Josh Bernstein searches for solid evidence behind the controversial theory laid out in Dan Brown's book The Da Vinci Code. Brown's theory claims that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and that she conceived a child. It also suggests that the bloodline continues--unbroken--to this day. Josh shows what's true and what's clearly make-believe in Dan Brown's bestseller. From musty libraries to ancient churches, Josh's unique quest leads him to seek the DNA evidence that might prove or disprove one of the most sensational claims in modern history. Most remarkably, he'll orchestrate the first ever DNA test on a Merovingian royal to find out if the story of a divine bloodline stretching back to Jesus and Mary Magdalene could possibly be true.
The DaVinci Code: "I first read Dan Brown's bestselling novel The DaVinci Code about two years ago. I don't remember where I was, but I do remember I, like so many others, found it fascinating. As a mystery, it's definitely a page-turner, but I can't say I bought it all as true. I've since learned that some parts of his story are based on an earlier book called 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail' by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. It came out about 20 years earlier, and also proposed the theory that Jesus Christ may have had a child with Mary Magdalene, and that child and its 'divine' offspring were protected during the passing millennia. Well, could Jesus and Mary have been an item? Could a secret bloodline from Christ still exist 2000 years later? And could it be traced using modern technology?"
The Mona Lisa: "I've had a number of 'THANK YOU' moments as host of this series. A private tour of the Louvre is definitely one of them (Thank you, Alice Jouve!) but being left alone with the Mona Lisa is truly over the top (THANK YOU, DFT!) I can't even begin to express how surreal a moment it is to be totally alone in this huge new installation where she rests. I'm told that the funds to create this entire room were recently donated by the Nippon Television Network Corporation in Japan. In fact, the place opened only a few months ago—in April, 2005 (So, thank you, NTV, too)."
"This means that the description of the room which Dan Brown wrote about would no longer apply, as everything here is apparently rebuilt. But I DO look for those gates in the ceiling and, sure enough, it looks like a person could remove a painting and be trapped in this space--if the alarm works that way. I decide not to test it. But the real mysteries here don't lie with anagrams, contorted bodies, and hidden keys, but with the possibility of secret truths found in a church to the south.
Was DaVinci the keeper of secrets which eventually got out? Well, after far too short a look at some of the priceless and staggering works of the Masters, it's off to Southern France to continue the journey."
Rennes-le-Château: "I first heard of Rennes-le-Château during The Holy Grail show in season one. I was at nearby Puivert and Montsegur castles when someone mentioned that the Holy Grail was also rumored to be at Rennes-le-Chateau. Unfortunately, I couldn't make the trip last time, so I'm SO happy to be here now. This place is gorgeous-–the early morning fog, the quaint church, and the unusual tower that Berenger Sauniere somehow found the money to build all make the trip down here seem worth it. But it's here in this tiny church where the paintings, the sculptures, and even the artwork seem to suggest that there's more here than meets the eye. Was there a document called the "Dossier Secrets" hidden in a pillar? I don't know--the only pillars I can see are solid rock. But Sauniere obviously got his money from SOMEWHERE, and no one seems to know how, or why. Dan Brown suggests a sacred bloodline was revealed to him, and that the Catholic church was paying to silence him. Interesting theory. I wonder how a sacred bloodline could be tested today?"
Mitochondrial DNA: "I first learned about DNA analysis during the show on the Lemba, one of the proposed Lost Tribes of Israel. In that case, we were using Y-Chromosomes to look at the Cohen Modal Haplotype and how it might pinpoint Semitic origins. I also did some DNA swabbing for our show on the Lost Colony of Roanoke--also with Y-Chromosomes--to find a possible link in the Payne family on both sides of the Atlantic. But I'm told that Y-Chromosome testing can't be done for something as old as a bloodline stretching back to Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. For THAT, I'm told, I must use Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing, as the DNA in mitochondrial cells lasts longer and is far more accessible than that in nuclear cells. To help me do the testing, I'm working with Dr. Jean-Jacques Cassiman at the University of Leuven in Belgium. We're not sure what chance we have of actually finding someone to test--or getting any useable DNA strands--but the idea itself seems worth pursuing."
Who to Test?: "How can one prove a royal bloodline once existed? Or exists today? Well, Jean-Jacques and I discuss this point at length, since this is the critical premise of Dan Brown's book. Unfortunately, time did not allow much of our talk to be in the show, but here's a synopsis: Could we find Jesus's body? No, not likely. What about Mary's body? Also, not confirmable (unless we jump to the end of the book and go with its proposed location and then destroy it to dig her up. Also not feasible). But Dan Brown's bigger hypothesis is that a 'holy bloodline' was created through Sarah, their "daughter." Now, bear with me on the following scenarios. They're important. First, assume it's true--that Jesus had a child. If Sarah were standing in front of you today, her mtDNA should then show Semitic origins. At least, it would if we assume that her parents Jesus and Mary have the Semitic markers of their community in Israel. One should realize that Dan Brown is not saying that there's anything special about her DNA--just that her very existence would threaten the image of Jesus Christ as established by the Church. So it's not so much the specific CODE of her DNA as the fact that she was even alive--proof that Jesus was a lover and a father. Continuing the hypothesis, let's assume Sarah one day also married and had a child. She would have had to, in fact, for anything in the book to make sense. Well, that child would have nuclear DNA that was 50 percent from Sarah and 50 percent from her father. But her mtDNA would be 100 percent identical to Sarah. So this could be used to track the relationship through time (following the trail of purely female descendents)."
"Now, Judaism is traditionally tracked two ways: The priestly class--the descendants of Aaron, Moses... David, Solomon, etc – are tracked through the paternal line. Dan Brown states that Jesus came from this line, so his Y-Chromosome would show this marker--theoretically identical to all the patriarchs between him and to the House of David. But Sarah was a FEMALE, so she wouldn't have inherited this Y-chromosome or male marker. Therefore, that paternal line would have ended with Jesus (unless Jesus had a male child, but that was not Brown's theory). And yet, according to Brown, Sarah WAS considered to be part of the divine bloodline. How? Well, the second way Judaism is tracked is through the maternal line—today, a person is considered Jewish if there mother is Jewish. Why? I don't know—that's just the tradition. But perhaps this plays a role in Sarah's 'divine-ness' and, if so, that means she got this from HER MOTHER, Mary Magdelene. They would share identical mtDNA. This would make mtDNA testing the perfect choice for the show, then--if we can somehow find the descendents of Sarah."
The Merovingians: "There's no way to do justice to the fascinating history of the Merovingians (roughly 475-750 A.D.) in a short journal like this, but the key point is that Dan Brown proposes that the Merovingian bloodline carried the DNA of Jesus and Mary. Or at least the first French dynasty somehow protected this divine heritage. Brown states that while most people assumed that bloodline ended with the death of Merovingian King Dagobert II in 679 A.D., 'Dagobert's son, Sigisbert, secretly escaped the attack and carried on the lineage' (page 258). Now, notice what the book has stated here—that SIGISBERT is now carrying the genetic code which proves Christ had a child."
"Tracing BACK the genealogy of Sigisbert (aka Sigebert IV), I believe it goes like this: Sigebert IV, son of Dagobert II, son of Sigebert III, son of Dagobert I, son of Clothar II, son of Chilperic I, son of Clothar I, son of Clovis I, son of Childeric I, possible son of Merovich, possible son of Chlodio."
"Now, Brown doesn't state when the 'holy bloodline' was married into the Merovingian Dynasty. We might assume that it was early on and that's what gave the Merovingians some of the their power (that, or the DNA of the mythical Quinotaur they came from). But the point is irrelevant for DFT's purposes. We'll just focus on the book's premise that it was present IN SIGEBERT IV. My goal is to find someone from his lineage and, hopefully, DNA test him or her."
The Basilica of St. Denis: "Apparently, most of the Merovingian royals (as were many of the early French kings and queens) were buried in a crypt below the Basilica of St. Denis outside Paris. So here I am and let me tell you, it's kind of a spooky place. There are many still-unexcavated sarcophagi to be found at the back of this crypt. But of all the Merovingian royals found here--and there are roughly 60 according to my guide Daniel Perrier--only ONE has been positively identified. Only one?! That seems odd. These were, after all, noble burials. One would expect a more lasting memorial. But apparently the sarcophagi were all unmarked and only one of the bodies inside was identifiable, thanks to some jewelry she was buried with. Her name? Queen Aregonde and I'm told she was a matriarch of the family."
Queen Aregonde: "Queen Aregonde / Aregund was one of the wives of Merovigian King Clothar I. She's the only Merovingian queen ever positively identified to date, thanks to a beautiful ring she was buried with which had her name on it. Pretty lucky, given the fate of her family members. But what's even MORE lucky, for us, is that Aregonde is connected to the lineage I'm exploring. She was the mother of Chilperic I and the great-great-great-great-grandmother of Sigebert IV. Now, there's very little chance that Sigebert IV and Aregonde would have the same mitchondrial DNA. The only way that would be possible would be if Sigebert IV's mother came from the same female lineage as Aregonde, which is not something I could confirm. But Dan Brown states that Sigebert IV had the holy bloodline. And we know it wasn't traceable from the men, since Sarah had the marker, too. So perhaps there WAS something going on in the Merovingian queenships that involved this holy blood? And history books tell us that Dagobert II (Sigebert IV's father) was possibly murdered for NOT being the son of his step mother Queen Chimnechild. I know, it's all very confusing and a lot of it is speculative, but there does seem to be SOME value in testing Queen Aregonde's DNA, if only to see what it tells us. If it comes back with Semitic markers or anything Middle Eastern, that would be fascinating and it would make a strong case for this idea of a divine bloodline. And if not, well, at least we learned that much. My thanks to The History Channel, JWM Productions, Jean-Jacques Cassiman, and the kind people at the French Musée des Antiquites Nationales for making this DNA testing possible. But it will take some time to do the analysis, so I decide to try to learn more about the community Jesus and Mary came from."
Holy Spirit, Earthly Body: "It was here, in Israel, where Jesus and Mary were born several millennia ago. But over that time, their community has dispersed and it's not likely I could find them today. Or can I? According to Biblical scholar Kent Dobson, a possible link to the people of the Galilee is their language--Aramaic. It's still spoken by the Syriac Orthodox Church and it's congregation, and they have a church in Jerusalem. So, it's off to explore a lead which may prove interesting."
Syriac Orthodox Church: "At the Syriac Monastery of St. Mark in Jerusalem, I'm talking with Archbishop Severios Malki Murad. He says that THIS is where the Last Supper took place--in this very building. And, what's even more fascinating, he claims that his congregation is not comprised of followers of Christ, but they are the actual descendents of Christ. As in his actual community, still following him and speaking Aramaic two thousand years later. Huh. So if ever I were to find a group of people to test for a comparison set of DNA, this seems to be the best bet. Thankfully, the archbishop agrees--and I swab approximately 8 people from the church (only 2 made the show)."
Pierre Plantard: "With time needed for the rest of the mtDNA analysis, I decide to head off to meet Alice Jouve again. This time, we're at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, looking at the notorious "Dossiers Secrets" from Rennes-le-Chateau. Was this what Berenger Sauniere found in the pillar? According to the DaVinci Code, yes. And they contain the genealogy which "proves" the existence of a royal bloodline today. The family tree branches of from Dagobert II through Sigebert IV (as discussed above). It then continues with a long list of other Merovingians--Sigebert V, Bera III, Guillemon, Bera IV... All the way to the present day. There's just one problem. According to Alice, this tree branch of the tree was completely made up--a hoax. It was created by Pierre Plantard in the 20th century to "prove" his heritage as a descendent of the Merovingians. Wow. Talk about a hoax--I think even Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells would be impressed. Alice then shows me the list of "Grand Masters" of Priory of Sion and, sure enough, there's Leonardo DaVinci's name on it. Grand Master from 1510 to 1519. And there's Isaac Newton just a short distance below him, 1691 – 1727 (also in the book). But Alice says that THIS TOO is a hoax, and that Plantard admitted under oath that he made it all up. So these two big parts of the DaVinci code, it seems, are not real. "
DNA Results: "Jean-Jacques explains that for a conclusive analysis to be made, two independent but identical strains of DNA must come from a sample. Unfortunately, only one strain was successfully recovered from Aregonde's toes. He's exploring getting more samples from her body, but for now, we have to work with only partial results. Of course, this is still exciting news--this is the first genetic sequence ever obtained from a Merovingian royal. He says that this strain shows that Aregonde's DNA does NOT have the markers we would expect from a Middle Eastern population. Rather, her DNA shows she was from Europe. Huh. Well, does this conclusively eliminate the possibility of a royal bloodline? No. Any number of breaks in the genealogy between Aregonde and Sigebert IV could explain this difference. But, given that we've proven that so many other "Historical Facts" presented in the book have turned out to be completely made up, it looks like DNA science isn't helping Dan Brown's case here. So, it would be safer to say that when viewed through the eyes of history, the DaVinci Code is more fiction than fact."