Chapter 56-59

 

CHAPTER 56

Sophie stared at Teabing a long moment and then turned to Langdon. "The Holy Grail is a person?" Langdon nodded. "A woman, in fact." From the blank look on Sophie's face, Langdon could tell they had already lost her. He recalled having a similar reaction the first time he heard the statement. It was not until he understood the symbology behind the Grail that the feminine connection became clear.

Teabing apparently had a similar thought. "Robert, perhaps this is the moment for the symbologist to clarify?" He went to a nearby end table, found a piece of paper, and laid it in front of Langdon.

Langdon pulled a pen from his pocket. "Sophie, are you familiar with the modern icons for male and female?"

He drew the common male symbol
The Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code

"Of course," she said.

"These," he said quietly," are not the original symbols for male and female. Many people incorrectly assume the male symbol is derived from a shield and spear, while the female symbol represents a mirror reflecting beauty. In fact, the symbols originated as ancient astronomical symbols for the planet-god Mars and planet-goddess Venus. The original symbols are far simpler." Langdon drew another icon on the paper.

The Da Vinci Code

"This symbol is the original icon for male,"he told her. "A rudimentary phallus."

"Quite to the point," Sophie said. "As it were," Teabing added. Langdon went on. "This icon is formally known as the blade, and it represents aggression and manhood. In fact, this exact phallus symbol is still used today on modern military uniforms to denote rank."

"Indeed." Teabing grinned. "The more penises you have, the higher your rank. Boys will be boys." Langdon winced. "Moving on, the female symbol, as you might imagine, is the exact opposite." He drew another symbol on the page. "This is called the chalice."

The Da Vinci Code

Sophie glanced up, looking surprised.

Langdon could see she had made the connection. "The chalice," he said," resembles a cup or vessel, and more important, it resembles the shape of a woman's womb. This symbol communicates femininity, womanhood, and fertility." Langdon looked directly at her now." Sophie, legend tells us the Holy Grail is a chalice - a cup. But the Grail's description as a chaliceis actually an allegory to protect the true nature of the Holy Grail. That is to say, the legend uses the chalice as a metaphor for something far more important." "A woman," Sophie said.

"Exactly." Langdon smiled. "The Grail is literally the ancient symbol for womanhood, and the Holy Grail represents the sacred feminine and the goddess, which of course has now been lost, virtually eliminated by the Church. The power of the female and her ability to produce life was once very sacred, but it posed a threat to the rise of the predominantly male Church, and so the sacred feminine was demonized and called unclean. It was man, not God, who created the concept of "original sin," whereby Eve tasted of the apple and caused the downfall of the human race. Woman, once the sacred giver of life, was now the enemy."

"I should add," Teabing chimed," that this concept of woman as life-bringer was the foundation of ancient religion. Childbirth was mystical and powerful. Sadly, Christian philosophy decided to embezzle the female's creative power by ignoring biological truth and making man the Creator. Genesis tells us that Eve was created from Adam's rib. Woman became an offshoot of man. And a sinful one at that. Genesis was the beginning of the end for the goddess."

"The Grail," Langdon said," is symbolic of the lost goddess. When Christianity came along, the old pagan religions did not die easily. Legends of chivalric quests for the lost Grail were in fact stories of forbidden quests to find the lost sacred feminine. Knights who claimed to be" searching for the chalice" were speaking in code as a way to protect themselves from a Church that had subjugated women, banished the Goddess, burned nonbelievers, and forbidden the pagan reverence for the sacred feminine."

Sophie shook her head. "I'm sorry, when you said the Holy Grail was a person, I thought you meant it was an actual person."

"It is," Langdon said.

"And not just any person," Teabing blurted, clambering excitedly to his feet. "A woman who carried with her a secret so powerful that, if revealed, it threatened to devastate the very foundation of Christianity!"

Sophie looked overwhelmed. "Is this woman well known in history?"

"Quite." Teabing collected his crutches and motioned down the hall. "And if we adjourn to the study, my friends, it would be my honor to show you Da Vinci's painting of her."

Two rooms away, in the kitchen, manservant Remy Legaludec stood in silence before a television. The news station was broadcasting photos of a man and woman... the same two individuals to whom Remy had just served tea.

CHAPTER 57

Standing at the roadblock outside the Depository Bank of Zurich, Lieutenant Collet wondered what was taking Fache so long to come up with the search warrant. The bankers were obviously hiding something. They claimed Langdon and Neveu had arrived earlier and were turned away from the bank because they did not have proper account identification.

So why won't they let us inside for a look?

Finally, Collet's cellular phone rang. It was the command post at the Louvre. "Do we have a search warrant yet?" Collet demanded.

"Forget about the bank, Lieutenant," the agent told him. "We just got a tip. We have the exact location where Langdon and Neveu are hiding."

Collet sat down hard on the hood of his car. "You're kidding."

"I have an address in the suburbs. Somewhere near Versailles." "Does Captain Fache know?" "Not yet. He's busy on an important call."

"I'm on my way. Have him call as soon as he's free." Collet took down the address and jumped in his car. As he peeled away from the bank, Collet realized he had forgotten to ask who had tipped DCPJ off to Langdon's location. Not that it mattered. Collet had been blessed with a chance to redeem his skepticism and earlier blunders. He was about to make the most high-profile arrest of his career.

Collet radioed the five cars accompanying him. "No sirens, men. Langdon can't know we're coming."

Forty kilometers away, a black Audi pulled off a rural road and parked in the shadows on the edge of a field. Silas got out and peered through the rungs of the wrought-iron fence that encircled the vast compound before him. He gazed up the long moonlit slope to the chateau in the distance.

The downstairs lights were all ablaze. Odd for this hour, Silas thought, smiling. The information the Teacher had given him was obviously accurate. I will not leave this house without the keystone, he vowed. I will not fail the bishop and the Teacher.

Checking the thirteen-round clip in his Heckler Koch, Silas pushed it through the bars and let it fall onto the mossy ground inside the compound. Then, gripping the top of the fence, he heaved himself up and over, dropping to the ground on the other side. Ignoring the slash of pain from his cilice, Silas retrieved his gun and began the long trek up the grassy slope.

CHAPTER 58

Teabing's" study" was like no study Sophie had ever seen. Six or seven times larger than even the most luxurious of office spaces, the knight's cabinet de travail resembled an ungainly hybrid of science laboratory, archival library, and indoor flea market. Lit by three overhead chandeliers, the boundless tile floor was dotted with clustered islands of worktables buried beneath books, artwork, artifacts, and a surprising amount of electronic gear - computers, projectors, microscopes, copy machines, and flatbed scanners.

"I converted the ballroom," Teabing said, looking sheepish as he shuffled into the room. "I have little occasion to dance."

Sophie felt as if the entire night had become some kind of twilight zone where nothing was as she expected. "This is all for your work?"

"Learning the truth has become my life's love," Teabing said. "And the Sangreal is my favorite mistress."

The Holy Grail is a woman, Sophie thought, her mind a collage of interrelated ideas that seemed to make no sense. "You said you have a picture of this woman who you claim is the Holy Grail."

"Yes, but it is not I who claim she is the Grail. Christ Himself made that claim." "Which one is the painting?" Sophie asked, scanning the walls." Hmmm..." Teabing made a show of seeming to have forgotten. "The Holy Grail. The Sangreal. The Chalice." He wheeled suddenly and pointed to the far wall. On it hung an eight-foot-long print of The Last Supper, the same exact image Sophie had just been looking at. "There she is!"

Sophie was certain she had missed something. "That's the same painting you just showed me."

He winked. "I know, but the enlargement is so much more exciting. Don't you think?" Sophie turned to Langdon for help. "I'm lost." Langdon smiled. "As it turns out, the Holy Grail does indeed make an appearance in The LastSupper.Leonardo included her prominently."

"Hold on," Sophie said. "You told me the Holy Grail is a woman.The Last Supper is a painting of thirteen men."

"Is it?" Teabing arched his eyebrows. "Take a closer look."

Uncertain, Sophie made her way closer to the painting, scanning the thirteen figures - Jesus Christ in the middle, six disciples on His left, and six on His right. "They're all men," she confirmed.

"Oh?" Teabing said. "How about the one seated in the place of honor, at the right hand of the Lord?"

Sophie examined the figure to Jesus' immediate right, focusing in. As she studied the person's face and body, a wave of astonishment rose within her. The individual had flowing red hair, delicate folded hands, and the hint of a bosom. It was, without a doubt... female.

"That's a woman!" Sophie exclaimed.

Teabing was laughing. "Surprise, surprise. Believe me, it's no mistake. Leonardo was skilled at painting the difference between the sexes."

Sophie could not take her eyes from the woman beside Christ. The Last Supper is supposed to be thirteen men.Who is this woman? Although Sophie had seen this classic image many times, she had not once noticed this glaring discrepancy.

"Everyone misses it," Teabing said. "Our preconceived notions of this scene are so powerful that our mind blocks out the incongruity and overrides our eyes." "It's known as skitoma,"Langdon added. "The brain does it sometimes with powerful symbols." "Another reason you might have missed the woman," Teabing said," is that many of the photographs in art books were taken before 1954, when the details were still hidden beneath layers of grime and several restorative repaintings done by clumsy hands in the eighteenth century. Now, at last, the fresco has been cleaned down to Da Vinci's original layer of paint." He motioned to the photograph. "Et voila!"

Sophie moved closer to the image. The woman to Jesus' right was young and pious-looking, with a demure face, beautiful red hair, and hands folded quietly. This is the woman who singlehandedly could crumble the Church?

"Who is she?" Sophie asked.

"That, my dear," Teabing replied," is Mary Magdalene." Sophie turned. "The prostitute?" Teabing drew a short breath, as if the word had injured him personally. "Magdalene was no such thing. That unfortunate misconception is the legacy of a smear campaign launched by the early Church. The Church needed to defame Mary Magdalene in order to cover up her dangerous secret - her role as the Holy Grail."

"Her role?"

"As I mentioned," Teabing clarified," the early Church needed to convince the world that the mortal prophet Jesus was a divine being. Therefore, any gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus' life had to be omitted from the Bible. Unfortunately for the early editors, one particularly troubling earthly theme kept recurring in the gospels. Mary Magdalene." He paused. "More specifically, her marriage to Jesus Christ."

"I beg your pardon?" Sophie's eyes moved to Langdon and then back to Teabing.

"It's a matter of historical record," Teabing said," and Da Vinci was certainly aware of that fact. The Last Supper practically shouts at the viewer that Jesus and Magdalene were a pair." Sophie glanced back to the fresco.

"Notice that Jesus and Magdalene are clothed as mirror images of one another." Teabing pointed to the two individuals in the center of the fresco.

Sophie was mesmerized. Sure enough, their clothes were inverse colors. Jesus wore a red robe and blue cloak; Mary Magdalene wore a blue robe and red cloak. Yin and yang.

"Venturing into the more bizarre," Teabing said," note that Jesus and His bride appear to be joined at the hip and are leaning away from one another as if to create this clearly delineated negative space between them."

Even before Teabing traced the contour for her, Sophie saw it - the indisputable V shape at the focal point of the painting. It was the same symbol Langdon had drawn earlier for the Grail, the chalice, and the female womb.

"Finally," Teabing said," if you view Jesus and Magdalene as compositional elements rather than as people, you will see another obvious shape leap out at you." He paused. "A letter of the alphabet."

Sophie saw it at once. To say the letter leapt out at her was an understatement. The letter was suddenly all Sophie could see. Glaring in the center of the painting was the unquestionable outline of an enormous, flawlessly formed letter M.

"A bit too perfect for coincidence, wouldn't you say?" Teabing asked. Sophie was amazed. "Why is it there?" Teabing shrugged. "Conspiracy theorists will tell you it stands for Matrimonio or Mary Magdalene. To be honest, nobody is certain. The only certainty is that the hidden M is no mistake. Countless Grail-related works contain the hidden letter M - whether as watermarks, underpaintings, or compositional allusions. The most blatant M, of course, is emblazoned on the altar at Our Lady of Paris in London, which was designed by a former Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, Jean Cocteau."

Sophie weighed the information. "I'll admit, the hidden M's are intriguing, although I assume nobody is claiming they are proof of Jesus' marriage to Magdalene."

"No, no," Teabing said, going to a nearby table of books. "As I said earlier, the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record." He began pawing through his book collection. "Moreover, Jesus as a married man makes infinitely more sense than our standard biblical view of Jesus as a bachelor."

"Why?" Sophie asked.

"Because Jesus was a Jew," Langdon said, taking over while Teabing searched for his book," and the social decorum during that time virtually forbid a Jewish man to be unmarried. According to Jewish custom, celibacy was condemned, and the obligation for a Jewish father was to find a suitable wife for his son. If Jesus were not married, at least one of the Bible's gospels would have mentioned it and offered some explanation for His unnatural state of bachelorhood."

Teabing located a huge book and pulled it toward him across the table. The leather-bound edition was poster-sized, like a huge atlas. The cover read: The Gnostic Gospels.Teabing heaved it open, and Langdon and Sophie joined him. Sophie could see it contained photographs of what appeared to be magnified passages of ancient documents - tattered papyrus with handwritten text. She did not recognize the ancient language, but the facing pages bore typed translations.

"These are photocopies of the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea scrolls, which I mentioned earlier," Teabing said. "The earliest Christian records. Troublingly, they do not match up with the gospels in the Bible." Flipping toward the middle of the book, Teabing pointed to a passage. "The Gospel of Philip is always a good place to start." Sophie read the passage:

And the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene. Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him," Why do you love her more than all of us?"

The words surprised Sophie, and yet they hardly seemed conclusive. "It says nothing of marriage."

"Au contraire." Teabing smiled, pointing to the first line. "As any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion, in those days, literally meant spouse."

Langdon concurred with a nod.

Sophie read the first line again. And the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene.

Teabing flipped through the book and pointed out several other passages that, to Sophie's surprise, clearly suggested Magdalene and Jesus had a romantic relationship. As she read the passages, Sophie recalled an angry priest who had banged on her grandfather's door when she was a schoolgirl.

"Is this the home of Jacques Sauniere?" the priest had demanded, glaring down at young Sophie when she pulled open the door. "I want to talk to him about this editorial he wrote." The priest held up a newspaper.

Sophie summoned her grandfather, and the two men disappeared into his study and closed the door. My grandfather wrote something in the paper? Sophie immediately ran to the kitchen and flipped through that morning's paper. She found her grandfather's name on an article on the second page. She read it. Sophie didn't understand all of what was said, but it sounded like the French government, under pressure from priests, had agreed to ban an American movie called The Last Temptation of Christ, which was about Jesus having sex with a lady called Mary Magdalene. Her grandfather's article said the Church was arrogant and wrong to ban it.

No wonder the priest is mad, Sophie thought.

"It's pornography! Sacrilege!" the priest yelled, emerging from the study and storming to the front door. "How can you possibly endorse that! This American Martin Scorsese is a blasphemer, and the Church will permit him no pulpit in France!" The priest slammed the door on his way out.

When her grandfather came into the kitchen, he saw Sophie with the paper and frowned. "You're quick." Sophie said," You think Jesus Christ had a girlfriend?"

"No, dear, I said the Church should not be allowed to tell us what notions we can and can't entertain."

"Did Jesus have a girlfriend?"

Her grandfather was silent for several moments. "Would it be so bad if He did?" Sophie considered it and then shrugged. "I wouldn't mind."

Sir Leigh Teabing was still talking. "I shan't bore you with the countless references to Jesus and Magdalene's union. That has been explored ad nauseum by modern historians. I would, however, like to point out the following." He motioned to another passage. "This is from the Gospel of Mary Magdalene."

Sophie had not known a gospel existed in Magdalene's words. She read the text:

And Peter said," Did the Saviour really speak with a woman without our knowledge? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?"

And Levi answered," Peter, you have always been hot-tempered. Now I see you contending against the woman like an adversary. If the Saviour made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Saviour knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us."

"The woman they are speaking of," Teabing explained," is Mary Magdalene. Peter is jealous of her."

"Because Jesus preferred Mary?"

"Not only that. The stakes were far greater than mere affection. At this point in the gospels, Jesus suspects He will soon be captured and crucified. So He gives Mary Magdalene instructions on how to carry on His Church after He is gone. As a result, Peter expresses his discontent over playing second fiddle to a woman. I daresay Peter was something of a sexist."

Sophie was trying to keep up. "This is Saint Peter. The rock on which Jesus built His Church."

"The same, except for one catch. According to these unaltered gospels, it was not Peter to whom Christ gave directions with which to establish the Christian Church. It was Mary Magdalene."

Sophie looked at him. "You're saying the Christian Church was to be carried on by a woman?"

"That was the plan. Jesus was the original feminist. He intended for the future of His Church to be in the hands of Mary Magdalene."

"And Peter had a problem with that," Langdon said, pointing to The Last Supper. "That's Peter there. You can see that Da Vinci was well aware of how Peter felt about Mary Magdalene."

Again, Sophie was speechless. In the painting, Peter was leaning menacingly toward Mary Magdalene and slicing his blade-like hand across her neck. The same threatening gesture as in Madonna of the Rocks!

"And here too," Langdon said, pointing now to the crowd of disciples near Peter. "A bit ominous, no?"

Sophie squinted and saw a hand emerging from the crowd of disciples. "Is that hand wielding a dagger?"

"Yes. Stranger still, if you count the arms, you'll see that this hand belongs to... no one at all. It's disembodied. Anonymous."

Sophie was starting to feel overwhelmed. "I'm sorry, I still don't understand how all of this makes Mary Magdalene the Holy Grail."

"Aha!" Teabing exclaimed again. "Therein lies the rub!" He turned once more to the table and pulled out a large chart, spreading it out for her. It was an elaborate genealogy. "Few people realize that Mary Magdalene, in addition to being Christ's right hand, was a powerful woman already." Sophie could now see the title of the family tree.

THE TRIBE OF BENJAMIN

"Mary Magdalene is here," Teabing said, pointing near the top of the genealogy. Sophie was surprised. "She was of the House of Benjamin?" "Indeed," Teabing said. "Mary Magdalene was of royal descent." "But I was under the impression Magdalene was poor." Teabing shook his head. "Magdalene was recast as a whore in order to erase evidence of her powerful family ties."

Sophie found herself again glancing at Langdon, who again nodded. She turned back to Teabing. "But why would the early Church care if Magdalene had royal blood?"

The Briton smiled. "My dear child, it was not Mary Magdalene's royal blood that concerned the Church so much as it was her consorting with Christ, who also had royal blood. As you know, the Book of Matthew tells us that Jesus was of the House of David. A descendant of King Solomon - King of the Jews. By marrying into the powerful House of Benjamin, Jesus fused two royal bloodlines, creating a potent political union with the potential of making a legitimate claim to the throne and restoring the line of kings as it was under Solomon." Sophie sensed he was at last coming to his point. Teabing looked excited now. "The legend of the Holy Grail is a legend about royal blood. When Grail legend speaks of 'the chalice that held the blood of Christ'... it speaks, in fact, of Mary Magdalene - the female womb that carried Jesus' royal bloodline."

The words seemed to echo across the ballroom and back before they fully registered in Sophie's mind. Mary Magdalene carried the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ?" But how could Christ have a bloodline unless... ?" She paused and looked at Langdon.

Langdon smiled softly. "Unless they had a child." Sophie stood transfixed." Behold," Teabing proclaimed," the greatest cover-up in human history. Not only was Jesus Christ married, but He was a father. My dear, Mary Magdalene was the Holy Vessel. She was the chalice that bore the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ. She was the womb that bore the lineage, and the vine from which the sacred fruit sprang forth!"

Sophie felt the hairs stand up on her arms. "But how could a secret that big be kept quiet all of these years?"

"Heavens!" Teabing said. "It has been anything but quiet! The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ is the source of the most enduring legend of all time - the Holy Grail. Magdalene's story has been shouted from the rooftops for centuries in all kinds of metaphors and languages. Her story is everywhere once you open your eyes."

"And the Sangreal documents?" Sophie said. "They allegedly contain proof that Jesus had a royal bloodline?"

"They do."

"So the entire Holy Grail legend is all about royal blood?"

"Quite literally," Teabing said. "The word Sangreal derives from San Greal - or Holy Grail. But in its most ancient form, the word Sangreal was divided in a different spot." Teabing wrote on a piece of scrap paper and handed it to her. She read what he had written. Sang Real Instantly, Sophie recognized the translation. Sang Real literally meant Royal Blood.

CHAPTER 59

The male receptionist in the lobby of the Opus Dei headquarters on Lexington Avenue in New York City was surprised to hear Bishop Aringarosa's voice on the line. "Good evening, sir." "Have I had any messages?" the bishop demanded, sounding unusually anxious." Yes, sir. I'm very glad you called in. I couldn't reach you in your apartment. You had an urgent phone message about half an hour ago."

"Yes?" He sounded relieved by the news. "Did the caller leave a name?" "No, sir, just a number." The operator relayed the number.

"Prefix thirty-three? That's France, am I right?"

"Yes, sir. Paris. The caller said it was critical you contact him immediately."

"Thank you. I have been waiting for that call." Aringarosa quickly severed the connection.

As the receptionist hung up the receiver, he wondered why Aringarosa's phone connection sounded so crackly. The bishop's daily schedule showed him in New York this weekend, and yet he sounded a world away. The receptionist shrugged it off. Bishop Aringarosa had been acting very strangely the last few months.

My cellular phone must not have been receiving, Aringarosa thought as the Fiat approached the exit for Rome's Ciampino Charter Airport. The Teacher was trying to reach me.Despite Aringarosa's concern at having missed the call, he felt encouraged that the Teacher felt confident enough to call Opus Dei headquarters directly.

Things must have gone well in Paris tonight.

As Aringarosa began dialing the number, he felt excited to know he would soon be in Paris. I'll beon the ground before dawn.Aringarosa had a chartered turbo prop awaiting him here for the short flight to France. Commercial carriers were not an option at this hour, especially considering the contents of his briefcase.

The line began to ring.

A female voice answered. "Direction Centrale Police Judidaire."

Aringarosa felt himself hesitate. This was unexpected. "Ah, yes... I was asked to call this number?"

"Qui etes-vous?" the woman said. "Your name?"

Aringarosa was uncertain if he should reveal it. The French Judicial Police?

"Your name, monsieur?" the woman pressed. "Bishop Manuel Aringarosa." "Un moment." There was a click on the line.

After a long wait, another man came on, his tone gruff and concerned. "Bishop, I am glad I finally reached you. You and I have much to discuss."

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