Paris at the heart of The Da Vinci Code

In 2005, 26 million tourists visited Paris. A record number that confirms the French capital as a leading destination for lovers of culture, history, romanticism… and mystery! There is no shortage of ways to add spice to these visits and since the publication of The Da Vinci Code, fans of Dan Brown’s book are discovering a whole new take on the City of Light, one of esotericism, art history and unsolved enigmas. The heroes of the novel – and soon the film – are at large in Paris, and the French capital, central to the plot, is revealed in all its beauty and also its mystery. It is an ideal setting and Paris plays its very own role in the story. On the trail of The Da Vinci Code, the reader turned visitor can explore at leisure the principal locations in which the story is set, admire the works of art mentioned or even hope to come across some of the characters from the book. The wealth of the intrigue opens up new horizons, where all of a sudden fiction becomes reality.

Facts and figures…
The Da Vinci Code, on French cinema screens from 17 May. The blockbuster film based on Dan Brown’s novel is directed by Ron Howard and stars US actor Tom Hanks in the role of Robert Langdon and French actress Audrey Tautou as Sophie Neveu. The film is released in France in May to coincide with the Cannes film festival, just before it is launched worldwide.

“Da Vinci” statistics. 40 million copies of the book are in circulation worldwide, including over 2 million in France (figures as at 28 February 2006).

300… the number of crew members present at the Louvre every day during the shooting of the film The Da Vinci Code.

An international intrigue: with 44 different translations of this best-seller.

Since the book was published, the number of pages consulted on the Opus Dei website has doubled (from 386,000 to 730,000).

Mona Lisa’s smile. 7,300,000 visitors flocked to admire the Mona Lisa in 2005 compared to 6,700,000 in 2004.

Fans in Saint-Sulpice. In summer 2005, 20,000 additional visitors went to the church in the neighbourhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

The Da Vinci Code takes the train. Eurostar staff have found more than a thousand copies of the Da Vinci Code left behind by passengers hooked on Dan Brown’s story and in hot pursuit of its characters.

On the trail of the Da Vinci Code
On location!
The Louvre museum. The story’s opening crime takes place in the Grand Gallery. Jacques Saunière, curator at the Louvre, is found murdered in the vicinity of the greatest masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance. Later, the protagonists meet beneath the inverted Pyramid.

Musée du Louvre Pyramide du Louvre, Paris 1st – www.louvre.fr
Rue de Rivoli. When Langdon and young Sophie Neveu escape from the Louvre, their wild car chase takes them down the famous street that runs alongside the Louvre and the Tuileries gardens and into Place de la Concorde.

Champs-Elysées. The pursuit continues on to the Champs-Elysées, in the manner of a perfect sightseeing tour of the city.

The Ritz. Professor Robert Langdon stays at the Ritz Hotel in Paris. The prestigious hotel, host to the stars, stands proudly in the Place Vendôme, like another gem in the jewellery district.

Hôtel Ritz 15 pl. Vendôme, Paris 1st – www.ritzparis.com
Saint-Sulpice. Silas, the Opus Dei monk in the story, goes to Saint-Sulpice church to find the keystone, supposed map leading to the treasure of the Templars. Today countless visitors come here to follow the trail.

Saint Sulpice church pl. Saint-Sulpice, Paris 6th
Seine river banks. Leaving the city and heading for the Château de Villette, the characters travel along the the banks of the Seine.
The Paris meridian. This imaginary line can be discovered through Langdon’s comments when he talks about the meridian, once used to determine geographical coordinates, visible today thanks to the 135 bronze medallions outlining its route through Paris.

Works of art. The Da Vinci Code refers to a number of works which are central to the intrigue and which can be seen, for the most part, in the Louvre. The hero, Robert Langdon, is an art historian, specialising in religious symbology. He is chosen by the curator of the Louvre, murdered at the beginning of the story, to find and preserve the secret of the Holy Grail of which Leonardo da Vinci was purported to be one of the guardians.

Mona Lisa reveals her secrets, while the mysterious Virgin of the Rocks reflects the enigma. The inverted Pyramid by Ieoh Ming Pei is mentioned as is the Marriage at Cana by Veronese. The Grand Gallery of the Louvre and the Renaissance painters are right at the heart of the action. The protagonists go to Saint-Sulpice where the visitor can also discover the gnomon and the architecture of this church.

Da Vinci Code experts lead the way. Paris has gone crazy for The Da Vinci Code! Visitors are keen to follow in the path of the narrative and explore the city from this novelistic angle, where fiction flirts with reality. Step by step, travelling along the same streets of the French capital as the two main characters, the investigation is brought to life and the guides’ knowledgeable explanations add a new dimension to the details gleaned from the reading of the novel. Continue the adventure with a list of agencies offering these activities.

Les Balades de Magalie 14 rue Portefoin, Paris 3rd – www.lesbaladesdemagalie.com

City Walks of Paris 24 rue Edgar Faure, Paris 15th – www.citywalksofparis.com

Paris Vision Plus 214 rue de Rivoli, Paris 1st – www.parisvision.com
Comprehensive list available on the website of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau – www.parisinfo.com

Maintaining the mystery in Paris Arago and the Paris meridian. In Dan Brown’s book, we simply hear about the Paris meridian in a conversation between characters. However, this meridian, accurately recalculated by François Arago in the 19th century, was once used to determine geographical coordinates before Greenwich was established and has a fascinating history. The Dutch artist Jan Dibbets was commissioned to create a discreet monument along this imaginary line throughout Paris. Taking the form of an open itinerary through the city, it consists of 135 bronze medallions, each 12 cm in diameter, set into the ground along the route. This work was designed as a tribute to the scientist and politician Arago, the disks made using bronze from a statue representing him which once stood Place de l’Ile-de-Sein in Paris before it was melted down during World War II.
Information and location of the medallions on www.amb-pays-bas.fr/fr/ambassade/pcz/arago.htm

The Knights Templar in Paris. The history of the Order of the Knights Templar, Christian soldiers whose hidden treasure is at the centre of the storyline of The Da Vinci Code, takes place in Paris at different points in the city. The Parisian headquarters of the Templars was the Square du Temple, an authentic fortified city within the city of which, apart from the name, only a small garden, a covered market and some medieval vestiges remain. The trace of the Templars can be followed to the Square du Vert-Galant on the Ile de la Cité or at the Café des Templiers, practically a museum where devotees of the genre can appreciate the propriety and the collection of related objects.
Square du Temple, Paris 3rd

Square du Vert-Galant, Paris 1st
Café des Templiers 35 rue de Rivoli, Paris 4th – Tel. +33 (0)1 42 72 00 07

Museums for born detectives. Lead the investigation, discover the techniques used by the professionals to decipher clues or find the starting point of a new mystery… All this is possible in Paris in the variety of original museums to be found in the city that deal with key themes dear to amateur detectives in the same vein as The Da Vinci Code. Who knows if the next blockbuster of a storyline just might emerge from the corridors of these very museums?

Musée de la Police 5 rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève, Paris 5th – Tel +33 (0)1 44 41 52 50

Musée des Invalides Hôtel National des Invalides 6 pl. Vauban, Paris 7th – www.invalides.org

Le Musée des Archives Nationales 60 rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Paris 3rd- Tel +33 (0)1 40 27 61 78

Le Cabinet des médailles et antiques 58 rue de Richelieu, Paris 2nd – Tel +33 (0)1 47 03 83 30

Le Musée de la contre-façon 16 rue de la Faisanderie, Paris 16th – Tel +33 (0)1 56 26 14 00

Musée de la carte à Jouer 16 rue Auguste Gervais, 92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux – Tel +33 (0)1 41 23 83 60

Sacred feminine. In Dan Brown’s novel, the Holy Grail turns out to be the bloodline of the ultimate Sacred Feminine, Mary Magdalene. On this subject, the French capital abounds in references. The principal temple is thought to be the Madeleine church, where all forms of the theme’s iconology can be found. Elements of the Chalice, symbol of the Sacred Feminine, are also present at the Musée Carnavalet, Musée de l’Erotisme, Musée de Cluny and in the Saint-Merri church.
Musée de Cluny 6 pl. Paul Painlevé, Paris 5th – www.musee-moyenage.fr
Eglise de la Madeleine, Paris 8th
Eglise Saint-Merri 76 rue de la Verrerie, Paris 4th

Treasure hunt in the antique shops. Objets d’art, cryptex and mysterious boxes all make life difficult for the characters in Dan Brown’s book. For those who are fascinated by objects that have a story to tell, a tour of Parisian antique dealers is just the thing. The Louvre even has its own dedicated space, in the Place du Palais-Royal, in addition to the many treasures of antique dealers along the Left Bank of the Seine.

Le Louvre des Antiquaires 2 pl. du Palais Royal, Paris 1st – www.louvre-antiquaires.com

Carré Rive Gauche quai Voltaire, rue des Saints-Pères, rue de l’Université, rue du Bac, rue de Lille, rue de Beaune, rue de Verneuil, rue Allent Paris 7th – www.carrerivegauche.com

Secret societies. By definition, discretion is the order of the day for such groups… In Paris, some are more visible than others and followers of mysticism can note the actual existence of certain groups referred to by Dan Brown. Indeed, the Rosicrucians (order of the Rose Cross) have their head office and a boutique in the French capital, the museum of the Freemasons of the Grand Orient of France can be found in rue Cadet and, anecdotally, the Maison de Victor Hugo, supposed master of the Priory of Sion, is well worth a visit.
Temple Rosicrucien 129 rue Saint Martin, Paris 4th
Musée de la Franc-maçonnerie du Grand-Orient de France 16 rue Cadet, Paris 9th

Maison Victor Hugo Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée – 6 pl. des Vosges, Paris 4th – Tel +33 (0)1 42 72 10 16

Books for solving enigmas. Reading the Da Vinci Code raises a multitude of ideas and mysteries that the author, out of necessity and because it would take several books in order to do so, does not entirely explain. So for those who would like to continue the research, broaden their knowledge on the subjects tackled and, during a trip to Paris, assume the role of scholar and art historian, Paris has plenty of just the right kind of libraries and bookstores to do just that.

Les rayons ésotériques du Centre Pompidou pl. Georges Pompidou, Paris 4th – www.cnac-gp.fr

La Bibliothèque Forney Hôtel de Sens 1 rue du Figuier, Paris 4th – Tel +33 (0)1 42 78 14 60

La Librairie du Graal 15 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Paris 1st – Tel +33 (0)1 42 36 07 60

Gibert Jeune ésotérique rive gauche 23-27 quai Saint-Michel, Paris 5th – Tel +33 (0)1 56 81 22 22

Places of worship. Different beliefs, Christian or otherwise, form the background for Dan Brown’s novel. All the different communities in Paris practise their chosen religions in places of worship, often of great beauty, that contribute to our understanding of the wide diversity of rites, their origins and common mythologies. An aura of theology and esotericism dear to the writer and readers of the Da Vinci Code.

La cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris pl. du parvis Notre Dame, Paris 4th – www.cathedraledeparis.com

Mosquée de Paris 2 bis pl. du Puits de l’Ermite, Paris 5th – www.mosquee-de-paris.net

Synagogue de la Victoire 44 rue de la Victoire, Paris 9th – www.lavictoire.org

Cimetière du Père Lachaise, Paris 20th – www.pere-lachaise.com
Temple Rosicrucien 129 rue Saint Martin, Paris 4th

Icons and other esoterica. To put together a collection of Da Vinci Code-style objects, what better idea than to take a look at Paris’s monastery boutiques, for icons made of wood or plastic, phials and strings of rosary beads to be treated according to taste.
Boutique de la Fraternité Monastique de Jérusalem 10 rue des Barres, Paris 4th – http://jerusalem.cef.fr

Paris on film
If The Da Vinci Code in book form, and then the motion picture, can unleash passions and suscitate a renewed fascination for the city of Paris, this is not the first time this has happened! Indeed, the French capital encapsulates the now-timeless legends and images of other films that transport Paris and its neighbourhoods to the silver screen in the purest tradition.

In 2005, Paris was host to 662 film sets while half of all French films are shot in the French capital. Which means that every day 10 shoots take place in Paris! The life of these films continues on the many cinema screens throughout the city, an exceptional 372. On any one day, 450 to 500 films can be seen in Paris.

Amélie (2001). Jean-Pierre Jeunet presents his heroine in the idealised neighbourhood of Montmartre, the Canal Saint-Martin and the district around the Gare de l’Est. A sepia-tinted Paris that has left a lasting impression on audiences the world over.

Everyone says I love you (1997). Woody Allen’s musical comedy focuses on the Paris illuminations, the Ritz and the banks of the Seine for the plot’s romantic scenes.

A View to a Kill (1985). In John Glen’s film, James Bond flirts with Paris’s “Grande Dame” alias the Eiffel tower, one of the most striking James Bond girls that the city could dream up.

Prêt-à-porter (1995). The world of fashion brilliantly captured by Robert Altman in Paris’s 5th arrondissement.

An American in Paris (1951). Filmed by Vincente Minnelli, Gene Kelly takes his legendary dance steps along the banks of theSeine.
Marie-Antoinette (due to be released on 5 September 2006) A major new film by Sofia Coppola, shot in utmost secrecy at the Château de Versailles, reveals the mystery and the history of the French court against a backdrop of grand historical Paris.

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