Adoration of the Magi
Boaz and Jachin
Bois de Boulogne
Cathedral of the Codes
Clef de voûte
Council of Nicea
Dead Sea Scrolls
Eglise de Saint-Sulpice
Escrivá, Father Josemaría
Friday the thirteenth
The Gnostic Gospels
Godefroi de Bouillon
Innocent II, Pope
King of the Jews
Knights of Malta
Last Supper, The
Leonardo da Vinci
Madonna of the Rocks
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Nag Hammadi Library
Newton, Sir Isaac
Opus Dei Awareness Network
Peter the Apostle
Philip the Fair, King
Priory of Sion
Teniers, David the Younger
Tribe of Benjamin
Adonai One of the names for God in Hebrew. The original name of God—formed by the Hebrew letters YHWH—was so sacred that it was believed it should never be pronounced out loud. Over time, Adonai became one of the replacements, and the vowel notations for Adonai were added to YHWH to remind people to say Adonai instead. This combination of consonants and vowels created the English transliteration, Jehovah. The book of Genesis begins calling God by the name Elohim (interesting itself, because it is a Hebrew word with an ending that implies it is a plural). Later in Genesis, and then in other books of the Torah, Adonai is introduced. There is some argument that Elohim represents the concept of God before man arises and that Adonai is the right name for the God of the postcreation world. Some scholars who have made their life’s work the forensic effort to analyze how the Bible was written, believe that Elohim is an older word for God than Adonai, and identify certain documents from the scriptures as belonging to the E (for Elohim) editor, others as being the work of the J (Jehovah) editor.
Adoration of the Magi Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece The Adoration of the Magi was commissioned during his early career, while he was working in Florence. Dated 1481, the Adoration is a work in progress. Portions of the panel are still an “underdrawing”—the sketch over which the artist applies the paint. This seems to indicate that Leonardo abandoned the work before having a chance to finish it. However, in 2001 the “art diagnostician” Maurizio Seracini used ultrasound scans which revealed that “none of the paint we see on the Adoration was put there by Leonardo.” It was put there, Seracini speculates, by a far inferior artist who deliberately effaced certain compositional elements and added others.
Dan Brown hints darkly in The Da Vinci Code that the anonymous painter who added the brushwork to Leonardo’s underdrawing was deliberately trying to hide some sort of message in the original. Seracini’s New York Times Magazine article of April 21, 2002, is mentioned by Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code.
Albino Silas, the dutiful Opus Dei supernumerary in The Da Vinci Code, is an albino. Albinos are either deficient or entirely lacking in pigment in their hair, eyes, and skin. People with albinism generally suffer from severe vision deficits; many are legally blind. Silas seems to have no such impairment; indeed, Bishop Aringarosa insists that albinism makes Silas unique, even holy: “Do you not understand how special this makes you? Were you not aware that Noah himself was an Albino?” The national organization that defends the rights of albinos in the United States goes by the acronym NOAH.
Altar means “high” in Latin. The altar originated in pre-Christian religious practices as a platform for sacrificial offerings. In early Christianity it was used to embody the Last Supper.
Amon While Amon is seen in The Da Vinci Codeas “the Egyptian god of fertility,” he has a far bigger portfolio, including a period as the supreme deity. Since Egypt in its early history was far from united politically, there were actually many ruling houses that would later lay claim to the throne. When they did, they brought in their own sets of gods. In later centuries, the stories of these gods were modified and interwoven. Amon (or Amen or Amun) was mentioned in early texts immediately after the pair of gods Nau and Nen, equivalents of the watery abyss from which all things sprang. This association puts Amon and his consort Amaunet among the handful of gods that self-created or, alternatively, was made by Thoth as one of the eight original gods of creation. Until around the Twelfth Dynasty, Amon was a local Theban god, but then the princes of Thebes conquered their rivals and made their city a new capital of Upper Egypt. It was probably then that he began to be called “King of the Gods.”
The word amon means “what is hidden.” This alludes to the unseen spirit. Amon was also known as a keeper of justice, a protector of the poor, and was known as the god of the wind and fertility. He was portrayed as a human, typically with two tall feathers in a red headdress. He also might be found as a man with the head of a frog, as a man with the head of a uraeus (cobra), as an ape, and as a lion crouching upon a pedestal.
Apostles The roots of the word apostle go back to the Greek for “one who is sent out.” They were to spread the news of the Christian message. The fact that Jesus encountered Mary Magdalene first upon his resurrection (according to several Gospel accounts) and specifically asked her to go tell the others the Good News, confirms her role as the “Apostle to the Apostles,” a title she has been known by in history. Some scholars theorize that the twelve apostles correspond to the twelve tribes of Israel.
Anagrams, which are words or phrases created by transposing the letters of another word or phrase, are important to The Da Vinci Code. For example, the words Saunière scrawls on the glass protecting the Mona Lisa—“So Dark the Con of Man”—are an anagram for Leonardo’s painting, the Madonna of the Rocks. Saunière uses several anagrams to lead Sophie’s search, including an anagram made up of numbers—the jumbled Fibonacci sequence.
Androgyny A combination of the Greek root words andr (male) and gyn (female), the word signifies indeterminate gender. Toward the end of The Da Vinci Code, while flying across the English Channel, Langdon engages Sophie in a conversation about the ritual she viewed decades before that traumatized her and drove her apart from her grandfather. “‘Masks?’ he asked, keeping his voice calm. ’Androgynous masks?’ ‘Yes. Everyone. Identical masks. White on the women. Black on the men.’” Androgyny is considered by many authorities on archetypes and myths to be a concept suggesting unity of the divided nature of the human species and psyche, gods and goddesses.
Apple Cut open an apple vertically and it generally reveals five carpels, forming the richly symbolic pentagram. In The Da Vinci Code, a line from the poem that leads Sophie and Robert to Newton’s tomb reads: “In London lies a knight a Pope interred/ His labor’s fruit a Holy wrath incurred.” It was a falling apple that reputedly taught Newton about gravity.
The apple is a richly symbolic fruit, from a tree in the same genus as the rose, another plant with extensive symbological importance in the Christian tradition. The apple is, of course, a symbol of temptation and evil. In the Garden
of Eden, Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; legend identifies this fruit as an apple (although the scriptures do not). The apple turns up in many other religious paradises, including the Greek gardens of the Hesperides and the sacred groves of the Celts. Hera, the wife of the Greek god Zeus, received an apple as an engagement gift.
Pommes bleues (blue apples) play an interesting role in a controversial bit of Catholic Church history which is a source for much of The Da Vinci Code: one of the encoded parchments claimed to have been found in Rennes-le-Château ends with a reference to pommes bleues.
Near the end of The Da Vinci Code, Teabing finally understands the solution to Jacques Saunière’s last puzzle, the poem that provides the word that opens the second cryptex. The orb that “ought be” on the tomb of the famous physicist isn’t a star or a planet, but an apple. “Bewildered, Teabing looked back at the keystone and saw it. The dials were no longer at random. They spelled a five-letter word: APPLE.” Dumbstruck, the defeated Teabing recalls the final line of Saunière’s poem, and understands why he has been led to Newton’s tomb: “His labor’s fruit! The Rosy flesh with a seeded womb!”
Apostles The roots of the word apostle go back to the Greek for “one who is sent out.” They were to spread the news of the Christian message. The fact that Jesus encountered Mary Magdalene first upon his resurrection (according to several Gospel accounts) and specifically asked her to go tell the others the Good News, confirms her role as the “Apostle to the Apostles,” a title she has been known by in history. Some scholars theorize that the twelve apostles correspond to the twelve tribes of Israel.
Arius is the most familiar figure associated with a powerfully contested heresy, Arianism. At the center of Arianism was a debate about the nature of Christ: was he of the same substance as the Father, or was he inferior to Him, a created being that came into existence at His behest, and therefore unable to share His divinity? Arius argued that Christ was not of the same substance of the Father. After years of theological dispute, he presented a creed of his belief at the Council of Nicea. His heresy was rejected, and opposition to Arianism was enshrined in the Nicene Creed. Arianism however, continued to flare up; in fact, thirty years into Constantine’s reign, two new church councils were held to decide the same issue. Both failed to put an end to it. In The Da Vinci Codethe Visigoths, a medieval Arian tribe, are mentioned as the progenitors of the Merovingian dynasty. The village of Rennes-le-Château was historically a stronghold of the Visigoths.
Atbash cipher is used by Robert Langdon, Sophie Neveu, and Leigh Teabing to open Saunière’s first cryptex in Chapter 72 of The Da Vinci Code, revealing a further mystery—the second cryptex containing the “map” to the Holy Grail.
Atbash is an early and extremely simple cipher that originated with Hebrew scribes who were transcribing the books of the Old Testament. In the cipher, the alphabet’s sequence is reversed, so that the last letter of the alphabet stands in for the first, the second letter replaces the second to last, and so on. In English, the cipher would make a equivalent to z (and vice versa), b equivalent to y, c to x, and so on. Thus, wz ermxr xlwv is an Atbash-ciphered rendering of the “da Vinci code.” The name Atbash is derived from the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph, beth, or a and b in English) and their equivalents in the cipher (tav, shin, or t and s in English). Atbash, and other ciphers that use similar methods, are known as substitutions.
Langdon daydreams about the most famous example of the Atbash cipher while waiting for the cryptex code to be deciphered by Sophie: the reference to “sheshach” in Jeremiah 25:26 and 51:41. The word sheshach caused considerable difficulty for biblical scholars, but application of the Atbash cipher revealed the hidden meaning: Babel, equated by many scholars with Babylon, the capital city of the Babylonian empire, and home to many captive Jews after that empire sacked Jerusalem in 600 b.c.
Baphomet An idol said to have the head of a goat; in some descriptions the pentagram symbol is said to appear on its head. Although often said to be the idol of the Knights Templar, this attribution is a result of confessions obtained under torture by the Inquisition, and thus somewhat suspect. Many Knights Templar members, when tortured by the Inquisition, confessed (truly or otherwise) to worshipping this idol, most frequently described as having “the head of a goat and the body of an ass.” Some contemporary followers of paganism retain a belief in Baphomet, feeling it was the god of the witches and came from Pan, the god of nature.
Boaz and Jachin are the names of two pillars supporting the ancient Temple of Solomon. In The Da Vinci Code, Langdon and Sophie notice copies of these pillars in the Rosslyn Chapel. Sophie feels that she has seen the pillars before. Langdon notes that the pillars are the “most duplicated architectural structures in history,” and are twins of the two pillars set inside every Masonic temple on earth. The names are derived from biblical accounts of Solomon’s construction of his Temple. Solomon wrote to Hiram of Tyre, asking him to send someone “with skill in engraving, in working gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and in making blue, purple and red cloth.” Among this artisan’s contributions are two elaborately decorated pillars. The pillar on the right side was named Jachin (“to establish”; “stability”), and the pillar on the left, Boaz (“strength” or “in him there is strength”). Legend has it Boaz was the name of one of Solomon’s ancestors; the origin of Jachin is not as clear. Boaz and Jachin became important symbols in the practice of Masonry. Masons trace their ancient origins to a symbolical representation of the might of the divine and frequently adapt the symbol of the fleur-de-lis in their buildings—in this case as bronze capitals at the top of both columns. Others identify the pillars with the great pillars that were thought to hold up the ancient world—one at Gibraltar, one at Cueta. Some see them as representative of many ancient dualities, light and dark, feminine and masculine, active and negative, and elementally, fire and water.
Bois de Boulogne Langdon and Sophie speed through the Bois de Boulogne on their way to 24 rue Haxo, the address left by Sophie’s grandfather on a mysterious laser-cut key. Langdon tries to gather his thoughts to tell Sophie about the Priory of Sion, but is distracted by bizarre nocturnal inhabitants of the park—sex workers and prostitutes of every stripe.
The Bois de Boulogne is a large (more than two thousand acres), lushly forested park in Paris, containing many recreational areas including horse courses, bike and walking trails, and charming gardens. At night the forest becomes a notorious red-light district. Bois de Boulogne is just a small remnant of a considerably larger forest, the Forêt de Rouvray, woods that extended miles to the north of the current park at the time of the invasion of Gaul in the first century b.c. King Childeric II (a seventh-century Merovingian monarch) bequeathed the land to the Abbey of Saint-Denis, which planned to build monasteries and abbeys in the forest. During the Hundred Years War, the forest—already quite unsafe—became the haunt of robbers before being pillaged by the Parisians. Under Louis XI, the estate was reforested and two roads were opened.
Brown mentions that certain Parisians referred to this area as “the Garden of Earthly Delights,” an allusion to a triptych by Hieronymus Bosch known for its bawdy content and mysterious symbolism. The triptych itself depicts Eden before the fall on the left panel, the Garden of Earthly Delights on the larger, central panel, and a portrait of hell on the right panel. Even though each of the panels represents a theologically different place, there is a common element running through the triptych. All three realms, from the inviolate to the damned, are scenes of disquieting surrealism.
Hell is depicted as a realm of bizarre creatures and flamboyantly unusual punishments, where human bodies with animal heads devour sinners. A huge body serves as a cave for the punishment of the damned, and strange symbols (a pair of ears mounted by a knife) abound. However, the surrealism extends into both the Garden of Earthly Delights in the central panel, and the Garden of Eden in the left panel. These mythical places seem free of the bizarre, tortuous imagery of hell, but the surrealism is still there: naked men and women cavort inside fantastic, living structures in the garden, and even the inviolate Eden is infested with strange chimerical animals.
Bosch (1450–1516), a Flemish master painter, is nearly an exact contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci. He’s also known for having a deep interest in alchemy and secret societies. Most of his paintings were loaded with symbols and coded messages of all types, as well as far more exotic references to sexuality and the sacred feminine than anything in the work of Leonardo. Like Leonardo, it is hard to discern if Bosch was a devout believer, a radical freethinker, or a heretical cultist. Some art historians and biographers believe Bosch was involved with the Adamites, a secret society that may have incorporated hieros gamos–type activities into their practices.
While argument rages over the meaning of Bosch’s symbols, one thing is clear. For Bosch, there is a deep ambiguity and a lurking danger in the places we consider paradise; and this makes the Bois de Boulogne an apt namesake for the painting and a place worthy of mention in The Da Vinci Code.
Botticelli In Dan Brown’s book, the Italian painter is mentioned as a Priory of Sion member according to the Dossiers Secrets. Botticelli is perhaps most noted for his Birth of Venus, with its obvious connection to the sacred feminine. The painter was persecuted by Florentine inquisitors and fundamentalists led by Savanarola, and eventually gave in to them. This, plus his artistic rivalry with Leonardo, makes it hard to see him as a member of the same ultrasecret society, even though it is true his works, including The Birth of Venus, introduce a strong element of eros into Renaissance painting.
Caesar cipher A substitution cipher (similar to the Atbash cipher) developed by Julius Caesar to communicate with his generals in wartime. Using the English alphabet the Caesar cipher substitutes the third letter following in the alphabet for the first, thus d replaces a, e replaces b, f replaces c, and so on. Dan Brown would be written as “Gdq Eurzq.”
Caravaggio In a desperate ploy to seal himself off from his attacker, Jacques Saunière pulls a painting by Caravaggio off the wall of the Louvre. This desperate act sets off the museum’s alarms and drops a security gate between Saunière and his attacker. The plan works, but not in the way that Saunière had hoped.
Caravaggio was one of the foremost Italian painters of the Baroque period. Born Michelangelo Marisi in 1573 in a town in Lombardy called Caravaggio (from which he assumed his professional name), he led a hardscrabble life. When he finally achieved success and notoriety, he was unable to fully suppress the anger and violent temper he had honed during his poverty; a series of brawls and fights culminated in his murdering a partner in a tennis match. Thereafter, he fled from city to city, often narrowly escaping imprisonment. During one of his sojourns as a fugitive, he stopped in Malta, where he became a Knight of Malta. He died in 1610, awaiting a papal pardon that arrived three days after his death.
Caravaggio used intense lighting to create dramatic scenes, scenes that conveyed a sense of an arrested moment in time—in particular, an amazing flash of light into a dark space, especially good for communicating moments of conversion, epiphany, shock, or violence. Not surprisingly, some of Caravaggio’s most famous paintings include scenes that are simultaneously violent and spiritual, such as The Crucifixion of St. Peter, The Conversion of St. Paul, The Calling of St. Matthew, and The Deposition of Christ. He painted religious and mythological figures in a “vulgar” way—as if they were laborers or prostitutes; indeed, early in his career, such workers were often the only models that he had.
Castel Gandolfo The Castel Gandolfo appears in The Da Vinci Codeas the location for both of Bishop Aringarosa’s meetings with Vatican officials. The Castel is famous for serving two functions: the summer residence of the pope, and the center of the Vatican’s astronomy program. It was once the site of the summer residence of the Roman emperor Domitian (ruled a.d. 81–96). Domitian built a sumptuous palace, with its own aqueduct, a theater for the performance of plays and poetry contests, and a cryptoporticus—a long tunnel-like structure built into one of the surrounding hills, designed especially to shield the emperor from the sun during long walks.
The palace fell into ruin after his death, and was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the next four centuries, a victim of a tug-of-war between various noble families and the church. The Vatican finally bought it from its last owners in the early 1600s. Urban VIII (pope from 1623 to 1644) launched major renovations, and it became the official papal summer residence in 1626. It is known for its simple and tasteful style and its beautiful gardens.
One of the oldest centers for astronomy in the world, the Vatican Observatory—the Specola Vaticana—was relocated to the Castel Gandolfo in the 1930s. When the glow of Rome began to outshine the stars for the far-removed Castel Gandolfo observatory, the Vatican created a second astronomical center, where the bright lights of Italy’s capital could not reach: Tucson, Arizona. The original Castel Gandolfo, however, is still used as the pope’s summer residence.
Cathars were a heretical Christian religious sect that flourished in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries a.d. The word comes from the Greek katharos, meaning “pure.” The Cathars could be found throughout southern Europe—especially in the areas where the control of the Catholic Church was weakest—but they were especially strong in the Languedoc region of Provence, a wealthy section in the south of France, which was always known for its political and religious independence.
The origins of the Cathar heresy are obscure, but some scholars believe that the dualism which lay at the heart of their faith was introduced by heretics from the Byzantine empire on the eastern fringes of the Christian world. In any case, the Cathars subscribed to a common Gnostic idea—the world was created by an evil god, a god of the material world, who corrupted his creation from the start. Thus, all material things, including the human body itself, were evil; transcending and escaping the prison of flesh was salvation. The Cathars believed that the soul or spirit was trapped between spiritual good and material evil, and if the individual decided to embrace the gross impositions of the material world through self-denial, they would be reincarnated, again and again, until they made the right decision.
The Cathars were also protofeminists. Women could rise to the status of prefect just as easily as men could. The soul was sexless, the material body merely its prison. Spiritually, there was no natural superiority of either sex over the other.
The heretical beliefs of the Cathars frightened the orthodox church, which slandered the Cathars with rumors very similar to those leveled against the Templars—that they were devil worshippers, that they ate the ashes of burned babies, that they were inveterate homosexuals. When these slanders didn’t reduce the spreading popularity of the Cathar faith, Rome organized a crusade named for the small town of Albi, a focal point of Cathar strength. The Albigensian Crusade, from a.d. 1209 to 1229, used military might to crush the nascent faith. Whole towns and cities thought to harbor the heretical communities were sacked and destroyed.
Chalice In Christian art the chalice signifies the Last Supper, the sacrifice of Jesus, and Christian faith. Langdon explains the nature of the chalice to Sophie during their brief stay at Leigh Teabing’s château. The chalice is the simplest symbol for the feminine known to man, the symbol of the womb and femininity. The Holy Grail is a more elaborate symbological variant of the chalice, associated with Mary Magdalene in her role as the preserver of the holy bloodline.
The opposite but complementary symbol, with which it is sometimes paired, is called the blade (the chalice and the blade). The blade is represented as a phallus, or a knife or spear. It is the symbol of masculinity and aggression. The blade and chalice, when united, form the Star of David, which Langdon identifies with the perfect union of male and female, and the highest principle of the divine.
The chalice and blade symbols have never left us, but exist in various forms throughout Western culture.
Château Villette Leigh Teabing’s sumptuous French home, Château Villette, is the safe haven that Sophie and Robert flee to after escaping from the Swiss bank with the priory keystone. The château Villette is a real-life architectural landmark outside Paris. It was designed by François Mansart in 1668 for Jean Dyel, the Comte d’Aufflay and French ambassador to Venice. Another Mansart, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the nephew of François and a great architect in his own right, finished Villette in 1696. Versailles was designed at the same time by Hardouin-Mansart, and the influence of the design of the famous French royal residence is apparent in its smaller cousin. The château is luxury set in stone—eleven bedrooms and baths, a chapel, guest house, stables, gardens, tennis courts, and two lakes. Aspiring modern-day nobility can rent Villette for vacations, meetings, or weddings.
Cilice This French word is defined by the dictionary as “a coarse cloth, or haircloth.” As referred to in The Da Vinci Code, however, a cilice is the spiked chain worn around the upper thigh of Silas, the Opus Dei follower who has been sent to murder Saunière and his colleagues. Wearing of the cilice is practiced by some men and women adherents (called numeraries) of Opus Dei. The cilice is an extension of a traditional Catholic Church practice of “corporal mortification”: punishing one’s self to be able to identify with Jesus’ suffering and thereby resist temptation and grow spiritually. Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei, believed only direct pain would allow the sinner to repent. In his text The Way, fundamental to Opus Dei followers, he wrote, “Blessed be pain. Loved be pain. Sanctified be pain ... Glorified be pain,” and, “What has been lost through the flesh, the flesh should pay back: be generous in your penance.” More traditional examples of mortification include practices such as fasting and celibacy.
Clef de voûte is a French term for the architectural device called a “keystone,” used as the top, central stone in a series of stones (called voussoir) that comprise an arch. As the central stone, it receives the weight of the others and holds the arch in place. In the vaulted ceilings of cathedrals, the keystone is the central stone that receives the weight of the ribs of the arch (see illustration). Keystones are often covered with designs (called the “boss”). In The Da Vinci Codethe keystone is the legendary “map of stone” created by the Priory of Sion that—supposedly—leads to the Holy Grail. Langdon queries Sophie about whether her grandfather confided in her about the keystone, and when she is confused by the term, gives her a short lecture on the subject, telling her the keystone was a major architectural advancement and is deeply embedded in the symbolism of the Masonic orders. Some interpreters find the “royal arch” of the Masons a graphic representation of the zodiac, laid against an archway, with a prominent keystone at its summit.
Clement V Pope Clement V is mentioned in Langdon’s brief summary of the Templar persecution while he and Sophie drive through the Bois de Boulogne. Langdon avers that the pope devised a plan to take down the Templars, because they had amassed so much power and wealth. Philip the Fair (Langdon calls him King Philipe IV) was acting in concert with the pope, and on an appointed day—Friday the thirteenth, October 1307—the Templars were arrested en masse and subjected to a trial infamous for its sensational charges of heresy and blasphemy, the brutality of its execution, and its fundamental unfairness.
While Langdon seems to have the general story correct, some of the details are disputed. While King Philip is usually recognized as the prime mover of the persecution of the Templars, some scholars believe the initial arrests occurred without Clement’s knowledge; indeed, Clement was shocked and angered by the arrests which were made against a group that was legally accountable only to the pope. “Your hasty act is seen by all,” he wrote to Philip, “and rightly so, as an act of contempt towards ourselves and the Roman church.” Clement eventually came to see the arrests as necessary, particularly, it is said, after the torture-induced confession of Jacques de Molay, the last Templar grand master. With this justification in hand, Clement publicly assented to the propriety of Philip’s action.
Cocteau, Jean Famed French artist, writer, poet, novelist (Les Enfants Terribles) and filmmaker (Beauty and the Beast). Jean Cocteau is cited as a “Grand Master of the Priory of Sion” based on a set of documents probably concocted by Pierre Plantard and Philippe de Chérisey, the so-called Dossiers Secrets. Cocteau had wide-ranging interests; whether he was a twentieth-century neo-Templar or hieros gamos practitioner remains unknown. He appears in The Da Vinci Codeas the last Priory of Sion grand master; his name also appears on the list the examiner finds as he searches Château Villette.
Codex The word codex, which many associate with the word code and the puzzles that word evokes, actually has to do with a genuine revolution in record keeping created in Roman times: it is a book made of individual leaves of paper, as distinguished from the previous tradition of writing on rolls or scrolls. Two of these ancient codices have direct relevance to the plot of The Da Vinci Code.
The Berlin Codex, known formally as “Papyrus Berolinens 8502,” contains the most complete surviving copy of the Gospel of Mary and was acquired in the Egyptian antiquities market in 1896 by the German scholar Carl Reinhardt. It was not published until 1955, when it was discovered that two duplicate texts were also found at Nag Hammadi. Two other small fragments of the Gospel of Mary from separate Greek editions were later unearthed in northern Egypt.
Codex Leicester reflects not a religious record, but the fertile artistic genius and technological curiosity of Leonardo da Vinci, written between 1506 and 1510 in medieval Italian and rendered in his inventive mirror-image script. It derives its name from its first owner, the Earl of Leicester, who acquired it in 1717. Its current owner, Bill Gates, bought it at auction for $30.8 million.
While trying to decipher Saunière’s illegible cursive script on the flight from France to England, Langdon recalls seeing this Codex Leicester at Harvard’s Fogg Museum. He remembers being let down by the text of the codex. It was, at first sight, entirely illegible. But a docent with a hand mirror helps him to read the pages, which were written in a mirror-image text Leonardo used to disguise his words.
Constantine I Known as “the Great,” Constantine is widely acknowledged to be the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire (reigned a.d. 306–37). Although historians dispute the details, he, by convening the Council of Nicea, he is largely responsible for legitimizing and enthroning the church as the preeminent authority over what was left of the Roman Empire.
Constantine wholeheartedly accepted Christianity as his own one true faith remains a subject of debate. Crediting him for supporting the unification of the disparate strains of early Christianity, thereby assuring the church of a supporter and sympathetic emperor is unquestioned. But did he have his heart in it? He continued stamping pagan symbols onto his coins, for example, and he was also a devotee of Sol Invictus, the pagan “Unconquered Sun” deity derived from Syria but imposed on the Roman people a hundred years before Constantine’s time. Many scholars believe he may have been straddling the fence, paying attention to both to assure the greatest support.
The Da Vinci Code goes even further. Leigh Teabing tells Sophie and Langdon that Constantine “was a life-long pagan who was baptized on his deathbed, too weak to protest.” He only chose, and then imposed, Christianity as the official religion of Rome because he was, in Teabing’s words, “a very good businessman.” Teabing argues, in effect, that the great cover-up by the church began with Constantine. Mainstream scholars stress Constantine’s role in adjudicating specific religious issues—the divinity versus humanity of Christ, for example. In The Da Vinci Code, Constantine is seen as covering up the role of the sacred feminine, the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, dealing a body blow to the Gnostic tradition, and defining opponents of the mainstream church as heretics.
Coptic The Coptic language is a direct descendant of the ancient Egyptian language, but is also a hybrid. It began to appear in the third century b.c., following the Greek conquest of Egypt, and was used by Christianized Egyptians to translate the Bible and liturgical works. The Gospel of Mary and most of the so-called Gnostic Gospels were originally in Greek, but most of them only survive in the Coptic translation discovered at Nag Hammadi. The Coptic language is still used today among the Copts, a Christian sect in Egypt.
Council of Nicea The first ecumenical council ever held by the Christian church, the Council of Nicea was called by Emperor Constantine in a.d. 325 to settle various theological disputes, from the mundane to the highly theoretical. At this time in Christian history, church practice and doctrine was not uniform; the Nicene council was an attempt to settle these disputes once and for all. The council worked out most conflicts, from the dates to be set aside to celebrate Easter and other holidays to the most important question of the time—was Christ of the same substance as the Father, or was he inferior to Him, a created being that came into existence at God’s behest, and was therefore unable to share His divinity, as the Arians believed? At one point, legend has it, the debate became so heated that Saint Nicholas—the historical personality behind our modern Santa Claus—physically attacked Arius for his heresies.
Regardless, unity prevailed and all but three of the bishops present signed the Nicene Creed, a statement of church orthodoxy and a rejection of Arianism. Scholar Stringfellow Barr, in his book The Mask of Jove, maintains, “Constantine ... instinctively knew that the Christian polis, around which he had planned to rebuild [the Roman empire] must achieve a unity of spirit if his plans were to succeed.”
Cross The art historian Diane Apostolos-Cappadone puts its succinctly: “An ancient, universal symbol of the conjunction of opposites with the vertical bar representing the positive forces of life and spirituality, and the horizontal bar the negative forces of death and materialism. There are well over four hundred varieties of this symbol.” The Da Vinci Codepoints out that the cross existed as a key symbol long before the crucifixon, and also highlights the differences between the “square” cross (used by the Templars) and the traditional elongated Christian cross.
Crux gemmata “Cross of gems,” containing thirteen gems, a Christian ideogram for Christ and his twelve apostles. The plain cross symbolizes the crucifixion (it often is displayed with Jesus’ body on it), while the crux gemmata symbolizes the resurrection. Langdon sees it on the tie clasp of Bezu Fache as they meet each other in the Louvre following Saunière’s untimely death, thus signaling the police captain’s pride in his religion.
Dagobert II The last of Merovingian priest-kings, mentioned in The Da Vinci Codebecause Dagobert’s name was raised in the four parchments discovered by Saunière known collectively as the Dossiers Secrets. One parchment is supposed to contain a ciphered message which, when decoded, states, “To Dagobert II, and to Sion belong this treasure and is there dead.” This connection to the Priory of Sion is explored in the novel, as is Dagobert’s murder, “stabbed in the eye while sleeping,” according to Sophie. The act ended the Merovingian dynasty and a bloodline associated more with heresy than papal fidelity (Dagobert’s son, Sigisbert, is said by Brown to have escaped and carried on the lineage, which later included Godefroi de Bouillon—the presumed founder of the Templars and the Priory of Sion.) The interconnection behind these various conspiratorial tales goes even further. When Dagobert married, he moved with his new wife into Rennes-le-Château.
Legend has it that Dagobert’s assassination by Pepin the Fat was ordered by the Vatican as a way to allow the Carolingians to take over—a dynasty closely allied with the interests of the church. Pepin is also rendered as Pippin, the name of a type of apple, a protagonist in a Steinbeck novel, and a 1972 Broadway musical and later a film directed by Bob Fosse. To create even more mystery—or confusion—Walt Disney has a cartoon character named Uncle Dagobert, a duck from Scotland, the location of the Rosslyn Chapel. Langdon even goes so far as to suggest that “it is no mistake that Disney retold tales like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White—all of which dealt with the incarnation of the sacred feminine.” Proof that Walt Disney was indeed a member of the Priory of Sion, while rumored, has never been found.
Dead Sea Scrolls is a collective term for the remnants of approximately eight hundred manuscripts discovered in limestone caves flanking the Dead Sea at Qumrun. Bedouins exploring the site in 1947 first stumbled on the scrolls and sold a few of them to antiquities dealers and scholars, touching off a race to see who could recover the most documents from the same cave-pocked cliffs the fastest. Between 1948 and 1956, ten more caves were discovered and excavated, producing the trove of scrolls and fragments. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a baffling variety, including scriptures and writings relating to community life—scriptural commentaries, laws for community living, etc. One manuscript—called the “Copper Scroll” because unlike the other, mainly parchment manuscripts, the text was inscribed on thin copper—provides instructions on how to find vast quantities of hidden treasure.
Along with the Nag Hammadi texts, the Dead Sea Scrolls were one of the most important discoveries related to the modern understanding of both Judaism and Christianity. Much as the Nag Hammadi texts shed light on the many different faces of the early Christian movement, the Dead Sea Scrolls contain priceless information about an unorthodox Jewish group living at the height of Roman power and at the dawn of Christianity. Many scholars believe the ascetic sect known as Essenes wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, but there is a debate about this. Deviations in the scrolls from the traditional Jewish scriptural texts, and similarities between the teachings of Christ and the edicts of the scrolls, created a challenge for scholars and theologians of both faiths. The controversy over the identity of the authors, their immediate sources both political and theological, and the reason for their being hidden in the first place, rage on to this day.
DCPJ: Direction Centrale Police Judiciare The French law enforcement organization which in the book employs Captain Bezu Fache and Lieutenant Jerome Collet. Langdon calls the DCPJ the rough equivalent of the FBI. The DCPJ is the French law enforcement institution dedicated to the coordination of technical and scientific police organizations. In the words of the Franco-British Council, “It is responsible for countering theft, terrorism, organized crime, trafficking of human beings, drug trafficking, theft and resale of works of art, and currency counterfeiting and distribution.” Given its status, it seems unlikely that Bezu Fache, a high-ranking official within the DCPJ, would actually have been leading a hands-on investigation, let alone the chase, with gun drawn as he runs into the men’s room at the Louvre.
Didache, or Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, is considered the oldest surviving piece of noncanonical literature, dating from about a.d. 70 to 110 Didache is an instructional guide for new Christian converts, and though ultimately not included as one of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, Didache was highly regarded as being the wisdom and teachings of the twelve apostles, though the direct authorship was unlikely to have been theirs. There is much practical advice in the Didache, including an extensive section on itinerant ministers. Such ministers are to be received as the Lord. They may stay one day or two. If they stay three days, they are false prophets
or charlatans. If, upon leaving, the minister
takes anything but bread, he is likewise a false prophet.
Disney, Walt Langdon states as fact the famed cartoonist “made it his quiet life’s work to pass on the Grail story,” and compares him to Leonardo in the way he “loved infusing hidden messages in his art,” many related to the subjugation of the Goddess. Among those listed by Brown/Langdon are Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, the Lion King, and The Little Mermaid which, Langdon notices, has a replica of George de la Tour’s seventeenth-century painting The Penitent Magdalene in Ariel’s underwater home, with its “blatant symbolic references to the lost sanctity of Isis, Eve, Pisces the fish goddess, and, repeatedly, Mary Magdalene (de la Tour is noted for having depicted Mary Magdalene as pregnant, and figures prominently in the mysterious legends surrounding Rennes-le-Château). No doubt to honor Disney, Robert Langdon, the Harvard don in Harris tweed, doesn’t wear a Rolex, but a Mickey Mouse watch. A recent real-world book, The Gospel in Disney, purports to teach the major lessons of Christianity through the plots of Disney animated movies. One problem this analysis raises is the distinction between Walt Disney, the person, and his namesake studio. By the time The Lion King and Little Mermaid came out, the famed cartoonist had been dead for many years. Are his successors supposed to be consciously following his religious ways as well as his professional ways? Was that one of the recent issues turning the board against CEO Michael Eisner? Is it merely coincidental that Langdon’s reverie about Disney gets interrupted by the cold reality of the clicking of Teabing’s crutches in a big hallway?
Divine Proportion Also known as the Golden Section, Golden Ratio, and Golden Mean, the term refers to the geometric proportion produced by dividing any line so that the smaller part stands in relation to the greater part as the greater part is to the whole line (see Phi). While mathematicians debate the origins of the rigorous application of the Golden Section as a geometric element, there is evidence suggesting that it was first used in the fourth century b.c. Some ancient sources credit its discovery to the secret society of mathematicians, the Pythagoreans, who used the pentagram as a symbol of their order.
Areas within objects using the concept of the Golden Section/Phi appear throughout art and nature. Whether that is literally true or not, the mystical associations with geometry and the Golden Section have not faded, but remain as codified aspects of modern secret societies and brotherhoods.
Dossiers Secrets Descriptions of the Dossiers Secrets in The Da Vinci Code as well as in Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the book by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln (from which Dan Brown got much of the inspiration for his plot), would have readers believe they form an impressive literary pastiche, from tables of genealogy to complicated maps and works of allegorical poetry. The documents are said to cover the Merovingian dynasty, the Priory of Sion, and the Knights Templar. While some documents were deposited into the national library of France during the 1950s and 1960s, those who have researched them are generally disappointed to find they are twentieth-century typewritten materials, filled with odd details and occult references. Most experts believe the Dossiers Secrets, as well as the Priory of Sion itself, are all part of an elaborate hoax dreamed up by Pierre Plantard, who billed himself as the mid–twentieth-century grand master of the Priory.
Eglise de Saint-Sulpice One of the most exciting early episodes in The Da Vinci Code centers on the Eglise de Saint-Sulpice, originally the parish church of the domain of the St. Germain des Prés Abbey. Silas, convinced that he has discovered the hiding place of the priory keystone, enters the church hopefully but finds himself the victim of a cruel hoax.
Some authorities believe there has always been a church on the site of the Eglise. Nonetheless, the current structure was erected in 1646, with the first stone laid by Anne of Austria, Louis XIII’s wife, who appears as a central character in The Three Musketeers. The building was completed fitfully over the next seventy years, although at the close of construction in 1721 one tower was sixteen or seventeen feet lower than the other. Objects of interest in the Eglise are the meridian line (the rose line) that Silas follows to find the keystone; eight statues of the apostles, arranged around the choir, and the Lady Chapel, a beautiful chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto.
Saint-Sulpice has numerous historical connections with the Priory of Sion. Bérenger Saunière apparently visited Abbé Bieil, director of the seminary at Saint-Sulpice, with the documents he recovered from the church in Rennes-le-Château. Francis Ducaud-Bourget, reputed Sion grand master (after Jean Cocteau) was trained in the same seminary. The seminary was a focus point, at the end of the nineteenth century, for the Catholic modernist movement, a school of thought that centered on bringing Catholic religious scholarship up to date with modern critical methods.
Ephesus A city of great importance in New Testament times, Ephesus was situated in what is today Turkey. Ephesus was the second largest city in the Roman Empire and the gateway to Asia. Ephesus was home to the spectacular Temple of Artemis (aka the goddess Diana), the Greek symbol of fertility. Artemis was often depicted with multiple breasts or other exaggerations of her femininity. The temple, built of 127 pillars sixty feet high, was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Some scholars believe the Virgin Mary went to Ephesus at the end of her life, accompanied by St. Peter (a.d. 37–45), and you can see her “house” there today. A few legends also exist about Mary going to Ephesus after the crucifixion.
Escrivá, Father Josemaría The founder of Opus Dei, whom Silas calls the “Teacher of Teachers.” Escrivá (1902–75) was a Spanish priest who, on October 28, 1928, founded Opus Dei—a Catholic organization recognized as a “personal prelature” of the Catholic Church, dedicated to bringing the reality of Jesus Christ into even the most mundane moments of ordinary life. Some have criticized the organization as so authoritarian that it borders on being a cult; Opus Dei rejects the cult label. Along with papal fidelity and a lively devotion to the Virgin Mary, Escrivá especially preached raising one’s work up to God each day—and to do so with a great deal of self-sacrifice. That sacrifice includes a recommendation of self-mortification. Some reports say he practiced what he preached, including self-flagellation. The exact relationship of Opus Dei to the Vatican is unclear. It appears Opus Dei was helpful to the Vatican during the financial scandals of the 1980s that threatened to bankrupt the church, and that this particular personal prelature has enjoyed high standing with Pope John Paul II. After Escrivá’s death, sainthood was established extremely rapidly.
Female Pope In a discussion with Sophie about the tarot deck Langdon explains that the medieval card game was “replete with hidden heretical symbolism,” including a reference to a card named the Female Pope. In the tarot, she is supposed to represent hidden or esoteric knowledge and is usually portrayed as a seated woman wearing clerical dress and a triple crown, and holding an open book on her lap.
The primary source for what little we know about the female pope is a Dominican friar, Martin Polonus, who claimed that a certain thirteenth-century Pope John was really Pope Joan, who was only discovered to be female when she gave birth in the middle of a papal procession from St. Peter’s to Lateran. Polonus says church historians later eradicated her name “both because of her female sex and on account of the foulness of the matter.” In other accounts, she was stoned to death by the crowd on the spot when the deception was discovered. In some stories she was an Englishwoman educated in Germany who dressed as a man so as to become monk; in other stories she hailed from Athens where she had demonstrated extensive knowledge of languages and theology. No historical records have ever been found to fully confirm the story of Pope Joan and it seems to have been discredited in the mid–seventeenth century by a Protestant historian. This legend may also have originated as an antipapal satire centering on the church’s fears about deceptions, women having too much authority, and the possibility of a sexually active pope. In any event, Pope Joan still has a tarot card in her honor. A book-length study is available by Rosemary and Darroll Pardoe.
Fibonacci sequence The Fibonacci sequence is used by Saunière in the coded message he scrawls down as he is dying. The scrambled sequence alerts his cryptologist granddaughter, Sophie, to contact Robert Langdon.
The Fibonacci series begins with 0 and 1, and then produces more numbers by adding the last two numbers in the sequence. So the sequence progresses 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 ... Langdon, in a lecture to his Harvard students, explains the ratio Phi is derived from the Fibonacci sequence: dividing any number in the sequence by the preceding smaller number produces a ratio that slowly approaches 1.618. The Fibonacci series and the ratio Phi appear, seemingly spontaneously, throughout natural and man-made designs (see Phi). But they are not the only numbers that recur in nature. Lucas numbers, for instance, are generated using the same addition as the Fibonacci sequence, except the first two numbers are 1 and 3; so the sequence is 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 18, 29, 47, 76, 123.
There is a real question, however, as to whether Phi is universally applicable. As H. S. M. Coxeter, in his Introduction to Geometry, states: “It should be frankly admitted that in [the growth patterns of] some plants the numbers do not belong to the sequence of Fibonacci numbers but to the sequence of Lucas numbers, or even to the still more anomalous sequences: 3, 1, 4, 5, 9 ... or 5, 2, 7, 9, 16.... Thus we must face the fact that [the Fibonacci sequence] is really not a universal law but only a fascinatingly prevalent tendency.”
Flamel, Nicholas The Da Vinci Codeplaces Flamel as the head of the Priory of Sion from 1398 to 1418. Flamel was a leading alchemist, whose name has returned to fame in recent years. There is a reference to him in the Harry Potter series, a biotechnology company uses his name, and a growing number of tourists stop in at the Paris bar that was his former home.
Fleur-de-lis, fleur-de-lys In the political realm, the symbol represents both France (the French monarchy in particular) and the city of Florence. In Christian symbolism it signifies the Trinity. Experts debate whether it is supposed to represent a lily or an iris, each of which has special symbolic connotations. It is invoked in The Da Vinci Codein several contexts: translated, Dan Brown says (stretching), the phrase means “flower of Lisa,” a reference he says, that points to the Mona Lisa. The fleur-de-lis as a symbol also appears on the key given to Sophia by her grandfather with the words, “It opens a box ... where I keep many secrets.”
The literal translation is “flower of the lily,” but the lys is actually an iris flower. Traditionally in French heraldry, the fleur-de-lys is yellow, and yellow is a common color for the iris flower, while the lily is traditionally white, especially in heraldry. As a widely used symbol in heraldry, the fleur-de-lys consists of three petal-like shapes, gathered by a horizontal bar. Sometimes the lower part is cut off, or represented by a mere triangle.
The fleur-de-lys became strongly associated with French kings from about 1200 onward. It can also be seen as strongly symbolic of the Trinity among Christians. There is a legend that an early French king, Clovis, picked an iris and wore it on his helmet in a victorious battle in 507. (A competing legend is that when King Clovis was baptized he offered it as a symbol of purification for both himself and the country as a whole.)
The symbol itself can be found in a wide array of ancient and modern cultures, and in many forms of expression: Mesopotamian cylinders, Egyptian bas-reliefs, Mycenean potteries, Gaulish coins, Japanese emblems, etc. Thus, this stylized figure, probably a flower, was used as ornament or emblem by almost all civilizations of the Old and New Worlds.
Friday the thirteenth In The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown cites an incident involving the Knights Templar as the origin of the widespread superstition about Friday the thirteenth being unlucky. On Friday the thirteenth, October 1307, Pope Clement “issued secret, sealed orders to be opened simultaneously by his soldiers all across Europe,” Brown writes. The fateful and fatal orders said God had visited the pope in a vision and told him that the Knights Templar were all heretics, guilty of homosexuality, sodomy, defiling the cross, and all other manner of sins. The soldiers, who were in fact soldiers of the French king Philip IV, were directed to take the Knights into custody and torture them to learn the true dimensions of their crimes against God. Although Brown describes the Knights’ capture, torture, and burning at the stake in a way that makes it sound as though everything happened in one very hectic twenty-four-hour period, these events took place over the next several years rather than “on that day.”
The Knights’ real crime, it appears, was power. The Knights had grown both wealthy and influential because of their combination of papal protection and financial activities and they reputedly had the secrets related to the Holy Grail. The pope felt the Knights were a threat to his power and had to go, so most—but not all—were rounded up on that Friday the thirteenth. The survivors presumably continued to guard the secrets of the Holy Grail.
While Brown cites this incident as the reason for continuing superstition surrounding this ominous day and date, Friday the thirteenth has had a lot going against it for a very long time, some of it predating the pope’s order by hundreds of years. In Norse mythology there were thirteen present at a banquet in Valhalla when Balder (son of Odin) was slain, which led to the downfall of the gods. Around 1000 b.c., Hesiod wrote in Works and Days that the thirteenth day is unlucky for sowing, but favorable for planting. Friday is the unluckiest day of the week for Christians, some of whom believe that Christ was crucified on this day. They also believe the number 13 to be unlucky because there were thirteen present at the Last Supper, including the thirteenth, betraying apostle.
Gnosis is a Greek term meaning, in English, a combination of “knowledge,” “insight,” and “wisdom.” Gnosis is understood as being a divinely inspired, intuitive, and intimate knowledge as opposed to intellectual knowledge of a specific area or discipline. Gnosis, as an experience, is generally the ultimate aim of a spiritual discipline that seeks union with God, the infinite, or the absolute—the reality beyond perception, or, for that matter, religious doctrine. Gnosis is almost always described as a personal revelation or exploration.
Some of the groups now identified as Gnostics may have believed that one way to achieve gnosis was through the ritual of hieros gamos, a celebration of the sacred marriage. As Langdon explains it to Sophie during their flight across the English Channel, “Physical union remained the sole means through which man could become spiritually complete and ultimately achieve gnosis—knowledge of the divine.”
The scholar and historian Elaine Pagels in her book The Origin of Satan has this to say about the meaning of the word: “The secret of gnosis is that when one comes to know oneself at the deepest level, one comes to know god as the source of one’s being.” The experience of gnosis and other mystical communications with the divine have been seen as a threat by established religious institutions—institutions that prefer to see themselves as the sole conduit to the divine.
The Gospel of Mary is invoked by Sir Leigh Teabing as one link in a chain of arguments meant to persuade Sophie that the grail is more than just a holy cup: The Gospel, Teabing says, proves Jesus founded his church on Mary, and not on Peter. The conclusions that Teabing draws from the Gospel of Mary—if this is his primary source—seem somewhat misleading. Contrary to what he says, Jesus never gives Mary Magdalene specific instructions on how to carry on his church after he is gone, at least not in this gospel. The more traditional view of the Gospel is that although Mary did have a “special relationship” with Jesus, and the other apostles were jealous of it at times, there is no indication that Jesus chose Mary to carry on his church, or that he gave her any special instructions about how to do it.
The Gospel of Philip also makes an appearance during Leigh Teabing’s discourse on the nature of the Holy Grail. Teabing uses it as his source for the claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, based on the translation that mentions Mary as Jesus’ “companion” and that the phrase “he kissed her on the m ... [text missing]” proved they had a great deal of intimacy. As seen in earlier chapters of this book, there are several scholars and commentators who agree with this interpretation, although others see the kiss as more metaphoric than romantic.
The Gospel of Thomas contains many parallels with the orthodox Gospels of the New Testament, including directly parallel sayings and proverbs. Yet they have remarkably enigmatic twists on the familiar canonical texts. Thomas says, for instance, “If two make peace with each other in this one house, they will say to the mountain, ‘Move away,’ and it will move away.” Another mysterious example is, “Simon Peter said to them, ‘Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus [then] said, ‘I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.’” This Gospel of Thomas also emphasizes self-knowledge, self-exploration, and self-actualization in passages that are slightly reminiscent of Buddhist analects.
The Gospel of Sophia of Jesus Christ Highly mystical, this text concerns the creation of gods, angels, and the universe with an emphasis on infinite and mystical truth. Some scholars believe it may reflect a conversation between Jesus Christ and his disciples after the resurrection; others argue against it. The fulcrum of that debate relates to the date it might have been written. If it was written as far back as the first century it could reflect the true sayings of Jesus. If after that, this assemblage of sayings and proverbs might simply come from post-Jesus philosophers and Gnostics.
Elaine Pagels, the Princeton scholar whose book Gnostic Gospels introduced much of this subject matter to the American public more than twenty years ago, now says she no longer refers to these documents as Gnostic Gospels, owing to negative connotations associated with Gnosticism today. Pagels, as well as other scholars, including James Robinson and Bart Ehrman, emphasize that the Nag Hammadi finds do offer specific, documentable facts about early Christian history, as much as they suggest the diversity of thought about religion and philosophy that prevailed in the first few centuries of the Common Era. The suppression of these “alternative scriptures” represented the triumph of what we now know mainstream church doctrine to be over a rich variety of other ways of thinking.
Gnosticism is a term used to describe various sects and religious groups, mainly Christian but also Jewish and Egyptian, that hold gnosis at the core of their beliefs and practices. Gnosticism as a religious force probably predates Christianity. James Robinson, an expert on the Nag Hammadi Library states, “Gnostics were more ecumenical and syncretic with regard to religious traditions than were orthodox Christians, so long as they found in them a stance congenial to their own.”
Gnosticism comes into focus early in the Christian era as a major rival to the influence of apostolic Christianity. Gnosticism’s personal communion with the divine, its often loose church structure, its secret explication of a higher, hidden knowledge that faith could not reveal: all of these traits made Gnostic streams of worship highly problematic for the coalescing Catholic orthodoxy. The result was a steadily increasing stream of denunciation and accusations of heresy so effective that Gnosticism became marginalized as a movement by fifth century a.d.
A few of the major strands within Gnosticism are that the direct, intimate, and absolute knowledge of the divine and of truth itself (gnosis) is necessary for spiritual fulfillment; the belief in a union with, or a discovery of, a “higher self” that is identified with or identical to the divine; and, that the world was created by a lesser god, a demiurge, who is responsible for the evil inherent in it; the only escape from the evils of material existence was contemplation, self-knowledge, and gnosis with the uncorrupted spiritual. The belief system continues forward to this day; there is a Gnosis Society, for example.
Godefroi de Bouillon French king, leader of the first Crusade, and founder of the Priory of Sion in Jerusalem in 1099. According to the genealogies allegedly collected as part of the Dossiers Secrets, de Bouillon was a descendent of the Merovingian kings. As Langdon further explains to Sophie while they pass through the Bois de Boulogne in a taxi, “King Godefroi was allegedly the possessor of a powerful secret that had been in his family since the time of Christ.” To protect it he formed a secret brotherhood, the Priory of Sion, that had a military wing to it as well—the Knights Templar. After a detailed exposition of the ins and outs of this history, Langdon reveals that de Bouillon dispatched the Knights Templar to find corroborating evidence of his “powerful secret” beneath the ruins of the former Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem—and that they did find something very compelling there. The implication is that the secret is the information about the Sangreal, better known as the Holy Grail, and that the Templars found the Grail—documents, records, relics, the bones of Mary Magdalene, etc.—and then brought these items back to France.
Gregory IX Born in 1145 as Count Ugolino of Segni, Gregory IX spent his time as pontiff presiding over a turbulent conflict between the church and the secular Holy Roman emperor, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen. Gregory IX was well known for his fierce opposition to all heresies and partook in the last years of the Albigensian Crusade which nearly wiped out the Cathars, who were centered in the area of France known as the Languedoc.
Hanssen, Robert Former FBI agent turned Russian spy. For almost twenty-two years during the Cold War period, Hanssen sold crucial intelligence information to the Russians. Hanssen was a member of Opus Dei and turned out to be not only an embarrassment to the country but to that organization. He engaged in some unusual sexual practices that came to light during his trial, including photographing himself and his wife having sex to show to his friends. In May of 2002, Hanssen was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, the judge saying, as quoted by Dan Brown, “Hardly the pastime of a devout Catholic.”
Hieros gamos The hieros gamos appears in The Da Vinci Code as an ancient sexual rite that Sophie remembers traumatically witnessing her grandfather practicing in secret. Deep in a chamber below his home, Saunière and a female member of the Priory of Sion are having sex while the other members, masked and robed, chant prayers to the sacred union. Sophie watches, unseen, then flees the house and cuts off all contact with her grandfather for some time.
He was likely to have been involved in the rite of hieros gamos, sometimes referred to as theogamy or hierogamy, a term loosely meaning “sacred marriage” or “divine marriage.” This marriage, in the words of scholar David H. Garrison, is “the holy marriage, the union of goddess and god that provides the paradigm for all human unions.” This holy marriage was reenacted, in various levels of realism, throughout the early religious history of mankind; remnants of the practice still remain with us today—as depicted in the recent movie Eyes Wide Shut. Some Eastern belief systems have analogs, such as Tantric sex rites.
Holy Grail There are as many theories about how and where the Grail story originated as there are Grails: critics and writers have identified Celtic and western European pre-Christian myths, Byzantine mythologies and Eastern orthodox Christian traditions, a code for the secret bloodline of Christ, ancient Persian cult practices, nature worship ceremonies of the pre-Christian Middle East, alchemical symbology, and more, ad infinitum.
The modern version of the Holy Grail story was launched in the last quarter of the twelfth to the first quarter of the thirteenth century by a number of writers in an amazing variety of languages including French, English, German, Spanish, and Welsh. The earliest Grail romance still extant is the Perceval of Chrétien de Troyes.
The Grail as object is described differently by different authors. It has been depicted as a stone, an object made of gold with precious stones, a reliquary, and a cup. The quest for the Grail also has variations: one, where the guardian of the Grail is known as the Fisher King, finding it would mean a return to health and prosperity for the kingdom. The quest is also rendered more personally: it means for many a spiritual inner journey toward enlightenment and communion with God.
Whatever its history and meaning as relic or idea, every character in The Da Vinci Codeis involved in its quest, and Brown’s version of the legend goes where it has never gone before. “The greatest cover-up in human history,” exclaims Teabing, “Not only was Jesus Christ married, but he was a father. My dear, Mary Magdalene was the Holy Vessel. She was the chalice that bore the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ.”
Hugo, Victor Mentioned in The Da Vinci Codeas one of many notable authors and artists whose key works secretly passed along the banished notion of the Holy Grail, the sacred feminine, and Jesus and Mary Magdalene as husband and wife. Langdon cites Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame (along with Mozart’s Magic Flute) as a work that was “filled with Masonic symbolism and Grail secrets.” Hugo is often cited as having been a Priory of Sion member.
Hyssop “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean,” Silas the Albino quotes from Psalms as he prays while dabbing blood from his back as the result of self-flagellation. John 19:29, describing Jesus’ last moments on the cross, writes, “Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar; and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put upon it hyssop, and put it to his mouth.” Hyssop has culinary uses as well as medicinal ones: it is technically a vegetable and shows up in salads presented at restaurants. The biblical herb also is used in the making of the liqueur Chartreuse.
Iambic verse An iamb is a unit of alternating weak/STRONG emphasis in poetry, referred to as a foot. A line of iambic verse is built from such elements. If there are five in a line, the meter is referred to as iambic pentameter. While the pattern of accent on the second syllable is thought of as a particularly English-language feature, the iambic meter in poetry dates has Greek origins. Some feel the universality of this meter results from its similarity to the human heartbeat,
Icon From the Greek eikon, meaning “image,” a picture that is a symbolic representation of something real. A religious icon is an artistic representation of anything holy or divine, and often employs extensive symbolism. Christians honor but do not worship icons; such worship was forbidden by the Second Council of Nicea.
Innocent II, Pope The pope who ruled from 1130 to 1143 and gave the Knights Templar carte blanche to be a law unto themselves, free of all interference from political or religious authorities, according to Dan Brown. Some theorize the Templars were bought off at the instigation the church so they would keep secret the documents supposedly found under the rubble of the Temple of Solomon that could embarrass the church. Others believe the Knights took the initiative and blackmailed Innocent II.
Irenaeus Leading theologian and polemicist whose arguments against Gnostic sects in the last half of the second century helped establish the doctrinal standards of Catholic Christianity: creed, canon of scripture, and apostolic succession of bishops. Irenaeus, along with other church historians such as Eusebius and Tertullian, are all charged in The Da Vinci Codeas being coconspirators in rewriting Christian history and creating “the great cover-up.”
Isis One of the oldest and most important female deities in the Egyptian pantheon, The Da Vinci Codeemphasizes her status as the formative expression of the sacred feminine. Isis was considered the patroness of the family, of female fertility, medicine, and magic. Conceived by the God of Earth and the Goddess of Sky, Isis and her twin brother, Osiris, were married and ruled as king and queen over the Egyptian cosmos.
Langdon notes Saunière’s extensive collection of Isis statuary in the Louvre (there are indeed many such statues there), implying that is so because of his connections to the belief in the sacred feminine. Isis also plays a role in Langdon’s discussion of the Mona Lisa. The name is an anagram of Isis’s ancient pictographic name—L’ISA combined with that of her male counterpart, the god Amon. L’ISA + AMON = MONA LISA. Some claim that Leonardo originally painted the Mona Lisa as wearing a lapis lazuli pendant depicting Isis, which he subsequently painted over. Whether or not this is true, there can be no doubt about the persistent echoes of Isis in many famous images of the sacred feminine.
The story of Isis and Osiris is first mentioned in the Pyramid Texts, religious hieroglyphics dating from 2600 b.c. Her cult lasted far into Roman times, and scholars speculate that the romantic, redemptive story at the heart of her myth provided a much-needed contrast with the severe and distant flavor of the empire’s official religion. Worship of Isis was widespread geographically as well: the “Black Virgin” statues revered in some French cathedrals are likely to be figures of Isis. And ancient temples to Isis have been uncovered on the banks of the Danube and the Thames. There is said to have been a temple of Isis where the abbey of St. Germain-des-Prés in Paris now stands. This church was built by the Merovingian King Childebert to house holy relics.
Echoes of the Isis myth haunt the mythology and symbology of the Christian era. She is possibly the archetype for the high priestess of the tarot. The common representation of Madonna and Child is strikingly similar to countless images of Isis suckling Horus on her lap. Mary also assumed many of Isis’s titles: Seat of Wisdom, Star of the Sea, and Queen of Heaven. Finally, the death and resurrection of Osiris is often credited as a precursor of Christ’s resurrection, albeit with a feminine touch. Isis—the original sacred feminine—is the power that resurrects the god and continues his bloodline.
Isis is still worshipped by many New Age practitioners, giving her a lifespan of about five thousand years and counting.
Keystone Langdon describes the keystone as “the best-kept secret of the early Masonic brotherhood,” which he means both literally and figuratively. Literally, it is a wedge-shaped stone at the top of an archway that holds the other stones together and holds the weight (see clef de voûte). Symbolically, it is what opens the secrets of the Priory of Sion.
“King of the Jews” Teabing, ever ready to impart reams of knowledge of early religious history from his point of view, recounts the history by which Jesus Christ is understood to be descended from King Solomon and King David and therefore to be the true, hereditary King of the Jews in addition to being the Messiah. When Jesus married Mary, according to The Da Vinci Codetelling of history, he married into the Tribe of Benjamin, a line that carried on through Mary and their child to become the Merovingian dynasty. Part of the Priory of Sion legend is that whoever is the current heir to the bloodline of Jesus (pointed to as Sophie) is, in effect, the rightful King of Israel/Palestine (or France, depending on what point one is trying to make from these two thousand years of historical secrets).
Knights of Malta The only serious rivals to the Knights Templar, the Knights of Malta (also known as the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, and the Knights of Rhodes) were a monastic military order that originated in the Holy Land during the eleventh century. The order was dedicated to the relief of the sick and wounded, and established hospitals in the Holy Land to provide comfort and aid for pilgrims. The order considered itself the vassal of their patients; in some hospitals, the sick slept on linens and dined on silver services. Paradoxically, they also earned a reputation as fierce warriors, both on land and on sea. The Hospitallers wandered the Mediterranean, establishing bases in Cyprus, Rhodes, and finally Malta after the Holy Land fell to the Muslims. From these island fortresses they harried Muslim shipping and coastal towns.
Seizure of Hospitaller property during the Reformation and French Revolution deprived the Knights of their financial independence, and the weakened order surrendered Malta to Napoleon in 1798. The order was resurrected in various forms throughout the nineteenth century, returning to its Hospitaller roots as a refuge for the sick and wounded. Knights of Malta built operating theaters, organized nursing for various European wars, and ran field hospitals during the First World War. The order survives today as a sovereign state, much like the Vatican. Their headquarters in Rome is extraterritorial, meaning they can issue their own passports and exchange ambassadors with other countries (forty to date). It is the world’s smallest independent state.
Knights Templar The Knights Templar are first mentioned in The Da Vinci Codeas Sophie and Langdon drive through the Bois de Boulogne. Langdon gives a brief summary of their history, and how it relates to the Priory of Sion. The Knights play an overarching role in the book as one of the historical linchpins of the plot: the Priory, The Da Vinci Codemaintains, created the Templars as a military arm charged with the recovery and protection of the documents and relics of the Holy Grail.
In 1119, nine knights, calling themselves the “Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Jesus Christ” took a vow to protect pilgrims journeying to and from the various holy sites in and around Jerusalem. This was a new kind of order: men of the church who were both warriors and monks and to whom shedding blood in the service of God was a joy.
King Baldwin II provided them with lodging in the al-Aqsa mosque, which was, according to the Crusaders, built on the location of the former Temple of Solomon (the debate continues about whether or not the mosque is actually above the original Temple of Solomon). From their lodgings above the temple, they derived their name: the Knights of the Temple of Solomon, or the Knights Templar.
As Langdon notes, the rise of the Templars after their inauspicious beginnings is indeed surprising. Conventional historians do not attribute this to secrets or treasures found beneath al-Aqsa; the general consensus is that genuine zeal for keeping the Holy Land in Christian hands led both secular and church authorities to make vast donations to the Templars. Additionally, Pope Innocent II issued a bull making the Templars accountable to the pontiff alone. This exemption from all secular and sacred governance—including taxation—increased not only the wealth of the Templars, but their power as well.
The destiny of the Templars was tied to the fate of the Holy Lands, which were constantly threatened by the armies of the Muslim kingdoms to the east. When the Holy Lands fell to the Muslims in 1291, the fortunes of the Templars waned. Sixteen years later members of the Templar order in France were arrested en masse, accused by King Philip the Fair of heresy, blasphemy, homosexuality, and other crimes against the church and God. Although the charges were probably false, the Knights confessed or were tortured into confessing; those that recanted their confessions were burned alive. The order came to an effective end in 1314 with the burning of the last grand master, Jacques de Molay, who recanted his initial confession and paid the price.
Last Supper, The Along with the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper is Leonardo’s most famous work. Leigh Teabing uses the Last Supper to illuminate his lecture on the Holy Grail and coded references to it in Western art, literature, and history. Teabing notes a variety of strange characteristics about the canvas—the feminine figure of Mary Magdalene, normally considered to be St. John, seated to Christ’s right, the disembodied dagger pointing threateningly at Mary, the chalice and M symbols drawn by the bodies of Mary and Jesus. No major scholars would sustain Teabing’s insights; Brown seems to have derived Teabing’s unorthodox notions from Lynn Picknett’s book The Templar Revelation and Margaret Starbird’s The Woman With the Alabaster Jar.
Leonardo da Vinci Painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, writer, natural scientist, mathematician, geologist, anatomist—all words that describe the amazing variety of Leonardo da Vinci’s interests and professions. Still, his fame rests most of all on his paintings, which were remarkably few in number. No more than thirteen existing paintings are generally attributed to Leonardo.
Biographical details of Leonardo’s life are scarce, particularly his youth. Born in 1452, he was the illegitimate son of a peasant girl and the son of a professional family in Florence. He apprenticed with the Florentine master Andrea Verrochio, and may have worked in his school with another apprentice who would become famous, Sandro Botticelli, painter of the Birth of Venus (like Leonardo, he has been connected to the Priory of Sion and his paintings are full of symbology).
Leonardo surpassed his contemporaries in almost everything to which he turned his hand. Over the next four decades he offered his services to the various lords of Milan, Florence, the king of France, and the church. He died, possibly of a stroke, in 1519 while living and working in France.
Some of Dan Brown’s points about Leonardo come under strong scrutiny from Leonardo experts. Mainstream scholars have doubts about the use of coded messages, his association with secret societies, and even his homosexuality. No one, however, disputes the mastery of his paintings.
The Louvre is the alpha and the omega of The Da Vinci Code. Saunière’s murder takes place in the Louvre’s Grand Gallery. Clues are hidden by the dying curator in some of the museum’s most famous works. Finally, after a wild ride of deepening conspiracies, obscure clues, and narrow escapes, an exhausted Robert Langdon has an epiphany about the true nature of the Louvre’s greatest treasure.
The history of the Louvre is enormously complex. Monarchs and governments have left their mark on the complex for almost eight hundred years, and it has suffered long periods of neglect as well as its accustomed glory. It was constructed in 1190 as a fortress for Phillip Augustus. Phillip ordered a rampart built around Paris to protect it from attack, and on the banks of the Seine, he built a castle, protected by a fortress overlooking the river—the Louvre. The tower of the Louvre became the royal treasury and held prisoners as well. Through its history the Louvre has served, as Catherine Chaine and Jean-Pierre Verdet describe in Le Grande Louvre, as a prison, an arsenal, a palace, a ministry ... [it] has contained a menagerie, a printing press, a postal service, the national lottery, workshops and academies; it has been the home of kings, artists, provost officers, guards, courtesans, scientists and even horses ... These rooms–surprise can no longer enliven them–witnessed life and its movement, festivities, trials, plots, crimes.
President François Mitterrand’s triumph was to consolidate the massive, run-down, labyrinthine building into the national treasure house it had often aspired to be. When he began considering changes to the complex, the Louvre was in poor condition for a preeminent cultural institution. Administration was lax and funding was scarce. Boasting over 250,000 works, the galleries were laid out in ways that baffled even the most familiar visitor. The works themselves were suffering. Dust accumulated on paintings without ever being cleaned off; some pieces languished in storage, never exhibited at all. The windows of the Louvre were so dirty that they were no longer filtering pure light—the cleaning schedules for the exterior of the windows were handled by a different ministry from the cleaning schedules for the interior of the windows!
Mitterrand changed all that, reorganizing the administration and providing funding for massive renovations—one of the “grand projects” of his administration that focused on rejuvenating many of France’s cultural and civic monuments. The finance ministry was moved out of the north wing of the museum, opening that space for gallery use. I. M. Pei was hired, not only to construct a new and unified entryway for the museum (see La Pyramide), but to reinvigorate many of the existing galleries by rearranging their placement and expanding display surfaces. Works are laid out in an intelligible, ordered sequence, making the visitor’s experience of the museum pleasurable instead of mystifying.
Madonna of the Rocks The name of one of two paintings, both technically called Virgin of the Rocks, both painted by Leonardo da Vinci. The Madonna has come to be shorthand for the one hanging in the Louvre, while the second, a “watered down” representation, hangs at the National Gallery in London.
Led by the solution to the anagram “so dark the con of man,” Sophie searches the back of this painting for clues her grandfather might have left behind and finds the key with the fleur-de-lis on it as well as the initials P.S.—a fulfillment of his promise that one day she would get the “key” to many mysteries. As Sophie and Langdon escape the Louvre, chased by a security guard, they jump into her Smart Car and dash off to her grandfather’s house. On the way there, Langdon muses to himself and out loud about this added “link in the evening’s chain of interconnected symbolism.”
What he in the novel, and scholars in the real world, have remarked upon, is the complex history of the painting and its windfall of possible hidden meanings, all them adding up to what Langdon calls “explosive and disturbing details,” some of which he enumerates—the John-blessing-Jesus scenario and Mary making a seemingly threatening gesture over John’s head.
Magdala The small town in the region of Galilee which scholars have identified as the place Mary Magdalene (also known as Mary of Magdala) most likely would have come from. There is controversy over the location of the town, but many scholars identify it with a village known to the Talmud as Magdala Nunayya, or Magdala of the Fishes, likely named so because of its proximity to the lake of Galilee. Magdala in Hebrew means “tower” or “fortress.” Jesus may have retired to Magdala after the multiplication of the bread and fishes.
Malleus Maleficarum Literally, the Witch’s Hammer, recalled in a bit of interior dialogue by Langdon as he contemplates the anagram “so dark the con of man” scrawled on the Plexiglas protecting Mona Lisa. The Malleus Maleficarum was published in 1486 and created untold misery by providing the Inquisition’s inquisitors with a guidebook on the identification of witches (see Chapter 5). Such people were identified, prosecuted, and generally turned over to civil authorities to be burned alive at the stake.
Marcion, a second-century heretic, was born the son of the bishop of Sinope. He pronounced a heresy that proclaimed that the god of the Old Testament was actually a demiurge who had created the material world and invested it with his own inherent evil. Jesus, in Marcion’s heresy, was the son of another god, a greater god than the one who fashioned the world in seven days. This greater god sent Jesus to mankind in order to free them from the evil of the material world; therefore Jesus could not be a man at all, but was wholly immaterial and not incarnated in flesh.
In order to resolve contradictions between his beliefs and those of the standard Gospels, Marcion heavily edited the New Testament, creating a shortened version of St. Luke that removed all references to Christ’s birth. He also included in his canonical works ten epistles of St. Paul, whom he considered to be the only pure interpreter of the word of Christ. He advocated vegetarianism, and by some accounts, sexual abstinence. Marcionism persisted into the fifth century, with significant modifications that brought it closer to traditional Gnosticism than Marcion himself intended.
Tertullian, another church father who fought heresy, gives us an idea of how much anger Marcion inspired in the early church, when he writes, “fouler than any Scythian, more roving than the wagon-life of the Sarmatian, more inhuman than the Massagete, more audacious than an Amazon, colder than its winter, more brittle than its ice, more deceitful than the Ister, more craggy than Caucasus. What Pontic mouse ever had such gnawing powers as he who has gnawed the Gospels to pieces?”
Mary Magdalene Follower of Christ, understood by modern scholarship to have been his “companion.” What the word is supposed to mean is a recurring theme at the heart of The Da Vinci Code. Orthodox tradition has portrayed Mary as a sinner, often as a prostitute; newer interpretations of the Magdalene, mainly derived from the Gnostic Gospels found at Nag Hammadi, position her as an influential and intimate companion of Jesus, perhaps even his wife (see Chapter 1).
Merovingians The Merovingians, according to Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code, were the Frankish royal family that the descendents of Jesus and Mary Magdalene married into, thus perpetuating the holy bloodline. The bloodline supposedly reached down to Godefroi de Bouillon, the founder of the Priory of Sion.
The Merovingians traced their ancestry back to Merovée, a semimythical personage who was born of two fathers: a king named Clodio and a sea monster that seduced his mother when she was swimming in the sea. Because of their ancestry, Merovée and his descendents were reputed to have supernatural powers and unnaturally long lifetimes. Other legends connected their origins to Noah and other Jewish patriarchs as well as ancient Troy. Other claims—that the Merovingians were descended from aliens, that they were the progeny of “nephilim” or fallen angels, and that George Bush and Jeb Bush are both descendents of Merovée—have received less attention. One homage to the red-haired monarchs almost made Merovingian a household word: a character in the blockbuster Matrix series is named “the Merovingian.”
Historically, King Clovis consolidated the Merovingian hold over the Franks in the last part of the fifth century. During a battle with another tribe, Clovis swore to convert to Catholicism if he was allowed victory. He did, and France was won for the Catholic Church. From this point on, the Merovingian line became more and more diffused, ruling over a group of tiny, warring countries. The conflict between these groups culminated in the murder of Dagobert II, the last effective Merovingian king. Within a few generations the kingship passed to the Carolingian line, most famously in the reign of Charlemagne. Leaving no connection unturned, the infamous Dossiers Secrets supposedly claim that Dagobert’s child survived and carried the Merovingian bloodline into the present-day family of ... Pierre Plantard.
Mithras Teabing mentions Mithras as a “pre-Christian god” whose attendant mythology closely resembles church legends about Christ. Mithras was a popular deity in ancient Rome, flourishing especially during the second through the fourth centuries a.d. Mithras was derived from an older, Middle Eastern god named Mitra or Mithra who was worshipped across Persia and India. Originally Mithra was a minor deity who served the Zoroastrian god Ahura-Mazda.
Mithras was identified with the light of the sun, and was often worshipped along with or as Sol Invictus, the conquering sun, another popular Roman god. Devotion to Mithras was especially widespread among Roman troops and garrisons, where their prolonged stays outside of their home territory exposed them to new ideas and new deities. Mithras was one of the most successful “imported” gods.
The origins of many traditions about Christ and Christian worship practices may be related to the worship of Mithras. The celebration of the winter solstice, the nativity of the sun, which occurred on December 25, was central to Mithras’s worship. In many societies Mithras was reported to be born to a virgin, and was, in some traditions, a member of a holy trinity. Ritual baptism and a last supper legend permeate Mithraic worship. Some scholars believed that the burgeoning Christian faith appropriated the practices and beliefs of Mithraism, allowing the new religion to subsume the old.
Mitterrand, François Reluctantly riding to the Louvre with Lieutenant Collet, Langdon reflects on François Mitterrand, former president of France. He notes that Mitterrand’s affinity for Egyptian culture earned him the nickname “the Sphinx.” Later, inside La Pyramide, he debates whether or not to tell Captain Fache that Mitterrand commanded that 666 panes of glass be used in the structure (a claim unsupported by the facts; see Chapter 11)—a claim that cannot be true, since the pyramid is constructed of 698 panes of glass.
Born in 1916, Mitterrand was a powerful figure in twentieth-century French politics. An infantryman in World War II, he was wounded and captured by the Germans. After escaping, he returned to France and joined the French Resistance. After the liberation, Mitterrand was appointed the youngest minister in the new government of the French Republic. He gradually relinquished his conservative leanings and became the first socialist president of France on his third run in 1981.
One of Mitterrand’s “Grand Projects”—a series of renovations focused on restoring and rejuvenating France’s cultural and civic monuments—was the completion of the grand Louvre.
Mitterrand’s nickname “the Sphinx” seems to have been derived from his enigmatic and elusive character as a politician, not from his love of Egyptian art. His main nickname was “the Fox,” or “the Florentine,” for his masterful—some would say Machiavellian—manipulation of his opponents. The ubiquitous Pierre Plantard planted stories that he was also a member of the Priory of Sion.
Mona Lisa The Mona Lisa, perhaps Leonardo’s most beloved masterpiece (he carried it with him for years) is considered by many to be the world’s most famous painting. In The Da Vinci Code, Jacques Saunière leaves an anagram scrawled across the painting’s Plexiglas cover. While Sophie and Langdon approach the painting to read the message, Langdon ruminates on a lecture he once gave to a group of convicts about the mystery and popularity of the painting.
Many prominent scholars agree that the painting is of a young Florentine woman, one Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, a wife of a Florentine merchant. It is from the name Giocondo (which has the felicitous meaning of “happy”) that the painting receives the name La Joconde or La Gioconda. Near the end of da Vinci’s life the painting was sold or given to King Francis I of France, da Vinci’s patron, and it remained in the possession of the French royal family, who placed it in the Louvre.
Langdon seems to diminish the artistic mastery of the painting, crediting its fame with the secret it supposedly carries behind its smile. Many scholars and art historians have speculated on the nature of this smile and the secret it hides. Some maintain that the secret is the sitter’s identity: the painting is a well-disguised self-portrait in drag, a possibility that Langdon mentions in his lecture. Others suggest that Mona Lisa is a Medici princess, a Spanish duchess, and several other women of historical note. Scholars tend to dismiss Langdon’s claim that Mona Lisa is an anagram of the names of the Egyptian fertility god Amon and the Egyptian goddess Isis. It may be that the secret of Mona Lisa is her secrecy. Perhaps she owes her enduring popularity to the fact that she does have a secret, and we will never know what it is; and not knowing is far more intriguing than knowing will ever be.
The Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911 as part of an art-reproduction plot by a remarkable Argentine con man named Eduardo de Valfierno. Once the painting went missing, a talented art restorer named Yves Chaudron would produce as many copies as possible; Valfierno would sell the copies to eager art collectors, and then return the original to the Louvre. Paris went into a frenzy on news of La Joconde’s disappearance; numerous suspects were rounded up, including most of the Louvre’s staff and a confused Pablo Picasso, who came under suspicion because he had purchased two stolen sculptures from a friend who had stolen them from the Louvre.
The scheme worked for a while, and copies were sold; but one of the workmen that Valfierno enlisted to help steal the original tried to sell it to a Parisian art dealer. The dealer turned him in to the authorities. The Mona Lisa was discovered in the false bottom of a wooden trunk in the workman’s apartment, not far from the Louvre. Valfierno, who had not revealed his identity to his henchmen, pocketed the money from his illicit sales, and lived out the rest of his life in satisfied opulence, giving the Mona Lisa, perhaps, a new reason to smile.
Montanus A second-century convert to Christianity who, around the year 156, told his followers he was a prophet and the sole bearer of divine revelations. Montanus prophesied the second coming of Christ, and imposed a very severe form of asceticism and penitential discipline. Montanus had many followers, and as his popularity spread, opposition grew ever more strident. Some people considered Montanism to be caused by a demon, and attempted to exorcise it. Eventually, Montanus and his followers split from the church.
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus A renowned late-eighteenth-century composer, Mozart (1756–91) was an avid Freemason, and Masonic elements appear in many of his works, one of which is forthrightly titled Masonic Funeral Music. Mozart is also reputed to have been associated with the Priory of Sion, in part for works such as The Magic Flute. While enjoying the music, many may not recognize that the words carry themes of Christian symbology reflecting the struggle between darkness and light, good and evil, and incorporating Egyptian and hermetic elements as well.
Nag Hammadi Library The name of the town where, in 1947, some of the most important texts relating to early Christianity were found (see Gnostic Gospels, as well as Chapters 1 through 5). The texts were bound as pages (as contrasted to early written works on scrolls; e.g. the Dead Sea Scrolls) and had covers of leather—the first known use of that material for books. While these codices do much to enrich understanding of that period, some scholars estimate that of all the texts from the early Christian tradition that are known to have existed, only 15 percent have been recovered. Many more interpretations of Mary’s story may be awaiting discovery—and another potential bestseller.
Newton, Sir Isaac The sheer number of titles that Newton (1642–1727) can rightfully claim—mathematician, physicist, philosopher, natural scientist, theologian, political philosopher, to name a few—would make him a leading figure in the intellectual life of any era. But the revolution he staged in physics and mathematics establishes his preeminence among history’s greatest thinkers.
Newton’s achievement is often understood as the triumph of the Enlightenment values of reason and science over the still dominant, “superstitious” medieval conception of physical science. Despite this identification with the intelligible, scientific values of the Enlightenment, Newton was heavily steeped in esoteric learning and the occult. Before his breakthroughs in physics in the mid-1660s, Newton was a scientist of his time—an alchemist who spent years trying to unlock the divine secrets of the natural world through experimental chemistry, a discipline that at the time was not differentiated from magic. Not surprisingly, he conducted his studies in secret.
Newton has been identified as one of the grand masters of the Priory of Sion in The Da Vinci Code, probably based on the controversial Dossiers Secrets. Although this assertion cannot be confirmed, Newton was known to associate with leading Masonic figures and his beliefs share many similarities with Masonic doctrine.
Although technically a heretic who denied the holy, he was granted a special exemption by King Charles II which allowed him to pursue his studies without having to have direct involvement in the Anglican Church. He did try to unlock what he saw as the hidden secrets of the Bible, and also attempted a reconstruction of the floor plan of the Temple of Solomon, which he regarded as a cryptogrammatic symbol for the universe itself. Intriguingly, one scholar has uncovered what he believes are various Christian and heretical symbols hidden in the diagrams of The Principia—Newton’s crowning work in the physical sciences.
Nicene Creed The brief statement of faith, created during the Council of Nicea, that summarized the orthodox beliefs that made up the backbone of the church’s teachings. The creed explicitly rejects Arianism (see Arius):
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages. (God of God) light of light, true God of true God. Begotten not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made.
The Nicene Creed is still spoken in Christian worship services.
Olympics The Olympics started out in 776 b.c. as a religious festival honoring the chief Greek deity Zeus. Originally staged in Olympia, near Zeus’s sanctuary, the games had clearly pagan origins. The original Olympics were designed to be a unifying event among Greece’s otherwise fractious city-states. Although the early Olympics had only one event, much time was taken up with a religious festival that included sacrifices to various and sundry deities major and minor. This pattern persisted for twelve centuries, until a.d. 393 when the Holy Roman emperor Theodosius declared “Games over.” The modern Olympic games were revived in 1896 at the urging of Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin. It was de Coubertin who, in 1913, designed the five interlocking rings that are the symbol of the modern Olympics. De Coubertin said the rings stood for the five participating continents, and the colors were those of the flags of every nation of the world. There are those who see in the Olympic symbolism a subtle homage to the polytheistic pre-Christian era.
O’Keefe, Georgia When Teabing explains to Sophie and Langdon that the rose has long been considered the “premier symbol of female sexuality,” he suggests the best example for understanding how the “blossoming flower resembles the female genitalia” is to look at the work of Georgia O’Keefe, who has long been associated with this theme. O’Keefe herself, however, long denied there was symbolism in her work, and that the sexual and often erotic associations with her work were, in effect, in the eyes of the beholder.
Opus Dei To sharpen his plot, Dan Brown conveyed what are arguably the extremes of the differing paths of religious belief since the life of Jesus. On one side, represented by Sophie’s grandfather and the mysteries the protagonists are trying to unlock, is the “radical” branch of the Gnostic tradition that believes in the marriage between Jesus and Mary and acknowledges humankind’s long legacy of paganism. On the other is Catholic orthodoxy, represented by what many consider to be the most conservative voice, Opus Dei. Both sides seek the evidence of the Grail, albeit for opposite reasons.
The objective of Opus Dei, in its own words, is “to contribute to that evangelizing mission of the Church. Opus Dei encourages Christians of all social classes to live consistently with their faith, in the middle of the ordinary circumstances of their lives, especially through the sanctification of their work.” Founded in 1928 by Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, Opus Dei was dedicated to the notion that holiness was achievable for lay Catholics. This holiness involved a sanctification and perfection of the “normal” life of the layperson where every action is sacrificed joyously to God. Opus Dei members are required to follow the strictures and teachings of Catholicism rigorously.
Opus Dei won a powerful ally in pope John Paul II, who made the organization a personal prelature: its members are under the authority of a prelate, who reports in turn to the Congregation of Bishops, entirely independent of geographical location or dioceses. Additionally, the pope canonized Father Escrivá in 2002. The attention paid to this organization was not merely related to the conservative roots that John Paul and St. Josemaría shared, but also to the growing popularity and power of the group. It is estimate that Opus Dei boasts has between 80,000 and 90,000 members worldwide, with estimates for the United States ranging from 3,000 to 50,000.
Controversy has dogged the group, mostly related to the practice of corporal mortification and what some critics consider the cultlike control the group is alleged to assert over its membership. There are two types of Opus Dei members: supernumerary and numerary. Supernumerary members make up about 70 percent of the membership; they concentrate on the sanctification of their work and family duties. Numeraries, on the other hand, often live within Opus Dei centers, isolated from members of the opposite sex. They pledge celibacy and hand over their income to the group. They also practice corporal mortification, ritualized self-punishment meant to purge one of sins and the urges that lead to them, using hairshirts (cilices), or disciplines.
Opus Dei has fought back against what it considers unfounded characterizations of its belief system and, in that connection, has provided Web links to articles critical of Dan Brown’s interpretation of the Bible in general, and the organization in particular.
Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN) The anti–Opus Dei group which, as The Da Vinci Codementions, attempts to warn the general public about the “frightening” activities of Opus Dei. It, too, has its own website.
Paganism In its most general application, paganism is a set of religious beliefs that recognize a polytheistic (multigod) ethos. Paganism predates Christianity, and is considered to be intertwined with it, at least in its early history. Indeed, much of the history of Christianity has been a struggle to establish itself against the forces of paganism. In The Da Vinci Code, Sophie’s falling away from her grandfather began with her witnessing as a young woman his participation in a pagan ceremony. Not understanding what she was seeing—a replication of the pagan rite of hieros gamos—she was shocked at her grandfather’s engaging in sex before a group. Langdon later explains to her that sexual intercourse was considered to be the act through which male and female experienced God. The physical union with the female remained the sole means through which man could become spiritually complete and ultimately achieve gnosis. Since the days of Isis, sex rites had been considered man’s only bridge from earth to heaven.
Pentagram The pentagram first appears in The Da Vinci Codeas a bloody symbol scrawled by Jacques Saunière on his stomach shortly before his demise. Langdon, brought to the scene of the crime, explains its significance as a symbol of Venus, the goddess of love and human sexuality, as well as its continuing association with nature worship.
The pentagram is one of the oldest symbols known to man. Its most recognizable form is a five-pointed star, possessing equilateral arms and equal angles at all of its points. When inscribed within a circle it is referred to as a pentacle. The pentacle was commonly known as a Venus or Ishtar pentacle, depending on the goddess being worshipped.
The origins of the pentagram are shrouded in mankind’s ancient past, but instances of its use have been cited as early as Sumerian times. Its original meaning and development are now matters of conjecture, but scholars have identified it as an early symbol of the human body, the four elements and the spirit, and the universe itself. The Pythagoreans used it as a sign of recognition, and may have identified it with the goddess Hygeia (the Greek goddess of health).
The pentagram as symbol is still in use today. Wiccans and other esoteric organizations employ it as a symbol in worship and ritual. It appears in the decorations and rankings of military organizations, as a symbol of the five pillars of Islam, and, most infamously, as a symbol for the worship of the devil and other demonic forces—a use, as Langdon notes, that is historically inaccurate.
Peter the Apostle (St. Peter) St. Peter’s name was Simon when he initially met Jesus, who renamed him Cephas (“rock”); the Latinized version of this name is Peter. In the New Testament gospels Jesus seems to have had a special preference for Peter, who appears at certain key episodes in Jesus’ story. Famously, the New Testament has Jesus turning to Peter saying, “Upon this rock I will build my Church.”
Peter is mentioned in The Da Vinci Codeduring Teabing’s long-ranging lecture on the nature of the Holy Grail. He quotes a passage from the Gospel of Mary, where Peter expresses disbelief that Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene without the knowledge of the other apostles. “Did the savior really speak with a woman without our knowledge ... did he prefer her to us?” he asks. Teabing goes on to say that Peter was jealous of Mary because Christ actually entrusted the continuance of the church to her, and not to him. While, according to the Gospel of Mary, Peter may indeed be upset that Jesus spoke to Mary privately, there is no indication from this text that Jesus’ message to Mary had anything to do with the founding of the church.
Phi (pronounced fye) is the never-ending, never-repeating number 1.6180339087. It is better known to nonmathematicians as the Golden Ratio, the Golden Section and, in Brown’s terminology, the Divine Proportion. It appears in The Da Vinci Codeas the centerpiece of a lecture that Robert Langdon recalls as he runs down a set of stairs to flee the Louvre with Sophie Neveu. (Not coincidentally, “phi” also forms the center of Sophie’s name.)
Langdon explains to his students that it represents a “fundamental building block of nature,” present in everything from honeybee populations to nautilus shell spirals, from sunflower seed heads to the human body (e.g., in the ratio of a body’s total height to the height of the belly button from the floor). And, in an echo of this natural beauty and proportion, Phi has been used widely in art (Dali’s Last Supper), architecture (the Parthenon), and music (Mozart, Bartok).
While this general description reflects reality, there are a few nits to pick. Dan Brown puts the term in all capitals in the book: PHI. In practice, mathematicians use “Phi” to mean the Divine Proportion and “phi” to mean its reciprocal. Symbologists—such as Langdon—would write the pairing as Ø and ø. Langdon also says that “the number PHI was derived from the Fibonacci sequence” but the historical record indicates the number was known long before Fibonacci derived it from his famous sequence.
The first clear definition of what was much later to be called the Golden Ratio was “given around 300 b.c. by the founder of geometry as a formalized deductive system, Euclid of Alexandria,” according to the scientist Mario Livio. The Greeks labeled the ratio with the letter tau. The names “Golden Section” or “Golden Mean” were likely not to have been used until the nineteenth century. The word Phi did not appear until it was quoted by the American mathematician Mark Barr at the beginning of the twentieth century as a tribute to the Greek sculptor Phidias, whose achievements included the Parthenon and the Zeus in the temple of Olympia.
The Golden Ratio is said to be a technique used by Leonardo in some of his most famous works. Not all experts are persuaded. The mathematical model for the Divine Section was not known in Italy until it was published by Pacioli in the last decade of the fifteenth century, after Leonardo painted or drew many of his most important works.
Philip the Fair, King (also known as Philipe IV) Philipe IV, King of France (nicknamed “the Fair” because of his striking good looks) is mentioned in Langdon’s brief summary of the Templar persecution while he and Sophie drive through the Bois de Boulogne. Langdon claims that Pope Clement V devised a plan to bring down the Templars because they had amassed so much power and wealth. Philip the Fair (Langdon calls him King Philipe IV) acted in concert with the pope, and on the appointed day of Friday the thirteenth, October 1307 the Templars were arrested en masse and subjected to a trial infamous for its sensational charges of heresy and blasphemy, torture, and execution.
Langdon seems to have some of the details wrong. Philip the Fair, and not Clement V, is generally seen as the prime mover behind the arrest of the Templars. Philip initiated the persecution; in fact, many historians believe, his initial Friday the thirteenth arrest was executed without Clement’s knowledge. Clement strongly rebuked Philip, but was politically weak and, some say, too beholden to Philip to have countered this move against the Templars.
Plantard, Pierre While Pierre Plantard is not mentioned in The Da Vinci Code, he is essential to the mythology that pervades it. Pierre Plantard (1920–2000) was a real person, a citizen of France and the self-proclaimed grand master of the Priory of Sion, having been elected in 1981. He came to widespread public attention when he became one of the focal points of the investigations of Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln in their bestselling book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Their book inspired Dan Brown and Plantard’s place in the Holy Blood, Holy Grail investigations would be analogous to Jacques Saunière—last grand master of the Priory of Sion and a descendent of Merovingian kings.
It is often hard in the case of Plantard to find the line between what is known and what is good story. The Dossiers Secrets supposedly deposited in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris purportedly claim that Pierre Plantard is a descendent of Jean de Plantard, who was himself a lineal descendent of Merovingian kings.
Baigent, Lincoln, and Leigh declared that in the course of their investigations into the legend of the Holy Grail that “all trails seemed to lead ultimately to [Plantard].” He appears to have been the chief source of information for many stories surrounding Rennes-le-Château, and provided investigators with many snippets of enigmatic information concerning the Priory of Sion—usually raising more questions than he answered. A representative example is that when interviewed about the Priory by the French magazine Le Charivari, Plantard said merely that “the society to which I am attached is extremely ancient. I merely succeed others, a point in a sequence. We are guardians of certain things. And without publicity.” He is described in Holy Blood, Holy Grail as “a dignified, courteous man of discreetly aristocratic bearing, unostentatious in appearance, with a gracious, volatile but well spoken manner.” He disassociated himself publicly from the conclusions drawn by Baigent, Lincoln, and Leigh, yet offered to correct the French edition of the book. He remained equivocal, however, on the descent of the Merovingians from Jesus’ bloodline.
There also seems to be a dark side to the Plantard story. Plantard has been accused of being a Nazi sympathizer and an anti-Semite, associated with several right-wing publications and organizations before and during World War II. He may have been imprisoned for embezzlement and fraud in the 1950s; he may have fed the Bérenger Saunière story to the author who popularized the Rennes-le-Château mysteries as part of a financial arrangement. His claims of Merovingian descent have been discredited; many of the documents he used to prove the bloodline were created by him or his associates and deposited pseudonymously in the Bibliothèque Nationale.
It seems that for every assertion put forward by Plantard and the Priory, there are immediate counter assertions; and those, in turn, are undermined by further accusations. Codes within codes, stories within stories. The twists and turns of the myth of Pierre Plantard are an appropriate foundation for The Da Vinci Code.
At King’s College they come to realize that “a Pope” was not a Catholic Pope, but rather famed eighteenth-century poet Alexander Pope (1688–1744), and that the knight was Sir Isaac Newton, whose funeral, Brown says “was presided over” by the poet, who “gave a stirring eulogy before sprinkling dirt on the tomb.” It is true that Pope admired and knew Newton, but while he was undoubtedly at the funeral, there is no record that he presided—Newton was such a prominent figure that the pallbearers included a lord, two dukes, and three earls. The bishop of Rochester read the service.
There is no question whatever that Pope wrote Newton’s epitaph about four years later when a monument was erected to the scientist. One of the most famous epitaphs in history, partly in Latin, partly in English, these lines read:
Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night;
God said Let Newton be! and all was light.
Poussin, Nicholas Considered by many to be the greatest French painter of the seventeenth century, Poussin achieved his notoriety in Rome, painting romantic and poetic works out of classical mythology. Poussin is remembered by Sophie as her grandfather’s second favorite painter after Leonardo, and plays an interesting role in some of the source material Dan Brown uses for The Da Vinci Code. In the book, Poussin is the subject of several textbooks written by Jacques Saunière. These textbooks, it seems, are some of Langdon’s favorites, dealing specifically with hidden codes in the works of both Poussin and Dutch painter David Teniers.
One of Poussin’s paintings, Les Bergers d’Arcadie (The Shepherds of Arcadia), executed in 1638, features a group of shepherds standing before a tomb. The Tomb has on it the Latin phrase Et in Arcadia Ego, or in English, “And in Arcadia I.” The phrase has often been interpreted as a romantic allusion to the presence of death even in the idyllic realm of the shepherds; however, there is a connection between the painting and the Rennes-le-Château mystery. One of the parchments supposedly recovered by Bérenger Saunière from the parish church of Rennes-le-Château contained a coded message that read:
SHEPHERDESS NO TEMPTATION THAT POUSSIN TENIERS HOLD THE KEY; PEACE 681 BY THE CROSS AND THIS HORSE OF GOD I COMPLETE [DESTROY] THIS DAEMON OF THE GUARDIAN AT NOON BLUE APPLES
There seems to be a reference to Les Bergers d’Arcadie in the message. Several authors on the Rennes-le-Château mystery have claimed that a tomb in the vicinity of the hamlet resembles the tomb in the painting. Was Poussin connected to a hidden secret in Rennes-le-Château? Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, in Holy Blood, Holy Grail mention a letter sent from Abbé Louis Fouquet to his brother, the superintendent of finances to Louis XIV. The letter describes a visit Fouquet had with Poussin in Rome:
He and I discussed certain things, which I shall with ease be able to explain to you in detail—things which will give you, through Monsieur Poussin, advantages which even kings would have great pains to draw from him, and which, according to him, it is possible that nobody else will ever rediscover in the centuries to come
Shortly after receiving this otherwise unexplained letter, Nicolas Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for the rest of his life.
Priory of Sion Dan Brown announces, on page 1 of The Da Vinci Code, that the Priory of Sion is a real organization, founded in 1099, and that parchments in the Bibliothèque Nationale reveal in their membership a list of the leading lights of literature, art, and science. The Priory is certainly a real organization, but what more can be said of it with certainty is open to question. The Priory can claim a documented existence in France beginning in 1956 (nothing existed before then), when the Priory registered and submitted statutes for the organization of the group with the government. Its spokesperson for most of its modern history was Pierre Plantard, a man whose claims about himself were as confusing as the claims the Priory made about itself. Indeed, it often seems unclear how much real difference there was between Plantard and the Priory of Sion.
The Priory, through what is said to be contained in the Dossiers Secrets and the public statements of Plantard and his associates provides a sketchy history at best. It is claimed the secret organization was founded in the last decade of the eleventh century by Godefroi de Bouillon. In seems generally accepted that the Priory ordered the formation of the Knights Templar, and then split with them almost a hundred years later, beginning their own line of autonomous grand masters. Around this time, the Priory began to also name itself “le Ordre de la Rose-Croix Veritas”–The Order of the True Rosy Cross, thereby connecting itself to the Rosicrucians. The group says that Bérenger Saunière discovered the parchments that sparked the Rennes-le-Château controversy on direct orders from Sion. And they list a series of grand masters from the 1188 split with the Templars to Thomas Plantard, Pierre’s son.
Onto this bare sketch, presented in poetic, allusive language and quasi-historical formats, hundreds of authors have projected their speculations and theories regarding the Priory and its place in history. They are too numerous to list in their entirety, but The Da Vinci Codeis based on one of the more famous and persistent notions, exhaustively described in Holy Blood, Holy Grail—that the Priory is the age-old guardian of the bloodline of Christ and Mary Magdalene. Other theories hold that the Priory is a front for several other esoteric organizations; others still claim that the group advocates a theocratic “United States of Europe.”
Every accusation about the real origin or nature of the group, from the mundane to the vicious, has been defended by counter-assertions from the Priory and its defenders. It would seem that the Priory exists in what one commentator calls “a hermeneutical hell”—a nether land of conflicting interpretations, hypotheses, and evidence that seems, by its very scope and inclusiveness, to undermine the possibility of discovering any truth at all. Perhaps that is where the continuing appeal of the Priory lies; its very nature, as far as we know, is so indeterminate that it allows anyone to bring their hopes, fears, and fantasies to bear on its interpretation.
“Q” Document “The Q document,” Teabing tells Sophie and Langdon in the instructional he gives them on the secret history of Christianity and its cover-up while they are all gathered in his library, is “a manuscript that even the Vatican admits they believe exists. Allegedly, it is a book of Jesus’ teachings, possibly written in his own hand.” Moving beyond his just-spoken caution, he puts a rhetorical question to Sophie, “Why wouldn’t Jesus have kept a chronicle of his ministry?”
Whether he did so or not has preoccupied scholars since an Englishman, Herbert Marsh, first hypothesized a Q-like source in 1801, based upon the belief that someone wrote an Aramaic version of the sayings of Jesus. He labeled it beth, a Hebrew letter fashioned after the shape of a house. Several German scholars took up the cause later in the century, generating great controversy: since the Gospels of Matthew and Luke show some independence of each other, could there be a different source other than the synoptic Gospels for the sayings of Jesus? If so, which was the “right” one? As some doubt arose about the authenticity of the collection of sayings, the German scholar Johannes Weiss devised the more neutral Q, after the German word quelle, meaning “source.” There things stood, with scholars adding layer after layer of reconstructions until the 1960s, when translations of the Nag Hammadi documents in 1947 revealed a Gospel of Thomas, which was translated by James Robinson and Thomas Lambdin.
Does the Gospel of Thomas really reveal itself as the direct source of Jesus’ sayings? The answer lies in part on determining the dating of the documents, an unsettled issue. If it comes from the mid–first century, the link can seem persuasive. If, as the more conservative scholarship has it, the Gospel of Thomas was written after the first century, then there is a greater chance it was composed by accumulated memories (i.e., a less direct history).
Professor Robinson, the “godfather” of this debate answers the question this way: “The reference to Q, and as to whether Jesus himself wrote it? Of course Jesus didn’t write it. That is another one of those places where Dan Brown sort of fudges the evidence to make it more sensational than it is.” The debate will continue, with the hope that more texts from the early Christian era can be found to clarify this and many other controversies.
La Pyramide is the glass pyramid designed by I. M. Pei as the new entrance to the Louvre. It is one of the first things seen by Robert Langdon as he is summoned to the murder scene. La Pyramide also has an inverted counterpart, Pyramide Inverse, extending into the earth as the original stands above it; this is the pyramid which figures prominently at the end of Brown’s book.
La Pyramide is the signature of the Louvre’s makeover and emblematic of the wide-ranging architectural changes in the building instigated by Chinese-born architect I. M. Pei. La Pyramide centered all the entrances in one location, leading to a new underground concourse that provides access to the galleries as well as restaurants, shop spaces, and vital new storage and support areas for the museum itself. Pei’s structure, while now generally accepted and even admired by Parisians, was met by uproarious public debate and outright attacks in the Parisian press when the plans were announced.
La Pyramide is constructed out of 698 panes of tempered, very light, transparent glass—not 666, the so-called “Satan’s number” as claimed by Brown/Langdon and many conspiracy buffs. The lightweight panels, connected by equally lightweight steel supports, combine to create an extremely powerful form—a squat pyramid that only stands seventy-one feet high and is at once lofty yet powerful. The glass reflects the Parisian skies, a moodstone for France’s capital.
Rennes-le-Château Few places on earth, from Stonehenge to the Bermuda Triangle, have been the focus of as many conspiracy theories as Rennes-le-Château, a small French village situated on a mountaintop on the eastern edge of the Pyrenees. While it makes no appearance in The Da Vinci Code, it is at the center of the conspiracy that concerns the book.
Rennes-le-Château, like most of Europe’s villages and cities, has a deeply layered and complex history, passing from prehistoric camp to Roman settlement to medieval stronghold. By the eve of the French revolution, the village had, through a complex series of intermarriages, fallen into the hands of the Blanchefort family. It is rumored that Marie, Marquise d’Hautpol de Blanchefort, a titular descendent, at least, of the Templar grand master of the same name, passed a secret to her parish priest upon her death. This priest, an Abbé Bigou, whom the revolution forced into exile in Spain shortly after her demise, was the clerical predecessor of the most intriguing resident of Rennes-le-Château: Bérenger Saunière.
Rose The rose is rich in symbolism and The Da Vinci Codeexplores quite a bit of it. The cryptex in the rosewood box Sophie holds as she and Langdon escape the Swiss bank in an armored truck has a rose on the lid, which she associates with great secrets, and which Langdon immediately links to the Latin phrase sub rosa (literally “under the rose”), meaning whatever is said has to be kept confidential. The rose has also been the symbol used by the Priory of Sion as a symbol for the Grail. One species has five petals, associating it with pentagonal symmetry, the movement of Venus in the sky, and the sacred feminine. Then there is its use as a compass rose, meant to point one to the “True Direction.”
As he explains all this, Langdon has an epiphany, grasping that the Grail is likely to be hidden sub rosa, that is, underneath the sign of the rose in some church with its rose windows, rosette reliefs, and cinquefoils, the “five-petaled decorative flowers often found at the top of archways, directly over the keystone.”
Later in the book, Teabing ties the rose closely to womanhood, the five petals representing “the five stages of female life—birth, menstruation, motherhood, menopause, and death.” He also tells Langdon and Sophie that the word rose is identical in English, French, German, and other languages and that the anagram of the word is Eros, the Greek god of sexual love.
Many other meanings have been given to the rose—an emblem of Christ, a symbol of the nativity, and the messianic prophecy. In Greco-Roman culture, the rose represented beauty, spring, and love. The rose also referenced the speedy passage of time, and thus the approach of death and the next world. The Roman feast of Rosalia was a feast of the dead. Gothic cathedrals feature rose stained-glass windows, with Christ at the center of each, at the three entrances of these churches. The rose in this context is said to symbolize the salvation that lies within, and which has been revealed by God. Later Christian art, from the thirteenth century forward, often portrays Mary holding a rose, or in a rose garden, or in front of a tapestry of roses. The rose symbolically represents the union of Christ and his church and God and His people.
Finally, the rose is the same color as the apple, which ties it right back into the plot of The Da Vinci Code. In the last line of the poem penned by Sophie’s grandfather that leads to Newton’s tomb, we find the words
You seek that orb that ought to be on his tomb.
It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb.
Langdon finds this last sentence a clear allusion to Mary Magdalene, “the Rose who bore the seed of Jesus.”
Rosicrucians The Rosicrucian doctrine was first expounded in The Universal and General Reformation of the Whole Wide World, published in 1614. It claimed that Christian Rosenkreuz, a German noble, journeyed as a youth to the East, gathering knowledge and becoming an adept of secret wisdoms. These wisdoms amounted to an ecumenical approach that advocated simple, moral living and the common worship of a supreme being or god. Alchemical metaphors were deployed to symbolize the magical transformation of the human soul.
Some scholars believe that Rosenkreuz was merely an invention of the German theologian Johann Valentin Andreae, claimed by the Priory of Sion as grand master from 1637 to 1654. Many claim that Andreae wrote one of the Rosenkreuz books, The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz, as a satire of occult obsessions of the era. Fictional progenitor or not, the Rosicrucians still thrive today as an esoteric society based on the Rosenkreuz writings. Rosicrucianism became popular within Freemasonry in the eighteenth century, when it incorporated many Rosicrucian symbols, the foremost of which were the rose and the cross. (The most prominent use of the rose and cross symbol before that was probably as it appeared on Martin Luther’s coat of arms.) The order continues to exist, albeit in a great variety of forms.
Rosslyn Chapel Heading toward the final scenes of The Da Vinci Code, Saunière’s second cryptex leads Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu to the Rosslyn Chapel outside Edinburgh, Scotland. Various occult and New Age commentators have, for years, believed that the Holy Grail resides at Rosslyn, having been taken there after the massacre of the Templars in France in the 1300s. Scottish Masonic groups have been seen as some of the heirs to the Templar tradition.
Work on the Rosslyn Chapel—also known as the Cathedral of Codes—began in 1446 at the behest of Sir William St. Clair, or Sinclair, a hereditary grand master of the Scottish Masons, and a reputed descendent of the Merovingian bloodline. Sir William exercised personal control of the chapel’s construction, which halted shortly after his death in 1484. Only the choir—the part of the church occupied by the choir and the clergy, where services are performed—is completed. The chapel is filled with codes, symbols, alphabets, and imagery that suggest a sort of universal symbolic language. Christian and Jewish symbols coexist, as do Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and other languages, and references to Norse, Celtic, and Templar history. At the end of their visit to Rosslyn, Robert and Sophie seem to learn that the Holy Grail, if it ever was at Rosslyn, has been moved.
Sacred feminine The sacred feminine is an important thematic element of The Da Vinci Code, providing the linchpin for the various Grail seekers in the novel. Saunière’s Priory worships it, Langdon studies it, and the fanatical followers of Opus Dei are trying to make sure that the sacred feminine tradition in Christianity stays suppressed, as it was by the early Roman church leaders, from Peter to Constantine. According to the novel, Jesus was a believer in the notion of the sacred feminine, as inherited from Egyptian, Greek, and other eastern Mediterranean traditions. The whole battle over Mary Magdalene’s role among the apostles and in church history afterward, is viewed in the novel as part of the “great cover-up” of Christianity’s origins in the world of gods and goddesses.
The first mention of the sacred feminine in The Da Vinci Codeis when Robert Langdon arrives at the scene of Jacques Saunière’s murder. Interrogated by Captain Fache, Langdon tries to explain the iconography that Saunière used to “decorate” his death scene.
Sangreal/Sangraal Sangreal is the name identified by Langdon as the common historical name for the documents and relics that constitute what we today know as the Holy Grail. Teabing later explains that the word became split throughout its use in legend and theology, producing San Greal: Holy Grail. But if the division were made in a different place—sang real—then the words would read royal blood instead. Holy Blood, Holy Grail authors Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln claim that the Grail is called the Sangreal or the Sangraal. The split in these words could also produce San Greal or San Graal (Holy Grail) or sang real or sang raal (royal blood). However, Sir Thomas Malory, author of Le Mort d’Arthur and the first cited user of the word in English, deploys Sangreal and sang royal (which is derived from middle English real or rial) in two separate senses: Sangreal as the Holy Grail, and sang royal as holy blood, perhaps undermining Teabing and Langdon’s etymology.
The Oxford English Dictionary claims that the etymology of dual meanings, first introduced in the seventeenth century, is spurious.
Saunière, Bérenger Parish priest of Rennes-le-Château installed there in 1885, and the historical touchstone for The Da Vinci Code’s Jacques Saunière. During a routine restoration of the village church, Saunière (1852–1917) supposedly discovered four parchments with coded messages stuffed into a column supporting the church altar. The messages, when deciphered, made oblique references to seemingly unconnected people and things: painters Poussin and Teniers, the Merovingian King Dagobert, Sion, “blue apples.” Intrigued, he presented the documents to his superiors, who instructed him to travel to Paris to present the parchments to other church dignitaries, including the Abbé Bieil, director of the Saint-Sulpice seminary.
Little is known about what happened during Saunière’s visit to Paris (many dispute he ever went at all), but upon his return to Rennes-le-Château, it is said he began spending exorbitant amounts of money on restoration projects and large new house for himself. His changes ranged from the mundane to the bizarre. He effaced the inscription on the tombstone of Marie, Marquise d’Hautpol de Blanchefort’s (it had been designed by the Abbé Bigou for her grave, and the inscription was a perfect anagram of one of the coded messages that Saunière found in the altar). He constructed a tower, called the Tour Magdala, after Mary Magdalene. He built an opulent country house, the Villa Bethania, which he never occupied. He renovated and redecorated the church as well, but his new artistic touches were somewhat unorthodox: a statue of a demon upholds the holy water basin; “This place is terrible” is chiseled over the church door; and the Stations of the Cross painted on the walls of the church are filled with incongruous and disquieting details.
Rennes-le-Château was a provincial town, and Saunière’s salary as parish priest was quite modest. Where did Saunière get the money for his renovations and construction? Why did he spend it in the way he did? He took the answers to these questions with him to the grave, and at that point, even wilder speculation begins.
Saunière’s wealth, so the tale goes, could have been attributed to the discovery of ancient Visigothic treasure; to payoffs from a secret society with something to hide in the area; to the secret location of the Holy Grail; to the famed Money Pit of Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Links have been drawn among Saunière, the Priory of Sion, the Masons, and the Knights Templar. Astronomers and geometers have catalogued an incredible number of figures—triangles, pentagrams, pentagons—through and around Rennesle-Château, all with some sort of esoteric significance. There are connections drawn between Rennes-le-Château, Stonehenge, and countless megalithic sites throughout Europe and Britain, and claims that the village hides some sort of mathematical doorway to another dimension.
The parchments that sparked this intrigue have never been recovered; although one person—Pierre Plantard, the late grand master of the Priory of Sion—claimed to have placed them in a safe deposit box in London for safekeeping. Saunière and his mysteries have been fodder for a great deal of historical speculation and spellbinding stories offered by authors such as Henry Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln (individually as well as collectively in books such as Holy Blood, Holy Grail), Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, and Tim Wallace-Murphy.
Clearly something strange is in the air of Rennes-le-Château, but is it an actual conspiracy or the conspiracy theories themselves? Does there come a point where conspiracy theories wind up burying whatever knowledge of actual events we could have achieved? Bérenger Saunière isn’t telling.
Senechaux French plural of the (also English) word seneschal, meaning an official or administrator to whom important duties are entrusted, normally associated with ecclesiastical or feudal societies or groups. In The Da Vinci Code, the senechaux are three officials in the Priory of Sion who report to Jacques Saunière, the grand master of the Priory. They appear to be a trusted “inner circle.” The senechaux are murdered, one by one, by Silas, the agent of Opus Dei. Each of the three senechaux, along with Saunière, are guardians of the secret location of the Holy Grail. They are also trained to deceive interrogators with a coordinated lie about the location of the Grail, ensuring that even if their identities are revealed and they are questioned, the Grail will remain safely hidden. Sister Sandrine calls them, one by one, when she realizes that Silas has arrived at Saint Sulpice to uncover the keystone, but is shocked when each of her calls indicates that the senechaux are dead. The concept of the senechaux in The Da Vinci Codeare taken from the questionable list provided by Plantard and listed on websites.
Shekinah is a Hebrew word meaning “God’s presence,” and many hold that it is the feminine aspect and attributes of that presence. The closest Christian concept would be that of the Holy Spirit. Shekinah was believed to be the physical manifestation of God’s presence in the Tabernacle and later in Solomon’s Temple. When the Lord led Israel out of Egypt, he went before them “in a pillar of a cloud”—shekinah.
Sheshach In The Da Vinci Code, Sophie uses her knowledge of the Atbash cipher, a substitution code in which the first letter of the alphabet is replaced with the last, second is replaced with next-to-last, etc. The Hebrew letters for what was transliterated as “Scheshach” yield a word that can be rendered as “Babel” when adding in the vowels that Hebrew lacks.
Smart Car Langdon and Sophie, following their escape from the Louvre, jump in Sophie’s Smart Car and speed away. This is a micro, compact car originally developed in 1994 as a joint venture between the Swiss watch company Swatch and Mercedes-Benz. A Swatch watch was the design inspiration for the car, which in its basic configuration sells for around $20,000 and is available throughout Europe and many other parts of the world
Solomon’s Temple David, the first king of Israel, wanted to build a temple for the King of kings, his God. In a dream, God told David that the temple could not be built by him because he was a man of war and had spilled too much blood. The temple would be built by his son, Solomon, who would enjoy peace during his reign so that the temple might be built.
Although he did not build the temple, King David planned it and gathered much of the materials. After David’s death, Solomon issued orders for construction of the first temple. He called upon the Phoenicians, who were expert builders, to assist, and the temple was in fact modeled on Phoenician temples of the time. Construction of Solomon’s Temple on Mount Moriah in what is now Jerusalem was an enormous task, involving tens of thousands of people and requiring seven years, being completed in 953 b.c.
The Solomonic temple differed from other temples in the ancient world by virtue of having no idol. This reflected the belief that idols were not needed for God to be present; the temple was built because of the people’s needs, not God’s.
Subsequent history of the temple involves a regular cycle of destruction. The original temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 b.c. Seventy years later, the second temple was built on the same site, and expanded in 19 b.c. by King Herod, only to be destroyed by the Romans in a.d. 70.
Enter The Da Vinci Code. Langdon tells Sophie the Knights Templar’s primary mission in the Holy Land was not to protect pilgrims, but to set up lodging in the Temple so they could “retrieve the [secret] documents from beneath the ruins.” He goes on to say no one knows for sure what they found, but it was “something that made them wealthy and powerful beyond anyone’s imagination.”
Today the site is the location of al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.
Sub rosa Literally, “under the rose.” The origin of this phrase is likely to have come from Roman times when, in formal dining, tables were set in a U configuration, with the guest of honor and his host at the side opposite the opening. Over the center of the U hung a rose. It was a reminder that a rose had been given by Eros to Harpocrates, the god of silence, to keep him from talking about the indiscretions of Eros’s mother, Venus. Anything said sub rosa (under the rose) was to remain a secret.
Symbology Symbols were described by the late anthropologist Leslie White as “the arbitrary assignation of meaning to form,” and one of the few things that truly distinguished humans from other creatures. Symbols are abstractions. The Bible and of course The Da Vinci Codeare filled with symbology: from the Vitruvian Man whose pose Saunière adopts in death, to the cross, to the apple—tangible objects are made to stand in for intangible and sometimes complex concepts.
Symbols are a shorthand means of communicating. Just as the rose over the Roman table was a symbol of Eros’s gift to Harpocrates and thus the need for secrets to be kept secret, symbols such as the cross provide a compact way of reminding people of a complex reality.
In The Da Vinci Code, Langdon was at work on a paper about the symbols of the sacred feminine. At the end of the book, while at Rosslyn, he stands with Saunière’s widow, Marie, pondering the papyrus that bears the inscription:
The Holy Grail ’neath ancient Roslin waits.
The blade and chalice guarding o’er Her gates.
Marie traces a triangle, point up, on his palm. An ancient symbol for the blade, and the masculine. Then she traces a triangle point down. An ancient symbol for the chalice and the feminine. She takes him to the church, where he finally sees in the Star of David the combination of blade and chalice—male and female, Solomon’s Seal—marking the Holy of Holies, the place where both Yahweh and Shekinah were thought to dwell.
Tarot cards The origin of tarot cards is a subject of some debate. Some scholars trace their earliest appearance to a very specific time and place: northern Italy in the early fifteenth century. The first practical use of the deck seems to have been a game that was somewhat like our modern bridge. Since alchemical, astrological, and hermetic philosophies were part and parcel of medieval intellectual life, the illustrators of the first decks may have used them to code hidden meanings in the iconography of the cards. The many different interpretations and correspondences that tarot cards have inspired suggests that tarot is more than just bridge.
Occultists, fans of esoterica, and even modern bestseller writers believe instead that the cards have a much longer history (dating back to ancient Israel or ancient Egypt) and a far deeper meaning. Kabbalah, the Jewish form of mysticism, is said to have a connection. Robert Langdon avers that originally the tarot “had been devised as a secret means to pass along ideologies banned by the Church” and that the pentacle suit of the tarot deck is the indicator “for feminine divinity.” Critics debunk these types of theories, believing that the tarot was invented for “innocent gaming purposes.” “The notion of diamonds representing the pentacles is a deliberate misrepresentation,” contends Sandra Miesel, who wrote a long article harshly critical of the “so-called facts” in The Da Vinci Code.
There seems to be no hard evidence tying the origin of the decks to ancient traditions. History seems to tell us that the tarot cards do not appear as a systematized occult system until late-eighteenth-century France. Tradition can triumph over history, of course, and it is not hard to began speculating all over again about “coincidences” such as the arrangement of the major arcana: the High Priestess (Female Pope) card is normally given the number two and card number five, the Pope, is its logical opposite; just as the Empress and the Emperor (three and four respectively) counterbalance one another.
Teniers, David the Younger Dutch painter, son of David the Elder, also a painter. Born in 1610, he painted historical, mythological, and allegorical subjects, including a series of paintings depicting St. Anthony. Langdon mentions him early on in The Da Vinci Codeas a subject, along with painter Poussin, of several textbooks written by Jacques Saunière.
These textbooks, it seems, are some of Langdon’s favorites; they deal specifically with hidden codes in the works of both painters. This is a direct reference by Dan Brown to coded messages found by Saunière’s historical namesake: Bérenger Saunière, parish priest of Rennes-le-Château. One of the coded messages that Bérenger Saunière found buried in the altar of the Rennes-le-Château parish church reads thus:
SHEPHERDESS NO TEMPTATION THAT POUSSIN TENIERS HOLD THE KEY; PEACE 681 BY THE CROSS AND THIS HORSE OF GOD I COMPLETE [DESTROY] THIS DAEMON OF THE GUARDIAN AT NOON BLUE APPLES
Bérenger Saunière is said to have traveled to Paris after finding the coded documents, and during his trip supposedly purchased reproductions of a work by Teniers, a portrait of Pope Célestin V, and Poussin’s The Shepherds of Arcadia.
Tertullian The first great writer of Latin Christianity whose extensive works covered the whole theological field of the time: paganism and Judaism, polemics, polity, disciple, morals, and the whole reorganization of human life under his interpretation of Christian doctrine. He was also a determined advocate of strict discipline and an austere lifestyle—believing that women should put away precious ornaments as they help lure men into sin, and that being unmarried and celibate were the highest state of being.
Todger “Teabing’s eyes twinkled. ‘Oxford Theatre Club. They still talk of my Julius Caesar. I’m certain nobody has ever performed the first scene of Act Three with more dedication ... my toga tore open when I fell, and I had to lie on the stage for half an hour with my todger hanging out.’” Todger (aka tadger), is 1950s British slang for penis.
Tribe of Benjamin One of the twelve tribes of Israel, descended from Jacob’s son Benjamin, part of whose inheritance, according to the Bible, is the city of Jerusalem. The tribe plays a part in Teabing’s lecture to Sophie regarding the true nature of the Holy Grail. Mary Magdalene, he tells her, was of the tribe of Benjamin, and therefore her union with Jesus—a descendent of the royal house of David and the tribe of Judah—was of immense political importance. The Bible reports in the book of Judges that the tribe of Benjamin was attacked by the other tribes of Israel because of the protection they afforded certain criminals and “sons of Belial.” The decimated tribe survived, but the Dossiers Secrets maintain that a portion of the tribe relocated to eastern Europe, first in the Greek province of Arcadia, and then up the Danube and the Rhine. Holy Blood, Holy Grail suggests that the tribe could be the forbears of the Franks, and, hence, the Merovingians.
Vatican Library Bishop Aringarosa visits Castel Gandolfo, and passes the Biblioteca Astronomica, the library of the Vatican Observatory. While hints of an organized library date back to the fourth century, the Vatican Library as it is known today dates from the reign of Pope Nicholas V, who ascended to the throne in 1447. Nicholas expanded the library from a few hundred works to over fifteen hundred, which made it the largest library in Europe at time. At present, it houses over a million books and 150,000 manuscripts which contain such works as the oldest known Greek texts of the Old and New Testaments, and early surviving examples of works by Dante, Virgil, and Homer, among others.
Venus Pentagram One of the most intriguing theories explaining the origin of the pentagram is astronomical: the planet Venus traces a pentagram in the night sky. How? When the movements of the planet are charted against the stars, it appears to move against them in a regular pattern. The ancients imagined that the stars that they saw wheeling through the sky were “fixed” on a sphere with Earth at its center. They used these fixed stars as a reference point to measure the movement of the planets, which moved independently of the fixed stars—appearing in different areas of the sphere at different times. If an observer records the position of Venus against the fixed stars on the same day for six years, and connects these positions in order across the sphere, a pentagram is produced (Venus returns to her original position on the sixth year, beginning the cycle again). This observation has not stood the test of later astronomical science: it is true that tracing the planet from the Near East would trace something of a pentagram, albeit a rather imaginative one. It would not look the same in other parts of the world and, as we now know, the laws of planetary motion have long dispelled the notion that the Earth is at the center of the universe.
Vitruvian Man A famed drawing by Leonardo of a man, front view and side, standing in a square within a circle. The first clue to the mysteries in The Da Vinci Codeis Saunière having sprawled out his dying, naked body in emulation of this famous iconic Leonardo image. Vitruvian Man is named after Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, the Roman writer, architect, and engineer active in the first century b.c. He was in charge of the aqueducts of Rome and wrote The Ten Books of Architecture, perhaps the first work on architecture ever written. Vitruvius’s study of human proportions was in his third book, and he left this guide for artists and architects to follow:
The measurements of the human body are as follows that is that 4 fingers make 1 palm, and 4 palms make 1 foot, 6 palms make 1 cubit; 4 cubits make a man’s height. And 4 cubits make one pace and 24 palms make a man. The length of a man’s outspread arms is equal to his height. From the roots of his hair to the bottom of his chin is the tenth of a man’s height; from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head is one eighth of his height; from the top of the breast to the roots of the hair will be the seventh part of the whole man. From the nipples to the top of the head will be the fourth part of man. The greatest width of the shoulders contains in itself the fourth part of man. From the elbow to the tip of the hand will be the fifth part of a man; and from the elbow to the angle of the armpit will be the eighth part of man. The whole hand will be the tenth part of the man. The distance from the bottom of the chin to the nose and from the roots of the hair to the eyebrows is, in each case the same, and like the ear, a third of the face.
Leonardo’s contribution was to solve this ancient algorithm known as “squaring the circle,” a geometric problem whereby a pair of compasses and a ruler are used in an attempt to construct a circle and square of equal area. Theoretically, a perfectly proportioned human would fit within the figure and while Vitruvius’s efforts apparently remained crude, Leonardo’s rendering is perfect and a work of mathematical as well as artistic genius.
Yahweh The personal name of God in the Old Testament. From the Hebrew letters Yod, Heh, Vav, and Heh (the tetragrammaton—see Adonai). Speaking God’s name in prayer is forbidden among Jews, who substitute Adonai. This restriction results from an interpretation of the Third Commandment that says it is forbidden to “take the name of God in vain.” In writing, LORD or G-d replaces Yahweh.
The rendering of the ancient Hebrew as Yahweh reflects the difficulty of deciding how a language not spoken for more than two thousand years and lacking any vowels might have said the letters Yod, Heh, Vav, and Heh, and then transliterating that into modern English (or any other language). According to the argument in The Da Vinci Code, YHWH was actually a Hebrew acronym that combined archaic male and female names for God, and “Haveh,” the Hebrew version of “Eve” is intermingled into the Yahweh.