Friday, May 2, 2008

St-Sulpice & DaVinci Code

Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code has made the church of Saint-Sulpice a hot stop on the tourist trail through Paris. Here are quotes from a pamphlet (provided in English) inside Saint-Sulpice. I find it interesting that they cannot deign to mention the “best-selling work of fiction” by name!

The inlaid brass line in the pavement of this church is part of a scientific instrument built here during the 18th century. This was done in full agreement with Church authorities by the astronomers in charge of the newly-established Paris Observatory. They used it for defining various parameters of the earth’s orbit. Similar arrangements exist in the Bologna cathedral, where Pope Gregory XIII had preparatory studies made for the adoption of the present “Gregorian” calendar.
Contrary to fanciful allegations in a recent best-selling work of fiction, Saint-Sulpice is not a vestige of a pagan temple. No such temple ever existed at this location. This astronomical gnomen was never called a “Rose Line.” It does not coincide with the meridian that runs through the center of the Paris Observatory, which actually runs several hundred yards east of here. Please also note that the letters “P” and “S” in the small round windows at both ends of the transept refer to Peter and Sulpice, the patron saints of this church, not an imaginary “Priory of Sion.”

This astronomical gnomen is a testament to France's passion for science in earlier times. On the equinoxes and winter solstice sunlight strikes the line so precisely that light traverses the brass strip to the base of an obelisk and up to a round orb surmounted by a cross. An inscription on the obelisk reads: "Two scientists with God's Help."

As mentioned in an earlier post, I find the two large sea shells, actually holy water vessels, located just inside the entrance to be of particular interest. A gift from the Venetian Republic, they stand out because of the extraordinary bases sculpted by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle (1714–1785). Note the carved sea creatures! Double click to enlarge.

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