Status: True (in my opinion)
Here's a bit of a mystery. I received an email from someone called Prastil who wrote, "Check this hoax out: DaVinciGrail.com
." The site he directed me to claims that the holy grail has finally been discovered in Da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper. For centuries people have wondered why Da Vinci omitted the grail from his painting, given that the grail is one of the central elements of the Last Supper story. Its absence has spawned a variety of theories, such as the one elaborated in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, that the holy grail was Mary Magdalene's uterus (and that the figure to the left of Jesus in the painting is Mary Magdalene). But DaVinciGrail.com claims that Da Vinci actually did include the grail in his painting, if you look hard enough. He concealed it as a symbol on the wall above the head of St. Bartholomew, the disciple at the extreme left. (I highlighted the cup in the image below).
It may seem a bit farfetched that after centuries someone discovered a detail in the Last Supper that no one had ever seen before, but as far as I can tell, that's the case. The man who noticed the grail in the painting was Gary Phillips, a Michigan computer programmer (and cryptologist). He was aided in his discovery by the fact that the painting was recently cleaned, revealing details previously concealed by dirt and grime. Of course, Phillips could be seeing a shape that was not intentionally placed there by Da Vinci, but once you see the cup, it seems so obvious that it's hard to believe it wasn't placed there on purpose. The legitimacy of Phillips's claim to have discovered this hidden detail is noted on a number of sites, such as About.com's Art History blog
Now here's where things get strange. Phillips has nothing to do with DaVinciGrail.com. Instead, Phillips maintains a separate site called Realm of Twelve
. DaVinciGrail.com is registered to (drumroll, please) Prastil, the same guy who emailed me telling me that the site was a hoax. Why did Prastil claim his site was a hoax? Was he trying to get me to write about his site, not thinking that I would check the domain registration? I have no idea (and I wrote about it anyway). But Phillips's discovery of the grail hidden as a symbol on the wall in The Last Supper seems real enough to me... unless there's some part of the story that I'm not clued in to. (Very possible.)