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This is an index of the chapters in the novel which contain substantial claims about history. Those chapters which contain only action scenes or plot elements have been ommited.

Each chapter is sub-divided into topic headings analysing the claims made in that section of the novel and their associated subjects.


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CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

The 'Sangreal' and the Holy Grail

Eminent Historians and the 'Sangreal'

The 'Sangreal' and the Holy Grail

"Where did the documents go?"

Langdon shrugged, "That mystery's answer is known only to the Priory of Sion. Because the documents remain the source of constant investigation and speculation even today, they are believed to have been moved and rehidden several times. Current speculation places the documents somewhere in the United Kingdom."

Sophie looked uneasy.

"For a thousand years," Langdon continued, "legends of this secret have been passed on. The entire collection of documents, its power and the secret it reveals have become known by a single name - Sangreal. Hundreds of books have been written about it, and few mysteries have caused as much interest among historians as the Sangreal."

"The Sangreal? Does the word have anything to do with the French word sang or Spanish sangre - meaning 'blood'?"

Langdon nodded. Blood was the backbone of the Sangreal, and yet not in the way Sophie probably imagined. "The legend is complicated, but the important thing to remember is that the Priory guards the proof and is purportedly awaiting the right moment in history to reveal the truth."

"What truth? What secret could possibly be so powerful?"

Langdon took a deep breath and gazed out at the underbelly of Paris leering into the shadows. "Sophie, the word Sangreal is an ancient word. It has evolved over the years into another term … a more modern name." He paused. "When I tell you its modern name, you'll realize you already know a lot about it. In fact, almost everyone on earth has heard the story of the Sangreal."

Sophie looked skeptical. "I've never heard of it."

"Sure you have." Langdon smiled. "You're just used to hearing it called by the name 'Holy Grail'."
(Chapter 38, p. 160-161)

Brown has Langdon continue his exposition about the 'Sangreal', the Holy Grail and their meanings in the next chapter, but his conflation of the Holy Grail with the fictional 'secret documents' here is without any foundation. These supposed documents are entirely the invention of the amateur authors and speculative 'occult investigators' who wrote Holy Blood Holy Grail and The Templar Revelation. As he does repeatedly throughout the novel, Brown gives Langdon's lectures to Sophie an air of legitimacy by his repeated references to 'scholars' and 'historians' investigating these matters. In fact, no scholars or historians take any of these fringe theories seriously at all. They are purely the stuff of paperback conspiracy theorists and amateur enthusiasts.

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"The Holy Grail?"

Langdon nodded, his expression serious. "Holy Grail is the literal meaning of Sangreal. The phrase derives from the French Sangraal, which evolved to Sangreal, and was eventually split into two words, San Greal."

Holy Grail. Sophie was surprised she had not spotted the linguistic ties immediately.
(Chapter 38, p.162)

Brown has Langdon say that 'Holy Grail' is the 'literal meaning' of 'Sangreal' because he is later to introduce a more fanciful and completely false meaning. In fact, 'Sangraal', 'Sangreal' and 'Holy Grail' all mean the same thing. The medieval poet Chretien de Troyes introduced the idea of a mysterious 'Grail' in his romance Perceval in the Twelfth Century, but since it was an unfinished work he never revealed what this object was. He never called it 'the Holy Grail' and he never said it was the cup of Christ or connected it with Jesus in any way. It was later continuers of his story who slowly added these elements and, eventually, turned this simple cup/platter/serving dish into the 'Holy Grail' known to folklore today.

Eminent Historians and the 'Sangreal'

"Robert" Faukman finally said, "Don't get me wrong. I love your work, and we've had a great run together. But if I agree to publish an idea like this, I'll have people picketing outside my office for months. Besides, it will kill your reputation. You're a Harvard historian, for God's sake, not a pop schlockmeister looking for a quick buck. Where could you possibly find enough credible evidence to support a theory like this?"

With a quiet smile Langdon pulled a piece of paper from the pocket of his tweed coat and handed it to Faukman. The page listed a bibliography of over fifty titles - books by well-known historians, some contemporary, some centuries old - many of them academic bestsellers. All the books' titles suggested the same premise Langdon had just proposed. As Faukman read down the list, he looked like a man who had just discovered the earth was actually flat. "I know some of these authors. They're … real historians!"

Langdon grinned. "As you can see, Jonas, this is not only my theory. It's been around for a long time. I'm simply building on it. No book has yet explored the legend of the Holy Grail from a symbologic angle. The iconographic evidence I'm finding to support the theory is, well, staggeringly persuasive.
(Chapter 38, p. 163)

At this point Brown has pulled back from actually telling the reader what this amazing theory is, and moved to a flashback where Langdon has just revealed it to his publisher Jonas Faukman (a thinly veiled reference to Brown's own Doubleday publisher, Jason Kaufman). Before moving on to slowly reveal what this shocking theory is, Brown steps back to reassure the reader that it is, in fact, widely accepted and academically acceptable.

This passage is much like his repeated references to 'scholars', 'experts' and 'historians' during the passages where Langdon lectures Sophie on the 'Priory', the Templars and the Grail. His reference to evidence that is 'staggeringly persuasive', his list of fifty academic titles (though any real academic would find the tautology of 'academic bestsellers' highly amusing) and his use of scholarly words like 'iconographical' and scholarly-sounding nonsense words like 'symbologic' are all aimed at adding credibility and respectability to this amazing 'theory'.

In fact, when the 'theory' is finally revealed later in the novel, it is not something subscribed to by any historians or 'experts' at all. It is simply something Brown has lifted wholesale from Holy Blood Holy Grail and The Templar Revelation - books by amateurs which real historians regard as total nonsense, best used only for comedy value.

Interestingly, on his official website - www.danbrown.com - Brown gives readers a 'Bibliography of Research Books ('Resources for Researchers: Explore Dan Brown's bibliography of research books.) But unlike Langdon's list of 'over fifty titles' made up of works by respected experts and historians, Brown's list consists of 26 titles. Some of them genuine books of history - The Knights Templar and their Myth by Peter Partner for example, though this book and others on the list actually totally contradict Brown's claims; so much so that it is quite likely he has never actually read them. Others look like legitimate historical studies but are actually highly unreliable. The History of the Knights Templars by Charles G. Addison was written back in 1842 - hardly cutting edge analysis - and perpetuates the Masonic myths about the Templars' survival in Scotland. It is a dated amateur work of little to no credibility. There are a few books on Leonardo, none of which support Brown's extravagant claims, and some works on Opus Dei, largely critiques of the controversial prelature.

As for scholarly works supporting any of the wilder claims in The Da Vinci Code, there are none at all. Brown gives the usual grab bag of the same old amateur enthusiasts and crackpot theorists: The Woman With The Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail by 'Margaret Starbird, The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, The Goddess in the Gospels: Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine by Margaret Starbird', The Messianic Legacy by Michael Baigent and of course Holy Blood Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. Added to this are other fringe, speculative, New Age amateur works like Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, When God was a Woman by the proto-Neo Pagan Merlin Stone and The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, our Future by Riane Eisler.

In his novel Brown creates an illusion of academic respectability around the thesis he peddles by pretending it is supported by 'over fifty' genuine scholars and historians. When he takes the opportunity to present a similar list to his readers, however, the best he can come up with are a rather meager collection of amateurs, fringe theorists and kooks.

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History vs The Da Vinci Code is copyright Tim O'Neill 2006. All rights reserved.