72 pages 2 hours read

Dan Brown

Angels and Demons

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2000

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Summary and Study Guide


Angels and Demons, the first installment of Dan Brown’s mystery thriller saga, follows symbologist Robert Langdon on an adventure to solve a historical puzzle laid across Rome. Along with recurring protagonist Langdon, the novel establishes many of Brown’s themes including cryptography and conspiracy theories. Angels and Demons was published in 2000 and became a bestseller, although the book received criticism due to historical and scientific inaccuracies, A film adaption directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks was released in 2009.

Content Warning: The novel contains a death by suicide and threats of sexual violence and assault.

Plot Summary

The story begins with a murder and heist at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) laboratory. A canister of antimatter was stolen, and if it’s not recovered within 24 hours, it will explode. Robert Langdon, an Illuminati expert, is consulted because the murdered physicist, Leonardo Vetra, was branded with an ambigram of the word Illuminati. CERN is contacted by Vatican City, which can see a live feed of the canister somewhere on the premises. Langdon and Vittoria, Vetra’s daughter, travel to Vatican City to find the canister and prevent the catastrophic explosion.

Someone calls in a bomb threat and taunts that four cardinals will be killed on the altars of science. Langdon realizes that the caller is referring to the four Illuminati altars, which historically led potential Illuminati scientists, via clues in religious sculptures, to the secret Church of Illumination. Langdon and Vittoria follow the trail across Rome by interpreting the historical symbols but are ultimately too late to save the cardinals. Vittoria is taken by the Hassassin, a sinister thief and assassin who maims and kills Leonardo and the four cardinals on behalf of Janus, the mysterious Illuminati head. Langdon follows the final clue to the Church of Illumination, where he is attacked by the Hassassin. Vittoria is bound but manages to escape, and the two kill the Hassassin.

Before he died, the Hassassin implied that the Camerlengo, Ventresca, was in danger from the Illuminati. Vittoria and Langdon rush to Ventresca’s office and find that he has been branded. Kohler, the CERN director, stands over him. Kohler gives Langdon a videotape, pleading with him to make it public. Langdon, Vittoria, and members of the Swiss Guard make their way toward a waiting helicopter that will take Ventresca to the hospital.

Suddenly, Ventresca, in front of gathered crowds in St. Peter’s Square, declares that he has received word from God and runs back into the Sistine Chapel. Langdon and Vittoria follow him into the catacombs to find the canister resting atop the tomb of St. Peter. With the antimatter in hand, Ventresca and Langdon board the helicopter, eager to get the container away from the densely populated area surrounding St. Peter’s Basilica. With only minutes remaining before the antimatter explodes, Ventresca suddenly parachutes from the helicopter. Langdon jumps out of the helicopter using a windscreen cover and manages to land in the Tiber river. He is rescued and resuscitated. Meanwhile, the canister explodes harmlessly above them, and Ventresca lands safely. The spectacle attracts the attention of the crowd in St. Peter’s Square, who hails Ventresca as a hero for his death-defying act. As a result, the cardinals consider appointing Ventresca as the new pope.

Langdon regains consciousness in the hospital. He takes the videotape from his jacket pocket and views the contents, shocked by what he finds. The videotape reveals that Ventresca branded himself with the Illuminati insignia and orchestrated the chain of events that led to the canister’s explosion, nearly destroying thousands of lives and Vatican City. This chain of events also includes the murder of Ventresca’s mentor, the previous Pope. Cardinal Mortati reveals that the Pope was Ventresca’s father, conceived via artificial insemination. Under the guise of an Illuminati master, Ventresca hired the Hassassin to kill Vetra and steal the antimatter. The heist and the valiant act of retrieving the antimatter just in time to save the city was an attempt to instill the public’s faith in God and the Catholic Church.

Distraught by the guilt of having killed his own father, Ventresca douses himself in oil and lights himself on fire. A crowd of onlookers in St. Peter’s Square witnesses the horrifying scene. Ventresca’s ashes are recovered and placed inside an urn, which is placed inside his father’s sarcophagus. Cardinal Mortati is unanimously elected Pope. As the novel concludes, the last brand, the Illuminati Diamond, is gifted to Langdon with the caveat that he return it to the Vatican in his will. Langdon and Vittoria engage in a sexual encounter in a nearby hotel.

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By Dan Brown