Summary of the book:
The Da Vinci Code is a mystery/detective novel by American author Dan Brown, published in 2003 by Doubleday Fiction. It is a worldwide bestseller with more than 60.5 million copies in print (as of May 2006) and has been translated into 44 languages. Combining the detective, thriller and conspiracy theory genres, the book is part two of a trilogy that started with Brown's 2000 novel Angels and Demons, which introduced the character Robert Langdon. In November 2004, Random House published a "Special Illustrated Edition", with 160 illustrations interspersed with the text.
The plot of the novel involves a conspiracy by the Catholic Church to cover up the "true" story of Jesus. The Vatican knows it is living a lie but does so to keep itself in power. The novel has helped generate popular interest in speculation concerning the Holy Grail legend and the role of Mary Magdalene in the history of Christianity. Fans have lauded the book as creative, action-packed and thought-provoking. Critics have attacked it as inaccurate, sacrilegious and decry the many negative implications about the Catholic Church and Opus Dei.
Dan Brown's novel was a smash hit in 2003, even rivaling the sales of the highly popular Harry Potter series. It spawned a number of offspring books and drew glowing reviews from the New York Times, the People Magazine and Washington Post . The novel has also inspired several tour groups like Da Vinci Code tours, and companies like Ravenchase Adventures to create Da Vinci code like races and adventures using codes, ciphers, actors and gadgets. It also re-ignited interest in the history of the Catholic Church. As well as re-invigorating interest in the church, The Da Vinci Code has also spawned numerous "knockoffs" (as they are referred to by Publishers Weekly) , or novels that have a striking resemblance to The Da Vinci Code, including Raymond Khoury's The Last Templar, and The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry.
Sony's Columbia Pictures has adapted the novel to film, with a screenplay written by Akiva Goldsman, and Academy Award winner Ron Howard directing. The film is set for release on May 19, 2006, and will star Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon, Audrey Tautou as Sophie Neveu, and Sir Ian McKellen as Leigh Teabing.
Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
The book concerns the attempts of Robert Langdon, Professor of Religious Symbology at Harvard University, to solve the murder of renowned curator Jacques Saunière (see Bérenger Saunière) of the Louvre Museum in Paris. The title of the novel refers, among other things, to the fact that Saunière's body is found in the Denon Wing of the Louvre naked and posed like Leonardo da Vinci's famous drawing, the Vitruvian Man, with a cryptic message written beside his body and a Pentagram drawn on his stomach in his own blood. The interpretation of hidden messages inside Leonardo's famous works, including the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, figure prominently in the solution to the mystery.
The main conflict in the novel revolves around the solution to two mysteries:
•What secret was Saunière protecting that led to his murder?
•Who is the mastermind behind his murder?
The novel has several concurrent storylines that follow different characters. Eventually all the storylines are brought together and resolved with the denouement.
The unraveling of the mystery requires the solution to a series of brain-teasers, including anagrams and number puzzles. The solution itself is found to be intimately connected with the possible location of the Holy Grail and to a mysterious society called the Priory of Sion, as well as to the Knights Templar. The Catholic organization "Opus Dei" (a caricature of the real Opus Dei) also figures prominently in the plot.
The novel is the second book of a trilogy by Brown in which Robert Langdon is the main character. The previous book, Angels and Demons, took place in Rome and concerned the Illuminati. Although Angels and Demons is centered around the same character it is not necessary to read the book in order to understand the plot of The Da Vinci Code. The next book is tentatively scheduled for release in 2007.Its working title is The Solomon Key, and it is understood to concern Freemasonry.
Summary of spoilers
Jacques Saunière was the head of the Priory of Sion and therefore possessed the knowledge of the "keystone", which in turn reveals the location of the Holy Grail, as well as documents which would shake the foundation of Christianity and the Church. He was killed in order to extract this information from him and eliminate the members of the Priory of Sion.
The reason that Sophie Neveu disassociated herself from her grandfather is that she witnessed him participating in a pagan sex ritual (Hieros Gamos) at his home in Normandy, when she made a surprise visit there during a break from college.
The message Saunière wrote with an alcohol restoration marking pen on the floor before dying contained the extra line "P.S. Find Robert Langdon". This was the reason Bezu Fache suspected Langdon of being the murderer. Fache had erased this line before Langdon arrived so that Langdon would not be aware that the police suspected him. Sophie Neveu saw the entire text of the message by accident when it was faxed to her office by the police. Sophie realized immediately that the message was meant for her, since her grandfather used to call her "Princesse Sophie" (i.e. "PS") when she was a girl. From this, she also knew Langdon to be innocent. She informs him of this secretly when they are in the Louvre by telling him to call her personal voicemail box and listen to the message that she had left there for him.
The other three lines of Saunière's blood message are anagrams. The first line are the digits of the Fibonacci sequence out of order. The second and third lines ("O, draconian devil!" and "Oh, lame saint!") are anagrams respectively for "Leonardo da Vinci" and "The Mona Lisa" (in English). These clues were meant to lead to a second set of clues. On the glass over the Mona Lisa, Saunière wrote the message "So dark the con of Man" with a curator's pen that can only be read in ultra-violet light. The second clue is an anagram for Madonna of the Rocks, another Da Vinci painting hanging nearby. Behind this painting, Saunière hid a key. On the key, written with the curator's pen, is an address.
The key opens a safe deposit box at the Paris branch of the Depository Bank of Zurich. Saunière's account number at the bank is the Fibonacci sequence digits, arranged in the correct order.
The instructions that Saunière revealed to Silas at gunpoint are actually a well-rehearsed lie, namely that the keystone is buried in the Church of Saint-Sulpice beneath an obelisk that lies exactly along the ancient "Rose Line" (supposedly the former Prime Meridian (as defined by the French--not internationally) which passed through Paris before it was redefined to pass through Greenwich, although the actual Paris Meridian does not pass through the actual Church of Saint-Sulpice). In reality, the message beneath the obelisk simply contains a reference to a passage in the Book of Job which reads "Hitherto shalt thou go and no further". When Silas reads this, he realizes he has been duped.
The keystone is actually a cryptex, a cylindrical device invented by Leonardo Da Vinci for transporting secure messages. In order to open it, the combination of rotating components must be arranged in the correct order. If forced open, an enclosed vial of vinegar will rupture and dissolve the message, which was written on papyrus. The rosewood box containing the cryptex contains clues to the combination of the cryptex, written in backwards script in the same manner as Leonardo's journals. While fleeing to England aboard Teabing's plane, Langdon solves the riddle and finds the combination to be "S-O-F-I-A", the ancient Greek form of Sophie's name, also meaning wisdom.
The keystone cryptex actually contains a second smaller cryptex with a second riddle that reveals its combination. The riddle, which says to seek the orb that should be on the tomb of "a knight a pope interred", refers not to a medieval knight, but rather to the tomb of Sir Isaac Newton, who was buried in Westminster Abbey, and was eulogized by Alexander Pope (A. Pope). The orb refers to the apple observed by Newton which led to his discovery of the Law of universal gravitation and thus, the combination to the second cryptex is "A-P-P-L-E".
The Teacher is actually Sir Leigh Teabing. He learns of the identities of the leaders of the Priory of Sion and buggs their offices. Rémy is his collaborator. It is Teabing who contacts Bishop Aringarosa using a phony French accent to hide his identity and dupes him into financing the plan to find the Grail. He never intends to hand the Grail over to Aringarosa but is simply taking advantage of "Opus Dei's" resolve to find it. Instead, he believes that the Priory of Sion intends to renege on its vow to reveal the secret of the Grail to the world at the appointed time; thus, he plans to steal the Grail documents and reveal them to the world himself. It is he who informs Silas that Langdon and Sophie Neveu were at his chateau. He does not seize the keystone from them himself because he does not want to reveal his identity to them. His plan to have Silas break into his house and seize the keystone was thwarted when the police raided the house, having followed the GPS device in the truck Langdon had stolen and having heard Silas's gunshot. Teabing leads Neveu and Langdon to the Temple Church in London knowing full well that it was a blind alley. He does this to stage the hostage scene with Rémy in order to obtain the keystone without revealing his real plot to Langdon and Neveu. The call Silas receives while riding in the limousine with Rémy is in fact Teabing, surreptitiously calling from the back of the limousine.
In order to erase all knowledge of his work, Teabing kills Rémy by giving him cognac laced with peanut powder, knowing Rémy has a deadly allergy to peanuts. Teabing also anonymously tells the police that Silas is hiding in the London headquarters of "Opus Dei".
In Westminster Abbey, in the showdown with Teabing, Langdon secretly opens the second cryptex and removes its contents before destroying it in front of Teabing. Teabing is arrested and led away while fruitlessly begging Langdon to tell him the contents of the second cryptex and the secret location of the Grail.
Bishop Aringarosa and Silas believe they are saving the Church, not destroying it.
Bezu Fache figures out that Neveu and Langdon are innocent after discovering the bugging equipment in Teabing's barn.
Silas accidentally shoots Aringarosa outside the London headquarters of "Opus Dei" while fleeing from the police. Having realized his terrible error and that he has been duped, Aringarosa tells Bezu Fache to give the bearer bonds in his brief case to the families of the murdered leaders of the Priory of Sion. Silas dies of fatal wounds.
The final message inside the second keystone actually does not refer to Rosslyn Chapel, although the Grail was indeed once buried there, below the Star of David on the floor (the two interlocking triangles are the "blade" and "chalice", i.e., male and female symbols).
The docent in Rosslyn Chapel is Sophie's long-lost brother.
The guardian of Rosslyn Chapel, Marie Chauvel, is Sophie's long-lost grandmother, and the wife of Jacques Saunière. She is also the woman who participated in the sex ritual with Jacques Sauniere.
Even though all four of the leaders of the Priory of Sion are killed, the secret is not lost, since there is still a contingency plan (never revealed) which will keep the organization and its secret alive.
The real meaning of the last message is that the Grail is buried beneath the small pyramid (i.e., the "blade", a male symbol) directly below the inverted glass pyramid of the Louvre (i.e., the "chalice", a female symbol, which Langdon and Sophie ironically almost crash into while making their original escape from Bezu Fache). See La Pyramide Inversée for further discussion.
At the end of the book, Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu fall in love. They arrange to meet in Florence.
(US) The Da Vinci Code, March 18, 2003 (1st edition), Doubleday, ISBN 0385504209.
The Da Vinci Code, Special Illustrated Edition, November 2, 2004, Doubleday, ISBN 0385513755 (as of January 2006, has sold 576,000 copies).
(UK) The Da Vinci Code, April 2004, Corgi Adult. ISBN 0552149519.
(UK) The Da Vinci Code: The Illustrated Edition, October 2, 2004, Bantam Press. ISBN 0593054253.
(US/Canada) The Da Vinci Code (Trade Paperback edition), March 2006, Anchor Books.
One of the answer by Torrealta