The Da Vinci Code: Chapter 56

Summary: Langdon tells Sophie that the Holy Grail is not only a person but also, specifically, a woman. He introduces her to the most ancient symbols for female (a V, which he calls “the chalice,” indicative of women’s role as a vessel in childbearing) and male (an upside down V, “a rudimentary phallus”). Teabing tells Sophie that the Grail is not just any woman, but a specific woman—one whose secret would topple established Christianity if revealed—one whom was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Meanwhile, Rémy, who is watching television, realizes that he has just ushered the two fugitives whom the police are seeking into his master’s home.

Analysis: “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” (p. 258). Langdon’s summary of ancient male and female symbolism succinctly summarizes the novel’s interpretation of Grail symbols. This brief, expository chapter (save for the instant of dramatic tension injected at the end, as Rémy realizes who Teabing’s unexpected guests are) also advances an alternative interpretation of traditional stories of Grail quests—“Knights who claimed to be ‘searching for the chalice’ were speaking in code” of their search for “the lost sacred feminine” (p. 259)—and of the Christian doctrine of “original sin.” According to classical Roman Catholic teaching, original sin is “the hereditary stain with which [all human beings] are born on account of our origin or descent from Adam” (Catholic Encylopedia, Langdon claims that “man, not God” invented the concept, in order to justify ecclesiastical subjugation of women (p. 258). Now no longer the life-giving chalice, women are viewed as the sin-transmitting foe. Langdon is correct insofar as “original sin,” as a formal doctrine, is not explicitly present in the text of Genesis 2-3 (the story of the first sin in the Garden of Eden). Indeed, Jewish interpretations of that Creation narrative do not arrive at original sin as a conclusion. He oversimplifies the situation somewhat, however, in stating that “Genesis was the beginning of the end for the goddess” (p. 259). The Book of Genesis actually contains not one but two accounts of creation; the narrative in Genesis 1 can readily be interpreted as establishing equality between the sexes: “So God created man [i.e., humanity] in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27, KJV). Both genders, male and female together, in balanced relationship, reflect the imago Dei, the image of God. That Langdon would not invoke Genesis 1 as textual support for the Priory’s holistic view of human sexuality and spirituality seems a conspicuous oversight.