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The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra
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The Secret Supper (2004)

by Javier Sierra

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1,388458,272 (3.31)28
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    Leonardo's Shadow: Or, My Astonishing Life as Leonardo da Vinci's Servant by Christopher Grey (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: Leonardo's Shadow is a young adult novel surrounding the artist's Last Supper - including a puzzle hidden in its depths. It's less puzzle-thriller than Secret Supper, but a good read.
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» See also 28 mentions

English (35)  Spanish (6)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Hungarian (1)  German (1)  All languages (45)
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
An interesting and somewhat compelling tale of 15th-Century murder and mystery surrounding Leonardo Da Vinci's painting The Last Supper. It's a very interesting and informative narrative that takes in secrets, codes, symbology and 15th-Century culture and politics. It moves along reasonably well but seems to finish a little anti-climatically. ( )
  adam.currey | Sep 2, 2018 |
This is not a genre I normally read; in fact, I shy away from historical thrillers that are based on the Cathar schism in the Catholic Church. (Think Dan Brown.) Yet, here we have a deeply researched novel populated with more actual historical characters than fictional ones and full of delightfully intriguing esoterica about controversial religious texts, the coded language of symbols in great art, and of course how all this comes to focus in da Vinci's Cenacolo, or The Last Supper.

Sierra has written a neatly integrated scholarly interpretation of the much discussed compositional elements of the world's most famous fresco on the refectory wall of the Santa Maria delle Grazie that is the dining room of its Dominican brethren. Even during the three years that da Vinci agonized -- and he did agonize -- over this masterwork, the panting, commissioned by Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan, was controversial. Politics nurtured a rivalry between the Mother Church in Rome, fearful of the liberalism fostered by il Moro, who was suspected of heretical thinking and was believed by some in the Vatican to be an apostate, adhering to Cathar schismatics.

In the novel, the Inquisitor and friar, Agostino Leyre is dispatched from Rome to investigate the mysterious coded message the Secretariat of the Order in Bethany has received from someone in the Dominican monastery in Milan calling himself the Soothsayer, who accuses "certain people" of occult practices and hints that the famous artist, Leonardo da Vinci, is a servant of Satan.

Sierra manages a grand stage filled with many characters, all exquisitely individualized so that they live on the page. The atmosphere of the late 15th C. and the turmoil caused by the Academy in Rome (established as reincarnation of Plato's famous Athenian Academy) turning out highly educated, multi talented "Renaissance men," largely secular and questioning in their habits has upset the control of the Papal States over the populous. Trouble is brewing on all sides and the conundrums in secret messages, texts, and symbols in paintings spell danger to those in power. Violent death invades the sanctuary, rebellious religious cannot be brought to heel, and rumors persist that the Cathars have not been wiped out but are hovering in the hills surrounding Milan. Sierra weaves all these threads in a tightly plotted work and manages to drop none of them.

Readers who enjoy Eco's novels will be gratified by this novel for its richness of detail and historical accuracy, as well as its controlled pacing and mounting tension. Here we have puzzles enough to confound the most clever fan of mysteries. The question is, will they also confound Father Agostino? ( )
  Limelite | Dec 21, 2015 |
Working with the assumption that Da Vinci was a Cathar and thereby a heretic, a papal investigator is sent not only to try to decipher some scribbles found in the famous painting, but to determine the meaning of some aspects of the painting as a whole … there is no meat on the table, the bread is missing and strangely the faces of the apostles bear striking resembles to heretics of the day. Mixing in real historical figures with some fictional ones (I, personally, am not familiar enough with the period to differentiate all of them) to help solve the clues made this an interesting and, often, educational read.

Admittedly, there has been a “glut” on the market of these conspiracy theory books since the publication of The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) but this one is a less of a conspiracy theory action thriller and more of a “what if?” representation of the ( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
Another historical thriller based around da Vinci's The Last Supper. Nowhere near as taut and intriguing as The DaVinci Code, but interesting nonetheless.

Bookcrossing: http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/6925184/ ( )
  wareagle78 | Jan 22, 2014 |
I liked this historical thriller about Da Vinci, The Last Supper, religious and political intrigue in the 15th century. Sometimes there are mysteries and sometimes there are nothing to find, except rumors. ( )
  krin5292 | Nov 16, 2013 |
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To Eva,
who has illuminated the path of this traveller
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No one took any notice.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Original title: La Cena Secreta
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743287649, Hardcover)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:35 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Sent to oversee the completion of Da Vinci's "The Last Supper," Dominican inquisitor Fray Agustin Leyre investigates the artist's omission of key elements and use of symbolic imagery, which suggests that there is a coded message in the painting.

» see all 6 descriptions

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