The Secret Supper: A Novel

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The Secret Supper: A Novel

by Javier Sierra
Translated by Alberto Manguel

Washington Square Press | March 20, 2007 | Trade Paperback

The Secret Supper: A Novel is rated 2.5714 out of 5 by 7.
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....

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 368 pages, 8.25 × 5.31 × 1.1 in

Published: March 20, 2007

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0743287657

ISBN - 13: 9780743287654

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from I rather enjoyed it. The story was quite entertaining and there was a lot more art-related substance in this book than I had expected.
Date published: 2009-06-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from terrible The story begins when an inquisitor for the Catholic Church in Rome receives letters written in calligraphy from a tipster in Milan warning him about a plan to turn Milan into a new Athens. He then heads north to unmask the evil Soothsayer and get to the root of the alleged anti-catholic trickery. The trouble seems to center on Leonardo da Vinci's new fresco "The Last Supper" which some believe is crammed with hidden messages. I found there are too many oddities piling up to give this complicated story momentum, and I agree with some of the critics "This plot is full of baloney and it needs to gallop" Borrow this book, in my opinion definitely not a buy.
Date published: 2007-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow!! Great historical fiction!! Must read for anyone interested in religious conspiracies. Couldn't put it down!!
Date published: 2007-07-10
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Promising... I loved the DaVinci code and love the fact that this book has many similarities. However I just couldn't get past the first 50 pages. I am an avid reader but this was such a difficult read, too much information. I'll get back to it one day!
Date published: 2006-08-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Wow this was a Struggle! I found this novel to be very laborious. There were lots of facts involved which really detracts from the plot and there is too much emphasis on the character of Leonardo Da Vinci. The author writes about the beliefs of the medieval Cathars who,it is said, had secret teachings that were passed on to Mary Magdalene and John the Evangelist. The story line is intriguing but something has been lost in the prose. I had to really struggle to keep on until the end! Perhaps something was lost in the translation from the Spanish original?
Date published: 2006-07-31
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Giving up I rarely give up on books. I love the potential of this book. I definately tried to get through it but realized if reading a book feels like work then I need to move on. The Story is a good one but it was too slow for my likings. I will probably try this one again another day.
Date published: 2006-07-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from enchanting You will never look at DaVinci"s The last Supper the same again. You hang on by your finger tips as this book pulls you through years of history, almost like you are reliving it all over again, and your right in the middle of the action. This book really makes you think.
Date published: 2006-06-15

– More About This Product –

The Secret Supper: A Novel

by Javier Sierra
Translated by Alberto Manguel

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 368 pages, 8.25 × 5.31 × 1.1 in

Published: March 20, 2007

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0743287657

ISBN - 13: 9780743287654

About the Book

Already an international phenomenon, this riveting novel depicts a deadly game of wits between the brilliant but religiously suspect Leonardo Da Vinci and a Dominican inquisitor who is intent on bringing him to trial for heresy.

Read from the Book

Preamble

From the Publisher

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....

Editorial Reviews

"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)

Bookclub 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.