The Da Vinci Code is pure fiction and based on a hoax
Finally got around to reading the Da Vinci Code in the weekend. Its a good book, but by no measure a great book, despite the large number of sales.
While I was backpacking in Europe in 2004 the Da Vinci Code was being read, or had just been read by, every second traveler I met. It is always quite fun to read about places as you visit them, and many travelers said the Da Vinci Code made them more interested in the famous paintings in the Louve and elsewhere, even if some of the interpretations might have been a bit suspect. Short chapters and the fast pace of the story also make it a good travelers book. I was regularly the only one on our bus reading actual history books, but then I am a bit of a geek!
The Da Vinci Code is full of puzzles and word plays, reminding me of Alice in Wonderland at times. Yet part of the appeal of Alice is the way Carroll uses cogent arguments to create absurd nonsense, whereas the author claims the Da Vinci Code is based on facts. In an introductory page to the book titled 'fact' Brown claims The Priory of Sion as founded in 1099 was a real organisation, and that parchments known as Les Dossier Secrets were discovered in Paris' Bibliotheque Nationale in 1975 identified numerous members of the Priory including Sir Issac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci.
The claims of Dan Brown are based on an 1982 "non-fiction" book called "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. So much so two of the authors sued Brown for "copyright" infringement, supposedly the first time a writer of fiction had been accused of plagrising a work of "non-fiction". The authors of Holy Blood lost their case. And so they should, given Dan Brown quite openly acknowledged his primary source though the character Teabing in the start of chapter 60 (Teabing is an anagram of Baigent). Some of Brown's comments about "Holy Blood" are a bit snarky, and may have got the blood of the "Holy Blood" boiling a little.
"To my taste the authors made some dubious leaps of faith in their analysis, but their fundamental premise is sound, and to their credit they bought the idea of Christ's bloodline into the mainstream" (p. 339)
Given the debate over the Da Vinci Code, for Brown to accuse people of dubious leaps of faith is more than a touch ironic. Brown also follows "Holy Blood" in arguing there is evidence Jesus married Mary Magdalene, had one or more children, and those children settled in Southern France. Later their descendents intermarried with the noble families who would become the Merovingian dynasty (471 to 751AD), which was championed by a secret society called the Priory of Sion.
My immediate reaction to the link to the Merovingian dynasty was - yeah right. Even if you take a huge leap of faith and assume such claims are not simply a modern invention (as is likely), their would be strong political motives for promoting such a claim. In those days Kings claimed to rule by 'divine' right, so being descended from the big G himself would make a good case for being on the throne. In reality, the Merovingians were booted out of office by Charlemagne's father Pepin the Short, after years of ineffective Merovingian rule.
More critically for the credibility of Brown, Bagient, Leigh and Lincoln - the Priory of Sion has been shown to be a hoax. This article in Wikipedia claims (I wish they had attributed a source)
"Pierre Plantard and de Cherisey needed to create 'independent evidence'. So during the 1960s, they deposited a series of forged documents, the so-called Dossiers Secrets or "Secret Dossiers", at the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF), in Paris. Therefore, people who set out to research the 'Priory of Sion' would come across these fake documents at the BnF. One of those researchers was Henry Lincoln."
In the 2005 Channel 4 (UK) programme "The Real Da Vinci Code" looked at the main arguments of Dan Brown and those of Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln. From the Wikipedia article "the da Vinci Code".
"The programme featured lengthy interviews with many of the main protagonists cited by Brown as "absolute fact" in the Da Vinci Code. Arnaud de Sede, son of Gerrard de Sede, stated categorically that his father and Plantard had made up the existence of the Prieure de Sion, the cornerstone of the Jesus bloodline theory - to quote Arnaud de Sede in the programme, "frankly, it was piffle".
Rest easy folks - the Da Vinci Code is nothing more than a work of fiction! I suspect you already knew that :) Actually I suspect the claims of 'fact' made by Dan Brown amount to not much more than a clever marketing ploy. Perhaps if "Holy Blood" had also claimed to also be a work of fiction the little court case may have been more successful!