Teabing chuckled as he eased himself into a chair opposite Sophie. “As you can see, our professor has a far softer heart for Rome than I do. Nonetheless, he is correct about the modern clergy believing these opposing documents are false testimony. That’s understandable. Constantine’s Bible has been their truth for ages. Nobody is more indoctrinated than the indoctrinator.”

“What he means,” Langdon said, “is that we worship the gods of our fathers.”

“What I mean,” Teabing countered, “is that almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false. As are the stories about the Holy Grail.”

Sophie looked again at the Da Vinci quote before her. Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!

Teabing reached for the book and flipped toward the center. “And finally, before I show you Da Vinci’s paintings of the Holy Grail, I’d like you to take a quick look at this.” He opened the book to a colorful graphic that spanned both full pages. “I assume you recognize this fresco?”

He’s kidding, right? Sophie was staring at the most famous fresco of all time—The Last Supper—Da Vinci’s legendary painting from the wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie near Milan. The decaying fresco portrayed Jesus and His disciples at the moment that Jesus announced one of them would betray Him. “I know the fresco, yes.”

“Then perhaps you would indulge me this little game? Close your eyes if you would.”

Uncertain, Sophie closed her eyes. “Where is Jesus sitting?” Teabing asked. “In the center.”

“Good. And what food are He and His disciples breaking and eating?”

“Bread.” Obviously. “Superb. And what drink?” “Wine. They drank wine.”

“Great. And one final question. How many wineglasses are on the table?”

Sophie paused, realizing it was the trick question. And after dinner, Jesus took the cup of wine, sharing it with His disciples. “One cup,” she said. “The chalice.” The Cup of Christ. The Holy Grail. “Jesus passed a single chalice of wine, just as modern Christians do at communion.”

Teabing sighed. “Open your eyes.”

She did. Teabing was grinning smugly. Sophie looked down at the painting, seeing to her astonishment that everyone at the table had a glass of wine, including Christ. Thirteen cups. Moreover, the cups were tiny, stemless, and made of glass. There was no chalice in the painting. No Holy Grail.

Teabing’s eyes twinkled. “A bit strange, don’t you think, considering that both the Bible and our standard Grail legend

celebrate this moment as the definitive arrival of the Holy Grail. Oddly, Da Vinci appears to have forgotten to paint the Cup of Christ.”

“Surely art scholars must have noted that.”

“You will be shocked to learn what anomalies Da Vinci included here that most scholars either do not see or simply choose to ignore. This fresco, in fact, is the entire key to the Holy Grail mystery. Da Vinci lays it all out in the open in The Last Supper.”

Sophie scanned the work eagerly. “Does this fresco tell us what the Grail really is?”

“Not what it is,” Teabing whispered. “But rather who it is. The Holy Grail is not a thing. It is, in fact … a person.”

CHAPTER S6

Sophie stared at Teabing a long moment and then turned to Langdon. “The Holy Grail is a person?”

Langdon nodded. “A woman, in fact.” From the blank look on Sophie’s face, Langdon could tell they had already lost her. He recalled having a similar reaction the first time he heard the statement. It was not until he understood the symbology behind the Grail that the feminine connection became clear.

Teabing apparently had a similar thought. “Robert, perhaps this is the moment for the symbologist to clarify?” He went to a nearby end table, found a piece of paper, and laid it in front of Langdon.

Langdon pulled a pen from his pocket. “Sophie, are you familiar with the modern icons for male and female?” He drew the common male symbol ♂ and female symbol ♀.

“Of course,” she said.

“These,” he said quietly, “are not the original symbols for male and female. Many people incorrectly assume the male symbol is derived from a shield and spear, while the female symbol represents a mirror reflecting beauty. In fact, the symbols originated as ancient astronomical symbols for the planet-god Mars and planet-goddess Venus. The original symbols are far simpler.” Langdon drew another icon on the paper.

“This symbol is the original icon for male,” he told her. “A rudimentary phallus.”

“Quite to the point,” Sophie said. “As it were,” Teabing added.

Langdon went on. “This icon is formally known as the blade, and it represents aggression and manhood. In fact, this exact phallus symbol is still used today on modern military uniforms to denote rank.”

“Indeed.” Teabing grinned. “The more penises you have, the higher your rank. Boys will be boys.”

Langdon winced. “Moving on, the female symbol, as you might imagine, is the exact opposite.” He drew another symbol on the page. “This is called the chalice.”

Sophie glanced up, looking surprised.

Langdon could see she had made the connection. “The chalice,” he said, “resembles a cup or vessel, and more important, it resembles the shape of a woman’s womb. This symbol communicates femininity, womanhood, and fertility.” Langdon looked directly at her now. “Sophie, legend tells us the Holy Grail is a chalice—a cup. But the Grail’s description as a chalice is actually an allegory to protect the true nature of the Holy Grail. That is to say, the legend uses the chalice as a metaphor for something far more important.”

“A woman,” Sophie said.

“Exactly.” Langdon smiled. “The Grail is literally the ancient symbol for womanhood, and the Holy Grail represents the sacred feminine and the goddess, which of course has now been lost, virtually eliminated by the Church. The power of the female and her ability to produce life was once very sacred, but it posed a threat to the rise of the predominantly male Church, and so the sacred feminine was demonized and called unclean. It was man, not God, who created the concept of ‘original sin,’ whereby Eve tasted of the apple and caused the downfall of the human race. Woman, once the sacred giver of life, was now the enemy.”

“I should add,” Teabing chimed, “that this concept of woman as life-bringer was the foundation of ancient religion. Childbirth was mystical and powerful. Sadly, Christian philosophy decided to embezzle the female’s creative power by ignoring biological truth and making man the Creator. Genesis tells us that Eve was created from Adam’s rib. Woman became an offshoot of man. And a sinful one at that. Genesis was the beginning of the end for the goddess.”

“The Grail,” Langdon said, “is symbolic of the lost goddess. When Christianity came along, the old pagan religions did not die easily. Legends of chivalric quests for the lost Grail were in fact stories of forbidden quests to find the lost sacred feminine. Knights who claimed to be “searching for the chalice” were speaking in code as a way to protect themselves from a Church that had subjugated women, banished the Goddess, burned nonbelievers, and forbidden the pagan reverence for the sacred feminine.”

Sophie shook her head. “I’m sorry, when you said the Holy Grail was a person, I thought you meant it was an actual person.”

“It is,” Langdon said.

“And not just any person,” Teabing blurted, clambering excitedly to his feet. “A woman who carried with her a secret so powerful that, if revealed, it threatened to devastate the very foundation of Christianity!”

Sophie looked overwhelmed. “Is this woman well known in history?”

“Quite.” Teabing collected his crutches and motioned down the hall. “And if we adjourn to the study, my friends, it would be my honor to show you Da Vinci’s painting of her.”

Two rooms away, in the kitchen, manservant Rémy Legaludec stood in silence before a television. The news station was broadcasting photos of a man and woman … the same two individuals to whom Rémy had just served tea.

CHAPTER S7

Standing at the roadblock outside the Depository Bank of Zurich, Lieutenant Collet wondered what was taking Fache so long to come up with the search warrant. The bankers were obviously hiding something. They claimed Langdon and Neveu had arrived earlier and were turned away from the bank because they did not have proper account identification.

So why won’t they let us inside for a look?

Finally, Collet’s cellular phone rang. It was the command post at the Louvre. “Do we have a search warrant yet?” Collet demanded.

“Forget about the bank, Lieutenant,” the agent told him. “We just got a tip. We have the exact location where Langdon and Neveu are hiding.”

Collet sat down hard on the hood of his car. “You’re kidding.” “I have an address in the suburbs. Somewhere near Versailles.” “Does Captain Fache know?”

“Not yet. He’s busy on an important call.”

“I’m on my way. Have him call as soon as he’s free.” Collet took down the address and jumped in his car. As he peeled away from the bank, Collet realized he had forgotten to ask who had tipped DCPJ off to Langdon’s location. Not that it mattered. Collet had been blessed with a chance to redeem his skepticism and earlier blunders. He was about to make the most high-profile arrest of his career.

Collet radioed the five cars accompanying him. “No sirens, men.

Langdon can’t know we’re coming.”

Forty kilometers away, a black Audi pulled off a rural road and parked in the shadows on the edge of a field. Silas got out and peered through the rungs of the wrought-iron fence that encircled the vast compound before him. He gazed up the long moonlit slope to the château in the distance.

The downstairs lights were all ablaze. Odd for this hour, Silas thought, smiling. The information the Teacher had given him was obviously accurate. I will not leave this house without the keystone, he vowed. I will not fail the bishop and the Teacher.

Checking the thirteen-round clip in his Heckler Koch, Silas pushed it through the bars and let it fall onto the mossy ground inside the compound. Then, gripping the top of the fence, he heaved himself up and over, dropping to the ground on the other side. Ignoring the slash of pain from his cilice, Silas retrieved his gun and began the long trek up the grassy slope.

CHAPTER SS

Teabing’s “study” was like no study Sophie had ever seen. Six or seven times larger than even the most luxurious of office spaces, the knight’s cabinet de travail resembled an ungainly hybrid of science laboratory, archival library, and indoor flea market. Lit by three overhead chandeliers, the boundless tile floor was dotted with clustered islands of worktables buried beneath books, artwork, artifacts, and a surprising amount of electronic gear—computers, projectors, microscopes, copy machines, and flatbed scanners.

“I converted the ballroom,” Teabing said, looking sheepish as he shuffled into the room. “I have little occasion to dance.”

Sophie felt as if the entire night had become some kind of twilight zone where nothing was as she expected. “This is all for your work?”

“Learning the truth has become my life’s love,” Teabing said. “And the Sangreal is my favorite mistress.”

The Holy Grail is a woman, Sophie thought, her mind a collage of interrelated ideas that seemed to make no sense. “You said you have a picture of this woman who you claim is the Holy Grail.”

“Yes, but it is not I who claim she is the Grail. Christ Himself made that claim.”

“Which one is the painting?” Sophie asked, scanning the walls. “Hmmm …” Teabing made a show of seeming to have forgotten.

“The Holy Grail. The Sangreal. The Chalice.” He wheeled suddenly and pointed to the far wall. On it hung an eight-foot-long print of The Last Supper, the same exact image Sophie had just been looking at. “There she is!”

Sophie was certain she had missed something. “That’s the same painting you just showed me.”

He winked. “I know, but the enlargement is so much more exciting. Don’t you think?”

Sophie turned to Langdon for help. “I’m lost.”

Langdon smiled. “As it turns out, the Holy Grail does indeed make an appearance in The Last Supper. Leonardo included her prominently.”

“Hold on,” Sophie said. “You told me the Holy Grail is a woman.

The Last Supper is a painting of thirteen men.”

“Is it?” Teabing arched his eyebrows. “Take a closer look.”

Uncertain, Sophie made her way closer to the painting, scanning the thirteen figures—Jesus Christ in the middle, six disciples on His left, and six on His right. “They’re all men,” she confirmed.

“Oh?” Teabing said. “How about the one seated in the place of honor, at the right hand of the Lord?”

Sophie examined the figure to Jesus’ immediate right, focusing in. As she studied the person’s face and body, a wave of astonishment rose within her. The individual had flowing red hair, delicate folded hands, and the hint of a bosom. It was, without a doubt … female.

“That’s a woman!” Sophie exclaimed.

Teabing was laughing. “Surprise, surprise. Believe me, it’s no mistake. Leonardo was skilled at painting the difference between the sexes.”

Sophie could not take her eyes from the woman beside Christ. The Last Supper is supposed to be thirteen men. Who is this woman? Although Sophie had seen this classic image many times, she had not once noticed this glaring discrepancy.

“Everyone misses it,” Teabing said. “Our preconceived notions of this scene are so powerful that our mind blocks out the incongruity and overrides our eyes.”

“It’s known as skitoma,” Langdon added. “The brain does it sometimes with powerful symbols.”

“Another reason you might have missed the woman,” Teabing said, “is that many of the photographs in art books were taken before 1954, when the details were still hidden beneath layers of grime and several restorative repaintings done by clumsy hands in the eighteenth century. Now, at last, the fresco has been cleaned down to Da Vinci’s original layer of paint.” He motioned to the photograph. “Et voilà!”

Sophie moved closer to the image. The woman to Jesus’ right was young and pious-looking, with a demure face, beautiful red hair, and hands folded quietly. This is the woman who singlehandedly could crumble the Church?

“Who is she?” Sophie asked.

“That, my dear,” Teabing replied, “is Mary Magdalene.” Sophie turned. “The prostitute?”

Teabing drew a short breath, as if the word had injured him personally. “Magdalene was no such thing. That unfortunate misconception is the legacy of a smear campaign launched by the early Church. The Church needed to defame Mary Magdalene in order to cover up her dangerous secret—her role as the Holy Grail.”

“Her role?

“As I mentioned,” Teabing clarified, “the early Church needed to convince the world that the mortal prophet Jesus was a divine being. Therefore, any gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus’ life had to be omitted from the Bible. Unfortunately for the early editors, one particularly troubling earthly theme kept recurring in the gospels. Mary Magdalene.” He paused. “More specifically, her marriage to Jesus Christ.”