Essential Architecture-  Architecture in the Da Vinci Code

Paris Meridian


Medallion embedded in Louvre Courtyard -- one of 135 Prime Meridian markers stretching across Paris.


The Paris Meridian is a meridian line running through Paris, now longitude 2°20′14.025″ east.
Relevance to the Da Vinci Code:

Chapters 19 and 22 says that the Sulpice meridian is the same as the Paris Meridian (in the novel called "the Rose Line") and that the church and keystone was built on the site of a pagan temple.

In The Da Vinci Code  it is referred to as the "Rose Line" and presented as "the world's first prime meridian" (p. 106). Actually the idea of establishing a prime meridian dates back to antiquity, with suggested meridians running through Rhodes or the Canary Islands. When Greenwich was adopted as the universal zero longitude in 1884 (not 1888 as the novel says), it had at least nine rivals besides Paris (Berlin, Cadiz, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Rio, Rome, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, and Tokyo).

Brown's novel confuses the Paris Meridian with a local meridian found in the Parisian church of Saint-Sulpice, marked in the floor with a brass line (the Paris Meridian actually passes about 100 meters east of it). At the climax of the novel, the protagonist follows the line of Arago medallions to the Louvre museum, where the Paris Meridian passes beneath the so-called Inverted Pyramid in an underground mall in front of the museum. Following the tradition of esoteric interpretations of this meridian, the novel hints that this is the final resting-place of the Holy Grail. The fact that the meridian passes beneath the Inverted Pyramid is also noted in the book Le guide du Paris maçonnique by Raphäel Aurillac, who likewise ascribes some deeper, esoteric significance to this.


It was a long-standing rival to Greenwich as the prime meridian of the world.

A French astronomer, Abbé Jean Picard, measured the length of a degree of longitude and computed from it the size of the Earth, in 1655. In 1666, Louis XIV of France authorized the building of a Paris observatory to measure longitude. On Midsummer's Day 1667, members of the Academy of Sciences traced the future building's outline on a plot outside town near the Port Royal abbey, with Picard's meridian exactly bisecting the site north-south. French cartographers would use it as their prime meridian for more than 200 years.

In the early 1800s, the Paris Meridian was recalculated with greater precision by the astronomer Francois Arago, whose name now appears on the plaques or medallions tracing the route of the meridian though Paris (see below).

In 1884, at the International Meridian Conference in Washington DC, the Greenwich Meridian was adopted as the prime meridian of the world. France abstained. The French clung to the Paris Meridian as a rival to Greenwich until 1911 for timekeeping purposes and 1914 for navigation. To this day, French cartographers continue to indicate the Paris Meridian on some maps.

The Arago medallions

In 1994 the Arago Association and the city of Paris commissioned a Dutch conceptual artist, Jan Dibbets, to create a memorial to Arago. Dibbets came up with the idea of setting 135 bronze medallions (although interestingly only 120 are documented in the official guide to the medallions) into the ground along the Paris Meridian between the northern and southern limits of Paris: a total distance of 9.2 kilometers / 5.7 miles. Each medallion is 12 cm in diameter and marked with the name ARAGO plus N and S pointers.

Another project, the so-called Green Meridian ('An 2000 - La Méridienne Verte'), aims to establish a plantation of trees along the entire length of the meridian in France.

Esoteric interpretations

In certain circles, some kind of occult or esoteric significance is ascribed to the Paris Meridian; sometimes it is even perceived as a sinister axis. Dominique Stezepfandts, a French conspiracy theorist, attacks the Arago medallions that supposedly trace the route of "an occult geographical line"; to him the Paris Meridian is a "Masonic axis" or even "the heart of the Devil".

Henry Lincoln, in his book The Holy Place, argues that various ancient structures are aligned according to the Paris Meridian. They even include medieval churches, built long before the meridian was established according to conventional history, and Lincoln finds it obvious that the meridian "was based upon the 'cromlech intersect division line'." David Wood, in his book Genisis, likewise ascribes a deeper significance to the Paris Meridian and takes it into account when trying to decipher the geometry of the myth-encrusted village of Rennes-le-Château: The meridian passes about 350 meters (yards) west of the site of the so-called "Poussin tomb", an important location in the legends and esoteric theories relating to that place. (A skeptical discussion of these theories, including the supposed "alignments", can be found in Bill Putnam and Edwin Wood's book The Treasure of Rennes-le-Château - A mystery solved.)