Study Guide

The Da Vinci Code

by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code Summary

Introduction

Since its 2003 publication date, Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code has had an impact not only in the world of literature and the related world of the arts but also in the social and political spheres. The Da Vinci Code is a stand-alone thriller, but again features Robert Langdon, the Harvard symbologist who was the lead character in Brown's 2001 novel, Angels and Demons, which was also a bestseller.

The Da Vinci Code was number one on the New York Times bestseller list, stayed on the bestseller list for over a year, and has sold over ten million copies worldwide. The novel reached many readers who might not usually pick up fiction, owing to the intriguing nature of its multi-layered plot: the idea that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child; deciphering the symbols found in many works of art, including Da Vinci's painting The Last Supper, that indicate this secret history; and the resulting power struggles between the Catholic Church and a secret society named the Priory of Sion over what to do with this explosive information.

The novel was well received by popular readers as a thriller, but reviewers debated its merits because of Brown's clumsy prose and the apparent anti-Catholic stance he takes in the novel. The Da Vinci Code won the British Book Award's Book of the Year, 2005, but it has also received much more negative attention from the Catholic Church; Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa urged Italian readers not to read the book, and many articles have been published attacking Brown's scholarship and his implications that the history presented in his novel is more widely accepted by scholars than it is.

The novel's influence can be seen in the books published in response to it, such as Martin Lunn's 2004 Da Vinci Code Decoded or Richard Abanes's 2004 The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code, but also in imitations and adaptations. The plot of the 2004 movie National Treasure, starring Nicholas Cage, revolves around similar coded messages, and Cage is even hunting treasure hidden by the Knights Templar, as Langdon does in The Da Vinci Code. A movie version of Brown's novel is due out in 2006.

The Da Vinci Code Synopsis

The Da Vinci Code begins with the murder of Jacques Saunière, the curator of the Louvre, in his museum by a large albino man. Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor of symbology, is roused from his midnight sleep in a Paris hotel to be told of Saunière’s murder. He is summoned to the murder scene by the French police, led by Captain Bezu Fache, and there he sees that Saunière tried to transmit an important secret in his dying minutes. Langdon meets Sophie Neveu, a cryptographer with the French police, at the murder scene and is told by her that he is under suspicion for the murder. Sophie and Langdon team up to escape from the Louvre and Fache’s men. She tells Langdon that Saunière was her grandfather, and Saunière raised her after her parents, grandmother, and brother were killed in a car wreck. The albino, whose name is Silas, has escaped the Louvre to find sanctuary in the Church of Saint-Sulpice, where he is pursuing the secret of the Holy Grail.

Sophie and Langdon begin trying to learn what secret Saunière was trying to transmit, and he tells her Saunière was part of an extremely powerful secret society called the Priory of Sion. Meanwhile, Silas tells a Sister at Saint-Sulpice that he has killed the four highest ranking members of the Priory in order to find out where the Holy Grail is. As Sophie and Langdon continue their escape, they make their way to the castle of Leigh Teabing, an expert on the Grail. There, Teabing tells them the Grail is actually Mary Magdalene, who was Jesus’ consort and the mother of his baby. Silas tracks them to the castle, where the three are releasing a keystone from a box that will help them find the Grail, or Magdalene’s body. They fend off Silas’ attack and flee in Teabing’s plane to England.

The chase moves from Kent, where the plane lands, to London. Teabing’s manservant, Rémy, reveals that he is in league with Silas in the attempt to discover the secret of the...

(The entire section is 552 words.)

The Da Vinci Code Summary (Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

As The Da Vinci Code opens, the protagonist Robert Langdon, a renowned Harvard symbologist lecturing in Paris, is awakened late at night. Jacques Sauniere, curator of the Louvre, has been murdered, and Langdon must lend his expertise to the investigation. Chief Investigator Bezu Fache has summoned Langdon partly because he regards Langdon as the prime suspect because he and Sauniere had an appointment to meet that night. Also, a cryptic message that Sauniere left behind included a phrase, which Fache had erased before summoning Langdon: “P.S. Find Robert Langdon.”

Sophie Neveu, a beautiful cryptographer, interrupts Fache and Langdon, announcing that Langdon has a phone call from the American embassy. On dialing the number, Langdon hears instead a warning from Neveu, who subsequently explains that she is Sauniere’s estranged granddaughter, who broke off contact with her grandfather when as a young girl she witnessed him participating in a sexual ritual for a secret society, the Priory of Sion. Langdon and Neveu escape after finding the key that Sophie’s grandfather left her. It belonged to him as Grandmaster of the Priory, a sect that guards the secret of the Holy Grail. The Grail is said to be the cup that Christ used at the Last Supper.

While Langdon and Neveu try to decipher an ever-expanding list of Grail clues, others besides the police pursue them. Bishop Manuel Aringarosa, head of Opus Dei, a conservative Vatican prelature, has been told by Vatican lawyers that his organization will lose its status of independence from local control in six months. Desperate, Aringarosa agrees to pay a fortune in Vatican bonds to a man calling himself The Teacher, who promises that he will bring Aringarosa the Holy Grail. Aringarosa must also entrust The Teacher with Silas, an albino monk whom he took under his wing years ago. Silas has a preconversion history of violence. The Teacher orders Silas to interrogate the four top leaders of the Priory, find out where the keystone to the Grail is hidden, and then kill the leaders. Getting the same confession out of all of his victims, Silas...

(The entire section is 860 words.)

The Da Vinci Code Extended Summary

Fact

The Da Vinci Code begins with a page titled "Fact," a term that sets the stage for the novel's notoriety. The...

(The entire section is 2385 words.)

The Da Vinci Code Chapter Summary and Analysis

Fact, Prologue, Chapters 1-10 Summary

Fact
Before the novel proper begins, Brown presents a list of crucial facts:

The Priory of Sion is a real secret society, founded in 1099, and Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci were all members.

Opus Dei is an existing sect of devout Catholics.

"All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." This flat statement gives The Da Vinci Code more power and influence than most works of fiction.

Prologue
Prologue Characters:
Jacques Saunière

Prologue Summary:
Louvre Museum, Paris
10:46 P.M.
The curator of the Louvre...

(The entire section is 1564 words.)

Chapters 11-20 Summary

Chapter 11
Chapter Characters:
Robert Langdon
Sophie Neveu
Bezu Fache
Jérome Collet

Chapter Summary:
At the crime scene in the Louvre, Sophie puts the numbers in order from smallest to largest (1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21) and calls the new order a "Fibonacci sequence." This is "'a progression in which each term is equal to the sum of the two preceding terms.'" For example, 1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 2 = 3, 2 + 3 = 5, and so on.

Langdon offers excuses after he gets off the phone, saying there was an accident requiring him to fly home, and asks to visit the restroom. While he is headed there, Sophie leaves. Fache goes to make a phone call, leaving Collet tracking Langdon...

(The entire section is 1050 words.)

Chapters 21-30 Summary

Chapter 21
Chapter Characters:
Robert Langdon
Sophie Neveu

Chapter Summary:
Sophie recalls that her grandfather, when young, created anagrams of works of art. He introduced her to the Mona Lisa when she was six years old, and she thinks a clue might be there. She decides to go back to the Mona Lisa while Langdon goes to the U.S. Embassy. They part and Langdon starts to leave the Louvre. He realizes there is more to the code and races back to join Sophie.

Chapter Themes:
The human world is encoded with meaning.
The centrality of human relationships, especially male-female relationships.
The influence of the past upon the present....

(The entire section is 1316 words.)

Chapters 31-40 Summary

Chapter 31
Chapter Characters:
Sister Sandrine
Silas, the albino monk

Chapter Summary:
Sister Sandrine calls all four numbers, but she finds the first three contacts are dead and leaves a message at the fourth: "'The floor panel has been broken!' … 'The other three are dead!'" Sister Sandrine does not know the identies of the contacts but was told to place the calls under one condition: "If that floor panel is ever broken, the faceless messenger had told her, it means the upper echelon has been breached. One of us has been mortally threatened and been forced to tell a desperate lie. Call the numbers. Warn the others. Do not fail us in this."

Silas...

(The entire section is 1393 words.)

Chapters 41-50 Summary

Chapter 41
Chapter Characters:
Bishop Aringarosa
Vatican officials

Chapter Summary:
At Castel Gandolfo, Bishop Aringarosa enters the library, where he finds the Secretariat Vaticana and two Italian cardinals. They give Aringarosa a briefcase containing Vatican bearer bonds worth twenty million euros. Although they would have preferred giving cash to Aringarosa because the bonds are traceable to the Vatican Bank, Aringarosa remembers the Teacher suggesting bonds as insurance: "We are all in this together now."

Aringarosa then heads for Paris.

Chapter Themes:
The power of belief, and the need to believe.

Chapter...

(The entire section is 1079 words.)

Chapters 51-60 Summary

Chapter 51
Chapter Characters:
Robert Langdon
Sophie Neveu

Chapter Summary:
As they search for a safe place, and Sophie tries to decipher the cryptex, Langdon realizes they need help, and decides to take them to visit Sir Leigh Teabing, a wealthy British Grail historian living in France.

Chapter Themes:
The human world is encoded with meaning.
The influence of the past upon the present.

Chapter 52
Chapter Characters:
Robert Langdon
Sophie Neveu

Chapter Summary:
When they arrive at Chateau Villette, they must answer three questions at the gate to be allowed to pass. While these are delivered...

(The entire section is 955 words.)

Chapters 61-70 Summary

Chapter 61
Chapter Characters:
Robert Langdon
Sophie Neveu

Chapter Summary:
Left along, Langdon and Sophie discuss the meaning of what she's learned. Langdon is arguing that signs of the Grail story are woven symbolically into all great art, including Walk Disney's work. Teabing's return interrupts their talk.

Chapter Themes:
The human world is encoded with meaning.
The centrality of human relationships, especially male-female relationships.
The influence of the past upon the present.

Chapter 62
Chapter Characters:
Robert Langdon
Sophie Neveu
Silas, the albino monk
Bezu Fache
Sir Leigh...

(The entire section is 720 words.)

Chapters 71-80 Summary

Chapter 71
Chapter Characters:
Robert Langdon
Sophie Neveu
Sir Leigh Teabing

Chapter Summary:
Aboard the plane to England, Langdon and Teabing try to identify the mysterious inscription. Sophie identifies it as mirror writing, as Da Vinci used. , because her grandfather introduced her to the practice.

Chapter Themes:
The human world is encoded with meaning.
The centrality of human relationships, especially male-female relationships.
The influence of the past upon the present.

Chapter 72
Chapter Characters:
Robert Langdon
Sophie Neveu
Sir Leigh Teabing

Chapter Summary:
The...

(The entire section is 728 words.)

Chapters 81-90 Summary

Chapter 81
Chapter Characters:
Robert Langdon
Sophie Neveu
Sir Leigh Teabing

Chapter Summary:
Teabing has the plane land, then go to the hanger briefly first instead. The Kent chief inspector insists on inspecting the plane. Teabing responds by leaving the plane, warning them not enter the plane. They do, but find nothing, because in the earlier trip to the hanger, Langdon and Sophie had pulled Silas from the plane and hidden him behind the limousine in which they all now drive away.

Chapter 82
Chapter Characters:
Robert Langdon
Sophie Neveu
Sir Leigh Teabing

Chapter Summary:
As they drive through...

(The entire section is 800 words.)

Chapters 91-100 Summary

Chapter 91
Chapter Characters:
Silas, the albino monk
The Teacher
Sir Leigh Teabing
Remy Legaludec

Chapter Summary:
Remy ties up Teabing and tapes his mouth shut. As he and Silas drive away, the Teacher calls, and th e Teacher tells Remy that he'll be killing Silas for his disobedience.

Chapter Themes:
The power of belief, and the need to believe.

Chapter 92
Chapter Characters:
Robert Langdon
Sophie Neveu

Chapter Summary:
Langdon and Sophie got to King's College to consult the database in the Department of Theology and R eligious Studies, for help breaking the code in the verse. The...

(The entire section is 972 words.)

Chapters 101-105, Epilogue Summary

Chapter 101
Chapter Characters:
Robert Langdon
Sophie Neveu
Bezu Fache
The Teacher/Sir Leigh Teabing

Chapter Summary:
Back at the Chapter House, Langdon weighs his choices. As Teabing watches, he remembers luring Silas to his death by having Silas tell him he'd received information about S's family's death. Langdon tries to trick Teabing by lying to him, then does trick him by throwing the cryptex into the air after having set the dials to spell out the missing five letter word: apple. This was the "orb" missing from Newton's tomb; the "Rosy flesh and seeded womb" of the verse refers both to the apple's color and seeds, and to the eternal feminine, which is symbolized...

(The entire section is 718 words.)