Angels & Demons

Angels & Demons is a 2000 bestselling mystery-thriller novel written by American author Dan Brown and published by Pocket Books and then by Corgi Books. The novel introduces the character Robert Langdon, who recurs as the protagonist of Brown's subsequent novels. Angels & Demons shares many stylistic literary elements with its sequels, such as conspiracies of secret societies, a single-day time frame, and the Catholic Church. Ancient history, architecture, and symbology are also heavily referenced throughout the book. A film adaptation was released on May 15, 2009.

Angels & Demons
First edition cover
AuthorDan Brown
CountryUnited States
United Kingdom
SeriesRobert Langdon #1
Publication date
May 2000
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
ISBN0-671-02735-2 (US) / 9780552160896 (UK)
813/.54 21
LC ClassPS3552.R685434 A82 2000
Followed byThe Da Vinci Code 


The book contains several ambigrams created by real-life typographer John Langdon.[1] Besides the "Angels & Demons" and "Illuminati" designs, the title of the book is also presented as an ambigram on the hardcover book jacket (see illustration at right on this page), and on the inside cover of the paperback versions. The book also contains ambigrams of the words Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, which has served to bring the art of ambigrams to public attention by virtue of the popularity of the book.[2] The "Illuminati Diamond" mentioned in the book is an ambigram of the four elements that are arranged in the shape of a diamond.[1]


CERN director Maximilian Kohler discovers one of the facility's top physicists, Leonardo Vetra, murdered, his chest branded with an ambigram of the word "Illuminati." Kohler contacts Robert Langdon, an expert on symbology, who determines that the ambigram is authentic. Kohler calls Vetra's adopted daughter Vittoria home and it is ascertained that the Illuminati, an ancient anti-religious organization thought extinct, have stolen a canister containing antimatter, a substance with destructive potential comparable to a nuclear weapon. The canister's battery will run out in 24 hours, causing the antimatter to explode. Langdon and Vittoria make their way to Vatican City, where they are told that the four Preferiti, the Cardinals who are most likely to be elected Pope, are missing. Langdon and Vittoria search for the Preferiti in hopes that they will also find the antimatter canister.

Langdon tells Vittoria how aspirants who wanted to join the Illuminati were required to follow a series of subtle clues left in various churches in and around Rome. Following the clues, Langdon realizes the four Preferiti will be ritually murdered. The killer is an unnamed assassin who is working under the orders of the Illuminati master "Janus," whose true identity is unknown. After finding the first two men dead, they confront the assassin in the act of murdering the third. The assassin kidnaps Vittoria and attempts the fourth ritual murder. Langdon frees Vittoria and together they send the assassin 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 Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca, the late Pope's closest aide. Langdon and Vittoria fear that Kohler is Janus and that he has come to murder the Camerlengo. Hearing Ventresca scream in agony, the Swiss Guards burst into the room and open fire on Kohler. Just before he dies, Kohler gives Langdon a mini video camera containing a video Kohler made while confronting Ventresca and tells him to give it to the media.

With Langdon in pursuit, Ventresca ventures into the catacombs and finds the canister sitting atop the tomb of Saint Peter. Ventresca takes the canister to a safe height in a helicopter and parachutes safely onto the roof of St. Peter's just as the canister explodes in the sky. Because of this "miracle," the Cardinals debate whether to elect Ventresca as the new Pope.

Langdon views the video and learns that Ventresca himself is Janus, working to sabotage the Vatican. He confesses that he killed the Pope because the Pope revealed he had fathered a child. Langdon, Vittoria, and the Cardinals confront Ventresca, who confesses that he poisoned the Pope and, under the guise of Janus, recruited the assassin to kill Vetra, steal the antimatter and kidnap and murder the Preferiti.

Cardinal Saverio Mortati, Dean of the College of Cardinals, reveals that Ventresca is, in fact, the late Pope's biological son, conceived with a nun through artificial insemination. Overcome with guilt, Ventresca soaks himself in oil and sets himself on fire before a crowd of onlookers in St. Peter's Square. Cardinal Mortati recovers Ventresca's ashes and places them inside his father's sarcophagus. Mortati is unanimously elected Pope by the Cardinals, and Langdon and Vittoria reunite at Hotel Bernini.


  • Robert Langdon: A professor of symbology at Harvard University and the protagonist of the novel. He is flown to CERN to help investigate the murder of Leonardo Vetra. He is described as wearing a Harris Tweed jacket, a turtleneck sweater, and a pair of chino pants. His name is a tribute to John Langdon.
  • Leonardo Vetra: A scientist working at CERN and a priest. He is researching on antimatter when he is murdered by the assassin. He is also the adoptive father of Vittoria.
  • Vittoria Vetra: The adopted daughter of Vetra. She, like her father, works with CERN. She is a strict vegetarian. Her research focuses on biology and physics. The reader learns early in the novel that Vittoria worked with her father in their research of antimatter.
  • Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca: The Camerlengo (papal chamberlain) during the conclave. He murdered the pope, who is later revealed to have been his biological father. His code name for dealing with the assassin is "Janus," taken from the two-faced Roman god of beginnings and ends.
  • Cardinal Saverio Mortati: The most senior cardinal in the conclave, and the current Dean of the College of Cardinals. He was the Devil's Advocate for the late pope.
  • Commander Ernesto Olivetti: The commandant of the Swiss Guard. He is initially skeptical about the claims of Langdon and Vittoria until he talks with the assassin. He, along with other Swiss Guards, searches desperately for the missing antimatter hidden somewhere in the Vatican. He is killed by the assassin at the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria.
  • Captain Elias Rocher: The second-in-command after Commander Olivetti. He is contacted by Maximilian Kohler about his knowledge on the real cause of the events. He is killed by Lt. Chartrand, who was under the impression that Rocher was an Illuminatus.
  • Hassassin: The killer hired by Janus to fulfill his plans. He is of Middle Eastern origin and displays his sadistic lust for women throughout the novel. He murders Leonardo Vetra, the Preferiti, and Commander Olivetti. He dies after being pushed from a balcony by Langdon at Castel Sant'Angelo and breaking his back on a pile of cannonballs below.
  • Maximilian Kohler: The director of CERN. He is feared at CERN despite his paralysis. His wheelchair contains electronic gadgets such as a computer, telephone, pager, video camera, and a gun. He contacts Langdon to help him find the killer of his friend, Leonardo Vetra. He blames the Church for his disability, due to his highly religious parents denying him medical care as a child and becomes a scientist as a way to rebel.
  • Gunther Glick and Chinita Macri: A reporter and his photojournalist for the BBC. They are contacted by the assassin regarding the events happening in the Vatican. Glick has a notorious reputation as a sensationalist and conspiracy theorist journalist. Macri, meanwhile, is a veteran camerawoman and a foil to Glick. They have the first hand account on the events in the novel, from the beginning of the conclave to the election of Mortati as pope.
  • Lieutenant Chartrand: A young Swiss Guard. He, together with Commander Olivetti and Capt. Rocher, searches desperately for the antimatter hidden somewhere in the Vatican. He shoots and kills Captain Rocher after he is mistaken as an Illuminatus. Near the end of the novel, he is sent by the new pope to give the Illuminati Diamond to Langdon on indefinite loan.
  • Cardinal Ebner: One of the four preferiti from Frankfurt, Germany. He is killed by smothering, via dirt and soil forced into his mouth.
  • Cardinal Lamassé: One of the four preferiti from Paris, France. He is killed by punctures to his lungs from which he bled to death.
  • Cardinal Guidera: One of the four preferiti from Barcelona, Spain. He is burned alive.
  • Cardinal Baggia: One of the four preferiti from Milan, Italy; the favorite to succeed as the new pope. He is drowned by the assassin.


The book's first edition contained numerous inaccuracies of location of places in Rome, as well as incorrect uses of Italian language. Some of the language issues were corrected in the following editions.[3]

Aside from the explicit introduction, the book depicts various fictional experts explaining matters in science, technology, and history in which critics have pointed out inaccuracies. An example of this is the antimatter discussions, wherein the book suggests that antimatter can be produced in useful and practical quantities and will be a limitless source of power. CERN published an FAQ page about Angels & Demons on their website stating that antimatter cannot be used as an energy source because creating it takes more energy than it produces.[4]

Angels & Demons Decoded, a documentary on the American cable television network, The History Channel, premiered on May 10, 2009, shortly before the release of the novel's film adaptation. The documentary explores the various bases of the novel's story, as well as its inaccuracies. A CERN official, for example, points out that over the last 20 years, approximately 10 billionths of a gram of antimatter has been produced at the facility, whose explosive yield is equivalent to that of a firecracker, far less than is needed for it to be the threat depicted in the novel.[5]

According to The Boston Globe language columnist Ben Zimmer, the Devil's Advocate, which is indicated in the novel to have a role in the selection of the pope, has nothing to do with the papal conclave, and was instead employed to present arguments against the proposed canonization of a person as a saint. Zimmer adds that the Devil's Advocate was abolished by Pope John Paul II in 1983, 17 years before the novel was published.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Angels & Demons" Archived November 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  2. ^ "The Ten Most Famous Ambigrams". Ambigram Magazine. April 20, 2009. Archived from the original on March 16, 2010. Retrieved April 21, 2009.
  3. ^ "Angeli e Demoni di Dan Brown". Il Piacere Della Lettura. 2006. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  4. ^ "Can antimatter be used as an energy source?". CERN. Archived from the original on July 10, 2015. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  5. ^ Comtois, David; Hartford, Scott (Writers). Angels & Demons Decoded. May 10, 2009. The History Channel.
  6. ^ Martin, Rachel (March 3, 2013). "Who Is The 'Devil's Advocate'?" NPR.


External linksEdit