The Da Vinci Code

by Dan Brown

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Analysis and Review

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Dan Brown’s enthralling The Da Vinci Code spans two thousand years of Western history and examines such timeless enigmas as Mona Lisa’s smile and the secret of the Holy Grail. Robert Langdon (a character in other Brown novels) investigates the late-night murder of Jacques Saunière, the brilliant and influential seventy-six-year-old curator of the Louvre museum. The police find the body of the older distinguished gentleman in close proximity to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and surrounded by gruesome ciphers.

Before he died, the wounded Saunière seized one of Caravaggio’s paintings to activate the museum’s alarm system. His murderer fled, and the clever old man, realizing he was in the throes of death, used his remaining time wisely. Removing his clothes, he drew a pentagram in blood on his torso before arranging himself like the figure in Leonardo’s famous drawing The Vitruvian Man. A world-class iconographer, the dying victim also wrote Leonardo Fibonacci’s famous numerical series in blood, along with what seems like a postscript to find Robert Langdon. Langdon, a renowned Harvard symbologist, had an appointment with Saunière in Paris and soon comes to realize that the esoteric clues left by Saunière before he died were meant for him, and for one other, to decipher.

Langdon shortly meets Saunière’s estranged granddaughter, a brilliant, young, attractive police cryptographer, Sophie Neveu. Neveu has not communicated with her grandfather since she found him performing unspeakable sexual rites in the basement of their French countryside home. Distraught over her grandfather’s cryptic death, she decides to get involved in solving the case, against the orders of her police Captain, Bezu Fache. Fache has tricked Langdon, who believes he was called in as an expert witness, into coming to the Louvre. The police have misinterpreted Saunière’s final injunction to find Langdon and view the symbologist as the primary murder suspect. The postscript, or P.S., means Princess Sophie, a term of endearment given to the orphaned Neveu by her grandfather. The dead man’s message was merely a way to get Langdon and his granddaughter in league to solve his final vital communication.

Together, the hero and heroine ditch the French police and their Global Positioning System tracking dot. They set out to decipher the mysterious clues that the victim spent the last moments of his life composing for them. Ultimately, this complex set of clues will lead them to yet another, even more complex, series of clues planted in the works of Leonardo da Vinci, particularly the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Leonardo da Vinci is responsible for developing a highly complicated code that, if deciphered, will lead to the Holy Grail.

Following the famous artist’s signs, Langdon and Neveu embark on a two-day, breathtaking journey through France and England, searching not only for the murderer of Sophie’s grandfather but also for the tantalizing and incredibly dangerous secret dating back to the death of Christ.

Saunière was a high-ranking agent of the Priory of Sion, a one-thousand-year-old secret society descended from the Knights Templar, whose members are said to have included Sandro Botticelli, Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and even Leonardo da Vinci himself. Saunière died that dark evening in the Louvre trying to protect a secret code that could bring to light the priory’s historical function as protector of the Holy Grail. He martyred himself rather than reveal the code but left clues for his much-loved granddaughter to uncover and preserve the ancient knowledge, which comprises a series of documents, or scrolls, that tells the true, highly incriminating story of Christianity. The Priory of Sion was founded in France in 1099 in an effort...

(This entire section contains 1711 words.)

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to guard these precious ancient scrolls.

Naturally, the Catholic Church, in an effort to preserve itself, wants the scrolls destroyed at any cost because they would expose historical discrepancies that the Church has been covering up. The scrolls demonstrate that Man created the idea of Original Sin. Indeed, they identify the Bible as a compilation of stories—not the word of God but the words of a group of men intent on positing the historically popular and influential Jesus Christ as a divine being strictly to expand their own political schemes.

Behind Saunière’s murder, it seems at first, lies the severely traditional Catholic organization Opus Dei, which translates into “God’s Work,” and the especially conservative, globe-hopping Bishop Aringarosa, whose entire focus in life is the discovery and destruction of the Grail. He sees himself as the savior of the traditional “true” Catholic Church and is willing to go to any lengths to secure the scrolls, including recruiting Silas, a simple-minded but dangerous, self-flagellating albino monk who was once a murderer. Aringarosa rescued Silas, converted him to Christianity, and brainwashed him into becoming his weapon of death out of sacred necessity. Silas murdered Saunière at the Louvre and remains on the trail of Langdon and Neveu.

Another mysterious figure called The Teacher, in turn, controls Bishop Aringarosa. Officials from the Vatican, not happy with the radical viewpoint of the extremely conservative Opus Dei, especially with its demeaning stance toward women, have informed Aringarosa that they no longer want to be associated with his organization. Indeed, they desire Opus Dei to separate from the Church of Rome. The Teacher offers to rescue the bishop’s sole purpose in life. In exchange, Aringarosa must help in the attempt to uncover the Grail.

Saunière was the world’s leading expert on goddess iconography, and both Langdon and Neveu realize immediately that the bloody pentagram he painted on his torso represents the long-discredited sacred feminine. The author Brown explains that since the time of Constantine the Great, encroaching Christianity waged a campaign of propaganda that denigrated the sacred feminine and eradicated the ancient pagan goddess (represented down through time by Venus, Isis, Ishtar, and Astarte), transforming the West’s religious beliefs from female-centered, matriarchal paganism to patriarchal Christianity.

Always one step ahead of the authorities and the treacherous monk Silas, the couple weave past and through churches, banks, embassies, and consulates, while Neveu erratically drives her SmartCar and at one point even an armored truck. They discover that Fibonacci’s famous numerical series, left by Saunière in blood, is also the combination for the victim’s Swiss bank safe deposit box. Inside the box, they find a secret message on papyrus in a vial of vinegar that can be opened only by a secret password.

Langdon takes Neveu to meet Sir Leigh Teabing, an enormously rich Englishman and a knight. By now, the couple’s photographs are being shown on television. They are wanted by the police, but Teabing protects the fugitive couple and allows them to stay at his chateau. An avid Grail scholar, he has spent his life and much of his fortune in search of the Grail and dearly desires to bring to light the Church’s coverup regarding its account of Christ’s life. The Holy Grail’s description as a chalice, he tells Langdon and Neveu, is merely a metaphor for a woman.

Teabing explains that one of the figures in Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Milan fresco The Last Supper is, in fact, a woman, the well-known penitent prostitute Mary Magdalene. If one looks closely at the famous picture, the apostle sitting immediately to Jesus’s right is actually a demure, redheaded woman. The manner in which Jesus and Mary sit suggests an intimate relationship. There is no single chalice on the table. The true Holy Grail, or sacred vessel, Teabing tells his incredulous houseguests, is Mary Magdalene, long falsely vilified as a prostitute by an emerging Christian patriarchy to nullify her power. He even cites the apocryphal gospel of Mary Magdalene. Teabing argues that she was the wife of Jesus Christ and the mother of his child, who was born in France after the Crucifixion.

Teabing goes on to claim that Christ’s descendants intermarried with the royal French line, the Merovignian dynasty, and that this French line continues, in secret, under the name of Plantard. The present-day descendant, Teabing contends, looking deeply into her amazed eyes, is Sophie Neveu herself. Neveu reveals that her parents and brother were killed in a car accident when she was a child, and Teabing informs her that the crash was an attempted murder from which she managed to escape.

Langdon, Neveu, and Teabing fly inconspicuously from Paris to London to visit the 1185 Templar Church and then the tomb of Sir Isaac Newton at Westminster Abbey, where they hope to uncover the key that will lead them to the precious scrolls. The action comes to a head when Teabing, who is actually The Teacher, cannot contain his excitement at uncovering the evidence.

Still more clues lead Langdon and Neveu to a small country chapel where the remnants of Neveu’s family secretly reside. After a tearful reunion with her heretofore-unknown grandmother and brother, Sophie finds that her grandfather died trying to protect her life. The sexual acts that she caught him performing were actually sacred fertility rites to the ancient goddess, and his partner was his own wife, Neveu’s grandmother. Sophie forgives her grandfather, and his pet name for her, Princess Sophie, comes to take on far deeper significance.

Langdon as a character is brainy rather than brawny. Neveu is physically attractive, but also refreshingly cerebral. While the hero and heroine are certainly attracted to each other (and do become lovers), they are merely, it seems, providing the perfunctory physical liaison necessary in best-selling novels. Their real attraction for each other lies in enacting mind games, solving puzzles, and outsmarting the enemy.

In his fast-paced, multifaceted theological thriller, Brown illustrates some nineteenth century Grail theories. His novel posits very unconventional, indeed controversial, interpretations of Christianity that may be disturbing to deeply religious readers. Those who love whodunits, conspiracy theories, or theological novels, however, will enjoy this book, a fine and enthralling mystery.

Review Sources

America 189, no. 20 (December 15, 2003): 15-17.

Booklist 99, no. 13 (March 1, 2003): 1148.

Kirkus Reviews 71, no. 1 (January, 2003): 5.

Library Journal 128, no. 18 (November 1, 2003): 138.

The New York Times, March 17, 2003, p. E8.

Newsweek 141, no. 23 (June 9, 2003): 57.

People 59, no. 11 (March 24, 2003): 44.

Publishers Weekly 250, no. 5 (February 3, 2003): 53.

Historical Context

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Though there is no explicit reference to the year in which it takes place, The Da Vinci Code is set in a time contemporaneous with its publication in 2003. The narrative refers to several recent events, from the construction of the New York headquarters of Opus Dei in 2000 to the scandalous public indictment of Opus Dei member and FBI spy Robert Hanssen in April of 2001. Brown's contentious portrayal of Opus Dei appeared as the organization struggled to redeem its reputation after being accused by former members of using cultish techniques. The novel's suggestion that widely accepted histories are simply works constructed by those in power has motivated historians to critique its liberal interpretations of the past. Its equally strong claims about an alternative history of Christianity have provoked many biblical scholars to counter in a growing number of books written explicitly to discredit the novel. Its portrayal of religious fanaticism plays into readers' fears of spiritual politics, especially in the wake of recent terrorist acts committed by religious fundamentalists. In depicting Mary Magdalene as one of the most important early Christian leaders, the novel also brings out the debate about the role of women in Christianity, a highly charged issue as the Catholic Church elected a new Pope after the death of John Paul II in 2005, the Church's leader for almost a quarter century. The novel's female critic of the Church, Sister Sandrine, feels that "most of the Catholic Church was gradually moving in the right direction with respect to women's rights," but objects to Opus Dei, which "threatened to reverse the progress." Feminist scholars praised the novel's assertions that Mary Magdalene played a more important role than the official Bible indicates, and that femininity has been suppressed by Christian leaders throughout history.

While the novel is obviously fiction as a thriller that follows its protagonists through some extremely narrow escapes and ends with complete resolution, it does make interpretations of two historical events worth mentioning here: the origin of the Priory of Sion in the eleventh century, and the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.

As a secret society, the Priory of Sion is shrouded in mystery. On the first page of the novel, unambiguously titled "Fact," Brown claims it is a "European secret society founded in 1099," and writes that in 1975, documents were found that identify figures from Sir Isaac Newton to Leonardo da Vinci as Priory members. Scholars have pointed out that Brown takes this claim from another international bestseller titled The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (1982) by Henry Lincoln, Richard Leigh, and Michael Baigent. Brown uses the last names of the two latter authors as straightforward and anagrammatic sources for his fictional historian, Leigh Teabing. Their book refers to the true story of a priest appointed in 1885 named Bèrenger Saunière, who mysteriously acquires great wealth in a short period of time, and eventually purchases a lavish estate. Though the story of Bèrenger Saunière is widely accepted as fact, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail assumes that Saunière's wealth is a direct result of his finding secret papers that prove the existence of Jesus' and Mary Magdalene's lineage. It also suggests that the real Saunière is a member of the Priory, which has existed since the eleventh century. But these myths were perpetuated by his housekeeper, Marie Dénarnaud, and the next owner of his estate, Noël Corbu, who turned the estate into a resort to maximize public interest, thus increasing his profit. When the eccentric Parisian Pierre Plantard heard of the story in the mid-twentieth century, he created a series of documents including false genealogical records that suggested his relation to the Merovingian line. With the help of his friend Phillipe de Chérisey, Plantard crafted fake parchments containing coded messages, all of which were introduced under pseudonyms into the Bibliothèque Nationale in the 1960s. But these "dossiers secrets" were exposed as forgeries, and historians agree that there is no proof that the Priory has existed since the eleventh century. A French journalist uncovered the hoax in the 1980s, and a BBC documentary titled "The History of a Mystery" reiterated its falsity in 1996.

Brown's historian, Leigh Teabing, brings out the second relevant historical event when he discusses the Council of Nicaea, a gathering called by Roman Emperor Constantine the Great to unite the government with the Catholic Church. During this meeting, the Bible was officially canonized and Jesus' divinity was made concrete. Teabing argues that Constantine the Great "collated" the Bible and suppressed the Gnostic gospels, and that Jesus' divinity was debated and eventually accepted by a "relatively close vote." While making these controversial claims, he asserts that "everything you need to know about the Bible can be summed up by the great canon doctor Martyn Percy." Percy, a British theologian and the only living scholar Brown quotes, has responded to this reference in Brown's novel by discrediting the idea that Constantine could have divinized Jesus. Most of what Teabing says about Constantine comes from the same book of speculations Brown uses as evidence of Priory history, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Religious scholars point out that the council was called to address the "Arian heresy," or the unconventional belief that Jesus was not divine, that the gospels were considered authoritative as early as the first century A.D. Most historians, moreover, note that the "relatively close vote" to which Teabing refers was actually not close at all, and that Jesus' divinity was widely accepted among the early Christians. In fact, many scholars have invalidated the claims the novel makes about Christian history. Brown's theories are most convincing to those who see history as a conspiracy, not as a factual account of the past.

Additional commentary on historical context:

Christianity and the Goddess
The practice of critical Bible scholarship began in Germany in the early 1700s. German scholars undertook to examine the Gospels, in particular, as they studied how the four accounts of Jesus’ life differed and attempted to discover the accuracy of the Gospels. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, this so-called search for the historical Jesus became widely known, as scholars wrote numerous books proposing that this historical Jesus was separate from the Biblical Jesus. Many of the scholars claimed that Jesus was merely a mortal human, not divine, and also proposed that alternative Gospels existed that conflicted with the four Gospels in the Bible.

This proposal gained credence with the discovery of the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls in the mid 1900s. These texts—which are both copies of Old Testament books and writings by the Essenes, a Jewish sect many scholars believed Jesus belonged to—were subjected to extensive study, especially the Dead Sea Scrolls. In recent decades, Jesus scholars have advanced numerous theories about the true identity of Christ. They have variously argued that he was a rabbi, a prophet, a philosopher, or a preacher. American scholar Elaine Pagels is credited with bringing a revisionist view of Jesus to the mainstream with her 1979 book, The Gnostic Gospels. In it she argues that Christian orthodoxy grew out of the political considerations of the day, serving to legitimize and consolidate early church leadership. Although The Da Vinci Code does not extensively discuss Jesus’ true identity, its claim that he married Mary Magdalene and impregnated her with the intent of having her, not Peter, establish the Christian church would likely have been dismissed if it were not for the work of scholars such as Pagels. Scholars have also rehabilitated the image of Mary Magdalene from that of a fallen woman and prostitute into that of one of Jesus’ most loyal followers, thereby making it easier for Brown to propose in his novel that Magdalene was Christ’s wife.

In examining the origins and development of Christianity, recent scholars have also discovered its points of similarity with pagan cults that existed in the Roman Empire in the decades before Christ’s birth. For example, the cult of Mithraism, originally only a Persian religion before spreading throughout the empire, believed that Mithra was a sun god who would return to Earth at the end of time, and some cult followers believed that Mithra was buried in a stone tomb before being resurrected. Researchers have learned that the belief that December 25 was Christ’s birthday is similar to other religions’ beliefs that their gods were born near the winter solstice, including Mithraism’s belief that Mithra was also born on December 25. Additionally, many now point to many of the rituals, symbols, and practices of Christianity as having pagan roots.

Meanwhile, a growing numbers of people in the West have asserted over recent decades that humans originally believed in a Goddess, who manifested herself in a variety of forms. Many believe that the ancient worship of this Goddess took the form of fertility rites and other rituals, the creation of icons and symbols of the Goddess, as well as a mythology that stressed the importance of female divinities, especially in relation to birth, vegetation, and natural cycles. Brown combines the twin strands of Goddess worship and speculation about the real identity of Christ in advancing both the notion that Christ was married to Magdalene, and the belief that Magdalene and the Goddess principle she represents are legitimate objects of worship and veneration.

In addition, the past two decades have seen a rise in the West -- especially in America -- of so-called "New Age" movements. As a result, it has become more acceptable to forego traditional religions and religious organizations in favor of more spiritually based, non-denominational forms of worship. Without these relatively recent trends in spiritual practice, and without the rise of scholarship that has questioned the historical accuracy of The Bible and the Catholic church, The Da Vinci Code would likely have been rejected by readers and critics, or may not have been written at all.

Literary Style

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Fact in Fiction

The Da Vinci Code is striking in the way the fictional plot is woven into several other intriguing historical plots. References to actual historical figures such as Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Constantine the Great, and Leonardo da Vinci have prompted scholars to write articles and books responding to claims about them made by the fictional Saunière, Langdon, and Teabing. References to existing locations such as the Louvre and Rosslyn Chapel have generated so much interest that tour guides developed the "Da Vinci Code Walking Tour" in Paris and the number of tourists to Rosslyn Chapel doubled in the few years following the novel's publication. Further, references to real organizations such as Opus Dei and the Vatican have inspired many readers to question Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular.

Though the novel follows its fictional characters during the course of only a few days, the search for the answers to symbols, clues, and riddles Saunière leaves behind is related to the search for answers to mysteries in the Bible as well as the history of the quest for the Holy Grail. It also invokes the history of the Council of Nicaea and its role in shaping Christianity, the history of the Priory of Sion, and speculation about Leonardo da Vinci's artwork. Though the narrative raises several questions about history, the fictional plot in The Da Vinci Code ends with most of its questions answered and its conflicts resolved.

Suspense

Any description of this novel would not be complete without mentioning suspense, or the literary technique of creating excitement, apprehension, and expectation. The final sentences of the Prologue give nothing away as they describe how Saunière sets the scene that will preoccupy characters during the first half of the novel: "Wincing in pain, he summoned all of his faculties and strength. The desperate task before him, he knew, would require every remaining second of his life." When a clue is left on the glass covering the Mona Lisa, the last sentence of the chapter indicates only that "six words glowed in purple, scrawled directly across the Mona Lisa's face," and the narrative shifts to another scene in the following chapter before showing readers what those words are. Curious omissions, changing interpretations of symbols and riddles, and plot twists in the narrative drive the reader to seek further for more complete descriptions and definitive interpretations, and to rush to the end of the novel.

Mystery

The major appeal of Brown's novel is its construction of profound mysteries, both fictional and historical. It deploys one of the most conventional elements of the classic mystery genre only to dismiss it immediately: the novel begins with a murder, but reveals the identity of the murderer in the second chapter. The central mysteries in the novel are the reasons behind Saunière's murder and the possible organizations involved, the meaning of various clues and riddles he leaves behind, and the truth about Sophie's family. Equally important is the novel's introduction to real historical mysteries. What role did Mary Magdalene play in Jesus' life? What was the real role of Constantine in shaping Christianity's future? How credible are the Gnostic gospels? What is the history of the Priory of Sion and who were its members? Was Leonardo da Vinci trying to communicate hidden messages in his paintings? What is the meaning of the number of Divine Proportion? Because the answers to these historical questions depend on historical evidence, or texts written by those who were victorious, the book plays upon the plausible idea that what is called history may be an artificial construction of true events. While the fictional mysteries in the novel entertain readers, the historical mysteries it interprets made it an international phenomenon.

Additional comments on style:

Thriller GenreThe Da Vinci Code is an example of a thriller novel because of its emphasis on action and suspense. Brown rapidly goes from action scene to action scene, with pauses only to relate characters’ backgrounds or to have characters explain their theories about the Priory of Sion, Leonardo, Christianity, and the Goddess. Langdon and Sophie are constantly in danger of either being killed or being arrested, and they make frequent getaways. The action moves from place to place with a dynamism that includes several chase scenes and numerous stand-offs. By generally keeping the interludes between action scenes brief, Brown establishes a pattern of constantly introducing dramatic tension into his novel. Brown also keeps the action shifting between different characters: although his focus is on Langdon and Sophie, he regularly devotes chapters to the actions of Silas, Bishop Aringarosa, and the Teacher. These interludes, in which the readers can briefly forget about Langdon and Sophie, add to the suspense of their story by both providing a fuller set of suspenseful scenes and increasing awareness of the dangerous conspiracy Langdon and Sophie face.

The tension is furthered still more by Brown’s continuous use of “cliffhangers” to close his chapters. This device forces readers to begin a new chapter if they want a resolution of the crisis that has just been introduced. However, by keeping nearly all of his chapters to five pages or fewer, Brown assures readers that it will not take long for any of these crises to be resolved.

Aspects of an Historical Novel
Although The Da Vinci Code is not actually a historical novel, it does claim to ground itself solidly in a historical context. Brown explicitly states at the beginning of the book that the Priory of Sion is real and that “all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” Such statements may be questioned, but they at least attempt to establish the novel’s seemingly amazing and groundbreaking assertions as the simple truth. Brown does not merely present an interpretation of Leonardo’s Last Supper in his novel; he maintains that the interpretation that Mary Magdalene is the figure seated at Jesus’ right, and that Peter, founder of the Catholic Church, is threatening her, is an incontestable fact. Brown’s presentation of an allegedly true revised history that most readers are completely ignorant of converts his novel from mere entertainment or fantasy into both a direct challenge to orthodox Christian belief and an attempt to alter the interpretation the last 2000 years of Western history sharply.

Symbolism, Imagery, and Metaphor
Brown’s novel is addresses the meaning behind Christian symbolism, but it also introduces a large number of symbols that both foreshadow future action and reassert the themes of the novel. One of these symbols is the red hair of Mary Magdalene and Sophie. This red hair establishes a link between the two women and subtly suggests the blood link that ties them together genetically. Although Leonardo’s primary role is to advance the plot, he also symbolizes the idea that only those who are expert at developing and interpreting secret codes can discern the real truth. Saunière’s “So dark the con of man” message scrawled on the Mona Lisa is simultaneously a proud assertion of the Priory’s knowledge of the “dark con” perpetrated by the Catholic Church, an interpretive challenge for Langdon and Sophie to meet, and a statement in sympathy with Leonardo’s alleged tendency to insert enigmatic yet readable messages into his own art. Langdon and Sophie are constantly challenged to match Leonardo’s cryptic wisdom in their efforts to unwrap hidden messages and realize their meaning.

The cilice belt worn by members of Opus Dei may be meant to give members a constant reminder of the crucifixion, but it also symbolizes the Church’s malign secrecy, its willingness to inflict suffering, and its belief that pain is good and worth enduring. Similarly, for the Church, blood symbolizes pain and suffering, but in the novel, blood symbolizes menstruation, a symbol of the life-giving power of women and the Goddess as well as the genetic links formed by this life-giving power.

Setting
By putting Langdon and Sophie constantly on the run as they attempt to find out both what the Holy Grail is and where it is located, Brown parallels the Grail tradition, in which knights leave their home behind to go in search of the Grail. Langdon and Sophie use cars, a plane, and the subway to look for the Grail rather than horses, but like the knights, they have gone searching for the Grail and will not stop their travels until they find it. Their travels together also increase the attachment the readers perceive between Langdon and Sophie because they encounter all kinds of danger supported only by each other and with only each other to provide stability, protection, or reassurance. By placing most of the action in famous and luxurious buildings of Paris and London, Brown underlines the Old World nature of a Grail quest: establishing the setting in the U.S. or Asia would rob the quest of much of its mystique and would seem incongruous. Placing the action in familiar yet alluring locales also enables Brown to captivate readers who can vicariously travel to England and France.

Media Adaptations

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  • The Da Vinci Code was released in 2003 as an unabridged version on audiocassette and audio CD. It is narrated by Paul Michael and is available from Random House Audio.
  • The film version of The Da Vinci Code stars Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon, Audrey Tatou as Sophie Neveu, and Ian McKellen as Leigh Teabing. It is directed by Ron Howard, produced by Columbia Pictures, and is set for release in 2006.
  • The official website written and updated by Dan Brown himself, www.danbrown.com, is an interesting and interactive website, but it is also primarily geared toward promoting sales of his novels.
  • ABC News Presents: Jesus, Mary and Da Vinci is an hour-long documentary hosted by Elizabeth Vargas, produced by Koch Vision, 2004. Vargas interviews Dan Brown himself, as well as Karen King and Elaine Pagels, both Gnostic Gospel scholars, and Richard McBrien and Darrell Bock, both Christian scholars. It presents competing views of the novel's controversial claims about Christian history, and is available on DVD from Koch Vision Studios.
  • Breaking the "Da Vinci Code" is an hour-long documentary featuring authors of books disproving the theories put forth in the novel, including Darrell Bock. It is produced by Grizzly Adams Family, 2005, and is available on DVD.
  • Cracking the "Da Vinci Code" is a documentary that runs an hour and a half and was produced by Ardustry Home Entertainment in 2004. Host and author Simon Cox defends the legend of the Holy Grail. It is available on DVD from Ardustry Home Entertainment.
  • "Da Vinci Code" Decoded is a three-hour documentary introduced by Dan Brown, produced by The Disinformation Company, 2004. It features interviews with the authors of books Brown used when researching for his novel and is available on DVD.
  • Exploring the "Da Vinci Code" is a video tour of the famous locations to which the novel refers, hosted by Henry Lincoln, one of the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and released in 2005 by The Disinformation Company. It is available on DVD.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Sources

Brown, Dan, The Da Vinci Code, Doubleday, 2003.

Cowley, Jason, "The Author of the Bestselling Da Vinci Code Has Tapped into our Post-9/11 Anxieties and Fear of Fundamentalism," in New Statesman, December 13, 2004, pp. 18-21.

George, Cardinal Francis, Ignatuis Books, www.ignatius.com/books/davincihoax (July 28, 2005).

Maslin, Janet, "Spinning a Thriller from a Gallery at the Louvre," in the New York Times, March 17, 2003, p. E8.

Millar, Peter, "Holy Humbug: Book of the Week," in the Times (London), June 21, 2003, p. 15.

Schlumpf, Heidi, "Who Framed Mary Magdalene?" in U.S. Catholic, Vol. 65, No. 4, April 2000, pp. 12-16.

Welbourn, Amy, "The Da Vinci Code": The Facts Behind the Fiction, Catholic Educator's Resource Center, www.catholiceducation.org/articles/facts/fm0035.html (July 28, 2005); originally published in Our Sunday Visitor, May 2004.

Further Reading

Bock, Darrell L., Breaking the "Da Vinci Code": Answers to the Questions Everybody's Asking, Nelson Books, 2004.

This guide focuses on the three centuries following the birth of Christ to examine the suggestions the novel makes about early Christian history. It largely discredits the theories Brown puts forth in the novel.

Burstein, Dan, Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind "The Da Vinci Code," CDS Books, 2004.

In a study almost as long as the novel itself, Burstein collects interviews and essays from historians, scientists, archeologists, and theologians, some of whom have contrasting views about the questions the novel raises. This is considered one of the most comprehensive guides to the topics the novel engages, such as what is known about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the Gnostic gospels, and secret societies.

Ehrman, Bart D, Truth and Fiction in the "Da Vinci Code": A Historian Reveals What We Really Know about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine, Oxford University Press, 2004.

A Professor of Religious Studies, Bart Ehrman uses the novel not only to explore Christian history, but also to show what a religious historian does to uncover the truth about the past. Rather than attempting to invalidate the theories of the novel or delving into theological issues, Ehrman cites inaccuracies in the fiction to show how historians interpret topics such as the significance of the Gnostic gospels, the role Constantine played in shaping Christianity, and the relation between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

Morris, David, The Art and Mythology of "The Da Vinci Code," Lamar Publishing, 2004.

Morris presents the artistic complement to Brown's novel in this comprehensive collection of photographs and illustrations of art and locations to which the novel refers, from da Vinci's paintings to the mythological images mentioned in the narrative. Each image is presented in the order in which it appears in the novel.

Welborn, Amy, De-Coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of "The Da Vinci Code," Our Sunday Visitor, 2004.

Though it is not the most comprehensive guide, Welborn's rebuttal of Brown's novel is extremely easy to read and concise. She systematically refutes many of the sensational claims Brown's characters make about Christian history from a Catholic point of view.

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