The Da Vinci Code is a mystery/detective novel, placed in an Alternate
History/Religion format. It is part two of a three part series by Dan
Brown, which was published by Doubleday Fiction in 2003. The first
part of the trilogy was called Angles and Demons, published in 2000.
The third book is currently being worked on, and the 'working title'
is The Solomon Key, which is reported to take place in Washington D.C.
and deal with the "secret" society of the Freemasons.
The book was adapted to film by Sony's Columbia Pictures, with the
screenplay written by Akiva Goldsman, with Ron Howard directing, and
released May 18, 2006.
The plot of the story is very similar to the earlier book, but deals
with a group called the Priory of Sion, which supposedly keeps the
secrets of the Holy Grail. According to the Priory of Sion, the Holy
Grail is not a real cup or chalice, but a woman, and not just any
woman, but Mary Magdalene, who was not a prostitute as the Church
would have us believe, but actually the wife of Jesus Christ. The
Church suppresses this knowledge for two thousand years, while the
Priory of Sion protects the bloodline of Christ and guards these
secrets. The Priory of Sion is also supposedly the group that started
the Knights Templar (probably the most famous religious group in
history, other than perhaps the twelve disciples). According to the
historic documents of the Priory Sion, they did this in 1099.
To say that the Priory Sion group is fictional is not quite right, the
group actually does exist, and was "founded" in 1956 in the French
town of Annemasse. I say "founded" because in order to have an
association in France, you have to register it with the government,
which was done by Pierrer Plantard, Andre Bonhomme, Jean Delaval,a nd
Armand Defago. Pierrer Plantard was the protagonist of this grand
plot. (oh yes... plot thickens).
The Priory of Sion was created and given history with a scam in mind.
The scam failed, as the historic documents and "treasures" of the
Priory of Sion were discovered to be forgeries. It was not a 1000 year
old secret society, but the hoax of a convicted con man.
However, like any really good scam, the idea was believable and a book
based on the "historical" documents of the Priory of Sion was
published called Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Also Umberto Eco published a
very well written book called Foucault's Pendulum, which also deals
with conspiracies, the Holy Blood issue, and even the Templars. Both
of these books and the Priory of Sion story certainly are seen as
influences in the Da Vinci Code story.
Before the hoax of the Priory of Sion was fully known the Holy Blood,
Holy Grail book was used as the basis of a series of short films which
ran on the BBC in the late 1970's. A great many similarities are found
between these two film creations, such as Mary Magdalene as the Holy
Grail, the divine origin of the French royal dynasty, occultism,
ancient Egyptian wisdom, papal conspiracy and the use of
Before I go much further, lets also put in here, that the Knights
Templar were founded in 1118 by the French knights Hughes de Payens,
and Godfrey de St Omer for the protection of pilgrims on the road from
Jaffa and Jerusalem, and were sanctioned by the Pope of the Catholic
Church. You will notice that there is a slight discrepancy in the
dates as well as the relationship with the history as recorded and
verified by several third party sources, and the one created by
Pierrer Plantard's Priroy of Sion. Pierrer Plantard was not a
historian, he was a con man, so we can not blame him too much for the
misinterpretation of a few historic facts.
Dan Brown, the author of the Da Vinci Code, is not an historian either
(any one that can't tell the difference between the Serenity Prayer
and the Prayer of Saint Francis is not an historian). He is a fiction
writer, and a very good one. His book nearly over took Harry Potter in
sales, and his plots and puzzles are not only intriguing but very
effectively create the "suspension of disbelief" in the reader. The
suspension of disbelief is the holy grail for fiction writers and Dan
Brown has the talent in spades. Even those who know better, find their
thoughts betraying them. The film was also very well done and created
a large stir in both historic interest in the Catholic Church and a
buzzing in the Christian community, as those who watch the movie begin
Of course this is the goal of any writer, whether it is the massively
factual (but still fiction) Power of the Dog, written by Don Winslow
(www.donwinslow.com), or the complete fantasy of Harry Potter by J.K.
Rowling (www.jkrowling.com), the goal is to affect the reader, to open
a world which the reader would otherwise have never have known, or not
known through that perspective. Dan Brown succeeds in this as a story
teller. He succeeds in taking generalized facts and pseudo knowledge,
and mixing them with real history and puzzle intrigue.
Pseudo knowledge is that wonderful spread of half-known truths the
general public is forever circulating. For example everyone knows that
it was Humphrey Bogart who said "Play it again Sam", ... only he
didn't. He never said that line. Bugs Bunny did. Or that wonderful
speech that Mandela said at his inaugural ceremony, the one that
inspires so many people, with so few words, and yet... he never said
those words, they come from a book written by Marianne Williamson
called A Return to Love (www.marianne.com).
Since the publishing of the Da Vinci Code, many books have been
published talking about the historic errors that the novel has (which
are many). The previous book also was a historic nightmare, with
hundreds of simple mistakes, and whether all of these mistakes were
purposeful or not will only really be known by Dan Brown. That there
are historic mistakes is a given however, because when you are writing
an Alternate History, you have to change a few histories to accomplish
Despite what the news rumors want us to believe, the Roman Catholic
Church said very little about the book in the beginning. It was
fiction, and many books have been written on this same subject and
most of them based on the same set of falsified documents and ideas.
Then in 2005, with the ever increasing popularity of the novel and the
approaching movie release, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Archbishop
of Genoa and a possible successor to the Pope, took up the fight
claiming that the novel was a deliberate attempt to discredit the
Roman Catholic Church through absurd and vulgar falsifications.
In my mind, you really know you have made it as a fiction writer when
a man like Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone starts taking you seriously.
Now, to your question. With the popularity of the story (both book and
film) and the massive amounts of media coverage, now fueled by all
sides including the Vatican, if you were not indirectly informed about
the movie by your daughter, you soon would have been by someone else.
That is a certainty.
While the story and intrigue of the book raises many interesting
questions, in regards to faith, church membership, belief and religion
as a whole, they are good questions to be raised. They are the 'what
if' questions that fuel greater understanding, and eventually a faith
that can not be rattled by any "discovery" or question. If a man can
write a book, based on pseudo knowledge and the creations of a con
man, which shakes our faith, how strong was that faith to begin with?
The Cardinal believes it was a deliberate act, and certainly it was.
You can't write a novel and not have some deliberate goals in mind.
But as with the question of faith, if such a novel can discredit the
Roman Catholic Church, how good was their perception? And why was it
But do you have to do anything? Do you need to change your
perspective? I would have to guess ... no. It's a book, a movie, a
work of fiction, and based on factious knowledge in several key areas.
While fiction is still a very powerful communication tool, and stories
have affected us since the dawn of language, this particular one
requires no real action on our part, other than to watch the movie,
get swept away from our regular lives for a few hours and eat popcorn.
Below are several research links which I gathered all of this
information from. If you find you need more, just use the
Clarification function and I will get back to you.
Church Fights Da Vinci Code Novel
Vatican plots against Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code. A review of Dan Browns best selling book and move
The Da Vinci Code - Wikipedia
Harry Potter, still magic for book sales
Angels and Demons - Wikipedia
A History of Discretion
Priory of Sion -- Wikipedia
No Loss for Words (A collection of historic and other mistakes in the
Angles and Demons book)
Opus Dei -- Wikipedia
Knights Templar -- Wikipedia
The Knights Templar -- Catholic Encyclopedia
Dan Brown -- Wikipedia
Foucault's Pendulum -- Wikipedia
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
Gospel of Mary Magdalene