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Literature / The Da Vinci Code

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In London lies a knight a Pope interred.
His labor's fruit a Holy wrath incurred.
You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb.
It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb.
— Rosewood box riddle

The Da Vinci Code is a 2003 thriller written by Dan Brown. It sold 80 million copies worldwide, becoming one of the bestselling novels in history. It also caused a huge controversy because of its statements about early Christianity, and was sharply criticized for that and its historical inaccuracy.

The story begins with a museum curator getting killed, setting a historian framed for the murder and his newfound lady co-investigator on a puzzle quest for the Holy Grail.

In 2006, a film adaptation was released, directed by Ron Howard and with an All-Star Cast including Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina, Jean Reno, Jürgen Prochnow and Jean-Pierre Marielle.

The Da Vinci Code contains examples of:

  • Accidental Passenger: Invoked. When Sophie discovers a GPS tracker, she attaches it to a bar of soap, and throws it on to a passing truck, which is later stopped by the police.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: The 2006 movie has several story issues that weren't present in the book. To name a few:
    • In the book, several characters discuss the possibility of the Church trying to hide evidence of Jesus having living descendants, but it's left ambiguous whether any of this is actually true, and the head of Opus Dei is ultimately revealed to be a pawn of "The Teacher" who just wants to keep Opus Dei afloat. In the movie, it's made explicit that there actually is a secret group within the Vatican called "The Council of Shadows" that actively wants to find and destroy Mary Magdalene's tomb, and they're particularly concerned about the possibility of someone using "DNA identification" to prove that Mary Magdalene was the mother of Jesus' children. Except...even if someone managed to get samples of Mary Magdalene's DNA from her tomb, no one could prove that Jesus fathered her children unless they also had DNA samples from Jesus himself. So what are they so afraid of?
    • In the book, Bezu Fache is just a really persistent detective who also happens to be a devout Catholic, and he pursues Langdon for Jacques Saunière's murder due to a simple misunderstanding. In the movie, Fache is a member of Opus Dei, and it's eventually revealed that Bishop Aringarosa is using him as a pawn to stop Langdon from exposing the truth about Jesus' bloodline (Fache suspects Langdon because Aringarosa falsely claimed that Langdon came to him in confession and admitted to being a killer). But Aringarosa has no way of knowing about Saunière's trail of clues, which is the only reason Langdon knows the truth—so Aringarosa shouldn't have any reason to be concerned about him revealing anything. Langdon also doesn’t find Saunière's clues until after he's summoned to the Louvre...but he's only summoned to the Louvre because Fache thinks he killed Saunière, and wants to set a trap for him. If Aringarosa was really the one who convinced Fache to pin the murder on Langdon, he'd had to have convinced him of that before Langdon even discovered the clues—in which case, he shouldn't have had any reason to frame him for murder.
    • The movie ends with the revelation that Sophie Neveu is Jesus' only living direct descendant. As Langdon rather melodramatically phrases it: " are the secret!" In other words: a 2,000-year-old bloodline (descended from a couple who had multiple children) has exactly one living direct descendant. In the book, the final revelation is a lot less dramatic: Sophie and her long-lost brother (who's dead in the movie) are just two of several descendants of one of several French families who claim to trace their lineage back to Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and it's implied that Jesus and Mary Magdalene have so many descendants that being related to them isn't good for much other than bragging rights.
    • For added head-scratching: the movie also adds the revelation that Jacques Saunière wasn't really Sophie's grandfather, but simply adopted her to keep her safe from agents of the Church who systematically assassinate living descendants of Jesus. But if Sophie is so important to the Priory of Sion that their leader adopted her to keep her safe from the Church, then why didn't any members of the Priory ever bother to check in on her after she became estranged from her "grandfather" as an adult? If the Priory of Sion is devoted to protecting the living descendants of Jesus, you'd think they'd put a little more effort into protecting his only living descendant. If nothing else, you'd think they might have told her about her secret heritage at some point, instead of just waiting for her to coincidentally stumble upon one of their hideouts.
    • In the book, "The Teacher" is able to manipulate Opus Dei into helping him because he learns that the Catholic Church is about to revoke its support for the group, and he convinces Bishop Aringarosa that he'll be able to regain the Church's support if he presents them with the Sangrael Documents (the historical documents that prove that Jesus had descendants). In the movie, the plot point about Opus Dei losing its Church support never comes up, and Aringarosa is part of a secret group within the Vatican that actively wants to hide the existence of Jesus' descendants from the world—making it extra questionable that he would willingly ally with the Teacher, who wants to reveal the existence of Jesus' descendants to the world. The movie's only explanation is that the Teacher (somehow) "convinced them that [he] was an ally".
    • In the movie, "The Teacher" asks his allies in the Church for a small fortune in Vatican bearer bonds solely so they'll think that he's Only in It for the Money and won't suspect that he has his own agenda—and they give him as much money as he wants (with seemingly little hesitation), even though they don't know who he is and have little reason to trust him. In the book, Aringarosa conveniently has a large stash of Vatican bearer bonds at his disposal due to the Vatican paying him severance money after revoking their support for Opus Dei, and he agrees to pay the Teacher because he convinces him that he can help him regain the Vatican's support if he finds evidence of Jesus' bloodline.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Sort of; Adventurer Symbologist (a made-up discipline) in this case.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Bishop Aringarosa gets this in The Film of the Book. In the book, he's just the leader of Opus Dei (where he's presented as nothing more than an unusually conservative Catholic prelate) who gets roped into helping The Teacher find the tomb out of desperation to keep his order from being abolished, and in fact, actually requests that the "bearer bonds" worth 20 million euros he was ordered to bring to Teabing instead be distributed amongst the families of the murder victims. In The Film of the Book, he leads a secretive "shadow council" within the Church that actively wants to destroy the tomb to prevent evidence of Jesus' bloodline from reaching the public, and he manipulates police captain Fache (who's an Opus Dei member in the movie) into hunting down Langdon despite his innocence.
  • Agonizing Stomach Wound: The book begins with one of these: Silas opts to shoot Jacques Sauniere in the gut and leave him to it, trusting that being trapped behind Louvre's active security gates will make it impossible for Sauniere to reveal anything to anyone before he dies. However, Sauniere is able to get around this through inventive use of his own blood.
  • Albinos Are Freaks: Silas's father was an alcoholic thug who abused his son because of his appearance, forcing Silas to run away from home as a teenager and turn to crime to survive. He's not a hitman because of his albinism, but it's understandable that his treatment might lead to some unsavory career choices.
  • Alternate History: A minor case. A major plot point in the book involves Opus Dei losing the support of the Catholic Church and becoming an independent religious organization. This never happened in reality: Opus Dei is still an officially sanctioned institution of the Catholic Church today. It's also mentioned a few times that Opus Dei bailed out the Vatican Bank when they declared bankruptcy in 1982, which similarly never happened.note 
  • Ancient Conspiracy:
    • Subverted. It turns out to be the work of a lone nutjob with an agenda. All the power players seemingly acting in concert against our heroes turn out to be un-associated individuals merely acting on poor information.
    • Though in the movie, due to Adaptational Villainy, it turns out that there actually is a secret faction within the Catholic Church that actively wants to find and destroy Mary Magdalene's tomb.
  • Ancient Order of Protectors: The Priory of Sion guards the Holy Grail.
  • Ancient Tradition: The Priory of Sion.
  • Anti-Climax: Book only. Robert and Sophie were running under the assumption that the Priory would eventually reveal the Grail and the proof that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children. Marie is amused when Robert asks if the Priory is going ahead with this plan. She says, on the contrary, the Priory is dedicated to keeping the real Grail a secret. History has taught them that the Grail motivates people the most when they don't know what it is, so they can be their best selves.
  • Anywhere but Their Lips: In the movie, Langdon kisses Sophie on the forehead at the end.
  • Artistic License – Art:
    • Sophie puts a GPS tracker on a bar of soap from the Louvre and throws it out the window onto a passing truck. The bathrooms in that part of the Louvre have no windows and don't use bar soap.
    • "Madonna of the Rocks" hangs in the Grand Gallery, not the Salle des Etats. The painting directly across from the The Mona Lisa" is Caliari's "The Wedding Feast at Cana." This painting is an enormous 32 feet (9.9 meters) wide. Even if "Virgin of the Rocks" did hang opposite the "Mona Lisa," it's 6.5 feet (1.99 meters) tall, too tall for Sophie to see over. The painting's ornate wooden frame is also too heavy for an average person to lift unassisted.
    • A big deal is made over the Last Supper and how Leonardo painted a woman among the apostles. Leonardo actually used to blur the line between men and women and painted a lot of people to look androgynous. Also, John is often depicted with long hair and no beard even in other works. Finally, since Mary Magdalene wasn't a persona non grata in Christianity as the movie claims, there would be no reason to hide her from paintings and in fact she was depicted in many religious paintings in the renaissance.
    • The small stone pyramid under the inverted glass pyramid in the Louvre underground mall is just a modern architectural installation, and it is not the tip of a larger, buried pyramid containing the tomb of Mary Magdalene. There are photos of the stone pyramid temporarily removed for maintenance, and even in its regular position it's pretty obvious it's not connected to anything below the floor level.
    • The idea that the title "Mona Lisa" was meant as an anagram of "Amon L'Isa" makes little sense, as in Italy the painting is known as La Gioconda. There is no evidence that Leonardo himself ever called it that, much less intended a hidden message.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • In The Film of the Book, the Catholic Church's "shadow council" wants to destroy Mary Magdalene's tomb to prevent evidence of Jesus's bloodline from reaching the public. They seem to think that having access to DNA samples from Mary Magdalene's corpse would, by itself, give someone a way to prove that she and Jesus had children. Actually, it would just prove that she had children at some point (not exactly an Earth-shattering revelation). Proving that Jesus fathered her children would require a DNA sample from Jesus, too.
    • Albinism is often linked to poor eyesight due to a lack of pigment in the eyes as a result of being melanin-deficient. Silas would most likely be a very poor candidate to be what is effectively an assassin since shooting at long distances and being able to drive at night is part of the job description.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The grail being of the Merovingian bloodline is portrayed as being kind of a big deal. While they were kings, aside from Clovis, most of them were little better than barbarian warlords and tended to be more incompetent than the last as time went on. Although, it should be noted that part of this negative image of incompetent kings is due to the propaganda of their successors, the Carolingians, who evicted the last Merovingian king and therefore had an interest in portraying them as lazy incompetents to justify their own power-grab. Historians are still debating the issue, but as with the other so-called "barbarian" people who founded kingdoms on the ruins of the Roman Empire, they are questioning how "barbarous" these people really were.
    • The Priory of Scion is a real organization that actually exists...but it was founded in 1956 by a bunch of people who went as far as to plant fake evidence as to their "theory" on how Christianity is Based on a Great Big Lie.
    • The book claims that "during three hundred years of witch hunts, the Church burned at the stake an astounding five million women". While the Witch trials of the Early New Age existed and were pretty horrible, modern, scholastic estimations range from 40,000 to 60,000 victims in Europe in total. Most of them were women but a significant number (around 20%) were men, and many were executed in Protestant countries.
    • In the film adaptation, Langdon's lecture on symbology includes a montage contrasting a peace symbol with an illustration of Roman authorities crucifying someone upside-down, implying that one originated from the other. In fact, this is a common urban legend about the origins of the peace symbol: it actually comes from the semaphore symbols for "N" and "D", which stand for "nuclear disarmament"—because it originated as a symbol of the anti-nuclear weapons movement.
  • Artistic License – Law Enforcement: Discussed several times.
    • Dan Brown seems to be under the impression that all it takes to extradite a British national from their own country is for a foreign law enforcement agencies to make a call to a local police officer. Also, he seems to think that said local police will simply detain the suspects until the foreign police arrive to make the arrests themselves.
    • He says the French police judiciaire is the equivalent of the FBI. It's not- this refers simply to detectives. The closest France has to the FBI is the National Police, but there is no exact equivalent because of the way France's government is organized. It is not federated like the US, so there's no need for an interstate agency. The National Police takes care of civil law enforcement duties for the entire country — except in smaller towns and more remote areas, where the Gendarmerie has jurisdiction, and municipal police exist in some towns and cities — and the police judiciaire is the section of the National Police that investigates the most serious crimes such as murders. Whether this is a case of Creator Provincialism or just another case of Dan not doing the research (or both) isn't clear.
    • Sophie tells Langdon that the police captain suspects he committed the murder and can have him detained for months. No. French law only allows someone to be detained for 24 hours, with another 24 hours allowed if approved by the local prosecutor and the police can demonstrate it's necessary. The captain would have to prove Langdon committed the murder in the face of evidence that Langdon was nowhere in the vicinity, he'd have to answer for destroying evidence when he erased Langdon's name, they'd have to prove Langdon either smuggled a gun into France or acquired one when he was already there, the list goes on. He can't charge Langdon, only the local prosecutor can do that, and he doesn't have enough evidence to make it stick. And to repeat, the prosecutor is going to be seriously pissed that he destroyed evidence by erasing part of what the victim wrote. Of course, Sophie may have simply said that to get Langdon to stop arguing and get moving.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics:
    • Langdon claims that the name of the Holy Grail is related to the Latin word sanguis "blood", via French sangreal. This is false; the word "Grail" most likely derives from Latin crater "jar".
    • Langdon claims that the word cross derives from Latin cruciare "to torture". Actually, it's the other way round - cruciare derives from Latin crux, which translates to - cross.
  • Artistic License – Religion:
    • Much is made of the Holy Grail legend's significance to Christianity, even though the Holy Grail isn't actually mentioned in any canonical Christian text. The Grail legend wasn't spawned until the 12th century, and it's solely the product of Arthurian literature. This is why the Grail doesn't appear in Leonardo's The Last Supper (not to mention that Leonardo, being Italian, wouldn't have had much reason to paint a Macguffin from a French/British chivalric romance in one of his biblical scenes).
    • There's the whole the goddess thing, which implies that all pagan religions worshipped female deities in a similar way and that it made them more egalitarian as a society. Here Brown seems to be under the impression that "paganism" was a sort of unified, global religion with different localizations instead of an umbrella term used by early Christians to label just all non-Christian beliefs they found.note  The idea that pagan religions had a stronger female presence than patristic Christianity is true in several ways, but the social role of goddesses and women varied wildly through time and place, and even the most liberated pagan societies like the Celtic or the Germanic ones were far from being a straight Feminist Fantasy. The fact that Brown chose Classical goddesses to make this point is even more ludicrous, as Greek and Roman societies were strongly male-dominated despite their impressive abundance of female deities.
    • It is also made apparent that pagan societies with a stronger female presence were more peaceful in contrast to the imperialistic, tyrannical Roman Christianity. While it is true that pagan religions weren't generally interested in converting or pursuing other cults (introductions of new gods in other territories rarely led to the displacement of native beliefs, but rather to coexistence, syncretism or even outright equation - see interpretatio graeca as an example), the claim that they were more socially peaceful than Christianity is wrong at a fundamental level. Romans, Greeks, Celts, Mesopotamians and Levantines (including the ancient Canaanite religion that became Judaism) all had warrior deities, which often dominated their pantheons and cultures, and some of them featured brutal practices like human sacrifice and ritual mutilation. In contrast, Christians weren't interested in war as a concept, among other things because their religion pandered to the humblest, least possibly warlike segment of the society, and this was such an oddity at the time that it became a source of misunderstanding even among their own sects.
    • In the novel, Silas longs for a life of solitude and quiet study as an Opus Dei monk. In real life, Opus Dei has no religious orders, precisely because it urges followers to sanctify everyday pursuits such as family and career, not retreat from the world. In addition, the self-flagellation that Silas partakes in is optional in real-life Opus Dei and isn't required to be as extreme as whipping (a cold shower would be fine).
    • The discussion of how Christianity views Mary Magdalene is completely wrong. Mary Magdalene is considered by Christians and theologians as one of the most important figures in Jesus' life and viewed in some denominations as the apostle to the apostles. There is a misconception of her as a prostitute because she was conflated with another Mary but even so she is known mainly as a close companion of Jesus, as a witness to his burial and crucifixion and as the first witness to his resurrection. As such, she wouldn't be besmirched by the church nor would any depiction of her in art be seen as rebellious or unsanctioned (see artistic license Art above)
    • The book's claim that the Biblical canon was decreed by Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicaea is likewise complete bogus.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Silas follows Saunière's clue to the church of Eglise de Saint-Sulpice in search of the keystone, but only finds a tablet engraved Job 38:11 ("hitherto shalt thou come, but no further").
  • Author Catchphrase: "My friends..."
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Da Vinci was part of an ancient group that knew the secret of Jesus and communicated it through secret messages in The Last Supper.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Aringarosa is Italian for "Red Herring", indicating he isn't the Big Bad.
  • Book Ends: The story begins and ends with a dead body in the Louvre. The first time it's Jacques Saunière's body. The second time it's the corpse of Mary Magdalene, whose tomb was hidden under the Louvre by the Priory of Sion.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Using planks as parachutes.
    • There's also a Chekhov's Allergy. As soon as we hear that Rémy has a peanut allergy he once had to have an emergency tracheotomy for, we know how he's going to die.
  • The Chessmaster: Teabing is revealed to be either controlling all the important characters or at least planning around their actions.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Very much at play in the movie, in which no mention is made of the fact that the Temple Church, Westminster Abbey and Rosslyn Chapel are all Anglican places of worship (specifically, Church of England for the first two and Scottish Episcopal Church in the case of Rosslyn). Also, anything to do with the Council of Nicaea would implicate the Ethiopian and Orthodox Churches as was strong in the Eastern Roman Empire and a coverup would require cooperation or common goals of each denomination.
  • Claustrophobia: Langdon. He is in every book.
  • Clue of Few Words: When museum curator Jacques Sauniere is found murdered in the Louvre, detectives find him lying naked and supine in The Vitruvian Pose. He'd also scribed "O draconian devil" and "Oh lame saint" in his blood on the parquet floor. Cryptologist Robert Langdon deduces the phrases are anagrams for "Leonardo da Vinci" and "the Mona Lisa," where a further clue can be found.
  • Conflict Ball: It's not immediately clear just what the antagonists are fighting over. Silas and the Aringarosa want to keep the secret of Mary Magdalene a secret. The Priory has kept their knowledge of Mary Magdalene secret for centuries.
    • The conflict is over the fact that the Priory was supposed to release the secret to the public at a certain set time. The Church wants the secret kept forever.
    • Except that the Priory was apparently never planning to, so it was All for Nothing.
  • Continuity Nod: In the book, which happens after Angels & Demons (contrary to the movie), some things that happened in Angels and Demons (a year ago now In-Universe) are mentioned in passing:
    • At the beginning, when Langdon is awoken by an unexpected phone call in the middle of the night, he remembers the same thing happened a year ago.
    • When the phone call comes, Langdon is reminiscing about Vittoria Vetra, whom he met in Rome last year.
    • Just like last year, Langdon remarks that he's often contacted by conspiracy theorist because of his work, but that it's gotten a lot worse last year since he was in the news after the events in Angels and Demons.
    • When Langdon notes that a certain poem is in iambic pentameter, he remembers he saw the same kind of poems last year in the Vatican.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The plot hinges on some very unlikely coincidences that none of the characters seem to regard as particularly unlikely. To name a few:
    • The plot is kicked off by Saunière leaving a message on the floor of the Louvre for his estranged granddaughter shortly before he dies from a gunshot wound; even though he gives no indication that it was intended for her (other than the initials "P.S.", which could mean any number of things), she still ends up seeing it because she happens to be a cryptographer for the French police. Even though the French police have numerous cryptographers, and Saunière couldn't possibly have known which one of them would have seen his message. note 
    • When Sophie and Langdon wind up on the run from the French police after being wrongfully blamed for Sanière's murder, they're forced to seek refuge with Robert's English expatriate friend, who's one of the only people in France who Robert knows. Said friend turns out to be the mastermind behind The Conspiracy who had Saunière murdered in the first place. Gee, who'da thunk?
  • Conveniently an Orphan:
  • Cunning Linguist: Averted, especially in the movie, in which it's more than obvious that Langdon (as well as Tom Hanks who portrays him) knows absolutely nothing about French and can only react to familiar phrases (such as his own name); at other times, he just looks at Sophie expectantly. How he managed to become a world-renowned expert in symbols while only knowing English is anyone's guess.
  • Death by Adaptation: Sadly, Sophie's brother really did die in the car crash during the film. In the book, it's revealed Marie faked his death, and he was raised to believe that Sophie and Jacques died with his parents.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Both of Sophie's parents are killed in a car accident when she was young, making her Conveniently an Orphan raised by her grandfather.
  • Deliberately Painful Clothing: Silas wears a spiked chain around his right thigh. Teabing uses this to incapacitate Silas when the latter tries stealing the cryptex.
  • Desperate Object Catch: Langdon throws the cryptex to distract the villain, who tries and fails to catch it.
  • Double Standard: Teabing and the Priory's grievance with the Church is centuries of persecution and deceit. This ignores the fact that those things are also found (in sometimes greater and sometimes lesser degrees) among some non-Catholic Christians, religions besides Christianity, and non-religious people, ideologies and institutions. In fact, in the book, Sophie's grandmother Marie says that the Priory has no plan to discredit the church.
  • Driving Stick: Langdon's inability to do this briefly delays a getaway.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Saturated with them—the final one is unseen but heavily implied.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Teabing sincerely admits that his plan was to make sure Robert wasn't hurt; Robert is his friend, and a fellow academic interested in finding the Grail. He wasn't supposed to be involved at all and wouldn't have been if not for Jacques writing down Robert's name as part of a dying message. In fact, Teabing's plan was to ensure that Silas would take the Grail from his mansion, while Teabing would clear Robert and Sophie's names with the authorities. Teabing realized, however, that he needed Robert's help to solve the clue and incapacitated Silas, and he tells Robert that they're going to solve this puzzle together
  • Everybody Cries: In the book, Sophie, her grandmother and brother engage in a Tears of Joy sobfest when they reunite. To well up the tears, her brother reveals that Marie said that Sophie and Jacques died in the crash.
  • Everyone Has Standards: In the book at least, Aringosa had no idea what "Teacher", aka a disguised Teabing, was planning. He had been led to believe that "Teacher" would help him find the Grail. When the cops inform him that Silas is connected to the murder of a nun, it doesn't take long for Aringosa to put two and two together, go Oh, Crap!, and confess everything.
  • Fantastic Catholicism: "Fantastic" is being nice, considering that a quite few of the more outlandish elements are simply the result of getting basic facts wrong. The Ancient Conspiracy that is the centerpiece of the plot, for example, is the result of taking a well-known hoax seriously. Then there's the legend of the holy grail itself, which is rooted in Medieval knightly romances.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Sophie stops talking to her grandfather, her sole surviving relative and the man who raised her for ten years. Why? She walked in on him having sex. Granted, it was under unusual circumstances, but her reaction of horror and disgust, and the fact that she hates him for ten years (until he dies and she finds out more about the circumstances) seems quite unreasonable. She is not even portrayed as devoutly religious, which would make her reaction make a little more sense; the narrative just takes for granted that that is a reasonable cause for complete estrangement.
  • Foreshadowing: When Teabing's butler Remy betrays Teabing to free Silas, he reveals that he's secretly in league with "The Teacher". When Silas asks if Remy is the Teacher, he replies, "No. But like you, I serve him." This is an early clue that Teabing is the Teacher.
  • Gut Punch: Book only. Sophie finds out that her grandmother and brother are alive, and she reunites with them more than a decade later. Everybody Cries as it turns out Marie knew the whole time that Sophie was alive, but was scared for her on hearing in the news that Jacques was dead.
  • The Heavy: Silas is not the Big Bad, though he kicks off the plot and continues to be an antagonist throughout.
  • Heel Realization: Silas has one when he shoots Bishop Aringosa by accident: "I am a ghost."
  • Hollywood Law:
    • Dan Brown seems to be under the impression that all it takes to extradite a British national from their own country is for a foreign law enforcement agencies to make a call to a local police officer. Also, he seems to think that said local police will simply detain the suspects until the foreign police arrive to make the arrests themselves.
    • He says the French police judiciaire is the equivalent of the FBI. It's not- this refers simply to detectives. The closest France has to the FBI is the National Police, but there is no exact equivalent because of the way France's government is organized. It is not federated like the US, so there's no need for an interstate agency. The National Police takes care of civil law enforcement duties for the entire country — except in smaller towns and more remote areas, where the Gendarmerie has jurisdiction, and municipal police exist in some towns and cities — and the police judiciaire is the section of the National Police that investigates the most serious crimes such as murders. Whether this is a case of Creator Provincialism or just another case of Dan not doing the research (or both) isn't clear.
    • Sophie tells Langdon that the police captain suspects he committed the murder and can have him detained for months. No. French law only allows someone to be detained for 24 hours, with another 24 hours allowed if approved by the local prosecutor and the police can demonstrate it's necessary. The captain would have to prove Langdon committed the murder in the face of evidence that Langdon was nowhere in the vicinity, he'd have to answer for destroying evidence when he erased Langdon's name, they'd have to prove Langdon either smuggled a gun into France or acquired one when he was already there, the list goes on. He can't charge Langdon, only the local prosecutor can do that, and he doesn't have enough evidence to make it stick. And to repeat, the prosecutor is going to be seriously pissed that he destroyed evidence by erasing part of what the victim wrote. Of course, Sophie may have simply said that to get Langdon to stop arguing and get moving.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: During his frantic escape from the police in the film, Silas forgets to check his target and shoots Aringarosa. It isn't fatal, but the distraction makes sure Silas doesn't escape.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Briefly played with in the movie. When Fache first brings Langdon to the Louvre (secretly suspecting him of being Saunière's murderer), Langdon mentions that the murder took place in the Grand Gallery before Fache tells him where the body was found. Langdon, with his extensive knowledge of art, actually just recognized the Grand Gallery's distinctive parquet floor in the crime scene photograph, but he inadvertently ends up making himself look even guiltier.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Averted. Getting shot in the stomach leaves Saunière enough time (and strength) to move about the gallery some more before dying.
  • Invisible Writing: Mortally wounded curator Jacques Sauniere leaves an important clue scrawled on the Louvre's parquet floor, that can only be seen under ultraviolet light. "O Draconian Devil / Oh Lame Saint." It was made not to implicate his killer, but rather to indicate his killer's objective. He puts Langdon's name under that, not to say Langdon did it but that he could help.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "You are a ghost!" becomes this for Silas, who admits to himself "I am a ghost" at the end.
    • "Only the worthy find the Grail" becomes this for Teabing, who gets this spat back at him by Langdon.
  • Knight Templar: The original Knights Templar figure heavily in the Ancient Conspiracy Alternate History of the book. Ironically, practically all the antagonists of the book also follow this trope, being extremely moral Anti-Villains, Well-Intentioned Extremists, or just badly misinformed. This is most evident in the Teacher, Sir Leigh Teabing, a Knight of the British Empire who also sees himself as furthering the good works of the original Knights Templar. Silas also insists that he's doing God's will.
  • Linked List Clue Methodology: Invoked by Saunière who set up a treasure hunt for Robert and Sophie. The stages are: the message next to his body in the Louvre, the message on the Plexiglas protecting the Mona Lisa, the key hidden behind the Madonna of the Rocks, the cryptex found in a safe deposit box of the Depository Bank of Zurich, the smaller cryptex and the message found inside the first one, and the message inside the smaller cryptex, which finally hints to where the Holy Grail is hidden.
  • Maybe Ever After: Robert Really Gets Around, and he spent more time running from the law with Sophie rather than getting to know her. With that said, he develops a Rescue Romance since she spends her screentime protecting him and clearing his name. Sophie becomes attracted to his chivalry and dedication to finding out who killed Jacques, and why. At the end of the book at least, they agree to meet up in Florence where he'll be giving a lecture at a conference.
  • Meaningful Rename: "Silas" isn't actually Silas's birth name. He discarded the name that his parents gave him, and was later rechristened "Silas" by Bishop Aringarosa because the circumstances of his escape from prison match those of Silas, the apostle Paul's accomplice in the Book of Acts.note 
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: A very good example of it, at that.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Fache eventually realizes that Robert and Sophie are innocent and they really are in danger from the real killer. He tries ordering Sophie over the phone to seek refuge with Robert at the London police headquarters rather than try to save Teabing. Thing is that Fache says that Sophie and Robert need to do it to save his career rather than their own skin. Unsurprisingly, Sophie hangs up on him.
  • One-Hit Kill: Silas killing Sister Sandrine with a stone slab to the head. Also Killed Mid-Sentence.
  • One Password Attempt Ever: When Sophie and Langdon try to access a special ATM, the machine tells them to be extra careful because not only will it eat their card if they get the password wrong after one attempt, but the entire machine will shut down.
  • Only in It for the Money: Remy makes it clear that he only serves Teabing because he's getting paid to. He seemingly betrays Teabing for a large sum of cash before it's revealed that it was an act orchestrated by Teabing himself.
  • Out-Gambitted: Langdon does this to Teabing by fooling him into thinking that he couldn't open the cryptex, not even at gunpoint. After the knight is apprehended and in custody, he realizes that Langdon figured it out and removed the secret beforehand.
  • Parallel Porn Titles:
    • The Da Vinci Load. Currently on the second installment.
    • The Da Vinci Co-Ed is another one.
  • Plot-Powered Stamina: Robert Langdon never sleeps or visits the bathroom in the book, until the end.
  • Poirot Speak: Dan Brown's foreign language dialogue is almost unmatched in how ham-handed and unrealistic it is. Almost every bit of dialogue by a French person (and the first part of the book is set in Paris) features one or two words of French in otherwise flawless English, and it's almost always a simple, common word. In real life, people speaking a language that is foreign to them would probably lapse into their native tongue for the unfamiliar or unknown words, not "mister" and "captain".
  • Pop Culture Symbology: The book makes mention of Grail symbolism hidden within Disney cartoons, from Snow White to The Little Mermaid.
  • Primal Scene: Sophie's falling-out with her grandfather is over this; when she was younger, she caught him in the middle of a sex ritual.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Inverted. Langdon and Sophie have some sexual/romantic tension in the book, and it ends with them kissing and agreeing to meet up again for a date. In the movie, these are removed, with the kiss being changed to one on the forehead.
  • Raised by Grandparents: After becoming an orphan, Sophie is raised by her grandfather from an early age.
  • Real Is Brown: The flashbacks are set in a grayish tone.
  • Red Herring: As in all Dan Brown books, but literally in this case: "Aringarosa" is Italian for... you guessed it.(it actually means pink herring, but red herring is Aringarossa so it only lacks an s)
  • Refuge in Audacity: How Teabing manages to get past the British police, who are looking for him and the fugitives he's harboring: sheer balls.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Remy Legaludec. If it weren't for that allergy, he could have gotten away with it all.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Teabing makes full use of his privileges as one of the Queen's knights to help Langdon out. It's also this and his metal crutches that let him smuggle a gun through security checkpoints.
  • Self-Destructing Security: The cryptex protects its contents with a five-letter combination lock. Attempting to force the cryptex open will break the vial of vinegar inside, which would dissolve the papyrus along with its message before it could be read. As a result, only the right password will grant access to the message, since it'd be pretty difficult to brute force when there are ~12 million possibilities.
  • Self-Punishment Over Failure: Silas routinely flogs himself and wears a painful cilice each time he pursues a lead to the Holy Grail only to encounter a dead end. Guided by his Teacher (Rector), Silas has killed Jacques Sauniere at the Louvre and the Mother Superior at Saint Sulpice, yet came away with no further clue.
  • Shout-Out: Leigh Teabing's name is derived from Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent (whose last name is rearranged into Teabing), who co-wrote the "nonfiction" book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. (Third co-author, Henry Lincoln, was left out.)
  • Significant Anagram:
    • Leigh Teabing's surname is an anagram of Baigent, the surname of one of the authors of the "nonfiction" book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.
    • The message written by Saunière next to his body in the Louvre includes the anagrams of Leonardo da Vinci ("O, Draconian devil") and the Mona Lisa ("Oh, lame saint"). The message on the Plexiglas protecting the Mona Lisa is an anagram of Madonna of the Rocks ("So Dark the Con of Man").
  • Sinister Minister: Bishop Aringarosa in The Film of the Book, due to Adaptational Villainy, along with his co-conspirators within the Catholic Church.
  • Surprise Car Crash: Detective Sophie Neveu became an orphan in a head-on collision. In a childhood memory flashback, Sophie remembers being in the back seat of a sedan, with both parents turned to dote upon her; they never saw the tractor-trailer that came looming into the windshield.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: It turns out that leading a manhunt against two innocent people across international lines, and directly blocking their means of seeking legal protection or an embassy's refuge, is bad PR. Robert himself notes that he has no motive, murder weapon, or the time since his alibi was he was in his hotel room after Jacques stood him up for drinks. That's because Jacques was busy being murdered. Fache is forced to admit that he was wrong when learning from Aringosa that neither Sophie nor Robert was involved in the murders, and his priority becomes to save Robert and Sophie from the real killer. Even so, though Robert and Sophie show no hard feelings, the press certainly does. At the end, they're watching the news as a journalist asks Officer Collet if Robert and Sophie are going to pursue a lawsuit against the French police, rightly pointing out this was a gross Miscarriage of Justice by smearing two innocent people and making them France's most wanted.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Part of the quest for the Grail is to find out who Mary Magdalene and Jesus's descendants are. That way, they can be protected from whoever killed Jacques and the nun. Sophie finds out that she is one of those descendants; in the book, her brother is as well.
  • Trend Covers: Many, many historical/religious/conspiracy thriller novels got similar covers after this one's success.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Silas mistakes Sir Leigh Teabing for being just an old cripple, and he pays for it.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Hinted at more in the book when the two resolve to meet up again, but the movie has this too.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Teabing was using Silas, Remy, and Aringarosa to secure the Grail. Aringosa realizes it and confesses to the police
  • Weaponized Allergy: Rémy is disposed of with some peanut dust in his wine, triggering his allergy.
  • Welcomed to the Masquerade: The film adaptation has cryptologist Robert Langdon unearth ancient genealogy research that detective Sophie Neveu is a descendant of Jesus Christ, and is under the protection of the Priory of Sion, which is the 21st-century form of the Knights Templar.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Silas, again. Also Leigh Teabing.
  • What Cliff Hanger?: The book had a One-Paragraph Chapter in which Robert Langdon and his date see a thing inside a box. Whatever the grail was, it wasn't that thing (the thing turned out to be a cryptex, i.e., a tube that had a puzzle to be solved for it to open). In fact, done frequently in anything written by Dan Brown. It's pretty much the end of every chapter.
  • Wicked Cultured: Primarily Leigh Teabing.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: When at the Depository Bank of Zurich, Sophie realizes that cracking a 10-digit code will take the DCPJ's computers "months" to crack. However, even a computer in the early 2000s could test millions of passwords per second. Even if the password is protected with a technique like key stretching, a computer cluster with each core testing a few thousand passwords per second would still crack the key in a very short time.

The Holy Grail 'neath ancient Roslin waits.
The blade and chalice guarding o'er Her gates.
Adorned in masters' loving art, She lies.
She rests at last beneath the starry skies.