It is claimed in the novel that Leonardo da Vinci included cryptic messages in his paintings and designs and that these included celebrations of the sacred feminine. 1. Is this evidence for Peter’s rivalry with Mary Magdalene? Peter’s hand is slicing through the air in what appears to be a menacing fashion. Metaphorically, Da Vinci might be intending to comment on the struggle that took place to control Jesus’s religious movement after his death. There is some evidence in the Nag Hammadi codices to suggest that Peter was jealous of Mary’s important role in the continuance of Jesus’s mission. 2. According to The Da Vinci Code, as well as some other sources, the letter ‘M’ represents either Mary Magdalene or ‘matrimony’ (from the Latin matrimonium), or both. 3. Is the figure on Jesus’s right really the apostle John… or is it a woman? Was placing this Mary Magdalene figure on Jesus’s right – the most important position in relation to the figure of Jesus – Leonardo’s vision of where she ought to have been? 4. Note the disembodied hand hanging in the air. Does this have a symbolic meaning? Is it an image, for instance, of Peter’s real feelings towards Mary Magdalene? 5. Note that the clothing worn by Jesus and Mary are mirror images in terms of the red and blue fabrics. 6. The 90-degree angle that can be drawn between Jesus and Mary Magdalene suggests a ‘V’. In The Da Vinci Code, as well as in several non-fiction sources, this is the archetypal symbol for the vagina, chalice, womb and female sexuality. 7. Note that there is no central chalice at the table, although people often do not notice that the famous cup of the Grail story is missing. In the painting, each figure has a cup of his own. It is jokingly suggested in The Da Vinci Code is that Leonardo "forgot to include the Holy Grail". 8. In formal ritual and ceremony, red and blue are often seen as royal colors, and their use here could be suggesting a royal bloodline. There is some evidence to suggest that Mary was a descendant of the royal house of Benjamin, and it is known that Jesus was the direct heir to the royal line of David of the House of Judah. Blue is also considered to be representative of fidelity, spiritual love and truth. In The Da Vinci Code, the painting under scrutiny is The Last Supper. It is claimed that the figure on Jesus’s right is not the apostle John, but Mary Magdalene, and that the two central figures, the postulated Mary Magdalene and the figure of Jesus, form the inner sides of a large ‘M’ for Mary. This enclosing ‘M’ shape is interpreted as confirming the importance of Mary Magdalene in Jesus’s life. She is the only woman present and, as first apostle, sits at his right hand. It is pointed out that there is no chalice on the table, and this is interpreted to mean that the chalice was nonetheless there… in the person of Mary Magdalene, the chalice being her womb, the sacred Sangreal, in which she carried the bloodline of Jesus. It is suggested that the 90-degree ´V’ sign that can be drawn between her and Jesus is another cryptic Da Vinci device symbolising the chalice, the sangreal, the womb of Mary Magdalene. The ‘V’ and inverted ‘V’ signs were not uncommonly used symbolically to indicate the female and male principles. If the figure in the painting is the apostle John, as has been generally accepted to this point, he is a curiously feminine figure, although young, unbearded men were often presented in somewhat androgynous terms in the style of the day. On the other hand, if the slender, narrow-shouldered, feminine figure had been designated Mary Magdalene in the first place, it is doubtful whether anyone would have queried her gender. That could leave us with a numerical difficulty, but we have to remember that the painting is Leonardo’s creation. If he intended the figure to be Mary Magdalene, then his placing of her next to Jesus indicates that he considered this to be her rightful place. Further, in terms of this theory, it was Mary who was intended to be the founder of the Church that would carry forward the teachings of Jesus, not Peter. It seems doubtful whether Leonardo was anti-Christian as is sometimes suggested. He makes many references to God in his work. Sharan Newman describes him as being probably “a Christian in an absent-minded way”, although he was firmly against such against Church practices as the selling of indulgences. It is difficult to see the erratic, free-spirited, independent Leonardo as Master of an organisation like the described Priory of Sion. One of Leonardo’s problems, made clear by his phenomenal range of sketches and notes, was that he was not a finisher. He was always too tempted by visions of his next project or the possibilities of some invention. It is doubtful whether any project would have held his interest for long. However, it is just possible that the mystery of a secret organisation like the Priory of Sion – if it ever existed in the way that Dan Brown describes – might have fascinated him for a time. He left thousands of notebooks filled with drawings, designs and sketches. His ingenuity was endless, and his imagination so fertile that he designed many of the inventions that could only be manufactured centuries later when the technology was available. It is true, however, that many of the Renaissance painters incorporated cryptic elements into their paintings. It was fashionable to do so. It was also common for them to use Phi, the Divine Proportion (1.618) as it was called, and the Fibonacci sequences in spatial calculations. This kind of game would have delighted a man of Leonardo’s temperament, especially if he were introducing symbols that would have outraged many if interpreted. The painter, Nicolas Poussin, a staunch admirer of Pythagoras, was one of those who enjoyed the ancient practice of preserving wisdom through the use of geometry, and he demonstrated this clearly in his most famous painting, Les Bergers d’Aracdie II. Apart from the use of geometry in the design of their paintings, many Renaissance artists used ‘sacred’ symbols freely in their work in such ways that they were unobtrusively part of the scene: a rose might have secret significance, usually in relationship to the Holy Grail or the Order of Rosicrucians; and fingers held in a certain way or touching some part of the body or face might indicate a secret greeting or have some other meaning to those able to recognise it for what it was. Leonardo da Vinci often wrote in mirror writing, but it is doubtful whether this was intended to be cryptic as is sometimes suggested. It was too obviously simple to read. It was far more likely that he was left-handed and found writing in this style easy. In fact, he made it clear that he intended to publish much of his writing at some time in the future, but – like many creative people whose minds overflow with more ideas than they can ever work through – he never reached the stage of compiling his written work into publishable books.