Unravelling the Da Vinci Code

Bill Putnam and John Edwin Wood peel away the evidence to find an extraordinary hoax at the heart of Dan Brown’s bestselling novel.

The greatest publishing success of last year was Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code, with its headline-grabbing suggestion that Jesus escaped death on the cross and travelled to the south of France, where he married Mary Magdalene and raised a family. Understandably, this has upset many Christians, but the novel's enthusiasts have flocked in such numbers to see the real sites associated with the story that visitor numbers to places such as Westminster Abbey and the Temple Church in London, the Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland and the Louvre in Paris, have risen dramatically.

Readers of The Da Vinci Code are told that there is a secret society, the Priory of Sion, founded in the twelfth century and still in existence today, whose 'momentous duty' includes nurturing and protecting the bloodline of Christ, the small number of Christ's descendants who are alive in modern times. Although Dan Brown's book is a novel, he insists, right at the beginning of the book, that the Priory of Sion is a real organisation. He adds 'in 1975 Paris's Bibliothèque Nationale discovered parchments known as Las Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Sandro Botticelli, Victor Hugo and Leonardo da Vinci'. To most readers this claim is utterly astonishing. Huw could such an organisation have been in existence for nearly 1,000 years without it becoming known to historians, even if not to the general public?

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