World’s best-selling novel got its key facts wrong

The Da Vinci Codswallop

It purports to have cracked the greatest riddles of theology, painting Jesus as a mere mortal and claiming that the Church has hushed up the fact that true Christianity is a feminist religion.

The Da Vinci Code is one of the biggest-selling novels of all time. It has sold an estimated 17 million copies, been translated into 42 languages and reportedly made author Dan Brown £140million.

The Da Vinci Code

So error-laden is The Da Vinci Code that the educated reader actually applauds those rare occasions where Brown stumbles (despite himself) into the truth. [...] In the end, Dan Brown has penned a poorly written, atrociously researched mess.
Source: Dismantling The Da Vinci Code By Sandra Miesel, Crisis, Sep. 1, 2003

Now it’s set to be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Tom Hanks as a Harvard professor seeking the Holy Grail. But the news has dismayed scholars who dismiss the book as “absurd rubbish”.

The Da Vinci Code is a historical thriller that says Mary Magdalene married Jesus, had his children and was meant to teach Christians to worship goddesses after the Crucifixion – only to be brushed aside by chauvinistic bishops.

It is the latest conspiracy theory concerning the Holy Grail, which Brown says is not a goblet, as most people think, but Mary herself and Jesus’s bloodline.

The book has launched an entire tourist industry as people from around the world flock to the places where the action takes place. But although Brown says it is grounded in fact, critics claim it’s littered with errors. Here we look at some of them.

THE BOOK: After being forced underground by the Church, Mary was protected by the mysterious Priory of Sion.

THE TRUTH: Although Brown says there is evidence of the Priory of Sion’s existence in the French national library, it was planted there by the fraudster Pierre Plantard, who declared it fake in 1967.

THE BOOK: St Sulpice Church in Paris was once home to the Priory of Sion, a fact supported by the letters P and S inscribed on its windows.

THE TRUTH: The church’s Father Henri d’Antin has rubbished the story, calling the book “odious and contradicted by historical fact”. The letters on the window stand for Saints Peter and Sulpice, he says.

THE BOOK: Opus Dei, the Catholic prelature with headquarters in New York, is portrayed as a sinister monastic organisation – practically a training school for assassins.

THE TRUTH: Although they have been accused of being a fundamentalist sect, they devote themselves to spiritual matters and founder Josemaria Escriva was declared a saint by the Pope in 2002. Members are not monks.

THE BOOK: The Louvre museum in Paris has iron bars that can drop from the ceiling to trap burglars.

THE TRUTH: The Louvre has no such deterrents. Jaqueline Marquet, who runs its art shop, says: “This book is a fraud, full of esoteric fabrications.”

THE BOOK: In the book’s first chapter, a character journeys from the Ritz to the Louvre, travelling past the Opera House.

THE TRUTH: The Opera House is out of sight, well north of the route.

THE BOOK: From one spot near the Louvre you can see three other museums, the Musee d’Orsay, the Pompidou Centre and the Deu de Paume.

THE TRUTH: The museums cannot be seen from one spot, says Louvre tour guide Ellen McBreen.

THE BOOK: After burning members of the Knights Templar – the monastic military order formed to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land – Pope Clement V threw their ashes into the River Tiber.

THE TRUTH: The Tiber is in Rome. Pope Clement was based in Avignon and never visited Rome.

THE BOOK: The Dead Sea Scrolls were Christian records discovered in the 1950s.

THE TRUTH: The Scrolls are Jewish texts recording events at the time of Christ and were actually found in 1947.

THE BOOK: Jesus Christ never claimed to be divine and was never worshipped as a deity until the Council of Nicea in 325AD.

THE TRUTH: Jesus is called God (theos) seven times in the New Testament. According to Mark’s Gospel, a priest asks Jesus if he is the Christ, to which he replies: “I am.”

THE BOOK: Jesus married Mary Magdalene.

THE TRUTH: The book asserts the wedding as fact “because Jesus was a Jew and the social decorum during that time virtually forbid a Jewish man to be unmarried.” There’s no evidence they married. Celibacy among Jews was common in Jesus’s lifetime.

THE BOOK: Christianity copied the Pagans by making Sunday the day of worship.

THE TRUTH: Early Christians chose Sunday as it was the day Christ was resurrected.

THE BOOK: The five rings of the Olympics are a secret tribute to goddess Aphrodite.

THE TRUTH: The rings were designed in 1913 to symbolise the first five Olympic Games.

THE BOOK: The Church is so anti-women that it burned five million of them during 300 years of witch-hunts.

THE TRUTH: A more accurate figure is between 50,000 and 200,000 people, says Dr Brian A Pavlac of King’s College, London. Most were hanged; about a quarter were men. Hunts were mostly led by non-religious courts.

THE BOOK: Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married at Westminster Abbey.

THE TRUTH: It was St Paul’s Cathedral.

THE BOOK: A character being sponsored by a thrifty university sleeps in a four-poster bed at the Paris Ritz.

THE TRUTH: The hotel has just one such bed `and it costs ?4,000 a night.

THE BOOK: The Rose Line was laid in Paris to mark zero degrees of longitude before a committee decided in 1888 that Greenwich should mark the Prime Meridian.

THE TRUTH: The Rose Line has never had anything to do with the meridian but was laid to aid astronomical research.

THE BOOK: Mary’s remains are buried in the Louvre in Paris.

THE TRUTH: According to accepted Christian tradition, they’re actually kept in two locations: St Maximin’s Basilica near Marseilles, France, and a Turkish monastery.

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