The Plot Flaws and Intriguing Details of The Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown's statement at the very start of his book that the Priory of Sion is fact, and that "all descriptions of art, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate" has wielded an enormous power of suggestion over readers. The Da Vinci Code, after all, is a novel, a work of fiction. Nevertheless, the real events, people, and places that populate the novel comfortably lull us into believing that the interpretation of the ideas and issues presented also seem to be plausible as fact.
As a consequence, the reader's fascination with trying to separate fact from fiction has turned deciphering The Da Vinci Coe into its own Holy Grail hunt. Not just about secret societies, religious history, and so on, but even about the plot elements. So we thought it would be fun to dig deeply into the bricks and mortar details of the story and share some intriguing elements as well as a great many plot holes and flaws.
One note: The page numbers in this commentary refer to the U.S. English-language hardcover edition of The Da Vinci Code, published in 2003, although Shugarts' scrutiny starts before the numbered pages begin —with the dust jacket of the book. We have noticed a few subtle differences in various U.S. hardcover editions, details of which are covered in Shugarts' piece. So every reader should be able to follow along with any edition.
Dust jacket: Is there a secret code on the book’s dust jacket and does it indicate what Dan Brown’s next book will be about?
Yes, and here’s our take on it. If you look closely you will see that some characters are in slightly bolder face than others on the dust jacket flaps. If you find all of these and string them together, they spell out “Is there no help for the widow’s son?”
It only takes a moment to search and find out that this sentence refers to the Book of Enoch, where a favorite Dan Brown theme arises, about the lost treasure of the Temple of Solomon. There are many allusions to Enoch. Genesis implies that he was a mortal who walked with God and was seen no more because God took him. The mystery surrounding Enoch was a subject for writers in Hebrew apocrypha even before the time of Christ.
"Is there no help for the widow’s son?” was the title of a talk given before the Mormons in 1974 which purportedly established a connection between Freemasonry and the founder of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith.
It is said that Smith not only used lots of Mason symbology, but also wore a talisman containing mysterious symbols. Further, that there are Mormon-identified locations in the United States that lie due west of the Temple of Solomon (by no coincidence, of course).
The talk goes on to describe the Illuminees, who are female Masons of two types--the righteous and the voluptuous. So another Dan Brown theme, of the male hierarchy’s suppression of the sacred feminine is suggested.
Some of this territory has been covered already by the veteran sci-fi/ fantasy novelist Robert Anton Wilson, including a novel in his Illuminati trilogy called Widow’s Son. Many Masonic lodges have “widow’s son” events and rites to this day.
The content of the Book of Enoch has multiple aspects that would attract Dan Brown’s attention. These range from references to the angel Uriel (who Brown shows interest in with regard to analyzing Leonardo’s Virgin of the Rocks) to material said to be from the lost Book of Noah.
But the most prominent, widespread use of the Enochian legend descends to us through Freemasonry, originally a brotherhood of English and Scottish gentlemen that styled itself after ancient principles taken from many cultures and philosophical streams. Because these influences are confluent with Rosicrucianism and with the Enlightenment, there is an immediate connection to the principles of Revolutionary America. Many Founding Fathers were Freemasons, and the brotherhood has an inexhaustible supply of arcane symbols, some of which found their way into American symbolism and the architecture of public buildings. The City of Washington, by layout, and in many of its structures, is highly Masonic in design. Not the least of the symbols is the Washington Monument, honoring the greatest of American Freemasons. It all fits for the setting of the next Langdon escapade.
There are several other codes on the dust jacket of The Da Vinci Code, and they tend to point to an enigmatic statue, Kryptos, by the artist James Sanborn, dedicated at the CIA New Headquarters Building in 1990. Sanborn encrypted certain codes into Kryptos. A portion of the codes remains unsolved to date, and some of the decoded passages relate to the first gaze of archeologist Howard Carter into the tomb of Tutankhamen. This offers plenty of possibilities for incorporation into Dan Brown’s next novel.
Dan Brown’s publisher revealed that the new book will be called The Solomon Key. This can spark a new series of associations, encompassing everything from medieval grimoires, or books of magic, to Biblical tales of Solomon’s Temple (again, a theme revered by Freemasons).
In the last pages of The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown had shown the unification of two equilateral triangles, representing the “chalice” and the “blade,” into a symbol, a six-pointed star. This symbol is typically called the Star of David and thought of as Jewish, but it can also be called the Seal of Solomon, with many significances.
page 3: Silas has “ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises are pink with dark red pupils.” Does this describe an albino?
Albinism is a pigmentation deficiency affecting about one in seventeen thousand Americans. Although this can take many forms (and skin colors), society tends to label people, so albinos are often portrayed with white skin and hair, and pink eyes.
According to the National Organization for Albinism and Hyperpigmentation (NOAH), “A common myth is that by definition people with albinism have red eyes. In fact there are different types of albinism, and the amount of pigment in the eyes varies. Although some individuals with albinism have reddish or violet eyes, most have blue eyes. Some have hazel or brown eyes.”
Almost universally, the disorder causes poor eyesight or even legal blindness. “In less pigmented types of albinism, hair and skin are cream-colored, and vision is often in the range of 20/200. In types with slight pigmentation, hair appears more yellow or red-tinged, and vision often corrects to 20/60,” according to NOAH. Thus, Silas perhaps ought to be portrayed as having difficulty with vision, perhaps wearing thick glasses.
NOAH has been steadily calling attention to the stereotypical Hollywood portrayal of albinos as nonhuman, evil, or deranged. The Da Vinci Code’s Silas is a perfect example. Incidentally, one of the reasons the organization uses the acronym NOAH is that the Noah character of the Bible is believed by some to have been an albino.
page 3: Silas shoots SauniËre in the dark at fifteen feet. Is this likely, given Silas’s visual acuity?
It would be extremely lucky for anyone to shoot someone in the dark with a pistol, but Silas is not likely to be able to do it without his glasses, which are never mentioned. It is extremely rare for an albino to have good vision.
page 4: Silas fired once and hit SauniËre in the stomach. He took dead aim at SauniËre’s head and pulled the trigger again but “the click of an empty chamber echoed through the corridor.” Silas “glanced down at his weapon, looking almost amused. He reached for a second clip, but then seemed to reconsider, smirking calmly at SauniËre’s gut.”
Silas has killed three people earlier this evening. All were presumably surprised by their assassin. His gun is a thirteen-shot Heckler and Koch USP 40 (see DVC, p. 73). The company name is actually Heckler & Koch. But the real question is, how come the clip is empty? Does it take twelve rounds to kill three old men, or did he begin the evening with a weapon only half loaded?
No explanation is given by Dan Brown. But perhaps Silas is making up for his poor eyesight by firing more rounds.
page 4: SauniËre is shot several inches below the breastbone. Because he is “a veteran of la Guerre d’AlgÈrie,” he knows “for fifteen minutes, he would survive as his stomach acids seeped into his chest cavity, slowly poisoning him from within.”
Is this really how people die with gunshot wounds in the stomach? Could a man this age survive for fifteen or twenty minutes with this injury?
We consulted medical literature. The overall mortality rate from gunshot wounds to the abdomen is approximately 12 percent. However, in the absence of vascular injury, the mortality rate is less than 5 percent. This includes a wide range of organs that could be injured. The most frequently injured organs from anterior abdominal gunshot wounds are small bowel, colon, liver/biliary system, spleen, vascular system, stomach.
Death is very dependent on which organ might be struck by the bullet. If, for instance, an artery is struck or the spleen damaged, rapid loss of blood can cause shock and death.
But perforation of the stomach alone does not kill a person quickly. It could take many hours. If SauniËre is a fit person and has no other injuries, there would be no reason why he should not live until the security guards could open the gate. By the same token, he probably does have sufficient time (and not just fifteen minutes, which seems improbable) to stagger around the Louvre and leave secret messages.
page 4: SauniËre is “a veteran of la Guerre d’AlgÈrie.” At age seventy-six, could he have served in the Algerian War?
Yes. The war for Algerian independence lasted from 1954 to 1962. If The Da Vinci Code takes place in 2001 or 2002, SauniËre would have been born in the mid-twenties. He would have been in his late twenties to late thirties during the course of the war.
page 15: The crisp April air is whipping through the window of Citro”n as Langdon is taken from his hotel to the Louvre. What day in April does the action take place on and what year is it supposed to be?
The clues are contradictory. One hint lies in Dan Brown’s previous book, Angels & Demons. That book also takes place in a twenty-four-hour time period in a month said to be April--in this case, in Rome. Robert Langdon, whose life as a Dan Brown character began with Angels & Demons, recalls in The Da Vinci Code that the prior experience was “a little over a year ago” (page 11). That would place the action in The Da Vinci Code later in the month of April than Angels & Demons since it is “a little over” a year ago. We also assumed that the action is in the latter part of April because Easter arrived in early April of 2001 and would have affected any mentions of crowds, traffic, and the like.
April 2001 looks good for a number of reasons. We will learn later that it has to be substantially past the turn of the millennium--probably by a year. This is because the plot instigated by Teabing and carried out through manipulation of Opus Dei and the Vatican, as we will come to find out, arose in a meeting of Aringarosa and churchmen at Castel Gandolfo during the previous November (page 149). The motivating reason for Teabing’s actions was that the Priory of Sion, expected to reveal the Grail secret around the turn of the millennium, had failed to do so.
September 11, 2001, was a worldwide shock, and it had a profound effect on security arrangements throughout Europe. Dan Brown would have had to treat the subjects of terrorism, religious fundamentalism, religious tensions in the Middle East, and all the many complexities of September 11 had he consciously been trying to set the action of the book in April 2002, when the memory of September 11 was still so fresh all over the world. Certainly, we would not have seen the same permissive attitude by customs officials allowing Teabing into England, for instance. Many other aspects of the plot, from how Swiss bank vaults are treated to security precautions in public buildings, would undoubtedly have been affected.
But the book has contradictory evidence as well. Langdon has euros in his pocket. This monetary unit was not released as currency and coin until January 1, 2002, which would argue for April 2002. Another item: the article in the New York Times Magazine about the art diagnostician Maurizio Seracini (mentioned in DVC on page 169) was a real-life article about the secret meanings of some of Leonardo da Vinci’s works--and it was published on April 21, 2002. So Langdon could not have known about it the year before.
So does the action take place in April 2002, with the noted symbologist simply ignoring the signs and symbols of the September 11 tragedy that has happened so recently (there is not one direct reference to it in the book)? Or is DVC set in April 2001 with the noted symbologist having premonitions of the euro coins and the New York Times Magazine article to come a year in the future?
page 15: The night breeze is scented with jasmine blossoms. Does jasmine grow in the area and does it bloom in April?
There are jasmine shrubs in the nearby Tuileries, but jasmine is a summer-blooming plant, starting around July and reaching a peak of fragrance around August.
page 15: The Citro”n “skimmed south past the Opera House and crossed Place VendÙme.” Is this possible?
No, to leave the Ritz Hotel on place VendÙme and pass the Opera House, you must go north, not south.
page 15: The Citro”n goes south on rue de Castiglione and turns toward the Louvre. It “swerved left now, angling west down the park’s central boulevard.” Is this possible?
No, you would be going east after turning left to go to the Louvre.
page 18: It would take a visitor an estimated five weeks to “properly appreciate the 65,300 pieces of art in this building” (the Louvre museum).
Think about it. If you spent an average of one minute per piece of art, and did not sleep, it would still take forty-five days of twenty-four hours each. This would hardly be called “properly appreciating” the artwork. Luckily, not all 65,000 pieces are on display, so you don’t have to try. The number on display is nonetheless formidable--approximately 24,400 works. If you put in six eight-hour days a week looking at one piece of art per minute, this would still be more than eight weeks.
page 21: Langdon says that “at President Mitterrand’s explicit demand” the new Pyramid monument at the entrance to the Louvre had been constructed of exactly 666 panes of glass.” It was a “bizarre request that had always been a hot topic among conspiracy buffs who claimed 666 was the number of Satan.” How many panes are actually in the Pyramid?
For this answer, we contacted the offices of the architect, the renowned I. M. Pei. A spokeswoman said the Pyramid actually contains 698 pieces of glass, as counted by one of the architects who worked on the project. She said the notion that President Mitterrand had specified the number of panes is “not based in fact.”
She also said the 666 rumor was published as fact by some French newspapers in the mid-1980s, commenting: “If you only found those old articles and didn’t do any deeper fact checking, and were extremely credulous, you might believe the 666 story.”
We also contacted Carter Wiseman, whose biography of I. M. Pei is among the works cited on Dan Brown’s bibliography. Wiseman points out that I. M. Pei is an architect interested almost exclusively in geometric patterns and abstractions. To think he was concealing symbolic content in his work would be to miss the whole point of his aesthetic, says Wiseman.
page 25: Fache wears a crux gemmata. What is the origin of this term?
It is a cross with thirteen gems, described by Brown as “a Christian ideogram for Christ and his twelve apostles.” In many places, orthodox Christianity calls for a plain wooden cross, or a cross with the body of Christ depicted. Gem-encrusted crosses arose in some medieval churches and were interpreted as signs of the resurrection. However, a crux gemmata can be seen as a sign of pride, power, and wealth as much as devotion.
page 26: Brown says the Louvre security cameras are all fake, and most large museums use “containment security.” True?
False. The concept of the gates that drop down and trap a thief comes from Pink Panther or The Thomas Crown Affair-type movies, not from reality. The Louvre not only believes in security cameras, but, in fact, it recently made a major upgrade of its security system using the French conglomerate Thales, and video cameras are a big part of the system. Thales Security & Supervision is managing “a total of 1,500 proximity access control readers, 10,000 contactless secure badges, 800 video surveillance cameras, including 195 with digital recording systems, and more than 1,500 intrusion alarm points,” according to the company.
page 27: Langdon notices that the security barricade “was raised about two feet . . . Placing his palms flat on the polished parquet, he lay on his stomach and pulled himself forward. As he slid underneath, the nape of his Harris tweed snagged on the bottom of the grate and he cracked the back of his head on the iron.” Is this likely?
No. In Angels & Demons, Langdon is said to have “the body of a swimmer, a toned, six-foot physique that he vigilantly maintained with fifty laps a day in the university pool.” A fit individual would be only about nine or ten inches thick, back to front. If he put his stomach on the floor and slithered, it would be unlikely his jacket or head would be touching the bottom of a grate that was a full two feet off the ground.
page 28: Brown says Opus Dei has its world headquarters at Murray Hill Place, 243 Lexington Avenue, New York City. Built for $47 million, 133,000 square feet, redbrick and Indiana limestone. Designed by May & Pinska, with over a hundred bedrooms, six dining rooms, and chapels on the second, eighth, and sixteenth floors. Seventeenth floor entirely residential. Men enter through the main doors on Lexington Avenue. Women enter through a side street and are “acoustically and visually separated” from the men at all times within the building. True?
Close enough. According to another source, Opus Dei “had just 84,000 members worldwide--three thousand in the U.S.--but its new $55 million, seventeen-story building in midtown Manhattan reflected a power far beyond its numbers.”
page 29: Brown says Opus Dei founder Escriv· published The Way in 1934, with 999 points of meditation for doing God’s work in one’s life. He says there are now over four million copies in circulation in forty-two languages.
Generally accurate. Actually, the original title in 1934 was Spiritual Considerations. It was revised a number of times. According to an Opus Dei website (www.josemariaescriva.info), the book “has been translated into forty-five different languages and has sold more than 4.5 million copies worldwide.” The Way does indeed have 999 points.
page 30: Brown writes about an organization that monitors Opus Dei’s activities called the Opus Dei Awareness Network [www.odan.org]. Does this group exist?
Yes. ODAN exists and that is their website.
page 30: Brown says FBI turncoat Robert Hanssen was a prominent member of Opus Dei.
True. Bonnie Hanssen’s brother is an Opus Dei priest in Rome whose office is mere steps away from the pope. One of Bob and Bonnie’s daughters is an Opus Dei numerary, a woman who has taken a vow of celibacy while remaining a layperson.
Bob Hanssen befriended bestselling espionage author James Bamford and, after pumping him for information about interviews he had had with Soviet leaders, would invite him to join him at Opus Dei meetings. “He was a little obsessed about it. Bob would rant about the evil in organizations like Planned Parenthood and how abortion was immoral,” Bamford recalled.
page 32: Fache and Langdon begin at the east end of the Grand Galerie and pass the fallen Carvaggio painting nearby. Is this where the Caravaggios hang?
No. They are hundreds of feet down the Grand Galerie, not far from SauniËre’s corpse.
page 35: SauniËre used his left index finger to draw the pentangle on himself. Is he left-handed?
Yes. Throughout the book there are clues that SauniËre is left-handed. This supports a supposed affinity with Leonardo da Vinci, whom some experts think was left-handed. (see Secrets of the Code, Chapter 8).
page 35: Brown says, “A white Ku Klux Klan headpiece conjured images of hatred and racism in the United States, and yet the same costume carried a meaning of religious faith in Spain.” True?
Long dark robes and hoods are worn by penitents during Holy Week throughout Spain, but nowhere so spectacularly as in Seville. Thousands of penitents representing some fifty-seven fraternities form a candlelight procession in honor of the Virgin Mary and in recognition of the suffering of Christ. They are hooded because no one is meant to be able to guess the identity of sinners who are seeking forgiveness. Each of the fraternities chooses their distinctive colors of hoods and robes. Ku Klux Klansmen typically have white hoods, but not quite as pointy as the Spanish penitents. It is unclear whether there is any connection between the two.
Interestingly, the KKK was founded in Polaski, Tennessee, in 1866, by six Confederate officers. One of them, the first imperial wizard of the KKK, was a former Confederate general and Freemason, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Oddly, Forrest was written into the book, Forrest Gump, by Winston Groom, which was made into an Oscar-winning movie in 1994. The book’s hero is said to be a namesake of Forrest, a distant relative.
page 36: Langdon says the pentacle is “representative of the female half of all things--a concept religious historians call the “sacred feminine” or the “divine goddess.” True?
No. The pentacle represents both male and female, exactly as does yang and yin.
page 36: “As a tribute to Venus, the Greeks used her four-year cycle to organize their Olympic Games. Nowadays, few people realized that the four-year schedule of the modern Olympics still followed the half-cycles of Venus. Even fewer people knew that the five-pointed star had almost become the official Olympic seal but was modified at the last moment--its five points exchanged for five intersecting rings to better reflect the game’s spirit of inclusion and harmony.” True?
Partially true, partially false, and much more complicated. The Greeks did not use their Olympics to pay tribute to Venus. The Olympics were dedicated to Zeus.
Instead of a decade, the Greeks had calendar cycles of eight years. Each cycle was called an octaeteris, and this was later divided into four-year periods called olympiads.
The primary reason for the eight-year cycle was that the Greeks observed a close fit between ninety-nine lunar cycles and eight earth cycles. More than any other heavenly body, the moon is likely to govern what a month is in any ancient culture. (However, they also did know that Venus completes five synodic cycles in the same eight-year period.) The ninety-nine/eight coincidence allowed them to make five years of twelve months and three years of thirteen months--the added months coming in the third, fifth, and eighth years. As the Greeks improved their calendar, they could divide the octaeteris into two parts, of fifty and forty-nine lunar cycles, which became known as olympiads. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a calendar!
The average Greek would not have been able to detect it, but a patient astronomer would be able to take note of the five nodes of Venus’s travel in the sky. From the latitude of Greece, this would have made a very irregular pentacle.
The five rings are a modern symbol. They were invented in 1913 by Pierre de Coubertin, president of the International Olympic Committee. He originally intended them to signify the first five games, but the interpretation was later amended to have the rings represent the five original continents.
The five-ring symbol was mistakenly ascribed to ancient origins when a Nazi propaganda filmmaker for the famous 1936 games (attended by Hitler), had a five-ring stone carving made and filmed it against the backdrop of Delphi.
page 37: Langdon says, “Symbols are very resilient, but the pentacle was altered by the early Roman Catholic Church. As part of the Vatican’s campaign to eradicate pagan religions and convert the masses to Christianity, the church launched a smear campaign against the pagan gods and goddesses, recasting their divine symbols as evil.”
Brown conveniently disregards the fact that Christian emperor Constantine, who elsewhere in the book is treated as the enemy most responsible for wiping out Gnostic, goddess, and pagan traditions, used the pentagram, together with the Chi-Rho symbol [formed from the first two letters, X and P, of the Greek word for Christ] in his seal and amulet.
page 45: Brown says Leonardo had an “enormous output of breathtaking Christian art . . . accepting hundreds of lucrative Vatican commissions, Da Vinci painted Christian themes not as an expression of his own beliefs but rather as a commercial venture--a means of funding a lavish lifestyle.” True?
Not true. Leonardo’s output was not enormous. He characteristically had trouble finishing works and they would drag on for long periods. The number of paintings he finished is extremely small compared to most great figures in the history of art.
page 52: Sophie’s personal code for her answering machine is 454. Is this number significant to Dan Brown or a random number?
We don’t know, but the hardcover book does end on page 454.
page 55: Silas leaves home at the age of seven after his father kills his mother and he kills his father. He is imprisoned at age eighteen and freed by an earthquake at thirty. Aringarosa dubs him “Silas.” According to Dan Brown, he has forgotten “the name his parents had given him.”
Hard to believe that he has truly forgotten his name. Anyway, what did he call himself for twenty-three years? What did the authorities call him when they decided he was too dangerous to remain in Marseilles and when they imprisoned him? What did his jailors call him for twelve years?
page 58: Brown says chapter 16 of Acts speaks of Silas as a prisoner, naked and beaten, laying in his cell, singing hymns to God, when an earthquake frees him. By coincidence, the albino has been freed by an earthquake, so the bishop names him Silas. To what does this refer?
In the Book of Acts, both Paul and Silas were imprisoned together, by false accusations. The earthquake freed all the prisoners, but Paul and Silas did not leave. Instead, they first converted their jailer to Christianity and baptized him, then they refused to leave until their accusers came and apologized and led them out of the prison.
page 60: Sophie decrypts the numerical series and comes up with 1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21, which she says is the Fibonacci sequence, “one of the most famous mathematical progressions in history.” Is she accurate?
Not completely. Mathematicians agree that the Fibonacci sequence includes 0, making the full sequence 0-1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21 . . . Note that a math sequence is properly written with an ellipsis at the end, indicating that the series continues indefinitely.
page 65: Sophie tells Langdon about the “GPS tracking dot.” It is described as “a metallic, button-shaped disk, about the size of a watch battery.” Sophie explains that it “continuously transmits its location to a Global Positioning System [GPS] satellite that DCPJ can monitor. It’s accurate within two feet anywhere on the globe.” Does such a system exist?
Yes, but it’s much larger than the unit that Sophie describes. For instance, units that help in tracking wild animals have been fashioned into somewhat bulky dog collars (or bird or fish collars). They recognize their position via GPS, and transmit to satellites--but these are not GPS satellites. Rather, they are Argos or GlobalStar satellites. [GPS satellites do not receive signals from GPS receivers.] Unfortunately, you cannot use an Argos satellite continuously at any one point on earth, since it orbits and goes out of sight.
But smaller units for continuous tracking can be constructed, if you accept that they do not need to transmit to satellites. These have small radio transmitters, good up to fifteen miles, and if you stay within range, you can track them 24/7. The smallest of these units is still about ten times the size of the so-called GPS dot that Sophie describes.
All of these units require antennas, and there is a relationship of antenna size to receiving sensitivity or transmitting power. So you might require a two- or three-inch antenna even if you could make the transmitter into a dot.
page 78: The men’s room window looks out of the “westernmost tip of the Denon Wing” of the Louvre. Sophie looks out and sees that “Place du Carrousel ran almost flush with the building with only a narrow sidewalk separating it from the Louvre’s outer wall. Far below, the usual caravan of the city’s nighttime delivery trucks sat idling, waiting for the signals to change.” Is the view correct?
The men’s room is not located at the western tip of the Denon Wing and this part of the building is not open to the public, but let’s assume it was. The Place du Carrousel is not almost flush with the outer wall. Nor is it a major truck route with caravans of trucks idling in line.
page 79: Sophie says the U.S. embassy is “only about a mile from here.” True?
Close. It’s about 4,100 feet, and you can see it from the posited location of the men’s room window, but Sophie will still miss it when she goes to drive there!
page 82: Fache has a Manurhin MR-93 pistol. Is this used by French authorities?
Yes, this is the weapon of the French police. It is an extremely rugged revolver with distinctive styling.
page 85: Brown says, “The last sixty seconds had been a blur.” He then describes action beginning with Sophie throwing the GPS dot out the window. Since this includes Fache sprinting the length of the Grand Galerie, how fast was Fache as a runner?
Sign him up for the French Olympic team! He could be a sub-four-minute miler!
page 85: Brown says that the “twin-bed Trailor delivery truck” traveled from the Louvre, south on the pont du Carrousel (crossing the Seine) and then turned right onto pont des Saints-PËres. Can this be done?
No. If you cross the pont du Carrousel southward, you must turn right onto quai Voltaire, a one-way street going west. This takes you away from pont des Saints-PËres, not toward it. Also, pont des Saints-PËres is one-way going north.
page 86: Brown says the trailer truck drove to within ten feet of the end of the building (the west end of the Louvre’s Denon Wing). It heads south across the Seine. By tossing the GPS dot into the truck, they make the French police believe that Langdon has jumped out the window into the truck. Is this possible?
No. First of all, the public restrooms of the Louvre’s Grand Galerie are not at the end wall of the building. But even if we pencil in a men’s room there, the Place du Carrousel is more than fifty feet away from the building’s wall. No one could jump and reach the street, even its nearest edge. By law, they drive on the right side of the street in Paris, so the southbound traffic would be farthest from the Louvre, adding another twenty feet or so. We doubt that Fache is going to believe Langdon jumped.
page 92: Brown says Tarot cards come in a deck of twenty-two and have a suit called Pentacles, as well as three cards named the Female Pope, the Empress, and the Star. Does this accurately describe a Tarot deck?
Yes and no. For a guy who is supposed to be into the occult, Brown misses key facts here. There are actually seventy-eight cards in the most common Tarot decks. There are the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana, and then the fifty-six cards of the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana can be thought of as Trumps, but literally, the divisions are Major Secrets and Minor Secrets.
The four suits are Wands, Cups, Pentacles, Swords. The suit called Cups, unmentioned by Brown until later in the book, is a clear reference to chalices.
The complete tale of Tarot, which can be embellished at will by anyone, will include (at least) Freemasonry, Gnostics, the Female Pope, the Holy Grail and much more, but not always interconnected in the way The Da Vinci Code portrays. The card in the Major Arcana now commonly known as the High Priestess stems from an early deck and the legend of the Female Pope, or Pope Joan.
According to a widely told medieval legend, a woman named Joan disguised herself as a man, rose in the priesthood, and actually became pope. But she became pregnant by another priest and not only could not hide it, but came to give birth in the streets, whereupon a crowd recognized her deception and tore her to pieces. There is another story suggesting an Italian female pope closer to the era of the renaissance.
In any event, around 1450, several decks of tarocchi (Tarot) cards were commissioned by the great Visconti family, including one widely recognized as one of the earliest extant decks, the Visconti-Sforza deck. An early Female Pope card is found in this deck.
page 93: Brown uses a classroom setting to talk about the Divine Proportion. He congratulates a student who recognizes the number 1.618 as PHI (pronouncing it “fee"). Is this correct?
Somebody must have told Dan Brown that there are two numbers, one uppercase and the other lower, and he took them to mean PHI and phi. But in fact, the numbers are written out as Phi to mean the Divine Proportion, and phi to mean its reciprocal. In English, it is pronounced “fye” to rhyme with “pie.”
But we are astounded that a famous symbologist such as Robert Langdon would not use the symbols for this number pair, the Greek uppercase ÿ and lowercase ¯. With all the other symbols in the book, couldn’t Doubleday have gotten the Greek letters set into type?
The true statements are that the number Phi can be derived from the Fibonacci sequence, is found often in nature, math, and architecture and has names like Golden Mean, Golden Ratio, etc.
Phi is an irrational number (goes on forever after the decimal point). If you want it longer, just do the math--1.618033988 is Phi at nine decimal places, for instance, and some people have calculated it out to thousands of decimal places.
page 94: “Hold on,” said a young woman in the front row. “I’m a bio major and I’ve never seen this Divine Proportion in nature.”
“No?” Langdon grinned. “Ever study the relationship between females and males in a honeybee community?”
“Sure. The female bees always outnumber the male bees.”
“Correct. And did you know that if you divide the number of female bees by the number of male bees in any beehive in the world, you always get the same number?”
Honey is golden, but do the bees follow the Golden Ratio?
Brown bumbles badly. The population of a hive changes throughout the seasons, and the seasons change throughout the world, so there can be no time when all the beehives in the world have the same ratio of male-female population. Bad news for the guys: in the fall, practically all the drones (males) are driven out of the hive to die, so the male population approaches zero.
In the spring and summer, there will be drones. But bee experts have counted hive populations and the numbers they use are nothing like a Divine Proportion. For instance, an average active hive will have one queen, about three hundred to one thousand drones (males), and fifty thousand workers (females). If you do what Langdon says and divide the female number (50,001) by the male number (we’ll use one thousand), you get fifty--not even close to 1.618.
page 98: Brown says, “French kings throughout the Renaissance were so convinced that anagrams held magic power that they appointed royal anagrammatists to help them make better decisions by analyzing words in important documents.”
We don’t think there were French kings that were gung-ho for anagrams “throughout the Renaissance,” a period that lasted from around 1483 to 1610. But one king, Louis XIII, who reigned from 1610 to 1643, was famous because he appointed a royal anagrammist, Thomas Billon. But there’s not much evidence to suggest Billion had a big role in decision making. It was said Billon’s function was “to entertain the court with amusing anagrams of people’s names.”
This citation is found everywhere that anagram aficionados refer to their history. Louis XIII ascended to his throne at the age of nine, but we don’t know when the appointment of Billon occurred. The young king was initially governed by his mother, then later heavily influenced by advisors such as Cardinal Richelieu.
page 98: Brown says, “The Romans actually referred to the study of anagrams as ars magna--ëthe great art.’ “
Did the Romans speak English? Anagrams is the English word that can be rearranged to make ars magna. The Latin word for anagram is anagrammat or anagramma, modified from earlier Greek terms.
page 99: SauniËre once wrote the word planets and told Sophie “that an astonishing ninety-two other English words of varying lengths could be formed using those same letters.” True?
It’s astonishing that SauniËre did not pose a higher number. We can think of 101 words and we’re not that smart.
page 106: Brown says, “To this day, the fundamental navigational tool was still known as a Compass Rose, its northernmost direction still marked by an arrowhead . . . or, more commonly, the symbol of the fleur-de-lis.” Is this factual?
Perhaps you’ve seen a movie where the compass rose has a big fleur-de-lis at the top on a treasure map. You’ll want to believe it’s on modern maps, but no, it’s not. It’s hard to say which of the compass roses in use on today’s charts and maps is the most common. But we can answer for the standard U.S. aviation and marine charts. They don’t have a fleur-de-lis.
The air charts have a simple arrow for north, and they are already oriented for magnetic north. The nautical charts have a prominent marker for true north on the outer ring, and a smaller simple arrow for magnetic north on the inner ring. The true north marker? A five-pointed star, oddly enough. Mariners readily recognize its symbology to mean the north star, Polaris.
Since most people don’t use a compass for navigating on road maps, which are perhaps the most common maps, they don’t have compass roses. They usually just have north arrows. Old charts and maps--particularly charts drawn by those master cartographers, the Portuguese--commonly do have a fleur-de-lis for north. Interestingly, they also often have a cross--typically a Maltese cross--for east. This is because east was thought of as being “toward Jerusalem.” So Dan Brown missed his chance to remark on yet another usage of the Knights Templar symbol.
page 106: Brown says, “Long before the establishment of Greenwich as the prime meridian, the zero longitude of the entire world had passed directly through Paris, and through the Church of Saint-Sulpice. The brass marker in Saint-Sulpice was a memorial to the world’s first prime meridian, and although Greenwich had stripped Paris of the honor in 1888, the original Rose Line was still visible today.”
Paris was not the site of the world’s first prime meridian. Not by about fourteen hundred years. The first known attempt to establish a prime meridian came in the second century b.c., when Hipparchus of Rhodes proposed that all distances be measured from a meridian running through the island of Rhodes, just off the southern coast of Turkey. But perhaps a stronger attempt was made by the Greek Ptolemy, writing between A.D. 127 and 141. His prime meridian went through the Canary Islands. Ptolemy’s works, as revived by the German Benedictine monk Nicholas Germanus around 1470, were hugely influential and became the inspiration for Christopher Columbus.
As many countries established claims throughout the world through voyages of exploration, they often attempted to establish their own prime meridians. There were hundreds of years of confusion on this point, but England emerged as the world’s technical leader in cartography and navigation. What it came down to is, if you printed the best charts, you got to say where the zero lines began.
The hubbub came to a head in 1884 when President Chester A. Arthur called a conference in Washington to get international agreement on a prime meridian and a universal twenty-four-hour day. At the time, ships attempting to get their bearings at sea were confronted with a total of eleven national prime meridians: Greenwich, Paris, Berlin, Cadiz, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Rio, Rome, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, and Tokyo. But by then, some 72 percent of commercial shipping recognized Greenwich, while only 8 percent used Paris.
The twenty-five nations voted twenty-two to one to make it Greenwich. Abstaining were Brazil and--you guessed it--France. France clung to the Paris meridian as a rival to Greenwich until 1911 for timekeeping purposes and 1914 for navigational purposes.
page 120: Professor Langdon refers to the artist as “Da Vinci.” Is this correct?
No. It grates on the nerves of everyone who is knowledgeable about art. His actual name is Leonardo di ser Piero and he was from the town of Vinci, so he was thus, Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (from Vinci). Throughout the art world, his shortened name is Leonardo.
page 121: Professor Langdon “reveals” Leonardo’s secret joining of male and female in the Mona Lisa by rearranging the name to become Amon L’Isa, a putative androgynous union. Could Leonardo have intended such a pun?
This all relies on the painting being called Mona Lisa. Since Leonardo never called it Mona Lisa, this is completely absurd. In Leonardo’s lifetime, the painting had no title. It was referred to by a variety of names, including “a courtesan with a gauze veil.”
page 121: Brown says, “At first Langdon saw nothing. Then, as he knelt beside her, he saw a tiny droplet of dried liquid that was luminescing. Ink? Suddenly he recalled what black lights were actually used for. Blood.” Plausible?
Dan Brown, if you’re going to watch CSI, ya gotta pay attention! Blood doesn’t luminesce in black light without some chemical help. If you use Luminol (a CSI favorite) you don’t need special light, just a darkened room. That’s because the reagent triggers chemiluminescence, giving off its own somewhat eerie glow.
If you use Fluorescein (an alternative preferred for faint latent blood traces), you do need an ultraviolet light. But first, you spray the area of interest with a freshly made batch of Fluorescein solution, and then with a hydrogen peroxide solution. Sophie didn’t have the time or materials to do this.
page 124: The message scrawled in front of the Mona Lisa says, “So dark the con of man.” Langdon sees this as a perfect expression of a fundamental Priory of Sion philosophy, that the powerful men of the early Christian church conned the world with a bunch of lies.
As a classical scholar, Langdon should not jump to the meaning of con as in confidence game or confidence man, involving cheating and swindling. This term came into use around 1886, relatively late. The Shakespearean-era term con meant “to know or learn” or “to commit to memory.” To a scholar, the most likely meaning of the phrase would be “So dark the knowledge of man.”
page 128: Dan Brown has Silas look up Job 38:11 in the Bible at the altar in Saint-Sulpice. “Finding verse number eleven, Silas read the text. It was only seven words. Confused, he read it again, sensing something had gone terribly wrong. The verse simply read: ëHitherto shalt thou come, but no further.’ “
There are more than seven words in the verse. The King James Version gives these seventeen words as the complete verse 11: “And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?”
It is also highly doubtful that Silas would be reading an English-language Bible at the altar of a venerable French cathedral in the heart of Paris.
page 131: Sophie gets the key from the back of the painting Madonna of the Rocks by Leonardo. Brown’s description: “The masterpiece she was examining was a five-foot-tall canvas.” Later, he says that Sophie “had actually lifted the large painting off its cables and propped it on the floor in front of her. At five feet tall, the canvas almost entirely hid her body. . . . The canvas started to bulge in the middle . . . The woman was pushing her knee into the center of the canvas from behind!”
This painting is not five feet tall. It is about six feet six inches tall, not including the frame. Also, it is four feet wide. Sophie would have to be a giant to be visible behind it, and she would have to be unbelievably strong to pull it off the wall and set it down without wrecking it.
page 137: “The vehicle was easily the smallest car Langdon had ever seen.
“ ëSmartCar,’ [Sophie] said. ëA hundred kilometers to the liter.’ “
Sorry. The SmartCar is nifty and thrifty. It gets great gas mileage, but not a hundred kilometers to the liter--not even close! Your mileage may vary, but perhaps a typical figure is nineteen kilometers per liter. For several years, SmartCar has been the rage in Europe, built in Germany and France and now owned by DaimlerChrysler under the Mercedes-Benz brand. To see some examples, go to daimlerchrysler.com.
There are a series of two-seat versions of the SmartCar with hip styling (originally provided by Swatch). At eight feet long, two can fit in a normal parking space. You can’t buy the two-seaters in America, except through very special arrangements. The new four-seater versions were to be brought to the U.S. market sometime in 2006, but at presstime this plan had been delayed indefinitely. A rumored “SUV” version (with four-wheel drive) was in the wind for the American market for 2007.
page 138: The destination is the American embassy. Sophie drives north to the rue de Rivoli, and west on Rivoli a quarter mile to a “wide rotary.” Coming out the other side of the “wide rotary,” she is heading out the wide Champs ElysÈes. and now the embassy is “only about a mile away,” according to Brown. Sophie turns hard right, “cutting sharply past the luxurious HÙtel de Crillon” and into the diplomatic neighborhood. Suddenly, they discover themselves one hundred yards short of the police blockade at the avenue Gabriel.
Sophie needs a better map. When she was headed west on Rivoli and reached the area of the “wide rotary,” she had found place de la Concorde, a huge open square that is the centerpiece of Paris. On the north side of this square is the HÙtel de Crillon. Nearby is the American embassy, where rue de Rivoli becomes avenue Gabriel. If you have found one, you have found the other. (One attraction of rooms at the Crillon is the view of the embassy.)
page 147: The destination is the Gare Saint-Lazare. As Sophie leaves the area of the rue Gabriel, stymied by the police blockade, she heads back west onto the Champs ElysÈes, going to the Arc de Triomphe and taking a street going north from the rotary there (most likely, the avenue de Wagram). She goes north a few blocks, then turns hard right onto the boulevard Malesherbes. Eventually, with another turn or two, she ends up at the train station.
Once again, Sophie needs a better map. As she leaves the rue Gabriel, she is only about a quarter-mile away from the Gare Saint-Lazare, if she would only head north. Instead she goes a long way west, then north, then back south and east, to reach the same point after a trip that is roughly one and a half miles longer than it needs to be. Maybe she just wants to get to know Langdon a little better?
page 148: Dan Brown says, “Architectural Digest had called Opus Dei’s building ëa shining beacon of Catholicism sublimely integrated with the modern landscape.’ “ Is this an accurate quote?
We queried Architectural Digest about this. They replied tersely, “Architectural Digest has never featured the headquarters of Opus Dei.”
page 153: Aiming to leave Paris, Sophie directs the taxi driver and they head north on rue de Clichy. Out the window to his right, Langdon sees Montmartre and SacrÈ-Coeur.
Yes. This is a plausible view.
page 154: While going north on rue de Clichy, Sophie discovers that the address on the key is 24 rue Haxo. The taxi driver tells Sophie that rue Haxo is “out near the [Roland Garros] tennis stadium on the western outskirts of Paris.” . . . “Fastest route is through Bois de Boulogne,” the driver says.
The taxi driver, too, needs a better map. You do not have to meander through the park called the Bois de Boulogne in order to get to the tennis stadium. There is a high-speed, limited-access artery, the boulevard PÈriphÈrique, which will take you right to the stadium.
But there is a big discrepancy here, because the rue Haxo is not in this western region of Paris. In fact, it is on the east side of the city.
page 155: Fache learns that Langdon bought train tickets. “What was the destination?” he asks. “Lille,” says Collet. “Probably a decoy,” says Fache.
How can he be so sure?
Perhaps because he knows that trains for Lille do not depart the Gare Saint-Lazare. The Lille train departs the Gare du Nord. On page 152 in some earlier editions of The Da Vinci Code, Langdon and Neveu buy tickets for the 3:06 a.m. train from the Gare Saint-Lazare to Lyon. In later editions, it is from the same station and at the same time, but to Lille. In general, one would not use Gare Saint-Lazare for either route.
page 157: Sophie asked Langdon to tell her about the Priory of Sion.
“ 'The brotherhood’s history spanned more than a millennium,’ he mused . . .”
“ 'The Priory of Sion,’ he began, ëwas founded in Jerusalem in 1099 by a French king named Godefroi de Bouillon.’ “
Well, if it was founded in 1099, how could its history span “more than a millennium”?
page 157: Dan Brown says the park called Bois de Boulogne was known by Paris cognoscenti as “the Garden of Earthly Delights” because of its “hundreds of glistening bodies for hire, earthly delights to satisfy one’s deepest unspoken desires--male, female, and everything in between.”
Our French friends don’t call it the Garden of Earthly Delights; maybe that was just an excuse for Brown to introduce an allusion to Hieronymus Bosch and his painting of the same name. It is, however, a fact that the park is teeming with male and female prostitutes and transvestites at night.
page 160: Langdon describes the plot formulated by Pope Clement V and King Philippe IV of France to arrest and execute the Knights Templar in a coordinated effort starting at dawn on Friday, October 13, 1307. This is said to be the actual, direct source of the modern superstition about Friday the thirteenth.
This is only one of a variety of explanations for the superstition about Friday the thirteenth being unlucky.
page 166: Bishop Aringarosa asks Silas, “Were you not aware that Noah himself was an albino?” Does it make sense for the bishop to say this?
The Bible does not say Noah was an albino, but the Book of Enoch--one of the apocryphal books that was omitted from the Bible--does have this description of the birth of Noah:
“Unto Lamech my son there hath been born a son, the like of whom there is none, and his nature is not like man’s nature, and the colour of his body is whiter than snow and redder than the bloom of a rose, and the hair of his head is whiter than white wool, and his eyes are like the rays of the sun, and he opened his eyes and thereupon lighted up the whole house.”
But this is actually a kind of glued-on appendix to the Book of Enoch. And in any case, it is hard to imagine that a mainstream Opus Dei supernumerary such as Aringarosa would subscribe to scriptures from the alternative camp.
page 168: Sophie takes over the driving and soon has the car “humming smoothly westward along AllÈe de Longchamp, leaving the Garden of Earthly Delights behind.”
Sophie says the taxi driver had said the destination, rue Haxo, is “adjacent to the Roland Garros tennis stadium” and she is confident of finding it. “I know that area,” she says.
Sophie needs a better map. AllÈe de Longchamp runs north-south and is one-way going north. The tennis stadium is not west of the park, but south of it. As we said before, rue Haxo is on the east side of Paris, miles away.
page 169: Leonardo’s famed Adoration of the Magi was sketched by the master, but filled in by some rogue artist who modified the composition. This was revealed by X-rays and infrared reflectography. Italian art diagnostician Maurizio Seracini discovered the secrets of the painting and the story was published in the New York Times Magazine.
All true. Seracini is a genuine, renowned art diagnostician. The article was written by Melinda Henneberger and published April 21, 2002. Ms. Henneberger is researching a book on Seracini’s main quest, to find the lost Leonardo fresco, Battle of Anghiari.
page 172: The Zurich bank signage reminds Langdon that the Swiss national flag contains an equal-armed cross.
Not only is the cross equal-armed, but the official flag of Switzerland is unusual in being a perfect square (not a rectangle), further accentuating the symmetry.
page 176: Is there really a Depository Bank of Zurich?
If you Google it, you will find a website that looks for half a second like it could be real. Then you will discover it is part of the Dan Brown-Random House treasure hunt. It is a fun site to visit with a lot of inside jokes for readers of the book. Also try Googling Robert Langdon, and you may find a similarly amusing faux site.
page 181: Collet is at the Gare du Nord when Fache calls him. Why is he there?
Fache had told Collet to “alert the next station, have the train stopped and searched.” He sent Collet off to supervise. Fache has apparently forgotten that Lille trains don’t depart the Gare Saint-Lazare, so Gare du Nord is not the “next station.” It is even more implausible for Collet to have gone to the Gare du Nord in the earlier editions of the book, where Sophie and Robert have bought tickets for Lyon, far south of Paris.
page 184: Vernet tells Sophie she needs to know her ten-digit account number. “Ten digits. Sophie reluctantly calculated the cryptographic odds. Ten billion possible choices. Even if she could bring in DCPJ’s most powerful parallel processing computers, she still would need weeks to break the code.”
There are at least a couple of things wrong with Sophie’s assessment. First, the basic task of getting a computer to run through all ten billion possible numbers isn’t at all difficult and any of today’s ordinary computers can do it in minutes. You don’t need parallel processing or huge computers. Admittedly, if you insist on printing out all the possible numbers, you will be in for a long wait at the laser printer and will face a huge bill for paper and toner.
But it has been a long time since a professional security system was built that would allow the user to make endless attempts to guess the passcode. Recognizing that people often slip on the keyboard, some systems allow up to three attempts, but the Depository Bank of Zurich has a stricter policy--you only get one try, as Sophie learns on page 188.
page 201: Sophie muses about the cryptex: “If someone attempted to force open the cryptex, the glass vial would break, and the vinegar would quickly dissolve the papyrus. By the time anyone extracted the secret message, it would be a glob of meaningless pulp.”
This isn’t plausible to us. Papyrus itself is made from matted strips of the papyrus plant, layered with a flour paste (to which a dash of vinegar was added during manufacture). The fibers are mostly cellulose, an extremely durable material that doesn’t instantly dissolve in vinegar. If we were told that the message on the papyrus is written in ink that dissolves with vinegar, we would be much more inclined to believe it. Note that the cryptex would probably contain papyrus that SauniËre had obtained, manufactured during his lifetime, not five hundred years earlier.
page 201: The cryptex has five dials with twenty-six letters each. Sophie does the math:
“That’s 26 to the fifth power . . . approximately twelve million possibilities.”
Yes, it’s 11,881,376, to be exact.
page 218: Langdon begins to speak of Sir Leigh Teabing’s estate, which he says is “near Versailles.” Later (page 220), Dan Brown describes it as follows :“The sprawling 185-acre estate of Ch‚teau Villette was located twenty-five minutes northwest of Paris in the environs of Versailles. . . . The estate fondly had become known as la Petite Versailles.” Is the Ch‚teau Villette real and is it near Versailles?
The real-life Villette is up for rent to any tourist who can pay five thousand dollars a night, and has been kicking around the Web for some time as a kind of vacation rental listing. The California-based rental agent’s ad copy says Villette is “near Versailles, northwest of Paris.” The history of the house told in The Da Vinci Code matches the history on the rental agent’s site, including the seventeenth-century involvement of Le NÙtre (designer of many of the gardens at Versailles) and Mansart. This is clearly a beautiful and historic house.
However, we would not call it near Versailles, except in real estate business jargon. Versailles is about ten miles west of the center of Paris and three miles south. Villette is about twenty miles west of Paris and ten miles north. The road distance between them is about nineteen miles.
page 224: Vernet phones and instructs the bank’s night manager to activate the armored truck’s “emergency transponder.” The manager goes over to the bank’s LoJack panel and does so, warning that it will also alert the police. Vernet remains on the phone in order to hear the location of the truck. Is this how LoJack works?
Not exactly. In France, LoJack is called Traqueur. It requires a call to the police in order to activate the vehicle transmitter. Once this is done, it is the police, in their cars and helicopters, who use tracking gear to find the vehicle. You do not get an instant position report unless the police are ready to spring into action and coordinate their tracking efforts. It may take hours. (If you wanted instant results, you would need a system that reports its own GPS coordinates--like the “GPS dot” on DVC page 65, for instance.)
Traqueur has a number of advantages, however. First, it is thoroughly entrenched in France, which has more or less blanket coverage with over twenty-three thousand police cars and forty-two helicopters (far more comprehensive coverage than in the United States, in fact). Second, its discreet, coded signal allows the police to prepare quietly to make the arrest, rather than issuing a signal that can be decoded by anyone.
page 227: Gargoyles! Flashback to SauniËre taking young Sophie to Notre Dame in a rainstorm. The gargoyle rainspouts are gurgling. “They’re gargling,” her grandfather told her. “Gargariser! And that’s where they get the silly name ëgargoyles.’ “
No. Gargariser is current French for “gargle.” The term that both gargle and gargoyle stem from is not gargariser but gargouille, an old French word meaning “gullet” or “throat.” But the etymology is much more interesting than that! According to myth, in the seventh century a dragon rose up out of the River Seine. But rather than breathing fire, this dragon gushed forth water. His name was Gargouille, or Throat. He proceeded to drown the towns around Paris, until he was confronted and tamed by St. Romain, the archbishop of Rouen, who made the sign of the cross with his two index fingers. Throat was led tamely back to Paris, slain and burned, but not before they cut off his head and mounted it on a building.
Many buildings, old and new, have scary creatures adorning them. Strictly speaking, only those creatures that are part of the gutter systems, spouting water, are called gargoyles in honor of Gargouille. All the other creatures are called grotesques.
page 227: Sophie says she “studied at the Royal Holloway.” Is that a place to learn cryptology?
Yes, the Royal Holloway is a part of the University of London and has respected undergraduate degree programs in mathematics and computer science. It offers M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees and is host to the Information Security Group, a graduate-level conclave of scholars known for cryptology work.
page 233: “Hold on,” says Sophie. “You’re saying Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote?” “A relatively close vote at that,” Teabing added.
Holy hanging St. Chad, Batman, let’s see the Supreme Court settle this one!
The vote was 316 to 2. Teabing calls this close? By the way, there really was a St. Chad. He humbly stepped aside in a.d. 669 when a dispute arose as to who was properly ordained as the Bishop of York.
page 234: Dan Brown says, “The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert.”
The year was 1947. Some Bedouin herders were searching for a lost goat and found the cave with jars containing ancient scrolls. Initially, seven scrolls were brought out, but further searches yielded thousands of scroll fragments over the next decade or so.
page 234: “Because Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death, thousands of documents already existed,” Teabing says (referring to the Council of Nicea).
Fuzzy math again: If Jesus died around A.D. 30 and the Council of Nicea met in A.D. 325, how many centuries elapsed in between? We think it rounds off to three centuries, not four.
page 243: “Our preconceived notions of this scene are so powerful that our mind blocks out the incongruity and overrides our eyes,” said Teabing.
"It is known as scotoma,” Langdon added.
Interesting syndrome, but not quite right. What Teabing has said does not correctly describe scotoma, which is a real visual defect or disease, not a mere perceptual quirk.
The definition of scotoma is “a blind spot or dark spot in the visual field.” Medically speaking, “Scotomas may be central, if caused by macular or optic nerve disease, or peripheral if the result of chorioretinal lesions or retinal holes.” There is even a phenomenon associated with migraine headaches called scintillating scotoma, where the blind spot pulsates and has ragged edges.
True lacunae buffs take note: in the first hardcover edition of The Da Vince Code, this word is misspelled as skitoma.
page 246: Sophie recalls that “the French government, under pressure from priests, had agreed to ban an American movie called The Last Temptation of Christ.”
The French government did not ban the movie. The 1988 film, directed by Martin Scorsese, was based on a 1955 novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, who is also known for writing Zorba the Greek. It did indeed portray Jesus (Willem Dafoe) as lusting after Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey).
When the novel was published, it triggered protests and some bannings (the Vatican, most notably), but not in France. The Greek Orthodox Church excommunicated Kazantzakis, who was nominally a member. When Scorsese’s movie opened, there were protests practically everywhere, including the firebombing of a theater in Paris, as well as attacks on movie houses elsewhere in France. There were incidents of violence throughout the world. In the United States, a protester crashed a bus into a theater lobby. At least two governments did ban the film--Chile and Israel--but not France.
By the way, if SauniËre is supposed to be keeping a low profile, why is he writing such a letter? And if Sophie is supposed to be thirty-two at the time of the novel, making her born around 1969-70, why is she talking to her grandfather about the 1988 movie in the discussion represented on page 247, with childlike naivetÈ, wondering if Jesus had a girlfriend?
page 251: Aringarosa “had a chartered turbo prop awaiting him” at Ciampino Airport [page 251]. But on page 272, he is found in a “chartered Beechcraft Baron 58.”
The Beech Baron 58 is not a turboprop. It has piston engines and burns gasoline. A turboprop has turbine engines that drive propellers and it burns jet fuel.
page 271: The police find Silas’s Audi. “It had rental plates. Collet felt the hood. Still warm. Hot even.” What are rental plates?
There isn’t a special plate for rental cars, but there is a coding system that sometimes gives away the information that thieves, for instance, might be seeking. Each region (department) of France has a code assigned to the last two digits of a license plate. Taxes vary with different departments, so the rental companies became known for plates ending with ninety-two, fifty-one or twenty-six, where they registered their cars because taxes were lowest. The rental car companies have been phasing out this practice. Insiders can still readily identify a plate as nonlocal, however.
page 272: Aringarosa is racing “northward” over the Tyrrhenian Sea on a flight from Rome-Ciampini to Paris.
If you go due north from Rome, you will not reach the sea. You must go northwest or west.
page 279: On page 220, Langdon brought the armored truck to a shuddering stop at the foot of the mile-long driveway. Now, on page 279, “a sea of blue police lights and sirens erupted at the bottom of the hill and began snaking up the half-mile driveway.”
Leigh Teabing has a long driveway. But is it a mile or half a mile?
page 280: Here, we learn that “Collet and his agents burst through the front door . . . They found a bullet hole in the drawing room floor, signs of a struggle . . .” But a few pages later, on page 296, we find out that “Collet was grateful that PTS had located a bullet hole in the floor, which at least corroborated Collet’s claims . . .”
Gee, you would think that Collet would have told the PTS people that he had found the bullet hole, but maybe he let them discover it on their own.
page 281: Here we read this description: “Collet ran to the door, trying to see out into the darkness. All he could make out was the faint shadow of a forest in the distance.” But two pages later, on page 283, RÈmy “was doing an impressive job of maneuvering the vehicle across the moonlit fields.”
Perhaps the moonlight was different at one end of the field than at the other?
page 293: “The Hawker 731’s twin Garrett TFE-731 engines thundered.”
We understand what airplane Dan Brown is probably talking about, but practically no one would call it a “Hawker 731.” It is a Hawker-Siddeley HS-125 with Garrett 731 jet engines, a representative model being an HS-125-400-731. This was originally built by de Havilland, then British Aerospace, and now is under the Raytheon banner.
page 300: Dan Brown describes the $30.8 million purchase by Bill Gates of “eighteen sheets of paper” comprising the Leonardo notebook known as the Leicester Codex.
The eighteen sheets are two-sided and fold in half, creating a seventy-two-page booklet. The wealthy Armand Hammer bought the codex in 1980 for $5.2 million and renamed it the Hammer Codex, but Gates restored its name to Leicester Codex. Its home is the Seattle Art Museum, but it has toured the world and has been made into an interactive CD.
page 332: The police were “awaiting the moment when the plane’s engines powered down. The instant this happened, a runway attendant would place safety wedges under the tires so the plane could no longer move.”
Practically the whole world over, the “safety wedges” are called “chocks.” In England, Dan Brown’s “runway attendant” would be called a “marshaller.”
page 332: “The Hawker’s engines were still roaring as the jet finished its usual rotation inside the hangar, positioning itself nose-out in preparation for later departure. As the plane completed its 180-degree turn and rolled toward the front of the hangar . . .”
No jet pilot would attempt this maneuver. Pilots simply do not operate planes inside hangars. The jet vortices would make lethal projectiles out of anything not bolted down in the hangar, and the thrust would very likely blow the hangar’s walls out. A Biggin Hill pilot told us this would be “a sackable offense.”
page 343: The Temple Church survived “only to be heavily damaged by Luftwaffe incendiary bombs in 1940,” according to Dan Brown.
The incendiary bombs actually fell on the night of May 10, 1941.
page 343: As Teabing and company arrive at Temple Church, “the rough-hewn stone shimmered in the rain.” A minute or two later, inside, “Teabing pointed toward a stained-glass window where the breaking sun was refracting through a white-clad knight riding a rose-colored horse.”
We guess that this was the only ray of sun on an otherwise cloudy, rainy morning. Throughout the book’s activities in London during the morning, it is raining--sometimes heavily.
page 346: Teabing once had to lie on stage for half and hour “with my todger hanging out.” What’s a todger?
British slang for penis.
page 347: Teabing has spoken of Temple Church as housing “ten of the most frightening tombs you will ever see” a few pages earlier. Now, on page 347, inside Temple Church, Langdon sees “ten stone knights. Five on the left. Five on the right. Lying supine on the floor, the carved, life-sized figures rested in peaceful poses. The knights were depicted wearing full armor, shields and swords . . . All of the figures were deeply weathered, and yet each was clearly unique.”
But they are all surprised to find that “one of the knights is missing.”
There isn’t a knight missing. There are just nine carved knights in effigy. This should be no surprise to anyone who knows the Temple Church.
One of the main reasons for the weathered look of the knights is the damage caused by falling debris in the incendiary bombing by the Germans on May 10, 1941. The roof of the Round Church burned first, followed eventually by all the wood throughout the church.
page 360: Legaludec’s pistol is a “small-caliber, J-frame Medusa.” What is this?
This appears to be a confusion of two weapons. The J-frame is commonly associated with a series of snubby revolvers in the Smith-Wesson lineup, such as the Model 60, a five-shot .357.
The Medusa is a very special weapon made by Phillips & Rodgers that does not confine itself to one caliber. Instead, it accepts a wide range of ammo from the same approximate caliber, such as .357, 9 mm and .38 rounds. It is a small six-shot revolver. Interestingly, at the request of forensic scientists, the gun is made with nine rifling lands and grooves, making it probably unique among handguns.
page 365: In the barn loft at Villette are examples of a listening system that the French police consider “very advanced . . . as sophisticated as our own equipment. Miniature microphones, photoelectric recharging cells, high-capacity RAM chips. He’s even got some of those new nano drives.” They discover a radio receiving system and they agree that the remote bugs are “voice-activated to save hard disk space, and [they] recorded snippets of conversation during the day, transmitting compressed audio files at night to avoid detection. After transmitting, the hard drive erased itself and prepared to do it all over again the next day.” Collet now looks at a shelf containing “several hundred audio cassettes, all labelled with dates and numbers.” What’s wrong with this picture?
Quick! Find any ten-year-old kid and ask him or her whether it would make sense to store MP3 files on audio cassette tapes! (Just to be fair, first explain to the kid what a cassette tape was and what the player used to look like!)
For those who can’t get the story from a kid, the compressed audio files can be played right on the computer and stored right on the computer’s hard drive, or transferred to a CD or DVD for safekeeping. It would be time-prohibitive and unnecessary to make audio tapes. By the way, what are nanodrives? We are students of nanotechnology developments, and can imagine many things there may be in the future, but we’re not sure what Dan Brown is talking about here, except to sound futuristic.
page 367: Langdon and Sophie “hurdled the turnstile at the Temple tube station” on their way from Temple Church to the library of the Institute of Systematic Theology. Does a Tube ride make sense for this trip?
No. There are two problems with this trip. If you wish to find the Institute of Systematic Theology, you will need to go to Room 2E of the Cresham Building on Surrey Lane (on the day when the institute’s scholars meet). If you run to the Temple Tube station, you are only half a block from the Cresham Building and there is no need to go into any station.
But, the octagonal room that is described as the library of the institute won’t be found in the Cresham Building. In all likelihood, this is really the Round Room, which is in the Maugham Library of Kings College. To get there from Temple Church, you just go north, cross the Strand, and go up Chancery Lane. It’s only a block. If you ran to the Tube station, you would be going the wrong way.
page 377: Dan Brown says there is a “Research Institute in Systematic Theology” at King’s College in London. Is this real?
Yes. The respected institute is run by the college’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies. However, it is really just a conclave of scholars who meet regularly in a seminar room and often host conferences on theology.
page 377: Dan Brown says the Kings College Research Institute in Systematic Theology has a primary research room that is a “dramatic octagonal chamber.” Sophie and Langdon arrive just as the librarian is making tea and settling in for the day. Does that sound right?
The room he describes does exist as part of Kings College, but it is in the Maugham Library on Chancery Lane. It doesn’t belong to the Research Institute. It does not open until 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, and we estimate that Sophie and Langdon would reach it sometime around 8:30 at the latest (even after getting lost a bit).
page 379: Dan Brown says the Kings College Research Institute on Systematic Theology for two decades had used “optical character recognition software in unison with linguistic translation devices to digitize and catalogue an enormous collection of texts--encyclopedias of religion, religious biographies, sacred scriptures in dozens of languages, histories, Vatican letters, diaries of clerics, anything at all that qualified as writings on human spirituality.” The data is said to be accessible via a “massive mainframe” computer that can search at five hundred Mb/sec through a “few hundred terabytes” of information. Does this exist?
No. We contacted the faculty of the Research Institute. They were surprised and amused to learn about their putative huge computer and database.
One professor told us, “Our computing facilities are the staff desktops [currently G3 iMacs].” He said, “We do not, unfortunately, have any computing resources devoted to assembling ëa huge [or even modest] database of theological works.’ “ He added, “I once tried using optical recognition software, but it was such a disaster that I typed the piece in myself instead.”
page 392: In seeking “a knight A. Pope interred,” Langdon obtains this “hit” on the Research Institute computer: “Sir Isaac Newton’s burial, attended by kings and nobles, was presided over by Alexander Pope, friend and colleague, who gave a stirring eulogy before sprinkling dirt on the tomb.” Did Pope really preside and read a eulogy?
No. Newton’s funeral on March 28, 1727, was remarkable in the lofty honor afforded Sir Isaac. He was considered almost a deity. According to a chronicle of the time, his body was brought from the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey by pallbearers that included a lord, two dukes and three earls. The chief mourner was Sir Michael Newton, and the Bishop of Rochester read the service.
Although Alexander Pope was probably the preeminent poet of the time, his role came later, when a number of people decided to erect a monument to Newton about four years after his death. Because Pope had a reputation for writing outstanding epitaphs (and earned a good income from it), he was selected to write the epitaph that appears on the monument. It became one of the most famous of all time:
Testantur, Tempus, Natura, Caelum:
Hoc marmor fatetur.
Nature and Nature’s Laws lay hid in Night.
God said, Let Newton be! and All was Light.
page 393: Sophie and Langdon seemed to have arrived at the King’s College institute library around 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, yet they find it open and staffed by the friendly and efficient Pamela Gettum. This seems improbable. What time do these early birds get to Westminster Abbey and is it open?
Our calculations show that they probably arrive at Westminster Abbey at about 8:45 a.m.. Although they move right into the abbey without problem, the fact is that it doesn’t really open until 9:30 a.m. This is just one of several problems we have identified with the timeline of The Da Vinci Code’s action. Another is with the air travel of Bishop Aringarosa. The bishop’s travels are inconsistent with the rest of the timeline, in our opinion. In the extreme possibility, it seems he could be airborne about six hours from Rome to Biggin Hill, with intermediate points that do not fit the trip. But further, if events were taken in sequential order in the book, he would instantly arrive at 5 Orme Court to be shot by Silas, when it should require about fifty minutes to get from Biggin Hill to London center.
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