Angels & Demons is a bestselling mystery novel by Dan Brown. Published in 2000, it introduces the character Robert Langdon, who is also the principal character of Brown's subsequent, better known novel The Da Vinci Code. It also shares many stylistic elements with the better known novel, such as conspiracies of secret societies, a single-day time frame and the Roman Catholic Church. The story involves a conflict between an ancient group, the Illuminati, and the Roman Catholic Church. A film adaptation is due for release on May 15 2009.
CERN director Maximilian Kohler discovers one of the facility's most respected physicists, Leonardo Vetra, murdered in his own secured, private quarters at the facility. His chest is branded with a symbol — the word "Illuminati", formed as an ambigram — using a hot iron, and his eye is torn out. Instead of calling the police, Kohler researches the topic on the Internet and finally gains contact with Professor 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 deadly substance with destructive potential comparable to the most powerful nuclear weapons in existence, 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 in a pure 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 current papal 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 the Vatican City. 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.
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 their 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)). 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.
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.
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 tucked away in a small box. 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. Ironically, 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' brand, which is loaned indefinitely to Langdon.
For more information on these elements of the book, refer to the following articles:
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 listeds the artworks as:
Aside from the explicit introduction, the style of the book is that various fictional experts will expound on factual issues. This literary device suggests to the reader that what is being told is intended to be factual. An example of the confusion here are the anti-matter discussions, where the book suggests that anti-matter can be produced in useful and practical quantities and will be a limitless source of power - CERN themselves refute this and note on their web site, on the page answering questions about this book: "I was hoping antimatter would be the future answer to our energy needs... No, the true answer is that it will never happen simply because of the entropy problem... It is not a matter of 'more research' or 'more advanced technology' to find ways around these limitations." Antimatter requires a great deal more energy to create than can be extracted from it.
There are several errors in the procedures of the Catholic Church. For instance, the Camerlengo, the Papal Chamberlain is in reality a Cardinal and not a priest. Secondly the book makes reference to John Paul II's Universi Dominici Gregis as the rules governing the conclave in the book. If this was indeed the case then the Camerlengo would not have been elected by the cardinals as the method of election by acclamation was abolished by Universi Dominici Gregis. Also, the book suggests that the Papal Conclave is overseen by a Cardinal called the Great Elector, however, in reality the process is managed by the Dean of the College of Cardinals. Also in the novel, the voting took 3 ballots in a single night where in fact, one ballot may be held during the afternoon. In a real conclave, if a ballot takes place on the afternoon of the first day and no-one is elected, or no ballot had taken place, four ballots are held on each successive day: two in each morning and two in each afternoon. Another error is that the cardinals are dressed in their black simar and scarlet fascia but during a real conclave, the cardinals are in choir dress. (Note: in the movie, In the Shoes of a Fisherman, the cardinals are in their simars during a break but this cannot be verified.)
Also, this book mentions one Cardinal Ebner from Frankfurt. In truth, there is no cardinal from Frankfurt as there is no Archbishop of Frankfurt. There are only 4 cardinals from Germany: from Mainz, Cologne, Munich, and Berlin.
Another error in the novel is when the Camerlengo mentioned that the Tomb of St. Peter is where the palliums are kept and to be given to a new cardinal. While this is true, the palliums are only given to metropolitan archbishops before exercising his office in his ecclesiastical province. A cardinal can only receive a pallium if he is also a metropolitan archbishop.
One possible historical error is that of the Assassin remembering how the Crusaders had destroyed the "Temples" of the "gods" of his people. In reality, the Assassins came from a Muslim background, and therefore had only one God, Allah, who is worshipped in Mosques, which are not temples but prayer-houses.
In one scene, the pilot of the special plane tells Langdon that at 60,000 ft altitude he is 30% lighter (presumably in level flight, where it is not true) and this caused him to have "altitude sickness", whereas the term usually refers to problems due to low pressure at altitude.
In another scene Robert Langdon tells a class of university students that the Catholic church stole the idea of the holy communion from the Aztecs. The Aztec empire was discovered by European explorers in the 16th century, at which time the communion had been a sacrament in the Catholic church for over a thousand years.
Gunther Glick and Chinita Macri repeatedly talk about winning a Pulitzer Prize for their story. In reality, Pulitzers are awarded to American newspapers, so a British news broadcast would be doubly ineligible.
Finally the dove atop of the obelisk in Bernini's "Fountain of the Four Rivers" may not actually face North-West toward Castelo Sant'Angelo. In fact, it is cleaned every so often and so when replaced, the dove is pointed in a different direction. No one knows the original direction of the dove.