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The Secret Supper: A Novel Paperback – March 20, 2007

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Editorial Reviews Review

The Da Vinci juggernaut rolls on, this time in the capable hands of a bestselling author in the Spanish-speaking world. The Secret Supper has been ably translated by Alberto Manguel, author of A History of Reading, that delightful revelation that squiggles on a page are words, and words make stories. Set in 1497 Milan, at the time of the painting of the Cenacolo, or The Last Supper, in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Sierra has created a tale of religious fanaticism, betrayal, murder, Church politics, artistic chicanery and mystery to confound the reader.

Fra Agostino Leyre, a Papal Inquisitor, is sent to Milan to confirm--or not--the messages of the "Soothsayer," who alleges that Leonardo Da Vinci is a heretic and has hidden heretical messages in his painting of The Last Supper. Leonardo is a figure larger than life, literally. A blue-eyed, tall, handsome man, always dressed in white, he is surrounded by faithful students and friends who are his acolytes. His brilliant mind, ranging over a multitude of ideas, has gained him a reputation for "hiding heterodox ideas in paintings apparently pious."

What Father Agostino follows is a labyrinthine path through alliances and rivalries, differences of opinion about Leonardo and a discussion of the heresy of the Cathars. They are a fascinating sect, more extra-Christianity than Christian heretics. Their practices are based on a belief that certain deprivations--primarily food and sex--will purify and make them worthy. Sierra is a very fine guide, taking the reader through palaces and monasteries rife with intrigue and typical of the flowering of intellect that came after the Dark Ages. It is a time when "Suddenly, from one day to the next, Plato's Greece, Cleopatra's Egypt and even the extravagant curiosities of the Chinese Empire that Marco Polo discovered seemed to deserve greater praise than our own Scriptural stories." Dangerous for the incumbency.

A compelling case is made that Leonardo's heretical beliefs are there for all to see in The Last Supper, if only we know how to find them. Sierra gives us the key--and keeps the suspense going right up to the end of the book. It isn't necessary to believe any of it, or even care if it's true, to enjoy this pilgrimage through another time and place. --Valerie Ryan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Rep Tra edition (March 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743287657
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743287654
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #413,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Javier Sierra, whose works have been translated into thirty-five languages, is the author of The Lady in Blue and the New York Times bestseller The Secret Supper. His newest novel is The Lost Angel, a breathtaking thriller that explores mankind's eternal quest to discover the truth of our origins -and of our destiny.
A native of Teruel, Spain, Sierra currently lives in Madrid.
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 121 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Readers will not want to dismiss this novel out of hand as "yet another da Vinci book," for The Secret Supper is truly an entity unto itself, a well-written, incredibly provocative thriller of dazzling proportions. The product of three years of extensive research, The Secret Supper purports to solve an intriguing, centuries-old mystery, a mystery most of us had no idea even existed. Can it be that Leonardo da Vinci hid a secret, heretical message inside his celebrated painting of The Last Supper, an open secret that only those with eyes to see could identify as an anti-Roman Catholic missive in no less a holy place than the Dominican Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie?

I think most readers will be amazed to learn that they have never truly looked at this most familiar work of art. Certainly, as Sierra shows us, there are strange qualities if not outright anomalies in the painting. Why are there no halos above Christ and his disciples? Why do you see no representation of the Eucharistic bread or the Holy Grail? Why are two of the disciples looking the other way, seemingly ignoring Jesus' fateful revelation that He is to be betrayed by someone at that very table? And why, for goodness' sake, is Peter clutching a knife behind his back? Sierra soon leads us to additional oddities: the disciples bear the images of heretics, Judas Thaddeus is represented with Leonardo's own face, Simon's face is modeled on the Greek philosopher Plato, a knot on the tablecloth is indicative of Mary Magdalene. These are just a small sample of the issues Sierra raises about The Last Supper over the course of his incredible novel. And, just so you know, he does have answers awaiting you at the end of the novel, including the secret message and its significance as discovered by the author.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By John R. Lindermuth VINE VOICE on May 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is not a novel for those who want a quick thrill, an easy read spiced with action and sex (though those elements are there). This is a novel concerned with great and intriguing questions, art and scholarship.

It should be noted, Sierra was not riding on the coat tails of Dan Brown when he wrote this book. Though he was working from many of the same sources, he began his research and without knowledge of what Brown was doing before publication of "The Da Vinci Code." Sierra's novel is more intellectual, more sophisticated and a deeper presentation of a society vastly different from that we know today.

There are great differences between the two books, though both are revelations of a hidden, or secret, faith.

There is nothing in his notebooks or any of the scholarship about Da Vinci to affirm he was a Cathar. In fact, in his will, he requests Masses by deacons of Saint Florentin and Saint Gregoire before his burial within the church of Saint Florentin at Amboise, France, which would indicate adherence to the faith of Rome. Still, he was several times suspected of heresy and his beliefs indicate he may have been sympathetic to the bonhommes.

Already a bestseller in Europe, "The Secret Supper" is a historical mystery focusing more on the spiritual than the corporate aspects of religion. It is definitely worth the time it takes to read it.

And, after reading this, one can never look at the works of Da Vinci and his contemporaries in the same way again.
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