Summary: Sophie and Langdon embark on a wild police chase away from the Louvre, headed for the American Embassy. During the ride, Langdon reflects on the significance of the painting behind which Saunière hid his key for his granddaughter. For her part, Sophie is thinking about that key and recalling the day a decade earlier when, on an unannounced trip home from graduate school, she found her grandfather and a group of about thirty people in a secret grotto accessed through the basement, masked and engaged in a ritual (at this point, still unspecified) that shocked and sickened Sophie. Her memories are interrupted when they discover that the police have sealed off the route to the Embassy.
Analysis: In its own way, this chapter picks up on a theme from the previous chapter. Sophie’s reflections about her grandfather raise the questions, no less than did Silas’ confrontation with Sister Sandrine, “What does it mean to serve God?” and “Who is a Christian?” Sophie recognizes the iconography on her grandfather’s key as Christian in origin, but cannot reconcile that symbolism (let alone the technologically advanced nature of the key) with the ritual she discovered her grandfather and his secret society performing: “Sophie knew of no churches that used laser-tooled varying matrix keys. Besides, [Sophie thought], my grandfather was no Christian… Sophie had witnessed proof of that…” (p. 150). As readers will discover, however, Saunière, his Brotherhood and the Priory had their own definition of “being Christian,” and they saw their actions as service, not perhaps to God as defined by most traditional Christians, but to a holistic concept of the divine that restored the feminine element to its original, proper, important place.
Madonna of the Rocks depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary, the infant Jesus, the angel Uriel and the infant John the Baptist. “Oddly, though, rather than the usual Jesus-blessing-John scenario, it was baby John who was blessing Jesus… and Jesus was submitting to his authority!” (p. 148). Supposedly the painting also suggests John’s decapitation. Of course, the New Testament records that John the Baptizer was eventually decapitated (see Mark 6:16-29 and parallels); as well as the fact that Jesus submitted to John’s authority at his baptism in the River Jordan (albeit over John’s objections) in order “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:13). Langdon, however, holds that in this painting—which Leonardo did, in fact, paint twice, as the novel states, though not perhaps for the reasons the novel gives—Da Vinci deliberately included “explosive and disturbing details” (p. 148) pointing to his unorthodox beliefs.