I have completely avoided The Da Vinci Code in this blog; I'm afraid I'm interested in neither the book nor the refutations of it. It just seems like a horrible waste of time to me. Nevertheless, I am a sucker for a good Channel 4 documentary (I've been in a couple myself) and tonight we have a two hour one called The Real Da Vinci Code presented by Tony Robinson, one of my favourite people, the guru of Time Team, Baldrick in Blackadder, member of the Labour Party's National Executive and so on. In fact, he once did an ITV documentary on Jesus, featuring Ed Sanders, Jerome Murphy O'Connor and others, called The Jesus Files -- quite entertaining as I recall.
Channel 4 have some web pages on this, set up as part of their Weird Worlds presents.
I am watching the documentary as I write. Robinson has the tone exactly right -- he is utterly sceptical but has obviously decided to enjoy himself and not to sneer or mock. So you find yourself entering into the enjoyment with him. He began by looking for the "Research Institute for Systematic Theology" at Kings College, London, which is apparently mentioned in the book as a place where you can get hold of the best and biggest electronic database on the holy grail. Robinson asked someone at Kings College for this institute and is led to Prof. Oliver Davies, who is sitting happily in a library ready to tell Robinson that while there is such an institute, it has nothing to do with the grail and no such great database.
Robinson explores and debunks some grail theories, including one British one where the grail is the size of an egg cup, and then moves on to the Cathars and the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail stories.
Good to have some clips of Monty Python's Holy Grail in the mix, and an enjoyable exposé of the hoax behind something called the "Priory of Sion", which is apparently at the heart of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and so too at the basis of the Da Vinci Code. Indeed apparently the latter actually speaks of the latter as "fact". (You see how ignorant I am about the whole thing, but it's nice to hear that the very basis of the book is not just, say, mediaeval myth or legend, but actually a modern hoax.
Biblical scholar alert: Elaine Pagels spotted, and she has talked about the Gospel of Thomas, Nag Hammadi, the Gospel of Philip and so on. There was also a woman with the surname Brock whose first names I didn't catch. She mentioned that the kissing of Mary Magdalene "on the lips" is a modern scholarly construct and that the lacuna in the Gospel of Philip text could be filled with nose, ear, anything else, and that it is not necessarily sexual.
I have finished watching the documentary now and I've found it enjoyable stuff, and enough to immunise me against spending any more time on it. Good to be educated about it. Tony Robinson used the word "rubbish" of the book towards the end.