The Da Vinci Code: Chapter 47

Summary: Inside the bank truck’s cargo hold, Langdon and Sophie discuss the object inside Saunière’s deposit box: a “cryptex,” a device designed by Da Vinci himself for the secure transportation of information over distance. A scroll of papyrus is wrapped around a vial of vinegar and inserted inside a hollow stone cylinder. The cylinder can only be opened by rotating its five alphabetical dials to spell the proper password. The vinegar within ensures that anyone who wants to retrieve the message will not resort to smashing the cryptex open, as the vinegar would destroy the papyrus. Commenting on the rose that adorns Saunière’s deposit box, Sophie tells how her grandfather encouraged her to hang a rose over her door when she needed privacy (and he would do the same). This story sparks a connection in Langdon’s mind.

Analysis: Although he possessed a brilliant mind and did indeed draw up plans for many possible inventions, no evidence exists that Da Vinci designed or built any device like the “cryptex” described in The Da Vinci Code. The concept is an ingenious one, however, a truth from which its lack of factual basis does not detract. It is very much in keeping with the spirit of Da Vinci’s actual work. As a New York Times review of a 2006 exhibition in Chicago (at which the prop of the cryptex constructed for the novel’s film adaptation was on display) concluded, “When you see Leonardo’s artworks, their allure and power can lead you to imagine something grand and mysterious, if not a code, then something dizzying, beyond simple understanding… You are left in the presence of an extraordinary mind at work, playfully decoding the world” (Edward Rothstein, “In Chicago, Leonardo the Inventor and Decoder,” New York Times, 30 May 2006;
=cse&scp=2). In creating the cryptex, Brown again demonstrates what he does best: he uses established facts to extrapolate fictional concepts that take on an air of authenticity.  
In addition to establishing the cryptex—a key element in the rest of the novel—this chapter also summarizes and reinforces what readers have been told about the Priory’s Grail symbolism, at the same time imparting new information: “The Rose. Entire armies and religions had been built on this symbol, as had secret societies. The Rosicrucians. The Knights of the Rosy Cross” (p. 214); “In Priory symbolism, the Rose and the Grail are synonymous” (p. 219); “The Romans hung a rose over meetings to indicate the meeting was confidential” (p. 219). Simply put, Brown is preparing readers of the “pay-off” to the floral symbolism that he has been slowly building throughout the book.