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Da Vinci Code: Clues, Symbols & Meanings

Although religious scholars sincerely doubt some of the research Dan Brown employs in The Da Vinci Code, more than a few intriguing questions remain at the heart of The Da Vinci Code controversy.

The novel tells the story of Harvard professor and symbologist Robert Langdon who is called to the Louvre Museum in Paris to examine cryptic symbols found in Leonardo da Vinci's artwork. In decrypting these symbols, Langdon uncovers a plot by the church to suppress the information and almost immediately becomes a hunted fugitive.

Da Vinci's The Last Supper

Eventually, Langdon does comes up with answers to some of the most dangerous questions posed in the novel. Was Mary Magdalene the wife of Jesus Christ? Was she relegated to the role of "fallen woman" by early Church fathers to conceal her real identity? Did she give birth to a daugher, Sara, who was later protected by a secret society known as the Priory of Sion?

And what role exactly did Leonardo Da Vinci play in the Priory of Sion during the Renaissance?

In masterful storytelling, author Dan Brown leads his readers on a journey that explains the "real" story of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and the final whereabouts of the Holy Grail, with intriguing clues and symbols found in some of da Vinci's most famous paintings.

The Last Supper

At the heart of Brown's novel is the story that da Vinci hid a major clue in his masterpiece, The Last Supper.

Mary Magdalene or John the Apostle?
John the Apostle,
or Mary Magdalene?

On reexamining the painting, it's discovered that sitting at Jesus' right hand is Mary Magdalene, not as is commonly believed, the apostle John.

In addition, the famous cup from which Christ drank, the Holy Grail, is conspicuously left out of the painting.

Here is where Brown cleverly weaves medieval legends with high Renaissance art to suggest that the Holy Grail - which became the subject of endless search by medieval knights - was not a cup at all but Mary Magdalene herself, the human receptacle for Jesus' blood line.

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa
A symbol of the
sacred feminine?

Another clue in the novel is seen in one of da Vinci's Mona Lisa which Langdon states is an expression of the artist's belief in the "sacred feminine."

The conclusion drawn is that Mona Lisa is not any particular person, but a cryptic reference to the Egyptian gods Amon and Isis. "Mona" is an anagram of Amon and "Lisa" a contraction of l'Isa, meaning Isis.

In the novel, Professor Langdon discovers that da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa in opposition to the Church's suppression of Mary Magdalene's true identity.

Vitruvian Man

Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man
Vitruvian Man

Leonardo da Vinci's most famous drawings is based upon the work of ancient Roman architect Vitruvius who was a proponent of using human proportion in building.

In the novel's opening scene, Sauniere's body is found in the Louvre naked and posed like the Vitruvian Man, with a cryptic message written beside his body. It is the first clue that Professor Langdon receives that prods him to delve more deeply into other works of da Vinci that helps solve the mystery.

Fibonacci number sequence
The Fibonacci sequence
describes a natural growth
pattern common to all life,
as seen in the structure
of a nautilus shell.


Fibonacci Sequence

Another symbol of proportion, unrelated to Leonardo da Vinci, is the novel's use of the ancient number sequence created by 13th-century mathematician Fibonacci.

He suggested a sequence in which all life grows in a common progression, with each number equaling the sum of the two preceding ones.

1 - 1 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 8 - 13 - 21

Dan Brown features the Fibonacci sequence as one of the many clues left behind by Jacques Sauniere, the Louvre curator. The puzzle is instantly recognized and unscrambled by his cryptologist granddaughter.

It's only later discovered that Sauniere's deposit box account number at the Zurich bank is the Fibonacci sequence numbers, arranged in the correct order.

In all, Brown's intriguing mix of ancient mystery coupled with a modern-day detective story -continuea to thrill audiences - who are only too happy to go along for the ride and wonder "...what if?"

More about The Da Vinci Code around the Web:

Da Vinci' Code : Separating Fact from Fiction

The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene

Leonard Da Vinci - The Last Supper (zoomable verson)




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