'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
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
"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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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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