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The Da Vinci Code | Study Guide

Dan Brown

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The Da Vinci Code | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


The First Grail Murders and Inquiry

Jacques Saunière, the curator of the prestigious Louvre Museum in Paris, is murdered by Silas, an albino monk belonging to the extreme Christian sect Opus Dei. Bezu Fache, captain of the Central Directorate Judicial Police, finds the body in the Louvre. He phones visiting lecturer and renowned Harvard religious symbologist Robert Langdon to decipher the strange markings on and around the corpse. Langdon is mystified. Because there is also a numeric code at the site of the murder, cryptologist Sophie Neveu involves herself in the investigation. When they realize that Fache intends to charge Langdon with the murder, both Langdon and Sophie plan a cunning escape from the Louvre as they simultaneously continue the investigation.

Silas then consults his master—known simply as "the Teacher"—to find out what to do next. Silas has already murdered four men—including Saunière—who were all high-ranking members of the Priory of Sion. These murders are being used to force the Priory of Sion to divulge their secret about the Holy Grail. Saunière and the three other Priory leaders held hidden keys to the truth of the Grail. The Teacher tells Silas to go to an ancient church in Paris to find more clues about the Grail. While there Silas murders the resident nun.

Meanwhile Langdon and Neveu are trying to decipher the symbols, codes, and messages painted on and surrounding Saunière's body. Before they make their escape, the pair realizes that one of the cryptic messages refers to the Mona Lisa, a painting by Leonardo da Vinci hanging in the Louvre. They return to the gallery and inspect two da Vinci paintings, finding further clues.

Neveu finds a gold key Saunière had hidden behind a da Vinci painting. Readers learn that Saunière is Sophie's grandfather who raised her after her parents were killed in a car accident. After finding the key the two escape, but they are pursued by Captain Fache and Lieutenant Jérome Collet.

The gold key leads Sophie and Langdon to a depository bank holding Saunière's safe-deposit box. Using the key and Sophie's code-breaking skills, they gain access to the box and the cryptex inside. With the help of bank official André Vernet, they escape with the cryptex just as Fache and his men arrive to arrest them. Langdon realizes that the intricately constructed cryptex contains the Priory keystone, an element vital to finding the Grail.

The Hunt Is On

Unsure of where to go to hide from the police, Langdon remembers an old English friend and Grail expert named Sir Leigh Teabing who lives in a vast estate outside Paris. Langdon and Sophie go to Teabing's mansion and are greeted by his servant Rémy Legaludec. Teabing is thrilled that the pair have brought the Priory keystone in the cryptex. However, they still need a password to open it safely. Teabing tells Sophie about the history of the Grail and its religious importance: it is evidence that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that they had had children. Teabing tells an astonished Sophie that the Grail is not a chalice or cup as most people believe. Instead it is the body of Mary Magdalene and the sacred documents interred with her.

In the middle of Teabing's history lesson, Silas breaks into the house. He hits Langdon over the head and demands, at gunpoint, that Teabing and Sophie turn over the cryptex. Teabing, who is crippled, hits Silas with one of his crutches, and Sophie kicks him. When Silas collapses, they tie him up. The group hears the police approaching the mansion, so they all escape in Teabing's car. They head through a back road toward a small airport where they board Teabing's private plane. With the bound Silas on board, they fly to London. In a clever maneuver Teabing manages to hustle his passengers off the plane and into a car just as the police arrive to search the aircraft.

Meanwhile, back at Teabing's estate in France, Lt. Collet and his fellow police officers find a sophisticated set up of listening devices in the loft of Teabing's barn. They conclude that Teabing and his servant Rémy must be part of a conspiracy.

The Trail in Britain

Teabing and his companions drive to the Temple Church in London. Rémy stays in the car with Silas, whom he quickly unties and frees. Rémy tells Silas that he, too, is a disciple of the Teacher. Silas enters the church to retrieve the cryptex, but Langdon threatens to destroy it rather than turn it over. Rémy enters and takes Teabing hostage. Langdon gives up the cryptex to save Teabing's life.

Meanwhile, Silas takes refuge in the Opus Dei building in London. Silas contacts the Teacher, who tells him to let Rémy bring him the keystone. Then the Teacher calls the police to have Silas arrested. When Silas attempts to escape the police, they shoot him.

Eventually Langdon and Sophie figure out how to open the cryptex. It contains another cryptex with a clue about a tomb belonging to scientist Sir Isaac Newton. Hence the search for the Grail continues in Westminster Abbey in London where Newton is interred.

At the abbey Langdon and Sophie learn that Teabing is the Teacher. As they look for Newton's tomb, they realize Teabing is already there. Teabing threatens to shoot Langdon and Sophie unless they give him the cryptex. Langdon threatens to destroy it. He turns his back and gazes out a window where he figures out the password to unlock the cryptex. Unseen, Langdon opens the cryptex and removes the secret message inside. He turns back to face Teabing, who threatens to shoot unless they give him the keystone. Langdon hurls the cryptex into the air. Desperate to catch it before it crashes to the floor and is destroyed, Teabing drops his gun. He is too late, and the cryptex shatters. Teabing is distraught. Captain Fache enters the room and arrests Teabing for arranging all the murders.

The secret message found in the cryptex is a poem that leads Langdon and Sophie to Scotland and the Rosslyn Chapel. The chapel is believed to be a holy site and, possibly, the home of the Grail. Sophie learns that the woman who oversees the chapel is her grandmother (wife of the murdered Saunière), and the young man who lives there is her brother. She has found her family.

Langdon returns to Paris to get ready to fly back to Boston. Back in his hotel he has an idea and walks to the Louvre museum. He contemplates the new pyramidal additions to the museum and realizes that the Grail—the grave of Mary Magdalene—must be located at this site.

The Da Vinci Code Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction


1 Langdon and Sophie ponder murdered Saunière's messages.

Rising Action

2 Clues lead them to a bank box with a puzzling cryptex.

3 They evade police, driving to the home of Teabing.

4 The group goes to London to follow clues and find the Grail.

5 The first cryptex contains a smaller one with further clues.

6 Silas and Rémy get the cryptex and kidnap a boy and Teabing.

7 Langdon and Sophie go to Westminster Abbey.

8 Langdon and Sophie find Newton's tomb but not the orb.


9 Teabing explains his conspiracy and betrayal.

Falling Action

10 Langdon opens the cryptex; Teabing is injured.

11 Teabing is arrested; Langdon and Sophie go to Scotland.


12 Sophie finds her family; Langdon finds the Grail.

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