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April 16, 2014

The Leonardo Code

by Brendan

I forgot to mention to my group yesterday, April 15, that it was Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday.  He was born in 1452, so he’d be 552 years old if he hadn’t been ripped untimely from the earth.  (Kidding — Leonardo lived to the ripe old age 0f 67, and accomplished a good deal, didn’t he?)

If he had just painted Mona Lisa, he’d have a place in art history (though I also put up a picture of my personal Leonardo fave, Madonna of the Rocks.  The Last Supper‘s pretty good, too).  And then, in his spare time invented the helicopter and submarine, cast some monster cannons for the endless wars of his time, and on and on — he was an unstoppable creator and thinker.

Dude From Vinci, Italy

Dude From Vinci, Italy

And sadly, served as a hinge for Dan Brown’s miserable book, The da Vinvi Code.    Among the million other things (in fact, just about everything) Brown got wrong, we don’t refer to Leonarda as da Vinci.  Vinci is where Leonardo was from — it’s a town in Italy, and the “da Vinci” formula is a way to distinguish the famous painter from any other Leonardo.  Duh.

Virgin of the Rocks

Virgin of the Rocks

I once went to church with a guy named Pete.  Good guy, maybe a little outta touch with art, literature, history, and culture.  He’s in his 50’s, been away from school awhile, doesn’t have a college degree.  One day, at coffee hour after church (and this was soon after The da Vinci Code hit the bookstores and airwaves), Pete says to me, “Did you know Jesus was married?”

Oh, my.  The Jesus was married meme has been around for, like, 2,000 years, at varying levels of virulence.  It maybe started during Jesus’s lifetime, but nothing about his marriage is mentioned in the Gospels, which could mean that he wasn’t or that it wasn’t considered important by the Gospel writers.  (Or it was a ginormous cover-up, which is Brown’s take one it — a cover-up by evil Church schemers who have always operated sub rosa in the Church.  Not that Jesus’s putative marriage needed to be covered up for any particular spiritual or religious reason.) Recently, there’s the 1982 book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln.  It’s an unofficial follow-up to three BBC documentaries.  In it, the authors hypothesize that Jesus married Mary Magdelene, had children, and that these children or their descendants emigrated to what is now southern France.

A huge bestseller, Holy Blood, Holy Grail was roundly trashed by historians and scholars from related fields.  But nothing stops the steamroller that is Dan Brown.  

So, happy belated birthday, Leonardo.  I apologize on behalf of the 20th Century.  And the 21st.  As Ripley asked in Aliens, as you, Leonardo, could ask, “Have IQ’s dropped drastically while I’ve been gone”?


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