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The Secret Supper

by Javier Sierra
Translated from the Spanish by Alberto Manguel

      The Vatican has received anonymous letters from the Soothsayer, warning that Leonardo DaVinci is a heretic and has hidden messages in his painting of The Last Supper at Santa Maria della Grazie. Pope Alexander VI feels threatened by the rising political power of the Dukes and the growing discontent of the populace with the opulent life style of the Papacy. The Secretariat of Keys of the Papal State sends Father Agostino Leyre, a Papal inquisitor of the Order of St Dominic to Milan to confirm the messages of the Soothsayer and to identify the Soothsayer.

The Church of Santa Maria della Grazie is being renovated by the Duke of Milan. There in the refectory, Leonardo Da Vinci is painting The Last Supper, which departs from the traditional view of the Last Supper. DaVinci's painting excludes the Holy Grail and the Eucharistic bread and includes heretics as models for some of the disciples and includes DaVinci himself.

Leyre follows a path through monasteries and palaces confronted with alliances and rivalries, with differences of opinion about DaVinci and his possible heresy. In the course of his investigations, there are a series of murders, one which is that of the Soothsayer, which seem to center on the painting.

The story is told from the point of view of Friar Leyre from his exile in a remote cave in Egypt. It is an elegant story of the secrets that lay hidden in The Last Supper, which are threatening to undo the status of the Catholic Church of the 15th century. It is a suspenseful, thought provoking page-turner, with a tightly woven plot, a blend of history, art, intrigue and religion. There are subplots involving factions and dissenters in the Church. This is an intellectual and deep presentation of the society of the time. The story soaks up the atmosphere of the artists and the clergy with tales of religious fanaticism as well as church politics, betrayal, murder and artistic chicanery.

There is a compelling case for DaVinci's heretical beliefs for all to see through clues in The Last Supper -if we know how to find them. After reading this, you may never again see the painting as you did before.

The book includes a "cast of characters" helpful for those who lack historical background.

The Book

Atria Books
March 2006
13 digit ISBN: 9780743287647
10 digit ISBN: 0743287649
Historical Mystery [Spain 1497]
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The Reviewer

Barbara Buhrer
Reviewed 2006
© 2006