When physicist Leonardo Vetra is found murdered with the word “Illuminati” branded onto his chest, Maximilian Kohler, the director of CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research), contacts Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon for help. Kohler has Langdon flown to CERN. Langdon explains the role of the Illuminati—a secret society of artists, scientists, and freethinkers—as a long-standing enemy of the Catholic Church. While Langdon is explaining this, and learning more about Vetra’s research, Vetra’s adopted daughter, Vittoria, who is also a physicist, joins them.
Vittoria and her father had created antimatter in a CERN lab. This was doubly important to her father because he was a priest, and the discovery promised to give humanity access to the secrets of creation. However, it is also a great threat because antimatter explodes when it comes into contact with normal matter. This becomes a pressing issue when they learn that their biggest sample has been stolen, and the battery that generates the magnetic field (and keeps the antimatter stable) has only a twenty-four-hour life span.
CERN is then contacted by the Vatican: a threat has been issued indicating that the…show more content… In the Vatican archives, Langdon finds clues to where the cardinals will be killed in a manuscript by Galileo. (The murder sites will be located at places important to the Illuminati, and each candidate will be killed according to one of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water.) Langdon leads the Swiss Guard to the Pantheon. Langdon and Vittoria enter the church. However, through a conversation with the church caretaker, Langdon realizes they are in the wrong place. They race to Santa Maria del Popolo but arrive too late. They find the first cardinal dead—partially buried in the earth, suffocated with dirt, and branded ornately with the word