There it is.
Embedded in the grey granite floor, a thin polished strip of brass
glistened in the stone
a golden line slanting across the
church's floor. It was a gnomon, Silas had been told, a pagan astronomical
device like a sundial. Tourists, scientists, historians and pagans
from around the world came to Saint-Suplice to gaze upon this famous
The Rose Line.
. It was an ancient sundial of sorts, a vestige of the pagan
temple which had once stood on this very spot.
(Chapter Twenty-two, pp. 103 - 106)
is a gnomon line built into the floor of Saint-Suplice, but to call
it 'a pagan astronomical device' is incorrect. There is nothing
'pagan' about a gnomon - it is simply a marker used, in conjunction
with an 'oculus' once built into the church's south wall, to help
determine the date of moveable Christian feasts, such as Easter
and Pentecost. Along with its associated obelisk, the gnomon was
added to the church in the time of the priest Languet de Gergy (1675-1750).
Similar gnomons, made for the same purpose, are found in other churches
in France and elsewhere.
Brown's statement in the novel, the gnomon of Saint-Sulpice has
never been known as 'the Rose Line'. There was no ancient
temple on the site of Saint-Sulpice, as extensive archaeology under
the church has proven.
The question for early navigators was which of
these lines would be called the Rose Line - the zero longitude -
the line from which all other longitudes on earth would be measured.
Today that line was in Greenwich, England.
But it had not always been.
Long before the establishment of Greenwich as the prime meridian,
the zero longitude of the entire world had passed directly through
Paris, and through the Church of Saint-Sulpice. The brass marker
in Saint-Sulpice was a memorial to the world's first prime meridian,
and although Greenwich had stripped Paris of the honour in 1888,
the original Rose Line was still visible today.
(Chapter Twenty-two, p.106)
While it is
true that, before the establishment of Greenwich as the international
prime meridian, the Parisian meridian held that status, Brown is
wrong when he says this was the line found in Saint-Sulpice. The
actual Parisian meridian passes nearby, but it is not the Saint-Sulpice
meridian at all. The line in the church of Saint-Sulpice has no
great historical or esoteric significance at all.
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