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Galileo Galilei, 1639 3 page

Hitzrot broke into a smile. "Yeah! Those Egyptian things we studied last term. Those… um… sun disks!"

"Thank you, Hitzrot. Go back to sleep." Langdon turned back to the class. "Halos, like much of Christian symbology, were borrowed from the ancient Egyptian religion of sun worship. Christianity is filled with examples of sun worship."

"Excuse me?" the girl in front said. "I go to church all the time, and I don’t see much sun worshiping going on!"

"Really? What do you celebrate on December twenty‑fifth?"

"Christmas. The birth of Jesus Christ."

"And yet according to the Bible, Christ was born in March, so what are we doing celebrating in late December?"

Silence.

Langdon smiled. "December twenty‑fifth, my friends, is the ancient pagan holiday of sol invictus–Unconquered Sun–coinciding with the winter solstice. It’s that wonderful time of year when the sun returns, and the days start getting longer."

Langdon took another bite of apple.

"Conquering religions," he continued, "often adopt existing holidays to make conversion less shocking. It’s called transmutation. It helps people acclimatize to the new faith. Worshipers keep the same holy dates, pray in the same sacred locations, use a similar symbology… and they simply substitute a different god."

Now the girl in front looked furious. "You’re implying Christianity is just some kind of… repackaged sun worship!"

"Not at all. Christianity did not borrow only from sun worship. The ritual of Christian canonization is taken from the ancient ‘god‑making’ rite of Euhemerus. The practice of ‘god‑eating’–that is, Holy Communion–was borrowed from the Aztecs. Even the concept of Christ dying for our sins is arguably not exclusively Christian; the self‑sacrifice of a young man to absolve the sins of his people appears in the earliest tradition of the Quetzalcoatl."

The girl glared. "So, is anything in Christianity original?"

"Very little in any organized faith is truly original. Religions are not born from scratch. They grow from one another. Modern religion is a collage… an assimilated historical record of man’s quest to understand the divine."

"Um… hold on," Hitzrot ventured, sounding awake now. "I know something Christian that’s original. How about our image of God? Christian art never portrays God as the hawk sun god, or as an Aztec, or as anything weird. It always shows God as an old man with a white beard. So our image of God is original, right?"

Langdon smiled. "When the early Christian converts abandoned their former deities–pagan gods, Roman gods, Greek, sun, Mithraic, whatever–they asked the church what their new Christian God looked like. Wisely, the church chose the most feared, powerful… and familiar face in all of recorded history."

Hitzrot looked skeptical. "An old man with a white, flowing beard?"



Langdon pointed to a hierarchy of ancient gods on the wall. At the top sat an old man with a white, flowing beard. "Does Zeus look familiar?"

The class ended right on cue.

"Good evening," a man’s voice said.

Langdon jumped. He was back in the Pantheon. He turned to face an elderly man in a blue cape with a red cross on the chest. The man gave him a gray‑toothed smile.

"You’re English, right?" The man’s accent was thick Tuscan.

Langdon blinked, confused. "Actually, no. I’m American."

The man looked embarrassed. "Oh heavens, forgive me. You were so nicely dressed, I just figured… my apologies."

"Can I help you?" Langdon asked, his heart beating wildly.

"Actually I thought perhaps I could help you. I am the cicerone here." The man pointed proudly to his city‑issued badge. "It is my job to make your visit to Rome more interesting."

More interesting? Langdon was certain this particular visit to Rome was plenty interesting.

"You look like a man of distinction," the guide fawned, "no doubt more interested in culture than most. Perhaps I can give you some history on this fascinating building."

Langdon smiled politely. "Kind of you, but I’m actually an art historian myself, and–"

"Superb!" The man’s eyes lit up like he’d hit the jackpot. "Then you will no doubt find this delightful!"

"I think I’d prefer to–"

"The Pantheon," the man declared, launching into his memorized spiel, "was built by Marcus Agrippa in 27 B.C."

"Yes," Langdon interjected, "and rebuilt by Hadrian in 119 A.D."

"It was the world’s largest free‑standing dome until 1960 when it was eclipsed by the Superdome in New Orleans!"

Langdon groaned. The man was unstoppable.

"And a fifth‑century theologian once called the Pantheon the House of the Devil, warning that the hole in the roof was an entrance for demons!"

Langdon blocked him out. His eyes climbed skyward to the oculus, and the memory of Vittoria’s suggested plot flashed a bone‑numbing image in his mind… a branded cardinal falling through the hole and hitting the marble floor. Now that would be a media event. Langdon found himself scanning the Pantheon for reporters. None. He inhaled deeply. It was an absurd idea. The logistics of pulling off a stunt like that would be ridiculous.

As Langdon moved off to continue his inspection, the babbling docent followed like a love‑starved puppy. Remind me, Langdon thought to himself, there’s nothing worse than a gung ho art historian.

Across the room, Vittoria was immersed in her own search. Standing all alone for the first time since she had heard the news of her father, she felt the stark reality of the last eight hours closing in around her. Her father had been murdered–cruelly and abruptly. Almost equally painful was that her father’s creation had been corrupted–now a tool of terrorists. Vittoria was plagued with guilt to think that it was her invention that had enabled the antimatter to be transported… her canister that was now counting down inside the Vatican. In an effort to serve her father’s quest for the simplicity of truth… she had become a conspirator of chaos.

Oddly, the only thing that felt right in her life at the moment was the presence of a total stranger. Robert Langdon. She found an inexplicable refuge in his eyes… like the harmony of the oceans she had left behind early that morning. She was glad he was there. Not only had he been a source of strength and hope for her, Langdon had used his quick mind to render this one chance to catch her father’s killer.

Vittoria breathed deeply as she continued her search, moving around the perimeter. She was overwhelmed by the unexpected images of personal revenge that had dominated her thoughts all day. Even as a sworn lover of all life… she wanted this executioner dead. No amount of good karma could make her turn the other cheek today. Alarmed and electrified, she sensed something coursing through her Italian blood that she had never felt before… the whispers of Sicilian ancestors defending family honor with brutal justice. Vendetta, Vittoria thought, and for the first time in her life understood.

Visions of reprisal spurred her on. She approached the tomb of Raphael Santi. Even from a distance she could tell this guy was special. His casket, unlike the others, was protected by a Plexiglas shield and recessed into the wall. Through the barrier she could see the front of the sarcophagus.

 

Raphael Santi

1483‑1520

Vittoria studied the grave and then read the one‑sentence descriptive plaque beside Raphael’s tomb.

Then she read it again.

Then… she read it again.

A moment later, she was dashing in horror across the floor. "Robert! Robert!"

 

 

 

Langdon’s progress around his side of the Pantheon was being hampered somewhat by the guide on his heels, now continuing his tireless narration as Langdon prepared to check the final alcove.

"You certainly seem to be enjoying those niches!" the docent said, looking delighted. "Were you aware that the tapering thickness of the walls is the reason the dome appears weightless?"

Langdon nodded, not hearing a word as he prepared to examine another niche. Suddenly someone grabbed him from behind. It was Vittoria. She was breathless and tugging at his arm. From the look of terror on her face, Langdon could only imagine one thing. She found a body. He felt an upswelling of dread.

"Ah, your wife!" the docent exclaimed, clearly thrilled to have another guest. He motioned to her short pants and hiking boots. "Now you I can tell are American!"

Vittoria’s eyes narrowed. "I’m Italian."

The guide’s smile dimmed. "Oh, dear."

"Robert," Vittoria whispered, trying to turn her back on the guide. "Galileo’s Diagramma. I need to see it."

"Diagramma?" the docent said, wheedling back in. "My! You two certainly know your history! Unfortunately that document is not viewable. It is under secret preservation in the Vatican Arc–"

"Could you excuse us?" Langdon said. He was confused by Vittoria’s panic. He took her aside and reached in his pocket, carefully extracting the Diagramma folio. "What’s going on?"

"What’s the date on this thing?" Vittoria demanded, scanning the sheet.

The docent was on them again, staring at the folio, mouth agape. "That’s not… really…"

"Tourist reproduction," Langdon quipped. "Thank you for your help. Please, my wife and I would like a moment alone."

The docent backed off, eyes never leaving the paper.

"Date," Vittoria repeated to Langdon. "When did Galileo publish…"

Langdon pointed to the Roman numeral in the lower liner. "That’s the pub date. What’s going on?"

Vittoria deciphered the number. "1639?"

"Yes. What’s wrong?"

Vittoria’s eyes filled with foreboding. "We’re in trouble, Robert. Big trouble. The dates don’t match."

"What dates don’t match?"

"Raphael’s tomb. He wasn’t buried here until 1759. A century after Diagramma was published."

Langdon stared at her, trying to make sense of the words. "No," he replied. "Raphael died in 1520, long before Diagramma."

"Yes, but he wasn’t buried here until much later."

Langdon was lost. "What are you talking about?"

"I just read it. Raphael’s body was relocated to the Pantheon in 1758. It was part of some historic tribute to eminent Italians."

As the words settled in, Langdon felt like a rug had just been yanked out from under him.

"When that poem was written," Vittoria declared, "Raphael’s tomb was somewhere else. Back then, the Pantheon had nothing at all to do with Raphael!"

Langdon could not breathe. "But that… means…"

"Yes! It means we’re in the wrong place!"

Langdon felt himself sway. Impossible… I was certain…

Vittoria ran over and grabbed the docent, pulling him back. "Signore, excuse us. Where was Raphael’s body in the 1600s?"

"Urb… Urbino," he stammered, now looking bewildered. "His birthplace."

"Impossible!" Langdon cursed to himself. "The Illuminati altars of science were here in Rome. I’m certain of it!"

"Illuminati?" The docent gasped, looking again at the document in Langdon’s hand. "Who are you people?"

Vittoria took charge. "We’re looking for something called Santi’s earthly tomb. In Rome. Can you tell us what that might be?"

The docent looked unsettled. "This was Raphael’s only tomb in Rome."

Langdon tried to think, but his mind refused to engage. If Raphael’s tomb wasn’t in Rome in 1655, then what was the poem referring to? Santi’s earthly tomb with demon’s hole? What the hell is it? Think!

"Was there another artist called Santi?" Vittoria asked.

The docent shrugged. "Not that I know of."

"How about anyone famous at all? Maybe a scientist or a poet or an astronomer named Santi?"

The docent now looked like he wanted to leave. "No, ma’am. The only Santi I’ve ever heard of is Raphael the architect."

"Architect?" Vittoria said. "I thought he was a painter!"

"He was both, of course. They all were. Michelangelo, da Vinci, Raphael."

Langdon didn’t know whether it was the docent’s words or the ornate tombs around them that brought the revelation to mind, but it didn’t matter. The thought occurred. Santi was an architect. From there the progression of thoughts fell like dominoes. Renaissance architects lived for only two reasons–to glorify God with big churches, and to glorify dignitaries with lavish tombs. Santi’s tomb. Could it be? The images came faster now…

 

da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Monet’s Water Lilies.

Michelangelo’s David.

Santi’s earthly tomb

 

"Santi designed the tomb," Langdon said.

Vittoria turned. "What?"

"It’s not a reference to where Raphael is buried, it’s referring to a tomb he designed."

"What are you talking about?"

"I misunderstood the clue. It’s not Raphael’s burial site we’re looking for, it’s a tomb Raphael designed for someone else. I can’t believe I missed it. Half of the sculpting done in Renaissance and Baroque Rome was for the funeraries." Langdon smiled with the revelation. "Raphael must have designed hundreds of tombs!"

Vittoria did not look happy. "Hundreds?"

Langdon’s smile faded. "Oh."

"Any of them earthly, professor?"

Langdon felt suddenly inadequate. He knew embarrassingly little about Raphael’s work. Michelangelo he could have helped with, but Raphael’s work had never captivated him. Langdon could only name a couple of Raphael’s more famous tombs, but he wasn’t sure what they looked like.

Apparently sensing Langdon’s stymie, Vittoria turned to the docent, who was now inching away. She grabbed his arm and reeled him in. "I need a tomb. Designed by Raphael. A tomb that could be considered earthly."

The docent now looked distressed. "A tomb of Raphael’s? I don’t know. He designed so many. And you probably would mean a chapel by Raphael, not a tomb. Architects always designed the chapels in conjunction with the tomb."

Langdon realized the man was right.

"Are any of Raphael’s tombs or chapels considered earthly?"

The man shrugged. "I’m sorry. I don’t know what you mean. Earthly really doesn’t describe anything I know of. I should be going."

Vittoria held his arm and read from the top line of the folio. "From Santi’s earthly tomb with demon’s hole. Does that mean anything to you?"

"Not a thing."

Langdon looked up suddenly. He had momentarily forgotten the second part of the line. Demon’s hole?"Yes!" he said to the docent. "That’s it! Do any of Raphael’s chapels have an oculus in them?"

The docent shook his head. "To my knowledge the Pantheon is unique." He paused. "But…"

"But what!" Vittoria and Langdon said in unison.

Now the docent cocked his head, stepping toward them again. "A demon’s hole?" He muttered to himself and picked at his teeth. "Demon’s hole… that is… buco diàvolo?"

Vittoria nodded. "Literally, yes."

The docent smiled faintly. "Now there’s a term I have not heard in a while. If I’m not mistaken, a buco diàvolo refers to an undercroft."

"An undercroft?" Langdon asked. "As in a crypt?"

"Yes, but a specific kind of crypt. I believe a demon’s hole is an ancient term for a massive burial cavity located in a chapel… underneath another tomb."

"An ossuary annex?" Langdon demanded, immediately recognizing what the man was describing.

The docent looked impressed. "Yes! That is the term I was looking for!"

Langdon considered it. Ossuary annexes were a cheap ecclesiastic fix to an awkward dilemma. When churches honored their most distinguished members with ornate tombs inside the sanctuary, surviving family members often demanded the family be buried together… thus ensuring they too would have a coveted burial spot inside the church. However, if the church did not have space or funds to create tombs for an entire family, they sometimes dug an ossuary annex–a hole in the floor near the tomb where they buried the less worthy family members. The hole was then covered with the Renaissance equivalent of a manhole cover. Although convenient, the ossuary annex went out of style quickly because of the stench that often wafted up into the cathedral. Demon’s hole, Langdon thought. He had never heard the term. It seemed eerily fitting.

Langdon’s heart was now pounding fiercely. From Santi’s earthly tomb with demon’s hole. There seemed to be only one question left to ask. "Did Raphael design any tombs that had one of these demon’s holes?"

The docent scratched his head. "Actually. I’m sorry… I can only think of one."

Only one? Langdon could not have dreamed of a better response.

"Where!" Vittoria almost shouted.

The docent eyed them strangely. "It’s called the Chigi Chapel. Tomb of Agostino Chigi and his brother, wealthy patrons of the arts and sciences."

"Sciences?" Langdon said, exchanging looks with Vittoria.

"Where?" Vittoria asked again.

The docent ignored the question, seeming enthusiastic again to be of service. "As for whether or not the tomb is earthly, I don’t know, but certainly it is… shall we say differénte."

"Different?" Langdon said. "How?"

"Incoherent with the architecture. Raphael was only the architect. Some other sculptor did the interior adornments. I can’t remember who."

Langdon was now all ears. The anonymous Illuminati master, perhaps?

"Whoever did the interior monuments lacked taste," the docent said. "Dio mio! Atrocitàs! Who would want to be buried beneath pirámides?"

Langdon could scarcely believe his ears. "Pyramids? The chapel contains pyramids?"

"I know," the docent scoffed. "Terrible, isn’t it?"

Vittoria grabbed the docent’s arm. "Signore, where is this Chigi Chapel?"

"About a mile north. In the church of Santa Maria del Popolo."

Vittoria exhaled. "Thank you. Let’s–"

"Hey," the docent said, "I just thought of something. What a fool I am."

Vittoria stopped short. "Please don’t tell me you made a mistake."

He shook his head. "No, but it should have dawned on me earlier. The Chigi Chapel was not always known as the Chigi. It used to be called Capella della Terra."

"Chapel of the Land?" Langdon asked.

"No," Vittoria said, heading for the door. "Chapel of the Earth."

Vittoria Vetra whipped out her cell phone as she dashed into Piazza della Rotunda. "Commander Olivetti," she said. "This is the wrong place!"

Olivetti sounded bewildered. "Wrong? What do you mean?"

"The first altar of science is at the Chigi Chapel!"

"Where?" Now Olivetti sounded angry. "But Mr. Langdon said–"

"Santa Maria del Popolo! One mile north. Get your men over there now! We’ve got four minutes!"

"But my men are in position here! I can’t possibly–"

"Move!" Vittoria snapped the phone shut.

Behind her, Langdon emerged from the Pantheon, dazed.

She grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the queue of seemingly driverless taxis waiting by the curb. She pounded on the hood of the first car in line. The sleeping driver bolted upright with a startled yelp. Vittoria yanked open the rear door and pushed Langdon inside. Then she jumped in behind him.

"Santa Maria del Popolo," she ordered. "Presto!"

Looking delirious and half terrified, the driver hit the accelerator, peeling out down the street.

 

 

 

Gunther Glick had assumed control of the computer from Chinita Macri, who now stood hunched in the back of the cramped BBC van staring in confusion over Glick’s shoulder.

"I told you," Glick said, typing some more keys. "The British Tattler isn’t the only paper that runs stories on these guys."

Macri peered closer. Glick was right. The BBC database showed their distinguished network as having picked up and run six stories in the past ten years on the brotherhood called the Illuminati. Well, paint me purple, she thought. "Who are the journalists who ran the stories," Macri asked. "Schlock jocks?"

"BBC doesn’t hire schlock jocks."

"They hired you."

Glick scowled. "I don’t know why you’re such a skeptic. The Illuminati are well documented throughout history."

"So are witches, UFOs, and the Loch Ness Monster."

Glick read the list of stories. "You ever heard of a guy called Winston Churchill?"

"Rings a bell."

"BBC did a historical a while back on Churchill’s life. Staunch Catholic by the way. Did you know that in 1920 Churchill published a statement condemning the Illuminati and warning Brits of a worldwide conspiracy against morality?"

Macri was dubious. "Where did it run? In the British Tattler?"

Glick smiled. "London Herald. February 8, 1920."

"No way."

"Feast your eyes."

Macri looked closer at the clip. London Herald. Feb. 8, 1920. I had no idea. "Well, Churchill was a paranoid."

"He wasn’t alone," Glick said, reading further. "Looks like Woodrow Wilson gave three radio broadcasts in 1921 warning of growing Illuminati control over the U.S. banking system. You want a direct quote from the radio transcript?"

"Not really."

Glick gave her one anyway. "He said, ‘There is a power so organized, so subtle, so complete, so pervasive, that none had better speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.’ "

"I’ve never heard anything about this."

"Maybe because in 1921 you were just a kid."

"Charming." Macri took the jab in stride. She knew her years were showing. At forty‑three, her bushy black curls were streaked with gray. She was too proud for dye. Her mom, a Southern Baptist, had taught Chinita contentedness and self‑respect. When you’re a black woman, her mother said, ain’t no hiding what you are. Day you try, is the day you die. Stand tall, smile bright, and let ’em wonder what secret’s making you laugh.

"Ever heard of Cecil Rhodes?" Glick asked.

Macri looked up. "The British financier?"

"Yeah. Founded the Rhodes Scholarships."

"Don’t tell me–"

"Illuminatus."

"BS."

"BBC, actually. November 16, 1984."

"We wrote that Cecil Rhodes was Illuminati?"

"Sure did. And according to our network, the Rhodes Scholarships were funds set up centuries ago to recruit the world’s brightest young minds into the Illuminati."

"That’s ridiculous! My uncle was a Rhodes Scholar!"

Glick winked. "So was Bill Clinton."

Macri was getting mad now. She had never had tolerance for shoddy, alarmist reporting. Still, she knew enough about the BBC to know that every story they ran was carefully researched and confirmed.

"Here’s one you’ll remember," Glick said. "BBC, March 5, 1998. Parliament Committee Chair, Chris Mullin, required all members of British Parliament who were Masons to declare their affiliation."

Macri remembered it. The decree had eventually extended to include policemen and judges as well. "Why was it again?"

Glick read. "… concern that secret factions within the Masons exerted considerable control over political and financial systems."

"That’s right."

"Caused quite a bustle. The Masons in parliament were furious. Had a right to be. The vast majority turned out to be innocent men who joined the Masons for networking and charity work. They had no clue about the brotherhood’s past affiliations."

"Alleged affiliations."

"Whatever." Glick scanned the articles. "Look at this stuff. Accounts tracing the Illuminati back to Galileo, the Guerenets of France, the Alumbrados of Spain. Even Karl Marx and the Russian Revolution."

"History has a way of rewriting itself."

"Fine, you want something current? Have a look at this. Here’s an Illuminati reference from a recent Wall Street Journal."

This caught Macri’s ear. "The Journal?"

"Guess what the most popular Internet computer game in America is right now?"

"Pin the tail on Pamela Anderson."

"Close. It’s called, Illuminati: New World Order."

Macri looked over his shoulder at the blurb. "Steve Jackson Games has a runaway hit… a quasi‑historical adventure in which an ancient satanic brotherhood from Bavaria sets out to take over the world. You can find them on‑line at…" Macri looked up, feeling ill. "What do these Illuminati guys have against Christianity?"

"Not just Christianity," Glick said. "Religion in general." Glick cocked his head and grinned. "Although from the phone call we just got, it appears they do have a special spot in their hearts for the Vatican."

"Oh, come on. You don’t really think that guy who called is who he claims to be, do you?"

"A messenger of the Illuminati? Preparing to kill four cardinals?" Glick smiled. "I sure hope so."

 

 

 

Langdon and Vittoria’s taxi completed the one‑mile sprint up the wide Via della Scrofa in just over a minute. They skidded to a stop on the south side of the Piazza del Popolo just before eight. Not having any lire, Langdon overpaid the driver in U.S. dollars. He and Vittoria jumped out. The piazza was quiet except for the laughter of a handful of locals seated outside the popular Rosati Café–a hot spot of the Italian literati. The breeze smelled of espresso and pastry.

Langdon was still in shock over his mistake at the Pantheon. With a cursory glance at this square, however, his sixth sense was already tingling. The piazza seemed subtly filled with Illuminati significance. Not only was it laid out in a perfectly elliptical shape, but dead center stood a towering Egyptian obelisk–a square pillar of stone with a distinctively pyramidal tip. Spoils of Rome’s imperial plundering, obelisks were scattered across Rome and referred to by symbologists as "Lofty Pyramids"–skyward extensions of the sacred pyramidal form.

As Langdon’s eyes moved up the monolith, though, his sight was suddenly drawn to something else in the background. Something even more remarkable.

"We’re in the right place," he said quietly, feeling a sudden exposed wariness. "Have a look at that." Langdon pointed to the imposing Porta del Popolo–the high stone archway at the far end of the piazza. The vaulted structure had been overlooking the piazza for centuries. Dead center of the archway’s highest point was a symbolic engraving. "Look familiar?"

Vittoria looked up at the huge carving. "A shining star over a triangular pile of stones?"


Date: 2015-12-11; view: 762


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