erhaps you’ve noticed that this blog has a bit of an obsession with The Da Vinci Code.
That’s probably because when I do my daily Google News troll for the words “medieval” and “middle ages,” it usually produces a list composed of three kinds of stories: 1) some local elementary school somewhere went on a field trip to Medieval Times the restaurant, 2) some small town in the U.S. just had a Renaissance Festival or 3) something crazy about Dan Brown’s book.
So here’s the latest news about that book.** The former curator of Rosslyn Chapel, Judith Fisken, has sent an open letter to the Scotsman newspaper, warning that next year’s projection of 120,000 tourists visiting said tiny, crumbling 15th century chapel, will result in its utter destruction. Why would 120,000 people want to visit some random crumbling 15th century chapel? Blame Dan Brown.
For the three people out there who do not know already, Rosslyn Chapel is featured in Dan Brown’s internationally bestselling book The Da Vinci Code as the final resting place of the Holy Grail. Because people love fake history much more than real history, the caretakers of Rosslyn are expecting the number of visitors to quadruple once the movie version of the book, starring Mazes and Monsters‘ Tom Hanks, hits theatres.
According to Judith Fisken, Rosslyn won’t be able to take the increased traffic, and that even if the chapel does remain structurally viable in the wake of so many pairs of feet traipsing across it while their owners ask “Hey, is that thing there the grail?” tourists will have taken bits of Rosslyn away with them as souvenirs, leaving the whole site trashed.
This would be less frustrating if the tourists coming to visit the chapel were coming out of some legitimate historical interest–but only slightly less, because the people in charge of Scottish tourism in general and Rosslyn Chapel in particular are not at all interested in disabusing people of the wacked-out Dan Brown notion that Rosslyn is where Jesus’s ancestors live. I could find no mention of the book or its “theory” on Rosslyn Chapel’s website, but what I did find was links to an online store where you could purchase both:
Strange things to buy from a 15th century chapel–I’d be hard pressed to find another random 15th century chapel, Scottish or otherwise, that is able to make any money at all off selling advertising links. So, of course the folks at Rosslyn don’t want to startle the goose that lays the golden Da Vinci Code shaped-eggs or look a gift goose in the mouth or something like that.
Following some of the advertising links from Rosslyn’s website is a journey into all kinds of crazy. For instance, what claims to be a link to the Scottish Knight’s Templar’s site, actually ends up leading to a page designed to sell you a self-published book called Silent Knight, which, according to the site, is the first book in a trilogy(!) centered on the life and legacy of Sir Donald Wilhelm Peterson, a fictitious retired Army colonel and Knight Templar, written by an actual retired Army colonel and fictitious Knight Templar.
As near as I can tell by playing around with the Internet Wayback Machine, Rosslyn Chapel started offering “advertisement links” shortly after the The Da Vinci Code was published, and then sometime last year, right after the movie was announced, they started offering these rights managed images. So let there be no doubt, they’re well aware of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
I suppose on balance it’s a wash. Before the Dan Brown, the chapel was barely scrounging up the funds to do a renovation and was being eaten from within by moisture. Flush with Da Vinci cash, they’ll probably be able to pay to restore it just in time for it to be trashed back to its pre-restoration state.
*This is a bit of a paraphrase. Dan Brown’s actual words were probably something like, “I really hate this crumbling, 15th century chapel, so I’m going to write a book that will cause hordes of overweight Americans to trample it into oblivion.”
**And by latest, I mean, “current two weeks ago before I got distracted by City of Heroes and forgot I had a blog.”