhaps the names of some people and some places.
Therefore upon returning to St. Mary’s Hermitage I contacted my brother in law to borrow his copy (he, by the way, understands that this is a work of fiction), I personally tend to never read works of fiction as they clutter contemplative pursuits and are of little use to anyone other than those who prefer to live in a fantasy world, I will guide you through the many errors that are purported as historical fact in the hope that it will make someone realise that this is all make belief.
“Audacter calumniare, semper aliquidi haeret” – Slander boldly, something always sticks. (in De Augmentis Scientiarum by the Rt. Hon. The Viscount St. Alban Francis Bacon 1623)
The novel has sold more than 80 million copies and then the story was transformed into a film that was intended not only to be successful but also to generate extremely large amounts of revenue.
- Did Jesus really marry Mary Magdalene?
- Has the Church kept this perturbing truth hidden for two thousand years?
- What value do the Gnostic gospels have?
- Is there a hidden lineage, which the Templars and the Priory of Sion protected with their life?
- Is there an interdicted secret hidden in Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings?
- Have ancient documents been uncovered to reveal the mystery of the Holy Grail?
An indispensable guide that helps us to discovering what is real (and above all false) in Dan Brown’s novel. Dates, names, facts, circumstances, background, secret documents, authentic parchments and clamorous fakes, unpublished testimonies: for those who want to see clearly and go to the end of the mystery that claims to cancel two millennia of Christian history.
Andrea Tornielli’s book “Processo al Codice Da Vinci” examines in detail the main contents of the Dan Brown novel of the same name and focuses on the substantial accusations that the author addresses against the Catholic Church. The contents of the books that allegedly inspired “Brown”, which had been published in previous years, are also analysed.
“Regardless of whether you agree with Brown’s conclusions, it’s clear that his history is largely fanciful, which means he and his publisher have violated a long-held if unspoken agreement with the reader: Fiction that purports to present historical facts should be researched as carefully as a nonfiction book would be.” (Ford, M., Da Vinci Debunkers: Spawns of Dan Brown’s Bestseller.)
A substantial premise explains the reasons of the book: although many repeat that the novel by Dan Brown is “only fiction“, in reality the same author and his inspirers are convinced that it is historical reality and make it transpicuous in every chapter, with a scheduled work of indoctrination of the reader, led to identify himself with the female protagonist of the novel, Sophie Neveu, who is “initiated” with the knowledge of this terrible mystery: Was the early Church really founded on the feminine principle? Was Mary Magdalene really the bride of Jesus? Was Christ really a man like all others who was gradually “deified” thanks to the benefactions, endeavours and audaciousness of the Emperor Constantine? Were the ‘harmless‘ canonical gospels chosen “by sacrificing the most ancient and truer Gnostic apocryphal ones” enabling the church to hide a Brobdingnagian truth capable of undermining the church and the principles of Christianity? Does a royal/holy blood lineage really exist or are there any descendants that lead us from Jesus to a present day person? Did the Church really use every means at its disposal – besides assassinations – to conceal this terrible secret inconsistency that would have rocked the church to its very foundations? Did the Priory of Sion truly safeguard this secret? Does Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings really contain a secret “code” that can prove all this? An inexhaustible sequence of questions which, page after page, draws the escapism seeking reader deeper into the pits of falsehood and fantasy.
Each page leaves a trace, a small seed that appends to ones memory, both conscious and rational (especially if what we have read is interesting and has enlighten us), and at the unconscious level remain as a distant memories, which are, however, part of our being; so we should really be careful in what we choose to read.
Who has not read it (well I had not and had no intention of doing so) I had only heard brief conversations when it first came out, I’d of courser heard of Dan Brown’s international success with his novel. I listened to my Archbishop’s apoplectic ictus when the bookshop across the road from the cathedral decided to stay open on a Sunday and sell the book. Frankly, I have tried to give the book a chance and so that I would know if all the fuss and confusion it was causing and the anger where actually justified. My biggest hurdle yet was that both the religious and historian parts of me became restless, unnerved and somewhat provoked (which I think was one of the aims of the author), yet I could not reconcile any of the information that the book divulged. This book cannot be considered productive reading; Rather, it is comprised of slander, misrepresentation and a derogation against Christ, His teachings and the Catholic Church. Thomas Roeser writes a column in the Chicago Sun*Times, Sep. 27, 2003, on the anti-Catholic bigotry behind Dan Brown’s book: It is written with a breezy roman-a-clef approach, the reader is introduced to Catholic religious orders that really exist, well known religious holy sites that are easily accessible, naming well known people from the past and present, all of whom share in what is being propounded as the foremost theological distortion of all history.
From an academic point of view Brown’s thesis can only be considered as having used “corrupted” texts (with many “errors”) and overall have an entirely different meaning from what Brown wants to allude to. This is not just my view but is the opinions of the most famous and authoritative scholars of biblical exegesis and history being from Catholic, Protestant and Jewish background. Brown’s eccentric conjectures are haphazardly entwined with misstated facts, myths and flights of fancy, the research is flawed and without foundation. As Celia McGee of the New York Daily News said on Sept. 4, 2003 “His gross errors can only surprise an uneducated reader“.
In our ”correct” society, a statement seen as racist, anti-Semitic, anti-woman or gay bashing will disqualify a writer for years — but not insults to Jesus Christ and those who follow his precepts. Far from it: Enlarge shop-worn Catholic-conspiracy tales into book length, and it can make you rich and famous, as it has one Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code. The novel mixes fact with fiction in docudrama form, spewing a passel of baseless conjectures against Catholicism, representing modern feminist revisionist theory…. Let’s go into as many canards as we can quickly. Brown says Jesus was not the son of God but a good man elevated to God status by the emperor Constantine as a means of boosting the Roman’s power, with the New Testament adjusted to support the God myth. Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene who, at his crucifixion, was carrying his unborn child. The Holy Grail was not the chalice from which Christ drank at the Last Supper, but literally the womb of Magdalene: a secret that Catholicism – indeed all of Christianity – has preserved by countless murders to suppress the ”sacred feminine” truth. The key is supposedly found in Da Vinci’s ”Last Supper” where, Brown insists, the figure at Christ’s right is not St. John but Magdalene (not true, insists Bruce Boucher, curator of arts and sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, who immediately debunked this theory)….
Thomas Roeser is quoting Bruce Boucher, who writes about Leonardo’s Last Supper in The International Herald Tribune, Aug. 5, 2003:
…. The conventional interpretation of the mural (tempera on stone, not fresco, as Brown has it) is that Jesus is prophesying to his disciples that one of them will betray him. Leonardo groups the disciples in triads, which not only isolates Jesus at the center of the scene, but also plays the disciples’ reactions off of one another. Langdon and his sidekick find it significant that Jesus and the beautiful figure seated on his right form the letter “M.” Moreover, Langdon believes this second figure is not St. John, as conventionally interpreted, but Mary Magdalene, the “bride of Christ,” dressed as a man. “The Last Supper” appears to prove that the grail was not a chalice (none is depicted by Leonardo), and the presence of the Magdalene represents, in Langdon’s words, “the sacred feminine and the goddess, which of course has now been lost, virtually eliminated by the Church.” Brown seems to have derived this arresting theory from feminist accounts of Mary Magdalene and from conspiracy theories about the true nature of the grail, which Leonardo’s mural seems to confirm – hence its crucial role in the unfolding of the novel. This interpretation is quite a stretch, and there is more sangria than Sangreal swirling around it. Leonardo’s composition points, in fact, in another direction, for it conforms to traditional Florentine depictions of the Last Supper, stressing the betrayal and sacrifice of Jesus rather than the institution of the Eucharist and the chalice….
The biggest danger is that the reader, who often does not fully scrutinise what they are reading, can take the affirmations from the novel as plausible and reliable facts, undermining the little or fragile religious formation that they carry within themselves.
For this very reason, reflections are necessary.
Despite being a novelist and not a historian, nor a theologian, Brown has managed to insinuate doubt and suspicion about Christ and his message, especially in readers who have not had any specific formation in their religion. Brown has shamefully slandered Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church, Opus Dei, a history of lies, violent and bloody Christianity, taking shelter from accusations of defamation, premising a declaration of innocence: “this book is a work of fantasy. Characters and places mentioned are inventions of the author ». Nonetheless, on page 9, at the beginning of the novel, he adds that «All the descriptions of works of art and architecture, of documents and secret rituals contained in this novel reflect reality».
“The Da Vinci Code is inaccurate right down to the smallest details. The book itself is an attack on Christianity. “[Frank Wilson of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette] «… The rites he describes are the result of a mixture of imaginary stories …» [Cynthia Greiner of the Weekly Standard].
Prof. Massimo Introvigne, director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), in a recent book in Italian “Gli illuminati e il Priorato di Sion. La verità sulle due società segrete del Codice da Vinci e di Angeli e Demoni” (The illuminati and the Priory of Sion. The truth about the two secret societies of the Da Vinci Code and of Angels and Demons) published by Piemme Aug 2005, reveals with detailed data to the hand, that the novel is nothing more than a pile of inventions, erroneous dates, the exploitation of documents invented in turn.
All this is known today, but the mass media continue to pretend as though it is nothing, some reporters even use lines from the book as though they were truth and so further propagate the lie. As Franco Cardini writes about Avvenire: «On all this tangle of ugly fairy tales it has been full light for some time, […] gazetteers and televisionaries continue to impose upon us these ridiculous stories. And documentary evidence, philology, false accusations, nothing detracts from this monument to imbecility and bad taste».
I could go on to provide citations from authoritative thinkers and writers who demonstrate with actual “historical documents” that the alleged historical truths of the novel are nothing but falsehoods, but beyond all this it is right to reiterate that the book is an affront to Christ, to Him who has conquered death, giving his life for us on the cross, thus redeeming our sins. In the book is seen only with human eyes, blind to his teachings: Brown seems to say: “… look at your Christ, the King of the Jews is dead, he enjoyed his life with Mary Magdalene, that your Church is nothing but a heap of falsehoods, of lies, that those who know are killed, marginalised … ” We know that the Devil is a liar and the father of lies and his followers cannot but do the same.
In the perspective of seeing everything in the positive vision of Christ, (OMNIA IN BONUM) that also draws good where there is only evil, if the novel has raised questions concerning the foundations of our very faith and has motivate us to revisit the apocryphal Gospels so as to compare them with authentic ones, then it can also be affirmed that the “Code” has even become an instrument of recovery and strengthens our Christian heritage.
The Vitruvian man
In his book on architecture, Vitruvius (1st century) writes that the measurements of the human body are distributed by nature according to mathematical proportions. For example, the length of a man’s arms is equal to his height. Leonardo’s design of the Vitruvian Man was an illustration for a book on the architect’s works. It is the favorite work of Sophie Neveu, and the pose taken by her grandfather, Jacques Saunière, before dying. From here the clues for the pursuit of the secret starts. Leonardo da Vinci’s collaboration with the author of Divina proportione (Divine Proportion) [Leonardo da Vinci’s Polyhedra, by George W. Hart] have led some to speculate that he incorporated the golden ratio in Vitruvian Man, but this is not supported by any of Leonardo’s writings, [Livio, M., 2018. The golden ratio and aesthetics. The mathematics of diseases. Accessed December 29, 2018] and its proportions do not match the golden ratio precisely.
The Last Supper
It is considered by some art historians as the most important painting in the world. Dan Brown highlights some symbolic meanings through Sir Leigh Teabing (Sir Ian Murray McKellen CH CBE), who reveals to Sophie that Leonardo has encoded a great secret within this painting. The mural was painted between 1494–98 and is housed in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. The painting represents the scene of the Last Supper of Jesus with his apostles, as it is told in the Gospel of John 13:21. Leonardo depicts the consternation that occurred among the Twelve Apostles when Jesus announced that one of them would betray him. According to Brown, the figure on the right of Christ (left for the beholder) is a female figure. It according to Brown represent Mary Magdalene and would be reclined backwards so as to form a V with Christ, which apparently symbolises the Sacred Feminine.
Mona Lisa (La Giaconda)
It is probably the most recognised and famous painting in the world, the painting is thought to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo who had commissioned Leonardo in 1503-06 (see the margin note by Agostino Vespucci below)., which has been on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris since 1797 (except from when it was stolen by Antonio Peruggia on August 21, 1911 and returned to the Louvre on 4 January 1914. It makes its appearance in the thriller when Sophie and Langton are led by the clues left by Saunière. According to the Brown it represent an asexual person or perhaps faithful mirror image of Leonardo’s face that would have been a supporter of the feminine principle: “he thought that a human soul could not be illuminated unless it possessed masculine and feminine elements“. Mona Lisa would not be “either male or female, it would contain a subtle message of androgyny, a fusion of the two sexes” (p.44-45).
Gnomon of Saint-Sulpice
It is an astronomical measurement device, being located in the Church of Saint-Sulpice (Église Saint-Sulpice) in Paris, where the keystone sought by Bro. Silas was hidden. The
gnomon was built at the initiative of Fr. Jean-Baptiste Languet de Gergy, the parish priest at Saint-Sulpice from 1714 to 1748. Languet de Gergy initially wished to establish the exact astronomical time in order to ring the bells at the most appropriate time of day. For this, he commissioned the English clockmaker Henry Sully to build the gnomon, there is a meridian strip of brass running from north to south on the floor of the church transept. The rays of the sun at the winter solstice on December 21st arrive at a particular point. But it was destroyed during the French revolution. Brown describes it as “a pagan astronomical instrument (…) an ancient sundial of sorts, vestige of the pagan temple that had once stood on this very spot”, despite an early modern building date of 1714, the fact that it is an astronomical device there is nothing pagan about it at all. Brown further identifies the obelisk as “Egyptian” despite its recent date of manufacture in 1743: “a most unexpected structure, a colossal Egyptian obelisk”. He also identifies the Saint-Sulpice meridian as the Paris Meridian, although they are different, being several hundred meters apart: “Long before the establishment of Greenwich as the prime meridian, the zero longitude had passed through Paris and through the Church of Saint-Sulpice”.
The Gnostic Gospels
Gnosis spread from the second century and was contested by Christian writers, introduced so that we could learn about Gnosticism through criticism. In 1945, at Nag Hammadi in Egypt, a collection of 12 leather bound papyrus apocalyptic codices of early Christian and Gnostic origins, and 1 Trimorphic Protennoia, were discovered by a local farmer named Muhammed al-Samman [The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts, pp. 2-3; HaperOne 2007.] among them those of Thomas, Philip and Truth amongst others. Here is the story of the relationship between Jesus and Magdalene (the text speaks of Mary Magdalene as “companion” of Jesus, of “kisses on the mouth” and the frequent jealousy of the apostles against Mary Magdalene who is seen as being favoured more compared to them. Brown mentions a descent deriving from the union of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
The Priory of Sion
“Fact: The Priory of Sion – a European secret society founded in 1099 – is a real organization.” These are the opening words of The Da Vinci Code (on an introductory page at the beginning of the novel), a novel in which the Priory of Sion (Prieuré de Sion in French) plays a central role. This organisation is at the roots of the plot of the entire Da Vinci Code. The Priory, which claims to have had some very illustrious Grand Master’s among whom we find Blanche of Navarre Queen of France, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, Jean Cocteau … most recently Jacques Saunière. This Priory worked harmoniously with the Templars, but then separated and continued with the Rosicrucians. According to a theory of some British historians, obviously not documented, the purpose of the Priory would be to safeguard the dynastic descendants of Jesus and Magdalene throughout history. The Priory of Sion practiced the cult of Mary Magdalene.
In Reality the Prieuré de Sion, is a fraternal association, founded and dissolved in France in 1956 [the registration took place at the subprefecture of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois on 25 June 1956 and this was announced in the Journal Officiel de la République Française on 20 July 1956] by a Mr. Pierre Athanase Marie Plantard as a ludibrium, a convicted and known confidence trickster [see The Secret of the Priory of Sion, CBS News ’60 Minutes’, transmitted on 30 April 2006, presented by Ed Bradley, produced By Jeanne Langley.] In the 1960s, Plantard fabricated the history for that association, now characterising it as a secret society founded by Baron Godefroy de Bouillon Defender of the Holy Sepulchre on Mount Zion in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099, conflating it with a genuine historical monastic order, the Abbey of Our Lady of Mount Zion. In 1993 Plantard was investigated by a judge during the Pelat Affair; Plantard had had his house searched, search failed to find any documents related to Pelat, but turned up a hoard of false documents, including some proclaiming Plantard the true king of France. Plantard admitted under oath he had fabricated everything, including Pelat’s involvement with the Priory of Sion, he acknowledged that both lists he had issued with names of the Grand Masters were fraudulent. The Priory of Sion myth has been exhaustively debunked by academic scholars, journalists and the French Court as one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th century. Yet some believe this is a cover up to discredit Plantard and the Priory. Frankly the Priory is now pointless as it seems very doubtful that French Republic will allow any of Plantard’s relatives or anyone else for that matter to accede to the French Crown.
Has a fundamental role in the “Code”. In another book (which I’ll refrain from advertising) we are asked to believe the hypothesis that Mary Magdalene was the wife of Christ and the mother of their children particularly a girl named Sara, whom we are told would perpetuate an entire dynastic line of the House of David. This dynasty would of course continue to become that of the Merovingians, kings of France, and then be hidden under the protection of a secret society, the Priory of Sion. Brown convinces himself and unfortunately others that Christ was married, since it was the practice of every Jew at that age. [I’ve even discussed this with a Rabbi colleague, who asserts that it would have been unusual but not impossible for a Jew at that time, of that age and station to have been unwed.] Now in this day and age, we see Mary Magdalene being reincarnated as the embodiment of the Sacred Feminine, or the spirit of the Mother Goddess. The apocryphal gospels have frequently been promoted in works addressed to popular audiences as though they were “reliable“, most often to support some sensationalist claim, such as Jesus and Mary Magdalene’s marital status. In 2012, scholar Karen L. King published a book, regarding a purported Coptic papyrus fragment in which Jesus says: “My wife … she will be able to be my disciple.” The overwhelming consensus of scholars, including King herself, is that the fragment is a modern forgery. If genuine, the papyrus would have dated to sometime between the sixth and ninth centuries A.D.; Ehrman states that the historical sources reveal absolutely nothing about Jesus’s sexuality and that there is no evidence whatsoever to support the idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married or that they had any kind of sexual or romantic relationship. None of the canonical gospels imply such a thing and, even in the late Gnostic gospels, where Mary is shown as Jesus’s closest disciple, the love between them is not sexual. The extremely late Greater Questions of Mary, which is not extant, allegedly portrayed Mary not as Jesus’s wife or partner, but rather as an unwilling voyeur. Furthermore, Ehrman points out that the Essenes, a contemporary Jewish sect who shared many views with Jesus, and the apostle Paul, Jesus’s later follower, both lived in unmarried celibacy, so it is not unreasonable to conclude that Jesus did as well. According to the Gospel of Mark 12:25, Jesus taught that marriage would not exist at all in the coming kingdom of God. Since Jesus taught that people should live as though the kingdom had already arrived, this teaching implied a life of unmarried celibacy.
If Jesus had been married to Mary Magdalene, the authors of the gospels would definitely have mentioned it, since they mention all his other family members, including his mother Mary, his father Joseph, his four brothers, and his at least two sisters. Casey rejects the idea of Mary Magdalene as Jesus’s wife as nothing more than wild popular sensationalism. Kripal writes that “the historical sources are simply too contradictory and simultaneously too silent” to make absolute declarations regarding Jesus’ sexuality.
I could actually continue as there are a lot of errors to work with, yet I tire of this subject. At the end of this critical path, we can observe with clarity and a certain detachment, as an overall look, at Brown’s text. At the end of the of my rebuttal to all those unfortunates who believe that the book is based on fact, with primary or even secondary sourced historical evidence, please do not forget that it is a “NOVEL” with all the characteristics of this literary genre, whose first requirement is imagination and invention. When we realise this we can read this thriller, without ever forgetting the words in the exergue: “this book is a work of fantasy.” And if this book has raised questions on the foundations of our faith and has stimulated us to revisit the historicity of the Gospels, the life of Jesus … if he invited us to be interested in the apocryphal Gospels, to compare them with authentic ones and make us discover the abyss between the historical sobriety of the latter and the nebulous evanescence and lack of apocrypha … then we can conclude that the Da Vinci Code has even become an opportunity to recover the historical strength of our Christian heritage that has filled hearts for two millennia and the souls of millions of people.
At least in this manner the underlying hatred and anti-Catholic resentment displayed by the author can be transformed by every one of us into a renewed and conscious reappropriation of that Love and the hope that Christ has entrusted within each one of us as the most precious treasure. As I never finished reading this book (this is a first for me), I’m somewhat at a loss as to what to do with it…