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Decoding ‘The Da Vinci Code’
For millions, the phenomenal best seller is their introduction to the arcane and mysterious ‘shadow history’ of the early church. Herewith, an attempt to separate truth from fiction
IMG: The Last Supper
Antonio Calanni / AP
Is that Mary Magdalene or the disciple, John, in Leonardo da Vinci’s 'Last Supper'? Scholars disagree
Newsweek

Dec. 8 issue - For millions, the phenomenal best seller is their introduction to the arcane and mysterious ‘shadow history’ of the early church. Herewith, an attempt to separate truth from fiction.

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Did Leonardo include Mary Magdalene in his “Last Supper”?
Most art scholars say no. The figure reputed to be Mary Magdalene is actually the beloved disciple John, who is usually depicted young and clean-shaven.

Were Jesus and Mary M. married?
Although there is no way to prove or disprove this, most experts consider it highly unlikely. Their main argument: there is no mention of it in canonical writings.

Was Mary M. a prostitute?
This misperception probably began with a sermon by Pope Gregory the Great in A.D. 591 in which he conflated several figures into one. In 1969 the Vatican officially overruled Gregory.

Are Opus Dei and the Priory of Sion real organizations?
Yes, but there is no indication that either is involved in any plot to conceal or reveal secrets of the Holy Grail.

What is the Holy Grail?
The most widely accepted idea is that it was the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper. Others have hypothesized that it was a secret book. In the 12th century a French abbot claimed to possess it; his silver chalice now resides in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Did male leaders cover up the true role of women in the early church?
Yes, in the sense that history is written by the winners, and in a patriarchal society, men had a big edge.

What happened to Mary M. after the Resurrection?
Nobody knows. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, she went to Turkey. A Western legend says she went to Provence.

Is there a secret cache of documents that reveal the true history of Christianity?
No one knows, but scholars are busy analyzing ancient documents found in Egypt in the last century. These texts, known as the Gnostic Gospels, were lost for centuries, and could shed new light on the origins of the church.

Did Leonardo hide clues about church secrets in his paintings?
Art historians doubt it.

© 2004 Newsweek, Inc.

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