Art experts, clerics debunk Da Vinci Code in 'trial'

Art experts and conservative clerics are holding an unusual “trial” in the hometown of Leonardo da Vinci. Concerned about the legions of fans of The Da Vinci Code who take claims in the book as gospel truth, the mock tribunal aims to sort out fact from fiction.

The event in Vinci, just outside Florence, was to begin late on Friday with an opening statement by Alessandro Vezzosi, director of a Leonardo museum, who said he would produce photographs and documents as evidence of the mistakes and historical inaccuracies contained in Dan Brown’s smash hit novel.

“Leonardo is misrepresented and belittled,” Vezzosi said in a telephone interview. “His importance is misunderstood; he was a man full of fantasy, inventions and genius.”

Vezzosi said he would produce evidence through 120 photographs based on documents and paintings with the aim of “reassessing and disclaiming the author” of the mystical thriller, a mix of code-breaking, art history, secret societies, religion and lore.

Vezzosi said one example of the mistakes contained in the book is the statement that the Mona Lisa was made out of Leonardo’s image.

“There’s a very big difference between Mona Lisa and Leonardo’s noses, mouths, eyes and expressions,” he said, adding that he would compare two portraits to prove it.

Organisers said there would be nobody speaking in the book’s defence and the “verdict” would be contained within the presentations of the speakers. But that did not mean the book would be completely hung out to dry: hundreds of the book’s fans were expected to attend the trial at Vinci’s Palazzina Uzielli.

“This initiative has received a lot of interest with people calling to confirm their attendance,” Vezzosi said.

The Da Vinci Code has sold more than 7,5-million copies worldwide and is expected to be made into a movie. Its success has inspired guided tours in Paris that take fans to sites described in the novel, and has spawned a cottage industry in books seeking to debunk it.

More than 10 books have been written trying to discredit the historical and theological content of Brown’s novel. The book portrays Roman Catholic leaders as demonising women for centuries and covering up the truth about the Holy Grail.

The novel’s contentious allegations—namely, that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and sired a bloodline—have provoked unprecedented protest among Roman Catholic and Protestant conservatives, who claim that Brown’s characters inaccurately malign Christianity.

Monsignor Renato Bellini, vicar of Vinci, said the book reveals nothing about religion and contains a mystifying and inaccurate portrait of the conservative Catholic movement Opus Dei.

“This book depicts the movement as a mysterious centre of political and economic power that tries to hide the historical truth on Jesus and Magdalene, which is absurd,” Bellini said.

Bellini said that a representative of Opus Dei is taking part in the mock trial in an attempt to reassess the historical truth about the movement.—Sapa-AP