Thanks to Dan Brown, everyone has one of two responses to the idea that there are hidden codes in ancient works: Either you immediately believe them, because of that mind-blowing Da Vinci Code book, or you immediately mock them, because of that bullshit Da Vinci Code book.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. There are, after all, some fairly weird encoded messages that actual academic types have identified. And some of them are even about Freemasons. Written by Cracked.com, here are 6 real life Da Vinci codes.
#6. The Michelangelo Code
Encoded Messages About: Jewish mysticism.
You may have heard mention before that Michelangelo appears to have cleverly painted God to look like a giant brain in his famous Sistine Chapel fresco.
However, according to a prominent professor at Yeshiva University, the rabbit hole goes much, much deeper than that: Michelangelo’s work is packed full of symbols of Jewish mysticism. You may also know this as kabbalah, aka the religion Madonna made popular in Hollywood a few years ago.
What we know is that for a while Michelangelo was living with a politician in Florence named Lorenzo de’ Medici, who was apparently part of the whole kabbalah scene at the time. Also, we know Michelangelo never tired of painting subtle screw-yous to the Catholic church into his work.
So, in kabbalah, the Hebrew letter gimel symbolizes g’vurah, or justice and punishment. Here it is next to the Sistine Chapel’s depiction of David, laying the holy smack down on Goliath:
In a scene depicting Judith and her handmaiden carrying the head of the Assyrian general Holofernes, they are forming the shape of the Hebrew letter chet, which represents chesed, or the characteristics of “loving kindness.”
Bringing up those brains again, in the Sistine Chapel God appears to be inhabiting the right side of the brain (the left having been cut away to reveal it), which represents kabbalah chokhma, or wisdom.
By the way, according to another professor and art historian, that woman under God’s arm is Shekhinah, a sacred figure in kabbalah.
Some think Michelangelo was subversively urging the church to embrace the Jewish community. And there are signs of that — for instance, nearly every Christian depiction of the Garden of Eden has shown the forbidden fruit as an apple, which has stuck around even today. But in Jewish texts, it’s described as a fig, and sure enough Michelangelo painted a fig tree:
Of course, there is the ever-present theory that Michelangelo could have just been playing a huge joke on everyone involved, because sometimes people back then just got bored.
Kept Secret Because:
It makes sense that Michelangelo would choose to keep on the down-low about his criticisms of the church (and some think the whole thing was Michelangelo showing his contempt for Pope Julius). Being excommunicated had a tendency to burn a few bridges for an artist who can’t afford to lose those holy commissions. And, as you can sort of tell, Bible scenes were about the only thing that paid back then.