The Mysteries Of The Christian Church

The Mysteries Of The Christian Church

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From the beginning of the establishment of the Christian church there have always been controversies about how the organization has been run. The Da Vinci code and The Secret Supper deal with an alternative interpretation of early Christianity and the gospels, far different from that of the orthodox Catholic Church, both novels also deal with mysteries behind some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous paintings.
The Da Vinci code describes the attempts of Robert Langdon, Professor of Religious Symbology at Harvard University, to solve the murder of renowned curator Jacques Saunière of the Louvre Museum in Paris. The title of the novel refers to, among other things, the fact that Saunière's body is found in the Denon Wing of the Louvre, naked and posed like Leonardo Da Vinci's famous drawing, the Vitruvian Man, with a cryptic message written beside his body and a Pentacle drawn on his stomach in his own blood (Brown 10-37).
The novel has several concurrent subplots interweaving the lives of different characters; eventually all the characters are brought together and the subplots resolved in the conclusion. The unraveling of the mystery requires the solution to a series of brainteasers, including anagrams and number puzzles. The ultimate solution is closely connected with the possible location of the Holy Grail and to a mysterious society called the Priory of Sion, as well as to the Knights Templar. The story also involves the Roman Catholic organization Opus Dei.
As explained by Leigh Teabing to Sophie Neveu (in the Da Vinci code), the figure at the right hand of Jesus is supposedly not the apostle John, but Mary Magdalene. According to the book, Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus Christ and was in fact pregnant with his child when Jesus was crucified. The absence of a chalice in the painting supposedly indicates that Leonardo knew that Mary Magdalene was actually the Holy Grail (the bearer of Jesus' blood). The letter “V” that is created with the bodily positions of Jesus and Mary, as “V” is the symbol for the sacred feminine, represents this (Allen1). The apparent absence of the "Apostle John", under this interpretation, is explained by identifying John as "the Disciple Jesus loved", allegedly code for Mary Magdalene.
The interpretation of hidden messages in Leonardo's famous works, (which relate to the concept of the sacred feminine) including the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, figure prominently in the solution to the mystery.

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Similar to how The Da Vinci Code educates us on the role of Mary Magdalene in the history of Christianity, The Secret Supper introduces us to Cathars, a religious movement with Gnostic elements that was branded by the Roman Catholic Church as heretics (Perskie 2). Cathars believed in reincarnation, followed the practice of Mary Magdalene and initiated people into the 'secret of light' and understood that they needed no help from the clergy to address God.
Leonardo was a member of the Priory of Sion and knew the secret of the Grail. The secret is in fact revealed in The Last Supper, in which no actual chalice is present at the table. The figure seated next to Christ is not a man, but a woman, his wife Mary Magdalene. Most reproductions of the work are from a later alteration that obscured her obvious female characteristics (Allen 1).
The Da Vinci code refers to the Opus Dei organizations within the Christian church. Formally known as The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, is an organization that teaches the Catholic belief that everyone is called to holiness and that ordinary life is a path to sanctity (unknown 1). The majority of its membership is lay people, with secular priests under the governance of a prelate appointed by the Pope. Opus Dei is Latin for "Work of God", hence members and supporters often refer to the organization as "the Work".
Founded in Spain in 1928 by the Roman Catholic priest Josemaría Escrivá, Opus Dei was given final approval in 1950 by Pope Pius XIIIn 1982, the Catholic Church made it into a personal prelature— its bishop's jurisdiction covers the persons in Opus Dei, wherever they are. (Gardiner 1)
The Prelature of Opus Dei has about 87,000 members in more than 80 different countries. About 70% of Opus Dei members live in their private homes, leading traditional Catholic family lives with secular careers, while the other 30% are celibate, of whom the majority live in Opus Dei centers. Opus Dei organizes training in Catholic spirituality applied to daily life (Gardiner 2) Aside from personal charity and social work, Opus Dei members are involved in running universities, university residences, schools, publishing houses, and technical and agricultural training centers.
The Da Vinci Code, Opus Dei is portrayed as a Catholic organization that is led into a sinister international conspiracy. In general, The Da Vinci Code has been sharply criticized for its numerous factual inaccuracies, and its conspiracy theory has been debunked by a wide array of scholars and historians. According to the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Dr Tom Wright, the novel is a "great thriller" but "lousy history". For example, the major villain in The Da Vinci Code is a monk who is a member of Opus Dei — but in reality there are no monks in Opus Dei. The Da Vinci Code implies that Opus Dei is the Pope's personal prelature — but the term "personal prelature" does not refer to a special relationship to the Pope: It means an institution in which the jurisdiction of the prelate is not linked to a geographic territory but over persons, wherever they be (Gardiner 2).
The Secret Supper starts with the death of Beatrice d'Este, the wife of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan during childbirth. Three days before this event, a man calling himself the Soothsayer had sent a letter to Rome predicting her death. The year is 1497 and the Ludovico has commissioned Leonardo da Vinci, to paint The Last Supper in the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Sierra, 10). The Soothsayer's weekly letters also suggest that there is a hidden message in the painting and it should be stopped.
Agostino Leyre, a father in the Secretariat of Keys of the Papal States, a secret congregation, is sent to Milan to investigate the matter. Father Leyre is chosen since he is an expert in codes and has analyzed previous messages of the Soothsayer. His only clue in finding the Soothsayer is a riddle in one of the letters (Hartlaub 1).
While there are some initial attempts to solve the puzzle, it is pushed to the background as the Father learns more about various heretics in Milan and what they want to accomplish. About sixty years back, during the time of Pope Eugene VI, the Patriarch of Florence and held a council that could have succeeded in altering the course of Christianity (Sierra 21). The Patriarch had purchased the books of Aristotle and Plato and learned about the immortality of the soul and how heavenly bodies were responsible for everything. This knowledge was not satisfying to the Church and hence the current Duke of Milan wanted to hide this information publicly using art, with the help of Leonardo Da Vinci (Perskie 2)
Leonardo da Vinci, the major character in this book appears in every other chapter, dressed in white, setting puzzles for the monks to solve while working with his disciples on bigger secrets in the convent. The community of monks in the convent knows that Leonardo is working on concealing a mystery in The Last Supper, but they are unable to find out the specifics. Leonardo already has a reputation for painting things not found in the Gospels, and the monks faithful to the Pope are always trying to find some clues to hold it against him.
Father Prior too has his doubts on The Last Supper. In the painting none of the Apostles, nor Christ has a halo. It was called The Last Supper, but the table does not have bread or wine. The second person from the right, who is supposed to be Judas Thaddeus, is in the form of Leonardo himself and he is turning his back to Christ. In the painting, it depicted as if it is Saint Peter who will betray Christ (Sierra 46).
The Prior asks for Father Agostino's help in finding hidden secrets in the painting and Agostino asks the Prior for help in solving the Soothsayer's riddle. A few day later, Father Alessandro is found hanging, apparently murdered. While investigating this murder, Father Agostino meets Leonardo, who tells the Father that it was Alessandro who procured some rare books for him. One of those rare books was called The Secret Supper (Hartlaub 1).
This rare book had Christ's teaching such as the method for people to speak directly to God without clergy and Leonardo wanted to reveal it to the world. His idea was to hide the message in the thirteen protagonists of The Last Supper as a gibe against Rome. The teachings of Jesus to John and Mary Magdalene were aimed at showing how to find God within us. According to Leonardo, Christ did not resurrect as a mortal body, but as light and it is depicted with one half of The Last Supper in light and the other in darkness. (Sierra, 211)
Unlike The Da Vinci Code, which had a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter, this one is slower and has a less complex plot. The book starts with a death, and then there are the murders of Father Alessandro and Giulio. There is no focus in finding the murderers. Father Agostino leaves for Milan; he has a puzzle on hand, which is the clue in finding the Soothsayer. After a few chapters, the puzzle also fades away from focus. It gets solved by Leonardo da Vinci, and is mentioned by his disciples to Agostino.
The focus of the book is entirely on The Last Supper and on the motivation behind each and every hidden symbol in it, including the knot at one end of the table. The people who modeled for the Apostles were people like Father Alessandro, after whom Judas was modeled and some others considered heretics (McKay 1). The man to whom Leonardo da Vinci (or Judas Thaddeus) is talking to in the painting is considered to be Plato. As the novel progresses more and more secret messages are revealed.
Though not as tense and focused as The Da Vinci Code, this book reveals a lot about the personality of Leonardo da Vinci, the secrets of The Last Supper and gives a good feel for the times he lived.

Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was set in modern times with its protagonist an expert in religious symbology, Dr. Robert Langdon. Sierra’s The Secret Supper is set in 15th-century Italy, specifically 1497-98, when Da Vinci was finishing his The Last Supper. Both books create controversies between everything thing from how the church is recognized to the secret organizations that lie within the church. Both books are mind-boggling and make reality seem fictional and vise versa.

Allen, Michael. "New Review Ticker ". dust jacket review. may 1, 2008 .
Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code. New York: DOUBLEDAY, 2003
Gardiner , Anne . " Voices From The Underground". Culture Wars. February, 2004 .
Hartlaub, Joe. "THE SECRET SUPPER". Book Reporter. April, 29 2008 .
McKay, John. "Book Review: The Secret Supper ". Wiccanweb. May 1, 2008 .
Perskie , Jana . "The Secret Supper". Mostly Fiction. MAY 1, 2008 .
Sierra, Javier , and Alberto Manguel . The Secret Supper. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006.
Unknown. "The Da Vinci code". Pop matters. Copyright 1999-2008. 1 may 2008 .
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