Friday, May 19, 2006

In the name of Leonardo Da Vinci

First, there was Leonardo DiCaprio's name which brought to mind his more famous(?) namesake, Leonardo Da Vinci. I wouldn't be surprised that with the rise of DiCaprio's star a few years back (especialling in the tragi-epic 'Titanic') many babies have since been named Leonardo something. Well, we are not done with the Leonardo name. Three years back, Leonardo Da Vinci was again in the press, this time in the form of a novel with the unlikely title of The Da Vinci Code. Fast forward three years yesterday, Leonardo's name has come up again in a movie of the same name based on the same book starring mega-movie star Tom Hanks. This movie is helmed by non other the award winning Director, Ron Howard.

It was perhaps good for Leonardo Da Vinci that the recent revival of his name, particularly in the second instance, highlighted some of the works that he is best known for - the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper (of Christ). A whole new generation of people, both the young and the old today, are now more aware of these renaissance painters and inventors, including Issac Newton. Newton, or at least his grave in Westminster Abbey, was also featured in Dan Brown's novel of the same name. The latest reports suggest that this novel has sold 50 million copies.

However, the movie based on this novel has received mixed reactions at it premier in Cannes as well as in the press.

This is not unexpected because the book on which it is based made several very controversial claims: that Jesus did not die on the cross but married Mary Magdalene and had a child through her, that Judas conspired in the events leading up to his 'supposed' crucifixion (Mel Gibson would have been shocked with this claim, given his very passionate Passion of Christmovie, which he played with such conviction), that Emperor Constantine determined the canons of the Bible as we know it today (and in the process, excluded the Gnostic Gospels in the greatest conspiracy not only of our times but in all history), that St Peter was jealous of Mary Magdalene's relationship with Jesus, which explained why the Roman Catholic Church wanted to suppress and has suppressed all materials relating to Jesus and Mary Magdalene, giving opportunity to the fictional Leigh Teabing saying "history has been written by the 'winners'" in the Da Vinci Code story. This same phrase was repeated in a story on the Da Vinci Code by National Geographic, without attribution.

To me, these and other claims made in the guise of a novel are unsubstantiated, bald assertions, which unfortunately, many view as fact. Given the power of movies to sway the unsuspecting public, the insidious content in this book must be rebutted robustly, even if after 3 years. Fortunately, many historians and theologians, including the mass media such as Discovery Channel, have stepped up to the plate to fulfill this task. You can find them in books as well as on the internet.

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