Summary: Under the black light, a six-word message from Saunière can be seen, scrawled across the glass covering the Mona Lisa: So Dark the Con of Man. Langdon interprets the words as a reference to the Priory’s belief that the Christian Church “conned” western civilization into believing that femininity was suspect and evil, worthy of suppression. Before he can explain more fully, guards arrive. Sophie flees, but Langdon is forced to the floor at gunpoint—ironically, in the spread-eagle shape of the Vitruvian Man.
Analysis: This chapter advances the beliefs that the Priory of Sion holds within Brown’s novel: namely, “that [Emperor] Constantine [who converted to Christianity in 312 C.E., giving the religion legitimate status within the Roman Empire] and his male successors successfully converted the world from matriarchal paganism to patriarchal Christianity by waging a campaign of propaganda that demonized the sacred feminine, obliterating the goddess from modern religion forever” (p. 133). Brown is interested in establishing the background against which his symbolic “treasure hunt” will unfold. “The Church” within his novel becomes almost a cipher itself for misogynistic attitudes and actions; it is, in a sense, the main antagonist in the narrative—for, were it not for the Church’s distrust and abuse of the feminine, Saunière and his brethren would never have needed to create the complex methods of hiding valuable information and protecting the truth.