WASHINGTON (CNA) - The Da Vinci Code is “a museum of errors,” said an art history professor at Duquesne University’s Italian campus.
Elizabeth Lev is only one of several experts who have contributed to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ new Web site, “Jesus Decoded” (www.jesusdecoded.com).
The Web site is an attempt to provide a solid Catholic response to the assertions made about the church in Dan Brown’s book and the soon-to-be-released feature-length film.
The Web site includes contributions from historians, an Opus Dei priest, a Catholic bishop, the U.S. bishops’ communications office and other experts. Its purpose is to communicate the truth about the church and the Catholic faith in light of the film’s upcoming May 19 release.
“Along with trashing Christianity, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is a veritable museum of errors where Renaissance art is concerned,” wrote Lev.
Lev’s essay focuses on the artist at the center of Brown’s story, Leonardo Da Vinci, and his renowned work, “The Last Supper.”
“Art historians have been slow in responding [to The Da Vinci Code], mostly because it is difficult to know where to start,” she said. “The novelist’s imaginative notions of iconography may make for best-selling fiction, but they are wildly at variance with what is known about the life and work of Leonardo.”
She pointed to what she sees as Brown’s mistaken interpretation of Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” “Virgin on the Rocks” and “The Last Supper.”
“Brown’s appetite for desecration reaches its pinnacle when he comes to Leonardo’s finest masterpiece, ‘The Last Supper,’” she wrote.
She calls Brown’s theory that the figure of the Apostle John is really Mary Magdalene “preposterous” and explains how Da Vinci’s soft-featured, long-haired and beardless depiction of John was a typical artistic style used in Renaissance art to depict young men.
Lev also points out that “Brown’s throwaway assertion that Leonardo was ‘a flamboyant homosexual’ remains unsubstantiated,” adding that “the simple fact is that Leonardo lived a Christian life.”
Church historian Alan Schreck takes readers through the first four church councils – Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus and Chalcedon – and the conclusions they reached, namely that Jesus was both human and divine, born of Mary, the mother of God. Schreck is a professor of theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville.
Amy Welborn, author of De-coding Da Vinci, also contributes to the Web site.
She pointed out that Brown did not refer to any of the scores of texts, from the mid-1st century to the 4th century, which have survived and which indicate very clearly what early Christians believed. Instead, he refers to popular books Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Templar Revelation, which do not reflect serious historical scholarship, she said.
Welborn, who traced the origin of the Priory of Sion, noted that Brown’s depiction of this and his claim that Leonardo Da Vinci belonged to it are false.
“The Priory of Sion was a small group of disaffected right-wing anti-Semitic monarchists founded in 1956 in France,” and did not exist during the time of Da Vinci. “They forged the documents Brown describes in this book, and snuck them into French libraries. The fraud was widely exposed in the early 1970s in France,” she stated.
The Web site addresses other issues, such as the Gnostic writings, the celibacy of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and her role in Jesus’ life, Opus Dei and women in the church, and has a page that addresses readers’ questions and promotes a USCCB-produced television documentary, titled “Jesus Decoded,” which also seeks to debunk the myths about the church put forth by The Da Vinci Code.
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