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The Secret Supper: A Novel

The Secret Supper: A Novel

by Javier Sierra

Editorial Reviews

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.
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.

Product Details

Atria Books
Publication date:

Read an Excerpt

The Secret Supper

A Novel
By Javier Sierra


Copyright © 2006 Javier Sierra
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0743287649

No one took any notice.

None of the merchants, moneylenders or friars strolling by in the twilight around San Francesco il Grande noticed the slovenly, ill-dressed man who hurried into the Franciscan church. It was the eve of a holiday, a market day, and the inhabitants of Milan were busy gathering provisions for the coming days of official mourning. Under such circumstances, it was only natural that the presence of yet another beggar left them unconcerned.

But the fools were once again mistaken. The beggar who entered San Francesco was not an ordinary man.

Without giving himself a moment's respite, the ragged man left behind him the double row of benches that lined the nave and hurried on toward the main altar. There was not a soul to be seen inside the church. At last he had been permitted to see a painting, The Virgin of the Rocks, that few in Milan knew by its real name: the Maesta.

He approached the altar cautiously. His heart beat faster. There, utterly alone in the church, the pilgrim warily stretched out his hand, as if he might be forever united to the sacred scene. As he cast his eyes on the celebrated painting, suddenly a detail caught his attention. How strange! The pilgrim was overcome by a vertiginous feeling of horror. Someone had meddled with the Maesta.

The pilgrim did not dare move a muscle but remained frozen to the spot at the sound of the dry, deep voice behind him. He hadn't heard the door of the church creak open, so the intruder must have been watching him for a fair while now.

"I can tell you're like all the others. For some dark reason you heretics come in droves to this House of God. Its light attracts you, but you are incapable of recognizing that."

The pilgrim's pulse was racing. His hour had come. He felt dazed and angry, cheated in having risked his life to kneel before a fraud. The painting he was looking at was not the Opus Magnum.

"It can't be -- " he whispered. The intruder laughed out loud.

"It is easy enough to understand. I'll grant you the mercy of knowledge before sending you to burn in hell. Don't you realize that Leonardo has betrayed you?"

Was it possible that Leonardo had actually betrayed his brethren?

The pilgrim realized that something was terribly wrong. He heard behind him a metallic scraping, like that of a sword being unsheathed.

"Am I to die as well?"

"The Soothsayer will do away with all of the wicked."

Copyright © 2004 by Javier Sierra


Excerpted from The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra Copyright © 2006 by Javier Sierra. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

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.

Brief Biography

Málaga, Spain
Date of Birth:
August 11, 1971
Place of Birth:
Teruel, Spain
Journalism studies at the Complutense University, Madrid, 1989-1995

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