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Angels & Demons
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For the upcoming film adaptation, see Angels & Demons (film).
Angels & Demons
First edition cover
Author Dan Brown
Country United States
Genre(s) Mystery, thriller fiction
Publisher Pocket Books
Publication date May 2000
Media type print (hardback and paperback)
ISBN ISBN 0-671-02735-2
Preceded by Digital Fortress
Followed by Deception Point
Wikibooks has a book on the topic of
Angels and Demons
Angels & Demons is a bestselling mystery-thriller fiction novel written by American author Dan Brown and published by Pocket Books in 2000. It revolves around the quest of fictional Harvard University symbologist Robert Langdon to unravel the mysteries of a secret society called the Illuminati and to prevent a plot from annihilating Vatican City using destructive antimatter. The book utilizes the historical conflict between science and religion, particularly that between the Illuminati and the Roman Catholic Church.
The novel introduces the character Robert Langdon, who is also the protagonist of Brown's subsequent 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code. It also shares many stylistic elements with its sequel, such as conspiracies of secret societies, a single-day time frame, and the Catholic Church. Ancient history, architecture, and symbolism are also heavily referenced throughout the book. An eponymous film adaptation is due for release on May 15, 2009.
1 Plot summary
4 Fact and fiction behind the book
4.1 Altars of Science
7 External links
The plot follows Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, as he tries to stop what seems to be the Illuminati, a legendary secret society, from destroying Vatican City with the newly-discovered power of antimatter.
CERN director Maximilian Kohler discovers one of the facility's most respected physicists, Leonardo Vetra, murdered in his own secured, private quarter at the facility. His chest is branded with a symbol—the ambigramatic "Illuminati"—and his eye is dislodged. Instead of calling the police, Kohler researches the topic on the Internet and finally gains contact with Langdon, an expert on the Illuminati. Kohler requests his assistance in uncovering the murderer.
What Langdon finds at the murder scene frightens him: the symbol appears to be authentic, and the legendary secret society, long thought to be defunct, seems to have resurfaced. Kohler calls Vetra's adopted daughter Vittoria to the scene, and it is later revealed that the Illuminati has also stolen a canister containing a quarter of a gram of antimatter—an extremely dangerous substance with destructive potential comparable to a small nuclear weapon, a potential unleashed upon contact with any form of normal matter. When charged with electricity at CERN, the canister's magnetic field controls the drop of antimatter to float suspended in a high vacuum, ensuring safety; but when it was taken away from its electricity supply, it automatically switched to its back-up battery, which will only power it for 24 hours. The horrible truth is that the Illuminati has put the stolen canister somewhere in Vatican City, with a security camera in front of it as its digital clock counts down to the explosion.
Langdon and Vittoria make their way to Vatican City, where the Pope has recently died, and the Papal conclave has convened to elect the new pontiff. Cardinal Mortati, host of the election, discovers that the four Preferiti, cardinals who are considered to be the most likely candidates in the election, are missing. After they arrive, Langdon and Vittoria begin searching for the Preferiti in hopes that they will also find the antimatter canister in the process. Their search is assisted by Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca (the late pope's closest aide) and the Vatican's Swiss Guard, including Commander Olivetti, Captain Rocher and Lieutenant Chartrand.
Convinced that the Illuminati are in some way responsible for the disappearance of the Preferiti, Langdon attempts to retrace the steps of the so-called "Path of Illumination", an ancient and elaborate process once used by the Illuminati as a means of induction of new members; prospective candidates for the Order were required to follow a series of subtle clues left in various landmarks in and around Rome. If the candidate followed the clues properly, he would be able to locate the secret meeting place of the Illuminati and be granted membership in the Order. Using his extensive knowledge of religious and occult history, Langdon sets off on the Path of Illumination in hopes of uncovering clues as to the disappearance of the Preferiti and the location of the antimatter canister.
Bernini's Habbakuk and the Angel and Agostino Chigi's pyramidal wall tomb
The Path leads Langdon to four major locations in Rome (Vatican City is within the city of Rome), each associated with what the Illuminati believed to be the four primordial elements of all things in existence: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Upon arriving at each location, Langdon finds one of the Preferiti murdered in a fashion appropriate to the location's respective element: The first cardinal was buried and had soil lodged in his throat (Earth); the second's lungs were pierced (Air); the third was engulfed in flames and burned alive (Fire); and the fourth was drowned in a large fountain (Water).
West Ponente at Saint Peter's Square
After finding the bodies of the first two Preferiti (Earth and Air), Langdon hurries to the Santa Maria della Vittoria Basilica and finds the Preferiti's abductor in the act of setting the cardinal on fire. The kidnapper, who is also responsible for the Leonardo Vetra's murder and the theft of the antimatter canister, is an unnamed Hassassin who is working under the orders of the Illuminati master "Janus", whose true identity is unknown. Commander Olivetti dies and Langdon is nearly killed himself in this encounter with the Hassassin, who manages to kidnap Vittoria. Langdon manages to escape and meets the Hassassin yet again at the final element's landmark (Water), but is unable to save the fourth cardinal.
Ecstasy of St Teresa
Langdon nevertheless attempts to complete the Path of Illumination in order to find the Hassassin and rescue Vittoria. His search leads him to an abandoned castle-like structure with an underground tunnel leading directly into the Pope's chambers in the Vatican. Langdon frees Vittoria, and together they send the Hassassin falling several hundred feet to his death. The two hurry back to St. Peter's Basilica, where they find that Kohler has arrived to confront the camerlengo in private. Langdon and Vittoria fear that Kohler is Janus, and that he has come to murder the camerlengo as the final step in his plot against the Church. Hearing the camerlengo scream in agony, the Swiss Guards burst into the room and open fire on Kohler. Just before he dies, Kohler gives Langdon a videotape that he claims will explain everything.
The Fountain of Four Rivers
With time on the canister running out, the Swiss Guard begins to evacuate the Basilica. As he is exiting the church, the camerlengo apparently goes into a trance and rushes back into the Basilica, claiming that he has received a vision from God revealing the location of the antimatter canister. With Langdon and a few others in pursuit, the camerlengo ventures deep into the catacombs beneath the Basilica and finds the canister sitting atop the tomb of Saint Peter. Langdon and the camerlengo retrieve the antimatter and get in a helicopter with only 5 minutes to spare. The camerlengo manages to parachute safely onto the roof of St. Peter's just as the canister explodes harmlessly in the sky. Langdon's fate is not immediately known, as there was not a second parachute on board the helicopter. The crowd in St. Peter's Square look in awe as the camerlengo stands triumphantly before them. Because of this "miracle", the Papal conclave debate whether exception should be made to elect the camerlengo as the new Pope. Robert Langdon survived the explosion by using a window cover from the chopper as a parachute and landed in the Tiber River near Tiber Island, which is famous for its reputation as an island blessed with miracles of healing. He is hurt, but not seriously.
Langdon returns to St. Peter's and views Kohler's tape with the College of Cardinals. Langdon, Vittoria, and the cardinals confront the camerlengo in the Sistine Chapel, where the truth is finally revealed. Shortly before the events of the novel, the Pope was scheduled to meet with Leonardo Vetra concerning his research at CERN. Vetra, a devout Catholic, believed that science was capable of establishing a link between Man and God, a belief that was manifested by his research on antimatter. Vetra's beliefs caused great discomfort to the camerlengo, who firmly believed that the Church alone, not science, should dictate the moral creed of the Christian faithful. While discussing Vetra, the Pope reveals that his support is due to science having created him a miracle: a son conceived by artificial insemination. Horrified that the Pope has fathered a child, the camerlengo plots to "rectify" the situation. He poisoned the Pope and, under the guise of an Illuminati master (Janus), he recruited the Hassassin, a killer fueled by the same zeal and animus towards the Church as his ancestors during the Crusades, to kill Vetra, steal the antimatter, and kidnap and murder the Preferiti just as the papal conclave was set to convene. The camerlengo planted the antimatter in St. Peter's and feigned his last-minute "vision" from God in order to be seen as a hero and the savior of Christendom by those who witnessed his brave acts. The Illuminati thus had no actual role in any of the novel's events, and its "involvement" was merely a plot engineered by the camerlengo to cover his own plans. As Langdon suspected from the very beginning, the Order of the Illuminati was indeed long extinct.
As one final twist, it is revealed that Camerlengo Ventresca was the birth son of the late Pope, conceived through artificial insemination. Suddenly overcome with grief and guilt at having caused so much death, especially that of his own father, Ventresca soaks himself in oil and immolates himself before a crowd of onlookers in St. Peter's Square. The conclave elects Cardinal Mortati as the new pope. In an ironic twist, through a quibble, a loophole in the papal election process known as election by acclamation, two popes were chosen - Ventresca by all the cardinals cheering his name before he lights himself on fire, and Mortati through normal means.
Langdon and Vittoria retire to the Hotel Bernini. Lieutenant Chartrand delivers a letter and package to Langdon from the new Pope. The package is the 'Illuminati Diamond[dead link]' brand, which is loaned indefinitely to Langdon.
See also: List of characters in Angels & Demons
Robert Langdon - A professor of symbology at Harvard University and the main protagonist of the novel. He is flown to CERN to help investigate the murder of Leonardo Vetra. He is described as wearing a pair of chinos pants, turtleneck, and tweed jacket. His name is a tribute to John Langdon.
Leonardo Vetra - A scientist working at CERN and a priest. He is researching on antimatter when he is murdered by the Hassassin. He is also the adoptive father of Vittoria.
Vittoria Vetra - The adopted daughter of Vetra. She, like her father, works with CERN. Her research focuses on biology and physics. The reader learns early in the novel that Vittoria worked with her father in their research of antimatter.
Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca - The Camerlengo (Papal Chamberlain) during the conclave. He murdered the pope, who is later revealed to have been his father. He is also Janus in the novel, named after the Roman god of beginnings and ends, in dealing with the Hassassin.
Cardinal Saverio Mortati - The most senior cardinal in the conclave, and the current Dean of the College of Cardinals. He was the Devil's Advocate for the late pope.
Commander Olivetti - The commandant of the Swiss Guard. He is initially skeptical on the claims of Langdon and Vittoria until he talks with the Hassassin. He, along with other Swiss Guards, search desperately for the missing antimatter hidden somewhere at the Vatican. He is killed by the Hassassin at the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria.
Captain Rocher - The second in command after Commander Olivetti. He is contacted by Max Kohler telling his knowledge on the real cause of the events. He is killed by Lt. Chartrand, who was under the impression that Rocher was an Illuminatus.
Hassassin - The killer hired by Janus, the Camerlengo in disguise, to fulfill his plans. He is of Middle Eastern origin and displays his sadistic lust for women throughout the novel. He murders Leonardo Vetra, the Preferiti, and Commander Olivetti. He dies after being pushed from a balcony by Langdon at the Castel Sant'Angelo and breaking his back on a pile of cannonballs below.
Maximilian Kohler - The director of CERN. He is feared at CERN despite his paralysis. His wheelchair contains electronic gadgets such as a computer, telephone, pager, video camera, and a gun. He contacts Langdon to help him find the killer of his friend, Leonardo Vetra. He thinks religion prevents him from leading the life he could and he becomes a scientist as a rebellion to religion.
Gunther Glick and Chinita Macri - A reporter and camera crew for the BBC. They are contacted by the Hassassin regarding the events happening in the Vatican. Glick has a notorious reputation as a sensationalist and conspiracy theorist journalist. Macri, meanwhile, is a veteran camera crew and a foil to Glick. They have the first-hand account on the events in the novel, from the beginning of the conclave to the election of Mortati as pope.
Lieutenant Chartrand - A young Swiss Guard. He, together with Commander Olivetti and Cptn. Rocher, search desperately for the antimatter hidden somewhere in the Vatican. He shoots and kills Captain Rocher after he is mistaken as an Illuminatus. In the end of the novel, he is sent by the new pope to give the Illuminati Diamond as an indefinite loan to Langdon.
Cardinal Ebner - One of the four Preferiti and a cardinal from Frankfurt, Germany. He is killed by asphyxation, by means of putting dirt and soil into his mouth.
Cardinal Lamassé - One of the four Preferiti and a cardinal from Paris, France. He is killed by puncturing his lungs.
Cardinal Guidera - One of the four Preferiti and a cardinal from Barcelona, Spain. He is hanged and incinerated.
Cardinal Baggia - One of the four Preferiti and a cardinal from Milan, Italy and the favorite to succeed as the new pope. He was drowned.
Sylvie Baudeloque - Secretary to Maximillian Kohler.
The Wikibook Angels and Demons has a page on the topic of
Divergence from reality
The book's first edition contained numerous errors of location of places in Rome, as well as incorrect uses of Italian language. Some of the language issues were corrected in the following editions.
Aside from the explicit introduction, the book depicts various fictional experts explaining matters in science, technology and history in which critics have pointed out errors. An example of this is the antimatter discussions, wherein the book suggests that anti-matter can be produced in useful and practical quantities and will be a limitless source of power. CERN has refuted this, noting that antimatter cannot be used as an energy source because it is artificial, and creating it takes more energy than it produces.
Another mistake made in the book is the claim that CERN is the organization that invented the Internet. In fact, Tim Berners-Lee and a small team at CERN invented the hypertext transport protocol, which led to the World Wide Web, not the Internet, which was engineered in the United States by DARPA.
Fact and fiction behind the book
For more information on these elements of the book, refer to the following articles:
Illuminati, a secret brotherhood at the heart of the book's plot
Lockheed Martin X-33, an aircraft described early in the book
CERN, a research laboratory
Freemasonry, a fraternal organization into which the Illuminati supposedly merged
Great Seal of the United States, Background on the symbol included on the U.S. one-dollar bill, discussed in chapter 31 of the book.
Altars of Science
The book fictionalizes a story about the Altars of Science in Rome, consisting of four locations, each representing the four elements—earth, air, fire and water, which are believed to be "the Path of Illumination," a trail to the meeting place of the Illuminati in Rome.
According to the book, the "altars" were hidden as religious artwork in order to avoid the wrath of the Vatican and secure the secrecy of the Illuminati. The artworks that make up the Four Altars were all sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Although the book is not clear where exactly the meeting place was, it is stated to be within the famed Castel Sant'Angelo.
The book lists the artworks as:
Earth — Habakkuk and the Angel in Chigi Chapel of Santa Maria del Popolo
Air — West Ponente at Saint Peter's Square
Fire — The Ecstasy of St Teresa sculpture at the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria
Water — The famous Fountain of Four Rivers at Piazza Navona
Main article: Ambigram
The book contains several ambigrams created by real-life typographer John Langdon. Besides the "Angels And Demons and Illuminati designs," the title of the book is also presented as an ambigram on the hardcover book jacket, and on the inside cover of the paperback versions. The book also contains ambigrams of the words 'Earth', Air, 'Fire' and 'Water', all of which are among the most recognizable ambigrams in the world. The 'Illuminati Diamond' mentioned in the book is an ambigram of the four elements arranged in the shape of a diamond.
^ Gialli & Thriller:ANGELI E DEMONI di Dan Brown
^ a b "CERN - Spotlight: Angels and Demons". CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research. Archived from the original on 2008-01-29. Retrieved on 2008-09-11.
^ www.johnlangdon.net Official website of John Langdon, section "Angels & Demons" (retrieved 2007-01-30)
^ "The Ten Most Famous Ambigrams". Ambigram Magazine (Ambigram.com).
Burstein, Dan (ed). Secrets of Angels & Demons: The unauthorized guide to the bestselling novel, 2004, CDS Books. ISBN 1-59315-140-3, Collection of many essays by world-class historians and other experts, discussing the fact & fiction of the novel
Angels and Demons Draws Tourists to Rome, January 20, 2005, NPR
CERN's own page about fact and fiction in the novel
Angels and Demons Movie News Site
Path of Illumination (with photos of the places of Angels & Demons)
Dan Brown's own page
Book 'Antimatter, The Ultimate Mirror' ISBN 978-0521893091
Angels & Demons Novel
John Langdon official website, "Angels & Demons" ambigrams
Vatican Bans filming the movie in churches
Articles and term paper about Adam Weishaupt and the historic illuminati... (english/german)
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
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