The Secret Supper

( 39 )

Overview

Milan, 1497: Leonardo da Vinci is completing his masterpiece, The Last Supper. Pope Alexander VI is determined to execute him after realizing that the painting contains clues to a baffling -- and blasphemous -- message, which he is determined to decode. The Holy Grail and the Eucharistic Bread are missing, there is no meat on the table and, shockingly, the apostles are portraits of well-known heretics -- none of them depicted with halos. And why has the artist painted himself into the scene with his back turned ...
See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$14.59
BN.com price
(Save 8%)$16.00 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (131) from $1.99   
  • New (20) from $1.99   
  • Used (111) from $1.99   
The Secret Supper: A Novel

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.66
BN.com price

Overview

Milan, 1497: Leonardo da Vinci is completing his masterpiece, The Last Supper. Pope Alexander VI is determined to execute him after realizing that the painting contains clues to a baffling -- and blasphemous -- message, which he is determined to decode. The Holy Grail and the Eucharistic Bread are missing, there is no meat on the table and, shockingly, the apostles are portraits of well-known heretics -- none of them depicted with halos. And why has the artist painted himself into the scene with his back turned toward Jesus? The clues to Leonardo's greatest puzzle are right before your eyes....
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In this clever fiction, the hidden codes of Leonardo da Vinci raise temperatures among his contemporaries. Late in the 15th century, a series of cryptic, anonymous missives alert church officials to the possibility that subversive messages might be concealed in the artistry of The Last Supper. Dispatched to Milan to investigate, Father Agostino Leyre begins an act of aesthetic and historic decoding that takes us to the final line of the last page.
From the Publisher
"Sierra's narrative moves smoothly, fluidly...[and makes] art history palatable and exciting." — Los Angeles Times

"A fascinating yarn and very well told.... Speaks volumes about Leonardo's mastery with a brush." — San Francisco Chronicle

"For fans of religious conspiracy and reinterpretations of religious history." — The Washington Post

"Offers a new way of interpreting The Last Supper...[and] a fresh contribution to the da Vinci industry." — Publishers Weekly

"A most satisfying entertainment....The monastic life has not been depicted as vividly by any novelist since Umberto Eco's bestselling Name of the Rose." — Daily News (New York)

Publishers Weekly
Set in the late 15th century, Sierra's first book translated into English revolves around a papal inquisitor's investigation into Leonardo da Vinci's alleged heresies and offers a new way of interpreting The Last Supper. After receiving a series of cryptic messages from "the Soothsayer," who warns the 15th century church that "art can be employed as a weapon," the Secretariat of Keys of the Papal States dispatches Father Agostino Leyre on a twofold mission to Milan: identify the Soothsayer and discover what, if any, messages da Vinci is hiding in the painting. Leyre, who narrates, views the in-progress Last Supper at the Santa Maria delle Grazie and becomes fascinated. He makes a series of sometimes muddled discoveries about the painting, leading up to his interpretation of the painting's true meaning (not revealed until the last line of the last page). Those not well versed in Catholic history may have trouble following the many subplots involving factionalism and dissent within the church. The combination of code breaking, secrecy, chicanery within the Catholic Church and a certain artist is by now a familiar one, but Sierra's book, already a bestseller in Europe, is a fresh contribution to the da Vinci industry. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Spanish historian, author, and television host and producer Sierra (Rosewell: Secreto del Estado) uncovers the secret hidden in Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper in a novel set in 1497 Milan. Friar Agostino Leyre, a Dominican inquisitor, has been sent from Rome to determine the identity of the Soothsayer, an informant who has been sending messages to the Pope implicating Leonardo in spreading heresy, particularly through his latest masterpiece. Leyre takes up residence at the monastery where The Last Supper is being painted and discovers secrets on many levels, in both the monastery and Leonardo's fresco. This novel will inevitably be compared with Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, and though on the surface it is similar, with messages hidden in art and conspiracies within the Church, Sierra finds an alternate (but equally convincing) message in Leonardo's masterpiece. The language of the two novels is also very different, Sierra's being more detailed, written in the first person, and set firmly in the 15th century. Secret Supper is also possibly more confusing than The Da Vinci Code, but it is a good read in its own right. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/05.]-Lisa O'Hara, Univ. of Manitoba Libs., Winnepeg Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
No mere Da Vinci Code redux, this Spanish bestseller fuses an ecclesiastical whodunit with an A-Z guide to Neoplatonist philosophy and Renaissance symbology. Leonardo's masterwork The Last Supper has become the 15th century's Zapruder film, obsessively scrutinized for clues to conspiracies. Now Sierra (La Dama Azul, 2005, etc.) produces a corker: His Da Vinci is a Cathar, member of a heretical sect espousing a mystical Christianity. And, as Father Agostino, Sierra's clerical super-sleuth, detects, the world's most famous fresco drips with cryptic Cathar propaganda. Isn't that Leonardo himself, after all, at the left of the Passover table, chatting up Plato? Don't the 12 apostles resonate with astrological and numerological significance? And isn't there a secret message their gestures and names spell out? Maybe this "discovery" is balderdash, but it's fascinating fun. We meet Marsilio Ficino, rescuer of esoteric Egyptian wisdom, Savonarola, so shocked by Botticelli's paganism that he convinces that fine painter to trash his brush, Lorenzo the Magnificent, ultra-Renaissance Man-all real-life titans portrayed with a storyteller's zest for anecdote. Sierra's breakneck plotting provides the novel's juice, but its satisfying aftertaste comes from its erudite explaining of the art of the symbol: The last thing the quattrocento masters intended was to paint just "pretty pictures." Instead, they aimed at allegory, constructing visual narratives rich in coded signs and wonders, an achievement long celebrated by historians and Jungians alike. In ushering general readers into that numinous realm, the author ensures that they'll never again rush through a museum. Sierra is a more sophisticated writerthan Dan Brown, and he offers fresh perspective on the Renaissance mind.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743287654
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press
  • Publication date: 3/20/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 773,226
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Javier Sierra

Javier Sierra, whose works have been translated into thirty-five languages, is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Secret Supper. A native of Teruel, Spain, he currently lives in Málaga.

Biography

Few novels in recent history have created quite the stir that Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code did upon its publication in 2003. Both praised for its readability and ingenuity and lambasted as blasphemous, this modern day murder mystery surrounding secret messages hidden in mast painter Leonardo Da Vinci's most famous works became widely read, pondered, and analyzed. So, it may only be natural that one might believe that Spanish author Javier Sierra's The Secret Supper is just another post-Da Vinci Code clone. However, both the writer and the critics prove that this simply is not the case.

Sierra has had a lifelong fascination with travel, writing, and revealing history's most confounding mysteries. According to Sierra's web site, it was he who located the highly controversial map of Piri Reis in Turkey, which supposedly offers "definitive proof" that Christopher Columbus was not the first person to navigate a route to the New World. Sierra also embarked on a quest for the Lost Inca Gold in Peru. He has explored strange phenomena surrounding the ancient sect of the Knights Templar in his 2000 novel Las Puertas Templarias (The Templar Doors) and Napoleon's bizarre night alone in the Great Pyramid at Giza in El Secreto Egipcio de Napoleon (Napoleon's Egyptian Secret, 2002). Now he is using his exploratory acumen to shed further light on the secrets behind the real Da Vinci code.

In The Secret Supper, Sierra takes us back to the late 15th century when Leonardo Da Vinci was very much alive and stirring up controversy amongst his contemporaries after church officials discovered subversive codes in his painting "The Last Supper." What follows is a church investigation led by Father Agostino Leyre regarding Da Vinci's intentions behind the mysterious messages he scattered in this world-renowned work of sacred art. While this plot may easily be mistaken for its more famous predecessor, Sierra had wholly different intentions in writing The Secret Supper than Dan Brown had when writing his novel. "A few pages of [The Da Vinci Code] were enough to resuscitate an enigma on which I had been already working for more than two years," Sierra said of The Secret Supper on his web site. "A mystery that, far from being solved in The Da Vinci Code, merited an exploration it had yet to receive... To accomplish this, one would have to manage something very important that the Dan Brown had never attempted: to enter the mind of Leonardo."

Sierra attempted to achieve this by setting forth on a globe-trotting journey to unveil the real meaning behind "The Last Supper." The discoveries that the author made during his treks to Paris, Milan, Rome, Florence, and the Tuscan village of Da Vinci formed the basis of The Secret Supper. "I started the field research of the book in 2001, before the publication of Brown's bestseller," Sierra said. "That was good for my work because I was able to consult files and places that today are crowded by readers of the Code."

Impressively, Sierra's own take on the mysteries swirling around Da Vinci's legacy have not been overshadowed by the imposing reputation cast by The Da Vinci Code. The Secret Supper has received wide critical acclaim from such sources as Publishers Weekly, The Guardian, and Kirkus Reviews, which went as far as to say that "Sierra is a more sophisticated writer than Dan Brown, and he offers fresh perspective on the Renaissance mind."

Apparently, it is neither the opinions of the critics nor those of his readers that are most prominently on Sierra's mind. "It took me three years to discover [the secrets behind ‘The Last Supper'], Sierra explained on his web site. "The same number of years that Leonardo took to create his version of ‘The Last Supper.' But before letting the world know his secret, even in the form of a novel, I wanted to ask him permission at his tomb... Whether Leonardo granted it to me or not, readers will now be able to judge for themselves."

Good To Know

Sierra has not limited his explorations of the unknown to the printed page. In 2004, he created and directed his very own television program for Telemadrid called El otro lado de la realidad (The Other Side of Reality).

While many kids were spending their teenage years bored in journalism class, Sierra was tackling a full-blown career in journalism. At the age of 16, he was writing articles for the Spanish press; at 18 he was a co-founder of an international magazine called Año Cero (Year Zero).

Some interesting outtakes from our interveiw with Sierra:

"I love those little details in a book that you can check for yourself. I always travel with a notebook where I write down those pieces of information that could be useful to complete a sequence in my books. If you want to play this game, I invite you to check those ‘little facts' included in The Secret Supper. Every café mentioned in my books exists; any house, façade, cemetery or park, also. It is always enjoyable when you can rediscover these little ‘secrets'!"

"In an eventual future life, I would like to be a musician. As with literature, music possesses an invisible energy that you can transform into something real. And that's just magic!"

"One of my favorite places to visit are old bookshops. It is a strange pleasure to smell those old volumes, and to know that I could find a treasure ‘buried' between them. From my early childhood, I always regarded books as ‘treasure maps,' and in a way, they are. They can bring you to remote cultures and exotic countries without your ever having to leave your armchair."

"One of my favorite hobbies is to visit sacred places around the world. They always attract me like a magnet. It doesn´t matter if they are sacred places of Christians, Muslims, Hebrews, ancient Greeks or modern sects. It is not a question of faith, and it is not just curiosity. I can't explain it, but I ‘know' I must visit them. In a way, doing so I feel like Sir Parcival searching for the Holy Grail. And this act of searching for the sacred is a very powerful tool for writing."

"I love receiving correspondence. I do not refer to e-mails, but to classic posted letters. My father worked as a postman many years, and I discovered with him the strange pleasure of sending a message and waiting impatiently for an answer."

"For me, the place where I live is extremely important. I chose a city on the Mediterranean coast because the sea provides me serenity. For seventeen years I lived in Madrid, with the sea more than three hundred kilometres away, and that was not good for my mind, believe me!"

"And just one secret: when relaxed, I like to draw comic-like stories. I have a great collection of them in my files."

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Málaga, Spain
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 11, 1971
    2. Place of Birth:
      Teruel, Spain
    1. Education:
      Journalism studies at the Complutense University, Madrid, 1989-1995
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Preamble

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Discussion Questions

1. Aside from his skill at solving codes and puzzles, what other methods does Father Agostino use in his attempt to uncover the identity of the Soothsayer and decipher the enigma of The Last Supper? How much does he owe to chance? What is the significance of Leonardo da Vinci solving the riddle written by the Soothsayer?

2. Were you able to guess the identity of the Soothsayer before it was revealed in the narrative? Once the identity was revealed, did you see clues and indicators that you had missed while reading the story?

3. Father Agostino and Master Torriani "both believed that the Soothsayer had left us this clue [the seven-line verse] in the hope that the Secretariat of Keys would solve it and communicate with him" (49). The Soothsayer had ample opportunity to reveal himself to Father Agostino after the inquisitor arrived in Milan. Why did he continue to hide his identity from Father Agostino?

4. Father Alessandro became "a dear friend" (79) to Father Agostino. Do you believe Father Agostino would have thought of the other man as a friend if he had been aware of Father Alessandro's true religious affiliation? Why or why not?

5. Why are the Dominican leaders so concerned that The Last Supper might contain hidden symbolism? How (and why) was art used to communicate ideas and beliefs to the people during the Renaissance?

6. Discuss Elena Crivelli's role in the story. Despite Leonardo's warnings, Bernardino Luini reveals to her what he has learned from Leonardo about the legacy of Mary Magdalene. Why does Leonardo then go a step further and take Elena into his confidence? What was your reaction tolearning that da Vinci used a woman as the model for Saint John in The Last Supper?

7. When Father Agostino frees Mario Forzetta from the Jacaranda palazzo, Forzetta tells him, "Give me my freedom and I'll be faithful" (198). Does Mario fulfill that promise? How so? Why does Father Agostino choose not to inform his superiors of the existence of the Cathar community in Concorezzo?

8. The events in The Secret Supper are recounted by Father Agostino forty years after they took place. Why do you suppose the author chose to structure the narrative in this way? How does it enhance the story?

9. Why does Father Agostino exile himself in Egypt? He writes, "The intimate certainty that no Christian will ever read what I am writing clouds my mind and brings tears to my eyes" (9). Why is he recording an account of his mission in Milan if he's certain that no one will ever read it?

10. What techniques does the author use to heighten the suspense in The Secret Supper? Are there "heroes" and "villains" in the story? Who would you classify in each category?

11. Do you believe, after reading this book, that Leonardo da Vinci used The Last Supper to conceal religious ideas contrary to those of the Catholic church? How effectively does Javier Sierra support the premise that da Vinci was given responsibility for preserving the legacy of the Church of John and Mary Magdalene?

12. What is your impression of Leonardo da Vinci after reading this book? What did you learn about the Renaissance period, Italian history, art, and religion? What did you find to be the most compelling aspect of The Secret Supper?

13. Comparisons have been drawn between The Secret Supper and works such as The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. If members of your group have read either of these titles, compare them. What similarities did you find? What differences?

Tips to Enhance Your Book Club

Locate a picture of Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper on www.artchive.com. See if you can identify the "secrets" concealed in the painting as they're presented in the book, such as Leonardo da Vinci's likeness, the knot in the tablecloth representing Mary Magdalene, a woman as the model for Saint John, and the dagger in Saint Peter's hand.

Dine at an Italian restaurant, or set the scene with these suggestions:

  • Uncork a bottle of Chianti (a red wine produced in Tuscany, the region that was home to Leonardo da Vinci).
  • Look for culinary inspiration on www.simonsays.com, where a selection of cookbooks includes Every Night Italian and Williams-Sonoma Collection: Italian.
  • Savor a slice of panettone for dessert. This cake is thought to have originated in Milan in the 15th century. It's traditionally eaten during the holiday season, but your book club discussion of The Secret Supper is indeed a special occasion. Use the recipe on www.theworldwidegourmet.com, or purchase the confection from one of the gourmet food purveyors on www.amazon.com.
  • Listen to Italian music; visit www.initaly.com for a list of suggestions.

The Secret Supper is filled with fascinating historical facts, such as how Friday the 13th became known as an ominous day and that aside from being an artist, Leonardo da Vinci also invented mechanical devices. Share with the group what you found to be the most interesting nonfiction fact, and why.

In The Secret Supper Leonardo reveals that he painted his masterpiece a secco, a technique never intended to be long-lasting. He invited artists from France and Italy to view The Last Supper, and they in turn duplicated the work in churches throughout Europe. See if you can find information on how many replicas were made of the painting, and whether any are still in existence.

Read More Show Less

Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Javier SierraQ: You've written several historical novels in addition to The Secret Supper. What appeals to you about blending fact and fiction?
A: Before writing my first novel, I published two nonfiction books about historical and scientific mysteries. I did my best with them to reveal unexplained facts to my readers, but to be honest with you, I could not propose answers to those mysteries without entering the dangerous field of speculation. With literature, things are essentially different: I can use facts as a sound basis for my novels, and my imagination to explain those unsolved mysteries that historians cannot clarify for themselves. That is just what I did with The Secret Supper. Q: How do you strike a balance between maintaining historical accuracy and taking liberties to make the story original and interesting?
A: One of the difficult tasks in my documentation work is to locate what I call the "black holes" of history. Those are intriguing facts -- controversial, not at all explained or clarified by the experts, but absolutely real and often full of wonderful details -- which I use to develop a story. I always first try to do an accurate description of the facts, and then suggest a new interpretation for them, based on personal beliefs of the characters never studied by the historians. Like millions of people around the world, I am sure that many of the "official versions" of history that we study in school are, to say the least, questionable. Researching historical mysteries allows me more freedom and independence of thought, enabling me to build my own criteria regarding what happened and to search for my own answers to the truth. Q: When did you first become aware of the religious contradictions and enigmas in The Last Supper? What appealed to you about using this premise as the basis of a novel?
A: When I went to see The Last Supper in Milan, I was surprised because that painting was created as a sort of game of illusion for the human eye. Leonardo wanted to confound the observer by painting portraits of ordinary men, not saints. It was difficult for me to distinguish between what was actually on that wall at the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, and what should have been. What should have been painted was a Holy Grail, or the Eucharist in the hands of Jesus, or lamb on the table...but none of these were there! That was the moment when I discovered the story I would write about. Q: Are any of Leonardo da Vinci's other works believed (like The Last Supper) to contain hidden symbolism? If so, can you provide an example? Are other artists also thought to have done this?
A: Yes, of course. For example, while painting The Virgin of the Rocks, Leonardo used a forbidden book entitled Apocalipsis Nova as his main source of information. It was written by a heretical Franciscan monk called Amadeo de Portugal, and in it he explained that the main characters of the New Testament were the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist, not Jesus. And that's exactly what Leonardo painted in The Virgin of the Rocks. The hidden symbolism of that painting is connected with Amadeo's heretical treatise.
This evidence taught me that Leonardo was open to heretical ideas and that he even obtained forbidden books of his time. Q: What was your reaction when you first saw The Last Supper? Did it seem, as Father Agostino states in the book, as if it "breathed life"?
A: Absolutely. Leonardo painted The Last Supper to suggest to the viewer that he was seeing a real scene. Everything in the painting has to do with the place where the mural is. The light, for example, was painted as it was entering through the windows of the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in that precise moment. The tablecloth and the dishes in the painting are the same as those used in the fifteenth century by the friars there...Leonardo wanted to paint not a sacred scene, but a real, almost a physical one. I am convinced that The Last Supper was a first attempt to create what we today would call a "virtual reality." Q: Are the details you use to describe Leonardo Da Vinci-writing from right to left, always wearing white, never eating meat-based on historical fact? What documented evidence is there that Leonardo da Vinci was a Cathar?
A: None! There is not a single document which states that Leonardo was a Cathar. And for sure he wasn´t. What I think is that Leonardo sympathized with those persecuted last Cathars who take refuge in Concorezzo, a little village close to Milan. Many of the ideas of the Cathars were appealing to Leonardo, such as their fight against the Pope. The Cathars considered the Pope to be the real traitor to the spiritual message of Jesus. And if you pay attention to The Last Supper, it is easy to see how Leonardo deliberately confused the portraits of Judas and Peter, suggesting that Peter (that is to say, the Pope) was the real traitor in Jesus's statement, "One of you will betray me."
About Leonardo, it is true that he refused to eat meat, like the Cathars, and even dressed in white, like some of them. Q: What can you tell us about the myth surrounding the Pope Joan tarot card?
A: It is accepted that the Cathars were probably the creators of the first tarot deck. It was designed not for purposes of divination, but for purposes of instruction. During the Middle Ages, in the area of Southern France where the Cathar influence was strong, there were "troubadours" who used cards and designs to tell others their stories. The tarot cards were used as a tool to teach unorthodox ideas to the people. And the Pope Joan card was one of the most powerful of that deck. It showed that a woman could be also a minister of God, a priest-something that the Cathars accepted, but not the Vatican. Q: Oliverio Jacaranda is an antiquarian dealer whose "work consists of rescuing from oblivion those things that our ancestors left beneath the earth" (171). Is there evidence that the recovery and sale of antiquities was in fact facilitated during this time? Could people like Jacaranda be considered archaeologists of a sort?
A: The rescue of antiquities started shortly before Jarcaranda's time. During the fourteenth century, the inhabitants of Rome noticed that those old stones that they could see everywhere in the city were of great value. They started to rescue statues, columns, inscriptions of the Roman Empire and even ancient Egyptian obelisks, surprised at what they believed were the remains of a lost "Golden Age" of humanity. And some artists began to imitate those wonders. It was the first step into the Renaissance. Later on, the translation of lost books received from Greece and Egypt did the rest. In a way, all of these people could be considered "archaeologists of culture," in that they brought back to life the classical teachings of the remote past. Q: You have stated that you were inspired by Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose, in which he makes use of historical and rare books as part of the storyline. In what ways is this reflected in The Secret Supper?
A: In the way that all the bibliographical references mentioned in The Secret Supper are absolutely real. The key information in my novel is based on facts: the Cathar movement was a real one; disciplines such as "the Art of Memory" were also real. And books like Apocalipsis Nova or Da Varagine's The Golden Legend existed, and were very influential in their time. Umberto Eco was the first novelist to widely use these kinds of real references. Q: What do you hope readers will take away from reading The Secret Supper?
A: They will learn for certain that art in the Middle Ages and Renaissance could be read. Art was then not just an aesthetic matter, but a way to communicate political and religious ideas, secrets or beliefs. I offer in The Secret Supper a code to read not only Leonardo's works, but other masterpieces of the Renaissance. How can someone then avoid the temptation of applying such reading to other works of art? Q: When you wrote The Secret Supper, did you expect it to become the international phenomenon it has, published in more than 30 countries? Has anything about readers' responses surprised you?
A: When I finished my work on The Secret Supper, I thought: "This novel works like a Swiss clock, with everything in its exact place," but that was all. I never imagined the success it would have, although I was sure that the secret revealed in my book would be of interest to the world. Q: What is your next project? Are you writing another book?
A: To be precise, I am researching for my next book. While working on the promotion of The Secret Supper, I am studying Near East history for my next project. I want to solve another old and intriguing mystery...But I should keep it secret, for the moment!
Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. Aside from his skill at solving codes and puzzles, what other methods does Father Agostino use in his attempt to uncover the identity of the Soothsayer and decipher the enigma of The Last Supper? How much does he owe to chance? What is the significance of Leonardo da Vinci solving the riddle written by the Soothsayer?

2. Were you able to guess the identity of the Soothsayer before it was revealed in the narrative? Once the identity was revealed, did you see clues and indicators that you had missed while reading the story?

3. Father Agostino and Master Torriani "both believed that the Soothsayer had left us this clue [the seven-line verse] in the hope that the Secretariat of Keys would solve it and communicate with him" (49). The Soothsayer had ample opportunity to reveal himself to Father Agostino after the inquisitor arrived in Milan. Why did he continue to hide his identity from Father Agostino?

4. Father Alessandro became "a dear friend" (79) to Father Agostino. Do you believe Father Agostino would have thought of the other man as a friend if he had been aware of Father Alessandro's true religious affiliation? Why or why not?

5. Why are the Dominican leaders so concerned that The Last Supper might contain hidden symbolism? How (and why) was art used to communicate ideas and beliefs to the people during the Renaissance?

6. Discuss Elena Crivelli's role in the story. Despite Leonardo's warnings, Bernardino Luini reveals to her what he has learned from Leonardo about the legacy of Mary Magdalene. Why does Leonardo then go a step further and take Elena into his confidence? What was your reaction to learning that da Vinci used a woman as the model for Saint John in The Last Supper?

7. When Father Agostino frees Mario Forzetta from the Jacaranda palazzo, Forzetta tells him, "Give me my freedom and I'll be faithful" (198). Does Mario fulfill that promise? How so? Why does Father Agostino choose not to inform his superiors of the existence of the Cathar community in Concorezzo?

8. The events in The Secret Supper are recounted by Father Agostino forty years after they took place. Why do you suppose the author chose to structure the narrative in this way? How does it enhance the story?

9. Why does Father Agostino exile himself in Egypt? He writes, "The intimate certainty that no Christian will ever read what I am writing clouds my mind and brings tears to my eyes" (9). Why is he recording an account of his mission in Milan if he's certain that no one will ever read it?

10. What techniques does the author use to heighten the suspense in The Secret Supper? Are there "heroes" and "villains" in the story? Who would you classify in each category?

11. Do you believe, after reading this book, that Leonardo da Vinci used The Last Supper to conceal religious ideas contrary to those of the Catholic church? How effectively does Javier Sierra support the premise that da Vinci was given responsibility for preserving the legacy of the Church of John and Mary Magdalene?

12. What is your impression of Leonardo da Vinci after reading this book? What did you learn about the Renaissance period, Italian history, art, and religion? What did you find to be the most compelling aspect of The Secret Supper?

13. Comparisons have been drawn between The Secret Supper and works such as The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. If members of your group have read either of these titles, compare them. What similarities did you find? What differences?

Tips to Enhance Your Book Club

Locate a picture of Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper on www.artchive.com. See if you can identify the "secrets" concealed in the painting as they're presented in the book, such as Leonardo da Vinci's likeness, the knot in the tablecloth representing Mary Magdalene, a woman as the model for Saint John, and the dagger in Saint Peter's hand.

Dine at an Italian restaurant, or set the scene with these suggestions:

  • Uncork a bottle of Chianti (a red wine produced in Tuscany, the region that was home to Leonardo da Vinci).
  • Look for culinary inspiration on www.simonsays.com, where a selection of cookbooks includes Every Night Italian and Williams-Sonoma Collection: Italian.
  • Savor a slice of panettone for dessert. This cake is thought to have originated in Milan in the 15th century. It's traditionally eaten during the holiday season, but your book club discussion of The Secret Supper is indeed a special occasion. Use the recipe on www.theworldwidegourmet.com, or purchase the confection from one of the gourmet food purveyors on www.amazon.com.
  • Listen to Italian music; visit www.initaly.com for a list of suggestions.

The Secret Supper is filled with fascinating historical facts, such as how Friday the 13th became known as an ominous day and that aside from being an artist, Leonardo da Vinci also invented mechanical devices. Share with the group what you found to be the most interesting nonfiction fact, and why.

In The Secret Supper Leonardo reveals that he painted his masterpiece a secco, a technique never intended to be long-lasting. He invited artists from France and Italy to view The Last Supper, and they in turn duplicated the work in churches throughout Europe. See if you can find information on how many replicas were made of the painting, and whether any are still in existence.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(10)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(9)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(2)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2006

    Intriguing

    I must say that I enjoyed this book, though not as climatic as say Angels and Demons(Dan Brown) it definitely as its moments. The names of the characters are at times hard to pronounce, this dose not take away from a very interesting plot. Once the secret of what Di Vinci was painting into the supper was discovered, I found myself doing my own research. 'keep dictionary close by'

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A terrific thriller

    In 1497 the ¿Soothsayer¿ warns the Papacy that art is the center of heresy and needs to be carefully monitored and if necessary censored. Taking the warning seriously with the Renaissance flourishing at the Vatican¿s doorsteps, the Secretariat of Keys of the Papal States Pope Alexander VI sends Inquisitor Father Agostino Leyre to Milan to investigate the works of the growing popular da Vinci for any heretic secret missives and to uncover the identity of the Soothsayer.------ Leyre quickly becomes enthralled with da Vinci¿s current work in progress, the Last Supper at the Santa Maria delle Grazie. The priest sees the beauty in the not finished masterpiece, but also becomes somewhat alarmed as he also believes the Soothsayer is right that da Vinci has slipped in some secret codes with what he leaves out as much as he puts in though the artist claims he had divine inspiration. To reveal what Leyre assumes is treacherous unorthodoxy means death of the artist as a heretic and destruction of the painting, but to not do so will place the Father at risk of abetting dissent towards the Church especially if the Soothsayer sends messages.------ THE SECRET SUPPER is a terrific thriller that uses the famous painting to tell the story behind the so-called Da Vinci code. The tale grips the audience as the Inquisitor begins to interpret what he assumes are heresies though he can see the beauty in the masterpiece. Adding depth to the fabulous Papacy vs. Leonardo plot is Javier Sierra¿s intriguing interpretation of The Last Supper. This novel is a tense historical masterpiece.----- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2012

    Readings

    Sorry, haven't read it yet. I am reading ELIZABETH I . Which is terrific. Next read will be SECRET SUPPER.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 31, 2011

    Una avetura tan enigmatica como 'El Nombre de la Rosa'

    Despues de 'El Codigo Da vinci' de Dan Brown las propuestas de esta novela ya no son tan sorprendentes, sin embargo la historia es entretenida y el ritmo aceptable. Me atrap? lo suficiente para acabar de leerla en un par de semanas. Definitivmente recomendada a quienes gustan de ficci?n historica.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2010

    Fantastic

    I read many books in this vain. I find historical fiction very interesting. This was a very novel take on a story that has been told time and time again in recent history. Rather than focusing on medieval knights or modern day adventurers trying to interpret clues from long ago, it perpetrates being inside Leonardo's own head. I particularly enjoyed the glossary of characters in the back of the book. It not only helped in reading the fictional story but also illuminated the truth of the historical figure versus the story of the historical figure. It is a very quick and enjoyable read and a unique take on a much written format. I would highly recommend this to anyone that enjoys novels based in the Renaissance era.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    DaVinci Code "Genre" murder-mystery thriller

    An excellent example of historical fiction hybrid, this time with a religious topic. If you liked the movie "Stigmata", you will possibly like this novel, especially if you don't mind gruesome serial murders in addition to the rich descriptions of religious symbolism and philosophy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 4, 2009

    The Davinci Code of His Own Time

    The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra is a book with wonderful array of coded mystery. Sometimes you may just feel that you are the one to be uncovering all of Davincis secrets, rather then the characters themselves. Taking place in the late 1400¿s where as Pope Alexander VI wishes to have Leonardo Davinci executed for hiding a blasphemous message into his latest masterpiece; The Secret Supper.<BR/><BR/> The story is very well written and keeps you nearly at the edge of your seat. It is not entirely a cliffhanger since the hidden messages are solved too quickly for any mystery. Javier Sierra should have left a bit more room in between his puzzles so that the reader could work with them for a bit longer. What went wrong was that a secret was put out just as fast as it was solved. Overall there were many points of the main story¿s mystery, by the end of the story it is noticed how they are which makes the book sum up with wonder. It seems that if someone wanted a good story they could go with this, but not so much with a good mystery. One other issue that was noticed was in one of the characters. All were wonderful with the exception of the main character. There was no explanation to whom he may be, only but a pawn on wheels to keep the story moving along. Overall, the book needs a little more suspense leading up to the whole finale.<BR/><BR/>Throughout the book there were many points of interest, but those mainly were kept up in the midst of every thing and towards the end of the book. So the beginning was a little slow, but needless to say it did pick up to be a great story. The end of the book put everything together to make sense and finish up everything perfectly.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2008

    Don't expect Da Vinci Code level

    I enjoyed the descriptions of the apostles and why they were posed the way they were, the theory of what they symbolize. It made me re-look at the Last Supper more closely than I have in the many years I have 'seen'it. But the fictional story and characters were at times confusing and slow. The plot dragged at many times and I didn't know where it was going. I still finished it, but was hoping for that big finish...didn't find it. Still searching. :)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2006

    Not Action-Packed, But Enjoyable

    Javier Sierra has written a book about solving a puzzle involving the Cathars, Da Vinci's Last Supper, and tons of codes and symbols. The historical setting (Milan in the 16th century) doesn't overwhelm the story, though unfortunately the number of characters does. A 'Cast of Characters' list at the end of the novel helps - if you discover it before beginning the book. Many of the clues to the puzzle are pretty obscure to modern readers. Yet I was astonished at how easily I decoded a series of 'mystery syllables' at one point, whereas some supposedly learned characters in the book couldn't figure it out until the end! This is not a quick read to be gobbled up in a sitting, but the unfolding of a mystery. I have to admit I found some of it confusing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2006

    Bored by The Last Supper--?

    During my minute college vacation, I took it upon myself to catch-up with some reading. I bought about six books and I was really excited about reading the Secret Supper. That excitement quickly ran out of the door, waiving a red flag. The Secret Supper starts out slow like most books, and fails to gain any momentum as the story progresses. Even though the novel deals with a very intriguing topic, having an intriguing topic isn¿t the only thing you need to make a great novel. If you look at novels like the Da Vinci Code and the Historian, you¿ll see that they both speak of great topic, but they also have a story line that you can¿t help but pay attention to. If you wanted to get this book, I wouldn¿t try to dissuade you in any way, but you buy this book at your own risk. I¿m afraid that only a few authors have been able to capitalize on this whole ¿Jesus and Mary Magdalene¿ saga.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2006

    Bring Your History and Art Books !!!

    I read this book from cover to cover, and all my instincts tells me that this is a thoughtful and wonderfully written book. Yet, I have to say that I found myself floundering from time to time and having to reread sections of the book. I worked so hard to understand the novel that I missed those moments when you find yourself lost in a spellbinding book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2006

    You will need art, history and relgion to understand this book well.

    THE SECRET SUPPER BY: Javier Sierra PUBLISHED BY Simon & Schuster Audio REVIEWED BY Barbara Rhoades This is a novel about Jesus, two religions and Leonard da Vinci¿s painting of The Last Supper. It involves the belief that da Vinci hid a secret meaning in this painting which is believed to be sacrilegious. Look closely at the painting to see what is missing. Why are these things missing? Who did da Vinci use as models for each apostle? One monk is asked to try to decode a message sent to Rome by an unknown person. He encounters other monks, the artist da Vinci and many of da Vinci¿s students plus other characters and I managed to get lost in who¿s who at times. It is my opinion that if you are a student of religion or art history, this novel would be read with more interest. If you are a student of both, then it would be even better. As it is, I am neither and feel I have missed a lot of the more subtle points. It is a long story, 8 CDs worth, and while it was well written, I didn¿t feel I understood the final revealed meaning. The reader, Simon Jones, speaks with various accents so the listener can tell when different people are speaking. As far as I understand Latin, he read those words clearly and correctly. His voice makes listening easy. Again, it is a well constructed novel and if history, religion or art is your passion, you will like it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2006

    Kind of a bore to read

    This story is not very exciting. It deals with a hot topic right now, The Last Supper painted by da Vinci. But the story drags on and then suddenly ends. You find out what is meant by the 'Secret Supper' just a few pages from the end. I wish I had waited for the paper back or borrowed the book from a friend or library.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2006

    An Enthralling Blend of History, Art, and Intrigue

    Javier Sierra originally published this book in Spain in 2004 as 'La Cena Secreta' and it rapidly became a best seller in Europe. At last it is translated into English by Alberto Manguel as THE SECRET SUPPER and the book is bound to find its way onto the bestseller list rapidly! It is a tightly woven, suspense driven, elegant story of a secret that lay hidden in the Leonardo Da Vinci's painting 'The Last Supper', that secret threatening to undo to status of the Catholic Church in the 15th century. Sierra is a scholar as well as a fine novelist and his previous investigative works on the Templars, the mystical nun Maria Jesus of Agreda as well as his thought provoking book on the Inca king Arahualpa's missing treasure serve him well as background in writing a credible novel about a controversial subject. Yes, the world is still reeling from the scandal of 'The Da Vinci Code', and some readers my think that here is yet another round of data about Christianity that is slipping along the success d'estime of that work. But be aware that this novel is wholly different and for this reader is far superior in the final resolution of the intial premise. The year is 1497 and Javier Sierra accompanies us back in time to an era when the wealthy leaders of the communities of Milan and Florence and Rome had an unimaginably huge impact on the course of the great Roman Catholic Church. In Milan the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is being renovated under the guidance of the Duke of Milan. But Pope Alexander VI is concerned that heretical elements favoring the threatening schism within the Church will be established in the politically important and highly visible sanctuary. Among the many intrigues surrounding Milan's new structure is the one concerning the popular painter Leonardo Da Vinci whose painting of The Last Supper is found to exclude the holy icons of the Grail and the Eucharistic Bread. The painting also is found to include known heretics as models for some of the disciples who look away from the Christ figure, one suggestive of Leonardo himself. How the Pope's investigators and the perpetrators address these issues and the places of secrecy revealed by the gradually unfolding discoveries serves as not only an informative survey of history, but also a fascinating, immensely readable suspense thriller that keeps us riveted to the book until the final page where the ultimate secret is revealed.If Alberto Manguel's English translation is sound (and since it was sanctioned by author Sierra himself it must be), then we have every reason to believe that here is a very important writer entering the English-speaking marketplace with one fine novel! Whether the reader is looking for a book of historical fiction, a novel of 15th century intrigue, or simply a fresh view of Da Vinci and of a new author, THE SECRET SUPPER is bound to please. The book design by Atria Books is splendid and enhances the reading experience. Graciously for those whose historical background needs some refurbishing, the book includes a 'Cast of Characters', outlining in a very readable fashion all of the 'players' of the period (Botticelli, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Ludivico Sforza, Pope Alexander Vi, etc) and for many, reading this terse glossary would be a fine way to begin this novel's woven tapestry of history. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    INTRIGUING STORY - COMPELLING LISTENING

    Now published in some 35 countries, The Secret Supper is one of the year's most discussed books. Author Javier Sierra has a penchant for trying to solve historical mysteries as we learned in his stories of the Templars and lost civilizations. He does so again with his view of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece and those who surrounded its creation. Simon Jones is the ideal voice to relate this story of subterfuge, trickery, fear, and passion. Broadway audiences enjoyed him in The Real Thing and The School for Scandal, while off-Broadway theatre goers applauded his performances in Woman in Mind and Terra Nova. Not one to rest on his laurels, Jones's credits also include film and television work in Brazil, Brideshead Revisited, and HBO's acclaimed Oz. His slight accent and resonant voice make this listening unalloyed pleasure. The setting for The Last Supper is 1497 Milan just as da Vinci is putting the finishing touches on his painting of The Last Supper. It's always interesting to read an author's view of the artist as he's such an iconic figure that his persona seems to be more and more embellished as time passes. Nonetheless, Sierra views him as both determined and beleaguered. It has been said that the Prior at the convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie who was observing da Vinci at work became impatient with the artist, weary of seeing da Vinci stand before his work in contemplation. So, the Prior complained to the Duke. That was but a minor annoyance as many, including Pope Alexander VI, had become convinced that the artist had hidden a secret message within his painting (shades of The Da Vinci Code). It is not long before a papal inquisitor comes on the scene to settle this matter once and for all. And, settled it eventually is. However, for this listener Sierra weaves such an intriguing story and Jones reads it so compelling that the journey is quite enough. - Gail Cooke

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)