Summary: In order to reach 24 Rue Haxo, the taxi driver takes Sophie and Langdon through the Parisian park the Bois de Boulogne, also called, ironically, “the Garden of Earthly Delights” for the wide range of prostitutes available for hire there. As they drive, Langdon relates the history of the Priory of Sion for Sophie. He says that the medieval French king Godefroi founded the Priory in order to ensure that “a powerful secret” he possessed would not be lost after his death. The Priory discovered the existence of a hidden cache of documents beneath the site of Solomon’s Temple, documents that proved Godefroi’s secret. They established the Knights Templar to retrieve those documents. Amidst the Temple’s ruins, the Knights discovered “something… something that made them wealthy and powerful beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.” Shortly after their rise to wealth, the Pope declared the Knights an autonomous order, “a law unto themselves.” Eventually, in 1307, Pope Clement V, claiming a vision from God as his authority, ordered the arrest, interrogation, torture and execution of the Templars. Some Knights, however, escaped—and the secret documents escaped Pope Clement, as well, ferried to an unknown location by agents of the Priory of Sion. Langdon tells Sophie that the documents and its powerful secret “have become known by a single name”: the Sangreal—the Holy Grail.
Analysis: This chapter begins with a brief, pointed description of the Bois de Boulogne as “dark and twisted, a purgatory for freaks and fetishists” (p. 170). And although Langdon regards the park as an incongruous backdrop for his tale of the Templars and the Brotherhood, the one element that may actually connect the two is sexuality. Of course, the sexuality in the “Garden of Earthly Delights” is crude and perverted, and not the healthy, holistic sexuality of “holy marriage” that encompasses spirituality which the Brotherhood practices.
How much of Langdon’s history of the Knights Templar is authentic and how much is fanciful is much debated by academics and lay readers alike, as Langdon acknowledges to himself: he hesitates “even to mention the Knights Templar while lecturing because it invariably led to a barrage of convoluted inquiries into assorted conspiracy theories” (p. 171). (Ironically, of course, Langdon is simply privileging his own conspiracy theory over the innumerable others!)